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Need honest advice about PA application


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Hey guys, 

 

I'm new to this forum so hopefully I'm posting in the right place...I had a few questions that I would really like some insight on. I'm currently working on my undergrad and will be 22 years old this year. I spent 4 years at a community college and didn't do that well for multiple reasons: joined the Army Reserves and left multiple times for trainings, wasn't entirely focused.. etc. Consequently, my first few semesters consisted of a lot of D's and F's. About halfway through my time there I took an EMT class. I became an EMT shortly after that and absolutely loved it (and still do). From that point on I revived mainly A's, a few B's and one C for the next 4 semesters which was about 65ish credits. These consisted of several science courses. Total at this school I would say was somewhere around 110 credits. I finished this school with a 3.29 GPA according to my transcript, however when I calculated it it was 3.10 . Anyways, in the beginning it was around 1.2, so I worked extremely hard to pull it up. Around my last few semesters here I really tossed around the idea of going into medicine. I had always wanted to be a doctor since I was young, so I took about a year to narrow in on one specific career. Alas, the idea of becoming a PA was born lol. Medicine is my passion and making it a career was a no brainer. Anyways, I started at a university in Fall of 2015 to obtain my bachelor degree. As a result of the past, I thoroughly understand the need for a strong GPA. In my first semester I did ok, 3 A's but unfortunately a C and a D, both in science classes. Reasoning for this: I had just moved across the US right as the semester begin, and then moved two more times within the state during this semester. I also have a chronic illness that is well managed now, however, I found out that I was severely deficient (levels around 100) in vitamin B12 (unknown until about Dec 2015...) which robbed me of much of my energy. Not placing any blame, but just trying to explain why I received the grades I did since it is uncharacteristic. GPA for this semester was 2.67. Half way through my second semester here and I am receiving all A's in my 6 science classes. I am doing a Biomed degree, so the coursework is rough. But on the bright side I have a lot of science classes left to help pull my GPA up. So I calculated my cumulative GPA from the community college plus my GPA for my first two semesters at the university, and it is about 3.1. My projected GPA for graduation is 3.25.. that is close to the highest I could even get it by receiving mostly A's with accounting for the occasional B, possibly 3.3 or 3.4 if everything is an A, but with about 70 more science heavy courses, that's it's a stretch.

A little about myself... I have been an EMT for two years and in the Army Reserves for 4.5. I am in good standing with both of those jobs. I took an international medical volunteer trip (would prefer not to name countries for confidentiality) in January 2016, will be taking another in May of 2016 and another in January 2017. I enjoy these trips so much, and I plan to make them a part of the rest of my life. As in, I am not doing these just to help my application, I LOVE helping these people, and with or without PA school, I would be doing them. I have also shadowed a few times but am planning on doing more. 

 

So... hopefully that's enough info. Any input would be great. I would love honest opinions on how you feel this will effect my application to PA school, if you were reviewing my application. I have spoken to a few advisors, as well as a PA who sits on the application board, and they all feel I'm a very good fit for the profession. However, I'm just not sure how I look on paper. I plan on applying to PA school in May of 2017, and will take my GRE this year.

 

Any suggestions, comments, questions are welcome. :)

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Hello there, welcome to the forum!

 

Recognizing that the process will be an uphill battle for you is the first step which you understand.

 

Based on what I've read on here, you will have a fighting chance if you get your cGPA above the 3.0 threshold. 

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Your story is less hopeless than many first time posters here. EMT is good experience but HCE accumulates and GPA averages, so you need to get both your cumulative and science GPA up.

 

Have you considered medical school and decided that PA is a better fit for you?

 

Have you considered paramedic school?

 

Are you in a medical MOS in the reserves, and, if not, can you transfer into one?

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Of course you'll want to graduate with the highest GPA possible and in your case you stated that may be a 3.25 which below average but not the end of the world. I presume you have above average HCE hours which you'll continue to accumulate until you apply. There really no room for error now. Make sure you score high on the GRE and keep getting 4.0s until you graduate. Apply wisely (probably shouldnt apply to schools with average accepted student GPAs of 3.7) and you should be good! Try to target schools with 3.4-3.5 average GPAs. 

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Apply wisely (probably shouldnt apply to schools with average accepted student GPAs of 3.7) and you should be good! Try to target schools with 3.4-3.5 average GPAs. 

 

Agree - but look at schools' RANGE of GPAs, not just the average.  If the range is narrow (you can apply this to other attributes as well), then I would expect your chances are lower if you don't 'fit' their profile.  

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Your story is less hopeless than many first time posters here. EMT is good experience but HCE accumulates and GPA averages, so you need to get both your cumulative and science GPA up.

 

Have you considered medical school and decided that PA is a better fit for you?

 

Have you considered paramedic school?

 

Are you in a medical MOS in the reserves, and, if not, can you transfer into one?

 

Thanks for the feedback!

I have very in depth considered medical school, but overall, PA will be the best fit for me.

 

I have considered medic school, but time wise, I would rather finish my bachelors so I can apply. 

 

Unfortunately I'm not in a medical MOS. I'm chemical (joy..) haha. I am considering reenlisting next year if I can get e6 in my contract. Not sure if I want to reclass. Even with my EMT background AIT would still be 8 weeks and that's just time I don't really have. Do you feel it would be beneficial to my application to do so? 

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Thank you all so much for the feedback!

I just did a calculation that is similar to how CASPA calculates your GPA, and it's a little different than my original post. If I finish my bachelors with A's from here on out I could have a 3.4 cumulative and a 3.56 science. Accounting for a few B's here and there it may be slightly lower. I know it's not a strong GPA, but I am more worried about blemishes on my transcripts. If they see how far I've come, I'm hoping it is something they can look passed. 

 

By the time I apply to PA school I will have over 3 years health care experience plus about 5 weeks total of oversees health care volunteer experience, possibly more. I'm hoping that all of these factors will help. 

I have mapped out about 6 schools I would like to apply for. Do you think that is sufficient? Or should I be looking at more? 

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Unfortunately I'm not in a medical MOS. I'm chemical (joy..) haha. I am considering reenlisting next year if I can get e6 in my contract. Not sure if I want to reclass. Even with my EMT background AIT would still be 8 weeks and that's just time I don't really have. Do you feel it would be beneficial to my application to do so? 

It would be a longer but more sure path to reclass into a medical MOS and work as an enlisted medic, if that's at all possible.  It might well detour your degree completion, but military medic experience is quite highly valued by programs that don't want squeaky-clean 4.0 GPAs without significant HCE.  See what it would take, and what other military folks (I'm not one) recommend about going that route.

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It would be a longer but more sure path to reclass into a medical MOS and work as an enlisted medic, if that's at all possible.  It might well detour your degree completion, but military medic experience is quite highly valued by programs that don't want squeaky-clean 4.0 GPAs without significant HCE.  See what it would take, and what other military folks (I'm not one) recommend about going that route.

Thanks so much! That helps. Like I said, it would only be an 8 week program. So I'll see if I can fit it in somewhere.

 

What would you consider significant HCE? Once I apply I'll have about 3 years full time experience. Is that considered not a lot?

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While military medicine may be highly valued, it may not be AS highly valued in your case. HCE wise, without a deployment, you're looking at about 36 days (14 days plus 2 days for 11 months) a year. At 8 hours a day, that's about 290 hours a year. Not sure the ROI is there if you want to apply in the next few years. Military experience in general is a plus, but I'm not sure the hassle of a reclass is worth it.

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While military medicine may be highly valued, it may not be AS highly valued in your case. HCE wise, without a deployment, you're looking at about 36 days (14 days plus 2 days for 11 months) a year. At 8 hours a day, that's about 290 hours a year. Not sure the ROI is there if you want to apply in the next few years. Military experience in general is a plus, but I'm not sure the hassle of a reclass is worth it.

Hey, thanks for the response. I am still on the fence about the reclass issue anyways, as I just transferred to another state and my MOS isn't available. So to be sloted in a unit I may have to reclass regardless. I was thinking the same thing as you, with no real time in the MOS that wouldn't help much, so I was just looking to do something quick maybe like admin. 

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Agree with what the others have said about targeting schools with lower GPA.  

Once you make a list of the schools you want to apply--that give you the best chances, get in contact with them.  Make a personal visit.  Show how interested you are.  A lot of people applying to PA school at 4.0's--but not everyone takes the extra effort to visit campuses, sit in on classes--show dedication, perseverance.  Also, the 2 courses you got a D and F in-- consider re-taking them.  It looks bad if you re-take a TON of courses but if it is just one or two it shows that you are dedicated to truly knowing and understanding the material that will prepare you as a PA student.  I don't think your chances are hopeless--but it is an uphill battle.  

 

Just for a little confidence booster-- my undergrad GPA was 3.0.  I had to withdraw from an advanced chemistry class I was taking when I needed pre-reqs cause I couldn't keep up with the speed.  I had also earned my masters degree in counseling where i did very well and it helped my GPA as well as my pre-reqs and sciences.  so you see--everyone has a down side!  high light your positives!  I was accepted on my first try--so there is hope!  

 

Good luck!! :)

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Agree with what the others have said about targeting schools with lower GPA.  

Once you make a list of the schools you want to apply--that give you the best chances, get in contact with them.  Make a personal visit.  Show how interested you are.  A lot of people applying to PA school at 4.0's--but not everyone takes the extra effort to visit campuses, sit in on classes--show dedication, perseverance.  Also, the 2 courses you got a D and F in-- consider re-taking them.  It looks bad if you re-take a TON of courses but if it is just one or two it shows that you are dedicated to truly knowing and understanding the material that will prepare you as a PA student.  I don't think your chances are hopeless--but it is an uphill battle.  

 

Just for a little confidence booster-- my undergrad GPA was 3.0.  I had to withdraw from an advanced chemistry class I was taking when I needed pre-reqs cause I couldn't keep up with the speed.  I had also earned my masters degree in counseling where i did very well and it helped my GPA as well as my pre-reqs and sciences.  so you see--everyone has a down side!  high light your positives!  I was accepted on my first try--so there is hope!  

 

Good luck!! :)

 

Thank you so much! That was very helpful.

I am already retaking the class that I got a D in and I currently have an A. :) Also, I have gone to a few information sessions for some schools I would like to attend and was able to meet the admissions board, which was great!

 

Thanks again for your insight! Hopefully I'll be able to do just that!

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Another recommendation, given to me by my EMS director here in Chicago: Get some additional certifications for your EMT licensure, such as PEPP and ITLS. These are relatively easy to attain but add cred to your EMT licensure and your desire to continue learning.

Hey! I actually just moved from the suburbs of Chicago last year. 

In the state I moved to, they require IV cert with EMT so I recently go that. I'll keep that in mind! Thanks!

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Awesome!  Looks like you are on the right track :)

 

Thank you so much! That was very helpful.

I am already retaking the class that I got a D in and I currently have an A. :) Also, I have gone to a few information sessions for some schools I would like to attend and was able to meet the admissions board, which was great!

 

Thanks again for your insight! Hopefully I'll be able to do just that!

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  • 4 months later...

Apply early in the application cycle (preferably as soon as CASPA opens).

Apply to a lot of schools (would aim for 10). This raises your chances.

It can be difficult because schools have drastically different prerequisite requirements. It took me probably 8 hours of research to generate a short list of schools I could qualify for and might be interested in. PAEA had some kind of excel spreadsheet you could pay something like $50 to access that simplified the process.

Your situation does not sound hopeless.

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