Information for High School Students

The following information is for high school students and their parents to understand the process of gaining admission to the Methodist University Physician Assistant Program (MUPAP).

Degree Completion

Since the PA program is a master’s level program, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling. PA programs do not have a preferred major, nor do they give preference to a certain major. That said, high school students who have the ultimate goal of enrolling in PA school may want to consider majoring in Biology or Chemistry. Both of these majors allow for students to complete the required prerequisite coursework within their planned curriculum, and may limit the number of courses the student will have to take outside of their major. For example, if a student majors in Psychology, he/she will have to take several Biology and Chemistry courses that are required for the PA program in addition to the courses required for a Psychology major. Majoring in Biology or Chemistry may also limit the number of courses taken after graduation. For the sake of time and finances, applicants should try to take as many of the required courses during while completing their bachelor’s degree. Once a student has completed a bachelor’s degree, he/she no longer qualifies for grants or scholarships that are typically available while completing a bachelor’s degree. Any courses taken after graduation (post baccalaureate) are paid for with student loans or out-of-pocket.

The only major we discourage for applicants who are planning on enrolling in PA school immediately after graduating from college is Nursing.  Nursing school should not be used or viewed as a “stepping stone” to becoming a PA. Typically, most nursing curricula do not fulfill PA program prerequisites, nor are nursing courses substituted for required prerequisite coursework. We do not encourage students to take a seat away from someone who has a strong desire to be a nurse. That said, RNs enroll in PA programs every year. The nurses who have enrolled in our program have worked as a nurse for several years before deciding to become a PA.

Lastly, the program does not look favorably upon applicants who have completed an online bachelor’s degree. An online degree does not prepare applicants for the rigors and pace of a PA curriculum.

Required Prerequisite Coursework

Prerequisite coursework is required prior to enrolling in the MUPAP. Required coursework may not be completed while enrolled in the PA program. The following are common FAQs about the required courses:

  • I have taken some of the courses at the community college level and/or online. Will they count for the PA program? Yes, we will count courses taken at the community college level or online, provided they are through a regionally accredited institution. However, applicants who have taken the majority of the required courses at the university level are deemed better prepared for the PA program curriculum and more competitive.

We realize many students may be completing an Early College program or may be dually enrolled at a community college while attending high school. Many courses taken within these programs are within a college transfer program (meaning they will transfer into a four-year university at the same level). We do encourage students to limit the number of upper-level science courses taken at the community college or online. Upper-level science courses include Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Upper-level Biology course (i.e. Anatomy and Physiology II, Cell Physiology, Genetics, Cell Biology), Organic Chemistry I and I, and Biochemistry.

  • What if I major in something other than Biology or Chemistry and decide to complete the required prerequisite courses at a community college and/or online after I graduate with my bachelor’s degree. Again, we will count the courses taken at the community college level or online, but the program deems applicants more prepared and competitive if they have taken the required courses at the university level. The PA program’s admissions selection committee evaluates an applicant’s evidence to handle the PA curriculum, which includes assessing where prerequisite courses were taken. Remember, the goal should not be just getting into to PA school, rather making it through!
  • Do I have to have all the required courses completed at the time I apply to the PA program?

No, applicants may be in-progress or have a plan in place to complete the courses and bachelor’s degree by the mid-August start date. However, competitive applicants have the majority of courses completed at the time of application.

  • Are prerequisite coursework requirements the same for every PA program? Unfortunately, no. Coursework requirements are different for every program. It is important as an undergraduate student to do thorough research on each program of interest, and keep an organized list of requirements and deadlines. Students can work with an academic advisor to ensure all courses needed can be completed while in undergrad. That said, most programs require many of the same courses, just some program require more than others. Common courses that are required for most programs include: Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology I and II, General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I, Psychology, and Statistics. Additional courses that may be required could be: Organic Chemistry II, Biochemistry, Medical Terminology, Genetics, and an additional Psychology.

Clinical Experience

A minimum of 500 hours of clinical experience is required at the time of application to the MU PA program (note all PA programs in NC require 500-1000 hours). The purpose of clinical experience is to allow for exposure to how the healthcare system works, gain an understanding of the PA profession, help applicants establish a comfort level when working with patients and other members of the medical team, and to gain maturity. Common ways to fulfill these hours are by working in positions like certified nursing assistants (CNA), EMTs, medical assistants, scribes, patient care technicians/patient care assistants, etc. To work in these positions, most applicants complete a certification course that can be obtained at a local community college. Only hours worked after the completion of the certification course will count towards the requirement. For volunteer experiences to count towards the requirement, applicants must have had direct patient contact. Click here to view acceptable hours for our program. As with prerequisite coursework, acceptable positions vary slightly from program to program. It will be beneficial to work in a position that is acceptable for all programs of interest. The MUPAP does not assist students with obtaining clinical experience opportunities.

Thoughts on shadowing: The MUPAP encourages all applicants to spend quality time shadowing a PA. Shadowing is not required for our program, nor can applicants fulfill all 500 hours with shadowing hours. Other programs may require a certain number of shadowing hours. As a result, it may be beneficial to arrange PA shadowing opportunities to keep options open.

When can I complete hours if I’m in school? Many students are able to obtain a summer job in the positions mentioned above. If you are unable to obtain a summer job in a healthcare setting throughout college, you will need to take a gap year (explained below) after graduation to obtain clinical experience hours.

Can I apply to PA school without hours or without having my hours completed?  If a program requires hours to be completed at the time of application and you have not completed the requirement, do not apply. The PA school application is expensive and time consuming, and you do not want to waste time and money going through the application process if requirements are not met.

Advice on documenting hours: PA programs do not require applicants to show documentation of hours. However, in order to keep hours organized over time and in a way that is easy to tabulate for the PA application, applicants are encouraged to keep pay stubs and/or logs of shadowing hours in a notebook or in an Excel spreadsheet. The following information will be needed for the PA application:

  • Title of position
  • Month/Year (start and end dates)
  • Number of hours worked in a week
  • Total number of hours
  • Location of where the hours were completed
  • Supervisor’s name, title, and contact information
  • Description of hours*

*The program will focus heavily on the description of hours, rather than the title. Descriptions that fail to show direct patient contact will not be counted towards the total number of hours.

Journaling: Although not required, applicants are encouraged to journal clinical experiences overtime as it will be helpful to reflect back on certain cases or patient encounters that resonated with them for one reason or another. Many times these types of experiences provide good material for a personal statement or when speaking with an admissions committee during the interview process.

Standardized Test

The standardized test required for admission to the PA program is the General Record Exam (GRE). When a student should take the GRE is dependent on when he/she plans to enter the PA program. GRE scores are valid for five years.

Selection Factors

Below are minimum recommendations for consideration to the PA program. Keep in mind, competitive applicants exceeded these recommendations. Averages of the incoming class are in parenthesis.

  • Overall GPA (includes all colleges attended): 3.0 (3.4-3.5)
  • Prerequisite Coursework GPA: 3.2 (3.4-3.6)
  • Clinical Experience Hours: 500 hours (1,100 hours)
  • GRE: 297 (305-306)

When to Apply to the PA Program

The MUPAP has one start date a year, mid-August. The application to the program opens 16 months in advance of this start date (click here to see opening dates). Applicants who have plans to enroll in the PA program immediately following the completion of their bachelor’s degree will make application in between their junior and senior years. The program participates in the Centralized Application for Physician Assistants (CASPA).

Gap Year(s)

Many applicants decide to take one or more years off after completion of their bachelor’s degree. This time off is known as a gap year or gap years. Applicants use this time to complete clinical experience hours, enhance their academic profile (i.e. taking or retaking prerequisites, completing post-baccalaureate or other graduate-level programs), save money, to solidify their decision to go to PA school, and/or to mature. A gap year or gap years are highly encouraged for traditional-aged students who complete their bachelor’s degree in less than four years.

No program will hold it against an applicant if he/she has taken time off in-between completing their bachelor’s degree and going to PA school. In fact, many programs value that time off, provided the time off is spent doing something productive.

Interviews

To be accepted to the MUPAP, select applicants must complete a successful interview with the program’s admissions selection committee. Interviews begin a year out from the mid-August start date. Applicants who are granted an interview should prepare for their interview as much as they prepared their application. Being granted an interview does not guarantee acceptance. Students should take advantage of mock interview opportunities with advisors or a Career Services office.

Do MU graduates receive preference?

The MUPAP has two preference programs for MU undergraduate students. Click here to review these programs. Note, these preference candidacies remain in place if a student decides to take one or more gap years.

How long is PA school and what degree will I receive?

The MUPAP is 27 months in length. If a student plans to enroll in PA school after the completion of the bachelor’s degree, the total time in education will be 6.5 years (4 years to complete a bachelor’s degree+2.5 years of PA school). The degree earned at the completion of the PA program is a Masters of Medical Science.