The University of Utah has one of the country’s oldest continuously accredited physician assistant (PA) programs. Dedicating its curriculum to preparing PAs to meet the challenges of providing high-quality care to patients in medically underserved and rural areas, the University of Utah PA program remains highly competitive.
With an acceptance rate of 2.3% for one of the Top 10 PA programs in the United States (US News and World Report), any advantage you can use in the application process is one worth using.
This article will guide you through the school’s program, admissions process, and what you can do to raise your chances.
Interested in learning about the PA Programs of other schools and colleges, finding useful admissions tips, etc? Check out our PA Programs articles here – we cover all major schools!
Starting your application
The University of Utah’s PA program is one of the 95% of PA programs that uses the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), which permits prospective candidates to apply to numerous schools at once. Applications open on April 28 and students have to complete submissions by August 1.
All prospective Utah PA students need to submit the following in their CASPA application:
- Personal Information
- At least 2000 hours of Health-Related Training or Volunteer Experience
- Academic History
- Official Test Scores Required for the course
- A list of institutions attended, and coursework completed
- At least 3 references, including one from a health care professional with whom the applicant has worked, employers, and professors.
Since Utah does not have a rolling admissions policy, candidates who have not turned in a CASPA application and documentation of at least 2000 hours of PCE by August 1 will not be considered for the admissions cycle that year.
The University of Utah is one of 43 PA programs that require students to submit the results of a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) test and its video-based Snapshot test, as part of the application process. CASPER is a 2-hour online situational judgment test that allows applicants to demonstrate their interpersonal skills. Utah advises taking the test immediately after submitting your CASPA application to ensure that the results are received by the University before the final submission deadline on October 1.
If your CASPA and CASPER results impress Utah’s admissions team, you will be invited for interviews in mid-October. Students who pass the in-person interviews receive acceptance letters in late November. However, receiving your acceptance offer is not the final step.
In contrast to most universities, this PA program requires candidates who are offered admission to apply to (and be accepted by) the University of Utah Graduate School. Students must also pass background checks and show proof of current immunization records.
Who Gets In
The University of Utah’s competitive program results in stringent admissions requirements. The average student in Utah’s class of 2023 has the following qualifications:
- Overall GPA: 3.57
- Natural science GPA: 3.53
- Hours of full-time patient care experience: 8665
- GRE test scores are not required.
All applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in the United States and should have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher. These degrees must include the completion of the following courses:
- Four semester credits of human anatomy
- Four semester credits of human physiology
- Four semester credits of biology, including lab work
- Eight semester credits of chemistry
The CASPER Test
The CASPER test is a one-of-a-kind exam that cannot be prepared for because it evaluates your responses to ethical and difficult scenarios in real-time. The test is divided into two sections: typed responses and video responses. The first section contains three word-based scenarios and six video-based scenarios. Each scenario will be followed by three open-ended questions, and you will have five minutes to type your responses or one minute to record your responses. The second section is divided into two word-based scenarios and four video-based scenarios.
Although you cannot prepare for the exam, you can take a free practice exam on the CASPER website to become more familiar with the process and what to expect. The CASPER test is a little different in that it does not generate a score, but rather a quartile that shows your performance relative to your peers for the typed section of the exam. In addition, the CASPER test costs $40 to take and an additional $12 to send the test results to each program you apply to.
In-person interviews are held at the Salt Lake City and St. George campuses. Interviews are generally 30 min long although there is a 1-hour group interview. The interviews include a discussion with faculty members, members of the student panel, and a tour of some of the school’s facilities. During the interview sessions, candidates will be tested on fundamental anatomy, physiology, and general medical terminology, and admission offers will be issued to applicants with the top interview results.
Successful applicants have viewed the interview day as a great experience that allows prospective students to have an open and honest discourse with current students. Anyone invited to the interview has demonstrated their ability to thrive in Utah’s demanding program, but the interviewers want to learn more about you as a person to determine whether your personality will match with their program philosophy.
Tips and Tricks from Successful Applicants
Anyone who has been accepted into Utah’s PA program has a wealth of advice to offer anyone interested in applying. Here’s a small sample of some of their most common advice:
- Don’t be alarmed! Numerous candidates have stated that the neutral-faced interviewers at Utah made the process scary. Keep in mind that everybody who has advanced to the interview round has already demonstrated their ability to succeed in the program. Interviews are simply to ensure that you and the school can work well together, so as long as you are yourself, you will perform well.
- Keep track of your dates! Utah is very strict about submission deadlines since they don’t have a rolling admissions policy. Sending in even one document late will result in your application being rejected, so keep your deadlines in mind.
- Find a PCE job you enjoy! The average Utah PA has completed about 8665 hours of direct patient care experience (PCE) which is an average of 4 years in a typical 9 to 5 job. Since you will be spending a lot of time at this job, try to find something you will enjoy.
Remember that, while this is a demanding process, submitting a successful application is possible.
For more insight on the University of Utah’s PA Program, check out the video below…
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.