Despite being a huge monster, the CASPA application can sneak up on you. In the last months before applying to PA school, most students are focused on gaining more patient contact hours or fulfilling prerequisite courses.
Because of the focus on meeting program requirements, the CASPA application is often a worry for another day. As a result, most applicants underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete the application. By not anticipating potential delays or being surprised by supplemental applications, candidates may submit weeks or months later than expected.
If you are 6-12 months away from applying to PA school, there are distinct actions you can take now to save yourself from a late-stage scramble.
In this post, we'll cover the three steps you can take right now to prevent headaches and delays at application time.
1. Ask your references
Do you have three people in mind to ask for letters of recommendation? Have you preemptively asked them if they'd be willing to provide a reference for your PA school application?
If you have three people in mind but haven't broached the subject with them, now is the time. You do not want to be mentally counting on someone to provide a reference only to find out at application time they can't do it.
Sure, it's sooner than you'll need the letter, but why wait to ask if they'd be willing? If they say yes, then it will make it that much easier to circle back in a few months when you are ready for the reference. If they say no, then you have months to scout out someone else.
If you are missing one or two potential references, you can start strategizing now. What can do you do in the next few months to improve or build a relationship? How will you do it? Pick a date to start.
Having a theory on how you would do it does not get you a reference. You have to act. Time is on your side, so start now.
2. Review your target programs
If you are planning on applying to PA school in the next cycle, how solid are you on the programs you'll choose?
If you know the specific PA programs you want to target, review their program requirements. Be sure you are not missing anything or that something wasn't added since the last time you checked.
If you are a bit vaguer on where you'll apply (e.g., "the Northeast"), start honing down on the program characteristics that are most important to you.
Now would be a perfect time to attend any information sessions for programs within striking distance. Even if you don't eventually apply to those schools, they can help you get a feel for what you want in a PA program.
Which programs require supplemental applications or supplemental essays? These will take extra time and effort. I've seen too many applicants give up on programs because they didn't "have" the time to complete these. You shouldn't have to give up programs that might be a great fit for you because you ran out of time.
If you are considering your target programs 6-12 months in advance, you have plenty of time to get specific on where you'll apply. Take the time now to get detailed. If you are planning on where you'll apply in advance, it's much harder to miss a program deadline.
3. CASPA application trial run
Start your CASPA application now. Yes, now.
Even if you are applying in the next cycle, you can open a CASPA account. You can get a jump start on plugging in your experiences, courses, and grades. All of this information can then be rolled over to the next application cycle.
There is absolutely no disadvantage to doing this. You can gain a serious head start by getting some of the tedious work out of the way. Doing some early data entry can free you up to focus on other more mentally challenging parts of the application later.
Hold back on requesting references, transcripts, or submitting your personal statement. These will not roll over to the next cycle's application.
The application process may seem a long time away, but it will be here quickly. Take a short break from your other pre-PA activities to walk through this 3-step exercise.
If you take a few moments now, you will find yourself under much less stress at application time. Taking these three steps will help you submit your application in the timeframe you plan, rather than weeks later.