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I'm in high school and definitely want to be a PA, but I have questions..

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I'm in my senior year of high school and I will soon be applying to colleges/universities, but I have a lot of questions:

  1. I know (or at least I've been told, so correct me if I'm wrong) that if someone is planning to become a physician and go to medical school, that medical schools essentially view their undergrad years in a similar manner as colleges/universities view high school years. Is this the same for those on track to become a PA? To confirm, my question is: Does where I go for undergrad matter to physician assistant master's programs/PA schools as long as I have a good GPA?
  2. Is it better to enter a physician assistant program right out of high school, or does it not really matter too much? I ask this because I worry about competitiveness in the future when trying to find a job, and I want to be able to get a good job when I graduate and not be scared that I won't. So, the bottomline of what I'm asking is: What do employers specifically look for when selecting employees in this field and how could I make myself stand out?
  3. Financial aid is iffy for my family's financial situation because my dad makes 125K+ a year. However, due to the very high taxes, a high mortgage, and other expenses that my family has to pay, money is becoming more and more of a worry now that college applications are coming up fast. Additionally, I will be taking 5 AP exams in May ($470), there will be yearbook and senior picture fees to take care of, etc., and my family has only saved up a little over $10,000 dollars in my college fund. So do any of you know a way to save money in college and on physician assistant programs? This kind of adds onto #1 because if I can go to a less expensive undergrad to save money that would be really great.
  4. Other than GPA what are the requirements (or anything else that they look for but don't necessarily require) for applying to a physician assistant master's program after getting my bachelor's?
  5. Do you know of any specific schools that are good for this field?
  6. What should I major in?

Those are really all the questions I can think of for now. Thank you to anybody that takes out the time to help me with this, because it really is a nerve-wracking time right now and I need to figure out my plans. Any other related information is gladly appreciated as well!!!

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1.  Generally, no.   A program may be biased toward their own undergraduates, but it's rare to have a bias toward a "better" school, all other things being equal.  Our top graduates were full of community college and GED in jail types.  That's not to say it isn't better to go to Harvard for Biochem and get a 6.75 GPA - just generally rare to run into a bias.

2.  Get into a program that offers a master's.  There are non-masters programs still out there, and many employers require it.  How you do that is up to you, but I will say that the failure rate of people attempting PA school at age 20 is higher than that of someone who has a little more experience with the environment.  The odds are just better.

3.  The money is there.  Grants are fine, but there are loans, too.  Go to a cheap undergraduate and try to save money where ever you can.  I did my undergraduate degree in 21 months from a standing start by simultaneously taking the lower level classes - some in my major - at the local CC for about $220.  I had to ping-pong back and forth a little bit, but this saved me tens of thousands of dollars.  

4.  You will need some specific classes, and every program is slightly different in what they require.  You can easily get these as electives or whatever during your undergraduate degree.  Generally, you will need a couple of years of general and organic chemistry, a year of bio, a year of A&P, probably biochem and genetics.  Like I said, every program is slightly different - google any handful of programs and you'll start getting an idea of the similarities.  

5.  Undergraduate schools?  I don't know.  Top PA schools are generally Duke, Iowa, and then anyone's opinion from there.  I'm partial to Drexel, for example, I interviewed there but was not accepted (some sort of administrative oversight).  My opinion only.  I interviewed at some "top" schools that I had some pretty negative feelings about, including the one I attended.  A good fit is a good fit, nothing else matters.

6.  Something you LIKE and are GOOD AT.  If that's music or accounting, then take PA pre-reqs as electives and get good grades in everything, no problem.  It's not generally true that schools prefer bio or pre-med majors (you may find this somewhere).  PA schools want people who are good at being students - period.  A 3.0 GPA biochem major vs. a firewall GPA student of art history who did the pre-reqs as electives?  No contest.  MANY if not MOST of the people reading this thread right now studied something unrelated to medicine, including me, and are better off for it.

Sorry for the length, I do that.  Good luck.

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Ditto to what @south said.

Also, if I may add: Since you're still in highschool and know you want to enter the PA profession, I would recommend looking into programs that accept you straight out of highschool. For example you would enter the University do ~3 years of usually a science degree (bio or chem) to get your bachelors , then assuming you meet all the program requirements (like the minimum GPA you need to maintain, and required health care hours etc..) you start PA school and finish in 2-3 years. So a total of 5-6 years it takes to become a PA straight out of highschool, good deal! 

There are ~40 schools that offer something like this nationwide, I would find one nearest/cheapest to you. Link to the programs: https://www.thepalife.com/direct-entry-and-dual-degree-bsms-physician-assistant-programs/

Good luck!

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Another suggestion to add to what has already been said.

I stand by that it is very reasonable to gain patient care hours while in undergrad. Even if you worked during the weekends for those four years, it adds up quick and it provides an income to cut down on costs. But remember if it becomes too much and you can't maintain your GPA, cut back hours. Don't let your GPA suffer at the cost of trying to do too many extracurricular activities at once.

Some employers will offer tuition reimbursement so that will cut down undergrad costs even more. Do your generals at a low cost community college or at a cheaper university near you.

It might be worth looking into if your highschool offers any programs where you can get an EMT, CNA, or MA certification while in highschool. Sometimes it is listed as a concurrent enrollment type class or can be associated with some technical school in your area that let highschool students gain these certs before they even graduate. Take advantage of this if you can! I sure wish I would have.

12 minutes ago, OneDayPA-C said:

For example you would enter the University do ~3 years of usually a science degree (bio or chem) to get your bachelors , then assuming you meet all the program requirements (like the minimum GPA you need to maintain, and required health care hours etc..) you start PA school and finish in 2-3 years

There are also some programs that will say they hold a certain amount of spots for their pre-PA undergrad students or at least have so many interview spots for them. Something to keep in mind.

Whatever you choose for your major, make sure it is something you are actually interested in. If that is a science degree, great! If not, don't torture yourself hah! But I would also recommend choosing something that would also offer good options for possible career paths if your plans change.

Good luck!

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I would advise looking at Med School instead of PA school unless you have very good reasons to avoid MD/DO. Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 27-28ish. PA is a fantastic career but if you're seriously considering a medical career might as well prepare for Med school and see where the chips fall. 

Edited for math. 

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8 minutes ago, boli said:

I would advise looking at Med School instead of PA school 

Why on earth would you settle for MD/DO if you have a chance to be a PA?  Reach for the stars!  MD/DO is always there as a backup plan if something happens.   

Ha Ha!  U Mad Bro?

The part about PCE is a good point, if you haven't considered it.  While they are creating more PA schools every day, it's getting more competitive.  Who knows what it will look like in 5 years?  But having 1000+ hours of PCE will open a lot of doors.  2000+ even more. 

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42 minutes ago, south said:

Why on earth would you settle for MD/DO if you have a chance to be a PA?  Reach for the stars!  MD/DO is always there as a backup plan if something happens.   

Ha Ha!  U Mad Bro?

The part about PCE is a good point, if you haven't considered it.  While they are creating more PA schools every day, it's getting more competitive.  Who knows what it will look like in 5 years?  But having 1000+ hours of PCE will open a lot of doors.  2000+ even more. 

Haha not sure if you're being facetious but this is pretty standard advice for young people interested in medicine. EMEDPA has said it many times and I agree. I know all the stats about job satisfaction etc etc and I am totally happy with my decision to pursue the PA profession but if I was 18 and had the foresight to plan my future like this I would most likely give MD/DO a LONG, HARD look. As it is, I have no interest in the MD/DO path due to my station in life and goals. Both are great careers that foster sometimes disparate values.

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I'm not actually being facetious.  I'm just cool with my maybe unpopular opinion, and everyone else's as well.  I'll invite any flames headed my way, but haters gonna hate and all of that.  We all know all of my opinions are always right and people that disagree are all wrong.  I'm okay with that!

I'll never think it's for everybody.  I would not have gone to medical school for free when I was 18, and didn't in my 40's when I had the chance.  Once I discovered PA, it was no contest.  I told the Harvard Post-bacc I wasn't coming after all and canceled all my apartment stuff in Cambridge.

I was simply assuming OP had made that decision already.  Maybe I should suggest they go ask the PA vs. MD over at SDN.  I got the comedy tonight! Try the veal, and tip your waiters and waitresses.

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with the increasing # of 3 yr med schools, identical prereqs(except for the mcat) and many PA schools approaching 30 months, it makes sense to take a LONG HARD LOOK at becoming a physician. wish I had.....

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4 hours ago, boli said:

I would advise looking at Med School instead of PA school unless you have very good reasons to avoid MD/DO. Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 25-26. PA is a fantastic career but if you're seriously considering a medical career might as well prepare for Med school and see where the chips fall. 

Maybeee my math is off? But assuming that you graduate from undergrad when you're 22, go straight into a 4-year medical school, and then do 3-7 years of residency, the earliest you'd be done is 29.

I'm definitely all for exploring every option that you can, but just because someone is young does not mean that they should automatically gun for medical school. But that's just my two cents.

OP, definitely shadow both professions and do your research and if PA school is still what you want to do, then you have some pretty good advice given to you on this thread. :)

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Kudos to you for thinking so far ahead and so practically about your future. You are a very different 18 yo than I was! Lol
I'd say stay open during undergrad (PA is fantastic, but there are a lot of careers out there) and do something that includes science. My didactic year was pretty chemistry-intense and those of us who had more experience with those classes had a much easier time than those without. Plus, science is awesome. Look into what are commonly pre-reqs for PA programs and maybe pick a major that includes them. I think getting patient care experience is very important, if you're going to be a PA. I've noticed that nursing experience is what sometimes makes people think that NPs are more qualified than PAs and I'm always glad I have my first career to kind of level the field, if that makes sense. It also helped me a lot during clinical rotations.
If you're really trying to keep costs down, consider working during undergrad and taking a lighter course load and/or doing community college first. I did community college first and even though I was a full time student, always worked about 30 hours a week. I'm really glad I kept costs down before grad school debt because those loans are more than enough.
Also, remember that you're 18 and even though it's great to have direction, you should make the most of the next few years. Explore your options, try new things, meet people, travel, make mistakes, find yourself and all that. Get your education, get good grades, but don't feel so rushed to get right to the end. You'll likely be working for a looong time, but this stage of your life is limited and you'll miss it when it's over.

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5 hours ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

Maybeee my math is off? But assuming that you graduate from undergrad when you're 22, go straight into a 4-year medical school, and then do 3-7 years of residency, the earliest you'd be done is 29.

It's not your math. It's your logic. You become a "practicing physician" at the start of your residency, not at the end of it.

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5 hours ago, Maynard said:

It's not your math. It's your logic. You become a "practicing physician" at the start of your residency, not at the end of it.

Boli said, "Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 25-26." It has to be one or the other, not both.

Also, nowhere in my response did I say that you cannot be a practicing physician until the end of residency. I said that you would not be done with residency training until you're 29. That is the part of his statement that I was responding to. My logic is fine. ;)

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18 hours ago, EMEDPA said:

with the increasing # of 3 yr med schools, identical prereqs(except for the mcat) and many PA schools approaching 30 months, it makes sense to take a LONG HARD LOOK at becoming a physician. wish I had.....

I understand that, but being a physician is not what I want out of life. There are at least 3 years of residency even after I would graduate med school, there are infinite loans to pay off and I wouldn't make a decent salary until I'm 30, there's the issue of paying for malpractice insurance, switching specialties is a hard no unless you're willing to go through your residency again, there are so many hours, etc. I want to have a life outside of my career, I want options, and I don't care about the money or the title I'd get being a physician because I'm going into the medical profession to help and connect with others in a way where I wouldn't have to worry about money and I would be able to take care of my future family. Really, the choice is obvious for me. The only people becoming doctor's nowadays are the ones uneducated about the PA field or the ones who love to workworkwork (not me at all). 

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20 hours ago, boli said:

I would advise looking at Med School instead of PA school unless you have very good reasons to avoid MD/DO. Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 25-26. PA is a fantastic career but if you're seriously considering a medical career might as well prepare for Med school and see where the chips fall. 

(yes, this is the same response I gave to someone else, I copied and pasted it bc my message remains the same) I understand that, but being a physician is not what I want out of life, nor is it all that society makes it out to be. There are at least 3 years of residency (most commonly 4) even after I would graduate med school, so though I would be a practicing physician by that time, I would be making really crappy pay while going through the hell of residency, there are infinite loans to pay off and I wouldn't make a decent salary until I'm 30, there's the issue of paying for malpractice insurance, switching specialties is a hard no unless you're willing to go through your residency again, there are so many hours, etc. I want to have a life outside of my career, I want options, and I don't care about the money or the title I'd get being a physician because I'm going into the medical profession to help and connect with others in a way where I wouldn't have to worry about money and I would be able to take care of my future family. Really, the choice is obvious for me. PA's have a balanced work and personal life, they can switch specialties with little to no training, they still make great pay, it costs half the amount that med school costs, etc. The only people becoming doctor's nowadays are the ones uneducated about the PA field or the ones who love to workworkwork (not me at all). 

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you have a lot of research to do still. outside of surgery, many PAs work MORE than the docs they work with. I have been working in medicine for over 30 years. I know a lot more happy, well rounded physicians than PAs. the folks I know who are better parents are the docs, not the PAs, why? they work 30 hrs/week while the PAs work 45-80. they are home at night while the PAs cover the ICU, ER, etc  they are home Christmas, etc while the PAs staff the various hospital depts. they are at their kid's ball games while the PA is seeing pts in clinic.

physicians who get initial training in family medicine can do many things outside of clinic work. this is a very flexible career path. one can do ER coverage, manage OB pts including c-sections,  work as a hospitalist, do lots of procedures like scopes, derm stuff, treadmills, cosmetic stuff, vasectomies, overseas work, etc.

my biggest regret in life I think is not going to medschool. I like my current PA job, but it took 20 years to get here to work at a place a physician could work day 1 out of residency. I also have to drive more than an hr from a major metro area to find a place that treats PAs well, one of the few places in my state. Docs get instant respect based on the initials after their name. we get instant doubt about our qualifications and constantly have to prove ourselves.

please, do yourself a favor. Shadow docs and PAs in the same specialty. ask them about their lives outside of work before you make a decision about who has a better life.

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Your path for both MD and PA will be very similar regardless of the choice you make today. Pre-PA is essentially the same as Pre-Med minus the year of physics. You'll still take Gen Chem I/II + organic and biochem, Bio I/II, Genetics, Molecular Bio, Anatomy & Phys I/II etc. Shadow, gain direct patient care experience (CNA/EMT/MA etc) and ask the providers you work with about their lives, their jobs, and everything else you can think up. In a few years you'll have the ammunition to decide whether to take the MCAT or not. I don't say this to belittle your opinion, but when I was 18 I wanted to be an archaeologist. Things change as you are exposed to new people and experiences. The recipe for admission to post-bac programs is pretty simple all things considered: Good GPA, good letters of Rec, good test scores, volunteerism and pertinent experience (research for PhD, HCE for PA etc). Best of luck! 

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Okay, but OP did not ask anything about being a PA vs. a doctor. I don't know why posts like this from young prospective PAs always get responses that seem to steer towards discouraging them from joining such a great profession. Keep the faith, OP. If you want to be a PA, you will get there. Try also asking your question on the Pre-PA Reddit (which I find to be more supportive toward young people becoming PAs).

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13 minutes ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

Okay, but OP did not ask anything about being a PA vs. a doctor. I don't know why posts like this from young prospective PAs always get responses that seem to steer towards discouraging them from joining such a great profession. Keep the faith, OP. If you want to be a PA, you will get there. Try also asking your question on the Pre-PA Reddit (which I find to be more supportive toward young people becoming PAs).

It's a recurring theme here lmao. 

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7 hours ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

Boli said, "Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 25-26." It has to be one or the other, not both.

I knew my skimming (rather than actually reading) would catch up to me eventually.

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10 minutes ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

Okay, but OP did not ask anything about being a PA vs. a doctor. I don't know why posts like this from young prospective PAs always get responses that seem to steer towards discouraging them from joining such a great profession. Keep the faith, OP. If you want to be a PA, you will get there. Try also asking your question on the Pre-PA Reddit (which I find to be more supportive toward young people becoming PAs).

I'm sorry if you interpreted my post as a slight against the PA profession or a personal affront. As I said multiple times the PA career is fantastic and I am pursuing becoming a PA myself over a MD/DO. I don't want to be a doctor. The reason I brought up MD in the first place was that the OP's post implied that they haven't done a ton of research about the profession or the logistics of getting there which could be interpreted as maybe they hadn't considered MD/DO. I'm just a dude on the internet, y'all can do whatever the eff you want to do, but my advice remains the same. If I was 18 and in her shoes I would definitely consider MD as an option. It ultimately depends on her goals and aspirations. If she decides to go PA, that's great too. My wife decided at age 17 she wanted to be a PT and today she's a happy practicing PT so it can be done. Also worth pointing out that many a pre-PA/Pre-Med decided to go a different route once they took some upper level college classes. Either way, wishing the OP the best of luck on her exciting journey ahead.

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7 hours ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

Boli said, "Assuming you're 18 you could be done with school/residency and be a practicing physician by age 25-26." It has to be one or the other, not both.

Also, nowhere in my response did I say that you cannot be a practicing physician until the end of residency. I said that you would not be done with residency training until you're 29. That is the part of his statement that I was responding to. My logic is fine. ;)

Start college at 18, graduate at 21. Start 3 year MD program finish at 24. 3 yr residency= 27....Have your med school loans paid off before age 40. . My math was off a little but the premise remain the same. 

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I'm still finishing undergrad, but I am 27, an EMT, and I've been a mechanic and many other things before starting this path. If I were 18, I would choose MD/DO over PA. PA is a great field, but you're 18! I had no idea what I wanted at 18. How long have you had your mind set on becoming a PA, and how quickly did you push the thought of being a doctor away? You are right - it is your decision, and you may ultimately be happy as one. EMEDPA has a lot of experience so I can only echo his sentiment, as I agree fully with what he is saying. There have been quite a few PA's that regret not going on to become a doctor because of the time involved.

The way I see it, you're going to be that age at some point anyway. Do what you want to be doing at that age, not a resort to fear for other things. In either route you will never stop learning, you will make sacrifices. PA's may not have to deal with some of the stuff doctors have to, but it is still hard work, and there are people on here that regret going to PA school when they thought it was an easier route. There are PA's that go back to become a doctor because of the things EMEDPA has said. Colleges have made bridge programs specifically for PA's- that should say something right there. I think you may be jumping the gun a bit; I am saying that respectively. Also, PA schools tend to notice older students, as many applicants are older professionals that have already worked in healthcare and have experience, knowing that this is what they want. The fact that they already have experience is what makes it logical for them to do a shorter education and training curriculum than a doctor, since they're usually starting from scratch.

I strongly suggest shadowing both, getting solid interviews with both, and stay open-minded. I have jumped back and forth countless times and it has driven me nuts at times. You have plenty of time, and by the time you're in college your interest could very-well change. I think a lot of people see the pay that PA's make out of the gate, and what websites say without stating the cons, and immediately think "that's it!" I am not saying you are doing that, it's just my hypothesis on a general population. Either way, this is a great forum, you have a lot of time, just be mindful about this. Regret is a lot harder on you than the money you would spend paying back in loans. Good luck, nonetheless! 

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46 minutes ago, TheLastStone said:

I'm still finishing undergrad, but I am 27, an EMT, and I've been a mechanic and many other things before starting this path. If I were 18, I would choose MD/DO over PA. PA is a great field, but you're 18! I had no idea what I wanted at 18. How long have you had your mind set on becoming a PA, and how quickly did you push the thought of being a doctor away? You are right - it is your decision, and you may ultimately be happy as one. EMEDPA has a lot of experience so I can only echo his sentiment, as I agree fully with what he is saying. There have been quite a few PA's that regret not going on to become a doctor because of the time involved.

The way I see it, you're going to be that age at some point anyway. Do what you want to be doing at that age, not a resort to fear for other things. In either route you will never stop learning, you will make sacrifices. PA's may not have to deal with some of the stuff doctors have to, but it is still hard work, and there are people on here that regret going to PA school when they thought it was an easier route. There are PA's that go back to become a doctor because of the things EMEDPA has said. Colleges have made bridge programs specifically for PA's- that should say something right there. I think you may be jumping the gun a bit; I am saying that respectively. Also, PA schools tend to notice older students, as many applicants are older professionals that have already worked in healthcare and have experience, knowing that this is what they want. The fact that they already have experience is what makes it logical for them to do a shorter education and training curriculum than a doctor, since they're usually starting from scratch.

I strongly suggest shadowing both, getting solid interviews with both, and stay open-minded. I have jumped back and forth countless times and it has driven me nuts at times. You have plenty of time, and by the time you're in college your interest could very-well change. I think a lot of people see the pay that PA's make out of the gate, and what websites say without stating the cons, and immediately think "that's it!" I am not saying you are doing that, it's just my hypothesis on a general population. Either way, this is a great forum, you have a lot of time, just be mindful about this. Regret is a lot harder on you than the money you would spend paying back in loans. Good luck, nonetheless! 

On this same note, I have met so many doctors through shadowing experiences who have told me that they regret having gone to med school and that they would've chosen the PA route in a heartbeat if only they'd known about it. Some of these same doctors have also told me that they are discouraging their children from following in their footsteps. I've also met many doctors who pull >60 hours/week as well as PAs who work 3-4 12's per week. Again, it is all a matter of perspective and your specialty. Staying open-minded is great, but someone's beliefs shouldn't automatically be disregarded because of their age. I'm a traditional student who just graduated last year and wants to be a PA. Does that mean I'm jumping the gun? No, it doesn't.

Not everyone who wants to practice medicine wants to be a doctor.

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    • By ThomasSaw
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      Or does the fact that the application was never fully completed mean that none of the schools know that I am trying again this year for the PA application cycle.
      Asking because some of the schools question whether or not you have previously applied to the school.
      Any advice appreciated. Thank you.
    • By PAssionate20
      Hello, 
      I'm looking for private tutoring for  PANCE to help me in certain areas. If anyone tutors please let me know.
      Thank you. 
       
    • By levk22
      Hello all!
      I’m relatively new to this site and it’s my first time posting. I recently submitted my applications and I received an email yesterday from a school about my grade in Orgo 1. I got a C- (ugh. I know) and they said that they couldn’t substitute Orgo 2 for that requirement. They asked if I would be interested in retaking the course which I am interested in doing if it’ll increase my chances of getting in. 
      My question is: how do I go about adding that to my application if I’m not taking the class until the fall? Should I call each program I applied to and tell them my intention of retaking it or should I just add it to my transcript on CASPA saying it’s in progress even though it won’t start until August?
      Thanks in advance!
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