The personal statement is something that a lot of pre-PAs struggle with. How do you begin to put in to words why you are interested in being a Physician Assistant, and in only 5,000 characters? And, how do you do that while being professional but still showing your uniqueness?
There are a lot of different methods for writing an excellent Personal Statement out there, but here are a few of my tips (Obviously I don’t know everything and you should make sure to do what you think is best when writing your statement). These tips are very broad and just supposed to help you get started with the daunting task of writing your personal statement.
why do you want to be a PA
You should know by now why you want to be a PA. I mean, you’re getting ready to spend a great deal of money to apply, so its not something that should be done on a whim. But, if you’re still on the fence or know you want to be a PA but don’t have concrete reasons why, sit down and ask yourself some questions. Jot down some brief answers to these questions
- What is it about medicine that makes me excited?
- Why do I want to be a medical provider?
- Why am I choosing PA over MD/DO or NP?
- Has there been an event that inspired me to get involved in medicine?
- What have I done to prove myself as a dedicated applicant?
- What qualities to I have that would make me a good provider?
- Am I entering this career for the right reasons?
- Do I really want to be a physician, but am “settling” because I don’t think I would make it through the application process?
Picking a topic
Picking a topic is one of the more difficult aspects of writing your personal statement. In my mind, I wanted to write about something unique to me and that would set me about from the hundreds of other applicants a school receives. Everyone has an experience that has shaped them as a person, and as a future provider. Here are some. things to think about when you’re trying to figure out that unique experience.
- Do you have parents who are providers? Did they inspire your love of medicine
- This is my experience. As a child, my mom was a RN and one of the most influential memories in my life is her putting a “cast” on a teddy bear of mine after his leg got cut open.
- Did a medical mission trip influence you to love primary care?
- Did you fall in love with science and anatomy classes?
- Were your patient contact hours the most influential reason you want to be a PA?
It can be hard to make a decision on a topic. On one hand, you want to stand out. But on the other hand, you don’t want to stand out in a bad way. This was something I really struggled with. I knew exactly what I wanted to write about because I can clearly remember the experience that made me want to get involved in medicine, but it was weird. I was worried I would come off as immature and as someone who didn’t fully understand what medicine was about. I wrote tons of other drafts about topics before I finally realized that the one topic that had always stood out to me (and the one I was so worried about) was the right one to go with.
So stay true to what you want to say.
Don’t let an opinion sway you. For instance, many students go on medical mission trips before applying to PA school. Don’t let someone tell you that writing a personal statement on that experience is not unique enough, or will not stand out. If your statement has a “voice”, its going to be unique and personal to you. And if this is that “aha” moment for you, it’s going to be clear when the committee reads your personal statement.
At the end of the day, make sure to Be PERSONAL!
It’s called a personal statement for a reason. You want the admission committee to read your statement and feel as though they know something about you has a person and not just about your resume. Give them a feel for your personality.
I know, this is incredibly hard. Where is the line between being professional and being open and personable? Things to keep in mind:
- This is a first impression, treat it as such.
- You’re not talking to a friend, you’re “talking” to someone who has a say in the rest of your life. Be mature.
- Use advanced vocabulary, but not so much that it sounds stiff
- Think of a high school (or college) literature class. You should try to stay away from words like very, things, stuff, etc.
- If you find yourself using the same word a lot, use a synonym instead.
- Read your statement out loud, if you can’t pronounce most of the words or don’t feel like they sound like you, change them.
- You want your statement to have a “voice”. Don’t let it be dry and forced. There should be a flow to your statement that sounds like you.
- Be explicit. Go in to detail, this person knows almost nothing about you.
- You want to portray yourself in a good light (DUH). Don’t talk down about yourself or belittle what you have done. But also don’t exaggerate something small.
I will say I was slightly embarrassed to have some of my friends read my statement. It was very honest and open as to my dreams and why I wanted to go in to medicine. This is something I have heard from a lot of students who got accepted. In fact, if you ask to read other people’s statements, a lot of them are going to tell you no because it is such a personal thing.
Things to avoid!
Don’t treat your personal statement as a resume and rehash all of the things you have done to become a competitive applicant. I’ve seen so many personal statements that do this. I think people get caught up in wanting to show all of the things that they did to be a competitive application. But remember, the topic isn’t “what have you done to be competitive” but instead ” WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A PA?”. The school already has your resume, they don’t need to read it again in a different format.
If you want do to talk about the things you have done, make it personal. Talk about how it has effected you as a person, how you have grown from an experience, what it has taught you, etc. Share with the committee the things they wouldn’t know from just reading about an experience you did!
Poor spelling or grammar. I seriously can not even stress this enough. This is a personal statement yes, but its also meant for the professional world. Stay away from slang. And no matter what you do, do not refer to the field as “Physician’s Assistant”. Don’t rely on just spellcheck and word to check these things for you – it’s not foolproof.
Lying. Seems like common sense right? But you’d be surprised at the things I’ve heard of. So be honest. You will probably get asked about your statement (or at least why you want to be a PA) during an interview. Even if you do decide to tell a fib and get away with it in the personal statement, when you do to the interview its probably going to come of. Most admission committee members will be able to tell when you’re not being completely truthful.
Things to help
Have others read your statement. You want to ask people who are going to give you an honest opinion. I had my mom and different friends read the statement. They were able to give me an opinion on how the flow was, about grammar and word choice, things like that.
Have someone in the profession read it – if possible! This could be the PA you shadowed, a friend already in school, a friend applying (or who at least knows how PA school works), etc. They’ll be able to give you an opinion on whether they would choose to give you an interview.
Write a bunch of drafts and don’t save over them! Keep each one as a different saved file so you can go back and read them and decide the one you like the most. Make sure to read your drafts out loud. This will give you the best idea of how you like your voice and personality in that draft. When you read it in your mind, your mind will fill in parts that you could have left out.
If your school offers a career center, have them read your personal statement for any mistakes. They will probably read lots of personal statements during the year, and they have a good idea of what makes one stand out.
Take your time! Don’t stress that you need to complete your statement in a week (or some other time frame). You want to have a great statement, and if that takes you a while to write, take the time!
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful when writing an essay. I also read “Essays that will get you in to Physician Assistant School” . Please do not model your statement after this book. It’s mainly a good resource to read to see some before and after essays. It shows the importance of having a good voice when writing your essay, and the importance of the essay being personal and not a reiteration of your resume. Try to be unique and unusual, but don’t make it your entire focus and stress if you can’t achieve this.
Comment below on your thoughts about the personal statement and the experience you had writing your own.
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