Personal Statement

What I have found in the past several weeks since I started the website is that the most viewed section that I had yet to make a contribution to was the Personal Statement page.  I am going to attempt to go ahead and do that now.
I remember CASPA having a word limit for the personal statement of 5,000 characters. Even if it didn’t exist, remember the admissions committee is likely reading >1,000 statements.  The more direct, to the point and effective you are the better.image
As with any other writing sample, I recommend starting out with an outline. Make a list of all the things you believe to be important. Utilize those points as you go along writing.
Ok, so what should be included?
In the first paragraph a good way to introduce yourself may be to talk about how you have arrived at the point of applying to PA school. Everyone takes a different journey.  For example, part of my opening paragraph looked like this:
In my life and pursuit of happiness I have learned the road to success is not necessarily straight or paved. I have also learned; however, that success is following your heart no matter how daunting. The challenges I have overcome which have led me to apply to Physician Assistant programs has required great sacrifice, hard work, determination, and motivation.
I think that if you take the approach of “My name is so and so and I want to be a PA because I want to practice medicine” is boring, and you’re going to lose people before you even start.  Give them something to grasp on to, so that in that first paragraph they find themselves thinking, “Ok, this is someone I want to know more about”.
Next, talk about what in your experience has led you to this point. For myself, I drew on some personal experience as well as how in my profession at the time, my scope of practice was not allowing me to do the things I was finding myself wanting out of my career.
My professional work as a mental health therapist also offered innumerable experiences to drive me to become a Physician Assistant. The most memorable was with a fifteen-year-old female patient who struggled when discovering she would be prescribed medication to treat depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She was frustrated to find herself requiring medical attention for her mental health diagnoses. At this moment, I had such a strong desire to help this patient medically understand the necessity for these medications. However, this was also presently out of the range of my professional practices.
Show them diversity–that there is more than one reason you want to pursue becoming a PA. Also show the panel that you understand what the PA profession is all about and that you have done your research, considered other career avenues and how you came to the determination that PA is truly the best fit for you. Draw on shadowing and patient care experience to help make your points.
I have spent a great deal of time speaking with professionals to understand their role in the medical field. I consulted Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Surgical Technicians, Nurses, and Nurse Anesthetists. The healthcare professional I want to become corresponds greatly with the educational and training model Physician Assistant programs follow.
imageI went on to talk about what those reasons are for me, as I recommend you do as well. Now that you have your introduction, how you discovered the PA profession and why it’s right for you, talk about the skills you have that will make you a successful PA student and professional.  Hint: include examples. History repeats itself so tell when what you have done in the past that is likely to result in positive experiences in the future–like passing the PANCE.
I am dedicated, determined, and self-motivated. I have incredible drive to pursue and achieve my goals, and refuse to stop until I reach success. Previous academic success demonstrates my ability to be successful in a post secondary education program. Furthermore, passing the National Counselor Examination on my first opportunity exemplifies me as a candidate who will apply the educational and clinical knowledge gained in your program to become a nationally certified Physician Assistant.

Lastly, your closing statement. Tell them about whatever your hopes are for attending their program and then continuing on to pursue your career, in whatever words work for you. Tid Bits of Importance:

  • Do NOT say you want to be a PA because you want to practice medicine.  I cannot emphasize this enough.
  • Make sure your essay is error free.
  • Put several different sets of eyes on your statement.  I had a friend who is a high school english teacher read it, current PA student and a friend who was a practicing PA.  They all offered a unique perspective.  I also offer services to help with Personal Statements (see below)
  • Make it a point somewhere in your essay to tell them that you are both prepared for the workload that is about to hit you and that you are willing to make PA school your number one priority.  If you aren’t, you shouldn’t be applying–point blank.  🙂

Looking for more help?  Click here for my Pre-PA consulting Services.  For basic help and outline with your personal statement see the “Basics” category. If you are looking for detailed editing of your personal statement please see “Beyond the Basics”. Any questions feel free to contact me: All.Things. PAC@gmail.com