Writing a stellar PA personal statement is difficult for many students, however, this statement is so important for distinguishing your application from all the others. A well-crafted, memorable statement is your golden ticket to a PA school interview, so in today's blog, you'll learn what to include in your PA personal statement, common mistakes to avoid and you'll even be able to review PA personal statement examples.
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Before you begin writing your PA personal statement, it's important to understand the purpose of the personal statement. Essentially, your personal statement will serve as your introduction to admissions committees. It's a way for you to demonstrate why you have chosen to pursue medicine, and why you want to become a PA specifically. Admissions committees want to understand where your first interest in becoming a physician assistant began, what memorable experiences you've had since that moment, and what steps you've taken towards turning that initial interest into desire and passion for the profession. As with all types of personal statements, your personal statement must address the “why” behind the profession. In this case, why do you want to be a PA? Keep in mind that you'll also be expected to answer this, and other common PA school interview questions during your interview, so be sure to review our blog for expert tips and sample responses.
No two personal statements should be alike, each person has had their own set of experiences that have led them to want to pursue this vocation. So don't try to fabricate your statement or exaggerate your experiences. Instead, be honest, tell the admissions committees about your exposure to medicine, what you've learned, how you've grown, what you have accomplished, why it was important and how all of these experiences led to you wanting to become a PA.
Highlight your experiences and skills appropriately.
In your essay, it's important that in addition to addressing the healthcare field, you can speak specifically to the PA vs MD profession. You want to highlight a few experiences that have helped you understand more about the life and work of a PA and ultimately helped solidify your decision to pursue this field. Think about your volunteering, shadowing, and clinical experiences and reflect on any moments that have stood out for you or were significant on your journey towards deciding on becoming a PA. Perhaps your participation in creating a treatment plan for a particular patient stood out for you or you witnessed an interaction between a physician assistant and a patient during your shadowing that gave you further insight into the profession. In short, you need to be able to answer why the PA is the best route for you, and what you’ve done to prepare yourself for this career.
Additionally, you can draw on related experiences and skills you’ve developed that will help you reach your goals as a future PA. For example, if you want to work specifically with underserved communities, and you’ve taken on volunteering opportunities that put you into contact with such communities, this is a great experience to include. If you want to work among immigrant or refugee communities and took the time to learn a new language in order to better communicate with these individuals, that will not only show initiative, but also dedication to effectively communicating with patients you want to help serve in the future.
Paint a picture.
When it comes to sitting down and writing your PA personal statement, it's important to note that the most successful statements are those that tell a story. Remember, your personal statement is not a recitation of your CV. Listing accomplishments, awards, and your education will not interest the admissions committee. That information is already available in your CV and elsewhere in your application; the personal statement is a piece of art, not a dry informational document. It should allow members of the admissions committee to gain insight into your personal story and take them on your journey to becoming a PA. Stories are excellent for a few different reasons. First, stories are interesting. As humans, we tend to be drawn to stories, we love books, movies, articles - anything that allows us to be transported to another time, another place, another experience. If the story is well written, it moves us by eliciting an emotional response from us. Whether that is happiness, sadness, compassion, love, desire, or amusement, stories have the power to affect us and that's exactly what you want the admissions committees to experience: emotion. Emotional content is powerful content, and it leaves an impact. It's memorable, it stays with you, and it stands out. In addition to being captivating, writing your personal statement in the form of a story is also beneficial because it helps tell your story in a chronological manner. The last thing you want, other than a boring personal statement, is one that doesn’t make sense and leaves admissions committee members confused. Jumping from one point in time to the next, from one experience to the next without order will only create a disjointed, unstructured essay. Instead, tell your story chronologically, beginning with an introduction to your interest or exposure to medicine, flowing into a few significant experiences throughout your life, and ending with a powerful conclusion that ties the entire essay together.
You are not like anyone else; despite what you might think, you're an original personal with individual thoughts, experiences, and interests. Don't get sucked into using clichés, common quotes, and unoriginal statements. It's not about writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear such as “I want to be a doctor because I want to help people” or “I've always dreamed of becoming a doctor”.
Let your personal statement highlight what makes you unique as an applicant, how your personal qualities complement the profession, and what skills and key competencies you can bring to the entering class. Overall, it's important to consider what experiences and skills distinguish you from other applicants. Admissions committees will be reviewing hundreds if not thousands of PA school personal statements; what is going to make your statement stand out? What do you have to offer? How can you contribute to the profession?
- Reciting your CV. Admissions committees already have this information so this isn't suitable for your personal statement and is actually quite boring.
- Casting yourself as the victim. Many people have experienced difficult situations, such as emigrating from another country or suffering an injury. This can be powerful to discuss in your PA personal statement, but only if you can show resilience and ensure you're not playing the victim. As a general rule of thumb, be sure to only include an experience if you can discuss how it shapes you as a person, helped you grow, and will help you become a better future physician assistant.
- Showing instead of telling. It's not enough to say statements such as “I am a good listener” or “My experience shadowing has made me compassionate”. You need to show, aka demonstrate, how you are a good listener, and how shadowing has helped you become compassionate. Discuss real experiences that can support and provide evidence for any statements.
- Failing to create a standout opening sentence and paragraph. The opening sentence in your PA school personal statement is the hook for your entire essay. If it's not enticing, unique, and memorable, you risk your essay blending in with the thousands of other essays and ending up at the bottom of the pile. Your opening sentence and paragraph need to be engaging, you want to create a sense of desire so that admission committee members won't want to put down your statement, they should want to continue reading to find out the rest of your story. Remember that admissions committees tend to read these essays quickly, so if you don’t grab their attention right away, your essay will be quickly forgotten.
- Failing to have a strong conclusion. A strong concluding paragraph not only sums up the main points of your previous paragraphs, but it should end on an engaging note. You want to leave the admissions committee wanting to know more about you, as this makes them more likely to call you for an interview.
- Relying on clichés. The purpose of your PA personal statement is to stand out, not blend in. So don't use clichés and popular quotes that are tired and dry. Be original and use your own thoughts instead of the thoughts of others.
- Failing to reflect. Any experience you describe in your PA personal statement should be followed by thoughtful reflection. You can't simply state that you worked as a research assistant in a lab and contributed to a publication. Think about why you want to discuss an experience in the first place and always be answering, why was it significant? What did you learn from it? How will it help you in your career as a physician assistant?
- Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Your PA personal statement should be free from all errors and mistakes. Keep in mind that your personal statement is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Mistakes indicate that you rushed your statement, are not detail-oriented and that you're not really invested in your potential career. An excellent PA personal statement has been through many revisions and has had multiple reviewers. It's a good idea to seek professional help not only to ensure your statement is free from errors but so that you can receive personalized feedback on your statement to ensure you are putting your best self forward.
During my kindergarten graduation, I walked on stage and gave my exit speech: “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher because it’s easy.” Reflecting back, I see the comedy in my naivety as every profession has its own unique challenges. I had no intention to pursue medicine, as I often had a sense of jealousy towards the field. Growing up, my mother was also attending school, first undergraduate then medical school. Exposed to the rigor and competition of higher education, she felt the need to share the importance of dedicating my time to education. While my classmates had work-free weekends, I spent my time completing extra homework, assigned by my mother. Initially, I misinterpreted her teachings as favoritism for studies over spending our days indulging in games.
My passion to become a physician assistant took root the day my grandmother fell from the top of a ladder. My mother shouted for my help with two simple tasks: grab a blanket and call 911. Trapped by fear and hesitation, I was unable to react. This response may seem understandable; however, I was my harshest critic and felt shame from my inability to aid. Sitting in the hospital waiting room, I reflected on my actions and vowed to never again be a mere observer. With this experience, my outlook on the medical field began to change from that of jealousy to intrigue. I started to understand that my mother’s intentions were not to spend less time with me but rather she aspired to be in a position where she could offer herself to support others, an attribute I strive to emulate. My kindergarten dreams to teach were expanded to embody care and compassion, with goals to empower and provide protection to others feeling helpless.
Aware of my lack of knowledge pertaining to handling trauma, I enrolled in an emergency medical response course that equipped me with the skills to handle unforeseen situations, and the strength to grow from criticism. Others questioned my ability to complete this physically rigorous course, given that my stature is a mere four feet and nine inches. Using this criticism as motivation, I excelled in the course and partook in a twelve-hour responder shift. This exhilarating experience strengthened my ambition to study medicine, as my interests lie in the shortcomings of human-design.
As an emergency medical responder, I felt qualified to take care of my grandmother who had developed Alzheimer’s. Having younger siblings, I am accustomed to watching over others; however, caring for someone suffering from disease requires a greater state of patience and serenity. When her memories began to slip away, I felt uneasy trying to converse about false stories and recollections. As I spent more time with her, I became accustomed to quick-thinking and no longer felt nervous or scared. I was able to speak with her about any topic and noticed an overall improvement in my confidence. My role as a caregiver tested my ability to handle stressful situations as I learned to deal with feelings of both frustration and anxiety, improving my compassion and understanding of others.
Losing my grandmother sooner than anticipated fueled my drive to provide quality care. Physician assistants require more than academic knowledge, additionally keen characteristics of sociability, emotional and mental strength, and the ability to educate. I have been fortunate to have adopted these lessons and skills. In an effort to pay these gifts forward by healing, supporting, and teaching, I began to shadow a physician assistant in internal medicine.
My experiences alongside my grandmother are not unique to me. Through shadowing, I have seen various forms of physical and emotional trauma that patients face. However, unlike my grandmother, not everyone has a support system. When it comes to dealing with such obstacles, I have a passion to serve as a guide; always trying to consider different perspectives. Some may see my empathetic nature as a weakness, but in a healthcare setting, it is my greatest strength. When rooming patients at the doctor’s office, I would converse and inquire about not only their medical concerns, but their feelings and experiences. When nervous patients thanked me for making them feel comfortable, and patients struggling emotionally held my hand for comfort, I knew I had succeeded in passing on both strength and encouragement.
Although I was raised in a household where education was prioritized over indulgences, I matured to form my own beliefs. Life is not about choosing between learning and pleasure, but rather intertwining the two. I have found a field of study that to me is both a sweet and bitter indulgence, but gratifying nonetheless. Medicine is balanced by both miraculous and shattering moments each requiring their own forms of nurturing. Negative occurrences do not weaken my belief in medicine but rather serve as my motivation to continuously learn and be active in political and research-based medicine. Similarly, positive patient outcomes serve as a reminder for why I cannot let setbacks get in the way of working towards progress. I promise to use my knowledge and experience to foster a tangible outcome of health and manifest invaluable relationships.
What aspects make this statement great
- This statement utilizes strong transitional sentences to link paragraphs which creates an easy to read essay with excellent flow.
- At the end of each experience, this student does an excellent job of reflecting. They discuss what they learned, why it was significant, and how it will help them in a career in medicine.
- Instead of discussing a variety of different experiences, the student focussed on quality experiences over quantity. This allows each experience, whether the experience with their grandmother or the experience as an emergency medical responder to really develop throughout the essay, ultimately creating a unifying theme that ties together well in the conclusion.
- The essay really comes to life due to the inclusion of details that describe experiences and interactions that were significant to the student such as time spent with their grandmother and patient interactions during shadowing.
PA personal statement examples: #2
My heart pounded blood into my ears as my hands fumbled across the keyboard. My eyes darted back and forth between the screen and the wall behind it, attempting to escape. After an eternity, the pointer finally aimed and clicked. It was good news: I was accepted. I gasped and held in a small scream, even though I was alone. Quickly dialing, I wiped tears of relief as I plopped down on the bed. “I got into UVa, mom.” A small gasp followed by excited laughter, and then “Okay, I have to get back to work, I wish I was there.” I wished the same, but her work seven hours away was the only source of income and it forced me to live alone for most of my senior year of high school.
At first, it was fine; I kept busy with college applications. Then I got in a car accident and realized I did not have anyone who could help me. It was daunting to be in such an unfamiliar and grim situation, but I knew I had to move forward. After a few deep breaths, a call to the police, the insurance company, and a few tears, I rattled home in my dinged car. I often despised having so much responsibility, from simple tasks such as cooking dinner, to futile efforts in battling a mice infestation. However, as I overcame the challenges, independence became a source of clear confidence. My college acceptance was meaningful because it assured me that with hard work, I could accomplish anything, even when support was not nearby. Independence is a significant part of my identity today; but through my undergraduate experiences, I recognized the prevalence and irrefutable significance of community. I developed my passion to become a physician assistant with the capability to make decisions and rely on relationships to guide my choice.
Throughout my first semester in college, I only used myself as a resource in navigating both academics and personal life. When my grades did not reflect the hours of studying I put in, I begrudgingly joined a study group as a last-ditch attempt to improve my marks. To my surprise, discussing and asking questions helped me to recognize essential ideas I would have missed and allowed me to have a more extensive understanding of the topic. Connections we made from bits of knowledge including basic sciences to entire functional systems fascinated me and I recognized the benefits of sharing and combining information, especially in regard to the human body. This experience led me to become a teaching assistant in biology, which required me to be not only confident in my own knowledge but also to have skills in sharing what I knew with students who were in similar situations. I encouraged students to ask questions and to discuss with peers before forming an answer, which benefited their learning and ultimately improved grades throughout the semester. Realizing the importance of collaboration motivated me to seek novel opportunities to connect with diverse types of people in healthcare.
In the summer after second year, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa where I studied hypertension and the impact of a recently built clinic next to a township called Khayelitsha. A shared conversation with an elderly woman revealed that although she was diagnosed with hypertension at the clinic, she had not been back since. She preferred to walk several more blocks to the traditional healer who made herbal medicines rather than to visit a professional doctor at the new nearby clinic. It was difficult for me to understand why she made that decision and to some degree, my education held me back from accepting the validity of her choice. There were clear disparities between the seemingly rational choices and the actual decisions made by patients in healthcare. After subsequent research, I found that the clinic operated mostly in English, including instructions for prescriptions and lifestyle changes for managing hypertension. Local dialects were unable to be translated by doctors who came from larger cities. At first look, the elderly woman made what some would consider the “wrong” choice, but with further investigation, it was evident that she chose what was best for herself. From this experience, I realized that I wanted to be an effective physician assistant who takes culture and community into consideration to provide the best care possible for a patient.
The qualities that I value the most are best represented in a physician assistant; collaboration, intelligence, community, and awareness. Healthcare is fundamentally patient-centered and requires an immense amount of trust in not only the physician but also in the entire healthcare team. Working together to recognize differences between each patient and communicating with other professionals to make a collective decision is crucial in gaining confidence and thus providing effective treatments.
Living alone at 18 years old, it seemed like I overcame all adversities on my own. Now, one of the greatest challenges I face is attending PA school and I have no doubt that the invaluable relationships I form will reinforce my aspirations to become a capable physician assistant.
What aspects make this statement great
- This student does an excellent job of discussing challenges or hardships they faced, such as their car crash and slipping grades, without ever playing the victim. They used any challenges as fuel to work harder, improve, and be better as a person and future professional. They admit initial missteps or personal struggles but, most importantly, they discuss what they did to turn their situation around or what they learned from a particular encounter.
- The student conveys their personality quite nicely in this essay by reflecting on how they felt at different points throughout their journey, in addition to what they learned.
- This statement highlights a variety of desirable qualities a physician assistant would possess such as collaboration, communication, reflection, and maturity.
PA personal statement examples: #3
I was working at my father’s restaurant when I heard a mother scream, “Someone help! My son is choking!” His hands were crossed around his neck and his color began to fade. I ran to the boy and placed my fists under his rib cage performing quick and forceful thrusts. A half-chewed carrot dislodged across the room and he began to catch his breath. The mother and boy hugged me as they wept, endlessly thanking me for saving his life. I rubbed their backs as I told them I felt fortunate to help. In that moment, the intangible reward from impacting a life and providing comfort sparked my interest in medicine. I felt filled with purpose: to help the vulnerable through challenging times.
Growing up, I was rooted in Greek culture: involved in competitive dancing, volunteering at the local festivals, attending Sunday School, and Greek school to become bilingual. From a young age, my Greek heritage taught me the importance and value of health, as Greek culture revolves around the Mediterranean diet, natural herbal medicine, praying for health, and wishing health onto others. I internalized a common Greek phrase growing up, “To your health”, which is used when celebrating a birthday, birth of a child, or saying goodbye. My parents are hardworking Greek immigrants from impoverished villages. I spent my summers at my father’s restaurant, building relationships with customers and learning the business. I helped donate food to local school events and funerals of community members, learning the value of giving back to the community. Even though I enjoyed customer service, I could not give up the feeling of heavy responsibility and impact when I performed the Heimlich maneuver. I aspired to pursue medicine and became a first-generation college student.
I wanted to gain experience providing hands-on medical care and helping those in need, so I became a Certified Nursing Assistant and Alzheimer’s caregiver in an assisted living facility. It was my first day training and I was instructed to prepare an 80-year-old male, Julio, for breakfast; he was known to be the most uncooperative and unfriendliest resident. I introduced myself as his new caregiver and he responded with an angry flurry of Spanish. Unsure of his concerns, I sat in the chair next to his bed and asked where he was from. “Panama” he said. I watched his face relax with comfort as I used limited Spanish to tell him I went there on a medical mission trip and loved his country. After a few minutes of small talk, he said with enthusiasm, “Let’s get ready for breakfast!” From that day forward, being greeted with “Buenos dias” every morning was symbolic of the challenge we overcame and the trusting relationship we built. Despite the language barrier, Julio was appreciative of my competence and adaptability to attempt to communicate with Spanish and hand gestures. I felt fortunate assisting those who were no longer capable of assisting themselves and advocating for those who are often maltreated. I found quality care requires more than scientific knowledge; building trust and using communication to attentively listen to feelings and concerns was vital.
Even though I enjoyed caring for residents, I was eager to further my scientific knowledge and witness medicine inside a clinic. My experience scribing for a hematologist and oncologist for the past 6 months at The Cancer Institute has been invaluable. I am learning about a variety of cancers, chemotherapy drugs, medical terminology, and how to use subjective information, radiographs, and lab work to form a coherent picture and treat patients. Seeing the impact the physician makes on patients as they return to the clinic happier and healthier is motivating and fuels my passion for medicine. I feel rewarded indirectly contributing to care, as my work allows the physician to solely focus on the patient rather than the computer. I've also witnessed the physician tell patients their cancer is rapidly progressing and to consider hospice care. Handing the patients and families a tissue during these tough conversations gives me a sense of purpose as this small gesture brings some comfort in such a difficult moment. As I spend my days in the doctor’s shadow, I can picture myself as his assistant and it has validated my decision to pursue medicine.
The ability to provide a lasting effect when I saved the choking boy’s life was a step to a lifelong commitment to medicine I want to pursue. My Greek heritage fostered my appreciation for medicine and ability to act with cultural competence and respect with those from diverse backgrounds. Working at my father’s restaurant equipped me with a work ethic to become a first-generation college student and the drive to pursue my path to become a physician assistant. Being a nursing assistant and a scribe has shown medicine is not monotonous; each patient is a unique individual requiring personalized care. It is not only about treating a diagnosis, but also listening to feelings and fears. After witnessing both human suffering and the demise of illness in the cancer clinic, I have seen the value of health and the miracle of a renewed chance at life through medicine. I, too, want to directly impact the lives of others by being the compassionate physician assistant patients deserve, “To your health”.
What aspects make this statement great
- The opening sentence and opening paragraph are engaging, interesting, and elicit curiosity - willing the reader to continue on in the story.
- This student does an excellent job of incorporating their Greek heritage into the personal statement and they demonstrate how their heritage has impacted them in their journey towards medicine.
- It's particularly nice to see the student’s dedication to connecting with patients and forming meaningful bonds, demonstrated by their detailed experience in an assisted living facility.
- The essay is well structured and lays a clear path in chronological order to the student's desire to become a physician assistant. The reader understands where their initial interest in medicine began and how they have come to their decision that becoming a physician assistant is suited for them.
- A unique ending that makes the reader want to know more about the student.
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