PA School Personal Statement: Complete Guide

December 9, 2022


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

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 PA school personal statement.

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How To Write a Strong PA School Personal Statement

The first step to writing a strong PA school personal statement 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: 

  • Why did you pick this program?
  • What experiences do you have that makes you a good candidate for the Program?
  • What can you bring to the program?
  • What can the program bring to you?
  • What achievements are you proud of?
  • What setbacks or challenges have you overcome?
  • What are your career goals, and how does this program help you achieve them? 

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:

  • Empathy 
  • Attention to Detail 
  • Compassion 
  • Confidence 
  • Problem-Solver
  • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Adaptable 
  • Brave 
  • Kind
  • Commitment 
  • Professionalism  
  • Honesty 

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. 

A personal statement does not just have to be 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.

What To Avoid In Your Personal Statement for PA School

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. 

Instead, try some suggestions for engaging ways to start your PA personal statement from Hamilton University: 

  • Standard: Simply state what you will be talking about in your paper, basically like a thesis statement. 
  • Creative: Find a creative and unique way to begin your personal statement. For example, you can start your piece with a relevant quotation that speaks to you and relates to your experiences. 
  • Action: Begin in the middle of a story to draw your reader right into the action. 
  • Personal: Start off your statement by revealing something personal about yourself that has led you to your interest in medicine. 
  • Informative: State a fact that leads into your personal experiences. 

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.

PA School Personal Statement Example

Now that we have discussed the components of a personal statement for PA school, let’s check out some examples to give you an idea of what a good personal statement looks like. 

Here is an 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.

FAQs: PA School Personal Statement

Still have some questions about the PA school personal statement? Keep reading as we answer some of your frequently asked questions. 

1. What Should Be In A Personal Statement for PA School?

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. 

2. How Do You Write A Unique Personal Statement for PA School?

The most important piece to writing a unique personal statement for PA school is to be yourself and write from your heart. 

3. How Long Should a PA School Personal Statement Be?

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.

Final Thoughts

A personal statement is a key piece of your application. 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.

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