You have successfully created a Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) account, you are ready to begin navigating through the application service, but you do not know where to start. When I applied to physician assistant (PA) programs last year, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I needed to input into CASPA. Your first thoughts are, “okay how am I going to get all of this done AND submit my application early for schools that have ‘rolling admissions.’” Although the application is time-consuming, I am going to walk you through what you need to get done first, to most effectively tackle the CASPA application.
The first thing you want to do is request your official transcripts from all the institutions/ colleges you have listed in the “Colleges Attended” section of the CASPA application. If you still have courses that are pending a letter grade, then wait till those grades are posted and then request transcripts to be sent to CASPA.
The next thing to do is create an evaluation request. This means that you will enter the contact information of the individuals who will be submitting their letter of recommendation of you. Make sure you click the checkboxes to allow CASPA to contact your evaluators and that you are meeting the requirements of the programs you are applying to. Your evaluators will receive an email from CASPA, which they can then follow the steps provided in the email and submit their letter of recommendation.
Add Programs to View the Additional “Program Materials”
If you know what schools you want to apply to, I suggest adding those programs under the “Add Program” tab that is located at the top of the home page. In doing so, you will be able to see additional information that can be found in the “Program Materials” section of the application. Any supplementary questions, mini-essays, or instructions to submit a “Supplemental Application” will be found in this section. Because some programs may require multiple questions to be answered, you will want to keep track of what you need to get done!
Fill Out Personal Information
This step is not the hardest, but it is still a tedious section that will need to be done. This space is also an opportunity to talk about being economically, ethnically, and/or educationally disadvantaged.
Fill Out Your Academic History
This is where you will add the educational institutions you attended. Only add the high school you received your high school diploma or GED degree from. Additionally, you will want to add all institutions you received college credit from, including dual enrollment courses, regardless of relevancy. All transcripts from the institutions you added must be received by CASPA.
You will need to report every class you took under CASPA’s “Transcript Entry” section. My advice is to have a copy of your official transcript right by your side as you are inputting your coursework into the application exactly the way it appears in your official transcript to minimize mistakes. Take your time with this section.
Fill Out the Supporting Section
This is the most important and tedious section of the CASPA application. In your “Experiences” you want to utilize the “600-character” detail portion to speak about the role and responsibilities you had. By doing so, you are allowing the admissions committee to clearly understand your experiences, qualifications, and skills. You can choose to explain your experience in paragraph or bullet-form style. Whichever one you choose, remain consistent! If space permits you can also talk about what you learned in that experience. What you need to input for each experience type is the date, location, supervisor contact information, hours spent, and the title of the experience!
Pro Tip for Future Applicants
Begin keeping track of all of your experience by creating a Word/Google document to log your hours in. When the CASPA application opens, all you need to do is copy and paste your detailed experiences which will save you so much time!
Don’t forget to send your GRE scores if the program(s) you are applying to request your scores! You will need to manually add the scores to the CASPA application under the “Standardized Tests” subsection of the “Academic History” section, but some (or all) programs request that you send your scores directly to them with their individualized GRE Code.
Personal Statement Essay
Once you have completed your personal statement essay you can add it to your CASPA application under the “Essays” subsection of the “Supporting Information” section. I want to note that once you submit your application you can no longer edit your personal statement so make sure you are 100% content with it!
Optional COVID-19 Essay for the 2020-2021 Application Cycle
There will be an optional “COVID-19” section to describe or talk about how the pandemic has affected or impacted your pursuit to become a physician assistant.
Final Check and Thoughts
After going through and filling every section of your application I want you to triple and quadruple check everything before submitting. Once you pay and submit your application you want to check the status of your application as it changes from: “In Progress” to “Received”, “Completed”, and “Verified” or “Undelivered.”
Don't begin rushing and filling out your application right away just to submit super early. Take your time and carefully input your information as you will less likely make a mistake. Set a realistic goal of when you would like to submit your application while consistently working on your CASPA app and supplemental app. If you are waiting to accumulate more hours or waiting to receive a letter grade for a summer class, it is better to submit a stronger and well-curated application than a careless and thoughtless application a month in advance.
Lastly, just because you request your transcripts or evaluations doesn't mean it will be automatically added to your application. It is your job to stay on top of your application and make sure that CASPA has received your transcripts and your evaluators have received/submitted their “letter of recommendation.” This goes the same for GRE scores and supplemental applications. Triple and quadruple check that your application is ready to be submitted and that it meets all requirements of the programs you are applying to. I wish you all the best of luck and you can ask me questions on my Instagram (@medically.bri) or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).