Let's Dig Into the Supplemental Application


You have successfully conquered the hurdle that is CASPA; now what? 

Most schools have a supplemental or secondary application that asks for additional information.  Every school wants to get to know the “real you,” and supplementals go a long way towards filling in the blanks that standardized applications cannot.  Last month, we discussed common mistakes applicants make on the CASPA application.  Now, let’s take a look at common mistakes that you should avoid when filling out supplementals.

Applying too early: As you finish college, you might think you absolutely MUST apply to PA school immediately.  You know you meet the prerequisites, but is this really the year you should apply? Make sure you visit school websites.  Take a look at what the successful applicant looked like last year. Do your stats comfortably fit within those metrics?  If they do, then you are on the right path; but if not, perhaps you need to take another year and enhance your preparation. Don’t rush; we are not going anywhere! (smile)

Applying to programs for which you do not meet prerequisites: Many programs send supplementals to all applicants without an initial screen of the CASPA. It is your responsibility to do your homework. Do not submit when you know you don’t qualify. Schools with course requirements, patient care requirements, or cut-offs will not be forgiving, and you will waste your application fee. 

Not reading/following/understanding instructions:  Supplementals can be long or short, detailed or not so detailed; ultimately instructions will tell you what is needed. Don’t skim or skip question prompts. If you are unsure what is being asked, e-mail the program. 

Applying before you are happy with your GRE scores:  Many schools require the GRE and have specific deadlines for receipt. Often, applicants decide to take the exam more than once. If you choose to re-take the exam, do not apply until after your new scores are reported. Most schools will consider the application complete and begin review if you apply with any scores. Applications are only reviewed once.

Not understanding what each school considers as patient care:  Most schools have a patient care requirement but often do not agree on what can be considered. Some schools accept volunteer positions, some only paid. Some will accept work done as a part of a course some will not. Some accept specific experiences that others do not. For example, Duke accepts in-office scribe work, but that is not the case for many schools. When deciding which schools meet your needs, make sure you know these differences. If you do not know, then ask.

Not showing your passionLast month we discussed essays and AI. We know AI exists, and most schools now have an attestation about NOT using AI. As discussed last month, programs are looking for authenticity; but we can take this a step farther. We are all looking for individuals with passion: for healthcare, patients and each other. We want to see that you have been excited taking care of others up until this point and that you will be a change agent in the future. Show your spark. Make admissions readers want to meet you.

Whenever you apply, we wish you the very best in the process!


The Duke Physician Assistant Program Admissions Blog presents information based on the experiences of Duke PA Program staff and faculty. While the information provided is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, requirements can change. Please visit the Duke PA Program website for the most up-to-date information.

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