Applicants must complete the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) online application.
For more detailed admission materials and requirements, please refer to the Physician Assistant Studies section in the current graduate catalog.
Each applicant must apply to the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). CASPA deadline is Sept. 1 for the following July/August. You can begin applying to CASPA as early as April in the year of application.
CASPA is a service that collates materials, computes grade point averages and transmits standardized information to the applicant and the physician assistant program(s) the applicant designates. CASPA takes no part in the evaluation, selection or rejection of applicants. It is the applicant’s responsibility to complete and submit all supporting documentation to CASPA in a timely manner. The application status check, provided to applicants as part of the CASPA service, should be monitored throughout the application process. CASPA will not mail incomplete applications. Please see CASPA Admissions Code of Cooperation for more information.
Step 1 - Eligibility
The physician assistant program has several requirements for admission including prerequisites. Make sure you meet these requirements before you apply.
Step 2 - Applications and Communication
The following materials must be submitted by September 1 to be considered for admission:
- CASPA Application – Complete, verified applications must be received by the PA program by Oct. 15 to be considered for an interview. We highly recommend submission of all materials to CASPA four to six weeks prior to the September 1 deadline.
- In addition to the CASPA online application, all applicants are required to pay a $35 application fee.
- You must submit the fee by September 1 at the latest, but we recommend payment at the same time as the CASPA application. This will ensure the application moves forward in the review process.
- All applicants to the USD PA Program are required to submit a $35 application fee the University of South Dakota’s Graduate School by September 1. All questions about the Graduate School application fee should be direct to Graduate Admissions at 605-658-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to submit the application fee, please go to apps.usd.edu/administrative/deposits/ and select USD Graduate Application Fee ($35.00).
- Failure to return all materials by the stated deadline will result in the withdrawal of the application from consideration for interview or acceptance.
The program communicates with applicants exclusively via email throughout the admissions cycle. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the program has the correct email contact information. If you do not receive communication from our program within one week of the date CASPA verifies your application, it is possible that the email communication is being blocked by your service provider or is being placed in your junk mail.
Applicants who do not receive this communication should contact the program to ensure that future communications can be delivered. Failure to follow up with the program may result in withdraw of the application if requested materials are not returned by stated deadlines.
Step 3 – Program Interview
Interview invitations are extended to those applicants that the selection committee perceives to be competitive for admissions. The interview dates are determined by the program and will be communicated with candidates in the offer to interview.
Step 4 – Complete Enrollment Requirements
Instructions for enrollment requirements will be provided by the PA program after acceptance. Enrollment requirements include:
- Terms of acceptance
- Non-refundable tuition deposit ($400)
- Criminal background check
- Health screening
- Immunization requirements
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of completion for any outstanding prerequisites
- Proof of conferred degree
- April 30: CASPA application opens for this cycle
- May – September: CASPA applications reviewed by faculty and staff
- September 1: CASPA application deadline (11:59 PM Eastern Time; 10:59 PM Central Time; 9:59 PM Mountain Time; 8:59 PM Pacific Time)
- September 1: Graduate School Application fee of $35 must be submitted
- October 15: Applications must be verified by CASPA in order to be considered for this cycle
- September – October final review of CASPA applications to determine which applicants will be invited for an interview.
- Late October:
- Interview invitations sent via email
- Interview wait list offer sent via email
- Application declined for this cycle
- November – December: tentative interviews held on USD's campus dates scheduled
- December: Offers of admission sent via email
- July: Orientation for incoming students; classes begin
If you have any questions about these items or the admissions process, please contact the program.
The requirements for admission are minimum requirements. Because admission is competitive, the program has designed a number of selection criteria for applicants. In considering applicants for admissions, the admissions committee will give preference for admission to applicants who possess the following at the time of application:
- An overall grade point average (as calculated by CASPA) of 3.2 or higher (on a 4.00 scale). Grades obtained in repeat courses are averaged into this GPA by CASPA
- A GPA of 3.2 or higher in the last 40 semester hours of coursework (on a 4.0 scale)
- Grades for coursework taken following submission of the CASPA application are not considered in the GPA calculation and therefore not considered in selecting qualified applicants.
- We strongly recommend that you have no more than three prerequisite courses outstanding at the time of application submission.
- Applicants are required to have a minimum of 500 direct patient care experience hours prior to submission of their CASPA applications.
- Significant extracurricular, professional, research, or service organization involvement and activity.
- Motivation to become a physician assistant based on a thorough understanding of the PA profession.
- Ability to communicate effectively in the personal written statement, in the application, and in the interview.
- Personal qualities relating to maturity and professionalism as demonstrated in the interview and letters of recommendation.
- Resident and non-resident students are selected for admission.
- In accordance with the PA program mission and goals, the program will give preference to applicants who indicate a high potential for future practice in primary care or in a medically underserved area as well as individuals from targeted populations. This includes individuals who are first-generation college students, veterans, economically disadvantaged, underrepresented populations and those from rural backgrounds.
Over half of the matriculants are South Dakota residents or those with strong ties to the state:
- One or both parents South Dakota residents
- Graduated from high school in South Dakota
- Graduated from an accredited South Dakota university or college
- Member of a federally recognized tribe from a bordering state
For any other consideration of ties, applications are reviewed by the program and interviews are offered at their discretion. An example of this would typically be applicants who are non-residents who lived in South Dakota previously but have moved out of state.
The program continues to accept non-resident students and encourages them to apply.
Technical Standards for Admission, Continuation and Graduation
The University of South Dakota physician assistant program affirms that no applicant to the program will be excluded on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, gender, transgender, sexual orientation, religion, age, genetic information, veteran status or disability. Otherwise qualified applicants with a disability will be considered in relation to the guidelines listed below.
In evaluating applicants for admission and preparing PAs, it is essential that the integrity of the curriculum be maintained, that those elements necessary for the education of the PA be preserved and that the health and safety of patients be maintained. While reasonable accommodation can be made for certain disabilities, those candidates and students who have a disability will be held to the same performance standards as their peers who do not have that disability.
Because the PA degree signifies that the holder is a person prepared for entry into the practice of medicine, it follows that graduates must have the knowledge, skills and ability to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care. Therefore, candidates for the Master of Science in physician assistant studies (MSPAS) degree from USD must have certain sensory and motor functions that permit them to carry out the activities described in the sections that follow. They must be able to consistently, quickly and accurately integrate all information received by whatever sense(s) employed, and they must have the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze and synthesize data.
A candidate for the MSPAS degree must have abilities and skills of five varieties, including:
- Intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative abilities
- Behavioral and social attributes
Technological accommodation may be available to assist for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but a candidate and student should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner without reliance on a trained intermediary to replace the candidate’s judgment or power of assessment and observation.
The candidate and student must be able to participate in activities determined to be essential by the faculty. This may include physiologic and pharmacologic demonstrations, anatomic dissection, microscopic studies of microorganisms, observation of tissues of normal and pathologic states, and accurate observation of the numbers and patterns on diagnostic instruments and simulations. They must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand with the ability to observe patient responses to physical exams. Observation necessitates the functional use of the senses of vision, hearing and somatic sensation.
The candidate and student must be able to speak to, hear, and observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive nonverbal communication. They must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with colleagues and patients. Communication includes not only speech but reading and writing. They must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written form with all members of the health care team. They must be able to read and record observations in a legible, efficient and accurate manner including the effective use of electronic documentations.
The candidate and student must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers. They must be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of such care reasonably required of PA’s are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the administration of intravenous medication, placement of catheters, the application of pressure to stop bleeding, suturing of simple wounds, assisting in surgical procedures, and the performance of simple obstetrical maneuvers. They must have adequate endurance to carry out clinical activities for extended periods of time. They must possess adequate sensorimotor function and equilibrium to assume reasonable body postures when performing these skills and to perform them in a manner that does not compromise test accuracy, treatment effectiveness, or patient safety.
4. Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities
The candidate and student must have sufficient cognitive abilities which would include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, and synthesis. Problem-solving, the critical skill demanded of PAs, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition they must be able to comprehend three dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures. They must be able to perform these problem solving skills in a timely manner.
5. Behavioral and Social Attributes
The candidate and student must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, recognize multiple points of view, identify personal reactions and responses, and integrate these into clinical decision-making. They must be able to communicate with and care for, in a non-judgmental way, persons whose culture, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs are different from their own.
Terms of Acceptance
If you have been selected there is a $400 non-refundable tuition deposit required.
Information regarding required immunizations will be given following acceptance. Compliance and documentation deadlines must be followed or your seat in the class will be forfeited.
Criminal background checks are required as part of provisional admission to all Health Affairs programs:
- Background checks will be performed only after the applicant has received notice of provisional admission.
- Understand that failure to disclose any previous convictions or charges pending at any point during the application process may lead to denial or revocation of admission
- Felony convictions will result in denial of acceptance to the program and/or eligibility for licensure; misdemeanor convictions may result in denial of acceptance to the program
- Additional background checks will be required prior to participation in the clinical phase.
- Drug screening may be required for licensure and/or clinical placement while a student in the program.
All PA students are required to show proof of creditable health care insurance. Health care insurance must meet requirements set forth by Health Affairs. Additional information will be sent to admitted students.