5 Tips for Getting into a PA School with a Lower GPA

Most physician assistant programs are highly competitive. This means that you need a well-rounded application that features a relatively high GPA in your undergraduate program in order to be accepted. The average GPA of students who were accepted into PA programs is 3.49, while students who applied but were not accepted have an average GPA of 3.16. While having a GPA slightly lower than the average GPA of accepted students does not mean that you will not be accepted, it does mean that you will need to make sure to present a strong application in other areas. Here are some ways that you can increase your chances of acceptance when you have a low GPA. 

Retake Classes to Raise Your GPA 

Some universities will allow you to retake a class to raise your GPA. There may be restrictions, though, such as only being able to retake a limited number of courses or only classes in which you received a D or lower. Also, the initial grade will most likely remain on your transcript even though it will no longer be counted toward your GPA. You can use this to your advantage on your application by pointing out your dedication, perseverance, and improvement throughout your academic career. 

Concentrate on Volunteer Work

One of the features of a successful PA is compassion. You can help emphasize your compassion for others by concentrating on expanding your volunteer experience. However, you should make sure that you are volunteering in health-related fields, preferably with direct contact with patients. For example, international health mission trips or volunteering at a low-income clinic in your area will both bolster your application. 

Gain as Much Experience as Possible 

Besides volunteer work, try make sure that your source of employment is also in a health field. You may want to graduate and then use your undergraduate degree along with a certification to work as a RN or EMT for a year or more before submitting your application to PA school. This experience will show that you are dedicated to the field and help offset your lower GPA, especially if it is paired with a solid reference from your employer. 

Wait a Few Years After You Graduate to Apply 

As the age of the accepted applicant increases, the average GPA decreases. This means that older applicants often have slightly lower GPAs than their younger counterparts. This points to the idea that work and volunteer experience will make up for a slightly lower GPA, but only if you gain more experience than your counterparts who are applying fresh out of college. Depending on the amount of experience you gain during college, this may mean that you will have to volunteer or work in the health field for a few months or a couple of years to make your application more competitive.  

Make Sure Your GRE Scores Are above Average

Most PA applicants who are accepted have above average GRE scores. Composite scores above a 310 are considered highly competitive for most PA programs.  You can take the GRE multiple times to try to get a better score and then send the best score as part of your CASPA. A high GRE score will help ease concerns about your academic aptitude if you have a low-end GPA. Even if the program you are applying to does not require you to take the GRE, if you naturally test well and can show a score higher than a 310, then it is in your best interest to take the test and submit the scores along with your application. 

Although it can be difficult to get into a PA program with a low GPA, it is not impossible. By bolstering your application in these other ways you will make it more competitive and increase your chances of acceptance. To get more help applying for PA school, contact an adult and continuing education coach.

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