Months of preparation, hours of data entry, and a few heart-stopping moments over references, and you've finally completed your CASPA application.
Now, you wait. And wait.
Whether you hear back in a few weeks or many months later, the period between submitting your application and receiving a response from PA schools can feel like an eternity.
In the remaining seconds between refreshing your email inbox and checking online forums to see if anyone else has heard back from your target schools, your mind begins churning.
Maybe if you just called the schools to be sure CASPA didn't lose your application in an internet black hole. Or maybe you should just drive the 107 miles to check with the admissions department in person. How could they say no if they met you, right?
The truth is, there's not much you can do after you submit your application to improve your odds. However, there is a middle ground between sitting on your hands and driving yourself crazy while you wait to hear from programs.
In this post, we'll cover what you should do after submitting your CASPA application for PA school.
1. Follow your application progress
In the CASPA universe, submitting your application is not the equivalent of completing it. And a "completed" application is not, contrary to all logic, complete.
So, your first step after hitting the "submit" button should be to follow the progress of your application.
A CASPA application is categorized as "received" once you submit it.
It is then recategorized as "completed" within 48 hours once CASPA receives all materials (transcripts and at least two references).
Therefore, you have to keep watch to ensure your transcripts and references make it. If something should have been received but wasn't, you'll have some investigating to do to make sure your deadlines are met.
The last step is for your application to be "verified." CASPA reviews your application and compares it with your transcripts to ensure all of your coursework was entered correctly and consistently.
Verification takes 2-4 weeks, so you need to track your application all the way through until it is marked as "verified."
2. Keep an experience tally
After submitting to CASPA, most applicants continue their patient care or volunteer roles, gaining additional hours of experience between the time of applying and (hopefully) a PA school interview.
You want credit for this effort, so be sure to keep track of it. You can use it later to update schools. If you are dedicated to becoming a PA and don't get in on your first application cycle, a current accounting of your experience will come in handy for your next attempt.
Remember to track any new, relevant experiences as well; these may be useful for an interview or a future application.
3. Update programs, but only with relevant information
You can and should update PA programs when you've made progress that improves your application. But, the progress needs to be substantial. Translation: don't call PA programs to tell them about the seven hours of volunteering you gained in the past four months.
However, you should let them know when you've completed any "planned/in-progress" prerequisites that weren't on your transcript at the time of submission. Update them on substantial gains in experience — like if you started working as a CNA and gained 500 hours since you sent in your application.
Ask yourself "does this help me meet the admission requirements of a program or have a significant impact on my competitiveness?" If not, it's probably worth holding off on contacting them until you have an update that does.
4. Don't contact schools for (just) an update
I know you want to contact schools just to get an update, but don't. It's not because they will mind, they are usually pretty nice about it. But, they receive thousands of applications. Contacting them will not increase your chances of an interview or acceptance. And, consider the poor soul who has to handle phone calls from thousands of nervous applicants.
If you haven't heard "no" yet, you are still in the running. That's all they will be able to tell you when you call, and you will be left unsatisfied.
But, if you are dying to know even a vague morsel of information, bundle your probe with an update about you. If you are contacting them to (legitimately) notify them about relevant accomplishments to add to your application (see #3 above), then ask as part of that communication. Since they have to field your call or email anyway, at least you're not bogging anyone down with extra work.
5. Assess your application for weak spots
It's a depressing reality that most people who apply to PA school this cycle won't be accepted. And most of those who fail to get in won't know for sure that they missed the mark until many months from now, when the next application cycle is ready to open.
That means you could wait around for 10 months only to find out you have to go through the process of applying all over again.
So, instead of being caught off-guard at the end of a cycle, what if you spent the coming months becoming a stronger applicant? What if you had an even greater amount or more relevant experience for your next application cycle? What if right after submitting your PA school application, you got to work strategizing for the next cycle?
Even if you've prepared for months or years to apply to PA school, every PA school application has room for improvement.
You can start your strategy for application enhancement now with the help of Application Reboot, a 3-part mini course that uses a weighted tool to guide you in creating your most effective application-strengthening blueprint.
6. Join the Be a PA Community on FB
At any given time, half of the Be a PA Community is patiently waiting to hear back from PA programs after applications or interviews. Commiserate with those who understand your pain. The wait is more comfortable with friends.
After submitting your CASPA application, there's not much to do but be patient. But, taking these small steps will allow you to "actively" wait for responses, making the most of your current application cycle while getting a jump on the next one, just in case you need it.