Mercer University undergraduate students who plan to pursue a career as a physician assistant are considered to be on the "pre-physician assistant" or "pre-PA" track. Pre-PA is not an academic major; students on the pre-PA track must declare and work towards an academic major and minor>> as they fulfill the admission requirements for their preferred PA graduate program(s) - at least as a back-up plan.
Pre-physician assistant students may choose one of three paths as they prepare themselves for graduate school:
- Students may earn a bachelor’s degree as they fulfill the prerequisites for the PA program of their choice;
- Students may participate in the Guaranteed Admission Plus Degree Program (GAPDP) described in detail on the Guaranteed Admission Programs web page>>; or
- Students may fulfill only the minimum requirements for the PA school of their choice before matriculation into that graduate program (while most P.A. programs require a bachelor's degree before matriculation, some do not).
Information and advice about all aspects of the pre-PA tracks can be found in The Student Handbook for the Pre-PA Tracks>>. Information about all of the pre-professional tracks at Mercer-Macon can be found on the web pages of the Office of Academic & Advising Services>>.
Note that thescience coursework required for the pre-PA track is only offered by the College of Liberal Arts on the Macon campus. Also note that competency in mathematics at or above the calculus level is required to begin the chemistry and biology course sequences at Mercer University. Students planning on following the pre-PA track are therefore advised to take mathematics in high school at least through the pre-calculus level.
Becoming a Competitive PA School ApplicantPre-PA students must plan ahead carefully in order to create a competitive application "portfolio" during their undergraduate years.This means taking the appropriate coursework, performing well academically, and participating in appropriate extracurricular activities that will develop the skills and characteristics required of a successful physician assistant school applicant.To help them make appropriate choices regarding these things, students should bear in mind that physician assistant schools are looking for individuals with the following characteristics:
- a strong academic background with a firm foundation in the sciences,
- good reasoning ability and strong critical thinking skills,
- a positive attitude, able to function effectively under stress,
- strong leadership skills but with the ability to work well on a team,
- compassion and a commitment to service,
- strong interpersonal skills, able to connect well with patients from various backgrounds,
- excellent communication skills (both written and oral);integrity and high ethical standards,
- a good base of knowledge about physician assistants and the medical field in general,
- competitive Graduate Record Examination scores, and
- a well-written Personal Statement.
Because the pre-physician assistant track is challenging and physician assistant schools are so selective, all pre-physician assistant students shoulddevelop an alternative plan to implement in the event that adequate progress is not made on their pre-physician assistant track (i.e., GPAs below 3.4) or acceptance to PA school is not achieved. Such plans may include strengthening the application portfolio followed by reapplication or a complete change of career goals.Students are advised to consult the Office of Career Services>> and their academic advisors for guidance in this regard.