What are Physician's Assistant Programs Looking For?
Each PA program has its own set of required courses and it is the responsibility of the applicant to meet these requirements. For more specifics on prerequisite courses, click here.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
PA programs are quite competitive and applicants must have a strong GPA to obtain admission. For example, the 2014 class at the University of Colorado School of Medicine PA program had an average cumulative GPA of 3.83, and an average science GPA of 3.80. While there is a wide variation in GPAs from one school to the next, this should provide you with some data to help you prepare.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test that is required by most PA programs. A few programs will accept the MCAT, while others do not require any standardized test before admission to their program. Be sure to check with the schools that you are interested in to determine their specific requirements. A strong GRE score can greatly increase your chances of admission. For the 2014 class at the University of Colorado School of Medicine PA program, the average GRE verbal score was 537 and the average GRE quantitative score was 673. (note that this was under the old scoring system for the GRE).
For most PA programs, clinical experience is a critical requirement for admissions. Many programs require anywhere from 1,000-2,000 hours of direct experience with patients. For more information on the types of clinical experience and how to obtain it, click here.
Physician’s Assistant programs want applicants who are mature, who know their strengths and weaknesses, and can handle situations that are new and/or stressful. Maturity is the one thing on the list that can be the most difficult to obtain and demonstrate. One way to help you become more mature is to attempt activities that take you out of your comfort zone. By challenging yourself, you will learn more about yourself and how you deal with difficult situations. Another way to become more mature is to interact with individuals who are different from you. This can be individuals from another culture, those that are much older or younger than you, those from a different socio-economic background, those with physical or mental disabilities or any other differences. The more you spend time with people who are different from you, the more you learn about yourself. Yet another way to develop maturity is to take responsibility for you own actions. Recognizing that there are situations where you have made mistakes and then learning from those mistakes is a classic sign of maturity.