The Pre-Physician Assistant Club presents:
How to get into
Physician Assistant School
A practical guide for students at
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
NOTE: This guide is continual work-in-progress complied by students, not advisors.
The information comes from our own research and experiences.
If you have something to add or correct, please let us know!
The only way we will succeed (without going crazy) is by helping each other
Majors – What majors are most helpful for getting in?
• Doesn’t matter that much, pick a major you enjoy
• Something in the sciences is probably good (then a lot of your classes will overlap with
your PA school prerequisites – for example, kinesiology)
• Make sure you get your PA school prerequisites done
Extracurricular Activities – What clubs should I join?
• The Pre-PA Club is obviously the best
• Do what you’re interested in, have fun!
• Many programs are interested in your community service/volunteering activities
• Research is great too (ex: UROP)
Testing – Do I need to take the GRE or the MCAT?
• Most programs require the GRE
• Some programs will accept either the GRE or the MCAT
(as far as we know, there isn’t a preference for one or the other)
• A few programs don’t require any test
• Take practice tests! Try not to take the actual exam more than once or twice
Shadowing – Why should I observe PA-Cs in their work environment?
• You should shadow PA-Cs so that you can better understand the profession and have a
real idea of what they do (Admissions people want to see that you know what you’re
getting yourself into)
• SHADOWING DOES NOT COUNT TOWARDS YOUR PATIENT CARE EXPERIENCE
HOURS (but it is, nonetheless, very important)
• It is not appropriate to ever assume that someone you’re shadowing will give you a job/
allow you to shadow for more than part of a day/one day
• Ways to find shadowing opportunities:
o If your primary care provider is a PA-C, or there is a PA-C in the office you go to,
talk to them!
o Call local doctor’s offices or hospitals
o University of Michigan Alumni Association Mentors -
o We are working on developing a list of shadowing opportunities (we’ll keep you
Volunteering – How will it help me?
• Volunteering in a hospital is great because it puts you in the health care setting and
allows you to observe and become comfortable (and it’s fun!); it is also a great stepping
stone and a great way to make connections
o University of Michigan Health System Volunteer Services -
o Trail’s Edge Camp for Ventilator Dependent Children -
AWESOME opportunity!! First week of June every year (Talk to
Margaret for more info if you’re interested)
• *Some programs WILL NOT accept volunteering as part of your patient care experience,
but many programs ARE interested in your community service/volunteering activities
(for example, Wayne State REQUIRES you to submit an official record of all your
volunteering for 2 years)
Patient Care Experience – What are programs looking for?
• VARIES BY PROGRAM – CHECK FOR SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS!!
• Most programs require anywhere from 500-2,000 hours of “direct patient care
experience” – what they accept varies
• Most programs prefer paid positions, but some unpaid positions work. The more
responsibility you hold in your position and the more time you have worked, the more
competitive you will be as an applicant
• Positions include (but are not limited to) Certified Nurses Aid, Phlebotomist, Patient
Care Tech/Attendant, EMT, RN, Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy Aid,
Medical Technologist, etc
o Washtenaw Community College Certified Nurses Aid Training –
(4 Credit course – approx 5 weeks) (*Fills up REALLY fast)
o The American Red Cross offers a CNA course also, but it is more expensive
o University of Michigan Job Site - www.umich.edu/~jobs
o Sunrise Assisted Living - http://www.sunriseseniorliving.com/Home.do
734-741-9500 (Front Desk – inquire about positions)
o St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Job Site -
o The Caring Space (Home Health Aid jobs) - http://www.thecaringspace.com/
o Glacier Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center -
CASPA – What is it?
• The Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants
• Most (but not all) programs use CASPA, so you can more easily apply to multiple
• *Many programs ALSO require a supplemental application for their specific
• Application not complete without transcripts, payment, recommendations
• *It can take up to 6 weeks for CASPA to process your application and send it to the
specific programs, so don’t wait until their deadline to submit
Recommendations – Who should I ask?
• CAPSA requires three
o Almost all programs require that one be from a PA-C (or a health care
professional who works with/is knowledgeable about them)
o Advanced prerequisite professors (i.e. Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, etc)
o Supervisors from patient care positions
o Basically, people who will be able to attest to your ability to succeed
academically and professionally
Interview – How do I prepare?
• *If you are granted an interview, this IS your opportunity, you may not get another
chance with this program; that being said, it is your chance to interview them as well
• Be confident
• Be prepared (know how to “speak PA”)
• Be professional
• Know history of profession
• Be able to articulate why you want to be a PA (and not a doctor or a NP)
Timeline – There’s so much to do!!!
• DON’T WAIT!!!
• Start volunteering or working in patient care as soon as possible
• Take the GRE or MCAT before or when you are applying (your scores need to be sent by
the program deadline) (Ex: the spring after your junior year if you want to enter a
program right after graduation)
• CASPA Application open April-November (*It can take 4-6 weeks to process before
being sent to your programs, so don’t wait until their deadlines)
• Program deadlines are 8-10 months before program start (ex: WSU starts in May,
deadline is September 1)
• PLAN your classes!! Many of the upper level prerequisites are very hard to get into and
are only offered once a year.
• **********************PROGRAM PREREQUISITE COURSES MUST BE COMPLETED BY
DECEMBER!! (i.e. don’t plan to take something winter semester of your senior year if
you want to go into a program right after graduation)******************************
• Many people take a year or more off after undergrad to work full time – you will likely
be a stronger applicant
• If you don’t get in to the program of your choice the first time, use that time wisely to
make yourself a better candidate – A LOT of very successful PA-Cs didn’t get in on the
Academic Requirements – Things to keep in mind…
• VARIES BY PROGRAM – CHECK FOR SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS!!
• THIS IS WHY WE STARTED THE CLUB!! Trying to figuring out classes is very
• YOU MAY HAVE TO TAKE SOME COURSES AT OTHER UNIVERSITIES/COLLEGES
(i.e. Eastern University, Washtenaw Community College)
• MOST PROGRAMS WANT A GPA OF 3.0 or higher
Courses – What fulfills my requirements?
• HUMAN ANATOMY – Almost always required. Take:
o MEDADM 403 - very hard to get into, offered Fall and Winter, has a lab that
meets 4 times during the semester, offers a lab component that meets 4 times
during the semester (works with plastinated bodies, not cadaver dissection, but
some schools still count it)
• “One of the most exciting courses I’ve taken so far…there are
weekly quizzes which help you stay on track and not fall behind
in the course. The professors are great and really help you a lot – I
really enjoy the lectures.”
• “This is my absolute favorite class taken at U of M! The lab
portion is really helpful in pulling all of the concepts together!”
o Also offered at Oakland University (and others)
• HUMAN ANATOMY LAB – Not often required, but sometimes recommended.
o UM does not offer
o Offered at Oakland University
• HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY – At least one is almost always required, sometimes upper level also.
Take one or two:
o PHYSIOL 201 – Lower level, offered Fall only
o PHYSIOL 502 – Upper level, offered Winter only
o MOVESCI 340 – Exercise Physiology (lab included)
(**NOT all schools will accept Exercise Phys to fulfill Physiology requirement.)
(Wayne State University Accepts Exercise Phys to fulfill their upper level
• HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY LAB – Not often required, but sometimes recommended.
o MOVESCI 340 – Exercise Physiology (lab automatic component of lecture course)
o UM does not offer
***Regarding Human Anatomy and Physiology Courses – Some schools will accept two
semesters of joined courses, some will not (check with your specific programs of interest).
• INTRODUCTORY BIOLOGY – Almost always required with lab. Take all three:
o BIO 171 – Ecology and Evolution, offered Fall and Winter
o BIO 172 – Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental, offered Fall and Winter
o BIO 173 (Lab) – Offered Fall and Winter
• GENERAL CHEMISTRY – Almost always required with lab. Take both:
(Note: If you passed out of Chem 130, check with your school to see they’ll accept that
test score in substitution of the course – Not all schools will.)
o CHEM 130 – Offered Fall and Winter
o CHEM 125 (Lab) – Offered Fall and Winter
• ORGANIC CHEMISTRY – Not always required, but usually recommended. Take both:
(but can get away without taking labs)
o CHEM 210 and CHEM 211 (Lab) – Orgo I, offered Fall and Winter
o CHEM 215 and CHEM 216 (Lab) – Orgo II, offered Fall and Winter
• BIOCHEMISTRY – Not always required, but usually recommended. Chose one:
o BIO 310 – lower level, not offered every semester (Need prior or concurrent
enrollment in Chem 215)
Reviews: “Horribly difficult class.” “Pretty good so far [in progress].”
o BIOCHEM 415 – upper level, offered Fall and Winter (Need both semesters of
Organic Chemistry first; some advisors recommend Physics first but students say
it is not necessary)
Reviews: “A lot of memorizing and lots of work…lectures weren’t very
• MICROBIOLOGY – Not always required, but usually recommended with lab. Take either:
o BIO 207 – Lab included, offered Fall and Winter
Reviews: “Didn’t really like it much.” “A lot of studying – the lab is
exciting and relaxed, helps to boost your grade.”
o MICROBIOL 301 and 350 (Lab) – Offered Winter only (Biochem is an advisory
prerequisite but not required according to advisors)
• PHYSICS – Not generally required (but recommended for Biochem 415). Take both:
(can get away without taking labs)
o PHYSICS 125 and PHYSICS 127 (Lab)
o PHYSICS 126 and PHYSICS 128 (Lab)
• NUTRITION – Not always required, but usually recommended. Chose one:
o BIO 105 – Offered Fall and Winter (sometimes… sporadic based on the professor
o MOVESCI 241 – For Kinesiology majors
• STATISTICS – Almost always required (only math needed). Chose one:
o STATS 100 – Lower level
o STATS 350 – Offered Fall and Winter
Reviews: Great class! Get Brenda Gunderson if possible
o MOVESCI 250 – For Kinesiology majors
• MEDICAL ETHICS – Almost never required, but sometimes recommended.
o UM offering it Winter 2010? (still in progress…)
o Offered at Washtenaw Community College (or others)
• MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY
o UM does not offer (yet!)
o Offered at Washtenaw Community College, online at Schoolcraft Community
College (or others)
• PSYCHOLOGY – Generally only a general or developmental course is required, occasionally
abnormal is recommended.
(If you have Psych AP credit from high school, make sure to check if your school will
accept it – Not all schools will.)
o Psych 111 – Introductory
o Psych 250 – Developmental, GREAT class! (need Psych 111 first)
o Psych 270 – Abnormal (need Psych 111 first)
• GENETICS – Almost never required, but sometimes recommended.
o Bio 305 – Really hard!
• ENGLISH – Generally one or two composition courses are required (For LSA, English 125
and ULWR should fulfill).
WHAT NOW? Take a deep breath