Leslie Mean is a 27 year old white female who presents to the PA school admissions committee on her first attempt to get into PA school.
She has a 3.5 overall GPA and a 3.4 science GPA. She is holding a bachelors of science degree in biochemistry, had an SAT score in the 1000-1100 range and above average GRE scores.
She has 4 years of hands-on clinical experience working as a CNA and a long history of volunteer work which exemplifies her desire to help her fellow man.
She is kind and considerate and has reference letters which demonstrate her maturity and strong interpersonal skills.
She was accepted into PA school on her first attempt.
Who is Leslie and Why did she get into PA School?
When asking the question: What do I need to do to get into PA school? You would be smart to talk to Leslie.
Leslie is a hypothetical PA school applicant who went on to become a PA school student, a perfectly average PA school student.
She also embodies what PA school’s all across the country are looking for at this very moment.
How do I know this?
Because the most recent data from the PAEA semi annual report, representing responses from over 85% of PA programs detailing characteristics of applicants and students enrolled in PA school, show that they are filling their seats with Leslie.
As much as I like to talk about not being average and differentiating yourself from the pack it is good to know what average is. Average provides a baseline by which you can measure your own progress, set goals and develop an application timeline.
Does this mean you have to be just like Leslie to get into PA school?
Absolutely not, first of all, factors such as race, age, ethnicity, etc. are of no importance and you certainly don’t have to be female to get into PA school (I myself am living proof).
But, it is safe to assume that most schools are looking to keep their graduation and certifying exam pass rates high. They have an incentive to take less risks and because of this, anything below average is considered a risk.
Thus, take a good look at Leslie and focus on factors that you can control to differentiate yourself, like your academic standing, your experience, your volunteer activities, your references and your essay.
If you set the bar at Leslie, and end up being a Mother Theresa, I am pretty sure you will be accepted into PA School, although I have no data on religious preference and PA school acceptance rates.
So what does an average PA school applicant who is admitted to PA school (i.e student) look like?
Let’s take a look:
→ The average PA school students age is 27 years old
The average age of first-year students ranged between 25 and 28 for all categories.
→ The average PA school student is female
The gender distribution of first-year students has started to stabilize after nearly a 20-year trend of a gradually increasing proportion of females:
- Female: 72.4%
- Male: 27.6% (mean)
→ The Average PA school applicant has a bachelor’s degree
The majority of PA school applicants hold a baccalaureate degree.
- No academic degree: 8.1%
- Certificate: 0.2%
- Associates Degree: 2.6%
- Baccalaureate Degree: 70.5%
- Master’s Degree: 6.6%
- Doctoral Degree: 0.9%
→ Most students had four to five years of hands-on clinical experience prior to applying
PA school applicants come to the table with a variety of medical experience, especially if they are strong applicants. On average, four years of prior experience in one of the following areas is common:
→ SAT/GRE scores of those accepted tend to be in the above-average range
→ The average PA school student has between a 3.36 and 3.47 overall GPA and an undergraduate science GPA between 3.36 and 3.47
The average undergraduate overall GPA for PA school applicants accepted into PA school was 3.47, undergraduate science GPA was 3.36 and non science GPA was 3.56.
→ Most PA school students are White
Skin color has nothing to do with acceptance rates, but it is interesting (and maybe a bit sad) to know that the vast majority of first year students were White (86.5%) followed by Asian (11.1%) and Black or African American 4.1%.
→ What are your chances of being accepted into PA school?
Roughly 5 out of every 100 applicants will be accepted into PA school or, if you like percentages, you have a 5% chance of being accepted.
→ PA school students don’t smoke pot and are not drug dealers or part of the Italian Mafia
Over three-quarters of programs reported that students were required to have a background check upon matriculation to the program, while 47.1% of responding programs mandated drug testing during the 2011–2012 academic year.
Some Important Points
It’s not Rocket Science: It is important that a candidate demonstrates reasonable aptitude in the hard sciences such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry and biology. It is more likely that the committee may overlook a grade of C in U.S History or Spanish I. They will be less tolerant of a marginal grade in the sciences.
Show compassion: Your GPA is stellar and you’ve amassed an impressive amount of medical work experience in the little spare time you have while keeping your grades pristine, but you still get that dreaded rejection letter. Why? You didn’t do enough volunteer work. Volunteering exemplifies your desire to help your fellow man—the attribute identified by schools as one of the most integral to becoming a successful PA. “Students who have had experience in working with underserved populations, rural or diverse populations, performing volunteer service or disaster relief, or other experiences that illustrate a drive and compassion for others often stand out to the admissions committee,”
It’s an easy race to the bottom, so set your sights at the top: Many people will be set aback when they read that only 5% of applicants will be accepted into PA school on any given year, but this should actually be good news. Being in the top 5% in any field is not nearly as hard as it sounds, simply because the majority of the competition is in the bottom 95% and has bottom 95% qualifications. For example, you have read this entire post so you now know what the average PA school applicant who has had some success looks like. You understand what a top 5 percent applicant looks like. Your goal now is to be better than the average 95% and exceed the top 5%. If you aim high, you will be competing with a much smaller minority, and your odds of getting an acceptance letter will increase dramatically.
Tables and data were sourced from:
The 28’th PAEA Annual Report