The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Impactful PA School Personal Statement
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!