If you’re interested in attending physician assistant (PA) school, you may wonder what GPA you need to get accepted.
Before you start looking at different PA schools, you’ll need to find out the requirements to get in. What is the average GPA to get into PA school? Can you get into PA school with a low GPA?
Most PA schools require all applicants to have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA. However, if you want to get into a competitive school, you’ll most likely need to do better than the minimum. The national average GPA for students accepted into PA school is about 3.6.
Some schools look specifically at your science GPA. This is a calculation of your grades in subjects like biology, anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. The national average science GPA for students accepted into PA school is 3.5.
This guide goes over average GPA requirements for PA schools, how GPA in science courses factors in, how to get into a PA school with a low GPA, and more.
Understanding Different Types of GPA Requirements for PA School
Each school has its own requirements for its applicants and will consider different parts of your GPA.
Some schools only look at your cumulative GPA, while others will consider your science courses more important. Many schools have stricter requirements for prerequisite course grades than for cumulative GPA.
Here are the types of GPAs PA schools may look at:
- Cumulative GPA. Cumulative GPA is the average of all classes. Cumulative GPA includes science, art, English, and even physical education classes.
- Science GPA. Many PA schools will separate your science GPA from your cumulative GPA. They do this because PA school requires you to have a great understanding of chemistry, anatomy, and biology. This can be a good thing for students who did not get good grades in art or literature courses but did well in chemistry and math.
- Prerequisite GPA. Some schools differentiate between science GPA and prerequisite GPA. Most schools who consider prerequisite GPA separately will include science, statistics, medical terminology, and other related grades in this score.
Having a great science or prerequisite GPA can help you get into PA school with a poor cumulative GPA.
Minimum GPA to Get Into PA School
Most schools require at least a 3.0 GPA to apply to PA school. If you choose a competitive school, your GPA will have to be higher than the minimum.
When exploring options for PA school, make sure to double-check the cumulative and science GPA requirements, since they are often different.
For example, the following schools have specific cumulative and science or prerequisite GPA requirements:
- UC Davis - 3.0 average GPA and 3.0 science GPA.
- Mercer University - 3.0 average GPA and 2.9 science GPA
- University of Iowa - 3.0 average GPA and 3.2 science GPA
- UNC School of Medicine - 3.0 average GPA and 3.2 prerequisite GPA
Schools like Arcadia University have no listed GPA requirements, meaning you can apply with a history of poor grades, though that doesn’t mean you’ll get in.
Average GPA to Get Into PA School
Generally, you have to have at least a 3.0 cumulative and 3.0 science GPA to be accepted to PA school. Some schools have stricter requirements, up to a 3.4 cumulative GPA or higher.
Schools like the University of Utah will consider candidates with a 2.7 GPA if they have an otherwise strong application.
You will probably need better than the minimum to be a competitive applicant to your chosen PA program. On average, students have to have a 3.6 GPA to be accepted to PA school.
According to the 2020 PAEA report, students with a 3.1 GPA were in the bottom 10% of those accepted to PA school.
It is not impossible to get into a PA program with less than a 3.0 GPA, but your options will be limited.
How to Get Into PA School With a Low GPA
Don’t be too discouraged if you have a low GPA and want to apply to PA school. Students with low GPAs can work to correct their GPAs and improve their application in other ways. Remember that grades are just one part of the entire application process.
Here are some ways to improve your chances of getting into PA school with a low GPA:
1. Finish Undergrad as Strong as You Can
If you still have time, do everything you can to improve your undergraduate GPA. Most college professors are willing to help you if you take the initiative and show that you are willing to put in extra work.
Take advantage of extra credit, tutoring at the student center, help from your peers, and professor office hours to finish your undergrad with the best grades you can.
2. Retake Courses With D or F Grades
A single failing grade can have a significant impact on your overall GPA. If you got a D or F in a science course, the effect can have double the negative effect.
Keep in mind that a D or F grade may not be removed from your transcript after you retake the course. While the D or F won’t usually be calculated into your GPA, schools you apply to will still see the letter grade on your official transcript.
3. Crush the GRE
The GRE is required for many graduate programs. This exam is used to assess your analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning
Most PA schools will accept applicants with a minimum of a 300 GRE score.
A GRE score of 300 is considered good enough for PA school. A score above 310 is considered competitive, and a score above 320 is excellent. The maximum score possible on the GRE is 340.
4. Do Well on the PA-CAT if it’s Required
Most PA schools do not require the PA-CAT exam. However, if you do have to take it, make sure you are well-prepared. The PA-CAT exam covers anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, genetics, behavioral science, and statistics.
Some experts expect PA-CAT exam requirements to become more common in the future. If you are a great test taker with low overall grades, selecting a school that requires the PA-CAT can be a good way to help yourself stand out.
5. Get as Much Clinical Experience as Possible
Most PA schools require several hundred hours of clinical experience before applying to their programs. Keep in mind that not all healthcare experience is the same. Filing paperwork for hundreds of hours is not as meaningful as providing direct patient care.
Some great jobs for PA school experience include:
Jobs like medical assisting are particularly good for PA school candidates. Medical assistants have the opportunity to work directly with medical doctors and physician assistants taking care of patients.
Working as a medical assistant in a clinic also gives you an opportunity to make connections with medical providers who can write you letters of recommendation when you are ready to apply.
6. Write an Intriguing Personal Statement
If you didn’t graduate with the best grades, you might want to explain your struggle in your personal statement.
If you choose to bring up your grades in your personal statement, make sure to avoid blaming, complaining, or making excuses. Focus on the challenges you have overcome and what you have learned along the way.
Explaining why you had bad grades can be risky, but talking about personal struggles and how hard you worked to overcome them might make your personal statement stand out among the others.
7. Don’t Rush Through Your Applications
Filling out graduate school applications is a time-consuming process. Start early and give yourself plenty of time to work on each application. Take advantage of writing centers to get feedback on your essays, and double-check all of your paperwork for errors before you send it in.
While it is tempting to copy and paste your applications, make sure that each application is customized to the school to which you are applying. Look at the school's values and mission statements and make sure that your application highlights these traits.
Planning ahead also gives you more time to collect letters of recommendation, and submitting your application early shows that you are responsible.
You can learn more about the ideal PA school application timeline here.
8. Be Prepared to Fill out Secondary Applications
You should breathe a sigh of relief when you have submitted your applications. However, don’t be surprised if a school sends you a request for a secondary application.
Secondary applications usually consist of follow-up questions that allow the school to get a better idea of your personality and whether you will be a good fit for the program.
9. Gather Great Letters of Recommendation
An excellent letter of recommendation can do a lot to help you overcome a low GPA. Having 3 letters of recommendation is often considered the bare minimum. If you can, try to get 5 letters from a variety of sources.
Having at least one letter from an academic instructor, one from a supervisor who has seen you interact with patients, and one from a respected leader in the community shows that you are well-rounded and do well in different environments.
If you have participated in service projects, getting a letter of recommendation from the people you helped can be a good way to stand out against other applicants.
10. Prepare Extensively for PA School Interviews
There is nothing more disappointing than getting all the way to the interview stage of the application process, only to panic and say something you regret.
The more you can practice, the more comfortable you will feel when the time comes for your interview. Practicing organizing your thoughts quickly, speaking clearly, and maintaining eye contact will help you nail your interview.
If you can, practice interviews with someone who you feel some pressure to impress. That way, you get used to answering questions while you are nervous.
FAQs About Getting Into PA School With a Low GPA
What is the lowest GPA PA schools will accept? Some PA schools have no GPA requirements at all. However, this is rare. In general, the lowest GPA a PA school will accept is 2.7.
Can I get into PA school with a 2.8 GPA? You can get into PA school with a 2.8 GPA, but you will have to have excellent GRE scores, impressive letters of recommendation, and a compelling personal essay.
Can I get into PA school with a 3.0 GPA? Most schools require at least a 3.0 to apply to their PA programs. It is possible to get into PA school with a 3.0 GPA if the rest of your application is very competitive.
Can I get into PA school with a 3.2 GPA? About 10% of PA applicants have a GPA of 3.2 or lower.
Can I get into PA school with a 3.5 GPA? If you have a GPA of 3.5 or higher you have a good chance of being accepted into most PA programs.
How many Cs are acceptable for PA school? Having a few C grades is okay as long as you have mostly A grades. You can have 1-2 C grades and maintain a GPA over 3.5.
Can you get into PA school with Bs? You can have a few B grades and still get into PA school. Having 2-3 B grades will not ruin your chances of getting into PA school.
Can a high GRE offset a low GPA? In some situations, a high GRE can offset a low GPA. If you have an excellent GRE score and meet the minimum GPA requirements, you may still be accepted into PA school.
Will one bad semester ruin PA school? One bad semester will not ruin PA school. If you can, retake courses from the bad semester to eliminate any D or F grades. Make sure that you do everything you can to improve your grades in the following semesters.
What is more important: GRE score or GPA? A 4.0 from a college with easy courses may not be as impressive as a 3.7 from a college with challenging courses and strict professors. Because of this, many schools tend to look more closely at GRE scores than GPA.