You Didn’t Get Into a PA Program, Now What?


Duke Physician Assistant Program Admissions Blog


You’re scrolling through ads and political fundraising emails when you see a letter from your top choice for PA school. Maybe you go get a glass of water and calm your nerves before checking, or perhaps you open it quickly before the anxiety can set in; either way, you find yourself staring at the dreaded rejection letter.   

The first thing to do is give yourself grace — nationally, only 37% of applicants are accepted to any PA school in any given cycle.   

A rejection letter is only a snapshot in time and does not reflect you as a person or your future success as a PA. Take some time to practice self-care.  

When you’re ready, here are some ideas and tips to keep you looking forward.  

The most important takeaway we can share is to make sure you improve your application between cycles. If you feel your application was great, see how you can make it greater.  

If the program offers feedback, ask for it, even if you think you already know what you need to do.   

Find the real-world data, not just the minimum requirements. This will give you a much better sense of how your application stacked up objectively to the rest of the pool. What did the matriculating students actually score on the GRE? What was the average GPA? How many patient care hours did they have?   

Then take a hard look at your scores and how they compare.  

Ways to improve your:  

  • Patient care hours: Depending on when you apply again, you’ll have 6+ months of additional patient care hours just by continuing to do what you were probably already doing: working. Look at your collective patient care hours critically. Might you need more well-rounded experiences? Consider working towards a certification, for example, to become an EMT or CNA.  
  • GPA: Improving your GPA is highly dependent on how many credit hours you already have. If you have a large number of credits already, then taking one course is not going to give the overall score much boost. Consider taking upper-level science courses to show that while your earlier GPA may be low, you do have what it takes to succeed in a rigorous academic setting. Some schools look more closely at the most recent 30 or 60 credit hours. At Duke, we look at how your scores trend over time. 
  • GRE: Take a GRE prep course or find free study guides. Then, make sure you arrive to the exam well-rested and ready to go.  
  • Essays: Evaluate your chosen topic; did you thoroughly answer the posed questions? With hindsight maybe you can think of a topic that is even better. If you choose to keep your topic, tighten it up and look at it from different angles. You know your passion, but you need to dig deeply and show it. How might your words come across differently than you intended? Get feedback on it from your school writing center, career center, or your family and friends.  

Other questions to ask yourself as you look ahead to future application cycles

  • Did I read and follow the CASPA application instructions and any instructions given by individual programs? 
  • Do I match the mission of the program?  
  • Did I demonstrate familiarity with the role of a PA?  
  • Did I demonstrate passion for becoming a PA?  
  • Did I choose references who could best speak to my abilities in health care? 
  • Did I proofread my application carefully? 

 Good luck!


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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