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Strategy when applying with lower stats and no GRE.

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Here is my application plan.  What do you think I can do differently if anything?

If most every PA student is getting in with a 3.5 or better then my stats would be considered lower.  My CASPA calculation will always be low due to a bad year over a decade ago where I just wasn't interested in school period.  I have a bunch of W's and F's on that transcript.  I left school and went to work for a few years and then eventually returned to another school to complete my degree and graduate.  Those W's and F's never transferred to my graduating GPA was not too bad and looks almost blemish-free.  I thought the bad transcript was behind me when I eventually did graduate but now that transcript is going to come back to haunt me with CASPA and I'd like to know what your thoughts are regarding improving an application to look beyond that.

Here is what I want to do.  I found two schools right now that said they look at the last 24-32 credits and one of them has grade forgiveness so that should help my situation out a bit.  Both school's don't require the GRE and seem to be more open-minded with applications like mine. Is there anything wrong with focusing on 2-3 schools and just improving my app over the next year and applying to these programs only?  Or should everybody be applying to more than a few schools regardless?

I looked at some programs like Penn State and Boston University just for fun and their incoming stats are almost equivalent to MD candidates.

Just want to know what the best approach would be.

 

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Have you first attempted to calculate your CASPA GPA? I posted the link of how to calculate that. I would start there and see if your GPA would meet the minimum for most programs, then from there you can seek out ones that will look at your application holistically and preferably a chunk of your last few semesters of credit hours.

https://help.liaisonedu.com/CASPA_Applicant_Help_Center/Submitting_and_Monitoring_Your_CASPA_Application/Verification_and_GPA_Calculations_for_CASPA/2_How_Your_GPA_is_Calculated

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I haven't actually done that yet but lets just say I have more F's than is normal.  I already had a phone appointment/conversation with both admissions departments and told them of the situation and they said the most recent coursework would hold the most weight and they assured me the application would not be pre-screened. 

My concern is do most people apply broadly for a successful application or can people be successful even if they just narrow their choices down to a few schools?  In other words, is it a waste to apply to 2-3 schools only.

I contacted another school and they said they were very strict on the CASPA GPA calculations so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that any school that says they have absolute GPA values will not be a school that I can apply to.

I am all for GPA improvement but you also have to be realistic with that.  It's hard to bump up even one F and I have many so my goal is to look for schools that will focus on the last year or so of credits for which I do have greater than a 3.5.

 

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I think you are on the right track for directly contacting schools and seeing how they will evaluate your application.

Obviously there is a component of likelihood where the more schools you apply to, the better your chances are but that really only applies if you are applying to schools where your application fits in to their typical accepted applicant. Plenty of people can apply to tons of schools but that won't matter if those schools aren't chosen wisely.

I think it would still be worth your time to calculate your CASPA GPA just so you know what you are dealing with and what to expect after CASPA does your calculation. 

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I think I'm avoiding calculating it because the number will be devastating.  I know it sounds crazy but I want to wait till I finish the rest of the science coursework with good grades and then I'll feel more comfortable with whatever that CASPA calculation comes out to.  I just don't want to demotivate myself at this stage.

On a side note, do admissions standards change frequently?  I'm applying for the 2020 cycle so it would be very disappointing if some of these schools that I am looking at bump up their standards in the next two cycles because then I'd have zero chance.

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It is a possibility that a programs admissions standards could change from one admission cycle to the next. Administration can change or they can just decide what kind of applicant pool they are looking for. I think you could call those specific programs and see if they are planning on any of those changes in the near future, but nothing is a guarantee. 

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Do you have any advice on GPA repair?  I had three science pre reqs with my current degree that are only four years old.  I have been accepted to a post-bacc this summer to complete the rest of the courses and I plan on taking a few upper level courses as well.

Do you think it's a waste to stay in school longer than that to bump up a GPA with "filler" courses?  That's the part I'm concerned about.  I think you lose both ways on this because the schools will see the poor initial GPA and then they might look down on the fact that you just took random courses for no reason other than to pad your GPA.  I don't know which is the best route to take with GPA repair.

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2 hours ago, PA2020Candidate said:

I think I'm avoiding calculating it because the number will be devastating.

Not trying to be mean here, but if you can't deal with objective reality in the PA school application process--not even that, in the mental run-up to the application--you are likely to wash out, burn out, or worse.

If you're not a shoe-in candidate, the best thing you can do is methodically dissect your own progress to date so that you can find and correct the weaknesses.  When it comes to GPA, that means figuring out how bad it is, and how many credits of 4.0 it will take to get it where it needs to be.

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27 minutes ago, rev ronin said:

Not trying to be mean here, but if you can't deal with objective reality in the PA school application process--not even that, in the mental run-up to the application--you are likely to wash out, burn out, or worse.

If you're not a shoe-in candidate, the best thing you can do is methodically dissect your own progress to date so that you can find and correct the weaknesses.  When it comes to GPA, that means figuring out how bad it is, and how many credits of 4.0 it will take to get it where it needs to be.

Lol, that's a bit dramatic there.  I'm going to be completing coursework this summer in an informal post-bacc to finish up the remaining pre req courses as well as a few upper level courses to enhance my current upward trend.  After I have that in hand, I'll look at the CASPA calculation.  Why look at it or focus on that now when I have to focus on the courses ahead.

I can always go back and just take filer courses to bump up the GPA but a part of me says that is not the right approach.  The good part about my grades currently is the upward trend.  Do you have any advice on when to try and take extra courses and when to leave it as it is and improve other aspects of the application?

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Make sure you improve on all aspects on your application as well.. try for 2000 hours of PCE, write an excellent PS, get amazing LORS, get ECs that show leadership.. I was also a low stats applicant (3.4 gpa) and hardly scraped by this cycle. It really does get more competitive every year.

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Like @rev ronin said it's hard to objectively say how much of gpa repair is needed if we don't know the baseline. How many more science classes will you need? How long will that take? When do you reach the point where taking more filler classes are not going to help bump your gpa in a significant manner?

With that said, you are doing everything you are supposed to by maintaining the upward gpa trend. Keep that momentum going. You've already gotten great advices here. 

Lastly, yes I feel most do apply broadly. But that means apply smartly as well to the schools that you will be competitive. For example, I'm an extreme case though. I applied to 20. Initially it was like 12 but when I got the first 5 rejections,  I panicked and applied to few, I mean a lot more. The 5 rejections I got were because I didn't do proper research on their requirements and I was late as they were rolling admissions. So don't be like me on that regards. 

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13 minutes ago, moleashish said:

Like @rev ronin said it's hard to objectively say how much of gpa repair is needed if we don't know the baseline. How many more science classes will you need? How long will that take? When do you reach the point where taking more filler classes are not going to help bump your gpa in a significant manner?

With that said, you are doing everything you are supposed to by maintaining the upward gpa trend. Keep that momentum going. You've already gotten great advices here. 

Lastly, yes I feel most do apply broadly. But that means apply smartly as well to the schools that you will be competitive. For example, I'm an extreme case though. I applied to 20. Initially it was like 12 but when I got the first 5 rejections,  I panicked and applied to few, I mean a lot more. The 5 rejections I got were because I didn't do proper research on their requirements and I was late as they were rolling admissions. So don't be like me on that regards. 

I have three science courses to complete for one program.  For another program they want me to repeat a chem course from a decade ago so I would have more than three for that school and some others. I have been accepted to a post-bacc for the summer and I plan on completing Orgo in the summer and a full load for two semesters.  That will give me the pre req requirements as well as some upper level courses.  The goal is to apply next spring for either a January 2020 start for a few programs or an August 2020 start for most others.

Staying in class beyond those two terms would push a potential application out to 2021 which I want to avoid at all costs.  That's why whatever needs to get done in the class room has to get done with the next 32-40 credits of work.  That will really help the upward trend I have going but will do little to nothing for the CASPA calculation.  I am not one to give though so I will have to do extra work to seek out those programs that have separate GPA calculations.  My only fear is that in the next two cycles, they change their admissions standards.  I was told that most probably won't happen.

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I agree with Rev and moleashish. You should calculate your GPA now so you know where you stand; putting your head in the sand and hiding from your GPA isn't helping you. The most successful applicants tend to approach the entire application process (before even actually starting the CASPA application itself) in a methodical and well-planned manner, and this is regardless of their specific "stats". You know that your GPA isn't what you wish it was, but you don't actually know where you stand, and that isn't a great place to be. You also have a fixed number of credits you are trying to complete before you apply in 2020, but you don't know where you will be if you get As in all those classes. 

To answer one of your earlier questions, I don't think applying to only 2-3 schools is a wise choice, especially considering that you know you had academic issues in the past. You also don't want to simply apply randomly to more schools; you should methodically research more widely and look for schools that focus more on the last 60 credit hours or so (and those that have a "holistic" application process), and those that have lower GPA entrance requirements.

Also, taking upper level science classes to improve your GPA isn't the same as taking "random courses for no reason other than to pad your GPA"; rather, it is showing admissions committees that you can handle difficult, upper level coursework that is directly related to the study of medicine, and do well in them. 

 

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9 minutes ago, ProSpectre said:

Also, taking upper level science classes to improve your GPA isn't the same as taking "random courses for no reason other than to pad your GPA"; rather, it is showing admissions committees that you can handle difficult, upper level coursework that is directly related to the study of medicine, and do well in them

 

This is the ultimate goal right here.  If I can show an adcom that the science part is good, then I am hoping they will pay less attention to the W's and F's from the past.  I should note those courses were in another discipline.

My state school has a great program and is the most accommodating of all the schools I have researched and called.  Ideally, I'd like to put all my eggs in one basket and aim for that program but that's incredibly risky.  Then again I could apply to a lot of other schools and not stand a chance so that wouldn't make any sense either.

I think my concern now is more of putting an application together that at least piques an adcom's interest so they can look at the other aspects.  Sadly, at some schools I won't even get to that point.

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6 hours ago, SCHW9076 said:

Sorry if I missed it, but what's your patient care experience like?

 

I have 10 years of healthcare experience, a year of EMS experience, lots of interesting shadowing and volunteering. I would have absolutely ZERO problem discussing my experiences during an interview.

With the healthcare experience, my job titles were not clinical titles but I had direct patient contact where I was assisting with helping radiology techs with patients for studies in CT, Ultrasound, MRI, and Nuclear Med.  For all intents and purposes it's clinical exposure but I would need to explain my responsibilities.  My job title was tech aid/film assistant.  I worked in an ED for several years in a registration role but you're not siting behind a desk there; you're essentially seeing the same things the scribe is seeing and you're the first person who interacts with the patient.  The medical staff is getting the H&P and you're getting the clerical version of that.  It might sound stupid but interacting with a real patient is just as important as treating them so I am very confident with my experience with patients.  I worked side by side with the PA staff in the ED.  You might not think that is observing or shadowing a PA but you'd be surprised what you can learn when you are proactive.  All my hours can be documented by HR.

Additionally, I am looking to add one solid year of direct contact volunteering or patient experience to supplement my application while I am in school this coming summer/fall/spring.

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OK, I finally calculated my CASPA GPA and lets just say it's not good.  It's very different than the GPA listed on my graduating transcript that I have been using to get my last two jobs.

Having said that, I did some hypothetical calculations and even if I stayed in school for four more terms at 16 credits a term and I got a 3.8 each term, I still would not even break a 3.0. That GPA literally is not budging.

So going back to what I had asked earlier, I am researching schools that say the application will not be pre-screened and that they will do their own calculation.  One school said they have grade forgiveness and another school said they do a calculation for the last 24 or more credits.  Those would put me in a much better spot.

What advice do you have for someone in a spot like this?  I had to blow the dust off one of these transcripts which is from 2005.  That's the one transcript that is messing up everything.  So we now know that no amount of extra classes is going to get me into even the 3.0 range.  If a school says they will calculate these GPA's their own way, what are some things I can do to get noticed so that they at least look at my app to make those new calculations which should give me much better numbers?

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OP you've got an uphill battle.  Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, you might want to approach your HCE/PCE with a little less confidence.  Direct patient 'contact' is not the same as being in charge of a patient's care and treatment.  You will be hard pressed to find a school that considers your ED registration gig PCE.  You might even have a hard sell with film assistant.  They certainly might count as HCE but in the scheme of PA school applicants, PCE is where it counts.  Working near and next to PAs and MDs can certainly be valuable but you can't count that as shadowing.

The bottom line is there is no magic bullet to getting into PA school.  Students that get in have good GPAs, good GRE scores, years of PCE, etc etc.  Obviously there are exceptions to every 'rule' and as you've already found each program is different in how they approach evaluating candidates.  But generally the advice you are looking for is: take more classes and get A's.  Get more and better HCE/PCE.  Volunteer.  Shadow.  Write a good personal statement.  Have good references.  There isn't a magic piece of advice.  We aren't hiding a secret password to get your app looked at.  Apply smartly and broadly and with the best application you can muster.  There's no trick, just good old fashioned hard work to be done. The hard truth is that not everyone who wants to be a PA can get into PA school. 

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4 hours ago, MT2PA said:

OP you've got an uphill battle.  Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, you might want to approach your HCE/PCE with a little less confidence.  Direct patient 'contact' is not the same as being in charge of a patient's care and treatment.  You will be hard pressed to find a school that considers your ED registration gig PCE.  You might even have a hard sell with film assistant.  They certainly might count as HCE but in the scheme of PA school applicants, PCE is where it counts.  Working near and next to PAs and MDs can certainly be valuable but you can't count that as shadowing.

The bottom line is there is no magic bullet to getting into PA school.  Students that get in have good GPAs, good GRE scores, years of PCE, etc etc.  Obviously there are exceptions to every 'rule' and as you've already found each program is different in how they approach evaluating candidates.  But generally the advice you are looking for is: take more classes and get A's.  Get more and better HCE/PCE.  Volunteer.  Shadow.  Write a good personal statement.  Have good references.  There isn't a magic piece of advice.  We aren't hiding a secret password to get your app looked at.  Apply smartly and broadly and with the best application you can muster.  There's no trick, just good old fashioned hard work to be done. The hard truth is that not everyone who wants to be a PA can get into PA school. 

I get that.

But it's also how you sell yourself and those experiences. You'd be surprised but there's no difference in exposure between ED registration and scribing.  How do I know this?  We used to sit next to each other in the ED.  If anything, I see and do more because I actually interact with the patient which I believe is a very important skill to have.  Shadowing and interacting are very different.  But once you see "registration" in the title, there is this immediate bias that the job can in no way shape or form be considered clinical in nature and that the job is paperwork only which is just not the case.  If the nurse or tech wasn't around, it was our job to assist if we could.  On one occasion, I had to put my clipboard down and assist a tech in putting a deceased patient in a body bag and transporting them to the morgue. Many more stories like that.  So yeah, you see what you want to see in the ED no matter your job title.  I believe it's more important to be able to talk about your experience than simply marking a box that you completed some hours. I believe those hours are significant but I am looking to supplement them in the next year or so with "real" clinical hours just to say I did even though I feel like I've seen most everything over the span of a decade with the employment, volunteering, and other life experiences that I have had.  I haven't seen open-heart surgery but then again I have no interest in that. I also strongly believe that clinical exposure hits diminishing returns faster than you would think.  The difference between 2 and 3 years of exposure in one area is minimal so I think it's more quality over quantity.

The CASPA calculation is unfortunate for those who decided to pursue this career at a later date.  To put that into even more perspective, CASPA wasn't even around when I was a freshman.  I don't agree with calculating all grades because I don't believe it proves anything for older applicants like myself who actually have decades between course work.  I think it could be useful if you had a group of students who are the same age who all graduated in four years so that you can standardize that specific group.

Taking more classes is a good thing but I think it should also be done within reason.  One or maybe two years of a 3.6 or better should prove to any adcom that you can handle a graduate science program.  Staying in school beyond that to incrementally improve an already lower GPA really makes no sense from a financial point of view.

So it's good I found a few schools that have separate calculations for GPA but I question why have CASPA calculations at all when schools are obviously evaluating transcripts in other ways; other ways that I think better reflect the true potential of the applicant.

 

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You may already know this but there are schools with minimum GPA requirements of 2.75 or 2.80 cumulative and science. You could possibly manage to get your foot in the door at those schools and even be strongly considered if your last 24-40 credit hours are strong both in difficulty (upper-level science coursework) and performance. So if you can't manage to get the 3.0 benchmark, those schools might be an option for you.

All of your points are valid. It sucks to have a class that you might have retaken and did substantially better in, not make a dent in your GPA. It's the unfortunate reality every applicant deals with though. While I'm sure there might be better ways to standardize entrance requirements and grade repeats, we might be far away from those being implemented across the board. With how hyper-competitive applying to PA school has become, I would have to think that most programs wouldn't have the time or manpower to recalculate everyone's GPA over the course of their academic career, especially if they are getting 1000+ applications. That would be a lot for even 500 applications. I'm struggling to think of one school that would do that. That's why a good number of schools place the emphasis on the last 24-60 credit hours because they expect there to be a healthy number of applicants with academic blemishes and want to be able to look at people holistically. But unfortunately, that's only if you can meet the minimum requirements.

Good luck to you.

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8 minutes ago, HawkIPA2020 said:

You may already know this but there are schools with minimum GPA requirements of 2.75 or 2.80 cumulative and science. You could possibly manage to get your foot in the door at those schools and even be strongly considered if your last 24-40 credit hours are strong both in difficulty (upper-level science coursework) and performance. So if you can't manage to get the 3.0 benchmark, those schools might be an option for you.

All of your points are valid. It sucks to have a class that you might have retaken and did substantially better in, not make a dent in your GPA. It's the unfortunate reality every applicant deals with though. While I'm sure there might be better ways to standardize entrance requirements and grade repeats, we might be far away from those being implemented across the board. With how hyper-competitive applying to PA school has become, I would have to think that most programs wouldn't have the time or manpower to recalculate everyone's GPA over the course of their academic career, especially if they are getting 1000+ applications. That would be a lot for even 500 applications. I'm struggling to think of one school that would do that. That's why a good number of schools place the emphasis on the last 24-60 credit hours because they expect there to be a healthy number of applicants with academic blemishes and want to be able to look at people holistically. But unfortunately, that's only if you can meet the minimum requirements.

Good luck to you.

Thanks,

The admissions requirements at all of the schools are all over the place, just when you think one school might be easier to get in, they want the GRE, another school puts a time limit on one course and a different school will accept the same course. My state school seems to be open-minded with my potential application so I'm positive about that but focusing on one or even two schools is really risky.  I have not come across a school yet with a lower cumulative average.  Do you know the names off the top of your head?  I was just looking at King's College and for the new class they now want more prerequisites like Orgo and Micro.  So that is telling me that every year the standards are getting higher.

The thing with having a bad stretch on your transcript is that the system is designed in such a way to keep you down.  I had a bunch of F's one term because I did not fill out the required paperwork to drop the courses.  My reason?  I was frightened, I thought my parents would kill me.  There was no harm at the time avoiding the conflict and just going home.  Over a decade later, that decision is coming back to haunt me as people are essentially asking me to explain those circumstances even though I have a diploma now which I think is all the explanation needed.  I even petitioned the school to give me W's but they won't budge.

I'm still researching schools and marking down which ones say they will calculate separate GPA's.  If they do focus on the last 24-60 credits, then I'll be in a much better spot.

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On 2/2/2018 at 11:26 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

Thanks,

The admissions requirements at all of the schools are all over the place, just when you think one school might be easier to get in, they want the GRE, another school puts a time limit on one course and a different school will accept the same course. My state school seems to be open-minded with my potential application so I'm positive about that but focusing on one or even two schools is really risky.  I have not come across a school yet with a lower cumulative average.  Do you know the names off the top of your head?  I was just looking at King's College and for the new class they now want more prerequisites like Orgo and Micro.  So that is telling me that every year the standards are getting higher.

The thing with having a bad stretch on your transcript is that the system is designed in such a way to keep you down.  I had a bunch of F's one term because I did not fill out the required paperwork to drop the courses.  My reason?  I was frightened, I thought my parents would kill me.  There was no harm at the time avoiding the conflict and just going home.  Over a decade later, that decision is coming back to haunt me as people are essentially asking me to explain those circumstances even though I have a diploma now which I think is all the explanation needed.  I even petitioned the school to give me W's but they won't budge.

I'm still researching schools and marking down which ones say they will calculate separate GPA's.  If they do focus on the last 24-60 credits, then I'll be in a much better spot.

~2.75 requirement: Rosalind Franklin, Touro California, USC, South College, WesternU, Keiser, Chapman, Touro Nevada, etc. There are more. You just gotta put in the leg work and find them. Good luck.

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22 minutes ago, LadyNichiavelli said:

~2.75 requirement: Rosalind Franklin, Touro California, USC, South College, WesternU, Detroit Mercy, Keiser, Chapman, Touro Nevada, etc. There are more. You just gotta put in the leg work and find them. Good luck.

Thanks,

Wow, USC has under a 3.0 requirement?  I would have never guessed.

I'll check them out.

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On 2/2/2018 at 10:30 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

You'd be surprised but there's no difference in exposure between ED registration and scribing.  How do I know this?  We used to sit next to each other in the ED.  If anything, I see and do more because I actually interact with the patient which I believe is a very important skill to have

You are right that in registration you interact with patients and this is important.  Medical scribes are not allowed to talk to patients unless they are asked something by the patient, it is not their place to interact with patients.  I say this as a previous medial scribe that worked in the ED, Psych, Chronic Pain, and Primary Care.  It is important to note that the roles are different, one involves things like collecting insurance and demographic information and the other collecting subjective and objective information that pertains the patient's health.  One figures out coverage and how a hospital or clinic is going to get paid, the other helps with healthcare provider work flow, let that be ordering labs, tests and obviously completing notes.

On 2/2/2018 at 10:30 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

On one occasion, I had to put my clipboard down and assist a tech in putting a deceased patient in a body bag and transporting them to the morgue. Many more stories like that.

This is an interesting experience, however this is not patient care.  It is important to see this because the individual is deceased and this is no care needed.  Perhaps those other stories you mentioned above involve you in some capacity helping the patient in some way, I cannot make judgements not knowing the details.  I will say this though, as someone who has worked as a medical scribe I hardly consider my previous work as a medical scribe patient care experience.  I never had any responsibility for the patient in any capacity.  However, as an hemodialysis technician I make many decisions for my patients and if I were to not do my job correctly I could kill someone pretty easily.  I have had to respond to codes, strokes, hypotensive episodes on the unit, where a patient's status was at that point in time dependent on me in some capacity.  

On 2/2/2018 at 10:30 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

I believe those hours are significant but I am looking to supplement them in the next year or so with "real" clinical hours just to say I did even though I feel like I've seen most everything over the span of a decade with the employment, volunteering, and other life experiences that I have had.

This is a good idea, because seeing is one thing and doing is another.  It was interesting for me to have taken multiple recertification tests for BLS and practicing, or even seeing BLS being used in the ED.  However, being part of an actual code for the first time is very different.  For me there was a moment of "oh God this is actually happening" followed by getting the patient in supine position, bagging and actually putting on the defibrillator patches and shocking the patient, I never got the chance to do compressions.  There were those that also had never been part of a code standing around in a panic and very confused.  It is easy to be a passive observer but to be involved is a different experience for itself and is why PA schools categorize HCE.  

On 2/2/2018 at 10:30 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

So yeah, you see what you want to see in the ED no matter your job title.  I believe it's more important to be able to talk about your experience than simply marking a box that you completed some hours.

Again, I would expect an ADCOM to ask you about those experiences and see your involvement in them. 

On 2/2/2018 at 10:30 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

The difference between 2 and 3 years of exposure in one area is minimal so I think it's more quality over quantity.

Quality over quantity for sure. :)

 

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On 2/2/2018 at 11:26 AM, PA2020Candidate said:

I'm still researching schools and marking down which ones say they will calculate separate GPA's.  If they do focus on the last 24-60 credits, then I'll be in a much better spot.

Hi there!

I have spend the last week looking specifically for these types of programs and am running into a wall based on timing of prereq completion varying etc. So far i have rosalind franklin (60cr cGPA, still 2.75 regardless), WMU (last 60 cGPA), university of iowa (last 40cr for sGPA only) case western (40cr for both cGPA and sGPA), and campbell (last 60cr for cGPA). Have you or anyone else been able to find any others besides these?

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