Everything You Need To Know About The CASPA Application For PA School: An FAQ

Ryan Kelly

By: Ryan Kelly

Filling out your CASPA application for PA school can feel a bit like packing your bags for an extended trip overseas.

Your checklist seems never-ending. There’s a nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something. And worst of all, if you misplace or miss something critical (like a Passport!), it might be too late to fix the mistake, totally derailing your entire plan.

To calm your nerves and help you through this somewhat cryptic process, I’ve compiled this extensive list of CASPA FAQs (gathered from reputable sources and my own experience with many past candidates).

Think of this CASPA FAQ as a guide that you can return to and reference as needed (like the Frommer’s you might pack with you on your trip). Feel free to bookmark this page for safe-keeping.

Since there are MANY questions that I get asked about PA school and the CASPA, I’ve broken them down into several categories for your convenience.

Basic CASPA Questions

What is CASPA?

The Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) streamlines the process of applying to PA programs. You select your programs, then you submit one application with all necessary materials. Once received by CASPA, your application goes through a verification process before being sent to all your programs.

When does the CASPA application open?

For 2020-2021, it opened on April 30th, 2020 and will run until April 15th, 2021. The opening and closing dates are roughly the same each year.  

In some instances, the individual program's deadline may differ from the application's cycle dates. To view a program's deadline date, click Add Program and review the information under Deadline.

How long does the application process take?

Pre-write essays and apply as early as possible. Completing your application will take longer than you expect, and application processing times vary throughout the cycle.

What’s a good application timeline?

Prior to the Start of the Application Process:

Research programs you wish to apply to. Pay special attention to:

  • Cycle dates and deadline requirements.
  • Application fees.
  • Evaluation requirements.
  • Minimum requirements, including prerequisites, standardized test scores, supplemental applications, etc.

Ask your schools to send you the official transcripts you'll need to enter your coursework.

Begin contacting potential evaluators to confirm their participation.

Start drafting your personal essay and experience descriptions. Pre-write some supplemental essays if possible.

When the CASPA Opens:

Create your account.

Complete the Colleges Attended section.

Complete the Evaluations section.

Ask your schools to send official transcripts directly to CASPA. If there are any holds on your account at a school, resolve them now to avoid delays in sending transcripts.

Begin entering coursework into your application.

Check in with your evaluators to confirm that they received the evaluation request via email.

By the End of May/Beginning of June (or as soon as possible):

Submit and complete your application. Review the verification process. Monitor your application for receipt of transcripts and letters of evaluation and follow up on any missing items. Continue monitoring your application until your status is Verified.

What can I change after I submit my application?

You can add new test scores, experiences, achievements, and/or certifications (where applicable), but you cannot edit existing entries.

You can also update evaluations with "new" or "in-progress" statuses and select additional programs to apply to.

All other sections are read-only.

CASPA Coursework, Transcripts, and GPAs

Do I need to send transcripts?

Yes, you must submit official transcripts to CASPA. See Sending Official Transcripts for more guidelines on each type of transcript.

You only need to submit one transcript from each school regardless of the number of programs you're applying to.

Some schools are part of a college district (e.g., Maricopa County Community College District, San Diego Community College, San Mateo Community College District, etc.). If you attended more than one college in a college district, you only need to order one transcript for all colleges (e.g., the San Mateo Community College District transcript includes all coursework from Cañada College, College of San Mateo, and Skyline College).

How do I send transcripts to CASPA?

You can follow these steps to submit your transcripts through CASPA.

If you need to submit them by mail instead of electronically, you can read more about that here.

If you need to submit international transcripts, find more information here.

1. Enter your colleges or universities in the Colleges Attended section before requesting any transcripts.

2. Click Order under each school listed.

3. Select the electronic transcript vendor and follow the prompts.

4. Click I Ordered My Transcript once you requested an electronic transcript.

5. Follow up with your school(s) to ensure that your transcripts were mailed, and obtain the date they sent them. Processing times might vary by school, and some schools may not send your transcript until the semester is over. 

Monitor the Check Status page to ensure your transcript is received. On average, it takes seven business days.

Where do I find the Transcript Request Form?

This is only necessary if you are submitting transcripts by mail.

The Transcript Request Form is found in the Colleges Attended section, after you submit a college or university entry.

Should I send my high school transcripts?

No. Do not send your high school transcripts with your CASPA.

My transfer credits are listed on my primary transcript. Do I still need to send all transcripts to CASPA?

You must report all colleges and universities attended and submit official transcripts, even if your transfer credits are listed on your primary transcript. See Sending Official Transcripts for more guidelines.

How do I know what my primary institution is?

Your primary institution is the college or university where you earned or will earn your first bachelor's degree.

Do I really have to enter all coursework?

Yes, you must enter all US and English Canadian coursework into the Transcript Entry section of the application. You can also opt to pay for Professional Transcript Entry (PTE).

How do I list my repeated courses?

CASPA considers a course to be repeated if you enrolled in the same course again at the same college or university.

Report all attempts of repeated coursework (including those that are currently in-progress or planned) and be sure to mark them as repeated during Transcript Review. Enter the number of credit hours attempted for each course, regardless of how many credits were actually earned.

Should I include foreign coursework in the Transcript Entry section?

No. Do not include foreign coursework in your CASPA transcripts.

Why is my CASPA GPA different from the GPA on my transcripts?

The CASPA GPAs factor in all coursework taken, regardless of the college or university and any academic forgiveness policies.

I don't agree with the GPA. How do I change it?

If you review your calculated coursework and find an error with your GPA, review Disputing and Correcting CASPA Course Subjects and GPAs.

Letters of Evaluation, CASPer, and GRE

How do I submit letters of evaluation?

All evaluations can be submitted electronically by evaluators using Letters by Liaison, the CASPA’s recommender portal.

How many letters of evaluation do I need?

You are required to request at least 3 and may request a maximum of 5. If you want to submit more, send those additional evaluations directly to your programs. 

Who should I ask for my evaluations? 

CASPA letters of evaluation often come from PAs, physicians, science professors, or work supervisors.

Research each program's requirements. You should determine whether your programs have specific requirements regarding evaluator roles or relationships before listing evaluators on your application.

Many programs have strict guidelines and completed evaluations cannot be removed or replaced.

Prepare your evaluators. Inform them about the process of completing the evaluation electronically. Get their preferred email address and politely ask them to monitor that inbox for your evaluation request (which will come from caspainfo@caspaonline.org), including any junk or spam folders.  

How do I know my evaluations have been received and accepted by CASPA?

Use the Check Status tab to monitor the status of your evaluations.

Completed evaluations are marked as "Complete" and have a Complete Date listed. Follow up with your evaluators if their evaluations are still marked as "Requested" or "Accepted."

It is your responsibility to ensure that evaluation requests are received and completed on time. CASPA will not notify applicants about missing evaluations. 

Can I submit a committee letter?

If you want to submit a committee letter as part of your application, you can do so by entering the committee chair (or their alternate) as the evaluator.

The committee chair must then complete the ratings section and upload one letter (that includes the assessments of various committee members) via Letters by Liaison, the Recommender Portal.

Note that a committee letter only counts as one evaluation and the individuals who contributed to the letter may not be used as additional evaluators. 

Should I waive my right to access the evaluation?

Yes. Selecting Yes indicates to programs that your evaluator completed their evaluation with the understanding that you would not be able to view it. This means you will not be able to see the content of the evaluation. Programs may view this type of evaluation as a more accurate representation of an applicant's qualifications.

What happens if I entered the wrong email address for my evaluator? 

If you entered an incorrect email address for any evaluators (or if any evaluator asks that you send the request to a different email address), you must delete these requests and then re-add them with the correct email. 

Do I need to take the GRE for PA school? What’s a good score?

There are at least 80 schools that don’t require the GRE, but odds are, your school list will include at least a handful of schools that require it. 

It’s recommended that PA applicants take the GRE. The PAEA Directory will tell you if each school requires the test or not, so make sure to check each school on your prospective list. Some schools require the test to have been taken within the last five years, and some even have a ceiling of three years.

Competitive GRE scores average around a composite score of 300, and scores above 310 have been considered to be very competitive. This averages to about 150 on the verbal reasoning, 150 on the quantitative reasoning, and a 3.5 in writing.   

When should I take the GRE?

Take it sometime between January and March in the year you plan to apply. That will give you time to retake it if needed.

Read more about the GRE timetable in the Ultimate PA School Admissions Timeline.

How do I submit my GRE score to PA schools on the CASPA?

GRE Scores are submitted electronically to CASPA from ETS using a CASPA GRE code that is different for each program and different from the school's regular GRE code.

Official GRE scores from ETS can be received by CASPA at any point during the application cycle, even after your application is submitted or verified; however, some programs may have a deadline by which they want your scores posted.

Once your GRE scores are attached to your application, they cannot be removed.

To submit your official GRE scores to CASPA:

  1. Review the list of CASPA GRE Codes to determine your program's CASPA code, if applicable. If you are applying to multiple programs, supply each individual code to ETS to ensure that all programs can view your scores. 
  2. Provide the codes to ETS and request that your scores be released. 

What are the CASPA GRE codes?

This list contains all CASPA programs who have a CASPA GRE code. If your program is not on this list, contact them directly to determine how to report your scores. 

How long does it take ETS to send GRE scores?

After ETS processing, scores are sent to CASPA in batches and then posted to applications every 2-3 days. Only scores that you requested using CASPA codes will post to your application.

You can view scores attached to your application in the Standardized Tests section of the Check Status tab.

Can I submit the CASPA before submitting my GRE scores?

Yes. You can submit your application before your transcripts, evaluations, and/or official test scores are received by CASPA.

What is this CASPer test I keep hearing about?

CASPer is a situational judgement test (SJT) that presents test-takers with a series of realistic, hypothetical scenarios and asks them to type out what they would do if they were in that particular situation.

Here are some great resources for preparing for the CASPer:

FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About the CASPer Test

The Savvy Pre-Med Comprehensive Guide to the CASPer Test

How Should You Prepare for the CASPer Test?

3 Practice CASPer Questions and Best Responses

Which PA schools require the CASPer? What’s a good score?

As of right now, only 28 PA programs require this exam. Check the full list of participating schools to see if your programs are on it. It costs $10 to take the CASPer and $10 to distribute your scores to each school you’re sending them to.

Unfortunately, you never get to see your score for the CASPer test, so it’s difficult to quantify a “good” score. 

How do I submit my CASPer score to PA schools?

You create a school distribution list through your CASPer account. Your CASPer score will be made available to the programs on your distribution list approximately 2-3 weeks after taking your test.

The CASPer test does not interact with your CASPA application.

Programs and Statuses

How do I remove a program?

Your application must always have at least one program selected. To remove a program, first navigate to the Add Programs tab and select the desired program(s). Then navigate to the Submit Application tab and remove the undesired program(s).

Can I apply to more programs after I submit my application?

Yes, if the program's deadline date has not yet passed and the application cycle is open.

Should I submit my application if I'm still waiting on transcripts, evaluations, and/or official test scores?

Yes. You can submit your application before your transcripts, evaluations, and/or official test scores are received by CASPA.

Will CASPA update me on the status of my application?

Yes. Your application status for each program is listed in the Check Status section of the application. CASPA will notify you when official transcripts and evaluations are received, and when your application is verified.

When will I learn about admissions decisions? Did I get in!?

You must reach out to your program(s) to learn about a school's admissions decisions.

CASPA Fees and Payments

Is there any other way to pay other than by credit card?

The CASPA currently only accepts payments by credit card: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.

I want a refund. What do I need to do?

Refunds are not given for any reason. Review Refunding/Withdrawing Your CASPA Application for more information.

Can I get a fee waiver? Do fee waivers expire?

See Fees and Fee Waivers for more information. If you qualified for and were awarded a CASPA fee waiver, your fee waiver expires in 14 days, including weekends and holidays. See CASPA Application Fees and Fee Waivers for more information.

Essays, Resume, and Experiences

Where do I submit my personal statement on the CASPA? How long is it supposed to be?

You submit it inside the Essays tab of the CASPA application. The personal statement must be fewer than 5,000 characters, including spaces.

Use simple formatting: formatting such as tabs, italics, multiple spaces, etc. will not be saved. To delineate paragraphs, type a double return between each paragraph.

Read more about how to answer “Why PA?” in your personal statement.

How many experiences can I enter on the CASPA? How long are their descriptions supposed to be?

CASPA does not put a limit on the number of experiences you can enter. Focus on your experiences within the last 10 years and at the collegiate level and above.

Your experiences will be designated as belonging to one of the following categories: Patient Care Experience, Health Care Experience, Employment, Shadowing, Research, and Volunteer.

The character limit for experience statements is 600, including spaces. Be direct about what you did, what your role was, and how you grew/what skill you developed.

How to Enter Your Experience:

  1. Click Add an Experience.
  2. Select the appropriate experience type from the drop-down.
  3. Enter information about the organization where the experience took place.
  4. Enter information about your supervisor at the organization. This is a person that programs can contact to verify that this experience occurred. If the experience was a student-organized group and there was no advisor, list a member who can verify your experience.
  5. Enter the date or date range in which the experience took place. Note that your experiences will not display on your application in any specific order, regardless of the dates entered.
  6. Enter additional details about the experience, including the title of the experience and the time commitments. Enter the average weekly number of hours that you completed for this experience during the date range that you indicated.  
  7. Select Yes or No to indicate a release authorization to allow your selected programs to contact the organization.
  8. Click Save & Continue.

Note that you cannot repeat hours between experience types. So, if position duties encompass more than one section, enter the position in both sections and divide the hours and duties accordingly.

Can I include future experiences that I plan to pursue?

You cannot include experiences that you will start after submission, but you can update your experiences after submitting. If you will continue with an experience, only include completed hours. Do not project future hours.

Should I put my honors and awards in the experiences section?

There is a separate section for listing awards and honors as well as health-related certifications (like CNA or Phlebotomy). If you took courses for a health certification, they should be listed in the coursework section.

Do I need to upload a resume on the CASPA? How long is it supposed to be?

The CASPA does not require a resume, but one of your programs may request one in the Program Materials section.

If you need to submit one, it should be no more than two pages long. It’s okay if it repeats some information from your experiences on the CASPA itself.  

What goes into the Program Materials section on the CASPA?

The Program Materials section is unique to each school to which you apply. Some schools may not use this section at all, while others may ask you to upload additional information (like a resume, licenses, military papers, etc.) or to document coursework that meets the program’s unique pre-requisite requirements.

Information uploaded to this section of the application is unique to each school and cannot be viewed by the other schools to which you apply.

Do I have to write individual essays for my specific programs on the CASPA?

Yes. Inside the Questions tab of the Program Materials section, you can answer questions specific to each program. Questions may be multiple choice or open-ended text boxes. Some programs require additional essays.

If copying a response into a text box, check for possible formatting changes. Use simple formatting, as tabs, italics, multiple spaces, etc., will not be saved. To delineate paragraphs, type a double return between each paragraph.

Schools using supplemental applications outside of CASPA may send supplemental applications:

  • Immediately after you submit your application (they want your money)
  • OR after your application has been verified
  • OR only if you meet certain pre-screening criteria

Supplemental essays are usually 250-1000 words (words, not characters). Typical categories of supplemental essays:

  • Why do you want to go to this school?
  • How will you contribute to the diversity of this program?
  • Does your academic record (or GRE) reflect the work you think you can do?
  • Discuss any academic, personal or professional challenges.
  • Have you applied to our PA program before?
  • You also might get an ethical scenario or be asked to fill in a table of classes that meet a school’s requirements.

Have any questions about the CASPA that I missed?

Feel free to email me at ryank@passportadmissions.com, and I’ll respond to you personally as soon as I can.

Want to see if we’re a good fit to work together on your PA applications? Book a FREE consultation with me.