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Accepting Grit Scholar Applications

Applications to become a Grit Scholar are now being accepted.

Early Assurance Program for Physician Assistant Studies

In 2020, the Physician Assistant Program received a federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase the recruitment of PA students who intend to work and live in rural areas after PA school. The Early Assurance Program was created for ISU undergraduate students during their junior and senior years to prepare them for admittance to the ISU Physician Assistant Program. Post-baccalaureate students from ISU are also welcome to apply. Each recipient will receive academic guidance and professional mentorship from faculty and alumni. Recipients are also offered a seat in the PA program upon successful completion of the EAP award requirements.

The five-year grant, titled: Increasing the Grit and Effectiveness of Rural Physician Assistants, is under the direction of Paula Phelps, MHE, PA-C, professor and associate program director. If you would like more information, please contact Valentín García at valentingarcia@isu.edu or review the commonly asked questions below. 

The Early Assurance Program allows undergraduate juniors and seniors at Idaho State University to apply for early acceptance into the physician assistant program upon matriculation. Post-baccalaureate students from ISU are also welcome to apply. Students accepted into this program will receive a provisional offer of admission to the ISU Physician Assistant Studies program under the Early Assurance Program. Formal acceptance to the ISU Physician Assistant Program is contingent upon completion of the post-acceptance requirements.

Required qualifications include:

  • Idaho State University undergraduate students who have completed a minimum of 24 credits at ISU and will be a junior or senior in any degree-granting program at ISU. Post-baccalaureate students from ISU are also eligible to apply.
  • Applicants must be on track towards completing prerequisite coursework as defined in the ISU Academic Catalog for admittance in the physician assistant program. For questions, please contact Valentín García at garcvale@isu.edu.
  • Applicants should declare a minor in Pre-Physician Assistant.  Contact Valentín García at valentingarcia@isu.edu for assistance.
  • Students with a cumulative minimum grade point average of 2.5 and grades of B or better in any pre-PA coursework taken prior to EAP application. Prerequisite retakes are allowed.

Students who meet the following criteria are ideal candidates for this award:

  1. Applicants who: (a) are first generation college students, (b) are active duty or veterans of the United States Armed Services, (c) applicants who attended a rural high school as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics, (d) are employed or have family members who are employed in the agricultural industry, especially seasonal or migrant workers, (e) represent underrepresented populations in the Physician Assistant Profession as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  2. Applicants who possess the requisite competencies to serve people who experience significant health disparities[1], including:
    • Language fluency to provide medical services in languages other than English (e.g., Spanish, Shoshone, Nez Perce). Ideal proficiency would be at an intermediate level or above. Intermediate speakers can narrate and describe in the present, past, and future. Intermediate speakers can also produce paragraph length discourse.
    • Deep experiential understanding of cultural morays (e.g., biculturalism or multiculturalism) of a specific group that experiences health disparities.
    • Demonstrated self-awareness about self as a cultural being and how the applicant’s cultural beliefs, values, and practices may impact medical services provision.
    • Demonstrated understanding of health beliefs and health practices of a specific group that experiences health disparities.
    • Demonstrated skills in navigating interpersonal exchanges with that specific group.
  3. Applicants who demonstrate intent to work as primary health providers in a rural or health disparity community upon completion of the Physician Assistant Studies program.
  4. Applicants who demonstrate financial need as determined by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship.
  5. Applicants with relevant school activities, community service, and work experiences that prepare them provide medical services to rural and/or health disparity populations.

[1] People who experience significant health disparities are Black Americans, Native Americans / American Indians, Latinx/Hispanics, migrant workers, refugees and also people who are rural, low-income, homeless, non-US citizens, experience a disability, or are members of a sexual minority group (LGB, T).

Applications for the Early Assurance Program will be accepted through the Grit Scholars application.  For more questions, please contact the academic advisor listed below.

1. Apply here: Grit Scholars Application

2. Submit contact and demographic information.

3. Submit college information.

4. Submit high school information.

5. Submit financial need information.

6. Submit a 3-minute (or shorter) video addressing the following:

  • Grit/Perseverance: Tell us about a time in which you persevered and what kept you going. What happened? How did you show perseverance? And, what was the result of your perseverance?
  • Social justice: How do you define social justice? Tell us about an action that you took to advance social justice that you are proud of.

7. Demonstrate proficiency in speaking a language other than English.

  • Submit a 3-5 minute video in the language of choice (notEnglish):
    • Tell us where you grew up, who was in your family, and what some typical activities were in your day. Feel free to provide detail on some specific memories (e.g., a memorable celebration, a funny story, a special family relationship that shaped you).


  • If the applicant has an ACTFL OPI rating, they may submit that in lieu of the video.

8. Submit a brief essay in English (500 words maximum) addressing the following: How would you describe your cultural background? How does your cultural background inform your world views? How does your cultural background inform your health beliefs, and health practices?

9. Submit one or two letters of reference. Strong letters will address at least two of the following:

  • Your dedication to your community
  • Your persevering character
  • Your intent on becoming a primary health care provider in a rural or health disparities
  • Your commitment to work with populations that experience health disparities

Letter(s) of reference cannot be from a family member or member of the clergy.

10. Submit a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae.

11. Submit a copy of your college transcripts.

After reviewing all applications, applicants will be ranked using information provided. Top ranked applicants will be invited to interview with the scholarship selection committee prior to final decision.

Following acceptance into the Early Assurance Program, the recipient must complete the following to maintain a provisional offer for admission to the ISU Physician Assistant Studies program:

  • Declare a minor in Pre-Physician Assistant
  • Obtain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 per semester
  • Receive a B or better in allpre-PAcoursework
    • Recipient should be on track to have a cumulative prerequisite course GPA of 3.5 by time of application to PA school
    • Students are allowed to retake prerequisites but must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better each semester
    • If recipient does not earn a B or better in prerequisite courses, they will be assessed by the selection committee for continuation in the Early Assurance Program
  • Enroll in a one credit pre-PA undergraduate course each semester
  • Complete at least one clinical shadowing internship per year
  • Participate in mentorship program
  • Meet the requirements for acceptance into the PA program as defined in the ISU Academic Catalog
  • Complete the following by November 1:
    • Take the GRE general test by November 1
    • Submit your CASPA application for the ISU Physician Assistant Studies program through CASPA by November 1
    • Submit your ISU Graduate School application by November 1
  • Complete application and admission process with the department of Physician Assistant Studies and ISU Graduate School

An interview with Paula Phelps, PA-C

How long have you been a Physician Assistant?

I have been a physician assistant for 25 years and I have always loved my job and the opportunities it has given me. Did you know that it is usually ranked as one of the top three jobs in America? money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings

Why do you like being a PA?

It is fulfilling! I get to take care of patients, use my intellect, all while doing something I value and making a living wage!

How much money do PA’s typically earn per year?

New graduates of Idaho State University’s PA program make an average of $95,000/year. PA’s in Idaho make an average salary of $110,000 to $116,000 and nationally, PA’s earn an average of $112,000 annually.(www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291071.htm)

What is your scope of practice?

I diagnose and treat patients, illnesses and diseases and counsel them on their path to wellness. www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-2

  1. See patients:
    • Take or review patients’ medical histories
    • Examine patients
    • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as x rays or blood tests
    • Diagnose a patient’s injury or illness
    • Give treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
    • Educate and counsel patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
    • Prescribe medicine
    • Assess and record a patient’s progress
    • Research the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care
    • Conduct or participate in outreach programs; talking to groups about managing diseases and promoting wellness
  2. PAs can work in the following settings: outpatient, inpatient, surgical, research, primary care, specialty care
  3. PAs are dependent practitioners, but have a high level of autonomy

What is the educational process?

Most PA programs are masters level and highly competitive. For the Fall 2020, ISU had 762 applications for 72 seats. The length of programs vary from 24-36 months, ISU is 24 months. To be accepted, students must meet the ISU prerequisite requirements:

Have a bachelor’s degree

Complete 6 prerequisite courses: Anatomy, Physiology, Statistics, Abnormal or Developmental Psychology, Microbiology, Biochemistry

Take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in all prerequisite courses, but the average for the entering class Fall 2020 was 3.86

Receive a competitive file score (Prerequisite GPA + (Quantitative GRE Percentile/100) + (Verbal GRE Percentile/100), for the Class of 2019 it had to be higher than 4.96 to even be considered for an interview.

Candidates should visit the admissions page for the most current statistics: edu/pa

PA education is Typically divided in two parts, Didactic and Clinical phase

ISU’s program is 24 consecutive months long, one year for each phase of training. The first year, students will take basic science courses and intro PA classes during the Fall semester. During the Spring semester and Summer students participate in the clinical medicine modules. The second year consists of 3 semesters of 5 week clinical rotations, graduate project and a series of board prep tests. Required rotations include: obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, OP, internal medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, emergency medicine, and an elective.

PA program updates.

Starting April 2021, ISU will be moving to a Holistic Admissions process, de-emphasizing the GRE.

New Pre-PA minor for undergraduates at ISU starting the Fall of 2021.

Undergraduate students who are intersted can apply for early decision at end of their sophomore year in college. If selected, the student will receive early admission into the program.

What happens after graduation? 

Program graduates will need to complete the following:

  1. National Board Exam, NCCPA (national commission on certification of PAs) www.nccpa.net/BecomingCertified
  2. Maintain certification with 100 hours of CME/2 years and recertification exam every 10 years. Primary care and some specialty exams may be required.
  3. Licensure is by each state.
  4. Credentialing is the process of verifying a PA’s credentials and is done by each clinic or hospital group.

For more information, please contact:

Valentín García

Grant Project Coordinator

(208) 282-2637



Kallee Valentine

Admissions Director

(208) 282-5473


This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,420,485 with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.


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