- Pick a major: While there are a variety of courses required to apply to most physician assistant schools, you can major in anything; pick something you are passionate about. By taking courses you love, you will earn better grades and be more competitive in your applications. Click here to see courses required and recommended by most medical schools.
- Earn good grades: Maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher in your science classes and overall; the higher your GPA, the more competitive your application will be.
- Get healthcare experience: Most physician assistant programs require 500-1000 hours of healthcare experience. This experience can come from paid or volunteer activities. Examples include work as an EMT, certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, certified nursing assistant (CNA), and scribe, as well as shadowing and volunteering. Direct patient contact is preferred and some programs require it. As an example, JMU does not count scribing because they do not consider it direct patient experience. Make sure to research your schools of interest before investing time in a given activity!
- Identify people to write recommendations: You will need four to six recommendations for your application. One can come from Roanoke’s Health Careers Advising Board and at least one should come from a physician assistant. Start trying to identify professors, medical professionals, and others who will be able to write good recommendations for you that emphasize your strengths.
- Prepare for your interviews: A strong application will earn you interviews. Prepare for these well in advance. Google “physician assistant interview questions” and start thinking about answers to the questions you find.
- Prepare for the GRE: Physician assistant programs require you to take a standardized exam called the GRE. Most students take this exam in late spring of their junior year. Consider taking a lighter load in that semester and use the extra time to take a GRE preparation course or study on your own.
- Apply to physician assistant schools: Most students submit their applications early in the summer following their junior year. Physician assistant programs have a rolling admissions system. The earlier they receive your application, the better your chances of getting in.