If you seek advice from anyone who's applied to PA school before, you're likely to hear that the application process took far longer than they expected.
Requesting transcripts, following up with references, and filling in the details of all of your experiences typically equates to, at best, submitting your application a few weeks later than planned.
At worst, it can mean missing program deadlines altogether.
Some aspects, like application verification times and submission of your letters of recommendation, are not entirely in your control.
However, by taking command of what is within your reach early on, you can avoid taking deadlines down to the wire or delaying your submission, as well as the stress that comes with certain aspects of the application being out of your hands.
If you plan to apply for the upcoming CASPA cycle (or even the following one), now is the time to take action.
Here's why you should start your CASPA application now.
1. You can roll over your info to your "real" application cycle
If you open a CASPA application now, the experiences, courses, and grades that you enter can be rolled over to any future application cycle.
Starting this process long before you "have to" will allow you to concentrate on the more mentally challenging aspects of the application—writing your personal essay and plotting your approach to references—without being bogged down by tedious details.
If you start your CASPA application before your planned submission cycle, delay requesting references or submitting your personal statement until your “target” cycle opens. These aspects will not roll over.
Opening a CASPA account takes less than a minute. You’ll have to select a PA program to start adding your information, but don’t sweat over which one to pick because you can easily change this in the future.
Just pick one and get things rolling.
[NOTE: Once your target cycle opens, sign into your CASPA account and choose “start reapplication.” From there, you can scroll down and opt to "bring forward" the information that you previously input. If you miss this step and start a new application, you’ll lose your prior work.]
2. You can see more clearly any deficiencies
By adding your academic and experience details to your CASPA application early, you'll be better able to see any potential holes in your application.
The experience section (where you'll input prior work, volunteering, and patient contact/health care experiences) can take some time to complete.
Each entry requires details about where, what, when, and for how long as well as descriptions of your experience and responsibilities in the role. (To get organized, be sure to grab your Complete CASPA Checklist.)
Sometimes when applicants begin to complete these sections, feelings of inadequacy can creep in. Your experience may not look like much when written out, which may send you scrambling for additional opportunities.
This sense of insecurity can take you in unexpected directions. You may try to cram in a few more hundred patient experience hours or even be tempted to start a new role, further delaying your submission.
Opening your CASPA application early and plugging in your experience will help you avoid panic about perceived shortcomings and, rather, allow you to make course corrections long before you're ready to apply.
3. You’ll get all of your tedious decisions out of the way
When entering each experience into your application, you’ll have some decisions to make.
First, you’ll be asked to identify the type of experience: non-healthcare related employment, research, volunteer, patient care experience, healthcare experience, shadowing, leadership experience, extracurricular activity, or teaching experience.
So if you worked as a paid tutor, would you say that was non-healthcare employment or teaching experience?
What about being a team captain on your college swimming team — leadership or extracurricular? It’s your job to select the category that’s the best fit, but sometimes it takes a bit of consideration on your part before you’re ready to decide.
And categorizing is just the first step. Beyond that, you’ll have to include dates, average weekly hours, total weeks, a role description, and contact information for both the organization and your supervisor.
You’ll also have to decide which achievements, if any, deserve a place on your application, and how you’ll describe each.
Then there’s the mindless data-entry task of inputing all of your college-level courses and grades.
All of this takes mental energy and time. If you make these decisions early, you’ll save your decision-making skills for higher level concerns that will come up later, like determining what deserves space in your personal statement.
4. You’ll (likely) submit earlier & reduce submission stress
Trying to tackle all parts of your CASPA application within a week or two can be overwhelming.
More importantly, most PA students who were accepted on their second application cycle after a first failed attempt will tell you that their success was rooted in being more prepared for that next cycle.
Second-time applicants are apter than first-time applicants to submit early in the application cycle. Applying early in the cycle, particular to programs with rolling admissions, can increase your chance of acceptance.
But you don't need to apply twice to reap the benefits of this lesson.
When your only tasks are following up on references, requesting transcripts, and plugging in your personal statement (which you can write in advance too), your application will be completed significantly faster.
And, you'll meet deadlines with months to spare.
If you're applying in the next 1-2 cycles, challenge yourself to open your CASPA application this week. It takes just a moment, and committing to this simple action now can save you weeks of panic and pain in the future.
If you’re ready to start, be sure to pick up your copy of the Complete CASPA Checklist to guide you through every step of your application prep.