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If I don't have what it takes to get into Med school, can I still get into PA school?

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Hi guys,


I am new to this forum and would be grateful for some advice. I'm 21 years old and am going to start my senior year of college. I have been pre-med for most of my college career and am doing some soul-searching in what I really want. I've never been very confident in thinking I have what it takes to get into medical school, but it has always been a goal.


My obstacle is that I am struggling with my science courses and have a low science GPA of 3.2 science (including B/B+ in General Bio 1 and 2, B+/C in General Chem 1 and 2, W in Orgo 1, also dropped a physics course and a second attempt at Orgo without W's). I'm a psychology major and have a 3.68 overall GPA.


Lately I have been doing research on PA school as another option, but don't know much about it, so please forgive me if I seem oblivious. I was wondering:

  • Is PA school supposed to be any less rigorous than med school? Can people who don't get into med school get into PA school?
  • I haven't taken anatomy and physiology and was wondering if I should try to squeeze them in before graduating in case I end up doing PA, or if it doesn't matter if I take it after college if I am worried of not getting very good grades in them now.
  • If I am still not sure which path to take, should I try as hard as possible to make it in med school with post-bacc courses before committing to PA school and squeezing in all the requirements now?

In terms of extracurriculars, I volunteer as an EMT-B on my college campus, volunteered in an emergency department, pediatrics department, shadowed MDs, been on a short medical brigade, and have done 3 years of medically related research. I don't have that much HCE.


Thanks so much for any replies, I'd really appreciate it

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PA school is shorter, not less rigorous, than med school. Some may say it's more rigorous since often PA students are in class usually 8-5 or longer, Monday-Friday. Attendance is also mandatory as opposed to optional like some med school. Of course, this all depends on the program. There are 3 year PA schools that I imagine are less intensive.


With the exception of the MCAT, I believe they are equally hard to get into. For every 3.2 GPA PA student with no prior HCE out there, I bet there is a 3.2 GPA DO student. Probably an MD student as well.


Leave the A&P courses for post bacc for now, IMO. If you want to go to PA school, get a job in healthcare as a medical assistant or emt-b or whatever. While working take the classes. This way you'll have less on your plate and your building HCE to make your app look better.


I feel you should try for DO schools. You'll be happier ultimately with you job. PA is a fine choice, but I think you have about the same chances at either.


Lastly, your gonna get some harsh words for even suggesting PA school as some type of fall back. I understand where you coming from and the title makes it seem like it would be a fall back for med school (we are working on changing that), but just be confident and apply broadly to some DO schools and rock the MCAT.

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I know a number of people who dropped their PA programs to become a MD/DO's because the pace was too accelerated for them. That being said, you are applying against med school candidates. You're overall GPA is good, build up your paid HCE & when you apply to PA school don't mention anything about wanting to go to med school or using PA as a stepping stone to become a physician. Do some soul searching and find a better reason why you want to be a PA and why not a MD because this could be an interview question for a PA program.I also suggest shadowing a few PAs to make sure being a mid level provider is something you'd be happy doing knowing that you'll always work under the license or sponsorship of a MD/DO.

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You could always apply through caribbean programs to be an MD if that's what you want to do, and as others have mentioned, DO is a great option too. Just don't give up on what you truly want (and take a slot from someone who really does want it) because you felt you weren't good enough in undergrad courses. Although DO and Caribbean grads likely have a harder time getting the more competitive residencies, they also have much less competition for admission and in the end you still get to take the same certification exam as someone who went to Harvard's MD program. I feel that the professions (PA and physician) are very different, even though they both practice medicine, and tend to appeal to different types of people. If you always wanted to be a doctor, being a PA might not be satisfying for you and it's way too time consuming and financially expensive to be a stepping stone to another career.

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I must interject here. The first year of med school is for many folks the most difficult--there is nothing basic about what we call "basic sciences". If you struggle in intro bio, Chem, physics, magnify that times 5 and imagine doing detailed Biochem, genetics (with a heavy focus on molecular bio), embryology, Microbio/immunology, histology, physiology, and human anatomy--not to mention neuroanatomy which is by far the most difficult memorization-intense course I have ever taken hands-down.

My first semester medical school (DO) was 40 credits. No joke.

Made PA school seem like a pleasant walk in the park.

Not to discourage you too much, but I really think you should talk with your advisor and get some honest advice about your aptitude. You may be able to do it with learning different study strategies--but you need to learn them.

Either way, 21 is young and plenty of time to figure out the best path for YOU. I did PA school at 24 and DO school at 37...it was best for me but I wouldn't advise it for anyone else. M1 was the hardest year of my life...you couldn't pay me to do it again!

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My advice would be to start shadowing some PAs, and shadow in several different specialties. That way you'll have something to compare to your MD shadowing experiences. I agree with Oneal, get a job in healthcare after you graduate and take the classes while you work.

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