The cost of going to PA school starts to add up long before you're accepted into a program. The expenses of finishing prerequisite courses, obtaining certification for direct patient care roles, and application (and supplemental application) fees can accumulate quickly.
You've likely given some thought to the expense of PA school, and your plan for covering it. But what about the years or months leading up to PA school? Have you anticipated the cost of preparing for PA school?
In this post, you'll learn how to reduce the cost of the common expenses in your pre-PA prep.
1. Saving money on prerequisites
Often, I'm asked if PA schools give preference to applicants who fulfill prereqs at a 4-year university versus a community college.
I should rephrase that.
I'm often told by a pre-PA student that they understand that gaining prereqs from a 4-year university is regarded more highly by PA programs compared to completing them at a community college. They believe this to be fact, intertwining the idea within some other question.
But, the truth is that the vast majority of PA programs do not care whether your prereqs are done at a community college or an Ivy League school. They really don't, and they will usually flat out tell you this, either on their website or if you ask them.
Even top-tier programs do not rank candidates based on how or where they obtained the course credits. Given the cost of PA school, most programs even encourage students to go the community college route. Some even allow for online courses with an online lab.
I'd seriously consider taking any prereqs you can (core courses and otherwise) at a community college if it's an option. Just check with your target programs to see if they have a policy against taking prereqs at a community college or online.
Being selective about where you complete your PA school prerequisite courses can save you loads of money.
2. Get free certifications
Of the direct patient care roles, working as a nursing assistant remains the most common among future PA students. You can often find free certification training to become a nursing assistant at community centers, local hospitals, and nursing homes in your area.
Additional free training and certification may also be available to you if you are employed as a CNA. After being hired, CNAs may be required to train as an EKG tech or obtain certification in phlebotomy.
Your employer will likely pick up the bill for this additional training, all the while increasing your level of patient responsibility.
With a little planning, you could become certified as a CNA and be trained in phlebotomy for free.
Volunteering may also open up opportunities for free certification. Many PA programs require CPR certification as an admission requirement, and if you volunteer at a local hospital, you may have access to free CPR certification classes.
Some hospitals also offer reimbursement for employees who obtain medical certifications. So, you might find an opportunity to work in a part-time administrative role that then pays for your EMT training.
3. Reduce your application cost
The more uneasy you feel about your chances of acceptance, the more PA school applications you're likely to submit.
Prior PAEA surveys show that the chance of getting into PA school falls off after around 8-12 applications. So, paying for any additional applications after 12 is a waste of money, at least statistically.
While "spraying and praying" may make you feel like you're increasing your chances, you're far more likely to get into PA school (and save money in the process) if you have a plan. Get very clear on your target programs before starting the application process, know what your budget is going in, and do not let emotions lead you to add unplanned programs to your list.
To defray the cost of your application, CASPA also offers an application fee waiver, which is $177 for the current cycle and includes the cost of applying to your first program. Those who are granted a waiver are still responsible for the cost of applying to additional schools to the tune of $51 each (so you still need target schools to rein in your costs).
These waivers are available at the start of the application cycle and are granted based on need on a first come, first served basis. In the most recent cycle, all waivers were granted by July, so you need to act early in the application cycle.
To be considered for a waiver, you will need to submit your tax returns from the prior year including household income information.
The review will take 10 days; then you will have 14 days after the approval to submit your CASPA application. So, be ready to apply before you ask for the waiver.
Every aspect of PA school can be made more cost-efficient by having a plan. Anticipating the expense of PA school is vital, but there's also plenty of opportunities to save money before you ever get there.
Use these strategies to reduce the price tag of your pre-PA prep, and start saving the difference toward your bigger goal.