Writing can be difficult, even with practice and training, and oftentimes, reading over PA school supplemental essay examples can help you with your own forays into that realm.
Prompts will change from year to year, and from school to school, but you can expect to find certain prompts generally repeated, albeit with slightly different wording. These prompts are fairly common, and not just in ; these prompts can be found in applications for , as well.
Each essay you write should be a finely-crafted sample of yourself that shines through, tells your story, and showcases your best side to the admissions committee. It can be tricky to know how to throw in your story, along with pertinent information about your academic accomplishments, or the , but if you study these examples, you’ll see how to go about this task.
Below, we give you several examples of likely and possible prompts that you will encounter, as well as answers to those questions. Studying these will help you craft your own answers, showing your schools-of-choice how you meet the for their program.
My first memory is, literally, playing with my father’s stethoscope. I was fascinated by it. While this is hardly the first step on my journey to medicine, I like to imagine that there has always been something in my DNA or my psyche which has demanded that I pursue healthcare as a vocation.
I was sick a lot as a child and was in and out of the hospital, finding myself needing help with allergies, asthma, and the occasional broken bone. This early exposure to healthcare, as well as my father’s profession as a doctor, made me familiar with what went on in a hospital.
One day, my dad let me come with him to the hospital to see what it was he did. I was still as fascinated with the trappings of the medical field as I was as a child with that stethoscope. Because of my fascination, he let me come along. I sat in the balcony of an operating room, watching my father carefully controlling the anesthetic to keep the patient unconscious, but alive – safe.
Allow me a moment to talk about another passion of my life: sports. I’ve always been an avid sportsman, enjoying soccer and baseball as a boy. What I love most about sports is the teamwork: the offense and defense working in tandem, under a team captain’s plan, to win the game. What I saw in the operating theater was exactly the same kind of teamwork, with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals operating together to heal their patient.
That interest in the complete healthcare team got me researching the different positions and kinds of medical experts there were – and I looked up everything from anesthesiologists to x-ray techs. Along the way, I discovered the physician assistant. This resonated with me. It seemed like this role had something special to offer their team. They were versatile, worked under doctors to provide a variety of care, and seemed like they could help a lot of people.
I made it my goal to learn more and asked dad if he knew any. He happened to work with PAs at the hospital, and I got to shadow two of them. I loved every minute of it, despite the chaos that could ensue.
While shadowing on PA named Darryl Neiman, I spoke with several of his patients, making them laugh, and giving me a small taste of patient interaction.
In university, I got a job working in the hospital as a caregiver. I helped with the feeding, clothing, and cleaning of patients. Although this work was difficult and could often be unpleasant, it was also rewarding. I could see the difference I could make, practice being with patients, and learned to appreciate those “unseen” hospital workers who are integral to the system. Again, my appreciation of teamwork prepared me well for an understanding here, and I loved being part of that team.
My love of teamwork, combined with a lifelong interest in the medical field, has led me to where I am today, an aspiring physician assistant. I would love to be part of the integral teamwork of a hospital to help with patients.
Your program has a strong emphasis on patient interaction and foundational knowledge. I love the former, and know I will need the latter.
Patient interaction is my favorite part over any other aspect of healthcare. I love bringing somebody a smile and peace as much as a medical cure for their condition. I recognize that medicine is a holistic process and know that a big part of that whole is making sure that the patient is taken care of as a person.
Because your program gets PA students together with patients sooner than other programs, I was immediately drawn to it, knowing that I would feel useful, and like I was making a difference faster than at almost any other school.
Foundational knowledge is also important to me. Rather than rushing into new techniques or fads, your program emphasizes having a strong knowledge of the basics. I know that building on those basic techniques will allow me to place newer ideas on a firm foundation, and help me navigate the strange realms of human physiology and healthcare.
Although foundations are important in your program, that hardly means you are living in the past. You have some of the most state-of-the-art laboratories I have seen. It’s nice to know that I will be able to learn with advanced techniques and the latest elements of medicine.
Those aspects are paramount to me, because they provide me what I am most interested in – patient care – and what I will most need – foundational knowledge – to proceed as a student and future physician assistant; the advanced equipment shows that I will have somewhere to move to, once based on the firm foundation you provide.
There is actually more. Your school’s campus is located in an area where I grew up. Although we moved away, I have always loved this city, and returning here for my schooling and start of my career could be no more perfect. Furthermore, I still have many friends and contacts in the area, and that safety net will keep me more secure and confident as a student.
Finally, your school’s value statement puts knowledge and kindness as equal virtues, and I need to know that I will be going to a place that has the same values I do. Whether an exploration of curiosity – emphasizing knowledge – or learning how to be compassionate and caring for all members of my community – kindness – I know that your school will give me the best education I could ask for.
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The obvious answer is “physician assistant,” but of course, there are so many aspects to that job, and I will go into some of my top choices for what kind of PA I want to be and what kind of life I hope to lead.
My ideal situation would be to practice under the auspices of a hospital in a small town, or even out in the country. I have always loved open places and nature, and I think that living in such a community would bring me great personal satisfaction.
On a professional level, assisting with a smaller hospital or a family practice out in the country would maximize the use of my skills – in my opinion. Staffing is an often-encountered hurdle in such small communities, and a PA – or several – would be of tremendous use in a rural area. Since doctors are scarce, being able to add staff members who can assist those physicians would be giving a small community an amount of healthcare that would really make an impact.
Additionally, getting to know a smaller community would be satisfying and allow me to understand my patients a lot better than in a larger city with more distance and less personal contact.
The philosophy of medicine has fascinated me for some time, and I would like to continue my studies in this area. The culmination of these studies would occur after practicing for a short time. At that time, I would like to get my master of physician assistant studies (MPAS), and dedicate some of my time to teaching up and coming PAs and other healthcare professionals. I believe in giving back to my community and offering a helping hand up to the next generation of healthcare professionals.
I didn’t like the first years of my life. Bounced around from foster home to foster home, it took years before I had found my adoptive parents and was finally, permanently accepted into a family. That acceptance meant the world to me, and showed me that you can choose your family and choose to find love and acceptance in even the direst of circumstances.
We lived in a suburb, and the whole place seemed as quiet and tranquil as a Norman Rockwell painting on Prozac. Not unpleasant, just a little lethargic. That was okay. It gave me two important aspects of myself: a desire to explore, and a safe place to return to at the end of any adventure.
I remember one time biking along the train tracks with my buddy Rod. We had each received a new bicycle for our birthdays and knew that this was the most freedom a boy could get before he could get a driver’s license.
Rod didn’t see the train as quickly as I did, and when I yelled, he fell from his bike, and I dropped my own vehicle to race to him. I pulled him back from the edge of speeding death just in time. It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my life; Rod was another “family” member I’d chosen.
That brush with near-death was one of the reasons I have that made me want to make a career out of helping people. I knew what could have happened if I’d been slower, and I knew that people faced that moment down every day. When Rod and myself, breathless, returned to safe, secure, sedentary suburbia, I knew I wanted to stand with those that were facing death.
Ironically, it didn’t make either of us scared to try new things. Both Rod and myself go rock climbing. I think, in a counter-intuitive way, the incident with the train made both of us realize that we couldn’t control every outcome, but that we could always count on each other. I don’t know how many risks I’d take without Rod watching my back, but with his help, I feel more stabilized.
Whether through my adoptive family, my familial friends like Rod, or my quiet suburbs, I know that I can go forward on any adventure – rock-climbing or bike-riding, or learning about medicine – and have a safety net made of love at my back. I wouldn’t be me without those people or my joy in adventure and in the care of friends.
The hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn was one I had to learn at the expense of some of my GPA. My first year of university was radically different from high school, in terms of its scope and the requirements it placed on me, as well as my response to it. In high school, I had been under the roof of my parents, and they kept me in a very strict environment. At university, I cut loose, like I was a rubber band pulled taut and finally snapping back.
I’m not blaming my parents for what I did, of course, I’m merely saying what led up to my failing my chemistry course in my first semester.
Winter break came, and I knew I had a major decision to make: change majors or press on. I decided to keep going, and with that dedication came great resolve. Over the break, other students spent their time reconnecting with friends and family after their first years away at school. For myself, I studied. In fact, what I did was study how to study.
By the time I got back to school, I arrived with a multitude of study guides, meditation techniques, and day planners with which I would set up a regimen of studying habits to ensure success. I added chemistry back onto my course load and re-took the course that semester.
I had learned a valuable lesson about how to spend my time, how to study, and how to seek out techniques to help me. I also learned not to ignore problems (like a poor grade on a midterm) but to confront my difficulties head-on and keep my goals in sight.
So, while you will see an F on my transcript for one semester’s chemistry class, I encourage you to look to the next semester, which has an A- for the same course. Now, don’t ignore the F, either. An F symbolizes failure, and an A- symbolizes passing, but both together show progress, perseverance, and lessons learned. Those two together are far more valuable than either alone. Because anybody can pass a course, but a true student learns and grows.
My mother is an architect, and I remember invading her home office one day, as a child, staring at her draughts papers and having her explain to me about how she needed to compensate for structural weight, materials, and the terrain the building was being built on. Without a solid foundation, perfect design, and the right materials, the whole structure would collapse. Every element was necessary.
I don’t want to get lost in the metaphor. I don’t want to declare the whole building an allegory with this profession as the materials and that profession as the foundation and so forth. What I want to stress is the essential elements of the team.
To me, a physician assistant, working with a doctor, is somebody who steps in to take burdens off of shoulders, lightening the primary physician’s load enough to allow them to focus on a wider area.
A physician assistant, of course, can step in and accomplish much of what an MD or GP can do. Their scope is limited, yes, and they report to – and work in collaboration with – an MD, but they can still take on many tasks for the MD to essentially extend the effective influence and scope of care of that MD.
I think of PAs as integral insofar as they can bridge a lot of gaps where a full MD isn’t needed, but the patient still needs heavy treatment. They are in the middle of the medical world, and that is a position which I think is as exciting as it is useful.
I’ve always enjoyed mediation and removing burdens from others. I think that is the best role for me, and I think working as a physician assistant will give me exactly that.
Wondering how to navigate your applications?
You have already made a great decision to research your essays before writing them, or while revising them. is a great choice to make, and we’re glad that you are taking your application seriously enough to study these examples. Apply this same process to the rest of your application, with your , for example; research, look at samples, and go for , and so on, with every aspect of your application to PA school.
Refine your essay writing technique, review these examples, and get ready to write your best work for the admissions committee and for your future.
1. What are some other common essay prompts?
You could run into anything, really, but generally-speaking, the essays you encounter will fall into a few, basic categories:
Personal, like “Tell us about yourself”
Professional, like “Why do you want to be a PA?”
Quirky, like “If you were a kitchen implement, what would you be?”
Other topics might include: What are your strategies for coping with the stressors of school; Tell us about your family; What books have influenced you in the past year; If you couldn’t be a PA, what other career would you want to have; or Where would you like to work as a PA.
2. How long should my essays be?
Follow any direct CASPA guidelines or guidelines issued by your school. Never go longer than the guideline; consider these as unbreakable rules.
If no length is given, aim for about 500 words; don’t go longer than 600, or shorter than 250. These are short essays, so you don’t need pages and pages on each subject.
3. Do I need essays for specific schools?
Yes. Prompts like, “Why did you choose our program?” are obviously specific to an individual school, and you will need to tailor them accordingly. Others are more general or adaptive, such as, “Why do you want to be a PA?”
4. Do all schools require supplemental essays?
Check with each school or program to see what their requirements are. They will not all find it necessary to receive supplemental or secondary essays. Likewise, they might have topics which are optional depending on your personal application and background. If an essay asks you to comment on any gaps in education you’ve had, for example, you won’t need to fill that out if there are no gaps and no low scores or other discrepancies that require explanation in your application.
5. Can I skip any optional essays?
You can, yes, but depending on the essay, you shouldn’t skip it.
In the above example, you truly might just skip over an essay explaining a gap. If you don’t have a gap, you don’t have an essay to write.
But, if at all possible, write every essay. If you have a tenuous connection to the topic, brainstorm for a while and write something. Every essay is another chance to gain a point or stand out in the eyes of the admissions committee.
For instance, if there is an optional essay saying asking you to show your relationship to an underprivileged community, you might think you need not fill it out if you aren’t part of an underrepresented minority group. But, if the essay just asks for your relationship to such a community, you almost certainly have a connection – a friend, relative, mentor, and so on – who fits that description. You can talk about that connection, or perhaps some volunteer work or politically rallies you’ve been to and how they inspire you and affect you.
6. What is CASPA?
CASPA is the Centralized Application Service for Physicians Assistants. It is a service of PAEA – the Physician Assistant Education Association, and allows application to multiple programs through one, centralized program.
7. These prompts are similar to other questions/essays I’ve encountered; can I just use the same answer?
Essentially, yes, but you’ll need to fit the answer to different places. Let’s take the prompt “Why do you want to be a PA?” and look at three examples.
In a larger essay, a primary application essay, you’ll likely be given a larger character, word, or page count limit to write out your journey. You can expand on ideas, give a little more of your personal story, and you will be expected to provide more detail commensurate with the increased size of the essay.
In the secondary essays section, these prompts will be, as detailed above, shorter and more to the point. You have less room and less detail.
If you encounter such a question in an interview, it is unlikely that your answer will be formally timed, however, the expectation is that it will occupy approximately two minutes of time, not much more or less. You also will have to cover the “bullet points” and fill in detail ex tempore, instead of writing out precise language and memorizing it.
8. What is the most important thing to write about in an open-ended question?
Always ask yourself what the reader – the admissions committee – wants to know and make sure you answer that. “Tell us about yourself,” isn’t just a list of hobbies, it’s you showing your best, personal attributes – for example.