When it comes to standing out from a sea of PA applicants, earning a high GPA and GRE and completing all of your PA school requirements aren’t enough. To compete in this hyper-competitive discipline, students must be able to express themselves in a way that showcases their unique skills and passions. The good news is that the PA personal statement offers a valuable opportunity to show admissions committees how you would add to the college community.
Personal statements enable students to introduce themselves to admissions committees while demonstrating their commitment to the field. When crafting a PA personal statement, students should highlight their unique academic and professional history while explaining why they’ve chosen to pursue this field of study. In particular, applicants want to reveal why they’ve chosen to become PAs rather than pursue another position in the medical field.
Because competition is high for PA program slots, students need to use every advantage they have to stand out from the crowd. Keep reading to learn about the CASPA PA personal statement prompt and discover tips on crafting an essay that will make the right impression.
Understanding the PA Personal Statement Prompt
As an aspiring PA, you can expect to apply to colleges using CASPA, or the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants. The only national organization for PA program applications, CASPA allows students to apply to multiple schools using one application and personal statement. Currently, future PA are asked to write 5,000 characters on the following prompt:
In your own words, write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant. Keep your statement general as it is shared with all programs you apply to.
Applicants should note that the prompt is designed to assess whether they understand what being a PA entails. After all, physician assistants hold numerous responsibilities and face a wide range of challenges, from diagnosing complex medical conditions to dealing with difficult patients and family members. Additionally, schools want to know what personal characteristics and experiences help differentiate students from the pack. The best PA personal statements showcase attributes that might not be evident from a student’s transcripts, such as their sensitivity to patients and passion for the career.
What PA Schools Are Looking for
While there’s no single perfect applicant profile for PA programs, schools do seek out certain skills and attributes. According to the Johns Hopkins Physician Assistant guide, the best PA school applicants demonstrate the following:
- Experience-based knowledge of what a PA career entails
- Compassionate and caring attitude toward others
- Enthusiasm for the field
- Integrity and trustworthiness
- Talent for leadership
- Ability to communicate with people from different walks of life
The goal is to show PA schools that you know what you’re getting into and have the natural talent and aptitude to excel.
Tips on Writing the Best PA Personal Statement
Physician assistant programs have a reputation for being competitive. In fact, the best programs typically require students to have a GPA between 3.0 and 4.0 and complete a number of prerequisite courses. Fortunately, the PA personal statement offers applicants a way to stand out from the pack while conveying their enthusiasm for a career in the field. Here are some tips for writing a PA personal statement that’s certain to impress admissions officers:
Show Off Your Industry Knowledge
Working as a PA isn’t for everyone, and programs want evidence that applicants know what they’re getting into. To that end, the personal statement is a great opportunity to show your knowledge of the profession. In particular, schools want to be sure applicants aren’t ego driven, as PAs are often the unsung heroes of the medical community.
Focus on Experiences
Of course, knowing what a PA does in theory isn’t the same as understanding it in practice. To that end, personal statements are a great place to discuss experiences such as volunteering, shadowing medical professionals, or working in a clinical setting. Rather than simply listing different experiences, look for ways to describe how they impacted you and influenced your decision to become a PA. For example, you could talk about how helping a particular patient get better made you want to devote your life to the field. In particular, students should show that they want to be a PA rather than a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional.
Tell a Story Rather Than Listing Traits
It’s natural to want to share all your positive traits with admissions committees. However, applicants should remember that the adcoms already have access to your undergraduate transcripts, test scores, and CV. In other words, restating these items is a waste of valuable space. Rather than listing out traits and accomplishments, the most compelling PA personal statements tell a story about the applicant. The goal is to be specific and memorable, so the admissions officers have an emotional reaction to the statement. For example, your story could make people feel happy, sad, or inspired. Try to paint a picture so that the reader is experiencing the story the way you did rather than just reading along.
Reflect on Your Experiences
Telling a story is a great way to differentiate yourself from other applicants. However, it’s not enough to relay information; you also want to reflect on the experience and show how it affected your decision to become a PA. For example, if you were inspired after shadowing a PA in your community, take time to explain how and why this was an important learning experience.
Avoid Making Excuses
When it comes to crafting a PA personal statement, there’s no perfect topic. However, one thing you want to avoid is making excuses for past mistakes. While admissions committees don’t expect applicants to be perfect, it’s best to avoid playing the victim. Instead, simply state the problem in a matter-of-fact way and explain how you dealt with it. The idea is to show that you overcame obstacles because you were determined to achieve your goals.
Additionally, applicants can show how overcoming these issues helped them grow as a person and student. Adcoms want to know that you have the perseverance and determination to succeed, so let them see how you will be a better PA because of your past mistakes.