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Admissions Process

The Atkinson Physician Assistant Education program is dedicated to a holistic admissions process that considers the lived experiences, attributes, and academic achievements of each applicant, recognizing their unique potential to serve as future clinicians.

Applicants must satisfy both the minimum and prerequisite coursework requirements by the stated application deadlines. Admission is highly competitive. Meeting some or all these requirements does not guarantee admission.

Applicants must submit a formal application and all supporting documents to the Central Application Service for the Physician Assistant. In addition, a Secondary Application is required. Both applications open in April annually and must be submitted on or before August 1st 11:59 pm EST. CASPA Applications must be fully verified by September 1st at 11:59 pm EST.

Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)

CASPA is a service of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the only national organization representing physician assistant (PA) educational programs since 2001. CASPA simplifies the PA school application process by allowing you to apply to multiple programs with one application. 

CASPA

UC San Diego Secondary Application

The Secondary Application for the 2024-2025 application cycle will close on August 1, 2025 at 11:59 EST. Payment of the Secondary Application fee through a payment portal is required to receive the link to the Secondary Application. Applicants who submit a Secondary Application without payment will not be processed. The hyperlink to the Secondary Application will appear in the email receipt sent after payment has been completed. Applicants should keep a copy of their receipt for their records should the program not be able to confirm payment was made prior to the August 1 deadline. Completion of the CASPA application and the applicant’s CASPA number are required for submission of the Secondary Application.

Secondary Application Fee Waiver

Applicants who have received a CASPA fee waiver may have their UC San Diego Secondary Application fee waived. Proof of CASPA fee waiver is required in the Secondary Application via document upload. Applicants who qualify for a fee waiver should NOT pay the Secondary Application fee on this page and instead, go to https://bit.ly/ucsdpae_secondarywaiver and complete the Secondary Applicant Fee Waiver form. The application link will be sent directly by email to applicants who qualify for the waiver. 

Refunds

The Atkinson Physician Assistant Education Program will not refund Secondary Application fees due to CASPA-related issues (e.g., non-verification, late-verification, and non-completion), or any expenses incurred by applicants during the application and/or interview process, regardless of accreditation status.

  

Application screening and review - a six-level process - will begin after CASPA notifies the program that an application is verified, and the Secondary Application and related fees are received prior to deadlines.

Level 1, 2, 3 – Initial Review

All applications undergo a three-level initial review. During Level 1 review, admissions staff confirm receipt of both applications and all supporting documents. During Level 2 review, admissions staff verify that minimum requirements, prerequisite coursework, and all non-academic requirements have been met. During Level 3 review, the application is holistically scored and ranked using a predefined screening rubric. The Director of Admissions & Recruitment (DAR) will determine a Level 3 cut score to advance application files to Level 4 review. Depending on Initial Review scores, applicants will advance to Level 4 review or be placed in a hold status pending any further adjustments to the cut score.

Level 4 – Qualitative Review

Trained personnel will review all narrative sections of the application and score them using a predefined rubric. The qualitative reviewer score will be combined with the Level 3 score and used advance application files to Level 5 review.

Level 5 – Faculty Review

Competitive applications are reviewed by program faculty. Faculty will make recommendations for interview invitation. The DAR will compile a ranked list of interview invitations, “Second Look,” and denials. “Second Look” files will advance to Level 6 review.

Level 6 – Second Look

Applications receiving a “second look” Level 5 status will be reviewed by a second faculty member who will make recommendations for interview invitation. The DAR will compile a ranked list of interview invitations and denials.

The physician assistant program regards the interview as an important component of our holistic admission process. Invited candidates will be required to meet with Admissions Committee personnel. The committee looks for such personal attributes as emotional and academic maturity, empathy and compassion, motivation, ability to communicate, cultural sensitivity and humility, critical thinking skills, knowledge of the PA role in healthcare, understanding of the program’s mission and goals and the potential to achieve career fulfillment within the PA role. Interviews will be conducted virtually with Zoom technology during the months of September and October. A virtual multiple miniinterview (vMMI) format will be utilized. Interview days will include a virtual program/campus tour, a review of the program’s curriculum, technical standards, and any timely updates. Applicants will have opportunities to meet with program faculty, staff, and students throughout the day. It is anticipated that 90-120 applicants will be invited to interview.

What is the vMMI?

The vMMI consists of a series of short, carefully timed interview scenarios organized into stations. Each station aims to draw multiple samples of applicants' ability to think on their feet, to critically appraise information, to communicate their ideas, and to explore their reasoning with the station facilitator.

Applicants will complete a circuit of timed mini-interview stations, rotating from station to station. At each station, candidates will have two minutes to read a 'scenario' or question prompt. Candidates then have eight minutes to either interact with a rater who may ask questions or be observed by the rater while interacting with an actor or another applicant. One station will be devoted to a more personalized, 15-minute one-on-one interview with program faculty.

Advantages of the vMMI

  • More reliable
  • More chances to perform well
  • More equitable opportunity for those of diverse backgrounds to demonstrate quality
  • Less biased way to evaluate applicants
  • Test characteristics such as cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability, and communication skills
  • Fast-Paced

The MMI has been evaluated by many Canadian and U.S. medical schools and PA programs. The MMI has been shown to be more reliable and valid than the traditional one-on-one interview process. In addition, both MMI raters and applicants alike report positive feedback regarding the MMI. Education theory portends the performance of an individual is highly variable across situations; therefore, evaluation using multiple scenarios is a sounder psychometric approach. Literature also has shown that the MMI allows individuals with diverse backgrounds to have a more equitable opportunity to demonstrate the quality of their educational and personal backgrounds.

Scoring the vMMI

Each vMMI station will be scored individually by trained personnel using a predefined rubric. The scores from all stations will be averaged as a single, final score for each applicant.

The Admissions Committeee is chaired by the Director of Admissions & Recruitment (DAR). Admissions process recommendations and decisions are made collectively by the Admissions Committee using a majority vote format. The Associate Dean/Program Director has final approval of all recommended candidates and any admissions process changes. After each interview day, the DAR will convene the Admissions Committee to review the candidates’ application and interview scores in summation with their respective comments and recommendations. The committee will rank applicants in order by classification in these categories:

  • Admit
  • Second Look
  • Do Not Admit

Admits

The Admissions Committee will select and offer admission to 30 applicants from the pool of ranked candidates classified as Admit.

Second Look and Alternates

Some applicants who interview will be placed in a hold status pending a Second Look. Following the completion of all interviews (all days), the Admissions Committee will convene to review Second Look applicants. A ranked order list of Second Look applicants will then be considered by the Admissions Committee to determine the final status of the applicant. A ranked order alternate list will be created from the pool of applications receiving Admit (not already offered admission) and Second Look classifications, respectively.

Applicants will be notified of their status throughout the admissions process. All applicants will receive email notifications via CASPA at the following milestones:

  • Level 1 review
  • Level 5 review and invitation for interview
  • Admit offer or alternate list with rank
  • Denial of admission
  • Forfeiture of admission offer
  • Individual program requests; i.e., clarifications, additional documentation, etc.

Candidates will be notified by email via CASPA of their final status in late September – early October. Declined offers of admission will be filled from the Alternate List in ranked order in October – January up until the week of matriculation.

The Admissions Committee will utilize a quasi-rolling admissions process. The committee may begin contacting the most competitive candidates with offers soon after the interview day(s). Candidates offered admission must complete the Offer Acceptance Form which includes the Technical Standards within seven (7) days of offer notification. Failure to respond will result in forfeiture of the admissions offer. A seat deposit is not required. Deferrals of admission will not be granted for any reason. Candidates who receive an offer and decline due to deferral are subject to reapply in future cycles without priority consideration.