Ever wonder if there’s a checklist for applying to PA school?  We did, but we didn’t find one, SO WE MADE APPLYING TO PA SCHOOL CHECKLISTOUR OWN.  Below you will find the most inclusive list of steps to get into PA school that you will find anywhere.  Rather than focusing on the details, this post is directed at A) giving you a sense of the process, and B) making sure you don’t forget a critical step. 

First off, you should know that some of these steps for applying to PA school will vary depending on your situation.  For example, when you choose to complete your coursework and to do your health care experience (HCE) is totally up to you.  Here we list what seems to us to be the most sensible order of steps from “Hey, I think I want to go to PA school” to making that a reality.  There are two steps in bold text: the ordering of transcripts and confirming of receipt of your letters of recommendation.  We’ve emboldened them for a very good reason – according to CASPA, these two steps are by far the most common reasons for application delays and problems.  This should also remind you that this checklist is designed for CASPA PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS, which is most, but not all of the PA programs out there.  Non-CASPA schools will likely have a very different process.  Finally, we’ve written much on the steps below, so clicking a link for an item you find on the list will take you to an article that relates to that item. 

So without further ado,


  1. Shadow a PA for at a minimum of 8 hours, and more if possible.  Send them a thank you card when it’s over.
  2. Open a CASPA account and read about the process (Do this even if you won’t be applying for the current cycle!)  KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
  3. Research PA programs – send away for an info packet or bookmark the websites of the programs that interest you the most.  Use our PA Programs Directory to research!
  4. Decide which schools you will apply to.
  5. Sign up for the IPAT Physician Assistant Forum and talk with other applicants.  It’s free!
  6. Create a file for each program you will apply to to hold info and correspondence, and to track to-do’s.  Write the following on each school’s file:
    • Requirements (prerequisite courses, tests, etc.)
    • CASPA participating program?  Yes/No
    • Deadline date for that school
    • Supplemental deadline date, if any
    • Interview date
    • Status (here you will write where things are in the process, like “waiting for interview invitation,” etc.  When the status changes, line through the old and write in the new status)
    • Notes: (here you can write critical info, such as the program’s area of focus, tuition, etc)
  7. Complete your prerequisite coursework
  8. Order transcripts from all colleges attended in time to be delivered at least 4 weeks prior to the earliest program deadline you are applying to.  Be sure to use CASPA’s transcript request form.  Get an unofficial copy for your own reference.  Assume things will get lost, delayed, and mixed up – use the most reliable method of communication and trackable mail whenever possible). 
  9. Do your health care experience hours (HCE)
  10. Register for the GRE/MCAT/TOEFL as necessary.
  11. Study for the GRE (and TOEFL, if necessary)  GRE: 2-3 months, MCAT: 6 months, TOEFL: varies depending on fluency
  12. Take the GRE (and MCAT and/or TOEFL, if necessary).  Score reports should be sent directly to schools, not CASPA.  TOEFL score reports must be sent in hard copy form to CASPA.
  13. Decide who you will ask for letters of reference.  Choose 4 – ideally two HCE supervisors and one professor from a prerequisite course you have completed + one backup
  14. Notify letter writers that you will be applying and secure their commitment.  Do this in person if at all possible.
  15. Inform letter writers in writing about of the process (when you plan to submit their application and when that means you will need their letters).  Do this in email format if at all possible.  Encourage them to prepare their letters for you in advance, in digital format.   
  16. Write you PA school Narrative (application essay), proofread it, and have it critiqued. 
  17. Submit your CASPA application (submit it early enough that letters and transcripts will all be received at least one month before the earliest school’s deadline.  This allows CASPA adequate time to be verified, which can take about a month.  Generally, the earlier you submit, the better.
  18. Order transcripts from all colleges attended in time to be delivered at least 4 weeks prior to the earliest program deadline you are applying to.  Be sure to use CASPA’s transcript request form!  Get an unofficial copy for your own reference.
  19. Check your application to confirm that your letters or reference have been received.
  20. Once your application is complete (all letters, transcripts, payments are complete and you have been notified so), print a copy of your application for your own records.
  21. Wait for invitations to submit supplemental applications
  22. Complete and submit any supplemental applications to PA schools with payments as necessary.
  23. Continue accumulating HCE while you wait to hear from programs about interviews – never too much HCE!
  24. Once notified of invitation to interview, accept or decline immediately.  WHEN IN DOUBT, ACCEPT.  It’s always better to keep your options open.
  25. Prepare for interviews
  26. Interview. 
  27. Send a thank you note to schools where you interviewed.  Write them by hand to each committee member present, there were 3 or fewer.  Otherwise, write one to the whole committee care of the senior interviewer who was present.
  28. Receive acceptance offer.  BOO-YA!
  29. Go to www.fastweb.com and sign up for a free account so you can search for scholarships and grant money (we don’t get any support from them whatsoever – we just think they’re the best).  Also inquire about scholarships wherever you went to school, and with any organizations to which you belong (Kiwanis, Professional Organization for Women, NAACP, etc.)
  30. Notify schools that you have not yet been accepted to that you have received an admission from another school (if you would rather go to their school).
  31. Accept a seat in your desired program.
  32. Call that school’s financial aid office to get an overview of the PA school financial aid process.
  33. Write a thank you note to your letter writers with a token gift for their time and effort.  $10 Starbucks card or similar is appropriate.  No, it’s not a bribe; it’s called gratitude.
  34. Email us of your success and bask in the glory –  you’re about to start a new career!   Seriously, though, contact us and share your PA school success story – we love hearing them!