Physician Assistant Success Stories


Aroldo Trejo Headshot

Aroldo Trejo

Major: Nutrition Science, Biology Emphasis
Overall GPA: 3.71
Graduation Year: 2015
Future Health Profession: Physician Assistant
Which school are you attending?  

Duke University School of Medicine. 

Major UCD extracurricular activities:

I participated in community service with Rotaract Club throughout undergrad. I also completed a nutrition internship through the ICC at Communicare in Davis, where I translated for Spanish-speaking patients. I obtained my EMT-B certification the summer before my final year and began working night shifts at an ambulance company in Sacramento while in school.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

I spent approximately 3-4 hours a day studying for courses, with more intense review prior to exams and on weekends. Repetition was the key to doing well on exams, especially in courses like anatomy that required a lot of memorization and application. I worked through my lecture slides and notes regularly, that way I was only refreshing information before exams. 

Did you use a test prep course? If not, how did you study?

I utilized Magoosh and the ETS guide books to study for the GRE. 

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

My GPA, healthcare experience, and personal statement. My GPA portrayed my ability to handle a rigorous courseload, while my personal statement depicted how my healthcare experiences strengthened my desire to practice primary care in underserved communities. I took a gap year upon graduation to accumulate more patient care hours and become more competitive, I ultimately applied with 2500 hours of EMT experience. 

Did you apply nationally?

I did yes, I applied to ten programs nationally in areas I could see myself living post-graduation. Considering how competitive the application process is, I found it crucial to cast a wide net. 

Advice for others:
  • Apply early! Peak CASPA submission is in July, some schools that do rolling admissions will fill their interview slots by the July/August submissions, even if their deadline is in the fall. Submit by May or June when the application pool is smaller. Take into consideration the amount of time necessary to complete supplemental application essays on CASPA and verification time once the application is submitted. 
  • Focus on maintaining a strong cumulative and science GPA throughout undergrad, as CASPA doesn’t utilize grade replacement in GPA calculations. Physician Assistant Forums is a great online resource of accepted applicant stats and is very helpful during the application process. 
  • Take a gap year to gain experience and save money! A majority of applicants have taken a gap year or more after graduation to gain patient care hours or take post-baccalaureate courses to improve their GPA. Don’t sacrifice your GPA in lieu of healthcare experience. EMT, CNA, and Medical Assistant are all great ways to gain experience after graduation. 
  • Save money for the application process and interviews, as it’s an expensive process. 
  • Enjoy the journey! It’s an exhaustive process gaining certifications, accumulating healthcare experience, and maintaining a competitive GPA. You will learn a tremendous amount about yourself, the healthcare system, and where you feel you fit in medicine. This is a great time opportunity for growth, introspection, and exploration. 

jason kao pa

Jason Kao

Major: Biological Sciences, emphasis in NPB
Overall GPA: 3.71
Graduation Year: 2015
Future Health Profession: Physician Assistant
Which school are you attending?  

Betty Irene Moore at UC Davis

Major UCD extracurricular activities:

While in undergrad I co-founded RIVER (Recognizing Illnesses Very Early and Responding), a preventive health organization that offers free exercise and nutrition counseling to the underserved in Sacramento and Yolo County. After graduating I worked as a medical scribe for the UC Davis Medical Center in the Emergency Department and Departments of Ophthalmology and Dermatology. I also served as a clinical research fellow for the Department of Dermatology, where I consented and enrolled patients in several clinical trials.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

I spent about 2-3 hours studying daily, but more rigorously during weekends and nearing exams. I recommend forming a solid study group and doing practice problems, repetition is key!

Did you use a test prep course? If not, how did you study?

I did not take a prep course for the GRE. I only applied to UC Davis, which does not require the GRE.

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

Creating and leading RIVER were probably the highlights of my application. While grades and test scores are important factors, work experience and volunteer experience are what makes an applicant unique. Many applicants have similar stats, but each individual has his/her own health care experiences that make them stand out, so use that to your advantage!

Did you apply nationally?

No, as mentioned previously UC Davis was the only school I applied to. I chose to only apply to UC Davis because of the program’s strong emphasis in primary care and student-run clinic opportunities.

Advice for others:
  • For those who chose to apply nationally, apply early!! As the cycle continues and applicants are submitting to CASPA, programs that participate in rolling admissions are distributing secondaries and interviews. This means if you apply later in the application cycle, seats for either interviews or for the program have been filled, resulting in a lower chance of moving forward. I believe the peak time for admission is in July, so submit early!
  • Also, letters of recommendation are important! Spend time to get to know the person who is writing your letter and make an effort to meet with them consistently.
  • Warm wishes and best of luck on your journey to becoming a PA!