One of the very first steps on the path into a career as a physician assistant, but also into physician assistant school, is completing the CASPA application. The majority of practicing clinicians have done this in the past, and thousands of aspiring physician assistant students will be embarking on this journey.
What is the CASPA application?
The CASPA application is the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants. The majority of physician assistant programs will use this central location for the initial application for admission into their respective program.
The online service initially came to existence in 2011 which replaced the over 16,000 mailed applications annually. Today, over 180 physician assistant programs use the CASPA application service, which is over 90 percent of all ARC-PA accredited programs.
Things to Remember…
The CASPA application serves only as the “middle man” between you, the applicant, and the physician assistant programs in which you are applying. CASPA will assure that nothing is missing in your application, and then disperse the information to the schools or programs of your choice.
However, one crucial thing to remember is that CASPA will not contact you if there is something missing in your application. In fact, CASPA will not send your application at all until everything is completed, received, and verified.
Therefore, it is a must that you regularly check the CASPA website after submission and assure that everything has been verified and that your application has been sent to all of the programs of your choosing.
Things to Do When Applying to CASPA
So, what do you need to do? First thing is first, you need to create a free account and log in to www.caspaonline.org. The next step is filling out and completing the CASPA application. This will include filling out your contact information, where you have attended school, your GPA, the extracurricular activities you have participated in, and your personal statement to name a few parts.
A few things to take a closer look at are the GPA statistics, extracurricular activities, and your personal statement, as these sections are often heavily looked at by programs.
Statistics have shown that the average cumulative undergraduate grade point average for those students accepted to physician assistant programs is around 3.49. The average CASPA science GPA for accepted students was found to be 3.36, and the average nonscience grade point average was found to be 3.56.
Now let’s look at the opposite. Those students who were not accepted to physician assistant school, it was found that their average cumulative grade point average was 3.16.
Of course, just because an applicant may have a lower grade point average, that does not deem them not to be accepted to physician assistant school. Other factors including the applicant’s experiences and standardized test score play into this as well.
The big thing to remember is that programs will look at the applicant as a whole, not just based upon one single number.
Next, personal experiences. You will be asked to list volunteer and extracurricular activities that you have participated in, and more importantly, how they make you a better applicant or will make you a better clinician in the future. The most important thing to do is to reflect back to how this experience has changed or molded you into being a better applicant for their program.
The Personal Statement
This is a huge part of your CASPA application. This portion of the application allows a prospective PA program to dive into your life and find out a little bit about who you are, before potentially meeting you in person for interviews.
The biggest error in this instance would be authoring a forgettable essay. This is your chance to tell programs whatever you feel they should know about you, and your passion and desire to become a physician assistant.
During these 5,000 characters, you will have the selections committee’s full attention, which may either lead to you visiting the campus for an interview or lead you to the pile of “try again next year” applications.
Most essays will be very general and not stand out as well as lack the applicant’s unique personality or their readiness for the task of entering physician assistant school. A good personal statement starts with being genuine and often will include telling a story about yourself or an impactful experience in your life.
If you are not the next Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, or J.K. Rowling, no worries! Ask for help! Most universities will have people in their libraries who can help proof and improve your essays. Additionally, asking professors or healthcare professionals that you have shadowed with to review your essay may be helpful as well.
Lastly, you can reach out to us at Medgeeks through our Pre-PA course (link) to review and edit your personal statement!
For the majority of students, they often want to see an example. You ask, and you shall receive!
PA School Application Timeline
The timing in which you complete tasks regarding applying to PA schools and completing the CASPA can make or break an application. The PA school application timeline has many checkpoints, and you want to make sure that you are meeting these at the appropriate times.
Before starting the application process, you want to research prospective programs that you may be interested in applying to, as well as those programs that you might be a competitive applicant. Things that you might research include specific deadlines for programs, application fees, perquisites, standardized test score cutoffs, and supplemental applications.
Next, you will want to contact all of the universities that you have attended to get official transcripts that you will need to use to enter your coursework into the CASPA application. Lastly, at this point, you want to start gathering ideas and contacting potential evaluators who may be willing to write a letter or recommendation for you, as well as starting your personal statement.
The most important date to remember for this next cycle is April 25, 2019. This is the date in which the CASPA 2019-2020 application cycle opens.
If you open your account before this date, any information that is input will be discarded. The following information and timeline dates are the latest that these tasks should be completed. The sooner, the better!
At least three months prior to the deadline you want to create your CASPA account as above and complete the colleges attended and evaluators sections.
At this time, it is also a good idea to ask your schools to send your official transcripts directly to CASPA, begin entering your coursework into the CASPA application system, and to check in with your evaluators to assure that they have gotten their email requesting them to complete a letter of recommendation on your behalf.
At least six to eight weeks at latest prior to the deadline you want to complete and submit your application. The other key thing to be doing at this point is monitoring your application to assure that CASPA has received your transcripts and letter of recommendations.
Lastly, after the deadline has passed, you want to get on the CASPA website and download a copy of your application for your personal records.
CASPA FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
The CASPA overall is a very high stakes thing to complete regarding your potential admission to physician assistant school. You are apt to have questions during this process, so we will go over some of CASPA FAQ.
Do you have to send official transcripts? Yes, you must submit and send official transcripts to CASPA. Unofficial transcripts will not be accepted if sent. Make sure that you are budgeting for this when the application cycle begins.
Where do you find the transcript request form? This will be found under the colleges attended section on CASPA, but this will not show up until you have entered a college that you have attended into the system.
One question that I personally had when applying was, “if I went to two colleges and the information from the first college was listed on the second college's transcript, do I need to send both?” Yes, you must include all colleges that you have attended and send an official transcript from all colleges that were attended.
Do you have to enter every course that you have taken? Yes, every class that you have taken must be placed in the transcript entry section. However, you can pay for professional transcript entry services and have someone else enter this information for you, if you choose.
Can you apply to more programs after submitting your application? Yes, you can submit more schools that you would like to apply to after initially submitting your application as long as the respective school’s deadline has not passed.
When will I learn about admission decisions? Each program is different, and you must contact each program individually to acquire this information.
How much does the CASPA application cost? The first school that you apply to costs $175 and each additional school that you apply to thereafter is an additional $50.
Still have questions regarding the CASPA application?
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