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Hey everyone,

I am currently working on my CASPA application, and I am starting to develop a list of schools that I would like to apply to. At the time of application, my CASPA overall gpa will be a 3.60-3.65, and my CASPA science GPA will be about 3.70-3.75. I will have around 1200 hours of direct PCE in various long-term care facilities. I have also been involved with various projects of research in my lab (about 500 hours) where I obtained a publication, volunteering (about 200 hours), a medical mission to Mexico, as well as been a TA for anatomy for two semesters, and have held a leadership position within my fraternity. This is what my list looks like so far:


Duke, Stanford, Cornell


GWU, Rosalind Franklin, Rush, Northeastern, Marquette, St. Francis, Pacific University, Rutgers


Samuel Merritt, Mississippi College, Campbell

I am just wondering if anyone has an idea of what schools I should either add or drop from this list. I don't know if I even could be considered competitive at these schools. Thanks again for all the responses!


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Ultimately this is one of those topics that is hard to give advice on, as school choice is more subjective and intertwined with personal preferences/goals. Here are a few thoughts to get you going:

1) Academic setting. Is the school affiliated with a teaching hospital? Curriculum integrated with a medical school? How is didactic delivered/taught? How many years of teaching experience does the faculty have, and what proportion practice? What is the class size and student-faculty ratio? 5-year PANCE pass rates? Can you see yourself as a good fit for the programs mission statement/ethos? For example, Cornell tends to be more surgically focused and places more emphasis on high academic achievement over a more holistic review that other programs would give; this in turn influences the diversity within your potential cohort.

2) Professional. Does the state have an active AAPA board? What are the PA practice laws in the state? Are they progressive, restrictive, etc.? What other PA/NP schools are in the area? Is it evident this may lead to more job competition, lower wages, etc.? If you are planning on leaving the state after your education, what types of connections does that school hold? Quality/strength of clinical rotation sites? If you are interested in things like global health, does the institution offer international learning opportunities? Does the school offer any residencies you'd be interested in? Does attending that program make you more competitive for them?

3) Finance. How much is tuition? What does that expense include? Schools may differ on whats included in that big number. What is the length and start date of the program? Cost of living & COL-adjusted wages of PAs around the area? Are there local scholarships offered?

4) Personal. Aside from how busy PA school is, can you see yourself enjoying living in the area? Do you have family or a significant other you'd prefer to be closer to? Have you met with faculty or visited facilities in open-houses? 

Side notes: I remember Marquette being pretty expensive. If early financial solvency is important to you I would look elsewhere. Also, there really isn't a stereotypical "safety net," unless you are looking at a very new program with a lot to prove. For the most part, programs each try to have their own unique identity and typically preference one type of student over the other. If you want to delve deeper into this forum you will find that while many scored an interview with their reach schools, those same students were declined an interview with much lesser known programs. Just make sure you're really making an effort to research and apply to schools where you feel your experiences mesh well with what they're looking for. Don't underestimate how important interview preparation is. Many choose to read books on the interview process. Don't be the one to make it that far and subsequently get your admission offer stonewalled by not articulating your question responses well. Practice, Practice, Practice. You have great stats, so just try and let your true self shine through.

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I think it's fine to apply to reach schools, but if you don't meet their minimums they probably won't even look at your application.

Regarding "safety" schools, there's really no such thing. I applied to 12 programs, and except for one program (the one that I am going to attend), I was shocked at which programs extended interviews and which ones didn't. They're all looking for different things, and for the most part, whatever those qualities are aren't going to be listed on their websites. The programs are choosing you as much as you're choosing them. There were 4 schools where I thought I'd at the very least get an interview and didn't. So, apply broadly, and disregard safety vs. target. 

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You have a good number of programs on your list and Sensa23 summed it up pretty well as far as factors to consider. And I agree with KaBax about there is no such thing as a "safety school." 

I only applied to 5 programs and Duke was one of them (flat out rejected). Of the 5 I was invited for 3 interviews (one program I withdrew my application from after being accepted at my top pick). Of those 3, I was rejected after interview from two of them and accepted by the third, that is very arguably more competitive/prestigious/has better equipment/facilities/and hospital affiliations than my two "safety" programs (that both rejected me).

As for Duke, I wouldn't discourage anyone from applying but it is apparently insanely competitive and I honestly have no idea what they are looking for. I spoke with another user here that had unbelievable stats, experience, and community service; so absurd in fact that I felt kind of guilty for even applying by comparison. They were granted an interview but rejected after. So don't be surprised if you don't get an interview at Duke. I even saw on a list of "common PA interview questions," one of which was "why do you think Duke rejected you?" I guess they have a reputation. Also, I've never been able to make contact with anyone who has gone there and they wouldn't allow visits when I asked, so other than their program reputation and the University's as a whole, the nuts and bolts of the program are rather difficult to decipher. 

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Guest HanSolo

Focus less on names and more on fit. Keep in mind one of your reach schools has more than double the tuition price of most programs and is in one of the highest cost of living areas in the world. 

I’d recommend making a list of items that are important to you (location, cost, program length/start date, proximity to family, etc.). Also, your top 3 schools all have different program goals. Yes, they are all PA programs, but one is very primary care focused while the other is surgical and the third is more in the middle. 

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