If you’re applying to a Physician’s Assistant program, you will be asked to write a personal statement. Continue reading as we outline the dos and don'ts of your PA school personal statement.
Are you wondering how to write a unique, stand-out personal statement for PA school? We’ve got you covered with our complete guide to writing a stellar personal statement.
This one document has the power to set you apart from the competition, giving admissions committees a deeper understanding of who you are beyond your academic achievements and test scores.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the dos and don'ts of crafting a compelling personal statement that will leave a lasting impression.
The first step is understanding what a personal statement is. A personal statement is a piece of writing that shares who you are to admissions committees. Many programs like humanities and social sciences ask applicants to write personal statements to learn about the applicant on a more intimate level.
Unlike a statement of purpose, a personal statement focuses more on you and your interests and hobbies rather than academic achievements and accomplishments.
A personal statement is usually less formal and may take a storytelling approach as you share how your experiences have shaped you and led you to apply to the specific program.
While the tone is less formal than a statement of purpose, make sure your personal statement is well-written and engaging to your reader. You should proofread and edit your writing multiple times before submitting it.
When writing a personal statement, think about answering some of the following questions:
As most personal statements are about 500 to 600 words, or two pages double-spaced, you won’t have the space to answer all of these questions. Pick a few to focus on.
Now that we have a pretty good understanding of the expectations and tone of a personal statement let's discuss how to write a strong personal statement for PA school.
The first thing to do before you begin writing is to read the school’s instructions carefully. Different schools may ask you to include specific pieces of information in your statement. The key to impressing the admissions committee is to demonstrate that you are detail-oriented and have actually read through the instructions.
Admission committees for PA schools want to know if you are right for the field before admitting you into the program. If they think you won’t make a good PA, then they most likely won’t accept your application.
Your personal statement for a PA school should demonstrate why you want to be a Physician Assistant and why you would make a good PA. When writing your statement, highlight specific attributes and characteristics that make up a good PA. Some specific traits to highlight may include:
All of these traits make up a successful Physician Assistant. Use specific examples from your personal experience to show off your great traits. As the saying goes, show, don’t tell. Pick a couple of examples that demonstrate you possess one or more of these traits for your personal statement.
Successful PA essays are not about job experience; in fact, you should think of a well-rounded approach to medicine. For example, think of extracurricular activities that have shaped your interest in medicine and helped you grow as a person.
Make sure to work on your personal statement well in advance of submitting your application. This will help ensure you have ample time for revisions, meet the application deadlines and can present the best possible version of yourself to the admissions committee.
There are a lot of tips on how to write a good personal statement for med school that you can use for a PA personal statement. However, it is important to know what to avoid doing as well.
Don’t be dishonest and disingenuous in your personal statement. Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements and can spot those who feel off or insincere.
You don’t have to be a perfect person or perfect applicant to get accepted; be yourself and be honest. In fact, acknowledging challenges or setbacks that you have faced and overcame is a great way to demonstrate your resilience and problem-solving skills that make you a stronger candidate!
Also, avoid generic clichés and overused quotations in personal statements. This can include statements such as “I want to be a PA because I love helping people.” General statements such as this are overdone and come across as dull and impersonal.
Also, steer clear of fixating on salary details. Focusing too much on the money aspect might make it seem like your main motivation for becoming a Physician's Assistant is financial gain, rather than a true passion for patient care and healthcare. Instead, let your personal statement shines with your real-life experiences and genuine enthusiasm for this profession.
Instead, try some suggestions for engaging ways to start your PA personal statement from Hamilton University:
Avoid academic jargon or overly complicated language in your personal statement as well. Keep it simple and easy to read. Being over-dramatic can be off-putting and impersonal. Your personal statement should reflect who you are, so be authentic and genuine.
It can be difficult to write something intimate about yourself for strangers to read. It can also be hard to balance between humility and boasting. If you need some extra help, you may find some tips on how to write a recommendation letter for yourself helpful.
While a personal statement is not the same as a letter of recommendation, there are some core similarities.
Now that we have discussed the components of a personal statement for PA school, let’s check out some essays that were accepted for PA programs to give you an idea of what a good personal statement looks like.
Here is an example of a well-written personal statement:
“Hey Doc, you might want to have a look at this.” On my computer rested a radiology report for a patient I saw with my rural preceptor. She came to the office with left upper quadrant pain, early satiety, and abdominal distention. Due to the patient’s age and family history, I was worried that her vague symptoms could be related to ovarian malignancy; thus, I enquired to my preceptor if he thought ultrasonographic imaging would be appropriate. He readily agreed with my rationale. This report reflected my gut feeling that something was wrong: “There are multiple solid masses in the liver…dominant mass measures 17.0 x 12.9 x 18.1 cm. Follow-up CT recommended.” Although it may sound strange, reading those words convinced me I wanted to become a radiologist.
I wanted to be the person to give an answer for that patient. I wished I could have performed the patient’s ultrasound examination and subsequently analyzed the findings. One of my family medicine patients suffered mortal complications from the rupture of a massive basilar artery aneurysm, and I used his tragic CTA findings to give insights on how to understand the Circle of Willis and how its anatomy explained the patient’s unfortunate condition.
I had done research one summer centered around using microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound to characterize indeterminate renal lesions. I began the project as someone who was incapable of understanding what those series of words actually meant, but by the end I was trying to explain the various septations and wall patterns of lesions suggestive of malignancy to my exasperated, but thankfully supportive, parents. It is this constant teaching aspect of radiology that attracts me to the field. The most obvious instruction one gives as a radiologist is assisting physicians with disease diagnosis and pathology localization, but I see a burgeoning, ever-questioning group of pupils waiting ahead for radiologists: their patients.
As society becomes increasingly tech-savvy, there will be an increasing desire from patients to access their medical images digitally. With that, there comes the concurrent expectation that radiologists will have to be responsible in disseminating this information, as well as explaining the abnormalities. As this latter role has traditionally been in the hands of primary care physicians and/or specialists, radiology will have to adapt and rise to this challenge.
I am looking for a residency program that wants to prepare its students for this inevitable future. Such a program would obviously need to be strong in giving its future radiologists extensive breadth and depth in commonplace and emerging image modalities with distinguished skills in fostering student independence. As part of that independence, the program must have a strong emphasis on how best to explain radiologic findings for both physicians and laypeople. Additionally, I hope for ample opportunities for resident research, as well as strong mentorship from both upper level residents and faculty.”
Why this personal statement works: The student clearly outlines their goals and how these goals relate to the PA program. The student also clearly demonstrates how their background and personal experiences support their career goals which shows the reader that they are capable of being a great candidate for a PA program.
Here is another excerpt from a statement that shares a personal story:
“Do you think we can take in a 2-year-old?” Unsure if my wife was joking, I stopped midway up the steep hill on 19th Street in Birmingham to catch my breath, which was now short for reasons other than the strenuous walk. My wife went on, explaining that her niece, Gabby, needed a home. Nobody else in the family was able to help, and if we didn’t, she would likely end up in foster care. Though we later discussed it at great length, my mind was made up before I submitted the hill. My parents, who worked at a children’s home in Alabama for most of my life, showed me the impact a loving home could have on a child’s life. I couldn’t imagine saying no to this little girl. Less than a month later, we received full custody of Gabby and it became the three of us (plus the cat). It was my first year of medical school, my wife worked full-time, and we were the sole caretakers of a toddler. Through all the stresses of those early times, one thing stands out in my mind as perhaps the most stressful of all—her nighttime cough. That cough kept us awake at night. Each time Gabby let out a string of coughs, I crawled down to the edge of the bed and put my hand on her chest to make sure she was still breathing. We had been told that she might have asthma, but that was all we knew. We didn’t have any of the documentation most places required for care. We had no Medicaid information, Social Security number, birth certificate, or medical history—only a piece of paper signed by a judge that said we were responsible for her. My wife and I were at a loss—how could we care for this child if we could not get her most basic healthcare needs met? Thankfully, we stumbled upon Christ Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health center (FQHC) in Birmingham.
Christ Health Center was exactly what our family needed. In addition to caring for Gabby’s needs when most other places would not, I saw there a model of the sort of clinical work I intend on doing after residency. I was so impressed I signed up to do an elective rotation with them between first and second year. Prior to that, I was fairly certain I wanted to practice family medicine and work with the underserved in some way; after my first day at Christ Health Center, there was no doubt left in my mind. My draw to family medicine in general, and FQHCs in particular, is the potential for community change. At Christ Health Center, patients often came in with their entire families and everyone in the room had an issue to address, medical or otherwise. I learned some of the nuances of working with a community and gained skills necessary to help meet these needs. Usually, it was just a word of reassurance; other times, it was patient and family education; and occasionally, it was setting them up with resources for food and housing.
The lessons of those few months are often in my mind as I see patients. During my family medicine clerkship, I was tasked with doing the H&P for three different children in the same room. Inside, I found a frazzled mother completing paperwork while the kids scrambled about the room. She tried her best to calm them as I started on the histories, but to little avail. She grew more and more dispirited as she continued answering, “I don’t know.” Finally, on the verge of tears, she said, “I’m so sorry. I just got custody of all three of them and don’t know anything about their histories.” I paused, remembering Gabby’s nighttime cough. Finally, I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of them. I know exactly how you feel.”
Why this personal statement works: This student takes a slightly different route than the first example but is also an effective way to write a captivating personal statement.
This statement reads more like a story, and the reader gets to know the student on a closer level.
By creating this sense of intimacy, the student demonstrates that their empathy and their ability to overcome personal challenges makes them a great candidate for a PA program.
Both examples are strong, so the route you want to take is up to you.
Still have some questions? Keep reading as we answer some of your frequently asked questions.
You should highlight some of your traits and experiences that make you the right fit for the program and the field. Make it personal and make it about you, but remember to also be genuine and humble.
A personal statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Think about how you want to present yourself and what you want the admissions committee to know about you.
The most important piece to writing a unique personal statement for PA school is to be yourself and write from your heart.
This all depends on the school and their instructions. However, most personal statements range from 500 words to 1,000 words. Unless stated otherwise, they should never be longer than 1,000 words.
A personal statement is a key piece of your application. Like your interview, it’s your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and really stand out amongst other applicants. A PA school personal statement is also a great opportunity to show off your writing and communication skills.
Remember to read through the instructions posted by the school, keep it personal and honest, and proofread and edit before submitting. Follow these key steps to write a personal statement that will impress admissions committees.