Who, Why, What!? 3 Ways to Avoid a PA School Personal Statement #fail

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 info@preparedpa.com


5 Tips for Landing a PA Shadowing Experience

5 Tips for Landing a PA Shadowing Experience

Having PA shadowing experiences is a critical part of any PA school application. Once you land a PA school interview (fingers crossed), every interviewer will ask you about your shadowing experience or lack there of. To give yourself the best chance of acing these questions and bolstering your application overall, the importance of securing a shadowing experience cannot be over emphasized.

But how does one go about finding a PA to shadow? This is one of the most common questions that I address with pre-PA students. With just a little creativity and tenacity, you can land the perfect PA shadow experience. But here are my top 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Ask a PA at your personal Doctor’s office- simplest idea first! Most people either see a PA themselves or are patients at an office that employs PAs. If you are lucky enough to have a PA as a provider, ask them if you can shadow (ask for a very a limited commitment to start with). If they agree, this could lead to more hours or very likely open the door to other PAs that you can shadow. If you don’t know any PAs already, see if any work at any of the offices you are already a patient. If so, ask if you can get their email and then ask away! Talking to one PA, always leads to more PAs (yeah, we are tight like that!) so even if the one you ask says no, they almost certainly will try to help you find someone else you can shadow.
  2. Call your local PA program- PA programs (and their websites) often have ideas and even specific contacts for shadowing opportunities. Even if your local PA program doesn’t end up having any specific suggestions, it’s always a great idea to call programs and introduce yourself to get on their radar. You’d be surprised that even a short phone call could stand out at an admissions committee meeting, over another applicant they have never heard from.
  3. Check out http://pashadowonline.com/ – Finally someone answered our prayers and created a forum to match PAs willing to shadow with interested pre-PA students! Once you register, you can search by your city and even see the PA’s typical work schedule. PAs can be contacted directly through the site by e-mail.
  4. Search the AAPA or state PA society directories- The AAPA lists members by state and practice specialty. This is a great resource but you have to be a member with a login to search this resource. It certainly looks good to programs to join the AAPA or state PA society as an applicant (and usually the cost is nominal) but it is certainly not a necessity. State PA societies often have links to regional or city PA groups. Some even mention PA shadowing programs specifically. State/Regional groups are great resources and a good place to start introducing yourself to other PAs in your area and start networking!
  5. PA specialty groups- This is a great list if you already have identified a specialty you are interested in gaining experience in or even working in after PA school. From Neurology and Surgery to Dermatology, these groups often have directories of members, so you can search for a PA in your area. In addition, some have student resources that can apply to Pre-PA students.

Hopefully this list will give you a good starting point and in not too long, land you the perfect PA shadowing gig! Good luck!


PAEA Program List

PAEA Program List

One of the first steps to becoming a PA is finding the right program. The most comprehensive list is located here:PAEA (Physician Assistant Education Association) Program List.

You can search programs by GPA requirements, healthcare experience, and other important details.

There are many important aspects to picking the right program. Your target program list should include programs that match your educational and experience background. Some programs emphasize prerequisite academics, while others look for significant patient care experience.

Once you have generated a list of potential programs to apply to, create an outline of the prerequisites that you will need. The next step will be starting your CASPA application. Stay tuned for the next prePAred Blog Post for more details!