PA Frequently Asked Questions
Alert: 2021 Changes in Response to COVID-19
Prerequisite Changes Statement
In an effort to assist candidates facing unprecedented challenges due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Tufts University PA program has made the following changes to the prerequisite requirements for the 2021 application cycle:
- Pass/Fail grades for prerequisite courses will be accepted for the spring 2020 and summer 2020 semesters only. Students will be required to upload a statement from the College or University where these prerequisites were completed in CASPA, documenting that pass/fail grades were utilized instead of the standard letter grades for spring and summer 2020 semesters due to COVID-19.
- The GRE examination will be “test optional” for the 2021 cycle. This means that scores are not required but can be submitted if a candidate completed the exam. If applicants would like us to consider their exam results as a component of their candidacy, we will do so in a contextual way. If students choose not to submit exam results, the application will not be penalized. Our admissions committee has a holistic approach when evaluating each application. This provides us with the flexibility to evaluate academic and experience accomplishments within a candidate’s individual context.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews for the 2021 admission cycle will be in a virtual format. The interview day will include a program overview, student Q&A, and two one-on-one interviews. Links to a virtual campus tour will also be provided.
How many applicants will be accepted into the program?
The program will admit students until it reaches a class of 50.
Do you have a master's prep program for the PA Program?
We do not have a master’s prep program for PAs, but there is one for the medical school (called Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences).
Will the PA Program be having any information sessions?
We host information sessions in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Get added to our contact list. We will use this list to send an email when sessions are scheduled.
Do you accept transfer credits or advanced standing for the program curriculum?
No advanced placement, transfer credit, or credit for experiential learning will be granted towards the physician assistant curriculum. Regardless of previous education or work experience, all students are required to complete the entire physician assistant curriculum.
Students in the dual degree PA/MPH who have taken graduate level public health course work may be granted transfer credit for up to two courses toward their MPH degree. Review of the request for transfer credit will be done by the Registrar to determine if the courses taken are eligible. Credit can only be given to public health courses with a B or better. This transfer credit does not impact the physician assistant curriculum.
What is the typical student schedule?
The program is 25 continuous months in length. Starting in January, students can expect to spend 6-8 hours a day in class the first (didactic) year. During the second (clinical) year, students will travel to clinical practice sites, located in and around Massachusetts, where they will participate in supervised clinical experiences (rotations) in various medical/surgical disciplines. These rotations will vary between 4 ~ 5 weeks in length. Rotation schedules will include days, evening, nights, and weekend shifts. The typical time commitment during the clinical year is up to 60 hours per week in the clinical setting plus homework. Students are not guaranteed placement at any one clinical site and should be prepared to participate at various locations. A reliable means of transportation is required and necessary for this portion of the program.
Can I work while in the PA Program?
It is strongly recommended that students do not work while in the PA program. The first-year curriculum is demanding and the second-year clinical rotations are full-time.
Where are the clinical sites during the second year?
Core rotations are available in and around Massachusetts. The majority of sites are within a 60-mile radius of Boston. Students can choose to go to other New England states for core rotations, and beyond for elective rotations.
Students seeking to fulfill their clinical rotation at a new site outside of those previously selected by Tufts may do so by submitting a request to the Director of Clinical Education for review and selection.
How many students will each preceptor be responsible for during the clinical rotations?
It depends on the site, but usually each preceptor is responsible for 1 or 2 students.
What tools are provided to the students to prepare for the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam)?
The students will study questions using PAEasy. They will also take the PACKRAT (Physician Assistant Clinical Knowledge Rating and Assessment Tool) twice: once during the first year and again during the second year.
Additionally, the final month of the program, after the end of the clinical year in December, will include lectures for board review.
Is there a fee waiver for the application submitted through CASPA?
You can find information on the CASPA website regarding a fee waiver.
What component of the application is most heavily weighed upon evaluation?
The application is evaluated in its entirety and all parts are weighed equally.
Is it possible to have a personal meeting with someone in Admissions or the PA Program?
Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate all of the numerous requests for a personal meeting. We are more than happy to field any questions you may have over email at email@example.com or by phone at 617-636-0405.
Do I need to have a science major?
No. A science major is not required. All candidates must, however, complete the required prerequisites. If a candidate does not have a science background, then completing the recommended courses would further prepare them for an intensive curriculum.
Degrees completed by accepted students include: Biology, Psychology, History, Neuroscience, Economics, Anthropology, Nuclear Medicine, Fine Arts, Marketing, Biochemistry, Nutrition, Environmental Studies, Foreign Languages, International Affairs, and more.
Do I need to have received a bachelor's degree before applying?
Yes. All applicants need to have achieved a bachelor’s degree before applying. You must be able to submit a transcript documenting degree conferral at the time of application.
Can I apply if I still need to complete a course prerequisite?
No, all required prerequisites must be completed before the CASPA application is submitted, as all application materials, including confirmation of all academic prerequisite completion as evidenced on a final official transcript(s), must be received and verified by CASPA by August 1st.
For example, if you are taking a prerequisite course that will be completed at the end of July, you will be ineligible for that admissions cycle because it is highly unlikely that a final official transcript will be received for that course by CASPA by August 1st so your application would be deemed incomplete.
Can I apply if I still need to take the GRE?
An official GRE score report must be received and verified by CASPA by August 1st, so it is important that you take the GRE early enough for this report to be received by CASPA before that date, so we advise that the GRE be taken before an application is submitted. All other required prerequisites must be completed before the CASPA application is submitted, as all application materials must be received by CASPA by July 1st. Please refer to our Admissions Process page for more detailed information.
If I took a course twice because my first grade was a "C" do you use the first grade or the second to calculate GPA?
The Tufts PA program will take an average of the grades from both courses.
What if my GPA is not in the competitive range for applying to the PA program?
Review your science grades and perhaps retaking any deficient (<3.0) courses, or taking higher level courses such as biochemistry, genetics, or advanced A&P to improve your overall science GPA. A GPA of 3.0 is required for the science GPA and the prerequisite GPA. The "ideal" candidate will have an overall GPA of at least a 3.2.
What if I studied abroad?
For courses taken during study abroad programs:
You should report study abroad on CASPA if you:
- Studied via an overseas U.S. institution
- Studied via another U.S. institution
- Studied via a study abroad company, directly via your undergrad or any other method
You will need to submit documentation in English (e.g. a transcript) of study abroad coursework ONLY if you took a prerequisite course during study abroad AND if your credits and/or grades for these courses do not appear on your undergraduate transcript. If you are unable to provide documentation in English, you will need to have a WES evaluation sent to CASPA.
Do you accept reports from credentialing service companies (i.e., World Education Services (WES)?
Yes, Tufts ONLY accepts reports from World Education Services (WES). Reports must be submitted to CASPA. You must submit a WES evaluation if you have an undergraduate degree from a foreign institution OR you completed a PA Program prerequisite course abroad that does not show up on your undergraduate transcript.
Can I submit letters of reference from Interfolio as part of my application?
No, all letters of evaluation must be completed via CASPA's online evaluator portal by the evaluator. There is an area that the evaluator needs to complete to rate your skills and then attach the letter of reference. We cannot accept letters of recommendation through Interfolio or other similar services.
Will Tufts hold applications for next year?
No, Tufts will not hold applications for consideration in subsequent admissions cycles, nor for other programs.
Can the general GRE test be taken or is it necessary to submit scores from one of the specific subject tests?
Only the general test is required. There is no current requirement for particular subject tests.
If I have taken the GRE more than once, how are they considered?
For multiple GREs, the scores are averaged in the review process.
How long will it take ETS to send my GRE scores to CASPA?
ETS will send new GRE scores to CASPA up to twice per week. Scores are reported to test takers 10 to 15 days after taking the computer-based GRE revised General Test and may require an additional 3 to 5 days to be sent to your chosen recipients.
Should applicants report test scores on the application?
Applicants are not required to self-report test scores (GRE, MCAT, or TOEFL). Only official score reports are reviewed for an application.
How do I verify my GRE scores have been sent to the institutions(s) that I designated?
The best way for a student to verify that their scores have been sent is to log into their myGRE account at www.ets.org/mygre and view their scores and score reports that were processed. Applicants should check that their name on their application matches their name entered in ETS. Applicants can also login to their CASPA application account, or the CASPA mobile application portal to check if official test scores have been received.
CASPA has already verified my application but I am retaking the GRE. Will the admissions committee see my new scores?
Yes, you can still submit scores after the application has been verified, but it does not guarantee that the Admissions Committee will see the latest scores. Once your application is verified, it will be sent to the Admissions Committee so if the new scores have not been received before your application reaches the Committee, your application will be reviewed without the new scores. You should email firstname.lastname@example.org to alert them if you submitted scores after your application has been verified.
What if my GRE or MCAT scores were taken over 5 years ago?
If your GRE or MCAT scores are older than 5 years at the time of applying, you will need to retake them.
Is the GRE 5-yr time limit waived if an individual has completed a master's or doctorate degree?
Currently, our policy does not include a waiver of the 5-year GRE time period in the presence of a master’s or doctorate degree.
Can I take courses from anywhere to meet the requirements?
No, courses and undergraduate degrees must come from institutions accredited by agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
What if a school is on a quarter system?
The conversion is as follows:
One-quarter hour credit is evaluated as approximately 0.75 of a semester hour credit.
So you will need to take:
2 quarters to reach the equivalent of 1 semester of a prerequisite.
3 quarters to reach the equivalent of 2 semesters of a prerequisite.
Does it matter which courses I take?
Introductory, nursing, and science courses for non-science majors are not considered competitive and would decrease the overall competitiveness of an application. It is strongly advised to take science courses which are intended for science majors (not necessarily biology or pre-med majors, but science-based).
What if I took other courses other than the prerequisites?
Courses in Exercise Physiology, Nutrition, Pharmacology, or Kinesiology certainly add strength to one's application but are not substitutes for the prerequisites.
Are community college courses accepted to fulfill the prerequisites?
Technically, all courses should be taken in class at a 4-year accredited institution. However, courses from a 2-year community college will be accepted.
Community college courses, although some may meet program requirements, do not always translate into a “highly competitive” application. Many programs, including the Tufts University School of Medicine PA Program, look not only at the applicant's individual grade but also at the overall rigor of their college's curriculum when considering applicants.
Can any of the prerequisites be taken online?
While we do accept online courses, it is highly recommended that prerequisites be taken as face-to-face, classroom courses. The science prerequisites need to have the breadth and depth needed to prepare a candidate for the rigor of PA education. Online education courses, although meeting our program's requirements, do not always translate into a “highly competitive” application. Many programs, including Tufts, look at the overall rigor of a college’s curriculum when considering applicants. Therefore, applications with courses taken face-to-face are considered more competitive than those with online courses.
Do I need to retake prerequisites if they are older than 10 years, but I have taken other higher level science courses in the meantime?
No, as long as the higher-level course meets the Tufts PA Program prerequisite that was previously completed, then the prerequisite does not need to be retaken.
For example, if BIO I was taken more than 10 years ago, but a higher-level Biology course requiring BIO I was taken within the 10 years of applying, then the higher level Biology course will count in place of BIO I. BIO II or another higher level Biology course would also need to be taken to complete the requirement. Please note that at least ONE lab is required to fulfill the prerequisite if taking higher level courses. If repeating BIO I and BIO II, a lab for both courses must also be completed.
Would a candidate with a doctorate in basic science, years of experience, and all required courses completed in college and graduate school be excused for not having taken those prerequisite courses within the past 10 years?
Unfortunately, the program requires all prerequisite course work be completed within 10 years of applying to the program. The only exception to this policy would be if someone has completed higher level coursework within 10 years.
Will you consider online courses as substitutes for older prerequisites which were taken face-to-face?
Although traditional face-to-face courses are recommended for the prerequisites, we will consider higher-level coursework taken online as a substitute for prerequisites older than 10 years. Please keep in mind traditional face-to-face courses may be viewed as more competitive than online courses.
What should I do if I got a C+ in a prerequisite?
A C+ grade is acceptable for the prerequisite requirements. However, if you would like to improve your grade, you could re-take a similar course or take a higher-level course. If you retake a course, it will be averaged with the original grade.
Can AP courses fulfill prerequisites?
No, AP courses cannot be used to fulfill prerequisite courses. The admissions process requires a grade for each course that is used to calculate a prerequisite GPA. We do not get official grades for AP courses. You must take a higher-level course to fulfill each prerequisite for which you receive AP credit. For example, if you received AP credit for part of a prerequisite (e.g. BIO I, but not BIO II), you must take an upper-level course. The higher-level course must have the Tufts PA Program course (e.g., BIO I) as a prerequisite. If AP credit has been received for a full prerequisite (BIO I+BIO II or CHEM I+CHEM II), two upper level courses must be taken as well as at least ONE lab be taken on the undergraduate/graduate level to fulfill the requirement.
Are American Council on Education (ACE) courses or credits accepted?
No, American Council on Education (ACE) courses and credits will not be accepted for prerequisite courses.
Does the PA Program accept CLEP or DSST (Dantes) Test Scores?
No, the PA Program does not accept CLEP or DSST (Dantes) Test Scores.
I took courses abroad that are not prerequisites for the program. Do I need to have the transcript evaluated by WES?
No. Only prerequisite courses and courses that are factored into your undergraduate GPA must be evaluated.
What will fulfill the prerequisite requirements for anatomy and physiology?
It should be Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II but it can be taken as 1 semester of each. The course content is what is important. Anatomy and physiology need to cover the entire body, including body systems.
While the A&P prerequisite does not require a lab, if A&P hasn’t been taken yet, then it is encouraged to take A&P with a lab. A&P courses cannot be a substitute for the biology courses that are required. Courses which are available for non-science majors will be accepted, but are not viewed as competitive.
Example of A&P I and II:
A&P I: A study of the human organism, correlation structure, and physiological mechanisms. Emphasis on the skin, the special senses, and the skeletal, articular, muscular, nervous, and endocrine systems.
A&P II: Continuation of A&P I. Emphasis on the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, excretory, and reproductive systems.
What should the anatomy course include?
A systemic approach to human anatomy, including the skeletal, muscular, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, urinary, and nervous systems.
What should the physiology prerequisite course include?
The normal function of the human body based on fundamental biophysical and biomechanical principles. Systems covered will include cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal, neuroendocrine, muscular, and skeletal.
What type of Biology courses would meet the prerequisites?
Since institutions usually provide various biology classes with different labels it is difficult to come up with a comprehensive list. They should be for science majors.
Example of General Biology I and II with labs:
General Biology I –An introductory course primarily for prospective biology majors. General biological principles and widely used methods related to current advances in cell and molecular biology, genetics, immunology, plant and biomedical sciences. Three lectures and one laboratory each week.
General Biology II – Forms of logical sequel to BIO I. Selected topics in animal and plant physiology, development, genetics, and population biology, with emphasis on evolutionary mechanisms. Three lectures and one laboratory each week.
What type of Chemistry courses would meet the prerequisites?
The following courses can be used to fulfill the chemistry prerequisite:
- Bio-Organic Chemistry
- General Chemistry
- Medical Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Pharmaceutical Chemistry
- Qualitative Analysis (must be taken through Chemistry department)
- Quantitative Analysis (must be taken through Chemistry department)
- Structures & Bonds
Please keep in mind that they should be for science majors. If you have taken a course not on this list and would like to see if it will count, please send an email with the course code, name, description, and institution to PAProgram@tufts.edu.
Will organic chemistry fulfill the chemistry with a lab requirement?
Chemistry can be general or organic chemistry with a lab. It can also be a combination of general and organic chemistry with lab.
Will higher level math courses substitute for statistics?
No. A statistics course is required to prepare the students for certain courses in research methods and evidence-based medicine within our curriculum.
Is there a form to document my direct patient care experience?
There is no standard form used to verify the patient care hours that you must submit. We simply ask that you document your experience on your resume, as well as in the CASPA application, and provide a verification source for each experience that we will utilize to substantiate the hours, position, and responsibilities.
There is a Patient Care document that you will need to complete and upload into CASPA as part of your application. This document will capture the type(s) of hands-on patient care experiences you have performed in your clinical work for the committee to review.
Additionally, we ask that one of your references come from a supervisor or someone in a supervisory role who can attest to the position and your performance, of a direct patient care experience that you list in your application.
What if the supervisor for my patient care experience does not work directly with me/during my work shifts?
We recommend that a supervisor from your direct patient care experience be one of the references for your application. However, if your supervisor cannot adequately speak to your performance and/or duties, you may instead provide a reference from an individual in a managerial or supervisory role who can better attest to your performance and clinical responsibilities in your direct patient experience (e.g. reference from your shift manager who may work during your shift as opposed to your supervisor who may not work at the same time as you).
Can internship or training hours count towards direct patient care experience?
Internship or training hours that are required for degrees and certifications cannot count towards direct patient care experience. However, other internships that are not tied to any particular degree but are pursued by the student on his/her own may count towards direct patient care experience hours if they meet the requirements.
How recently must I have completed my direct patient care?
Most of your direct patient care must have been completed within the last 5 years.