Application Guide

Admission to most programs requires a minimum of two years of college credits. More than half of the students who enroll in PA programs have at least one college degree. Training programs, given by community colleges, universities, medical schools and the military, are usually two years long and award a certificate, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. Applicants seeking admission to a physician assistant program should contact the schools of interest for information on specific prerequisites and admission requirements.

Admission to a physician assistant program generally requires volunteer or paid experience in a health care setting.

Application Information

Centralized Application Service: CASPA - Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants

Cost: $177 for first program choice. Each additional school is $51.

When to apply: Students will apply in the spring/early summer of the year preceding their planned matriculation. The CASPA cycle opens mid-April.

Courses and Transcripts: The courses you have taken will need to be self-reported and you will also need to have official transcripts sent to the application service.

Most centralized applications will have a form to print off that will need to be attached to your transcript. You will be asked to enter information, grades and credits for every course that you have enrolled in at any U.S., U.S. Territorial, or Canadian post-secondary institution. Transcripts should be sent from the registrar’s office of all US and/or Canadian Schools attended.

You may order a transcript from the MSU registrar’s office from the registrar’s web site, There is no charge for sending transcripts. If you are taking courses during the spring semester, it is advised you wait until your spring semester grades are posted to your record as professional schools will want to see those grades.

Resources: 2017 CASPA Instructions

    Entrance Exam

    Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

    Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes

    Sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Explore individual section information by visiting our GRE page.

    Cost: The registration fee is $205 which includes the exam and scores sent to four schools. Sending scores to additional schools costs $27 each.

    Scores: 260-340 Verbal and Quantitative Composite, and 0-6 Analytical Writing.

    GRE Prep Resources: MSU Pre-Health advisors do not endorse any specific test prep resource, but we encourage you to explore each of the different options to determine which will best fit your needs. 

    Personal Statement

    The personal statement is a very limited in length essay that is used as a device to get a better understanding of the applicant.It is a very important element that should be prepared well in advance to the application and should be edited thoroughly by many different people, such as but not limited to, the writing center, friends and family.

    Length: 5000 character limit for CASPA participating schools.

    Prompt: "Please explain why you are interested in being a Physician Assistant."

    What to include:

    • Why you selected this field of health care
    • What motivates you to learn more about health care
    • Pertinent information about you not included elsewhere in the application
    • Special hardships or experiences that have influenced your educational pursuits
    • Commentary on significant fluctuations in your academic record not explained in the application.


    Patient Care Experience

    Patient care experience is a critical admission criteria for most PA programs, but can vary between schools. On average, applicants are encouraged to complete 2000 hours of direct patient care before their intended matriculation.

    Examples of direct patient care includes taking vitals, bathing patients, walking patients, drawing blood, performing diagnostics, and administering prescribed therapy or treatment. 

    Applicants without previous health care experience can acquire direct patient care experience by working as a nursing assistant or aide, phlebotomist, EMT, or other healthcare position working directly with patients.

    It is strongly suggested that you contact the schools you wish to apply to and verify the types of patient care experience will be accepted, and the number of recommended hours.

    Activities not typically accepted by most programs as direct patient care:

    • Shadowing
    • Research
    • Volunteering
    • Medical Scribe - varies between schools, consult with your chosen PA schools
    • Taking care of a family member

    Recommendation Letters

    CASPA requires a minimum of 3 letters and accepts up to 5.

    While you must pay careful attention to the guidelines of each school that requests your letters, we suggest you identify the following people to request letters of evaluation from:

    • Two science faculty who taught you in a class
    • One non-science faculty
    • One individual working in the profession you wish to pursue (example: an osteopathic physician, dentist, physical therapist, pharmacist, etc)
    • One or two additional individuals who know you well from a work, volunteer or research experience


    After submitting the primary application, and secondary applications if required, students may receive an offer to interview. Not all PA programs require an interview as part of the application process, but for the ones that do, they have indicated an interest in selecting you. Remember, you are not only preparing to answer their questions, you are preparing to ask your own. While they determine whether you are the right fit for the program, you need to determine if the program is the right fit for you.

    Schools use personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as maturity, interpersonal skills, and ability to articulate strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in physician assistant and the experiences that have motivated you.