South University, Richmond (View Other Campuses)

South University, Savannah, Physician Assistant. Theory in every textbook. Practice in every classroom.

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Theory in every textbook. Practice in every classroom.

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Established in 1899, South University is a private, nonprofit institution with a long history of driving student success. 

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1. Question: Is South University Accredited?

Answer:    South University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404.679.4500 for questions about the accreditation of South University.

2. Question: Is the South University, Richmond Physician Assistant (PA) Program accredited?

Answer:  The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the South University Richmond Physician Assistant Program sponsored by South University Richmond.

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.

3. Question: What are the technical standards required for admission?

Master of Science Physician Assistant Degree Program Technical Standards
In order to ensure that patients receive the best medical care possible, the faculty of the South University Physician Assistant program has identified certain skills and professional behaviors that are essential for successful progression of physician assistant students in the program. A student must possess skills and behaviors at a level of capability to perform a variety of duties required of a physician assistant as a health care professional.

Students with disabilities who can perform these skills and successfully execute professional behavior either unassisted, with dependable use of assistive devices, or by employing other reasonable accommodations are eligible to apply for enrollment in the program. Minimum performance standards include critical thinking, communication skills, observation skills, motor skills, and interpersonal abilities. Interested parties may contact the Physician Assistant program office for additional information about South University performance standards. These skills and behaviors include, but are not limited to;

Critical Thinking: A student must possess the intellectual, ethical, physical and emotional capabilities required to undertake the full curriculum and to achieve the levels of competence required by the faculty. The ability to solve problems, a skill that is critical to the practice of medicine, requires the intellectual abilities of measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis and synthesis. Students must be able to perform demonstrations and experiments in the basic sciences.

Communication Skills: A student should also be able to speak, to hear, and to observe patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and to perceive nonverbal communications. The student must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written forms.

Observation Skills: A student must be able to observe a patient accurately, both at a distance and in close proximity. This ability requires the functional use of vision and somatic sensation.

Motor Skills: A student should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion and other diagnostic techniques. A student should be able to execute movements reasonably required to move from area to area, maneuver in small spaces, calibrate and use large and small equipment, position and move patients, and provide patients with general care and emergency treatment.

Interpersonal Abilities: A student for the Physician Assistant program must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities required for the diagnosis and care of patients and the development of professionalism through mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients, families, and colleagues.

4. Question: What degree is offered by the PA Program?

Answer:  The South University Physician Assistant program awards graduates the Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) degree. Graduates are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).* Graduates of a Physician Assistant program who are certified by the NCCPA, are eligible to practice in all 50 states. 
*South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

5. Question: How many students are accepted into each class?

Answer:  Thirty-six (36) students are accepted into each class.

6. Question: Does the PA program participate in CASPA?

Answer:  Yes. To apply to the South University Physician Assistant program, visit CASPA .

7. Question: What is the deadline to apply to the program?

The application cycle begins in mid-April and ends on August 1st of each year.

8. Question: When does the program start each year?

Answer:  The program begins each year in early January, with orientation preceding the formal start of classes.

9. Question: Does the program require a bachelor's degree?

Answer:  Yes. Applicants must have earned their bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution prior to matriculation at the program.

10. Question: Does the PA program require a specific undergraduate major?

Answer:  While most incoming students have earned their bachelor's degrees in a science or health care field, it is not required. Strong preparation in natural sciences is highly valued. The number of courses, the level of those courses, and performance are important considerations. Applicants should demonstrate their ability to handle social science and humanities as well. If an applicant does not possess a science or health care related degree, it is strongly encouraged that they attempt to get as much clinical experience as possible.

11. Question: What prerequisites are required by the PA program?

Answer:  Students must complete all prerequisite courses listed below with a grade of C or better at a regionally accredited U.S. college or university before matriculation.

  • Human Anatomy  (1 course) and lab
  • Human Physiology (1 course) and lab
  • General Biology (2 courses)
  • General Chemistry (2 courses) and labs
  • Biochemistry (1 course) -or- Organic Chemistry (1 course) and lab
  • Microbiology (1 course) and lab

Prerequisite coursework which is obtained from a four-year college or university and which is designed for science majors is considered more competitive.

In general, prerequisite coursework with titles that include “Essentials of,” “Survey of,” or “Introductory to,” unless specifically designed for science majors, are considered less competitive.

Human Anatomy and Physiologymay be taken as standalone courses or as part of a sequence.  In the event that the courses are taken as part of a sequence, only a completed sequence of Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II will be accepted.

Basic science courses should be those for science majors.  Microbiology courses must be 200/2000-level courses or higher.  The General Biology and Biochemistry courses are recommended to include a lab, but it is not required.

Only courses (excluding General Biology and Biochemistry) with an associated lab will be given credit for fulfilling prerequisite requirements.  In the event that a laboratory is not offered with a prerequisite course, applicants may request the lab requirement for that course be waived by contacting the program director.  Lab waivers and/or course substitutions are granted at the discretion of the Admissions Committee.  Applicants requesting a waiver should be prepared to submit supporting documents, including, but not limited to, course descriptions.

The South University Physician Assistant program accepts credit for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.  AP courses taken and successfully completed will be counted as one course credit towards completion of the respective prerequisite subject.  Grades earned in AP courses are not used in the calculation of the applicant’s overall or prerequisite GPA.

The South University Physician Assistant program does not accept College Level Examination Program (CLEP) credit for any prerequisite requirements.

The South University Physician Assistant program does not accept transfer of credits from other physician assistant programs or provide enrolled students with a waiver of credit (i.e., advanced placement) for any component of the required curricular coursework.  All students must complete each course in the South University Physician Assistant curriculum.

12. Question: Can I apply if I have outstanding prerequisite courses?

Answer:  No.  Students must complete all prerequisite courses with a grade of C or better at a regionally accredited U.S. college or university prior to submission of his/her application.

13. Question: Do you accept prerequisites besides those specified?

Answer:  In general, prerequisites cannot be substituted. Exceptions to the prerequisite requirements will be considered only in very rare instances and must be approved by the admissions committee.

14. Question: Does the PA program accept AP or CLEP credit?

Answer:  The South University Physician Assistant program accepts credit for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.  AP courses taken and successfully completed will be counted as one course credit towards completion of the respective prerequisite subject.  Grades earned in AP courses are not used in the calculation of the applicant’s overall or prerequisite GPA.

The South University Physician Assistant program does not accept College Level Examination Program (CLEP) credit for any prerequisite requirements.

15. Question: Does the program accept online coursework/labs?

Answer:  Coursework completed from a regionally accredited U.S. institution is accepted.

16. Question: Do the prerequisites need to be completed within a certain timeframe before applying?

Answer:  Presently, prerequisite coursework do not have a timeframe requirement. However, the interval of time between when the prerequisite coursework was completed and the application submitted is given consideration, as more recent coursework is preferred.

17. Question: Should I send official transcripts to the PA office?

Answer:  When starting your application through CASPA, all transcripts are to be sent to them for verification. Should you need to update prerequisite course grades after your application is submitted, you may have those additional transcripts sent directly to the PA program office.

18. Question: Is a certain amount of health care experience required?

Answer:  South University strongly encourages applicants to participate in patient centered clinical experience prior to application and matriculation. The experience of working with patients is valuable to anyone considering a career as a Physician Assistant. While it is advantageous that entering students have some direct patient contact, it is the policy of the South University Physician Assistant program not to prescribe a minimum number of patient contact hours or fields in which the experience must be gained. Experience is considered in the application review process of each individual applicant. Significant health care experience is valued in considering the admission qualifications of any given applicant.

19. Question: Where can I obtain patient care experience?

Answer:  Many applicants begin working in the health care field in the summer between high school and college. By working in health care each summer through their undergraduate education they accrue hours. Potential entry-level positions (paid and unpaid) include Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), paramedic, phlebotomist, nursing aide, home health care aide, and volunteers for community mental health or family planning agencies.
Patient centered clinical experience and shadowing are strongly recommended. However, there is no requirement for a predetermined number of hours (or months) of health care experience to be earned by an applicant. Clinical experiences should provide the applicant with a knowledge of and orientation to the presentation, signs, and symptoms of a variety of ill or injured patients. Such experiences are evaluated on an individual basis.

20. Question: Do you require the GRE?

Answer:  Yes. Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test. When you apply to the program, you will need to go to the ETS (Educational Testing Service) website and request your official scores to be sent electronically to CASPA using Program GRE Code: 7147.

21. Question: Can I apply if I have not taken the GRE?

Answer:  Yes, but applications will be NOT be reviewed if official GRE scores are not yet received and verified by CASPA. Please use GRE code 7147 to report your official scores through CASPA. Mailed copies from ETS are no longer accepted. Official scores must be reported to South University through CASPA by November 1st.

22. Question: What are competitive GRE scores for applicants?

Answer:  The GRE scores are assessed in conjunction with the applicant's complete profile. The South University Physician Assistant program does not set a minimum acceptable score for the GRE but looks at scores at or above the 50th percentile as more competitive. Additional explanation on the meaning of the GRE scores can be found here.

23. Question: Should I send my official GRE scores to the PA office?

Answer:  No. Please request scores to be sent using code 7147, which will be reported through CASPA on your application. Self-reported scores on the application will not suffice.

24. Question: What is the GRE code for South University, Richmond?

Answer:  The South University GRE code is 7147.

25. Question: Does the program conduct applicant interviews?

Answer:  Yes. After review of applications, those applicants deemed competitive are invited for an on-campus face-to-face interview. The Physician Assistant program conducts "behavioral" interviews on each candidate. (For information on this style of interview you can do a web search for "Behavioral Interviews.") Each applicant will have at least one general interview. The general interviews generally include one applicant and one to two program representatives.

26. Question: Do you give preference to Virginia state residents?

Answer:  Admission preference is not given to residents of Virginia.

27. Question: Must I have a criminal background check prior to entry?

Answer:  Yes. Upon acceptance, each student is required to purchase a criminal background check. The background checks are at the expense of the student and are performed by a third party agency. Finding of any prior criminal activity may terminate the student's acceptance into the South University Physician Assistant program.

28. Question: Does the PA program offer part-time or online courses?

Answer:  Our program does not offer a part-time option or online courses.

29. Question: Can I transfer into the program?

Answer:  No.

30. Question: Does the program have specific GPA requirements?

Answer:  Yes. The following are the minimum GPA requirements for acceptance to the South University Physician Assistant program:
Overall (Cumulative): 3.0/4.0 (Required) 
Biology Chemistry-Physics (BCP): 3.0/4.0 as calculated by CASPA (Strongly Recommended)

31. Question: How is my CASPA overall GPA calculated?

Answer: Every course a student has enrolled in and entered into the application will be calculated into an overall GPA. CASPA does not recognize individual school’s forgiveness, academic renewal, or grade replacement policies in regards to repeated courses. All grades earned for repeated courses will factor into the CASPA GPA. For more detailed information about your GPA calculations please visit

32. Question: What is the Average Overall GPA for competitive applicants?

Answer: 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

33. Question: What is the average Biology Chemistry Physics (BCP) GPA for competitive applicants?

Answer: 3.4 on a 4.0 scale.

34. Question: Where do students complete clinical rotations?

Answer: Our students rotate in busy clinics, private physician's offices, and hospitals. Rotations exist in both small towns and metropolitan cities. Students are scheduled in a wide variety of experiences and locations for their clinical rotations designed to provide application of medical knowledge and clinical skills to actual patient care.

35. Question: How are clinical rotations assigned?

Answer: Students are offered an opportunity to provide input on preferences in selecting their clinical rotations. In addition to rotation availability, each student’s academic and professional performance while in the program and prior clinical experience are taken into consideration in all placements. Due to various preceptor and site scheduling factors, no specific rotation sites or preceptors can be guaranteed. Placement of students at clinical sites is at the sole discretion of the PA program’s Clinical Department.

36. Question: Where can I get more information about financial aid?

Answer:  Our Financial Aid officers, who are very knowledgeable in this area make every attempt to assist students seeking financial aid and can be reached at (804) 727-6800. You can also find information about student loans here. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify.

37. Question: What is the South University's FAFSA School Code?

Answer:  The South University, Richmond school code for filling out the FAFSA is 013039. You can complete a FAFSA here.

38. Question: Will I be able to work while being a student?

Answer:  Due to the intensive nature of the Physician Assistant program curriculum and required hours of study, it is recommended that students do not work. More information on student employment can be found here.

39. Question: Is there a supplemental application?

Answer:  No.
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