PA Personal Statement: The Definitive Guide
Including 8 pa school personal statement examples.
Your PA personal statement is one of the most important PA school requirements . Writing a stellar PA personal statement is difficult for many students, however, this statement is vital for distinguishing your application from all the others and getting into the best PA schools . A well-crafted, memorable statement is your golden ticket to a PA school interview, so in today's blog, you'll learn what to include in your PA personal statement, common mistakes to avoid and you'll even be able to review PA personal statement examples.
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Article Contents 28 min read
Pa personal statement example #1.
During my kindergarten graduation, I walked on stage and gave my exit speech: “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher because it’s easy.” Reflecting back, I see the comedy in my naivety as every profession has its own unique challenges. I had no intention to pursue medicine, as I often had a sense of jealousy towards the field. Growing up, my mother was also attending school, first undergraduate then medical school. Exposed to the rigor and competition of higher education, she felt the need to share the importance of dedicating my time to education. While my classmates had work-free weekends, I spent my time completing extra homework, assigned by my mother. Initially, I misinterpreted her teachings as favoritism for studies over spending our days indulging in games.
My passion to become a physician assistant took root the day my grandmother fell from the top of a ladder. My mother shouted for my help with two simple tasks: grab a blanket and call 911. Trapped by fear and hesitation, I was unable to react. This response may seem understandable; however, I was my harshest critic and felt shame from my inability to aid. Sitting in the hospital waiting room, I reflected on my actions and vowed to never again be a mere observer. With this experience, my outlook on the medical field began to change from that of jealousy to intrigue. I started to understand that my mother’s intentions were not to spend less time with me but rather she aspired to be in a position where she could offer herself to support others, an attribute I strive to emulate. My kindergarten dreams to teach were expanded to embody care and compassion, with goals to empower and provide protection to others feeling helpless.
Aware of my lack of knowledge pertaining to handling trauma, I enrolled in an emergency medical response course that equipped me with the skills to handle unforeseen situations, and the strength to grow from criticism. Others questioned my ability to complete this physically rigorous course, given that my stature is a mere four feet and nine inches. Using this criticism as motivation, I excelled in the course and partook in a twelve-hour responder shift. This exhilarating experience strengthened my ambition to study medicine, as my interests lie in the shortcomings of human-design.
- This statement utilizes strong transitional sentences to link paragraphs which creates an easy-to-read essay with excellent flow.
- At the end of each experience, this student does an excellent job of reflecting. They discuss what they learned, why it was significant, and how it will help them in a career in medicine.
- Instead of discussing a variety of different experiences, the student focussed on quality experiences over quantity. This allows each experience, whether the experience with their grandmother or the experience as an emergency medical responder to really develop throughout the essay, ultimately creating a unifying theme that ties together well in the conclusion.
- The essay really comes to life due to the inclusion of details that describe experiences and interactions that were significant to the student such as time spent with their grandmother and patient interactions during shadowing.
The PA school personal statement is one of the most important of the PA school requirements .
Before you begin writing your physician assistant personal statement, it's important to understand the purpose of the personal statement. Essentially, your personal statement will serve as your introduction to admissions committees. It's a way for you to demonstrate why you have chosen to pursue medicine, and why you want to become a PA specifically.
Admissions committees want to understand where your first interest in becoming a physician assistant began, what memorable experiences you've had since that moment, and what steps you've taken towards turning that initial interest into desire and passion for the profession. As with all types of personal statements, your personal statement must address the “why” behind the profession. In this case, why do you want to be a PA? Why did you choose PA school over a related discipline, such as medical school or nursing school? What about the PA profession appeals to you and what have you done to explore the field? What contribution can you make to the PA profession?
Your PA personal statement is the first introduction of who you are and serves as a first impression to the admissions committees. It’s also a way to clinch a PA school interview and move on to the final round of admissions evaluations.
Keep in mind that you'll also be expected to answer this question, and other common PA school interview questions during your interview, so be sure to reflect a bit on your answer and craft a strong response for both your personal statement and your interview answer. Similar questions to this can come up during your PA school interview essay or you can explore your “why” when you’re asked “tell me about yourself” during your interview.
In short, your personal statement is an important tool to getting through the initial rounds of PA school admissions, it provides background information on you to admissions committees and puts a face to your application.
Here's a summary of the requirements for PA school:
How to Write A Killer PA Personal Statement
#1 be honest..
No two personal statements should be alike, each person has had their own set of experiences that have led them to want to pursue this vocation. So don't try to fabricate your statement or exaggerate your experiences. Instead, be honest, tell the admissions committees about your exposure to medicine, what you've learned, how you've grown, what you have accomplished, why it was important and how all of these experiences led to you wanting to become a PA. Don’t try to butter up the admissions committee or make grand statements. Stick to the main reasons why you want to be a PA and why you want to pursue the profession specifically.
#2 Highlight your experiences and skills appropriately.
You want to highlight a few experiences that have helped you understand more about the life and work of a PA and ultimately helped solidify your decision to pursue this field. You can talk about your reasons for choosing PA vs MD if its relevant to your experience. Reflect on the instances that sparked your interest in the field or made you consider a career as a PA. Think about your volunteering, shadowing, and clinical experiences and reflect on any moments that have stood out for you or were significant in developing your interest in the profession. Remember to use details and specific examples to highlight the skills and lessons you earned from these experiences. Perhaps your participation in creating a treatment plan for a particular patient stood out for you or you witnessed an interaction between a physician assistant and a patient during your shadowing that gave you further insight into the profession. In short, you need to be able to answer why the PA is the best route for you, and what you’ve done to prepare yourself for this career.
Additionally, you can draw on related experiences and skills you’ve developed that will help you reach your goals as a future PA. For example, if you want to work specifically with underserved communities, and you’ve taken on volunteering opportunities that put you into contact with such communities, this is a great experience to include in both your personal statement or as some of the best extracurriculars for PA school . If you want to work among immigrant or refugee communities and took the time to learn a new language in order to better communicate with these individuals, that will not only show initiative, but also dedication to effectively communicating with patients you want to help serve in the future. Also think about which of the PA specialties you might want to work in and what experiences you have which can contribute to this specialty.
When it comes to sitting down and writing your PA personal statement, it's important to note that the most successful statements are those that tell a story. Not unlike a medical school personal statement , your PA personal statement is not a recitation of your CV. Listing accomplishments, awards, and your education will not interest the admissions committee. That information is already available in your medical school resume and elsewhere in your application; the personal statement is a piece of art, not a dry informational document. It should allow members of the admissions committee to gain insight into your personal story and take them on your journey to becoming a PA.
Stories are excellent for a few different reasons. First, stories are interesting. As humans, we tend to be drawn to stories, we love books, movies, articles - anything that allows us to be transported to another time, another place, another experience. If the story is well written, it moves us by eliciting an emotional response from us. Whether that is happiness, sadness, compassion, love, desire, or amusement, stories have the power to affect us and that's exactly what you want the admissions committees to experience: emotion. Emotional content is powerful content, and it leaves an impact. It's memorable, it stays with you, and it stands out.
In addition to being captivating, writing your personal statement in the form of a story is also beneficial because it helps tell your story in a chronological manner. The last thing you want, other than a boring personal statement, is one that doesn’t make sense and leaves admissions committee members confused. Jumping from one point in time to the next, from one experience to the next without order will only create a disjointed, unstructured essay. Instead, tell your story chronologically, beginning with an introduction to your interest or exposure to medicine, flowing into a few significant experiences throughout your life, and ending with a powerful conclusion that ties the entire essay together.
#4 Be Original.
You are not like anyone else; despite what you might think, you're an original personal with individual thoughts, experiences, and interests. Don't get sucked into using clichés, common quotes, and unoriginal statements. It's not about writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear such as “I want to be a doctor because I want to help people” or “I've always dreamed of becoming a doctor”.
Let your personal statement highlight what makes you unique as an applicant, how your personal qualities complement the profession, and what skills and key competencies you can bring to the entering class. Overall, it's important to consider what experiences and skills distinguish you from other applicants. Admissions committees will be reviewing hundreds if not thousands of PA school personal statements; what is going to make your statement stand out? What do you have to offer? How can you contribute to the profession?
What makes a strong PA personal statement?
Let your personal statement highlight what makes you unique as an applicant! "}]'>
Why show, don’t tell is the #1 rule to follow for personal statements:
Common PA Personal Statement Mistakes to Avoid
#1 reciting your cv..
Admissions committees already have this information so this isn't suitable for your personal statement. Focus on quality of experiences. When brainstorming, write down the most significant experiences, either professional or personal, which led to you pursuing a career as a PA.
#2 Casting yourself as the victim.
Many people have experienced difficult situations, such as emigrating from another country or suffering an injury. This can be powerful to discuss in your PA personal statement, but only if you can show resilience and ensure you're not playing the victim. As a general rule of thumb, be sure to only include an experience if you can discuss how it shapes you as a person, how it helped you grow, and will help you become a better future physician assistant.
#3 Telling instead of showing.
It's not enough to say statements such as “I am a good listener” or “My experience shadowing has made me compassionate”. You need to show, or demonstrate, how you are a good listener, and how shadowing has helped you become compassionate. Discuss how interacting with patients helped you develop compassion or how your listening skills helped a specific patient with their problem. Discuss real experiences that can support and provide evidence for any statements.
The opening sentence in your PA school personal statement is the hook for your entire essay. If it's not enticing, unique, and memorable, you risk your essay blending in with the thousands of other admissions essays and ending up at the bottom of the pile. Your opening sentence and paragraph need to be engaging, you want to create a sense of desire so that admission committee members won't want to put down your statement, they should want to continue reading to find out the rest of your story. Remember that admissions committees tend to read these essays quickly, so if you don’t grab their attention right away, your essay will be quickly forgotten. PA school personal statement editing can be a big help in rewriting or tweaking your essay so it is polished and engaging. It’s always a good idea to get another set of eyes on your essay, too, to make sure there are no mistakes or get objective feedback. For students who want professional feedback on their work, expert physician assistant application help can be a great resource to use.
Having trouble writing a good introduction? Check out our tips:
#5 Failing to have a strong conclusion.
Just like a strong introduction, a good conclusion bookends a strong PA personal statement. A strong concluding paragraph not only sums up the main points of your previous paragraphs, but it should end on an engaging note. You want to leave the admissions committee wanting to know more about you, as this makes them more likely to call you for an interview. Your conclusion should be more than just “this is why I’ll make a good PA”, or “and that is why the PA profession is for me.” Your conclusion should bring back your main points, but an excellent closing statement can call back to your engaging opening sentence while also inviting the reader to continue the conversation.
#6 Relying on clichés.
The purpose of your PA personal statement is to stand out, not blend in. So don't use clichés and popular quotes that are tired and dry. Be original and use your own thoughts instead of the thoughts of others. It can be easy to fall into the habit of using common phrases or cliched language, but revising your draft can help you pick these out and rewrite them.
#7 Failing to reflect.
Any experience you describe in your PA personal statement should be followed by thoughtful reflection. You can't simply state that you worked as a research assistant in a lab and contributed to a publication. Think about why you want to discuss an experience in the first place and always be answering, why was it significant? What did you learn from it? How will it help you in your career as a physician assistant? How did this experience encourage me to become a PA? Your personal statement should demonstrate a deeper understanding of yourself and your goals, so self-reflection and self-insight is key here. While you’re brainstorming ideas for your personal statement, take some time to ask yourself these questions.
#8 Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Your PA personal statement should be free from all errors and mistakes. Keep in mind that your personal statement is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Mistakes indicate that you rushed your statement, are not detail-oriented and that you're not really invested in your potential career. An excellent PA personal statement has been through many revisions and has had multiple reviewers. It's a good idea to seek professional help such as a medical school advisor not only to ensure your statement is free from errors but so that you can receive personalized feedback on your statement to ensure you are putting your best self forward.
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7 More PA Personal Statement Examples
Pa personal statement example #2, pa personal statement example #3.
I have one person to thank for inspiring me to become a physician assistant: my great-grandmother Lucia. She was the catalyst behind me entering health care, and she is also the reason I’ve decided to change my career and apply to PA school and start a new direction in my professional life. My great-grandmother was never the sort to be content with simply standing still or not taking chances, and from a young age she encouraged me to chase my passion and pursue work that fulfills me. Having reached a point in my professional life that I need to take a chance, I recalled my great-grandmother’s sage advice.
As a child, my family and I visited my great-grandmother at her nursing home whenever possible. Although the drive was long, it was worth it to spend a few hours in her company. She was a funny, bright and charming woman, and to a child, her stories of growing up on a homestead in the early 20 th century were fascinating and eye-opening. She never seemed to be afraid of anything, whether it be moving across the country, welcoming another child or standing up for herself. Spending time with my great-grandmother and her neighbors gave me an appreciation for seniors and the stories they could tell me. Now, I remember pieces of stories from people who came from all diverse backgrounds and circumstances: a retired police officer from St. Louis, a former nanny who spoke 4 languages, a classical musician who once played in Carnegie Hall. My experiences with my great-grandmother and her neighbors stayed with me as I grew up, and after graduating I decided to become a CNA. I worked in several nursing homes and eventually, I began working as a hospice care worker.
Working in hospice was a fulfilling experience for me because I was able to spend longer periods of time with patients and once again get to hear their stories and all about their lives. I met many incredible people, including a Vietnam war veteran, a former jazz singer, and a housewife who raised 8 children, had never learned to drive but tried skydiving for the first time when she was in her 60s. Hospice care allowed me to form stronger bonds of friendship with the seniors in my care, and it reignited the spark I’d felt when visiting my great-grandmother, who at that point had passed on. In my work I found the passion that Lucia told me to look for and also the fulfillment of knowing that I was providing meaningful physical, mental and emotional care to my patients.
As personally fulfilling as my position was, I knew that it would not be a position I could stay in forever. Hospice care is a professionally demanding job, and it can be emotionally and mentally challenging. When I reached a point of having itchy feet, as Lucia put it, I knew it was time to think about next steps. I briefly returned to working in a local hospital as a CNA and shadowed two nurses and a PA to get a better idea of the kind of work I could transition to. After examining my shadowing experiences, my work history, and listening to Lucia’s voice in the back of my head, I knew that applying to PA school was the next step. Being a PA would let me keep working closely with the patients I loved working with, but allow me flexibility and variety—a breath of fresh air and a welcome change.
I know my great-grandmother Lucia would approve of my choice of work and my care of others, and that she would smile at seeing me stop thinking and do something to change my life when I’m not satisfied. Most of all, I thank her for instilling in me a sense of care and helping me be attuned to myself, so I can confidently start this new path in my life. (656 words)
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PA Personal Statement Example #5
I started caring for my first patient when I was 8 years old. My younger sister, Amelia, was only 3, and because of her chronic health conditions, including asthma and various allergies, our mother frequently brought her into the health clinic for check-ups, blood draws and chest scans. Since I was too young to be left alone, I was part of the after-school doctor’s visit routine. My sister, who like many children dreaded the phlebotomist coming at her with a needle, hated these visits. To help her feel better and manage her fears, I took on the role of sisterly caregiver. I held her hand during every blood draw, talked her through every scan and did my best to distract her from anything new and scary. Seeing how my efforts calmed her and made the doctor’s visits less anxiety-inducing, I committed to being her “doctor-buddy” and going with her for any health-related appointments.
After dozens of appoints, both for my sister, myself and other siblings, I began to recognize our regular nurses and medical assistants by name. They were always kind to me and my siblings, offering comforting words and lollipops. I began to anticipate seeing the various nurses, phlebotomists and scribes, talking their ears off about school or soccer practice. The doctors we met rotated with every visit, and our time with them was always short, as they had many other patients to see at the busy clinic.
Thinking that being a nurse was more fulfilling than being a doctor, and having acted as my sister’s carer, I decided in high school that nursing school would be my goal. I worked hard at school, taking the necessary courses and taking a volunteer position with a mobile health clinic that served hard-to-reach areas in our community. All too soon, I found the work dissatisfying. Because we were a mobile clinic, we were always on the move to the next patient. I couldn’t take my time with each patient and form a bond, as I had with my sister and her nurses. I didn’t feel I was getting the experience or developing the level of patient care I aspired to. I switched to working in a nearby rural St. Joseph hospital as a medical assistant, and there I found the work experience I was craving. I enjoyed working with underserved patients in the rural areas, but I wanted to spend more time with patients instead of paperwork, and I liked having a home base to stay at.
It was here that I met Carmen, one of a handful of physician assistants in the area. She was a constant presence a St. Joseph’s, and since everyone knew everyone, everybody knew Carmen. She had a warm personality and a well-known sharp wit, so she was a great teammate to work with no matter your position in the hospital. When it came to patients, she knew everyone. When a long-term care patient had a birthday, Carmen was organizing the celebration with other residents. When a child came in for a check-up, Carmen was right there asking them about school and family. Carmen exemplified the kind of personalized patient care I aspired to and knew that patients like my sister and I appreciated so much.
Carmen became a mentor to me, and I asked her about her journey to becoming a PA. Since Carmen knew my plan was to become a nurse, she told me “we have many excellent nurses her, but we need more excellent PAs to fill the gaps between nurses and doctors—there are too many patients and too many health workers spread thin. PAs can be the bridge that our patients need.”
Carmen’s words stuck with me and realizing that she was right inspired me to reroute my intended path into healthcare. There is a need for diverse healthcare workers of every discipline, and PAs are underrepresented compared to nurses and doctors. As a PA, I know I have a better chance of increased patient interaction and entering the kind of workplace environment I enjoy. I believe as a PA I’ll be able to excel in work and bring my passion for patient-centred care to my job every day. (698 words)
Synergy has always been important to me. I’ve always liked balance and seeing projects through to completion. The sense of fulfillment of a job well done is a satisfying cap for any task. Teamwork and collaboration are important values for me in both personal and professional environments. These values were never more apparent to me than when I played college volleyball.
I’m a fairly independent person, but competing on my college’s volleyball team allowed me to appreciate the synergy of a team sport. As someone who abhorred the lack of synergy and teamwork in most academic group projects, competing with my teammates was a great balance between relying on my own independent skills and knowing I could count on the efforts and skills of other players. Alone, I knew I could score a point, but as team, we could win a tournament. In fact, our volleyball team won nationals two years in a row, and we completed the Wild Rose Collegiate Volleyball Tournament undefeated. I found that seeing my teammates work so hard made me strive to work just as hard. To push myself and become a better player so I could be a better teammate in turn.
Just as my volleyball team was able to work in sync to achieve our high-level goals, the medical team was a perfect example of teamwork and collaboration. They cared for the team’s players throughout our seasons, monitoring their health or jumping in to tend injuries or handle crises whenever needed. All parts of our team worked together to help each other excel, and the resulting synergy meant we could achieve remarkable things.
Since I excelled in school and was always drawn to the science of sports, I started exploring a career in sports health. I talked often to the volleyball medical team, curious about the ins and outs of a career in sports medicine and what the possibilities were. I also knew sports medicine would provide that special blend of teamwork and independent work, of science and health I was seeking.
Knowing of my interest in the field, my brother offered to introduce me to his college hockey team’s medical officer. A physician assistant by trade, Adam had been working with the team for several years, and like me, he shared an interest in sports and medicine. I asked to shadow Adam for a season, and he agreed. Whenever a player was injured, I assisted Adam in treating it. When Adam conducted regular check-ins, I served as his assistant, getting to know the players on the team and collaborating with Adam on treatment plans. Especially rewarding for me was creating a physiotherapy treatment plan with Adam for Blake, a player who tore his ACL. Where insurance fell short of covering his sessions with a licensed physiotherapist, Adam and I created a personalized plan for at-home treatment, and we followed up with Blake every week during practices to check on his progress. Seeing Blake through his recovery and back onto the ice was immensely satisfying, and the collaborative energy of Adam and I working together and problem-solving was an incredibly rewarding experience.
Adam was my guide to the PA profession, and offered me invaluable insights into what the work is like, especially getting into a niche specialty like sports medicine. He helped solidify my position to apply to your school, and he has graciously written me a recommendation letter for my application.
I have never been satisfied with one thing or the other, always looking for that perfect combination. That perfect niche. I think becoming a PA is the right foundation for my ultimate goal of specializing in sports medicine, and it will embody that synergy of multiple disciplines coming together to create something altogether better. (623 words)
PA Personal Statement Example #7
In 2009, I was one of the only women in the world to perform a triple twisting lay out on the floor exercise in gymnastics. The skill was rare because of the combination of proprioception and technique required. Even the most minute error could spell disaster, which is exactly what happened during a NCAA competition. I executed the skill at an extreme angle, rupturing my Achilles tendon as I launched into the air. Feeling lucky to have landed on my feet, I collapsed to the floor after a few clumsy steps. The athletic trainer immediately assessed my injury calmly and purposefully, which left a lasting impression. Not only did she take care of me in that moment, she continued to support me through my surgery, 8 months of physical therapy, and a successful comeback to the sport. As a college student, I was uncertain of my future career, but this moment inspired me to make it my mission to be equipped with the skills to be of use in a moment of need, and support others in recovery and success. However, it would take ten years, a teaching career, a job lay-off and an insightful conversation to find my way to physician assistant (PA) school.
Before embarking on my journey to become a PA, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in communications, and I went on to work in Madrid, Spain, where I taught English and learned Spanish for 3 years. I strived to tailor my instruction to the unique needs of each student; a skill that has prepared me to provide individualized care to meet patient’s needs. One of my students wanted to become more marketable to jobs. I curated lessons to build grammar and vocabulary while incorporating resources he was interested in such as sports podcasts. I helped him practice interviews and draft emails until he landed his dream job at a multinational company. This instilled my confidence in supporting the success of my students and it felt rewarding to pave a way for more opportunities in their lives.
My next opportunity would prove less rewarding but pivotal. When I returned to the United States, I landed a job at a marketing firm that would fold and lay off its entire staff two years later. This ultimately led to a conversation with my friend, a urologist, which opened my eyes to many unmet medical needs and the growing demand for PAs. I saw my use through the combination of my ability as a teacher to help others succeed and my experience recovering from my gymnastics injury to be an integral source of support and care. I felt the pieces of my mission fit together and embarked on my journey to become a PA.
I took action to get health care experience as a medical assistant (MA) and physical therapy (PT) aide. Working as a MA at memory care facilities, I have gained insight into patient interaction and built my compassion by spending time with each patient to explain procedures in a slow and concise manner to gain their trust. As a PT aide, I collaborate with the physical therapist but independently administer treatment to diverse patients with a patient-centered approach. On one occasion, I supported two patients recovering from a hip replacement. I intended to give them both the same exercises for treatment, but I learned that Patient A had neuropathy in his feet, making standing exercises unsuitable due to his inability to balance. I modified exercises to be done seated and provided balance support when necessary. Additionally, Patient B’s religious values precluded her from accepting therapy in the communal treatment area, so I set up a private space for her. Accommodating these specific medical needs and sociocultural values helped me understand the importance of providing individualized care that is attuned to patient’s unique circumstances. Though these roles have been formative, I feel a nagging sense of futility when patients come to me for additional medical treatment beyond my scope, which fuels my ambition toward becoming a PA. I aim to have the medical knowledge to comprehensively treat with a balance of autonomy and collaboration.
I observed this balance when shadowing Sallie C., an otolaryngology PA. She assessed a patient with a foreign body in his ear, planned a procedure for removal but proved to be unexpectedly complex. She collaborated with the physician and the case was resolved with surgery. Through this, I also saw how PAs fill gaps in the healthcare system by treating, diagnosing, and prescribing medication, thus increasing the number of patients that are treated every day with quality care.
I aspire to fill these gaps and provide quality care and support to patients in moments of need, much like my athletic trainer did for me. If compassion, collaboration, and versatility make a successful PA, then the combination of my experiences has uniquely prepared me to succeed.
At the core of my teaching and health care experiences is my desire to become a PA to grow my medical skills to serve diverse individuals and ensure their health needs are met over the next ten years and beyond.
When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with a fibroadenoma in my left breast. Although the mass was benign, I was concerned about potential complications of breast cancer and made the decision to have it surgically removed. After I recovered from the anesthesia, my surgeon pulled up a chair beside me and gave me his undivided attention. He reassured me that the surgery was a success and that my recovery would be uneventful. His compassion and unwavering support during this difficult time inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. Today, I strive to become a physician assistant (PA) so I can embody the same level of empathy and care with my future patients.
During my internal medicine rotation at Richmond Medical Center (RUMC) in 2010, I acquired the skills necessary to succeed in the medical field. There, I was responsible for taking histories, conducting physical exams, creating patient management plans, completing morbidity and mortality rounds, and attending lectures with the residents. During rounds, I introduced patients to the attending doctor and discussed plans of care. I also helped interns by following labs, imaging studies, and reporting any concerns or complaints. I learned good bedside manners and how to effectively communicate with patients and their families. Not only did I understand how to establish rapport with patients, but I also learned how to respond to criticism constructively and confirm suspected diagnoses. I also understood how to apply my medical knowledge to manage and treat conditions such as asthma, COPD, and urinary tract infections. As a PA, I will continuously build on my expertise to improve the care of my patients.
A PA is more impactful than people realize. At RUMC, I was inspired by one PA in particular. Intrigued by her competency, I often inquired with her about the profession. Her continuous emphasis on the patient-centered approach is what initially drew me to the field. My interest in becoming a PA solidified when I was able to put this approach into practice. During one of my rotations, a 90-year-old Alzheimer’s patient was admitted to the unit with a urinary tract infection. Quickly, she became restless, irritable, and confused, and she tried to pull out the IV. Since the attending physician was unavailable, I proceeded to care for the patient. While holding her hand, I reassured her that we were there to help, and I explained that she needed the IV medication to get better. Soon after, she calmed down and we were able to continue the treatment. At that moment, I understood why I wanted to be a PA. From my personal experience I know very well that being sick can make one feel vulnerable and scared. I also know that having empathetic medical professionals can make a big difference in the patient experience and the outcome of care. I aspire to be a PA not only to be skillful and competent in my profession but also to be fully present for my patients and to extend a compassionate hand to them when they are at a low point in their lives.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been volunteering in a free clinic where I extend empathy and care to the underserved community. Last year, I attended to a homeless patient named James. He complained that his eyes and skin were yellowing and that he was bruising easily. When I took James’s history, he disclosed that he had been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder and was unsuccessful in AA. Based on his history and physical exam, I suspected alcoholic liver disease, so I ordered various clinical tests to confirm the diagnosis. The next day before we could discuss his test results, I found him lying near the front door of the clinic, unconscious. I called 911 and performed CPR until he was taken to the hospital where he was treated for an upper GI bleed. Two months later, James passed away from severe recurrence. Through this experience, I recognized the importance of conducting thorough patient screenings and extensive clinical tests to facilitate a prompt diagnosis and an early treatment plan. While it was already too late to save James, as a PA I will ensure that patients in my care receive timely preventive care to reduce the risk of future health complications.
Throughout my life, I have learned that I am strong and competent enough to relate to other people’s suffering without falling apart, and that I have a good work ethic with the intrinsic motivation necessary to get the job done. When I get admitted to the Miami Dade College Physician Assistant Program, I will contribute my life experiences, my determination to overcome obstacles, my desire to work in teams, and my enthusiasm to learn. Five years from now, I see myself working as a competent physician assistant, providing healthcare services to medically underserved residents in urban and rural communities. This time, I will be the one who pulls up the chair and provides my patients with undivided attention. I will be their reliable source of compassion and support.
Your personal statement will be structured as a short essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. Your opening paragraph should serve as a short introduction of yourself and why you want to become a PA. The body paragraphs will outline specific examples or experiences you have which contributed to your journey to become a PA, and the conclusion will sum up your statement while inviting the reader to continue the conversation.
To write a good personal statement for PA school, you’ll need an intriguing and engaging introduction, 1-3 significant experiences or examples of how you are suited for the PA profession or why you want to become a PA, and a strong conclusion which invites admissions committees to learn more about you.
Your PA school personal statement should be between 500 and 750 words. The typical limit for personal statements if 5,000 characters, with spaces included.
PA school admissions committees are interested in your personal statement because they want to know more about your background, personal qualities and why you want to become a PA. It should include significant personal and professional experiences you have which led you to the profession and contributed to your desire to become a PA. Admissions committees expect to see some self-reflection and insight into your goals and motivations. They also want to see that you have the skills and qualities of a good physician assistant.
The best way to stand out in a PA personal statement is to have both strong writing and a strong story. Admission committees will read thousands of personal statements outlining many different stories, but you can stand out by providing interesting details and weaving an engaging story. The details of a personal story will be remembered more clearly by your reader than generic statements about your experience shadowing a PA, so remember to personalize your essay and make it unique!
In a PA statement, avoid reciting your resume or relying on cliches. It’s also important not to have any grammar or spelling mistakes. Most importantly, don’t talk about pursuing a career as a PA due to a failed medical school application or because you view it as a “back-up” option. You should have a strong reason for applying to PA school specifically, not because it is “easier” than medical school or related professions.
Yes. You should write out “physician assistant” in the first instance, but you can include the “PA” abbreviation in follow-up instances.
Your opening statement needs to “hook” your reader or engage them right off the bat. A good way to start is with a personal story or statement that sums up the key theme of your essay.
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January 31, 2023
Writing Your PA School Personal Statement with Impact [Including a Bonus PA Personal Statement Example]
Becoming a physician assistant (PA) has become a hot career goal, and it’s getting hotter all the time. Over the past several years, applications have more than tripled at some of the most competitive programs, and acceptance rates have dipped to as low as about 30% – lower than the acceptance rate at many medical schools.
For you to stand out in this crowded field, your personal statement for your PA application has got to shine from the first sentence to the last. It needs to tell a compelling story that focuses on your sustained interest in the field while at the same time building a case for your qualifications.
The character limit for the CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) personal statement is 5,000 characters with spaces . (Some people at first believe this is 5,000 words and end up having to make severe cuts to their overwritten drafts. Don’t let this happen to you!)
The following successful essay responds to the question, “Why PA?” After reading this essay, you’ll understand why this candidate was accepted into a PA program. The individual has given permission for their essay to be shared publicly. All personal identifiers and details have been removed to protect their privacy.
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PA School Personal Statement Example
I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach. She quickly called my mom who took me to several different doctors as the “bug bites” continued to spread all over my body. None of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me until I saw a Dermatology PA. He immediately diagnosed me with a delayed allergic reaction. He gave me a medication that almost immediately made the hives disappear. I no longer struggled to open my eyes! It was like magic! To this day, I still have no idea what caused that allergic reaction, but I am grateful for this experience because it introduced me to a PA who continued to touch my life and cultivate my interest in medicine and healthcare.
Year after year, my love of learning continued to flourish. I began taking gifted classes in math and science in the fifth grade and continued to take honors and advanced placement classes when I reached high school. In addition to my studies, I also began to play volleyball and softball. Through these sports, I learned the skills that a textbook could not teach me, such as accountability, integrity, teamwork , and leadership. Through my academic achievements, active participation in numerous school clubs, and leadership role as the captain of my volleyball team, my high school nominated me to participate in a National Youth Leadership Forum in the summer of ——. I attended lectures by a PA, a nurse, a chiropractor, a veterinarian, and several physician specialists. In addition to the lectures and countless group activities, I visited several medical facilities. In one of the labs, I saw a table displaying human organs infected with different diseases and cancers. To my surprise, I was eager to touch them and learn why the people they once belonged to could not have been saved. From that experience on, I became determined to pursue medicine.
My interest in the PA profession quickly became a driving force in my life after my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma in February —— and quickly passed away in October of that year. I was devastated upon hearing her diagnosis. How could this happen when she went to the Dermatologist every three to six months? The same Dermatology PA who had healed me with his “magic pills” spent a significant amount of time with my mom after her diagnosis. He met with her and my dad following a long day of seeing patients, to determine if he had missed something in her regular exams. He also made himself available to my entire family and recommended specialists and experimental treatments. He explained everything we did not understand along the way. It is because of the compassion, sincerity, and care he provided to my mom and my family during this difficult time that I became certain I wanted to pursue my love of medicine as a PA.
Throughout my undergraduate career as well as the time since I graduated, I have continued to explore the medical field to learn as much as I can about becoming a PA. Through countless hours of shadowing and volunteering as a medical assistant at —— Dermatology, I have learned how crucial teamwork, effective communication, detailed note taking, and compassion are for effective patient care. There have been numerous instances where doing a simple and nearly painless biopsy could have turned into a serious and most certainly uncomfortable medical situation. By taking thorough patient histories, accurately noting any allergies, and verbally communicating these notes to the practitioner, I have been able to ensure that patients receive the best care possible while averting any avoidable crises.
Every challenge and opportunity that I have encountered since I was the itchy little girl sitting in Mrs. Russell’s class has brought me to this decision. My mom’s passing has only made me more passionate about this profession and has given me a new appreciation for life that I hope to share with my patients and community. With my love of learning and helping others as well as the skill set I will gain from a PA program, I am certain that I will have the tools needed to become a valued member of a larger care team. I am eager to see how these opportunities will positively impact not only my life, but also the lives of others.
What makes this PA personal statement so good?
This essay shows that the writer invested the question “Why PA?” with a great deal of thought. It is exceptional for the following reasons:
- The writer specifically explains “why PA” from the first paragraph to the last. She writes with honesty and skill, directly responding to the essay prompt. Each paragraph illustrates an additional reason why becoming a PA is the only profession for her. She builds her case by discussing her academic achievements (AP and honors classes in math and science), shadowing and volunteering as a medical assistant, and learning to appreciate the essential “soft skills” of compassion, sincerity, and care in a PA, which convinces the reader that she is grateful toward, dedicated to, and thirsts for knowledge in the field of medicine. For these reasons, the candidate was invited to interview and received an acceptance.
- The writer demonstrates a pattern of behavior and involvement that supports her educational goal. In my experience, past behavior predicts future behavior . This candidate’s pattern of behavior aligns with the work and responsibilities of a PA. With a love of learning and teamwork, as demonstrated by the experiences she chose in the medical arena, the writer proves through her long-term involvement with medicine that she will seamlessly fit into the role of PA. It is clear how much effort she has invested into preparing for this career.
- An appealing balance of personal motivations and professional goals are represented in the essay. From her childhood experience of being successfully treated by a PA to appreciating the clinical skill and sensitivity of PAs she encountered over the years, this writer’s motivations are a perfect blend of the personal and the professional. She writes convincingly about why this career path will be so meaningful on multiple levels. Drawing on both her personal contact with the profession and her preparation for it convinces readers of the variety and depth of her commitment. Each paragraph builds from personal to professional motivations, culminating in a conclusion where she ties these two threads together.
The profession of PA continues to grow in stature and popularity. This means not only that your academic stats and professional experience must be topflight but also that your essay cannot afford to be anything less than outstanding. It’s a tall order, but with thought, planning, and guidance, you can do it.
We want to help you get accepted to the PA program of your dreams! Our experienced consultants will guide you in creating the exceptional application and personal statement to make your dreams a reality. Check out our Physician Assistant CASPA Application Package today!
- Temple University’s Postbac Programs: A Plethora of Possibilities , a podcast episode
- All About Duke’s Top-Ranked PA Program , a podcast episode
- More Grad School Sample Essays
- How to Get Accepted to Physician Assistant Programs
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Sign up to our newsletter, pa school personal statement: complete guide + examples.
Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
If you’re applying to a Physician’s Assistant program, you will be asked to write a personal statement. Continue reading as we outline the dos and don'ts of your PA school personal statement.
Are you wondering how to write a unique, stand-out personal statement for PA school? We’ve got you covered with our complete guide to writing a stellar personal statement.
This one document has the power to set you apart from the competition, giving admissions committees a deeper understanding of who you are beyond your academic achievements and test scores.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the dos and don'ts of crafting a compelling personal statement that will leave a lasting impression.
Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement
How To Write a Strong PA School Personal Statement
The first step is understanding what a personal statement is. A personal statement is a piece of writing that shares who you are to admissions committees. Many programs like humanities and social sciences ask applicants to write personal statements to learn about the applicant on a more intimate level.
Unlike a statement of purpose, a personal statement focuses more on you and your interests and hobbies rather than academic achievements and accomplishments.
A personal statement is usually less formal and may take a storytelling approach as you share how your experiences have shaped you and led you to apply to the specific program.
While the tone is less formal than a statement of purpose, make sure your personal statement is well-written and engaging to your reader. You should proofread and edit your writing multiple times before submitting it.
When writing a personal statement, think about answering some of the following questions:
- Why did you pick this program?
- What experiences do you have that makes you a good candidate for the Program?
- What can you bring to the program?
- What can the program bring to you?
- What achievements are you proud of?
- What setbacks or challenges have you overcome?
- What are your career goals, and how does this program help you achieve them?
As most personal statements are about 500 to 600 words, or two pages double-spaced, you won’t have the space to answer all of these questions. Pick a few to focus on.
Now that we have a pretty good understanding of the expectations and tone of a personal statement let's discuss how to write a strong personal statement for PA school.
The first thing to do before you begin writing is to read the school’s instructions carefully. Different schools may ask you to include specific pieces of information in your statement. The key to impressing the admissions committee is to demonstrate that you are detail-oriented and have actually read through the instructions.
Admission committees for PA schools want to know if you are right for the field before admitting you into the program. If they think you won’t make a good PA, then they most likely won’t accept your application.
Your personal statement for a PA school should demonstrate why you want to be a Physician Assistant and why you would make a good PA. When writing your statement, highlight specific attributes and characteristics that make up a good PA. Some specific traits to highlight may include:
- Attention to Detail
- Emotional Intelligence
All of these traits make up a successful Physician Assistant . Use specific examples from your personal experience to show off your great traits. As the saying goes, show, don’t tell. Pick a couple of examples that demonstrate you possess one or more of these traits for your personal statement.
Successful PA essays are not about job experience; in fact, you should think of a well-rounded approach to medicine. For example, think of extracurricular activities that have shaped your interest in medicine and helped you grow as a person.
Make sure to work on your personal statement well in advance of submitting your application. This will help ensure you have ample time for revisions, meet the application deadlines and can present the best possible version of yourself to the admissions committee.
What To Avoid In Your Personal Statement for PA School
There are a lot of tips on how to write a good personal statement for med school that you can use for a PA personal statement. However, it is important to know what to avoid doing as well.
Don’t be dishonest and disingenuous in your personal statement. Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements and can spot those who feel off or insincere.
You don’t have to be a perfect person or perfect applicant to get accepted; be yourself and be honest. In fact, acknowledging challenges or setbacks that you have faced and overcame is a great way to demonstrate your resilience and problem-solving skills that make you a stronger candidate!
Also, avoid generic clichés and overused quotations in personal statements. This can include statements such as “I want to be a PA because I love helping people.” General statements such as this are overdone and come across as dull and impersonal.
Also, steer clear of fixating on salary details. Focusing too much on the money aspect might make it seem like your main motivation for becoming a Physician's Assistant is financial gain, rather than a true passion for patient care and healthcare. Instead, let your personal statement shines with your real-life experiences and genuine enthusiasm for this profession.
Instead, try some suggestions for engaging ways to start your PA personal statement from Hamilton University:
- Standard: Simply state what you will be talking about in your paper, basically like a thesis statement.
- Creative: Find a creative and unique way to begin your personal statement. For example, you can start your piece with a relevant quotation that speaks to you and relates to your experiences.
- Action: Begin in the middle of a story to draw your reader right into the action.
- Personal: Start off your statement by revealing something personal about yourself that has led you to your interest in medicine.
- Informative: State a fact that leads into your personal experiences.
Avoid academic jargon or overly complicated language in your personal statement as well. Keep it simple and easy to read. Being over-dramatic can be off-putting and impersonal. Your personal statement should reflect who you are, so be authentic and genuine.
It can be difficult to write something intimate about yourself for strangers to read. It can also be hard to balance between humility and boasting. If you need some extra help, you may find some tips on how to write a recommendation letter for yourself helpful.
While a personal statement is not the same as a letter of recommendation, there are some core similarities.
PA School Personal Statement Example
Now that we have discussed the components of a personal statement for PA school, let’s check out some essays that were accepted for PA programs to give you an idea of what a good personal statement looks like.
Here is an example of a well-written personal statement:
“Hey Doc, you might want to have a look at this.” On my computer rested a radiology report for a patient I saw with my rural preceptor. She came to the office with left upper quadrant pain, early satiety, and abdominal distention. Due to the patient’s age and family history, I was worried that her vague symptoms could be related to ovarian malignancy; thus, I enquired to my preceptor if he thought ultrasonographic imaging would be appropriate. He readily agreed with my rationale. This report reflected my gut feeling that something was wrong: “There are multiple solid masses in the liver…dominant mass measures 17.0 x 12.9 x 18.1 cm. Follow-up CT recommended.” Although it may sound strange, reading those words convinced me I wanted to become a radiologist.
I wanted to be the person to give an answer for that patient. I wished I could have performed the patient’s ultrasound examination and subsequently analyzed the findings. One of my family medicine patients suffered mortal complications from the rupture of a massive basilar artery aneurysm, and I used his tragic CTA findings to give insights on how to understand the Circle of Willis and how its anatomy explained the patient’s unfortunate condition.
I had done research one summer centered around using microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound to characterize indeterminate renal lesions. I began the project as someone who was incapable of understanding what those series of words actually meant, but by the end I was trying to explain the various septations and wall patterns of lesions suggestive of malignancy to my exasperated, but thankfully supportive, parents. It is this constant teaching aspect of radiology that attracts me to the field. The most obvious instruction one gives as a radiologist is assisting physicians with disease diagnosis and pathology localization, but I see a burgeoning, ever-questioning group of pupils waiting ahead for radiologists: their patients.
As society becomes increasingly tech-savvy, there will be an increasing desire from patients to access their medical images digitally. With that, there comes the concurrent expectation that radiologists will have to be responsible in disseminating this information, as well as explaining the abnormalities. As this latter role has traditionally been in the hands of primary care physicians and/or specialists, radiology will have to adapt and rise to this challenge.
I am looking for a residency program that wants to prepare its students for this inevitable future. Such a program would obviously need to be strong in giving its future radiologists extensive breadth and depth in commonplace and emerging image modalities with distinguished skills in fostering student independence. As part of that independence, the program must have a strong emphasis on how best to explain radiologic findings for both physicians and laypeople. Additionally, I hope for ample opportunities for resident research, as well as strong mentorship from both upper level residents and faculty.”
Why this personal statement works : The student clearly outlines their goals and how these goals relate to the PA program. The student also clearly demonstrates how their background and personal experiences support their career goals which shows the reader that they are capable of being a great candidate for a PA program.
Here is another excerpt from a statement that shares a personal story:
“Do you think we can take in a 2-year-old?” Unsure if my wife was joking, I stopped midway up the steep hill on 19th Street in Birmingham to catch my breath, which was now short for reasons other than the strenuous walk. My wife went on, explaining that her niece, Gabby, needed a home. Nobody else in the family was able to help, and if we didn’t, she would likely end up in foster care. Though we later discussed it at great length, my mind was made up before I submitted the hill. My parents, who worked at a children’s home in Alabama for most of my life, showed me the impact a loving home could have on a child’s life. I couldn’t imagine saying no to this little girl. Less than a month later, we received full custody of Gabby and it became the three of us (plus the cat). It was my first year of medical school, my wife worked full-time, and we were the sole caretakers of a toddler. Through all the stresses of those early times, one thing stands out in my mind as perhaps the most stressful of all—her nighttime cough. That cough kept us awake at night. Each time Gabby let out a string of coughs, I crawled down to the edge of the bed and put my hand on her chest to make sure she was still breathing. We had been told that she might have asthma, but that was all we knew. We didn’t have any of the documentation most places required for care. We had no Medicaid information, Social Security number, birth certificate, or medical history—only a piece of paper signed by a judge that said we were responsible for her. My wife and I were at a loss—how could we care for this child if we could not get her most basic healthcare needs met? Thankfully, we stumbled upon Christ Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health center (FQHC) in Birmingham.
Christ Health Center was exactly what our family needed. In addition to caring for Gabby’s needs when most other places would not, I saw there a model of the sort of clinical work I intend on doing after residency. I was so impressed I signed up to do an elective rotation with them between first and second year. Prior to that, I was fairly certain I wanted to practice family medicine and work with the underserved in some way; after my first day at Christ Health Center, there was no doubt left in my mind. My draw to family medicine in general, and FQHCs in particular, is the potential for community change. At Christ Health Center, patients often came in with their entire families and everyone in the room had an issue to address, medical or otherwise. I learned some of the nuances of working with a community and gained skills necessary to help meet these needs. Usually, it was just a word of reassurance; other times, it was patient and family education; and occasionally, it was setting them up with resources for food and housing.
The lessons of those few months are often in my mind as I see patients. During my family medicine clerkship, I was tasked with doing the H&P for three different children in the same room. Inside, I found a frazzled mother completing paperwork while the kids scrambled about the room. She tried her best to calm them as I started on the histories, but to little avail. She grew more and more dispirited as she continued answering, “I don’t know.” Finally, on the verge of tears, she said, “I’m so sorry. I just got custody of all three of them and don’t know anything about their histories.” I paused, remembering Gabby’s nighttime cough. Finally, I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of them. I know exactly how you feel.”
Why this personal statement works : This student takes a slightly different route than the first example but is also an effective way to write a captivating personal statement.
This statement reads more like a story, and the reader gets to know the student on a closer level.
By creating this sense of intimacy, the student demonstrates that their empathy and their ability to overcome personal challenges makes them a great candidate for a PA program.
Both examples are strong, so the route you want to take is up to you.
Still have some questions? Keep reading as we answer some of your frequently asked questions.
1. What Should Be In A Personal Statement for PA School?
You should highlight some of your traits and experiences that make you the right fit for the program and the field. Make it personal and make it about you, but remember to also be genuine and humble.
A personal statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Think about how you want to present yourself and what you want the admissions committee to know about you.
2. How Do You Write A Unique Personal Statement for PA School?
The most important piece to writing a unique personal statement for PA school is to be yourself and write from your heart.
3. How Long Should a PA School Personal Statement Be?
This all depends on the school and their instructions. However, most personal statements range from 500 words to 1,000 words. Unless stated otherwise, they should never be longer than 1,000 words.
A personal statement is a key piece of your application. Like your interview , it’s your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and really stand out amongst other applicants. A PA school personal statement is also a great opportunity to show off your writing and communication skills.
Remember to read through the instructions posted by the school, keep it personal and honest, and proofread and edit before submitting. Follow these key steps to write a personal statement that will impress admissions committees.
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Write The Perfect PA School Personal Statement [With Examples]
Filling out your PA school application is exciting and overwhelming. You’re beginning the first steps to your career goal, but it includes so much!
You’ll need to complete your application through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants ( CASPA application). The application includes letters of recommendation, service hours, and a personal statement.
Your personal statement is one of the most important pieces inside the CASPA application. A PA personal statement is really a personal essay that offers you a time to shine.
The goal is to pique the admissions committee’s interest in you, in hopes they will contact you for a school interview.
Your PA school wants to learn more about you and your past experiences. If you’ve kept a journal of your healthcare experiences, it will make the process a little easier. If not, take a week to think through your past medical experiences, patient interactions, and shadowing experiences.
Your goal is to be accepted into a PA Program, become a PA student, and join the PA profession . To get there, you have to complete your application essay. So, let’s get started!
What Is the Purpose of a Physician Assistant Personal Statement?
Your PA personal statement might be the toughest part of the application process. Ultimately, your application essay is a sales piece about you, and that can be difficult to write. Inside the application, your PA school sees an academic background that talks about what kind of student you are.
Your work history tells them about what you’ve done professionally. Your letters from your PA evaluators show what others have to say about you. This is the only time in your PA school application that you hold the pen.
The American Academy of PAs recommends you pay attention to a few dos and don’ts as you consider what to put in your personal statement. Remember there is a 5,000 character limit. This means you have 5,000 characters, not words, in which to complete your essay. Often, this will come out to be about 800 words.
In your essay, clearly state why you’re pursuing the PA profession while demonstrating your knowledge of it. Communication skills are a necessity in the PA profession, and this is a chance for your communication skills to shine. Use your personal essay to communicate why you’re up to the challenge.
Don’t be vague, don’t use abbreviations, and don’t use informal language like contractions. Instead, write formally and identify the theme that brings the whole essay together.
Be sure to make every word count. Most importantly, do not make your personal statement a reiteration of your application. The admissions committee has already read your application. This is time to make yourself unforgettable.
As you are brainstorming, outlining, and writing your application essay, keep your audience in mind. Admission committee members are physician assistants, and they’re looking for good future PAs.
They’re interested in your desire to be part of a growing profession and your passion for patient care. Communicate this through your application essay.
Your PA School Wants To See You Shine in Your Personal Statement
Your personal statement is your unique story of why you want to become a physician assistant. To tell your story well, it’s important to do your homework on your audience. Start by investigating the physician assistant school and take note of their mission, ideas, and values. You can find most of this information on their website.
Look for the emphasis the school places on primary care or specialties. Do they encourage out-of-state applicants? What’s their vision for the future of education? As you find these answers of the PA program you hope to attend, ask yourself—How am I a match? Answers to these questions will help you as you write your personal statement.
Each week, skim through the articles that pop up in your news feed to get to know your intended school. The key word here is “skim;” it’s not necessary to read each word. You only need to read enough to find information to include that will help set yourself apart from other candidates.
Unless you’re perfect, you likely have had to overcome some challenges in your education or your personal life. Recount these challenges in your application essay and identify how you’ve overcome them. Above all, be human in your essay so the admissions committee connects with you and is excited about meeting you.
Prepare, Then Write Your PA Personal Statement
Let’s begin at the beginning. Don’t procrastinate! Some prospective PA students put off writing until they feel inspired or they feel the deadline is disturbingly close.
Sadly, this only feeds the anxiety that often accompanies writing a physician assistant personal statement. If you avoid procrastinating and instead use the process below, it becomes easier. The process includes brainstorming, outlining, and finally writing. But first, let’s start with the structure of the personal statement.
Anatomy of a Physician Assistant Personal Statement
The first thing you need to understand is the structure of the document. Once you know that, it’s easier to brainstorm the type of information you’ll need to write it. A PA personal statement includes an opening statement, a body, and a strong conclusion.
Your opening statement sets the tone for the rest of your essay. It must grab your reader’s attention and make them want to stay along for the ride. This is where your research into the school comes in handy. Some schools prefer a straightforward statement while others are looking for a compelling story that sets the stage for your desire to become a PA student.
Opening statement stories can recount:
- When you were cared for by a physician assistant.
- What you learned from your personal medical experiences.
- What you discovered from a friend or family member in the healthcare field that touched you.
- Your volunteer experiences.
- What it was like to live in a medically underserved area.
Providing a personal experience helps the admissions committee decide if they want to invite you to a school interview. Be sure to brainstorm multiple personal experiences to use in your opening statement. That way, as you move forward and start writing your first draft, you can change the opening statement to fit the flow of the rest of the essay.
Body of the Essay
This part of your essay tells the admissions committee why you decided to apply to their physician assistant school. Include in the body of your essay how you built an understanding of medicine and what drove you to want to become a physician assistant.
For instance, shadowing other healthcare professionals, reading, healthcare experience, and personal experience are ways of showing your knowledge and passion for the medical field.
It may also help to touch on why you chose to be a physician assistant and not a nurse practitioner or an MD . Remember, you’re speaking to PAs who already know what a PA does . Instead, address what it is about being a physician assistant that speaks to you personally.
Mention specific skills that make you a great PA, such as teamwork, communication, compassion, and your desire to work as a healthcare provider.
If you were faced with challenges and obstacles during your high school or college career, address them and discuss how you’ve grown from the experience. Don’t make excuses; just take ownership of the situation and address it honestly.
You’ve finally finished the body of your PA school essay. This last paragraph of your personal statement should reemphasize your desire to attend physician assistant school, and, specifically, that school’s PA program. In your last paragraph, let your empathy, passion, skills, and dedication shine through.
Make a Personal Statement List, Then Check It Twice
If the process makes you feel overwhelmed, be assured you’re not the only one. However, taking these next two steps can make writing the essay much easier and less intimidating. Let’s start with a personal statement list from which you will later write an outline.
Schedule a date for when you’ll start writing your first draft. Mark this date in your calendar so you won’t forget or procrastinate. Then, on your calendar, mark one week before your “start writing” date. This is your brainstorming date.
On your brainstorming date, make a list of points you want to cover in your application essay. Because this is a brainstorming session, you don’t consider the character limit, it does not need to be in logical order, nor does it all have to follow the same theme.
Your list should include from 3 to 5 experiences that demonstrate the path you’ve taken to become a physician assistant. Patient interaction, academic experience, shadowing, clinical experience, and volunteering all fit the bill. If you have a particular story that you would like to weave throughout the essay, then include that on the list as well.
If you’re considering beginning your application essay, with a story, it’s helpful to brainstorm multiple ideas. A good opening story will build the structure of the document, so add all potential ideas to the list. Again, this is brainstorming, so there’s no need to nail down your opening story right now.
Now, put the list off to the side for at least 4 days. This will give you a chance to mull over your ideas without pressure, so when the time comes, the essay flows naturally.
Create an Outline of Personal Experiences
After 4 days, pull out the list of your personal experiences and begin to structure your essay in the form of an outline. An outline can help you organize your thoughts, so your content flows together.
Remember, there is a 5,000 character limit, so the outline will help you stay on track as you write on the proverbial paper (because you’re writing it on the computer, right?). .
Most pre-PA students write their essays in chronological order. And, truth be told, this is also the best way for the admissions committee to absorb the information. If you do choose to flashback, make it clear so your reader isn’t confused.
Do not try to be perfect—neither in your writing style nor in how you portray yourself.
Your ability to be vulnerable about your challenges makes you more of a real, relatable person. Set aside 2 or 3 days to nail down the outline for your personal statement. Not 2 or 3 full days, but 2 or 3 days to write, mull, and contemplate over the structure, stories, and theme you’ll use.
Start Writing Your Personal Statement: It’s Time to Put Pen to Paper
It’s time to start writing. Set aside quiet time when you won’t be interrupted, and find a space where you can relax. Turn off your phone notifications and shut the door. Take time during the process to do what helps you to calm the butterflies. Simple exercises, music, prayer, and meditation are all popular methods of quieting your mind.
Then start writing using the outline. As you write, remember this is a first draft; you’ll spend time editing, rearranging, and proofing later. Writing your first draft might be one of the fastest steps in writing your personal essay. This is because you’ve already put in the time and effort to develop the ideas. Now is the time to depend on them.
If you feel stuck, many writers find freewriting loosens the creative juices and helps the words flow.
Freewriting is the practice of continuously writing the thoughts that come to you. It was discovered by Peter Elbow in 1973, and it’s been found to help “un-stick” content development. Plus, since you’re using a keyboard, this technique is much easier for you than it was for Mr. Elbow using pen and paper.
After you write your first draft, you’ll need to edit it. One editing technique is to speak your essay out loud as if you were telling it to someone. Use a recorder so you can playback your thoughts—especially those well-worded statements you can’t seem to recreate later.
Seek a Personal Statement Review
Once you’ve polished your personal statement to the best of your ability, it’s time to seek a personal statement review. This is a review process undertaken by an expert, licensed PA who can help improve the flow of your essay and guide you to produce your best possible personal statement for PA school.
Your PA school essay should not be the area of the application process that limits your acceptance.
Potential PA students do well to have a personal statement review, so they don’t get lost in a sea of applicants. The admissions committee is not looking for a cookie-cutter essay, but rather your strongest response to their prompt.
Some PAs that do personal statement reviews also offer services to review CASPA applications. Consider this when choosing a PA to perform your personal statement review. As you weigh your options, costs, and timing, remember the importance of the personal statement to your PA school application and ultimately getting a school interview.
Examples of a PA School Essay
It’s always easier to understand how to write your essay after you’ve read several examples. The PA Life published and analyzed 31 examples for you to read through. At the end of each of these real-world examples are brief comments to help guide the writer to produce a better essay.
The first time you read through a personal essay example, you may miss some points, so be sure to read through examples multiple times.
Here are two short examples using different perspectives to help you determine what the best option is for your personal statement. Neither of these meets the 5,000 character limit since the objective is to offer you different options in the way they could be written and not to develop a full physician assistant program essay.
Personal Statement: Example One
I was seven and my mother was once again giving me cough syrup. I took it standing over the toilet because the cherry flavor made me nauseous, and I was sure I would throw up. This went on for years.
Years of springtime coughing and cherry cough syrup. Years of coughing all night and well into the day. Years and years—until as an adult, I realized I had allergies. In those years, I was cared for by my family physician who was gentle, caring, and took the time to talk with me and my parents.
Over the years I have been treated by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians. Thankfully my lungs have healed well, and I use my inhaler once every two to three years.
But in those years, I grew to have an understanding of the different roles of mid-level providers and physicians. And, from that understanding, I grew to appreciate the flexibility, professionalism, skills, and abilities that a physician assistant brings to their practice each day.
During my hours of healthcare experience as an EMT, I have also had the privilege of working alongside physician assistants who have demonstrated the unique combination of communication skills, teamwork, and compassion that I believe I also hold.
My desire to practice as a physician assistant is driven by my own healthcare experiences as well as those I have witnessed at work.
Over the past five years, I have volunteered at homeless shelters and nursing homes, while working as an EMT. In that time I have come to realize I am driven to help others, and being a physician assistant is the best way for me to fulfill that life mission. [Character count: 1588, Word count: 281]
Personal Statement: Example Two
In the past three years, I have held the hands of children as they died, comforted their parents, and watched their siblings mourn. For three years I have watched the doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in our hospital work to save lives, and I have seen the difference they make.
As a nurse, I had always assumed I would go on to become a nurse practitioner, so I could see my own patients. But, in the past three years, I have had the chance to see these professions in action, and I have come to realize my goal is to become a physician assistant.
Growing up I lived in a medically underserved area of our large metropolitan city. I saw first-hand the injustices that led to the loss of life or permanent disability. Today I am a nurse in a large city hospital serving those same people, the people from my neighborhood.
In these years I have developed strong communication skills that have served me well as I teach my patients how to care for themselves at home. My experience has been that positive patient outcomes rely on patient understanding and a belief in their necessary care.
My patients and colleagues have taught me the meaning of teamwork, compassion, and understanding of cultural differences. In watching the practice of different medical professionals, it has become obvious that physician assistants are the embodiment of the kind of care I want to offer my patients.
Each medical professional comes from different backgrounds, with different perspectives. I know that my perspective has been impacted by the neighborhood and community of my childhood.
I believe this impact has been a positive one, as it has driven home the need for people who are sensitive to cultural differences, have the time and desire to work with patients, and who have the skills and knowledge to care for them. These characteristics describe me, and I believe they are a deep and integral part of the physician assistant’s practice.
During my freshman year of undergraduate school, my grades faltered as I was learning how to live away from home and control my own schedule. By my sophomore year, I understood what was needed to get the grades I desired, and I achieved high marks through the rest of my education.
To achieve my goal requires my diligence, focus, and ability to absorb and utilize knowledge. I believe I have demonstrated these characters in my undergraduate degree and during my work experience. I am confident in my ability to successfully complete my education and close the gap in healthcare as a primary care provider. [Character count: 2,562 Word count: 444]
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- Nurse Practitioner vs Physician Assistant [Key Differences] February 6, 2020
So, you’re ready to apply to PA programs and are navigating your way through the application process. You’ve taken all of the right prerequisites, spent hours shadowing and working in health care, and sent out requests for references. Now you’re wrestling with what to write in your personal statement. The personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your application. How do you make it stand out from the rest and land yourself an interview? Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing an impactful PA school personal statement.
The PA school personal statement is not just a chance to set yourself apart, it’s the only place that has a “voice” in your application. Admissions committees look at hundreds, if not thousands, of applications from well-qualified applicants every year. This is your chance to speak directly to them. Your personal statement sheds light on who you are and what drives you toward becoming a PA. There are many articles out there giving out the standard advice on what to include, and exclude, from your statement. Here are some do’s and don’ts that are not so standard.
Do: Use correct spelling, grammar, and formal language
Ok, the first tip is fairly standard. Even though this tip falls within the category of “basic” advice, it’s important enough to mention anyway. You are applying to a demanding and rigorous graduate-level program, and professionalism is imperative. Remember that this is your voice. Speaking in informal slang or using unprofessional language is going to reflect poorly. Admissions committees are looking for applicants who will be able to interact professionally in the classroom and on clinical rotations.
Don’t: Call the profession “physician’s assistant”
This goes along the same lines as using professional language. If you want to be a PA, then you must know what the acronym stands for. The correct name of the profession is “physician assistant” or “physician associate,” without the possessive form inferring belonging. The permanent name change is on the horizon but either way, make sure that you are using the correct terminology for the profession. Making a mistake here makes you look like you haven’t done your research and aren’t up to date on current PA events.
Do: Be interesting and honest
Do you have a life motto? A noteworthy quote from a favorite book? A life-changing event that drove you toward becoming a PA? Use it at the beginning of your statement to draw your reader in. Beginning your statement with a story or words that are descriptive and stimulating creates curiosity and interest, setting you apart from other applicants. Make sure that you tie this initial theme into the rest of your statement by revisiting the theme intermittently throughout and mentioning it again before your conclusion. Be careful to leave out the drama. Expressive language is a tightrope to walk between interesting and theatrical.
Don’t: Emphasize a specialty you’ve selected
One of the many wonderful things about becoming a PA is the job flexibility and the multitude of medical specialties that PAs are practicing. You may already be dreaming about becoming an amazing dermatology PA but that is not what your statement should say. Remember that you are applying to PA school, where your education will be broad and comprehensive. Your future institution needs to know you’ll be interested to learn about all of the modules and not just one topic. Your statement should speak to why you will be a successful PA student and not skip ahead to what your long-term goals are.
Do: Sing your own praises
Bragging about how great you are is probably the toughest demand of the personal statement. Commonly, applicants write about anecdotes from patient experiences, meeting a PA that changed their life, or a family member that inspired them. Be careful in choosing one of these topics. Although one of these topics may be appropriate, it may be too common a theme to set you apart. Instead, really speak to the reader about why you’re passionate about becoming a PA. Write instead about incidences when you overcame adversity, your diverse life experiences, and what you’ve done to prepare yourself for the next challenge.
Don’t: Explain what PAs do
Admissions committees already know what PAs do in their daily careers. Statements that discuss how PAs have job flexibility, work in team-based environments, and have a better work-life balance don’t give the reader information about what they’re really interested in, you! Also, avoid statements about how the timeframe to obtaining your degree is shorter than other desirable careers. This makes it look like you’ve chosen to be a PA for the wrong reasons. Instead, discuss how you’ve prepared yourself for PA school and how being a PA aligns with your goals and values.
Do: Talk about your “soft skills”
There is a reason that most PA programs want applicants to have health care and shadowing experience. Many programs evaluate volunteer experiences as well. Every patient experience is a learning experience. Highlight what you’ve learned through your caregiving encounters. Have you volunteered your time serving and benefiting others? Have you put yourself in situations that challenge you to be more empathetic, more enduring, more confident, or more humble? Emphasize the “soft skills” that you have learned. These skills are harder for programs to teach than academics and are just as essential as medical knowledge in caring for patients.
In summary, writing your PA school personal statement should be the most exciting part of your application process because it’s your chance to showcase who you are outside of the application boxes. Show the reader that you are a human with depth, motivation, and passion for your future profession. It’s not an easy task to do in less than 5,000 characters, but speak professionally, and with authenticity, and interviews are sure to follow.
Looking for more essay writing tips for your PA school application? Check out this post on how to write your PA school supplemental essays !
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By Jennifer Sample, PA-C
Jennie is a Physician Assistant currently practicing in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care Medicine for both University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic. She is also the Admissions Coordinator and an Associate Professor with Lake Erie College’s PA Program in Painesville, Ohio. She graduated from Lake Erie College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree and graduated with a Master of Physician Assistant Sciences degree in 2006 from Gannon University. In 2019, she graduated from A.T. Still University with a Doctorate in Health Education. She has been a question author with Rosh Review since 2013. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her four children and her husband, traveling as much as possible.
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Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Outstanding PA School Personal Statement
As a pre-physician assistant student, one of the most important components of your application to PA school is your personal statement. This is where you shine! Your personal statement is a chance to showcase your unique experiences, skills and motivations for becoming a PA. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you write a personal statement that stands out from the crowd!
Do : Find your “deeper why”. Your personal statement should be personal (hence the name) and grab the reader’s attention. Brainstorm and find your deeper why to help connect with the reader and showcase your passion and heart. Focus on the “why” when you’re writing your essay to stand out from the crowd. You’re a unique individual, which unique experiences, and only YOU can tell your story
Don’t: Use cliches or generic statements! Avoid using cliches or generic statements in your personal statement. Admissions committees read hundreds of personal statements, and they can quickly spot a generic statement. Be specific and use concrete examples to showcase your experiences and motivations for becoming a PA.
Do: Showcase your experiences Your personal statement should showcase your experiences, both in healthcare and outside of it. Admissions committees want to see that you have a well-rounded background and are passionate about patient care.
Don’t : Ramble or go off-topic Stay focused on your main topic and avoid rambling or going off-topic. Admissions committees are looking for a clear and concise statement that highlights your qualifications and motivation for becoming a PA.
Do: Edit for both content and grammar. While we believe the most emphasis should be placed on content, typos and grammatical errors can detract from your message and make you appear careless. Have someone else read your statement and provide feedback.
Don’t: Plagiarize or copy. Avoid plagiarism or copying from sample personal statements you find online. This is unethical and can harm your chances of being accepted into PA school.
Your personal statement is a critical component of your PA school application. Follow these do’s and don’ts to create a personal statement that showcases your experiences, qualifications, and motivation for becoming a PA. With a killer personal statement, you can stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being accepted into your dream PA program.
Not sure how your CASPA application and personal statement measure up? Get your app and personal statement editing in our CASPA App Editing and Zoom Feedback Service. You have worked too hard, too long, and are too close to your dream to not make sure your app is exceptional!