#29 Want to Be a PA? What To Know

Want to Be a PA? What You Need to Know

Arcadia is known for its high-caliber academic programs, and the Physician’s Assistant program is no exception. The program receives more than 3,000 applications every year for just around 100 spots. 

One of the remarkable things about attending Arcadia as an undergraduate is that you can apply through their direct entry program, which means if you reach all prerequisites set by the department, you will receive an automatic interview. This is easier said than done, but some applicants who don’t attend Arcadia don’t even manage to get an interview. 

Being part of the Physician’s Assistant program has been one of the best and hardest parts of my college experience. Here’s what I would recommend for anyone interested in being a PA:

Be confident. I know it can be hard, but there is a reason you are selecting this path. At some point, you knew deep down that you could succeed. Revert to that confident self, and strive for success.

-Patrick Ensmenger

Meeting the Prerequisites

The required classes for Arcadia’s PA program include five Biology courses. Three of the five must be Microbiology, Physiology, and Anatomy. Biochemistry is highly recommended as well. You’ll also take three Chemistry courses (including Organic Chemistry), a Psychology course, and a Statistics course. You must earn at least a C in these classes. 

So, how do you manage to obtain these specified requirements? First, it is critical to work with your adviser—an experienced professor who has likely dealt with someone on your track before. Their knowledge, experience, and resources provide the best foundation for success. 

The second thing I have learned is to set priorities. In college, you are often on your own for the first time. You have to do laundry, cook, and take care of yourself in general. It can be easy to fall off track and slack in your studies. Knowing when to say no to your friends—and sometimes even extracurriculars—is challenging, but has made me very successful in achieving my academic goals. 

The final piece of advice I’ll give is to be confident. I know it can be hard, but there is a reason you are selecting this path. At some point, you knew deep down that you could succeed. Revert to that confident self, and strive for success.

Patient Hours

Arcadia requires 200 minimum direct patient care hours. This doesn’t mean shadowing or volunteering, but hands-on clinical work taking care of patients’ medical needs. The way I achieved these hours was by earning an EMT license. I was able to use that EMT license throughout the summers while being home and working at a camp. I learned and experienced so many things, including how to properly approach a child when they are in distress. 

Patrick volunteering for PA.

There are plenty of ways you can achieve your hours. Some of my friends have even ended up becoming home health aides. I recommend not procrastinating or passing up any opportunities. Time is limited with such a busy course load. 

It is also an excellent opportunity to volunteer! I volunteer at Temple University Hospital, where I assist in stocking medical supplies in the emergency room. Oftentimes I shadow doctors and PAs while completing my shift, and I’ve gotten many helpful tips (like what to include in my graduate applications).

GRE Exam

The GRE is required to get into any Physician’s Assistant graduate program. It consists of seven sections: two analytical response essays, where you respond to an open-ended question or statement; two verbal reasoning sections that include vocabulary and reading comprehension; two math sections, where your quantitative reasoning is put to the test; and a sample section that does not count to your grade.

Doing well on this exam is extremely difficult, as you are “competing” against test takers interested in pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees in multiple disciplines. Scoring in the top 50th percentile is usually considered good. Completing this test before graduate school and during your undergraduate years can sometimes be a pain. I took the exam during the summer, where I studied in between being a camp EMT and a waiter. I would highly recommend taking the GRE as soon as possible, because it is very similar to the SAT and ACT. Having this knowledge still fresh in your head will give you a significant advantage.

Deciding to become a Physician Assistant can be an extremely intimidating objective, but Arcadia provides you the resources, professors, and program to succeed in being accepted to graduate school. Set your goals high and stay confident in yourself, always.

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