If you’re planning to apply to the top physician assistant degree programs, there’s a good chance you’re going to need to become familiar with the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). As the name implies, the platform is a centralized service that allows you to apply to any number of graduate-level PA programs across the United States through a streamlined application process. Founded in 2001, the platform has grown in both size and technical advancement, nearly quadrupling the number of schools that participate in the service and developing an intuitive new process to efficiently submit electronic applications to the programs of a student’s choice.
The Purpose of the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants
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The CASPA serves as a one-stop platform for aspiring physicians to easily submit an application to the different master’s degree programs in PA studies that interest them. For the 2020 to 2021 cycle, the CASPA had 265 participating schools across the country. Around 95 percent of accredited physician assistant programs use the CASPA platform to accept and process applications, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association. Students who want to apply to any of these schools can use this service to streamline the applications process, instead of completing separate applications for each individual program to which they wish to apply.
Both students and colleges benefit from using the CASPA service. Students gain the efficiency of only having to enter their application information once. After they do, they can submit an application easily to whatever number of programs they choose, even from mobile devices, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association. The centralized nature of this service also helps prospective PA students better keep track of their applications and deadlines.
The service has become so popular with graduate PA programs because it allows them easy online access to a more extensive set of applicant data than they might otherwise receive and easy tracking of the numbers of applications and matriculated students for recordkeeping purposes. Because this data is contained within the student’s online CASPA application, it cuts down on the clerical and administrative support duties a college’s admissions team must perform, the Physician Assistant Education Association reported. This allows PA school admissions departments to move through the application process more quickly and efficiently.
The application materials contained in a student’s CASPA electronic application include graduate entry exam scores, GPA, experiences, prior coursework, letters of recommendation and their personal essay.
What Prospective Students Should Know About the CASPA
Prospective students should be aware that different schools and universities have different deadlines for application to their PA programs. Instead of assuming that just because one school accepts applications up to a certain point in the cycle, all of the other schools they intend to apply to do the same. Carefully check the deadlines for each of the schools in which you are interested early on in the application cycle, which typically begins in April.
Many physician assistant programs accept applications only through the CASPA, so avoiding this platform may not be feasible or wise. Fortunately, using the service will actually save you time in the long run, if you’re planning to apply to multiple PA schools. Although filling out the CASPA can be time-consuming, with the need to enter all coursework, experiences and transcripts, you only have to fill out one application rather than repeating the work over and over again on different application platforms for each school. It’s not unusual for an aspiring PA to apply to several schools – or even a dozen schools – so using the CASPA platform can save students a lot of time.
Applying to PA graduate programs through the CASPA isn’t free. As of 2020, candidates must pay a fee of $179 to apply to their first program using the CASPA service. Applications to subsequent programs are $55 each. Certain colleges and universities may also opt to charge an additional supplemental fee, according to the service. Low-income students may be able to request a fee waiver, but these waivers are limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so anyone hoping to receive a waiver must act quickly.
Many PA programs require a criminal background check, usually completed by a different company rather than by the school directly or by the CASPA. The CASPA platform does, however, provide information on the background check requirements of different schools.