The whole process of using CASPA can be kind of tricky, and a question that gets asked a LOT is about which cycle you should apply if you want to enter school a specific year. Beyond that, I get asked when during that cycle you should apply, and when you will have interviews.
I’m going to preface this by saying this is a very general timeline, and there are going to be some schools that really vary in their timelines – especially winter starting schools. But, hopefully, this breakdown will give you a better idea. No matter what, remember that you need to do your own research on when you think is the right time to apply.
This post is going to be a little more general, and will give a rough breakdown of how things happen on CASPA every year (so even if you’re not applying this year, it’s good information for you to know).
Pretty much the easiest way to think about it is to say that you want to apply the year BEFORE you want to start school. The entire application process takes roughly a year, from actually applying, to getting interviews, to getting an acceptance. So, if you want to start school in 2022 you should be applying in this upcoming CASPA cycle opening in April.
This is why CASPA cycles are labeled with two years.
For example CASPA cycle 2021 (year 1) -2022 (year 2)
This labeling gives us a pretty easy rule of thumb. That first year is the year you apply. The second year is the year that you would start your program.
Now beyond that, you can think of CASPA in seasons.
“Spring“(April, early May)
CASPA opens. Get started, and make sure you send out your letter of recommendation emails right away (these can take forever to get back depending on who you ask). Take a moment to review all of the programs that you’re applying to and compile their requirements into one place (you should have already done this! but if you haven’t, definitely do it now). Try to plan to take any remaining prerequisites over the summer.
This is the time to do most of the “busy” work of applying – entering grades from transcripts, entering experiences, proofreading CASPA, finishing your personal statement, etc.
“Summer” (May, June, July):
Finalize your CASPA and begin working any supplemental applications. Some programs require you complete CASPA before obtaining the supplemental, others don’t. It just depends on the program, but these guys can be long, so you want to start early.
However, you want (NEED) to be submitting CASPA during this season. An early application is important, because as schools are becoming more competitive, more students are applying. An early application can give you an edge, especially for schools that are rolling admissions and might fill up their interview slots (and thus acceptances) quickly. With that being said, an early application does not negate a mistake filled, rushed application, so still make sure to take your time and double + triple check your application.
Every year, the idea of “early” gets pushed forward. Realistically speaking, submitting “early” is considered by the first week of July. Anything after that is “on time”, which is really actually considered late.
“Fall” (August, September, October)
This is the start of deadlines for CASPA, but hopefully you would have taken my (and everyone else’s) advice and submitted CASPA during the summer months.
This is really the start of interview months, though some schools can continue into winter, and some schools started as early as July/August. But it’s realistic for you to think that this would be the months you need to plan for taking time off from work/school and going to interviews.
The amount of notice you get for interviews can really vary. Some schools give a month+, some schools give two weeks, some give several days. It’s challenging, and overwhelming, but you need to ready for it to happen at any time.
“Winter” (November, December, January, February)
During this season, you’ll be finishing up interviews and begin to hear back from schools on their decisions! This is honestly the most stressful time period in my opinion. These are the months were you’ll be stressing out about if you actually got into a program and whether or not you’ll need to start thinking about your CASPA for the following year. I highly recommend taking some time for yourself during these months – focus on your happiness!
“Preparation season” (Acceptance until your matriculation date)
These are going to be the months you have between your acceptance notification and when you actually start! This is the most fun time period – because you should be focused on having fun. Really, nothing you do during this time period is going to make or break your ability to succeed in PA school. There is nothing that you need to study and learn because quite honestly PA school is going to be like nothing you have ever experienced before, and until you are in the throes of it, you will not understand. Some students will have months between their acceptances and start dates, some students might have weeks, and some might even only have days depending on if they get pulled off the wait list. However, no matter how long you have, spend time with friends and family, travel, find a new hobby, develop strong skills for handling stress, etc.
Everything following these five “seasons” will depend on when the school you get into starts. You might have a summer start date or fall – these are the most common that following this general (year 1 – year 2) guidelines that I discuss here.
But, as you can see, the whole process takes about a year from when CASPA opens to when you could be starting school. When you’re deciding on when you want to go to school, you’ll need to keep this in mind. For example, if you don’t want to take a gap year between undergrad and PA school, you’ll apply in April of your junior year. If you want to take one gap year, you’ll apply in April of your senior year of undergrad. If you want to take two gap years, you’ll apply the April after you graduate. And so on and so forth.
Here is my timeline of when I applied to schools and when I heard back – which granted at this point is fairly outdated but will still be somewhat interesting! I applied CASPA 2015-2016
Comment below on your thoughts about applying to PA school, and when you think you’ll be applying!
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**Updated April 14, 2021**