Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the ECU PA Program?
The ECU PA Program is a 27 month long curriculum that begins in August with graduation occurring in December. The didactic phase comprises the first 15 months with students involved in classroom, laboratory, small-group, OSCE, and experiential learning opportunities. The clinical phase comprises the last 12 months in which students are assigned to supervised clinical rotations at various hospital, clinical and physician offices.
What degree does the ECU Physician Assistant Program offer?
At the completion of the ECU PA Program, students are awarded a Master's of Science Degree in Physician Assistant.
How many applications do you receive each year?
We receive approximately 500-600 applications, but not all of the applicants are invited for interviews.
I do not live in North Carolina. Can I apply?
ECU PA Studies accepts students from North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. You must be a resident and have a permanent address in one of these states at the time of application and admission to the program. If you or your spouse is active military and stationed in NC during application and admission, then you can request a waiver from PAAdmissions@ecu.edu.
How do I get an application?
The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application is the only option to apply to the ECU PA Program.
Is there a supplemental application?
No, the CASPA information is incorrect. If you are accepted to the ECU PA Program you will need to complete an application to the Graduate School. Only those with official acceptance letters to the ECU PA Program should complete the Graduate School application.
What is the typical composition of your incoming students?
Our 2013-2014 application cycle averages are:
Average GPA – 3.78
Average Prerequisite GPA – 3.89
Average age – 26
What is the average GRE of applicants accepted into the program?
The average GRE this year was 312. We accept the General Examination General Test and review the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing portion scores. The ECU code for the GRE is 0421. GRE scores must be submitted by September 1 in order to considered for an early interview. There will not be a waiver for the GRE. If you have taken another exam or your exam is over 5 years old, you will still be expected to take or repeat the exam.
Do I need a bachelor's degree to get into the program?
Yes. The Department of Physician Assistant at ECU offers a Master's Degree. As such, all applicants accepted into the Program, must have a bachelor's degree. The undergraduate degree must be completed by June 1st of the year of application. Example: Applicants who submit application materials by September 1, 2014 must complete the undergraduate degree by June 1st of 2015 in order to enroll in the fall of 2015.
I have a bachelor's degree from another country. Can I apply?
In 2014 (applications due September 1, 2014) we will accept applications from foreign graduates. The requirements for this will be:
- Apply and be admitted to the Graduate School at ECU first
- Send your WES equivalency paperwork to CASPA and the ECU Dept. of PA Studies
- Obtain TOEFL scores and report them to the ECU Graduate School and Dept. of PA Studies
- All prerequisite courses MUST be taken in the US
- 50% of all clinical hours MUST be obtained in the US
- You MUST take the GRE with Analytical Writing within the last 5 years
What is a good undergraduate major for applicants?
The ECU PA Program does not endorse any specific undergraduate major or program. Many applicants major in various biological sciences because most of our prerequisites are more easily obtained in those programs; nonetheless, admission is based upon our prerequisites and not the major.
When should I have my prerequisites completed?
All PA Program prerequisites must be completed by September 1 in order to be considered for an early interview. We allow one prerequisite (and Medical Terminology) to be pending at application date of September 1. Please note that we do have a true rolling admission process and applications that are complete by September 1 will have preference. Any prerequisites course that is being considered for approval by a waiver must first be approved by the PA Admissions Committee. Information should be forwarded to the PAAdmissions@ecu.edu. All pending courses must be complete by Dec. 31 and reported to our department and CASPA. It is the applicant's responsibility to update any pending information.
My institution offers a combined Anatomy/Physiology course. Do I have to take separate courses in Anatomy and Physiology? Do I need to take Anatomy and Physiology with a Lab?
You may either take separate courses in Anatomy and Physiology, or you can substitute 2 semesters of a combined Anatomy/Physiology course.
Yes- we require Anatomy and Physiology with a lab section. We do not allow online lab sessions to count as part of the course grade.
We do NOT accept Animal or Mammalian Anatomy and Physiology courses.
Any undergraduate equivalency questions can be directed to the undergraduate counselor, Anthony Coutouzis firstname.lastname@example.org.
I already have a bachelor's degree. Do I still need to complete the prerequisite courses?
Yes. Each applicant is viewed equally; therefore, each must complete all prerequisite course work. No exceptions or substitutions.
Are there any waivers if I took a prerequisite course more than 7 years ago?
The Admissions Committee prefers that all prerequisite courses are taken within the last 7 years. If your courses are older than that, know that we recommend refreshing them.
Questions regarding the transferring of courses from another institution should be addressed to the ECU Academic Counselor, Anthony Coutouzis email@example.com.
When do you start interviews?
CASPA starts accepting applications in April. We begin interviews starting in October and ending in February. Our interviews in October and November are considered early interviews as part of the rolling admissions process. Our deadline for applications to be received by CASPA is September 1.
How long does it usually take to fill the class?
We expect to have the class filled after interviews have concluded and the admissions committee meets in late February-early March. You an expect a letter by the first week of March.
If I am accepted into the ECU PA program, can I defer my acceptance to the following year?
No – an applicant cannot defer to an alternate year once accepted.
Can the ECU PA Program be completed on a part-time basis?
No – the program can only be completed on a full time basis.
I applied to the ECU PA Program and was placed on the Alternate List. What does this mean?
Students who are not offered a seat in the program following their Interview Day may be placed on an alternate list, at the recommendation of the Admissions Committee and/or the Program Director. The alternate list is activated as necessary by the Program Director. An alternate list is valid from the close of the interview process through the first week of classes for which the student applied. Alternate listed applicants not advanced to a seat are NOT considered for admission to the following class without reapplication. We will not be able to tell you your number on this list.
Do I need clinical experience to be considered for the ECU PA Program?
YES. Clinical experience that includes direct patient care is required. A minimum of 1000 hours are required. Hours must be completed by September 1 in order to be considered for an early interview. However, if some hours are pending, they may be submitted to CASPA and the program by December 31.
We do not require documentation of your clinical hours. We recommend that you keep your own records.
Acceptable forms of clinical experience include:
- Shadowing PA/MD/DO
- Nursing (CNA, LPN, RN, CMA)
- Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic
- Military Medical/Clinical Specialist
- Surgical Technician
- Radiological Technician
- Laboratory Technician with phlebotomy
- Athletic Trainer
- Certified Physical/Occupational Therapist
- PT/OT Assistant
- Home Health aide with verification of job duties
- Hospital Volunteer with patient transport
- Medical Interpreter
- Dental hygienist or assistant with shadowing hours during this experience
- Clinical Laboratory Scientist with shadowing hours during this experience
- Child Life Specialist
Unacceptable forms of clinical experience include:
- Veterinarian Assistant
- Secretary for Physician's office
- Massage Therapist
I applied to your program, and I was interviewed; but I did not get accepted. Why?
We have many exceptional applicants, but numerous qualified people are turned down for admission because we accept only up to 35 students each year. In the case of applicants who are interviewed and then not accepted, we find that most are well-qualified and would make excellent PAs. We simply have so many applicants that we must make choices based upon GPA, GRE and interview results.
What can I do to make myself a competitive candidate for the PA program at ECU?
- Meet our overall GPA minimum requirements and if needed retake courses that you may not have performed as well as you wanted.
- Shadow a PA or multiple PA's.
- Understand the role of a PA and be able to articulate your understanding as related to your personal academic and professional strengths and goals.
- Attend a Closer Look session at ECU to learn how to be more competitive.
There is no single formula for a successful personal statement as it pertains to the CASPA application or via your interview; different individuals will find different topics to be appropriate for them. Whether an interview or a personal statement, this is an opportunity to communicate information about you self that will aid us in reaching a decision based admissions process. This could include, but is not limited to:
- significant life experiences
- intellectual interests
- extracurricular activities
- factors inspiring you to become a physician assistant
- significant obstacles met and overcome
- special talents or skills
- socioeconomic challenges
- atypical educational path
- previous career
- cross-cultural experiences
These subjects, as well as other related topics, would be appropriate to help the committee make a thoughtful decision.
Can I meet with a faculty member to discuss why I wasn't accepted into the ECU PA Program?
No – we are unable to meet with applicants to discuss reasons as to why an applicant was not accepted.
Can I transfer into the ECU PA Program?
No – all applicants accepted into the ECU PA Program must apply through CASPA. We do not accept transfer students at any point in the program.
Where can I get information about financial aid?
The Office of Financial Aid at ECU retains financial aid officers who are experts in this area and attempt to make every effort to assist students seeking financial aid.
How many of your graduates remain in North Carolina?
Approximately 91% of our graduates remain in North Carolina.
What are the PANCE scores for your graduates the first time they take the exam?
Go here to see the current PANCE scores.
Do I need certification in Basic Life Support before I start the PA program?
Current certification in Basic Life Support at the Healthcare Provider Level is required by the PA Program in order to move forward with Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) training. Although not an admission requirement, it is helpful to have this certification prior to program entry as it may be difficult to work BLS training into one's schedule during the first semester. American Heart Association certification is required.
How do I make my application competitive?
- Be an NC resident.
- Take your prerequisite courses at a 4 year institution and within the last 7 years.
- Shadow a PA/NP for at least 250 hours.
- Turn in your fully completed application by September 1 of the application year.
- Compare your GPA and GRE to the scores of the last entering classes to make sure you are competitive.
- Make sure your references are from medical providers, supervisors, or professors.
How are acceptance and interview decisions made in the Admissions Process?
The program's policies and procedures for student admission decisions adhere to clearly defined and published practices of the institution and program. Applicants are evaluated using objective and subjective data retrieved from their CASPA application. A quantitative score is created based on GPA, GRE scores, Letters of Reference, Clinical Hours, Narrative, and demographic information. Applicants are invited for an interview based upon their total score and ranking relative to other applicants.
How often are changes made to the admissions process?
Annually, we review our admissions process by reviewing the application, prerequisite requirements, clinical hour requirements, guidelines for GPA and GRE scores, applicant selection for interview, and interview process. Updates to the review process are made annually before CASPA opens each April and new guidelines are published on our website.
Whom do I contact for more admissions information?
The Department of Physician Assistant Studies Admissions address is: PAAdmissions@ecu.edu.
The program has opportunities throughout the year for applicants to visit the campus and interact with program faculty, called Closer Look sessions. Visit the Department of Physician Assistant Studies homepage for more information.