Personal Statement Tips

CASPA is right around the corner and I’ve been receiving MANY messages about how to begin writing personal statements, asking for inspiration, asking for tips on what exactly to include in their statement. Truth is, I don’t blame you- this part of the application feels like so much pressure. In fact, I’m so glad you guys have reached out about this subject.
You only have 5,000 characters to work with to explain “Why do you want to be a PA?” and each is vital to make sure it’s worth being included.

Personally, I feel like I absolutely rocked my personal statement and I honestly believe that’s a huge reason why I was accepted.

The good news is, nothing CRAZY has to have happened to you along your journey that you need to write about, but if you follow these simple rules, I truly believe your personal statement will stand out from the crowd:

1. BE PERSONAL (this may be very obvious) but I believe this is MOST important. This is going to be the most intimate you’ll be with the committee until meeting them, you need to include what makes you a unique applicant.
You’re an individual. Explain what makes you different from the rest of the 2,000+ applications they’re reading about.
I remember when I was writing mine, I was so vulnerable and so honest in my personal statement that I almost felt embarrassed at how deep & truthful I had been when asking my colleagues or friends to proofread it- THIS IS A GOOD THING. Which brings me to my second piece of advice…

2. PROOFREAD EVERYTHING. I cannot stress this enough. My first draft of my personal statement was almost 100% different than my final draft. But because of the previous drafts I feel as though I had perfected my statement & was fully confident in the final product.
Having improper grammar and spelling will make your paper appear sloppy and poorly constructed, it’s very easy to avoid. Make sure not to rush through this step.
Many universities and college campuses have writing labs that offer FREE revisions over resumes and personal statements for situations like this, USE THIS RESOURCE. Even though they may know nothing about the PA profession, they know the English language much better than most of us science majors.
My advice to you would to have AT LEAST 3 different people you trust with grammar/sentence structure and the personal information included in the statement proofread your writing.
Ask for constructive criticism, receiving “yeah, I think it looks good” will not work. And if you can, have a PA read through your paper to be sure you answered the prompt correctly & that you do not have a false idea of details of the profession consists of (that would be kind of embarrassing).

3. Leave yourself time to take breaks from the words and thoughts to come back to it with a fresh mind and fresh set of eyes. Sometimes we tend to be redundant or get stuck in writing blocks that prevent us from reaching the core of what we’re trying to get down on paper, this is totally natural especially when it’s something so important like your personal statement.

4. Include your perspective/knowledge of the profession. By saying this I mean I want you to consider these questions to help answer this on paper.
What type of healthcare experience have you had prior to applying and how did that prepare you as an applicant?
How does the committee know that you won’t change your mind halfway through the year & decide PA school wasn’t for you or that you’ve had a change of heart?
Express your knowledge and how your desires to be a Physician Assistant are unwavering because of ______.
What do you know about PA’s and the characteristics they encompass to be successful? What does success mean to you?
What kind of traits do YOU encompass that will make you alike? What about being a PA attracts you? Why do YOU want to be a PA?
You don’t need to answer all of these, but this should lead you in the right direction to show your intentions and passion.

5.  Do NOT use your personal statement to justify or re-hash wrong doings or past poor grades.        Personally, I did not choose to address my areas of weakness, but of course this is a personal decision. You want to make sure that the first impression the school has of you isn’t in a defensive manner, but in one that is fresh & full of potential.
         If you choose to include this make sure you explain the GROWTH you experienced from the experience and keep the mood optimistic. Remember, you’re competing with thousands of other applicants who likely aren’t talking about their weaknesses. So, by including it you want to make sure you’re solidifying that your efforts, perspective, and/or wrong doing has molded you into someone different TODAY. Honestly, I haven’t experienced anything that would jump out at you from my application so my experience with this type of information is zero (so, take it with a grain of salt)- but I do recommend thoroughly thinking through if you’re considering including this type of information in your statement.

6. Be specific! Because this is a very honest moment, you have to translate the same energy to the members of the adcom these specific moments/experiences that have shaped you, made you aspire to become a PA, and motivated you enough to go through with the application process. Remember, they don’t know you yet. Aside from your classes, grades, and healthcare experience, they have no idea what kind of heart you have. You need to find a way to translate this into words & in order to execute this, you can explain how you were motivated by various life events or how these life events elicited a specific emotion you wont forget.

7.  This may have already been assumed, but this is my personal big tip: Don’t restate information the committee already knows from looking at the remainder of your application- Tell them something about you that they wouldn’t already know. There’s more to you than school and grades, they want to know who you are.

8. When starting your statement just begin by writing down points you want to make sure you include, even if it’s just jumbled up words- that’s a start. No one is reading your work yet, just write and come back to fix it- once your thoughts begin to flow you don’t want to interrupt this. Don’t erase something just because you think it sounds “cheesy” or “not exciting enough” this can be an adjusted detail that you can alter later on in the editing process.

Honestly, I didn’t use other papers to “motivate” me and I don’t necessarily advise this as I believe it may take away from your unique story. However, some people do find this helpful. If getting started is difficult for you, I recommend sitting down and meditating on fundamental values and emotions you have considering this being your career you will spend practicing the rest of your life - go back to the first time you discovered the profession…what was happening in your life? What experiences have shaped you since then? What motivates you to be someone who saves lives or helps others (every single day)? Why do YOU want to help others, what’s your driving force? Now just type away, don’t rush the process.

PS. If you find yourself without a fellow PA to proofread your statement My PA Resource is a team made up of only Physician Assistants who have admissions experience or have been extensively trained by those who have sat on admission panels. Their primary focus is going over your content & highlighting your uniqueness to help YOU stand out among the crowd. They offer a personal statement workshop that includes a book (buyer must pay shipping) and (if you order BEFORE May 1st you are automatically entered) in a chance to win a giveaway of $1000 in CASPA fees. That’s uhhh-mazing, guys. I personally did not use this resource simply because I was not aware they existed until making my account, check out their website to read testimonials and learn more! 
If this is an option you’re interested in, use my discount code for $10 off any revision of your statement by entering ‘withashleykay’.