17 FAQ About PA School

I am currently counting down the last few hours of 2017. This year has been particularly challenging for me, both in the didactic portion of PA school and in the tragic and trying news events and political climate of the year. With that being said, one of my goals for the new year is to adopt a habit on reflection on the positivity of an event and focus on what I can learn from it.

One of the most positive things that happened this year is the launch of this blog (that I’m so grateful you are reading right now!) after many years of consideration and hesitation. To celebrate, I compiled the 17 most commonly asked questions about PA school that I received this year. I started the blog to do exactly that, spread interest in the profession, inspire others to pursue their academic dreams, and provide a resource for pre and current PA students. Thank you so much to everyone who has expressed interest or support in this endeavor! Thanks for your awesome (& important questions) that provided the material for my very last blog post of year one of Couture In Clinic!


1. How many hours of patient care experience/volunteering do you recommend before applying to schools?

My honest answer to this question is “as many as you can get.” With that being said, it’s unlikely that you will rack up tons of PCE during your undergrad years if you’re applying right after undergrad like I did. Each school will have their requirements for PCE hours and they can range from 1000 hours to no required hours depending on where you go. Narrow down your top choices for PA school and gather your hours accordingly. As for volunteer work, do it whenever you get the opportunity. I had far more volunteer hours than PCE hours on my application and I think those experiences really helped!

2. How many schools do you recommend applying to?

As many as your personal budget (and willingness to complete supplemental applications after the CASPA) can handle. Applying to PA schools is expensive and each application you submit will result in additional fees. Be sure to only apply to schools you are serious about. I only applied to 1 but I know people who applied to 10+.

3. What was your major as an undergrad?

Public Health with a minor in biology.

4. Do you have to take prerequisites to apply to PA school?

Yes, each school requires their own set of prerequisites and there are many differences among programs. In general, expect to take all your basic biology and chemistry courses, anatomy, physiology, psychology, etc. Be sure to check the programs you are interested in for their list of prereqs. It will be on their website!

5. What were your statistics when applying to PA school?

GPA: 4.0,    GRE: Verbal reasoning 166, Quantitative reasoning 150, Analytical writing 4.5        Shadowing hours: 50       Paid Healthcare Experience hours: 0        Volunteer hours: 300+

6. How can I stand out on my application?

This really isn’t what people want to hear but my program director explained it to us like this: you can basically assume that you are all the same on paper. If you’re applying to PA school, your GPA is high, you are scholastically sound, probably highly involved in your schools, and all have the desire to “help people.” The only way to really differentiate yourself is through the personal statement. My advice is to focus on the personal statement, think of specific examples that led you to consider a career in healthcare, what challenges have you overcome to get to where you are today? Don’t skimp on the essay and for God’s sake have someone proofread it. DO NOT SUBMIT AN APPLICATION WITH TYPOS.

7. What should I do between being accepted to PA school and starting PA school? Is there any studying I should do?

No. I was stressed about this too but instead of “preparing for PA school,” I took trips to Europe and Mexico, worked a super fun retail job at LUSH Cosmetics, slept in almost every day, and regretted nothing. PA school will teach you everything they want you to know. They assume you know nothing (& you don’t.) Relax for the last time you will REALLY be able to for the next 2+ years. Enjoy it and congratulate yourself on your acceptance.

8. Did you take a gap year between undergrad and PA school to work?

No I didn’t, I went straight in from undergrad.

9. How do you study in PA school?

I’m going to link you here to 2 articles chock full of the best study tips I know (& use daily!). Check it out!

10. What is it like being in the dual PA/Master’s of Public Health program?

If your school offers this unique dual degree, they will have set it up for your success. I took most of my MPH classes before starting PA school and many of my research-focused classes are cross-listed for both degrees. The most difficult aspect of it was completing my internship while in PA school. It requires time management skills more than anything. Check out this article if you’re interested in the dual program!  

11. Do you really not have a social life outside of PA school?

Many people really worry about their social life suffering throughout PA school. Again, this comes down to time management. I found plenty of time to see friends and family but I did miss out on events like concerts and weddings.. Warn your friends ahead of time not to get married for the next 2 years! Ha. Disclaimer: I am a homebody and find myself relaxing at my apartment more often than going out so maybe I’m not the best resource on this topic…

12. Where did you go for undergrad?

I went to UAB for my undergrad degree as well.

13. Why did you choose to pursue PA instead of MD or NP?

There are many reasons why I chose PA school, mostly involving the differences in lifestyle. I wanted the shorter curriculum (2 years instead of 4) and the ability to practice (and start paying off my loans) sooner. Speaking of loans, I shyed away from the debt involved with medical school. I also thrive in team environments and enjoy the security of establishing a close relationship with a supervising attending while remaining autonomous and retaining prescriptive and diagnostic privileges. PAs have the very unique advantage of lateral mobility. PAs can move between professions without additional schooling or certification which is something I love because I have a broad variety of medical interests. Regarding PA vs NP, nurse practitioners take a very different route to providership. NPs must have first obtained a nursing degree and worked as a nurse before applying to their programs. They also typically work as a nurse while pursuing their degree, whereas most PA programs require that their students do not work during their enrollment. The NP route just wasn’t consistent with my educational background.

14. Do you have any tips for interviews?

Sure do! Check them out here!

15. Do you use a planner or calendar?

I use the calendar app on my mac that syncs automatically to my iPhone and apple watch. I put literally EVERYTHING into that calendar, and it’s easy because I can tell Siri to do it for me when I’m busy. I’m not good at keeping up with handwritten planners but I wish I was because they’re so cute nowadays!

16. Why did you choose UAB?

I chose UAB because it is one of very few PA programs with a special focus on surgery. There are really unique opportunities at UAB that other programs don’t offer such as cadaver labs and our “pig lab” where PA students perform surgery on live pigs. I think that I want to work in surgery in the future which leads me to my last question…

17. What specialty do you want to work in?

I think I want to work in the surgical realm, perhaps plastics or CV. However, I am keeping an open mind during my rotation year because you never know what you’ll fall in love with!

If you have any questions that I didn’t answer, drop them in a comment below or DM me on Insta! I love to talk about this PA thing (if you can’t tell!)

Love and light,