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Frequently asked questions

What are some things I need to know about the program?

There are many programs in the US to train PAs and other health professionals and there are a number of successful ways to approach that education. Our goal will be to give our students the tools to become the best PAs possible, both as practitioners and as individuals. We will use lectures, problem based learning, simulation, and other methods that will allow you to absorb the vast amount of information needed in a PAs education.  Understand that you, as the learner, will be responsible for your education.  Think of it like a personal trainer. They can teach you everything you need to develop a desired level of fitness, but you have to do the work.  Also, we will constantly remind you that your purpose will always be to serve your patients.  The patient is the center of all we seek to do as PAs.  You need to have an appreciation that patients are not room numbers or cases, but human beings who are seeking your care at what may be a vulnerable time in their lives. We want that thought to be with you at all times.

What are you looking for in an application to the program?

Applicants often ask what the admissions committee is looking for in a candidate for PA training. The short answer is balance. A strong academic background of rigorous courses and a good GPA that meets and exceeds the minimum requirements are a good start. Experience in patient care is important, too. There are many people that see healthcare as their future, but soon realize that it does not suit them. PA training is not the place to discover you don't like sick patients or seeing blood; previous experience answers that question.  Compensated experience shows commitment to healthcare as a career and greatly strengthens an application. The admissions committee also reads the reference letters and your personal statements with great interest. So choose your reference sources wisely and construct your personal statement with care.   The interview is your final chance to shine and provides you another chance to show that you are not only educated and experienced, but have the attitude and demeanor to be a high quality health professional and representative of Clarkson University and our program. The balance between these components is what makes the ideal candidate.

What sort of medical experience do I need?

Compensated patient care experience that involves formal training and direct patient contact is best. Common positions for PA students are EMT/paramedics, nurses and nursing assistants, physical therapy assistants, X- Ray technicians, athletic trainers, medical technologists, emergency department techs and scribes, etc.  Active volunteering will be considered experience, but not heavily weighted unless as an EMT. Shadowing or observation is a very weak form of experience and is not accepted as patient care experience.

Will every applicant be granted an interview?

No, they will not. The admission committee will review every application completely.  If an application is missing information or does not meet the prerequisite academic and experience criteria, it will be rejected. The committee will then review the remaining applications and decide which applicants will be granted interviews based on the review of all materials.  

Where will classes be held?

Our program is located in Clarkson Hall in downtown Potsdam. We are in the same building as Clarkson's Doctor of Physical Therapy program.  The address is 59 Main Street.        

What is the program's accreditation status?

The program has been granted provisional accreditation, which is the standard for all new programs. Please see the Accreditation section of the website for more information.

Do you use CASPA, the centralized application service?

Yes, applications for the cohort beginning in January of 2016 will be available in April on CASPA.  A supplemental application is also required.

How do I apply?

Applications must be submitted through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) https://portal.caspaonline.org/. Those applications are reviewed and either rejected or the applicant will be notified and sent the Clarkson PA program supplemental application.  The supplemental application is then completed and sent back to the program with an application fee of $50.  At that point, the entire application is reviewed and invitations for interviews are extended and those that are not offered an interview are notified.  For more information please visit the Admissions section of our website.  

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline for CASPA applications is March 1, 2015 for the January 2016 class.  Supplemental applications are due 30 days after the applicant is notified.  Incomplete applications, applications received after the deadline, or applications received without the application fee will be returned to the sender without review and the application will be considered closed.

When are interviews held?

Interviews are held on a rolling basis from February through June.   Those that apply sooner in the year are more likely to have an earlier interview (if invited).

What happens after the interview?

Following the interview, the admissions committee meets and applicants are a) accepted, b) placed on an “active” list for future consideration, or c) notified that they were not selected.  Those that are offered a position in the program have 30 days to submit a $1,000 deposit to hold their seat.  That deposit is then credited toward the first semester tuition. A “waiting” list is established after the final day of interviews.

How long is the program?

The Clarkson PA program is 28 consecutive months in length. Graduates will be awarded a Master of Science (MS) in Physician Assistant Studies degree. A new cohort will begin every January and graduate in May 2 ½ years later. 

Can I transfer credits into the program or receive credit for my experience?

No credit is transferable to the PA program. Students who may have been in a previous health science program will take all courses in the usual sequence. There will be no experiential credit granted.

What will my education consist of?

PAs are trained using the medical model, similar to physicians. The first part of the training is didactic. We will use lectures, labs, problem-based learning and simulation in the first year. This is to prepare you for your clinical experience, mostly in the second year. You will rotate through a number of medical disciplines that are a requirement of your training. These clinical rotations will be 5 weeks in length. Toward the end of your training you will receive education on preparation for your national boards and job seeking along with 2 tests that you must pass to graduate.

Where will my clinical sites be located?

We have sites throughout the region. We currently have affiliation agreements with many area hospital systems. Primarily these will be in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. You may have to drive some distance, so a reliable vehicle is suggested.

 What kinds of practices will I rotate through?

The required rotations for PA students are: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Women's Health, Emergency Department, General Surgery, and Behavioral Health. There will be 2 electives as well. There will also be an elective to conduct research for the Master’s Project.

I took some of my prerequisite courses many years ago.  Will you still count those?

We will. However, evidence of prerequisite courses taken in the last 5 years will carry greater weight.

Do you require the GRE?

We do. There is no minimum score required. It is used as another evaluation tool in your application.

Can I work while attending the program?

Your PA studies will consume most of your waking hours (and possibly your sleep hours, too). In all likelihood, you will have neither the time nor the energy to work. We recommend that you do not work during the program. See the Work Policy section for further explanation.

I need to take some prerequisite courses. Where can I take them?

You may fulfill your prerequisites at any regionally accredited college or university, including 2-year colleges in the United States or Canada. There are also a number of accredited online courses. It is wise to contact us if you are unclear on whether a course meets the prerequisites.

When is the deadline for applications?

The cutoff date for the cohort beginning January 2016 is March 1, 2015.  Completed applications will be reviewed in a timely manner once they have arrived.  We are using a rolling acceptance format which will allow the applicant a reasonably prompt answer on their application status.

What will the class size be?

The class size will be approximately 20 students.

Will I need a laptop computer?

Yes. Most of what is done will be online. You will be required to have your own laptop and have skills in internet searches and Microsoft Word/Powerpoint/Excel.  A Windows based operating system is highly recommended.

Is there on-campus housing available?

There is no Clarkson housing available for graduate students.  You will need to procure housing on your own.

What are the risks of entering a new PA program?

A reasonable question to be asked by applicants is why they should apply to a new program vs. an established one.  To be sure, there is a learning curve associated with new programs. However, you will often find newer programs may be more innovative in their approach to PA education. At Clarkson, we have the ability to use our experience as PAs and PA educators to design a curriculum that is learner-centered and concentrates on the student’s need to see the patient comprehensively.

Keep in mind that the department chair came to Clarkson as a faculty member of a newly established program and has experienced the growth of a PA program from the beginning.

What are the benefits of a small, rural program?

The faculty to student ratio in our program is very favorable.  The small class size encourages participation and interaction with fellow students and the faculty.  Your clinical experiences will be one on one. You will not have to compete with medical students and residents for access to patients.  You will be doing your clinical rotations in hospitals that are recruiting PAs, with many of them in underserved areas.   Upon graduation and accepting a position in an underserved area, you may be eligible for government programs that can help pay off your student loans.

Are PA programs as difficult as everyone says?

They are more difficult. If possible, talk with a PA or PA student about the education demands. It will be virtually all you do for months on end. Your loved ones, your dogs and cats, everyone in your life will get less attention and that can cause great stress.  Can you do it? Absolutely, but we want you to understand that it will be a challenge on many fronts. If you are selected for an interview, our students will be here to answer your questions and reflect on life as a Clarkson PA student.