Do you find it difficult to stay on top of everything that goes into applying to physician assistant school? We feel ya!
Even though there are loads of details to track, we are convinced it will be easier if you make yourself get organized early on. Aside from the health benefits of getting organized , keeping up with the opening of CASPA, application deadlines and follow-up with letters of recommendation is just a lot of information to have rattling around in your head. Creating a system will greatly reduce your stress and anxiety about missing a deadline or irritating others because you forgot that you already followed up, or even worse: letting a crucial detail fall through the cracks.
What things are worthy of your attention, when do you need to start, and how can you possibly organize all this information?
First off, Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) suggests that you start filling out education portions on their website at least three months before the deadline of your specific program. That’s living more dangerously than we like, so we’d say that if possible you should start even further out because why bump up against the deadline? Why not apply before the deadline? Consider giving yourself a self-imposed deadline, a month before the actual deadline, just as a buffer.
Another thing to be aware of (and another reason to create a self-imposed deadline in advance of the program’s actual deadline) is that many programs do their admissions on a rolling basis. Think of it as a principle of first come, first served. This means if you wait until the deadline to apply, there may be no remaining spots, and you’d automatically be wait-listed. That’s better than an outright rejection but we’d rather you get that acceptance letter, so apply early!
Be aware, each program has varying dates so you’ll have to already know the specifics of your programs. That means you should research now to be prepared.
Start writing now
You know what else CASPA says to start working on before you even begin applying? Your personal statement essay. And we couldn’t agree more. Writing a polished, informative, compelling essay takes a lot of prewriting and a lot of drafts. (You can read some of our thoughts of the merits of prewriting here.) Some people are motivated by a looming deadline, but a personal statement essay needs time to develop, get critiqued, go through a process of revisions and fine tuning. Even if you were able to crank it out, it takes time to make it best represent you and all that you are. Give it a long leash so you’ve got the time to make it awesome.
Don’t let the weight of the task ahead stop you from going after your dream of becoming a physician assistant. You can do this. Here’s something you might not hear from everyone: even if you don’t apply this cycle, you can make some serious headway towards becoming a candidate who will gain entrance to your top programs. Really.
No matter if you are accumulating those impactful patient care hours or finishing up a load of science courses, creating an organization structure that works for you is beneficial at whatever point you find yourself now.
You know this. You probably have friends who’s course schedule got all out of whack because they didn’t take an organized approach to registering for classes, people who had to take courses over summer because that was the only way to get the pre-req needed for other essential courses, or other scheduling snafus. Getting organized will save you a lot of headaches and delays.
Luckily you don’t have to start from scratch. We’ve got some ideas for where you can begin.
Here’s a handy free spreadsheet you can download. You’ll have to give them your email address, but it’s a very comprehensive tracker, with columns for letters of recommendation, school’s course requirements, etc.
If you’re in the beginning stages of looking at schools and comparing programs, here’s a spreadsheet you can use which was put together by University of Washington Bothell. It’s a good place to start, and you can modify it to suit your own needs. Another resource that we think is really helpful is this book: The Applicant’s Manual of Physician Assistant Programs by Mark Volpe and Brittany Hogan, both PA-Cs. It’s got all kinds of statistics, suggested coursework beyond the basic prerequisites, and even schools listed by distinguishing features.
As you go through the application process, remembering your impressions and experiences can be difficult if you’re considering (which we think you should) more than one program. This is a list of things to consider when you make lists or write notes to yourself during the process, whether that’s your opinion of the navigability of their website or your rating your interactions with their program’s representatives.
If you’re not sensing a theme yet, allow us to spell it out for you: Even if you are simply gathering information about different programs, or actively applying, you can start getting organized now. It will simplify your process and it will free up brain space for you, space you’ll need as you get competitive grades, charm those professors and work supervisors, and visit different programs around the country. It may seem tedious to invest the time to do it, but ultimately it will save you many hours and sleepless nights.
Do you have a favorite way of organizing the details of different PA school programs, or tracking where you are in the application process? Share the wealth, friend! We’d love to hear about it so send us an email, or share the info in a comment below!