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Help with direct entry PA program

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My Son has applied to 5 direct entry PA programs. Being from the West Coast and not being familiar with the school or programs, I'm wondering if anyone out there can help understand more about the programs/environment at each program. One can only tell so much from the program's websites.  The programs he applied to are DeSales, Saint Francis, Quinnipiac, Duquesne, and Kings. What are your thoughts on the quality of all of these programs and the atmosphere of the colleges in general. Not only is the quality of the program important, but being 3,000 miles away from home, I want him to be in a good college atmosphere  where he is happy as well. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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I have 2 daughters currently attending the program at Duquesne.  So far I think the program has done very well.  First 3 years are spent taking pre-requisites for your bachelors degree.  The 4th year is primarily PA classes.  Undergrad graduation is at the end of 4th year so you graduate with your entry class, though the undergrad degree is pretty worthless. Fifth year starts clinical rotations with most of them being at hospitals within a 1 hour radius of Pittsburgh.  There are some rotations that can be completed at the Cleveland Clinic, but those rotations have additional requirements.

Duquesne's program is currently on accreditation probation because of over enrollment in the PA phase of the degree.  While the over enrollment  issue seems to have been taken care of with the current freshman class, they will likely remain on probation until the over enrolled classes graduate to insure the quality of clinicals, classes, etc. are maintained. The school is adding clinical sites in other cities/countries to maintain quality. In the meantime still receive a PA degree when they graduate. Last year they had a 100% PANCE rate with an overall rate of 98%. I had a niece that graduated from the program 3 years ago and immediately was hired at Johns Hopkins in the neurosurgery department, so I think the program is solid. (See https://www.duq.edu/academics/schools/health-sciences/academic-programs/physician-assistant-studies/accreditation/accreditation-faqs)

Duquesne is in downtown Pittsburgh and most of the students tend to hang out in Southside, near campus. U of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Melon are also nearby.  St Francis has a similar program, but St. Francis is 2 hours east of Pittsburgh, pretty much in the middle of no-where so there is nothing much to do on weekends. I also suggest looking into Seton Hill which is similar and hosts DO school LECOM on the campus, but I'm not sure if the 2 are associated with each other.  Seton Hill is about an hour east of Pittsburgh in a smaller city. Dorms seemed depressing about 3 years ago, not sure if they've improved. Not sure about student night life. There is also Gannon in Erie. All have similar structure. The major differences in all that I list is cost, and student environment including dorms and nightlife. Clinicals also differ, though it is difficult to find out where clinicals are located since they change all the time and are typically not disclosed. My opinion is larger, well known, successful schools have better clinical sites, but that is purely conjecture on my part. All the schools I mention accept you into the PA program without having to take the GRE and re-apply as a graduate student, though you have to maintain a good GPA, typically 3.0.  That isn't true of all schools such as Ohio Dominican which still requires you to take the GRE and apply as a graduate student, but they favor their own undergrads.

Since you enter as an undergrad make sure you check out Freshman retention % for all the schools because that is a good indicator of freshman satisfaction with many different facets of their school. This is important since many of these schools only accept PA students as freshman so if you don't stick it out, you aren't able to re-apply as a grad student. (St. Francis and Seton Hill do accept a limited number of grad students.) 

Disclaimer: Many look down on 5 year programs because the student is expected to know what they want to do for their life as high school senior / college freshmen, and enter without much life experience, though  I can say the same thing about nursing, military life and many other careers. 

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Each of these programs has a specific thread on this site where you can find more information.

Frankly, though, your son should be the one researching this.  A student who can not choose their own college/professional program may not be ready for the commitment to such a rigorous program or career at the age of 18 (I assume as a direct entry applicant whose mother is posting your son is finishing high school currently and around that age).

The best advice you'll get is to actually go VISIT the schools.  Any other high school senior who is applying to college makes trips to tour campuses, this should be no different and in fact may be more important due to the extended commitment.

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Thank you so much jjwasco for your input. It's much appreciated. What a proud mom you must be! Yes, we are aware about Duquesne being on probation, however, it seems as if they are rectifying the problem and that historically they have had a solid program. Sounds like both of your daughters have had good experiences at Duquesne. How rigorous do they feel it is? Would a non-Catholic student feel comfortable? Do you happen to know what the freshman retention rate is for Duquesne? Do you happen to know anything about DeSales or Kings? I believe they are both in the middle of nowhere - but can't eliminate them totally for that reason. Again, thanks so much for your input. 

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Hi MT2PA - I appreciate your input. In fact, my son has done a lot of research - I was just trying to gather a little more information to pass on to him. And, of course, he will be the one to ultimately choose the program that best meets what he is looking for. I/we are well aware of the college visit process (this is my 6th kid attending college) - and he has visited/toured many colleges, but due to finances can not fly across the country to see all the schools to which he is applying, but of course, would not accept a spot in a program he doesn't visit. So after admission decisions come in, he will visit only the programs he is admitted to. He has toured/visited schools on the West coast to which he has applied but where there is no direct entry PA program, but where he would consider attending college  (and then apply to PA school later) - he is casting the net wide and seeing where he lands.

Again, appreciate the time you took to respond to my post.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi again jjwasco,

My son visited the programs he was admitted to and fell in love with Duquesne.  The people seemed very nice and Pittsburgh is great. Since you have two daughters there and are so happy with the program, I was hoping you might answer a few more questions.

1) Would you say most students are happy with their experience in the program and with their clinical placements, faculty, etc...

2) Do you have any concerns about the current administrative probation?

3) There is mention on the website about some type interview before entering the professional phase. Do you know much about that? I was under the impression that as long as the GPA requirement is met, a student progresses through the program. Any insight with that would be much appreciated.

Thank you again for all of you great help and insight.

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1. Yes, I think the program is very good.  So far the clinicals have all been at hospitals, or hospital affiliated sites. Faculty is good so far. They are using adjunct profs to take care of the larger classes that I can't evaluate. Keep in mind my sample size is 1 person so far.

2. I'm aware, but not concerned.  They have a reputation that they need to maintain and they will do whatever is in their power to maintain it.  Daughter #2 is in the middle of the over enrolled classes and they have had several meetings to explain what they are doing.  It is one of the reasons they are expanding there clinical sites. I think by the time your son is in the professional phase it will be a non-issue since they have gotten the enrollment numbers back to the certification limit.

3. I do know they have meetings which each student to go over their undergrad history, make sure GPAs and pre-reqs are met and explain the requirements of the PA program.  I've not heard it to be an interview to get into the program, but more to set expectations of what will be required of the student.  But, the real authority to talk to would be the department, just in case something has or will change for new classes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks again for all of your help. It's really great to connect with a parent who has students in the program. Do you know the retention rate for the program? Do most students who start out, complete the program? Have your daughters felt supported academically?

In general, have they enjoyed their college experience at Duquesne?

It's been so helpful to connect with you!

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  • 1 month later...
4 hours ago, lisas2018 said:

Any thoughts about the recent (surprising) USNWR ranking dip? DU dropped pretty dramatically from #27 to #93. Are there other rankings out there or is USNWR the only one? 

US News ranking isnt really the best gauge of the quality of a program, especially when you read the methodology behind the rankings. PANCE scores aren't even taken into account. 

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  • 8 months later...

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