Physician Assistant Studies Admissions Requirements

As the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, cultural competency within the physician assistant profession is critical. Our program is seeking individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the Canisius College Jesuit mission, with a commitment to improving health care outcomes for vulnerable patient populations. Special consideration will be given to candidates who display a passion for social justice and an understanding of the lived experiences of patients from diverse backgrounds. Applicants are reviewed holistically for their unique experiences, leadership potential, and commitment to education.

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Application Requirements

  • “Completion of CASPA application in full by the deadline (given at The application cycle for the 2021-22 review in CASPA begins on April 29, 2021. Application materials will be reviewed in CASPA only. We will not meet with applicants or review materials outside the formal CASPA process.”
    • The current CASPA deadline for this application is: August 15, 2021, at midnight EST
  •  Three (3) letters of recommendation on professional letterhead are required. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a health care professional.
  •  A current resume or curriculum vitae (CV).
  •  An essay in 400 words or less addressing the following:

    "We seek to eliminate healthcare disparity and improve the wellbeing of underserved populations by developing competent, compassionate, and mindful clinicians who may not share a similar background as their patients. Tell us about an experience that has broadened your own view of cultural competence and has enhanced your ability to understand those unlike yourself."

  •  Bachelor's degree with minimum 3.0 overall GPA, including the following prerequisite courses
    • Anatomy and Physiology I & II (Minimum 6 credit hours) *Separate physiology courses may not require a lab
    • General Chemistry I & II (8 credit hours)
    • Organic Chemistry (4 credit hours) 
    • Biochemistry (3 credit hours) 
    • Microbiology (4 credit hours)
    • Developmental Psychology or equivalent (3 credit hours)
    • Statistics (3 credit hours) 
    • Medical Terminology (1 credit hour)
  • Minimum of 3.0 overall GPA in prerequisite sciences; must be completed no more than five (5) years prior to application. A minimum grade of C must be achieved in each prerequisite course. Grades less than 2.0/C are not accepted for any prerequisite (C minus not accepted). 
  • Prerequisite courses must be complete or in progress at the time of application. All prerequisite coursework must be completed at an accredited institution within the United States or Canada. Exceptions may be made for applicants with a completed medical degree from an international institution. Advanced Placement (AP) credit is not accepted or offered for the required prerequisite courses.
  • minimum of 200 hours of direct patient contact. A heavy emphasis is placed on the quality of the patient contact experience.  The program defines quality as hands-on responsibility for the patient. Examples of experiences are: shadowing PAs or physicians, student worker positions directly dealing with patients, any credentialed positions (LPN, RN, EMT, etc.). Those that have not met the required hours by the time of application must demonstrate a plan to obtain the remaining hours before classes begin if accepted into the program.
  • minimum of 100 hours of community service. This list offers some examples of quality community service activities but is not all-inclusive. If you have a question about whether an activity qualifies as community service for this program, please reach out to the graduate admissions counselors.
    • Organize a food drive and deliver donations to a food bank
    • Serve in a soup kitchen
    • Volunteer to support your local veterans
    • Volunteer with Big Brother/Big Sister or school literacy groups
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Organize a clothing drive through local church or charity organization
    • Tutor for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs
    • Volunteer in music therapy programs
    • Volunteer to work with nursing home residents (non-medical)
    • Community clean-up projects/environmental support
    • Offer support to local animal shelters/animal rescue agencies
    • Applicants are strongly encouraged to spend at least one day shadowing/observing a clinically practicing Physician Assistant.

This program does not allow advanced placement to this program or waive any courses in the curriculum based on prior training or employment.

Technical Skills for Applicants

1. Observation and Sensory: The student must be able to observe demonstrations in the basic sciences, perform clinical laboratory diagnostic tests, utilize patient monitoring devices, interpret diagnostic images and reports, and examine patients for the purposes of assessment and diagnosis accurately. The student must have the ability to discern and comprehend spatial relationships of structures and must be able to assess all areas of the body through inspection and palpation. The student must be able to perceive the presence of abnormalities in a specific body system such as masses, lesions or inflammation, and must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease through the use of all sensory tools (e.g. vision, hearing, smell, touch) throughout the comprehensive head to toe physical examination of the patient. The process of physical assessment includes, but is not limited to, information that is derived from observation and palpation of body areas, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information such as patient voice, and heart/lung/bowel sounds.

2. Communication: The student must be able to communicate in English clearly, efficiently, and effectively with instructors, fellow students, patients and caregivers, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team verbally and in written formats. These communication skills require the ability to examine all information provided, conduct a well-focused follow-up inquiry, and relay relevant feedback in the oral and written communication format. Students must be able to communicate in a group setting in an effective and constructive way to facilitate optimal learning and care of the patient. Additionally, students must be able to recognize barriers to effective communication based on differences of language, religion, social status, education status, or other factors, and find the best way to communicate with patients and their families in a way that is clear, concise, and fosters confidence in the plan of care. Effective communication also relies on the student’s ability to use appropriate judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner. Finally, students must learn to clearly, efficiently, and thoroughly document all aspects of the patient care process including chief complaint, history of illness, examination findings, testing results, assessment, and care plan.

3. Motor: The student must have sufficient motor function to effectively move themselves and others in order to perform physical examinations and to provide medical care and treatment. During clinical coursework and in eventual practice, the student must demonstrate motor skills related to patient physical examination and performing testing or treatment procedures. Additionally, the student must be able to physically ensure the safety of themselves and patients at all times, including meeting the acceptable standards of universal precaution and sterile technique. Students will need to demonstrate physical ability and skill in tasks such as suturing, splinting, injections, joint manipulations, removing foreign bodies from the skin, flushing eyes, ears, or wounds, performing digital pelvic or rectal examinations, and more. Many of these procedures require fine motor skills and relative strength.

4. Intellectual: The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in the basic sciences and clinical courses at sufficient breadth and depth determined by the PA profession. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze, and apply learning material. The student must be able to develop reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills appropriate to the practice of medicine. Additionally, the student must be able to recognize the limits of his/her ability, request assistance when necessary, and create a professional development plan based on their individual needs.

5. Behavioral and Social Attributes: The student must demonstrate personal attributes of caring, integrity, and cultural competence. The student must possess the emotional health and stability required for full application and use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt and effective completion of all responsibilities under stress, and adapt to a clinical environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways. The student is expected to interact with others in a respectful and responsible manner at all times. The student must be able to accept and respond to constructive criticism and resolve conflicts in a socially acceptable and professional manner. Additionally, students must continually demonstrate the ability to self-assess, self-correct, and self-direct; identify needs and sources of learning, and continually seek new knowledge and understanding. Students will also be expected to understand the Jesuit philosophies of Canisius College and apply these philosophies to the learning process and in clinical practice.

Preference for Specific Applicants

The Canisius College Physician Assistant Program gives preference to applicants graduating from the following universities/colleges:
•        Canisius College
•        University of Buffalo

Any applicant applying to the PA Program from these two universities who meet the admission requirements will be offered an interview. This does not guarantee acceptance to the program. 

Additional point preference is given during review of the application based on overall GPA, science GPA, patient contact experience that exceeds the minimum 200 hours, community service that exceeds the minimum 100 hours, and strong evidence of mission awareness in the essay and reference letters provided.

No preference is given to New York State residents or based on any other criteria.  This program is an equal opportunity program and does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or military service.

Additional Requirements for International Students

 Canadian and other international applicants must provide a completed Certification of Finances Form. 

  • International students who have completed university coursework outside the U.S. and Canada are required to have their transcripts and degrees evaluated by a foreign credential evaluation service such as World Education Services (WES). 
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score, IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score, or a CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language) score. 
    • TOEFL: 79 IBT or 550 PBT
    • IELTS: 6.5 overall
    • CAEL: 70 overall
  • Students from Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are waived from the language proficiency requirement.
  • Students who completed a 4-year degree (on campus) at a U.S. college/university are waived from the language proficiency requirement.

For more information about program policies, procedures, and expectations, please refer to the Canisius College Physician Assistant Studies Student Handbook located on this webpage.

For more information about the profession, student resources, and PA leadership, please visit: