CASPA: Ever Heard of It?

A quick walk-through on what CASPA is and some of the most common questions answered.

What is CASPA?

As a Pre-PA, a lot of hard work goes into preparing to apply to PA schools. From working in healthcare to shadowing a PA to passing all of our pre-requirement courses, we can all agree that we are exhausted come application time. So, this is where we collect all of our hard earned PCE/HCE hours, volunteer hours, college transcripts, our magnificent personal essay, test scores and much, much more and plug it into CASPA. What is CASPA you ask? Well, let me tell ya!
CASPA is the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants and it’s the main application service that is used by nearly all of the PA programs (with a handful of exceptions) in the country. Have you ever heard anyone ask, “when does the cycle open?” or “how long does it take to get verified?”, they are usually referring to the CASPA application. What I personally like about it is that it’s all in one place; all of your hard work under one roof so to speak. The CASPA application allows you to upload all the materials necessary to apply to dozens of PA programs.

Benefits of applying through CASPA? It’s accessible meaning you can work on it at any time and they have very helpful customer service support. It also is cost-effective because you only have to submit your information once (transcripts, LOR’s, hours, etc.) and apply to many programs with that one application. CASPA is able to verify all of your information entered before sending off to your school(s) of choice.

Before I get into a quick breakdown of CASPA, be sure to start (if you haven’t already) researching the many different programs and making a checklist of the PA schools you are interested in. I have created a very handy and useful “PA Program Checklist” to keep track of all of your research and more. Click HERE to download a free copy of that spreadsheet as well as to download any of my other templates to help you throughout your PA journey. Ok, now back to what I was saying: CASPA!

So there are several things to keep in mind when preparing to apply to PA schools through CASPA. Here are a few tips that helped me and I hope they can help you too:

  • Get organized and create a “PA Program Checklist” (this will save you a lot of time and stress)
  • Check the requirements of each program that you are interested in by visiting their website (PA program search engines are fine, but double check the information on the programs site)
  • When in doubt, contact that program (not sure if your class will meet the requirement, email the program and ask)
  • A checklist will also help you know which classes to take in undergrad, what exams you need to schedule so don’t wait till the last minute to get organized. THIS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A RACE.
  • CASPA will use your college transcripts to calculate several of your GPAs including your overall GPA and science GPA (every class counts individually even if you have retaken it)
  • Opening and closing dates vary by programs, so make sure you annotate those correctly
  • Fees also vary depending on how many programs you apply to, so keep that in mind (there is a fee waiver program that you can apply to)
  • Requirements also vary by program so this is another reason to stay organized with a checklist (pay attention to the minimum requirements for each program)
  • There are so many more tips and as we near the new cycle, I will be posting more tips and info on my IG stories so follow me HERE.

Below I will summarize a few of the key aspects of the CASPA application and answer some of the most common questions asked.

CASPA in a Nutshell:

CASPA is composed of four (4) sections: Personal Information, Academic History, Supporting Information and Program Materials:

  • Personal Information:
    • Biographic information, citizenship, race & ethnicity information, family & environmental factors
    • COVID-19 Impact Essay (optional since the 2020 cycle)
    • Other information
  • Academic History: (most tedious part in my opinion so prepare)
    • Every high school & colleges attended (yes, every single college even if it was for one class 15 years ago)
    • Transcript entry (you will have to enter the information for every class taken every semester at every school)
    • Standardized test scores (GRE, PA-CAT, etc. if required)
  • Supporting Information:
    • Letters of Recommendation / Evaluations (must have requested at least 2, no more that 5, LOR’s)
    • Experiences (PCE, HCE, etc.)
    • Achievements (awards, honors, etc.)
    • Essay (your personal essay that’s no more than 5,000 characters long)
    • Memberships (school clubs, PA state/national affiliations, etc.)
  • Program Materials:
    • Listed requirements for each program you’ve selected
    • Answer specific questions from programs you’ve chosen to apply to
    • Supplemental essays are usually listed and submitted here

And there you have it! A quick summary of what CASPA is composed of. Now don’t let this fool you, this application is a beast but if you approach it prepared and take your time filling it out correctly, you will do great.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers:

  • When does CASPA open for the 2022-2023 cycle?
    • The CASPA cycle “opens” (meaning this is the 1st day you can start entering information for the new cycle) roughly around the end of April. The opening date is announced closer to March/April; for example, in 2021 it opened on April 29th and in 2020 it opened on April 30th. So definitely stay posted as I will update y’all as soon as I know. 
  • How much does it cost to apply?
    • There are several variables to take into consideration when calculating the cost of applying to PA schools so this can vary for each person. Here are a few to consider:
      • Your CASPA application submission cost $179 for the first school then $55 for every school after that
      • Standardized test like the GRE cost $205 to take and $27 to send to each school that you are applying to that requires it (the first 5 scores can be sent for free right after you complete your test)  
      • Some schools require a supplemental essay that can range from $25 to $100 
      • Other fees to consider: if you’re taking the PA-CAT and/or the CASPer test, GRE prep material, PA school interview prep, etc. 
      • Take advantage of fee assistant programs (ex Google search: “CASPA fee waiver” &/or “GRE fee waiver”)
      • This is why it’s important to start a checklist ASAP to have an idea of what the cost will be to apply
  • When can I submit my application(s)?
    • Once you have completed all four (4) sections of the application, you can submit your application to be “verified”. This is when CASPA verifies that everything you have entered is correct and true. Once verified, your application will be listed as “complete”, then and only then can you start submitting your application to your desired schools. Be sure to check for any additional requirements before submitting to the program(s) since many of them have specific additional requirements.
  • How long does it take for my application to be “verified” by CASPA?
    • This process depends on submission date and time. The sooner you submit it the faster the turnaround time can be. On average an application can take 1-2 weeks to be verified towards the beginning of the cycle and range from 2-8 weeks anytime thereafter. (get those apps in early if you can)
  • How can I calculate my overall GPA the way CASPA will do it?
    • Use the GPA spreadsheet provided by CASPA for free HERE. Keep in mind, as I mentioned before, CASPA counts every single class you have taken. So for example, if you took Organic Chemistry and received a ‘C’ and then decided to retake it and get an ‘A’, CASPA does not take the ‘A’ over the ‘C’, it counts both as if they were two separate courses. (So instead of replacing a ‘C’ with an ‘A’, it becomes a ‘B’)
  • Can I send in unofficial transcripts to CASPA and then later send in my official ones?
    • CASPA will only accept official transcripts to use during their verification process. So send in the transcript(s) as soon as your semester/graduation is over. (However, YOU can use unofficial transcripts to enter your courses in the “Academic History” section)
  • Can I use my CASPA application from a previous cycle to apply to future cycles?
    • Yes, you can use an application from a previous cycle to re-apply to the upcoming/current cycle. Update any new information and check every section to make sure all of the information transferred before submitting your new application. Here’s what transfers over and what doesn’t:
      • DOES transfer: coursework, official test scores, attached transcripts, etc.
      • DOES NOT transfer: evaluations (LORs), essays, payments and program-specific information

I know you have many more questions than what I can fit into this blog post but don’t worry, I will be covering a lot more as we get closer to the new application cycle. You can also reach out to me if you have any questions and keep an eye out for my “CASPA 411 Walkthrough Workshop” coming in the near future.

Finally, this information by no means covers everything there is to CASPA (aka “The Beast”) so use this as a guide and as a place to start. I am with you all the way and will be rooting for you!!!

Much love,

Becky P.

Empowered PAs Pre-PAs

Becky’s Pre-PA Resources


CASPA Application Help Center

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