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DPT wanting to turn PA

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I have been a practicing physical therapist (DPT) for 6 years now and am wanting to switch career paths to PA. I am also a mom and do still have a decent amount of loans from PT school, so I would really only be able to afford going back to PA school if I was able to get the National Health Service Corp scholarship. In my time as a PT I have also gotten 2 clinical specialty certifications. I had a 3.9 GPA in my doctorate program, but only like a 3.3 in my undergrad. I'm just wondering what my chances would be of getting into PA school and also getting that scholarship (NHSC scholarship)? I am planning to do some shadowing and at this point have over 12,000 hours of direct patient care experience and don't plan on applying until the 2026 starting year, so I will have more by that point. Wanting to know if I would be a competitive candidate for both admission and scholarship and what recommendations anyone has that would make me a better candidate?



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Sharing a few thoughts:

I'll defer to others regarding your candidacy and scholarship chances, but wanted to mention the lost income the 2-3 years you'll be out of work during PA school given your current debt state. Not saying you shouldn't change careers or shouldn't go to PA school because of existing debt, but are there any things you can do to get rid of your debt now? Do you really want to be a PA or is it mostly financially driven? Reducing debt and becoming debt free will afford you financial freedom (and professional freedom) in choosing your path. There are many positives and negatives to being a PA, so I encourage you to talk to and shadow MANY PAs before taking the plunge. 

Just sharing my two cents and experience being debt free and financially independent.

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Your chances for admission are excellent if you can compellingly answer the question "Why do you want to be a PA, given that you're already a PT?"

I'm not a fan of NHSC scholarships, or any others, really: they lock you in to the worst sorts of places for new PAs. You'd be better off taking commercial loans and going for a high-paying job with good support right out of school, rather than a low-paying job with no support and loan repayment. Because you're already a successful medical professional, expect to get fantastic offers from relevant places: sports med, ortho, physiatry. If that's NOT what you want to do with your life... there's going to be some more limited options, I would think.

Improving candidacy? Care for underserved populations, international work... Don't bother with research or volunteering. I also would NOT work on your GPA at all. Focus on debt paydown/loan repayment, and keep working. Your hours as a PT are top tier; don't work on box checking. Rather, find PA programs that value high levels of paid patient care.

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The NHSC has cut down on scholarships because of Government funding.

It's more competitive now, with only 180 across ALL approved fields. In FY23, 1186 PAs were eligible, and 77 were awarded.

2,925 total applications and 180 between (DO, Dentist, PA, MD, CNM, NP)

Aside from NHSC, there is the VA and military service. All owe some commitment to the Government (Underserved, VA (at the needs of the VA) or becoming an officer in the military) or US Public Health Service. Other than that, there are smaller scholarships but no full ride aside from those. 

IMO, you CANNOT rely on the NHSC because of the small chance of getting approved. In FY22, 2568 applications were received, 1199 were approved, and 447 were for PAs, so you can see the big change. I've looked at the budget, and the governor plans on keeping it at 180 unless things change for the future. 

Another thing is the period is March to April and you have to start by 30 Sep (due to Government FY) and so if you are out of the window it could be a whole year of school before you can apply and know if you are approved as it's around 30 Sep when the government tells anyone their status. 

Consider the NHSC Loan Repayment as more awards have been issued. 


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