The program neither requires nor recommends students earn their Bachelor's in any particular major or field of study. Students should select an academic major in which they are interested. Though many pre-PA students select a science major, such as biology, microbiology or chemistry, we have admitted PA students with majors in history, English, psychology and music. All students, regardless of major, will need to complete the prerequisites required in biology, chemistry, mathematics and psychology. Students may attend any accredited institution and pursue any major they choose, provided they complete courses which will meet our prerequisite requirements and earn an undergraduate degree.
We consider and admit to the program students from a wide variety of undergraduate institutions. There is probably less variability in the preparation students get from different institutions, than there is diversity among students' own interests and experiences. We have admitted students with degrees from many colleges and universities in the region and elsewhere, both public and private. It makes little difference where a student goes to school; it is more important how the student does academically and what else they do to prepare; healthcare experience, experience with PAs, maturing life experiences, learning about the healthcare system and the role they would like to play in healthcare, etc.
Students interested in our
PA Program do not need to earn their undergraduate degree from
UW-L. Matriculating at UW-L as an undergraduate may have
some advantages, but certainly should not be perceived as a
guarantee of admission. UW-L offers an exceptionally
strong preparation in both the sciences and the liberal arts,
and has a nice variety of majors from which to select. As
a smaller university UW-L students have many opportunities to
get to know their faculty and fellow students well.
Classes and labs are nearly always taught by faculty and
academic staff, rarely by teaching assistants.
For undergraduate students at UW-L who declare "pre-PA" as their second major, PA Program faculty provide academic advising. In this way we are able to help UW-L students make good choices along their pathway to applying to PA programs. Having two large health care institutions in La Crosse (Gundersen Lutheran and Franciscan Skemp) provides students with many excellent opportunities for work experience in healthcare. As faculty we get to know our pre-PA students well, certainly better than most students from other universities. Thus, we are probably able to make a better assessment of UW-L students' appropriateness for our program.
Of the students we have admitted in recent years about 1/3 have done their undergraduate work at UW-L, so we do admit more UW-L students than any other university. UW-L undergraduates have also been quite successful in seeking admission to other PA programs in the region and nationally.
High school students should take high level science and math courses to better prepare themselves for the science courses they will have to take immediately upon arriving on campus, whether here at UW-L or elsewhere. Students interested in pursuing PA will have to take lab courses in biology and/or chemistry their initial semester. Taking challenging courses in high school provides a solid foundation and easier transition to college level work.
We encourage high school students to take advanced placement courses, when available, however, know that not all PA programs will accept AP courses/credits towards meeting prerequisite course requirements. Even though the student may earn college credit for their AP exam performance, it is usually in the student's best interest to take these courses in college for credit and a grade.
High school students should job shadow various healthcare professionals to determine whether PA is the appropriate field for them. Spend a day shadowing a PA, another with a nurse practitioner, and a third with a physician. Observe the differences in their tasks and assignments, and what they can and cannot do.
PA programs expect students to accumulate healthcare experience, preferably involving direct patient contact. We recommend that high school students earn licenses or certifications to work towards this goal. Common examples are certified nursing assistant (CNA), phlebotomist, and emergency medical technician (EMT). Completing the courses necessary to earn certifications such as these while in high school provides the student with more time to earn experience.