personal statement

Flashback to My Personal Statement

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I decided to dig back into my e-mail vault the other day to try to find my personal statement from when I applied in 2011!  There are definitely some things that I would change if I were to submit it again, but it surprisingly wasn't too bad.  And it landed me some interviews, and I was accepted, so it did it's job.  I wanted to post this so you could see what got me to where I am now.  I'm not sure if this was my final edition that I submitted, but it was the most complete one I could find.  

Unfortunately, editing services like myPAresource weren't available when I was applying, but the service would have benefitted me a ton.  The only person who edited my essay was my mom, and she's great at grammar, but she's not a PA or that well-informed with what PA admissions are looking for. 


If hard work, determination, and focus assure one of success, a career as a physician assistant is within my reach.  Strong work ethics, as well as persistence, have directed my actions.  Whether it was a small thing like learning to ride my bike or making a career choice, I know what I want to accomplish and will passionately strive to obtain this goal.  My aspiration is to be a physician assistant that is compassionate, detail oriented, and conscious of each patient’s needs.   

My younger sister, Hanna, began having monthly fevers exceeding 102 degrees shortly after birth.  Many of the medical professionals who were consulted concluded that her condition was mysterious, but not life threatening.  One doctor stands out to me because of the interest he took in my sister's condition. Two years after he first saw Hanna and after many hours of extensive research, Dr. Miller diagnosed her illness as PHAPA, a rare disease with many unknowns and no clear treatment.  

This exposure to healthcare encouraged me to pursue a career as a professional who holds a genuine interest in a patient’s well being.  My father first introduced me to the physician assistant profession during my junior year of high school.   During the next two years I devoted time toward researching options available in the medical field and asking myself what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. I sought advice from health professionals, family, and teachers. My greatest strengths are determination, an interest in the intricacies of the human body, and compassion for helping people.  As a physician assistant, I will be able to utilize those characteristics in a field that is both challenging and rewarding.  After having made this decision, I was challenged to step out of my comfort area of literature and social sciences to begin a degree in Biology.    

For the past four years at the University of Georgia, I have immersed myself in rigorous classes, observation, CNA training, and volunteering to help better prepare myself for a career as a physician assistant.  During Spring semester 2011, I drove to Atlanta every weekend for three months in order to complete the Certified Nursing Assistant program while I still maintained a full time schedule at school. 

With my Certified Nursing Assistant license, I have gained further insight into patient care and interaction.  Patients value someone who cares and takes the time to explain procedures and complicated medical jargon.  Being a CNA before going into a profession as a PA has provided me with valuable insight into the team aspect of medical care.  At the hospital, I have worked with many different nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and doctors to ensure quality care for the patients.  Each member has his or her own role, but recovery occurs quickest for the patient when everyone works together to provide the highest quality of care.  

To further enhance my understanding of PA responsibilities, I have shadowed in various fields, allowing me to observe both patient/PA and Physician/PA interactions and procedures, including surgeries.    The ranges of independent levels among the PAs and the professionalism exhibited during stressful situations have been impressive.  There was one incident when a diagnosis of a small cyst was actually an aneurism.  A dangerous situation was quickly averted because of the quick actions and judgment of the PA.    

I have also participated in international volunteer trips with Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry, to Amsterdam and Jamaica.  I now see a need for medical care in other countries, and I hope to utilize my knowledge and skills as an international medical provider.  For example, the project I worked on in Jamaica was to construct a three-room home to replace the leaking, dirt floored shack occupied by a mother and her five children.  She showed her gratefulness with food and tears, while the children showed their excitement with hugs for everyone.  This was a small step toward providing this family with a healthier environment.  Eventually, I hope to contribute actual healthcare to families such as these.   

Flexibility, demand, and growth are all attractive aspects of the PA profession, but my interests go beyond these.  As a PA, I will utilize my skills, intelligence, and compassion while I am helping others.  Although self-sufficiency is important, I enjoy working as part of a team, which increases accountability. An accountability system in healthcare is essential to preventing mistakes, thus providing better care to patients. The possibility of working in different areas and specialties as needs change makes this career appealing.  I am ready to learn and to prepare for my career as a physician assistant.   


Guest Post from Lorae the PA - The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Your Personal Statement

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I'm so excited to share a post with you from Lorae Schafer, a PA student who is killing it on Instagram (@Lorae.the.pa) and Youtube.  If you want to be encouraged and get some great tips, make sure you're following her on social media. 


The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement is the ultimate balancing act. In 5,000 characters or less, you are asked to showcase who you are, highlight your strengths, elaborate on your experiences, and showcase why you would make a great PA. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to emphasize what makes you unique and explain why programs should want to turn you into a PA. The prompt seems so simple – yet navigating your response can be a challenging and overwhelming task.

As an applicant, I felt I had to create a strong, memorable personal statement to compensate for an otherwise lackluster application. My GPA was average. My patient care/healthcare experience barely met the minimum, and I wasn’t 100% confident in my letters of recommendation. Heck, my prerequisites weren’t even complete by the time I submitted my application. Overall, I felt like a total work in progress! My saving grace was my ability to write about what I felt made me worthy of PA school. 

The personal statement is a powerful tool for communicating your individuality to admissions committees. That’s probably why there is so much pressure to make it perfect. But here’s the thing – you don’t have to be the greatest writer in the world to create a killer essay. All you need to know are the do’s and don’ts to create a solid framework for your personal statement. You can always build up from there!

DO…

Consider using a theme. Admissions committees read hundreds to thousands of personal statements every year. A theme allows you to tie your personal statement together by giving you something to bring all your thoughts back to. Even better, it gives your reader something to remember your essay by. Incorporating a positive theme can help increase your memorability as an applicant.

Draw in the reader. If your first paragraph is off to a slow start, you are setting the tone for an uninteresting essay and a blasé reader. Perhaps the most common way of creating a hook is with an interesting (and relevant) story. Whatever you decide – make the reader want to keep reading.

Be honest and transparent. Writing your personal statement isn’t about what you think the admissions committees want to hear; it’s about staying true to who you are. So, before you answer the prompt, make a simple list of the reasons why YOU want to be a PA – not things you found on the internet or heard from your mentor. Then draw on your own meaningful experiences to back up those reasons. By being honest, your personality should naturally start to shine through.

Edit, edit, edit. Continually revise your essay. Nothing ever comes out perfectly the first time around. Then ask your friends, family, colleagues, and/or mentors to look over your personal statement as well. This is useful in ensuring you have no grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes. It is also a great way to validate that your essay is genuine. The more eyes, the better!

(myPAresource is a fantastic site that uses certified PAs as editors. You may consider submitting your essay to them for revision after a few drafts.)

DON’T…

Define what a PA is. The admissions committees are reading your personal statement to learn something about you, so don’t waste precious time and space explaining something they already know. Instead, ask yourself how you know you could fulfill those same duties – and why you want to.

Restate your resume. Again, this will not contribute to your application. This is what CASPA is for! Use your essay to explain the “how” and “why” behind your resume. Why did working as a CNA confirm that the PA profession was right for you? How does your experience as an EMT substantiate your capabilities as a future PA?

Detail your life story. Yes, the admissions committees want to know you – but primarily the parts of you that are relevant to PA school. Instead of walking the admissions committees through your path to applying step-by-step, focus on specific experiences. Keep personal details and family struggles to a minimum unless they contribute strongly to why you would make a fantastic PA. Even then, focus the majority of your writing around your non-familial life.

Dwell on mistakes. It is tempting to fill up space justifying a failing grade. You are better off briefly touching on issues like these in no more than a couple sentences. Don’t let yourself be distracted from the task at hand. Stay focused on responding to the prompt, painting a picture of your strengths, and maintaining a positive emphasis. Academic hiccups or other potential red flags in your application can be left to a more thorough discussion at your interview.

Remember – you CAN do this! Just think back on how far you’ve come to be able to apply to PA school. This is just one more challenge along the way.


Lorae graduated from the University of San Diego in 2015 with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. She worked as a medical scribe in women's health for two years and is currently a first year PA student at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina.


Personal Statement 101: Editing

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Once you have a rough draft for your essay, it's time to start editing.  When reviewing your essay, you need to be looking at a few different elements: 

  • Content 
  • Grammar
  • Flow

Editing for content - Are you providing important information and not wasting space with unnecessary details and words?  Are you answering all of the essential questions and not leaving anything unanswered? 

Editing for grammar - Your essay should be easy to read, and errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar should not be included in your final draft.  While this isn't an essay for literature class, it is probably the most important 5,000 characters you will ever write.  You don't want poor grammar and careless mistakes to distract your reader.

Editing for flow - Is your essay easy to read?  Does it make sense?  The experiences you discuss in your essay should make sense chronologically and be easy to follow.  A confusing essay is one of the worst kinds.  It makes it difficult to focus on the content when I'm just trying to figure out how everything fits together.  

While you will obviously want to edit your essay yourself, you need to have others read it as well.  A family member or friend's opinion is great, and they may be able to help you with grammar, but that isn't the most subjective option.  Since you're writing an essay to try to get into physician assistant school, you need a PA to read your essay.  This can be someone you have shadowed or worked with, or you may consider a revision/editing service.  These services will NOT write your essay for you, and I would discourage you from pursuing any avenue that offers to do this.  I work with myPAresource because they only use PAs, many of which have served on admissions panels, and the feedback you receive is honest and extremely helpful.  If you decide to use the services over at myPAresource, make sure to use the code "thePAPlatform" for a discount! 

To end the discussion on editing, I have to give you a caution.  Please do NOT have someone random on the internet that you talk to in a forum or group edit your essay, especially if it is a fellow applicant.  You can't know someone else's motives, and you don't want to take the chance of someone else plagiarizing part of your essay or stealing your ideas.  Make sure anyone who is reading your essay is someone that you know and trust, or a secure service.


Personal Statement 101: Getting Started

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After you've taken some time to brainstorm what content you want to include in your personal statement, it's time to actually start writing!  There's no denying this can be difficult.  My advice is to just start writing.  You can always go back and edit your essay later, but just get some words down on paper.  

It's okay if you don't initially write your thoughts out in the order you'll use them in your essay, but take the subjects that you brainstormed and spend some time writing about them.  Try to avoid lists, but describe your experience or story.  Expand on what you've learned through that example, and how it will impact you as a PA student or as a future PA.  

Once you have some rough thoughts on paper, try to put them in order.  It's important that your essay has a good flow, and so think about the order of your story.  How did you come to the decision of becoming a PA? If your essay is choppy or out of order, it will be confusing to your reader, and you will risk losing your reader.  Usually, your most interesting or meaningful story will be your best bet for an introduction.  

Try to make sure there are no unanswered questions.  Even if you aren't able to go into as much detail as you would like to due to the 5,000 character limit, keep in mind that you may be able to explain further in supplemental essays or during an interview.  If your essay makes questions come up, that might also make your reader lose interest.  

So here's your challenge - turn off your phone, set a timer for 30 minutes, sit down and write one full page about why you want to be a PA!  Just let your words pour out, and see where it takes you.  


March Webinar - Crafting a Personal Statement for Your Application to Physician Assistant School

Welcome!  This webinar will be live at 5 PM Eastern on March 26, 2017.  If you're tuning in live, you can comment with questions here or jump over to Youtube to live chat.  If you're watching this as a replay, feel free to comment with any questions!  

To find the free personal statement workshop mentioned in the webinar, visit myPAresource.  

If you would like reminders about upcoming webinars, enter your email below! 



Personal Statement 101: Content

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Please explain why you are interested in being a Physician Assistant.  

This is an example of the type of prompt that is given for your CASPA essay.  An open-ended request for you to explain how you've come to the decision of your future career in 5,000 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation), which is basically one page.  

At this point you start to question what in the world you should write about.  How do you start?  Should you use a story?  Or a quote?  How do you convey that out of thousands of other applicants, you are most deserving of a spot?  All valid and tough questions.  I hope to give you some direction on coming up with exactly what you need to put into your personal statement.  

The purpose of your CASPA essay is to show who you are as a person.  From looking at your grades, achievements, and volunteer experience, an admissions committee can tell whether you have the potential to do well in a PA program academically.  They cannot tell if you are a compassionate person who truly understands the role of a PA and wants to serve others through medicine.  They also do not know what experiences you may have gone through to get to the point of applying to PA school.  

Some applicants overcome a lot of hardships on their journey to becoming a PA, while others haven't had those intense circumstances.  That's ok.  You don't need to feel inadequate in either situation, but embrace what you have done personally and use that to your advantage.  

Before trying to figure out how to start your essay or finish it, you need to take some time to evaluate what exactly you want to put in there and what you want to portray.  Your goals are to show: 

  • What exactly made you decide to become a PA? - Any specific experiences you've had?  How did you learn about the profession?  Who was the first PA you met?  
  • Why after deciding to become a PA, do you want to pursue it, and why does it fit you? - What have you seen while shadowing?  What good or bad examples of PAs or other healthcare professionals have impacted your decisions? 

I've created some worksheets to help you work through brainstorming for your personal statement.  You can enter your e-mail address below to download the worksheets for free!  

If you need more help with your personal statement, check out myPAresource to have your essay edited by a PA!  And you can use the code "thePAPlatform" for a discount!  


Personal Statements: Tips from a Reapplicant

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I'm so excited to bring you guys an awesome guest post by Meghan from the PA blog, Meghan in Medicine!  Enjoy!

Ah, the dreaded personal statement talk. Personal statements can be uncomfortable, strange, and odd to write. Writing or talking about myself has never been my strong suit, and always makes me feel awkward. There is a thin line between coming off confident, well balanced, and self-aware opposed to cocky, conceited, and arrogant in person, and this line is even thinner on paper.

I was a second time applicant to PA school when I got acceptance offers. I altered my personal statement in between application cycles to really encompass who I am, what I've been through that would make me stand out as an applicant, and who I want to be as a Physician Assistant. These are such vague ideas but they helped steer me in the right direction. I was not 100% happy with my first personal statement and am glad that I reached out to get opinions on revising it.

I was fortunate enough to visit with a PA-C who was formally on an admissions committee board for a PA school about my application during my off time. She told me some harsh words about my first personal statement. She told me to nix the dramatic introduction - something I've been told to include since undergraduate workshops, and really focus on 1. what makes me stand out as an applicant 2. what I can bring to a PA class in terms of diversity, and 3. what I will bring to the table as a Physician Assistant.

To help those that are needing some direction I am going to share some major points I made in my personal statement that corresponds with the advice I was given.

  1. What I think helped me stand out as an applicant is that I am an African American woman in a health care field that is 3% African American. I touched on that in my introduction and I gave background on why I wanted to be in the healthcare field. 
     
  2. I bring diversity first in my ethnicity and second in my experiences. I have taken two Medical Service Trips that I am so proud of and am thankful for. The second one made the most impact to me due to an interaction with a citizen who said he'd "rather die" than receive help from the public hospitals around him. This trip was a moment where I realized I wanted to dedicate myself to serving the underserved in medicine and in my community one day.
     
  3. This section was at the end and it included my goals as an aspiring Physician Assistant. Touch on the patient care you want to provide, the kind of provider you want to be recognized as, patient advocacy, health education, etc. 

I really do hope this will help someone reading this because I know how awkward it is to write an essay about yourself. Try to be as honest and forthcoming as possible. Do not include things that aren't genuine because they will notice and will take note. Remember, these admissions committees read upwards of 2,000 personal statements per application cycle, and they know what they are looking for.

Make sure to check out Meghan's website, Meghan in Medicine, for more awesome Pre-PA advice, and you can e-mail her directly at Meghan.ross12@yahoo.com if you have any questions!  I'm excited to hear more of her advice once school starts, and I hope you guys will show her some love in the comments.  And if you're looking for the best personal statement editors that are specifically for PA school, check out myPAresource, and make sure to use the code "thePAPlatform" for a discount on your revision!.  What are your tips for personal statements as a reapplicant?  


Partnership with myPAresource

Hey Guys! 

I'm excited to announce that I've recently partnered with myPAresource and joined their team to edit Personal Statements!  myPAresource is made up of a great team of PAs who offer personal feedback on your essay.  If you're struggling with wondering if you have the right content or if you're making a good impression, then you may want a second opinion to get you in the right direction, and hopefully land you an interview!  Think of it as an investment in your future!  Use code "thePAPlatform" at myPAresource for a discount on any service!