Skip links
Intro to CASPA

GPA: CASPA vs Undergraduate

An important factor of the PA school application is the applicant’s GPA. CASPA, the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants, is the application portal utilized by the majority of PA programs. This allows you to create one concise application and submit it to multiple PA programs. CASPA has a unique way of calculating an applicant’s GPA. First, all coursework is entered into the CASPA transcript entry section. This means every single course you have ever taken! For most, it will just be undergraduate courses, but other courses that are required to be included are classes taken outside of your main university, classes taken after graduating with your Bachelor degree, graduate level courses, or any courses part of a Master’s or Doctorate program. Then, CASPA will calculate your GPA into various categories, with the most prominent categories being cumulative GPA and science cumulative GPA. However, an applicant will not be able to see CASPA’s calculated GPA until at least one application is submitted.

Applicants are often unsure about what their calculated CASPA GPA will be because CASPA has its own guidelines about the weight of letter grades received, grade forgiveness, and categorizations for science and non-science courses. CASPA clearly defines all policies about how they calculate an applicants GPA on their website. Since some applicants attend colleges that may follow different grading systems, CASPA aims to neutralize the discrepancies. This may work in your favor or may result in a lower calculated GPA than you had expected. For example, an applicant’s college may weigh the grade of a “B+” as a 3.5, whereas CASPA weighs a “B+” as only a 3.3. This small difference could change your calculated CASPA GPA significantly!

Another factor to consider is if you were granted grade forgiveness from your college. CASPA does not participate in grade forgiveness and will count the letter grade that your university may have dropped. This could be detrimental to your predicted PA school application GPA. For example, if you received a “F” in a course, then retook it and received an “A,” your college may have replaced the “F” with an “A.” However, on your CASPA application, both the “F” and “A” will be calculated into your cumulative GPA. The result will be a lower GPA than reported on your college transcript.

This discrepancy could be unfavorable because if you apply to a program that has a hard-cutoff cumulative GPA requirement of 3.2 and your CASPA calculated GPA ends up being a 3.19, your application will basically be automatically rejected. Avoid this mistake! There are many tools out there to calculate & track your CASPA GPA, such as CASPA’s GPA calculator that can be found here.

Also taken into consideration what your cumulative science GPA will be. CASPA has a list of courses on its website that are considered to be categorized as “science.” These courses include biochemistry, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, botany, ecology, genetics, hematology, immunology, microbiology, neurology, bioengineering, dietetics, nutrition, etc. Courses not factored into the CASPA science GPA are classes such as behavioral sciences, English, math, art, business, philosophy, etc. Many PA programs have a minimum science GPA. A competitive science GPA can predict your academic ability to succeed in PA school, so this is a key component of your application.

As you take more courses, your GPA becomes harder to increase. This stresses the importance of starting off your college career with a strong GPA! If, however, your GPA is not competitive by the time you are interested in applying to PA school, consider these following ways to help raise it!

  • Boost your GPA with courses that interest you, but are not necessarily difficult (an “easy” A)
  • Boost your GPA with post-bacc classes at a local community college after graduation
  • Boost your GPA by completing a post-bacc program or a Master’s program
  • Boost your science GPA by enrolling in online or community college courses that are 3-4 credits
  • Boost your science GPA by retaking courses you may have received a B- or lower in during college
  • Boost your science GPA by taking high-level accelerated science course(s) over summer/winter breaks during college so you have the time to focus your attention & achieve better grades than if the course was lumped into your semester course load

Although GPA is important, it isn’t everything! Being a competitive PA school applicant requires more than just a 4.0 GPA, so while you are stressing about getting all A’s in your college courses, also focus on strengthening other parts of your application, such as your patient care experiences, volunteering, extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, etc! Being aware of where you stand in the application pool is crucial. Use this to your advantage by applying to programs that have lower GPA minimums and programs where you will be considered a competitive PA school applicant!