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I'm currently a junior in college and have decided to switch career paths from a dietitian to a PA. I don't have any PCE hours (except for some volunteer EMS hours in high school) so I am wondering the timeline for how I would apply to PA school if I took a gap year. I am a college athlete so I can only obtain very minimal HCE hours during the academic year and thus plan on taking a gap year to work as a PT aide and volunteer EMT. From what I have researched most PA school applications open up in June for the program to start the following year, and there is no way I could get the minimum amount of hours before applying. If I take a gap year after my senior year, then apply to school, this would mean waiting two years to begin school. Is it possible to complete PCE hours after applying, or do you think it would be a better idea to strengthen my application through two years of experience as an EMT & PT aide. Thanks in advance!


Edited by knealon99
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I was in the same boat that I couldn’t obtain HCE and/or PCE during undergrad but only wanted to take one gap year. I started working as a CNA  the week after I graduated undergrad in May and waited to submit my CASPA until July so that I had a good 150ish hours to put on my application. I made it very clear in the PCE hours section of CASPA that i would be working this job full time until matriculation into a program. I outlined that if I work x amount of hours every month then I’ll have x amount of PCE hours in a year when I would be starting PA school. I also talked in my PS and interviews about my plans to work full time and obtain a competitive number of PCE hours by the time I finished my gap year. Each month from July until i was accepted in November i would go into CASPA and update my hours (it’s not possible to edit an experience after CASPA submission but i would create a new experience just for that month). To answer your question, yes you can get hours after applying, and successfully, because I was able to do it. It helps if you have strong LOR, PS, and grades to kind of “outweigh” the lack of hours. If I didn’t get in this cycle I would’ve just taken another year to work as a cna, gain more hours, and reapply. So it’s worth a shot the first cycle, and If it doesn’t work out then gaining those extra year of hours will only strengthen your application for the next cycle!

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Only apply if/when you have a competitive app.  If it takes 2+ gap years, do it.  The premise of the PA profession was originally for people with prior healthcare careers.  

Don't think of them as gap years.  Think of them as years of experience, both in healthcare and in life.  

Contrary to the above poster - some programs will evaluate your app in its entirety at the time of application i.e getting hours after applying will not benefit you.  It is expected that you (and every applicant) will continue to accrue hours through the application timeline.

Remember that you will be competing against applicants with THOUSANDS of hours at the time of application.  Set yourself up for success and don't rush the process.

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