Building Your Admissions Process: Step-by-Step

Editor’s note: The Handbook comprises an overview, discussion, and questions for consideration on 24 key admissions topics, with the goal of helping you develop and continuously improve your program’s admissions process.


The strength of your PA program begins with an equitable and thorough admissions process that allows selection of applicants with intellectual ability, physical and emotional competence, and a strong desire to care for patients.


The admissions process should define all procedures related to recruitment, requirements, application, review of candidates, interviews, selection, communications, and matriculation of students. Every program develops its own set of requirements and selection criteria. The admissions process and criteria should be transparent and published in the program’s printed marketing materials and on the program’s website.

In developing the process, timelines must be considered. Ultimately, admission invitations should be sent with ample time for students to make arrangements to matriculate into the program, including a potential residential move, family arrangements, financial aid or loan applications, and completion of other institutional requirements. For programs participating in CASPA, the application cycle opens in mid-April each year and remains open through March of the following year. The program should consider the potential number of applications, how applications will be gathered, the time to review applications, and if interviews will take place. This will help in setting the application deadlines and review period. Other factors that may influence the timeline include the workload of staff and faculty in other commitments of teaching, service, and research/scholarship, as well as institutional opportunities and barriers. If interviews require travel to the campus, climate and weather may play a role in the decision timeline.


  • Is your process structured in such a way that you are able to process applications efficiently?
  • Are your processes able to be reliably reproduced across applicants and application cycles?
  • What is the timeline to gather applications, evaluate applicants, and extend admission invitations?

If you’re interested in learning about other admissions best practices, be sure to check out the following sessions at the 2016 Education Forum in Minneapolis: