Frequently Asked Questions

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Accreditation

Is the Mississippi State University-Meridian Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program accredited?

*Mississippi State University-Meridian has applied for Accreditation - Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Mississippi State University-Meridian anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2020, pending achievement of Accreditation - Provisional status at the September 2019 ARC-PA meeting.

Accreditation - Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

The program will not commence in the event Accreditation-Provisional is not granted.

For more information on the developing Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program, please contact (pa@meridian.msstate.edu)

What degree does the MSU MPAS Program award?

The Program will award the Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree.


General Questions

Must I apply through CASPA?

Yes. Applicants MUST submit all application materials through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistant Programs (CASPA). The MSU MPAS Program portal of CASPA opens in April and closes August 1 annually. The MSU MPAS Program will only accept applications verified by CASPA on or before August 1.

Must I have a bachelor’s degree to enter the program?

Yes, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited United States university or college is required. All science prerequisite courses must have been completed with the past ten years and must be for science majors.

I already have a bachelor's degree. Do I still need to complete all the prerequisites?

Yes, all applicants regardless of undergraduate degree or major must complete all prerequisites before entering the MSU MPAS program.

Does the MSU MPAS Program give preference to any major?

No, the program does not give preference to any major. The most common majors are in the biological sciences.

Are there any standardized tests required for admission?

Yes, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required. Please see the GRE website for complete details. The GRE must have been taken within the past five years. http://www.ets.org/gre/. We do not accept the MCAT.

We also require the CASPer Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) evaluation.

CASPer is an online evaluation, which assesses for non-cognitive skills and interpersonal characteristics that we believe are important for successful students and graduates of our program, and will complement the other tools that we use for applicant screening.

Please go to www.takeCASPer.com to sign up for the American Professional Health Sciences test (CSP10101) and reserve a test using your CASPA application ID number and a piece of government-issued photo ID. You will be provided with a limited number of testing dates and times. Register for the test at least 3 days prior to your intended testing date.

Questions about the evaluation should be directed to support@takecasper.com

You may familiarize yourself with the test structure at www.takeCASPer.com, including taking a practice test.

The CASPer evaluation costs $10 to complete and $10 each to have the results forwarded to the schools of your choice.

Why do I have to undergo background screenings for misdemeanor and felonies?

PAs are licensed medical providers and as such, must adhere to all state and federal regulations.

Many clinical sites and state licensing boards are very adamant about their “no misdemeanor” provisions. Programs must guard the integrity of the profession and the public whom they serve. It would be unethical to allow someone to enter a program and then be ineligible for licensure.

How many applications does the program received annually?

We anticipate over 500 qualified applicants.

How many students are accepted?

Pending accreditation-provisional, The ARC-PA will allow the program to accept 30 students per cohort (year).

May I enroll in the Program on a part-time basis?

No. The rigorous and faced-paced nature of the program curriculum does not allow time for the student to work during the program or take courses part-time.

Does the program accept transfer students?

No. All students accepted into the program must participate in the competitive admissions process. The program does not admit transfer students from other PA programs.

Does the program require that I own a laptop computer?

Yes, enrolled students are required to own a laptop computer. This allows students to access exams and other important materials from secure sites. The Program will supply the appropriate laptop computer. Payment is included in the tuition.

Is a supplemental application required?

No supplemental application is required.

If accepted into the program, when do classes begin?

Classes begin in the Spring Semester annually (January).

What is the wait list?

When the class is selected, an alternate group of applicants is also selected. Applicants from this list may be called upon to fill a vacancy if a selected applicant decides not to accept a position in the class. Alternates may be selected up to the first day of class in January.

Will being an alternate one year mean I have an advantage in the application pool the following year?

No. Each year applicants are evaluated against each other. Being an alternate in one year does not give applicants an advantage in subsequent years.

What are the minimum overall GPA, minimum Science GPA and minimum GRE scores required of accepted students?

The minimum required overall GPA is 3.0, on a 4.0 scale.

The minimum Science GPA is a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

The Program requires applicants have a minimum score of 153 on the verbal and 144 on the quantitative, and 3.5 on the analytical writing components of the GRE General Test to be competitive with others in the overall applicant pool. See the GRE Prep Guide.

https://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/practice_book_GRE_pb_revised_general_test.pdf

The GRE exam is required and scores must be submitted to the CASPA website with the application.

Can I work while I am in the PA Program?

Working while enrolled in PA program courses (including the clinical portion) is not recommended or allowed due to the heavy schedule and workload. It is difficult to manage class time, study time, and personal time. The student must stay focused to be successful.

What is the length of the curriculum?

The program curriculum will begin in January and complete in 24 months.

What type of curriculum is provided?

Please refer to the MSU PA Student Handbook for current degree plans.

Is a capstone required?

Yes. Students must complete a Capstone Project in order to meet graduation requirements.

Can I substitute other classes for the ones published as prerequisites (e.g. botany for physiology)?

NO. Our pre-requisites are in place to ensure that students enter the program well prepared for the challenging curriculum that we provide; therefore, we do not accept any substitutions for our pre-requisite classes and we do not waive any classes. (Organic chemistry does not satisfy the general chemistry requirement). The Admissions Committee holds final approval of all prerequisite course work submitted.

Do you accept transfer credits or advanced standing?

Regardless of previous education or work experience, all students are required to complete the entire physician assistant curriculum. No advanced placement, transfer credit, or credit for experiential learning will be granted.


Academic and Experience Prerequisites

Do I need to have completed all of the prerequisite courses before I apply?

No. All prerequisite courses MUST be completed prior to enrollment.

How many courses may be outstanding during the application process?

The program will accept only two (2) non-science pre-requisite courses in progress at the time of application. All courses must be complete prior to matriculation.

Is there an expiration date for the science prerequisite courses?

Yes. All science prerequisites must be completed within ten (10) years of the application deadline.

What is direct patient care experience?

Patient care that is ‘hands-on’ in nature. Successful applicants have worked as one of the following: emergency medical technician, licensed vocational nurse, medical assistant (back office), medical scribe, medical technologist, military medical corpsman, nursing assistant, paramedic, psychiatric technician, radiologic technician, respiratory therapist, chiropractor, registered nurse, etc.

Is volunteer experience required?

The Program is dedicated to the advancement of PA education, and emphasizes service to the medically underserved. Volunteering in both health-related and non-health related settings is highly recommended.

Must I shadow a PA?

YES. Shadowing a PA is required. This experience not only gives the applicant an insight into the profession on an intimate level, but also affords the applicant an opportunity to see if she or he is a ‘good-fit’ for the profession.

Letters of recommendation

We accept three letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation must be sent through the CASPA portal only and must not be from family members. Letters of recommendation should come from physician’s shadowed, current, and/or former professors, current and/or former employers; and one must be from a PA.

Can I substitute other classes for the ones published as prerequisites (e.g. botany for physiology)?

Our pre-requisites are in place to ensure that students enter the program well prepared for the challenging curriculum that we provide; therefore, we do not accept any substitutions for our pre-requisite classes. Entering the Program without this background knowledge puts the student at a disadvantage. The Admissions Committee holds final approval of all prerequisite course work submitted.

What upper level biology courses will meet the pre-requisite requirement?

The upper level biology courses must be a 3000 or 4000 level course that is related to the application and have use in a medical curriculum. Courses such as Ecology and Herpetology will not be accepted.

If accepted in the MSU MPAS Program, can I select any of my own rotations during my clinical year?

The program's Clinical Coordinator schedules the core clinical curriculum. Students have an elective.

Can I transfer into the program and/or transfer credits?

No. The program does not offer advanced standing or accept graduate transfer credits. All students must complete the entire series of academic courses and clinical rotations. Prerequisite courses such as microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, etc. are not actually transferred into the program, but rather necessary to be eligible for admission consideration.

If I am accepted into the MSU MPAS, may I defer my acceptance to the following year?

No. The MSU MPAS Program is unable to defer admissions.

Do I need a lab with all the classes that have labs listed as a requirement?

Yes. The labs that are required are important hands on learning experiences in preparing you for professional training. Lab classes can often be taken alone if you have already had the associated course.

Where will I do my clinical rotations?

The clinical coordinator determines clinical rotation sites. They may be located anywhere in the State of Mississippi.

Is there a fee for “guaranteeing” a position in the program?

Yes. A $750 non-refundable fee is required to hold your seat in the program.

What does it mean, “Pre-requisite courses must be for science majors?”

Although you are not required to have a science major or degree, pre-requisite science courses must be from the science curriculum at your university or college. Be cautious about completing science courses unique to a particular subject or major, as they will not be accepted (i.e.: nursing, radiology, veterinary, etc.).

Are on-line classes accepted?

Pre-requisites can be taken from any regionally accredited US college or university. On-line or distance science courses are NOT accepted. In addition, no distance lab courses are accepted. We do not accept online science courses of any kind.

Do you have counseling regarding pre-requisite courses?

If you are unsure about prerequisite courses, review the list of prerequisites on this site. These are the official requirements and may differ from what your campus advisor tells you or what may be printed in your college's catalog.

The Information Sessions provide answers to any questions potential applicants have regarding the program including prerequisite course questions. These sessions explain the application process. If you are unable to attend an Information Session and have questions regarding prerequisite courses that were not answered by reading the website, you may email the Program for further clarification.

PA@meridian.msstate.edu

Do I have to take my prerequisite courses in the MSU System?

No. You may take the prerequisite courses at any regionally accredited college or university in the United States.

How is the Cumulative Grade Point Average calculated? How is it calculated for repeated courses?

Please review the CASPA website for questions regarding GPA calculation. The Program relies on the CASPA GPA calculations. All courses, including those repeated, are included.


Application Process

Applicants MUST submit all application materials through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistant Programs (CASPA). CASPA will receive, and review all applications. After all materials are verified, CASPA will forward those verified applications to the Program. These verified applications are screened by the by faculty members of the Program.

Stage one, eliminates from further consideration those applicants that fail to meet the stated minimum course prerequisites, overall GPA, science GPA, and combined GRE scores or fail to submit required documents by the published deadline.

Next, Program faculty screen and rank all eligible candidates against pre-determined criteria. The final stage involves face-to-face interviews with Program faculty.

The Program Director, the Admissions Committee, and the Medical Director will review all materials and recommend one of the following:

  • Acceptance (for those who have completed all prerequisites and are highly recommended for admission)
  • Conditional acceptance (for those who need to complete prerequisites)
  • Wait list (applicants who meet the minimum requirement and who may be offered acceptance if the most qualified candidates do not fill all available seats.
  • Non-admission (applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements or who are not competitive within the applicant pool)

Each of the following qualities are viewed as essential to support the development of a physician assistant. When evaluating an applicant's readiness to matriculate in the MSU MPAS Program, members of the admissions committee consider closely all information available with particular attention to the following elements:

  • Quality and degree of difficulty of courses taken in undergraduate school
  • Science and overall grade point average, CASPer scores
  • Scores received on the Graduate Record Examination
  • Responses to questions contained in the application
  • References from advisors, professors, and employers
  • Leadership experience
  • Community service experience
  • Communication skills
  • Interest in the problems of people
  • Compassion
  • Personal integrity
  • Motivation for a career in health care
  • Recommendations of faculty interviewers

Competitive Applicant Profile

What is the profile of the successful applicant to the PA Program?

The successful applicant to the MSU MPAS Program will have a combination of life, educational and work experience that shows a commitment to patient care, a full understanding of the PA profession, and the ability to perform in a demanding academic and professional setting. Competition is strong for entry into this program.

Eighty (80) hours of healthcare experience is required, more hours are highly recommended. Many applicants accrue greater than 2,000 hours of health care experience.

This experience may be either paid or volunteer and should include exposure to physician assistants. Applicants may gain valuable information from the material they have access to as Associate Members of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

www.aapa.org

Past educational performance, while not necessarily indicative of current abilities, can predict performance in the program. Every attempt should be made to enhance overall and science course GPA prior to application. The first year is extremely demanding and the applicant will benefit by taking courses that simulate this type of education.

In addition, candidates should also have a solid knowledge of the PA role and shadowing PA's is required.

How competitive is the program?

Admission for the 30 spots available each year is highly competitive. Meeting or exceeding the requirements does not guarantee admission.

What type of academic background and/or degree is likely to enhance potential for success in the program?

We receive applicants from a variety of academic majors, degrees, and backgrounds. This is welcomed as the program values diversity. Regardless of specific major or degree, the key is that applicants must complete at least the minimum admission prerequisites (both academic and clinical) to be considered for admission. View the list of admission requirements.


Tuition, Financial Aid, and Housing

Is there financial aid available?

Yes. Please review this information here: https://www.sfa.msstate.edu/

How much does it cost to attend the MSU MPAS Program?

Please consult the most current MSU General Catalog for information regarding costs.

Tuition, Fees, and other costs are subject to frequent change.

This information will be posted after accreditation-provisional is given.

*Mississippi State University-Meridian has applied for Accreditation - Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Mississippi State University-Meridian anticipates matriculating its first class in January 2020, pending achievement of Accreditation-Provisional status at the September 2019 ARC-PA meeting.

The program will not commence if Accreditation-Provisional is not granted. 

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class of students.         

Is there on-campus housing?

No.

Will the MSU MPAS Program be having any information sessions?

We host information sessions two to three times per year. The dates and times of the inforation sessions will be posted on this website, under Information Sessions. You must RSVP for these sessions. Please follow this link


International Medical Graduates

I am an International Medical Graduate (IMG). Do I still have to complete the requirements?

Yes. All applicants, including International Medical Graduates (IMGs), must meet all requirements.

Admission Requirements/Prerequisites

Please review the prerequisite section of the website for all requirements.

Prior to matriculation, the applicant must have earned a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university. Applicants must have a minimum OVERALL GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale minimum AND a minimum OVERALL SCIENCE GPA of 3.0 at the time of application.

Please note that there is no exam that IMGs can take to challenge the MSU MPAS Program requirements, obtain a PA license, or become nationally certified as a PA. Courses previously taken in medical school cannot be substituted for courses to be taken in the MSU MPAS Program.

I am an International Medical Graduate. Can I work as a PA in Mississippi without attending PA school?

No. An IMG cannot work as a PA in Mississippi without attending and graduating from an ARC-PA accredited PA program and without passing the national NCCPA/PANCE boards for PAs.