Frequently Asked Questions:

The Application Process

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Do I have to apply to the JMU Graduate School and to the PA Program as separate applications?

Yes. You must apply to the Graduate School in order to be admitted to the university and to the graduate college. The reporting code is 7442. To complete this part of the application, please go to The Graduate School. After completing The Graduate School application, be sure to download it and save it as a PDF file.

Additionally, you must also apply through the CASPA system.  You will upload your Graduate School application into the “Documents” section of the CASPA application..

Do I have to submit letters of recommendation and original transcripts with both the CASPA application and the JMU Graduate School application?

No. You must submit the requested letters of recommendation and original transcripts as part of the CASPA application. You do not need to also submit letters of recommendation and original transcripts with the Graduate School application. If you are offered admission to the PA program, you will need to send original transcripts to the JMU Graduate School prior to the start of classes.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?

You must submit three (3) required letters of recommendation as part of the CASPA application.  You do not need to submit the letters of recommendation with the Graduate School application.  Letters are best from prior supervisors/employers, university professors, and/or medical professionals (clinicians) who have observed you working or volunteering in a patient care environment (not simply someone you shadowed briefly). Letters of recommendation from friends or family members are highly discouraged.

Must I apply to the program through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)?

Yes. All candidates must apply through CASPA (in addition to the JMU Graduate School).

What is the minimum GPA that is required?

We have a recommended overall GPA of 3.0, however most students who are admitted have an overall GPA higher than this. Nevertheless, the Admissions Committee does take into consideration the applicant who has shown continuous improvement over time.

What are the characteristics of the applicants who have actually been selected for the program?

The Program does not have a model candidate. PAs work in a wide variety of jobs within the medical field. The role of the PA program is to educate people who can fill that wide variety of jobs. So the program selects candidates with wide ranges of abilities, backgrounds and interests who will combine their PA education with those varied interests and fill a broad range of PA positions.

Below is a statistical profile of candidates admitted to the PA program over the past few years. We expect some year-to-year variation in these ranges and means. They are offered here to help candidates gauge how competitive they may be with other candidates. Where provided, the ranges are more significant than the means.

Student Characteristics:

Year Enrolled – Year Graduated
  2016-2018 2017-2019 2018-2020 2019-2021 2020-2022
Number enrolled 30 30 32 32 32
Average prior college credit hours 150.4 139.7 149.6 150 147
Average Overall GPA upon admission 3.51 3.5 3.49 3.53 3.48
Average Science GPA upon admissions 3.44 3.42 3.46 3.51 3.41
Highest prior degree held Doctorate: 0%
Masters: 20%
Bachelors: 80%
Doctorate: 3%
Masters: 10%
Bachelors: 87%
Doctorate: 0%
Masters: 6%
Bachelors: 94%
Doctorate: 0%
Masters: 6%
Bachelors: 94%
Doctorate: 0
Masters: 9%
Bachelors: 91%
Hours of health care experience (mean): 4,222 4,149 3,417 4,299 3,531
Range 1,000 – 24,000 1,000 – 44,160 1,000 – 24,752 1,000 – 17.040 1,000-16,428
Gender Female 70%
Male 30%
Female 87%
Male 13%
Female 69%
Male 31%
Female 72%
Male 28%
Female 56%
Male 44%
Age (mean years) 26.9 26.7 24.3 25.1 24.7
Range 23-44 22-46 21-35 21-37 20-36
Percentage of Students with JMU course work 30% 30% 25% 13% 9%
Percent students from Virginia 70% 56% 53% 59% 56%
Analytical Writing: N/A 67th 62nd 70th 70th
Verbal Reasoning: N/A 63rd 67th 66th 68th
Quantitative Reasoning: N/A 54th 58th 49th 54th

Interpreting the Table:

This profile was assembled for reporting characteristics of enrolled students. It is not a list of selection or admission criteria. Not all the characteristics listed are admission considerations or criteria.

  • With GPAs it is important to consider the table gives an average not a range. Also students' performance is seldom uniform throughout their academic work. So, the average may not reflect that their more recent academic work may be better than their average. In such situations the Admissions Committee may be more influenced by the recent work.
  • All students who complete the PA curriculum receive a Master of Physician Assistant degree.
  • JMU connection includes students who have taken courses at JMU at anytime prior to acceptance into the PA program.
  • Health Care Experience: The health care experience requirement must involve work directly helping patients with their healthcare problems. The patients might have physical or mental health problems. The experience can be attained in many ways. The experience could be either a paid or volunteer position. It might be accumulated through a single type of experience or by combining different types of experience that collectively fulfill the required hours.

Some candidates are applying to PA as a career change. Typically they have been working in some type of direct-contact health care job and have many hours of experience. Other candidates are seeking PA as a first career in health care. They often seek health care experience specifically to meet the requirement and they do not have education in a prior health care profession. So, they are more likely to seek activities that require brief education such as Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or a position with on the job training. These candidates typically have fewer hours. It is important to note the wide range of hours. It indicates that candidates from both groups are selected. Health care experience is not evaluated merely on the number of accumulated hours.

Below is a partial, but representative, list of the types of activities that students have engaged in prior to entry into the PA program. These are only examples, many other types of positions also qualify. If a candidate is engaged in an activity and is not sure whether it would qualify, he should inquire of the PA advisor at the program.

Credentialed, employment-type activities:

  • EMT or Paramedic
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Certified Nursing Aid
  • Cardiology Technician
  • Medical Technologist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Veterinarian
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Rehabilitation tech
  • Crisis Counselor
  • Clinical Research Tech.
  • Mental Health Case Mgr

Volunteer activities include these settings:

  • Rescue Squad
  • Physician Office
  • Emergency Room
  • Nursing Home
  • Free Clinic
  • Mental Health Crisis Counselor

Shadowing PAs The program does not count time spent shadowing PAs as meeting the direct patient-contact health care experience requirement, because the activity is generally, purely observational. The program does encourage candidates to shadow PAs, if it will help the candidate determine whether or not PA is the appropriate career choice for the candidate.

Must I take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Yes, it is a requirement for admission. The reporting code is 7442. The GRE is only waived if an applicant has a previously earned graduate degree.

What is the minimum GRE score needed?

There is no minimum score that is necessary. The Admissions Committee will consider the GRE scores along with the other admissions requirements and render decisions based upon the applicant's entire application and/or interview. However, the Admissions Committee has deemed a satisfactory score as a 25th percentile minimum.

Is any special consideration given to veterans of the United States military?

Yes. Any United States veteran who completes the application process and meets the minimum admissions criteria is guaranteed an on-campus interview.

How do I find out my admission status?

To find your admission status, please log into your application’s “Activity” page, using the same username and password you used to apply. Instructions can be found here: https://www.jmu.edu/grad/prospective/applicant-status.shtml.

When do I need to submit official transcripts?

Official transcripts must be submitted to CASPA at the time of application and to The Graduate School at JMU upon acceptance. Unofficial transcripts may be sent to the PA program to document prerequisite course work completed after your CASPA application has been submitted.

What are program expenses?

A cohort tuition model is used for students in the PA Program. The tuition for this group/cohort of students, and each cohort thereafter, will be set before the cohort begins the program and will remain the same throughout the seven semesters/28 months of the program. More information.

Are scholarships or graduate assistantships available? Is financial aid available?

The JMU Graduate School typically provides funding to the PA Program annually, to use towards five individual scholarships. These scholarships are awarded within the first month of the Program and are academic based, not needs based. It cannot be expected or guaranteed that the JMU Graduate School will provide this funding on annual basis. Scholarships from outside organizations including the PA Foundation are announced to students as they become available. Due to the pace and rigor of the PA Program curriculum, graduate assistantships are not available. Most students apply for financial aid through the JMU Financial Aid Office.

If my aspirations are to attend a graduate physician assistant program and ultimately to become a physician assistant, what undergraduate major should I choose?

There is no specific major that is required - one must simply have at least a Bachelor's degree as a prerequisite to admission. Most applicants major in biology. A basic science background of biology or chemistry is very helpful as it shows the candidate that he/she can or cannot succeed in these types of difficult topics. Other common majors include kinesiology, psychology, and exercise science. Majoring in health science as an undergraduate has also become more popular in recent years.

Can the MCAT take the place of the GRE?

No.

When are on-campus interviews held?

On-campus interviews are typically held each fall/winter and sometimes in the spring as well (September - March).

How many cohorts are admitted per year? How many seats are available per cohort? When does the program begin?

One cohort is admitted per year. There are a maximum of 32 seats available per cohort. The program begins in the fall semester (late August).

If I retake a course, which grade will count towards my GPA?

CASPA counts ALL prior course grades when calculating GPAs.