The most common “weakness” listed by Pre-PAs that I speak with is not having a competitive GPA.
How you approach GPA depends on where you are in your Pre-PA journey – whether you are about to finish high school, currently completing undergraduate studies, or if you are a mature applicant and applying sometime after completing undergraduate studies.
If you are in High School
Build Study Habits Now – Work on developing the discipline and habits to achieve high grades and get involved in extra-curricular activities. Don’t assume “you’ll figure it out” in university – start now. This will help you set yourself up for success when you hit university.
You don’t have to be “Pre-PA” now – Often, having a general idea of what field you’d like to work in (e.g. health care, business, nursing, engineering, sciences, psychology, etc.). Attend the university fair (e.g. Ontario University Fair) to learn more about specific programs. Pick a major you like, that you think you will do well. Do self-reflection – think about your long-term goals, desires, strengths & weaknesses. Be sure to speak with your guidance counselor, friends and family.
Not one major is the “best” for Pre-PA – Remember that there is no pre-requisite “undergraduate program” – just as long as you take the courses required (if applicable) and maintain good grades you can apply to PA school!
If you are currently in Undergraduate Studies
Learn, adjust & always strive to be better – As a straight-A student in high school, I was devastated when I received a 60% on my first midterm in Chemistry 1A03 (first semester of chemistry). So, I did more practice questions, I spent extra time preparing and completing chemistry lab reports, I went to the TA during office hours to get extra help, and I asked my friends who knew better. I also attended “How to Study” workshop sessions run by the Career Centre. I ended up with an ‘A’ in the course!
Look into and plan for program pre-requisites – I would recommend looking into 3-5 careers that you would be interested in (e.g. doctor, pharmacist, physiotherapy, Physician Assistant, Master’s in research, etc.) and do some light research on pre-requisites for their program.
This includes researching:
the profession (scope of practice, day to day tasks, pros & cons, career path etc.)
admission requirements to get into the different professional school
e.g. Do you need to maintain a minimum GPA?
Do you need to take pre-requisite courses in order to qualify? (e.g. Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, Organic Chemistry?)
Do you need to have a full load of courses for a certain number of semester?
Can you only apply after your 3rd or 4th year? Or can you apply after 2nd year?
Do you need to write an admission test (e.g. MCAT, GRE, PCAT, DAT, OAT?). If yes, should you be planning dedicated time to study? Or to take a special prep course?
You can now proactively plan your academic semesters to help you on your way to fulfilling admission requirements.
Find out if you meet Admission Criteria for Canadian PA Programs.
Balance and time your ‘hard’ courses – I knew Organic Chemistry was going to be an extremely difficult subject for me, and I had to take it as I was still considering medical school at that time (many medical schools do list it as a required course for admissions). I decided to take it during the summer, so I didn’t have any other difficult courses competing for my time. For that summer semester I took Organic Chemistry and balanced it with an easier course in a subject I enjoyed.
Consider re-taking courses with poor grades – You may consider re-taking a course to get a better grade and help boost your GPA. Be sure to find out how different schools view grades from repeated courses.
If you are You are Done Undergraduate studies
If you are not considering PA school after you have done your undergraduate degree, there is not much more you can do re: GPA.
What are my options for GPA if I finished my undergraduate degree?
Option 1: If you meet the minimum requirements as is, leave the GPA as is and make sure to strengthen other aspects of your application
Option 2: Take more undergraduate courses. Some PA schools in Canada DO NOTconsider grades from Master’s program coursework.
Taking more undergraduate courses does not mean you are completing a “new degree” – unless that is what you decide you’d like to do.