Who, Why, What!?
3 Ways to Avoid a PA School Personal Statement #fail
After reading countless personal statements, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can’t go wrong having an expert help you with your statement, but before sending your essay to me or hitting submit on your CASPA, here are the 3 most important questions your personal statement must answer.
1. Who are you?
Tell your readers succinctly about where you came from and the highlights of your academic/professional life. This is usually the first part of your essay. This is not your life story, so try to get your important points across in 1-2 paragraphs.
2. Why PA?
What experiences led you to the decision to become a PA? Specific questions that must be answered in your essay are 1) Why you want to be a PA? 2) What makes being a PA so unique (show that you understand what a PA does) and 3) Why you are well-suited for the role? In this section, usually the 2nd part of your personal statement, you can relay anecdotes about meaningful patient interactions or other personal experiences that have influenced your path thus far.
3. What you’ve done?
Now is your chance to share the experiences that have reinforced your unique path toward becoming a PA. This 3rd section could include your recent relevant work experiences, highlights of your patient contact hours or shadowing experiences. Finally, are there any other details that help you stand out from the pack? Perhaps you did bench research in an NIH lab, worked with a biotechnology firm after studying engineering in undergrad, or lobbied Congress for an orphan drug interest group. Your experiences could also be something that has nothing to do with medicine or healthcare but would be a helpful piece for the admission committee to learn something unique about you!
What went wrong?
An (unofficial) #4 is addressing any negatives that could be lurking in your application. Examples could be a low undergrad GPA, a gap in schooling or work experience or any other extenuating circumstance that you feel the admissions committee should know about. Again, I want to stress that this is not your excuse to tell your whole “woe is me” life story. This is your chance to address a question that a program might have when looking at your application. Consider composing your answer as if you were answering the question in person during your PA program interview. This is also a great exercise to get you thinking about HOW to answer tough questions during an interview. Explanations should be succinct and attempt to redirect attention to a (hopefully) weightier positive. For instance: “My overall undergraduate GPA reflected my lack of maturity and interest in my pre-law major. Since then, my 4.0 science GPA, reflects my discipline and focused interest in pursuing my goals of becoming a PA.”
I am not advocating that your personal statement read like a copy and pasted cookbook of my suggestions. But keeping these questions in mind will help you organize your thoughts and get you started generating that stand out essay! You can structure your essay using my format, or there are infinite permutations with which you can experiment. If you have already written your statement, go back and make sure you have at least touched on most of these questions and that your writing conveys your answers clearly.
I hope this outline helps you get started, and don’t forget I am happy to consult at any point in your journey! If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org