Mary Kate’s Answer
First off, it's really really competitive. Every year, more and more students are applying. Unfortunately, it's not the kept secret of the medical field like it used to be. So please don't go into the career as an "easier med school" type of thing. It is very challenging to get into and extremely challenging during the schoolwork too. You take just about all the same classes as medical students, but crammed into half the time. It is a grueling experience. Trust me... I'm there now.
Okay, so you've decided you are definitely sure you want to apply. Congratulations! You've chosen an awesome career path.
There are two main parts of getting into PA school: grades and medical experience.
Grades: You want your overall GPA and science GPA to be as high as you can get them. But more importantly, you want to really do great in your prerequisite classes. Every PA program is different, so make sure to check the one's you're thinking about applying to.
Medical Experience: This is what makes applying to PA school so unique. Nearly every school requires some kind of hands on medical experience. This can be as a nurse, paramedic, EMT, medical assistant, etc. The more hours you can get in a true hands-on medical experience, the better. Some programs accept scribe-work as hours, but some require that the experience involved putting your hands on the patient. I worked as an EMT; it was a great experience, and it did the job to get my into school.
In addition to grades and medical experience, you'll need a pretty good GRE score (but this doesn't seem to make or break people), volunteer hours in a healthcare setting, shadowing hours (so good for you for starting that), and letters of recommendation. You'll want to get the letters from a variety of mentors. I think a good formula is one professor, preferably from a prerequisite science course (but if you have a better relationship with one from a different class, use them), one PA (from work or shadowing), and then someone who worked above you in the medical field (MD, DO, PA, NP, etc), who can attest to your medical knowledge and work ethic.