Direct admission discontinued for Physician’s Assistant program

Photo of the Pharmacy Building by Adam Cvik.


Butler’s physician assistant program replaced their direct admit pathway with selective internal admission, in effect starting this fall.

Direct admit is the way Butler students majoring in health sciences go from undergrad to grad school. Once their Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences is completed, they are accepted into the PA graduate program. The direct admit pathway still applies to current health sciences majors on the pre-PA track.

Selective internal admission is the new pathway Butler students of any major can take to apply into the PA graduate program once they achieve a bachelor’s degree. The program accepts 75 students each year, of which selective internal admission reserves 45 spots for Butler students. Students applying through this process will have to complete the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, which is a standardized test often required for admission into graduate school.

The direct admit does not require this exam.

Ellen Myers, a sophomore on the pre-PA track, said the direct admit is a main reason why she chose Butler.

“It’s appealing because there’s not that uncertainty of, ‘If I do this program and I put in the time to become a PA, am I going to actually get into the program?’” Myers said.

PA program director Jennifer Snyder said there are only about 10 colleges with a direct admit out of the 215 programs in the country.

Before direct admit at Butler, there was only standard admission, which was open to graduates of any university. The standard admission required the GRE and the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. Applicants go through both an academic and non-academic evaluation, which consists of multiple mini-interviews.

The standard admission previously accepted 45 graduates, and will now only accept 30, allowing for more students from Butler to advance through the selective internal admission.

Butler’s direct admit option is only six years old and was implemented to increase enrollment into the PA program, Snyder said. She said she does not expect enrollment to decrease with the discontinuation of direct admit.

Amy Peak, director of the undergraduate health sciences program, was also a primary creator of the undergraduate degree.

“There is no doubt, I think, that my program will take a hit when the PA program decided that direct admit will be there,” Peak said. “But I think long-term, it’s a really good thing because people won’t any longer equate it with just the pre-PA program.”

Peak said health sciences is not just for the PA program. The undergraduate degree prepares students for a variety of other programs, such as pharmacy, physical therapy, and medical school. She said by discontinuing the direct admit, they are “trying to help students to tailor what their undergraduate experience would be to streamline their admission process into a graduate program,” whether it be PA or another healthcare profession.

Snyder said the selective internal admissions is a good compromise between the direct admit and standard admission. She said it is also a “significant win” for the university, the program, and the students — both PA and non-PA students.

Snyder said this new application process enables students to experience Butler’s liberal arts opportunities not only through the core curriculum but also through declaring a different major than health sciences. And then those students can bring new perspectives to fuel a rich discussion in the PA program.

Snyder said the selective internal admissions allows the program to evaluate students based off  their collegiate experience, not high school experience.

It opens the program to students who were not quite sure what they wanted to study out of high school.

Bronwyn Heidkamp, a junior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, already knows she wants to pursue PA as a profession.

Heidkamp has already shadowed a nurse, a physical therapist and a PA in cardiology.

“I fell in love with what [the nurse] did and how she did things and how she helped patients,” Heidkamp said, adding that she liked the flexibility a PA career gives and the scientific problem-solving component that nursing lacked.

Heidkamp said there is a slight possibility of changing direction, but she is determined to stay on the PA track.

Sophomore Myers’s desire to be a PA also started with an interest in the medical field.

“I shadowed one of my cousins, who’s a nurse in the labor and delivery ward, and I fell in love with it, but I wanted more responsibility than a nurse but I didn’t know if I wanted the long-term schooling of a physician,” Myers said. “It’s a happy medium and I also like the approach they have to medicine. That’s why I want to be a PA. Every time I shadow a PA for a class or I go to find more about the profession, I fall in love with it more.”

Snyder said the omission of direct admit is not a statement against the students who have direct admit status, but just allows those who have not decided on a career path to experiment with different fields.

Heidkamp said she would still major in health sciences.

“For other people, it’d be really cool if they did, like, art and combined that with health,” Heidkamp said. “But for me, it’s easier to stay focused and on track with just the health classes.”

Myers said there is a lot of focus on academics and grades right now instead of getting clinical experience because outside-class hours are not required for Butler’s direct admit.

The selective internal admission also does not require any previous healthcare experience, it is only recommended.

“We don’t get a lot of it, or as much as I think we should have, but we do get a lot of education about different things in health care and we’re required to take classes about insurance and that side of it too, so it is concerning that [selective internal applicants] won’t come in with any of that type of knowledge,” Myers said.

Those who apply for selective internal admission do have to fulfill prerequisites, such as a 3.4 grade point average and no lower than a C- in certain classes.

Myers said a science major will have a better chance of getting into the PA program.

“They say it’ll be open to everyone, and it will be, but I think they’ll look at the type of classes you chose to take and your rigorous schedule and how much you can handle,” Myers said. “They’ll take that into consideration when you’re applying too.”

Snyder said the program is equipped to teach non-health science majors the knowledge they need while the new students also apply “diversity of thought” and a “different flare”.

“They do look at more than just what your major was and what your GPA was,” Peak said. “Your major isn’t something they consider during the admission process. They’ll look at your GPA and science GPA, but then they’ll also look at other types of experience you have that are outside the classroom.”

The application process will still be very competitive, Snyder said, and the admission committee knows the students applying will be smart, regardless of their major.