This post is dedicated to all you aspiring PA students that are about to make the jump into the adventure of a lifetime! Yes, April is quickly drawing near and you are all pumped up and ready to start filling out your CASPA…including your personal statement.
Now, as much fun as I have writing this blog…writing about myself was actually one of the biggest challenges I had when applying to schools! I sat there for hours and hours and hours looking at the prompt “Why Do You Want to Be a Physician Assistant”? I had so many reasons why I knew a career as a PA would be the best route for me, but I really struggled to put it into words! Thankfully, my mother and my boyfriend are incredible proof-readers and gave me a ton of pointers on how to make my personal statement a wonderful reflection of who I was on paper. So now, I am here to pass on a couple of pointers to you as you embark in the penning of your personal statement!
- Be genuine– This is the absolute biggest tip I can give anyone writing their personal statement…in fact, a PA admissions member in my program told me this is the number 1 thing they look for in essays. This is your opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are and what you’re about. If there is a volunteering experience that you participated in but did not really enjoy, then do not make that the cornerstone of your paper! Chances are if you receive an interview and are asked to speak more about the experience by an interviewer…you’re going to give yourself away and it will be obvious to the person that you exaggerated your love for this experience. Not good. Plus, who wants to write an essay about something you’re not passionate about?! Just be yourself…it is as simple as that!
- Hook-line– This tip is a straight re-run from the English teacher helping you with your undergrad entrance essay. No one likes to read a boring paper. You don’t, I don’t, and certainly the admissions committee reading a zillion personal statements don’t. Come up with a catchy line to draw in your audience…and the chances of them being more receptive to reading the rest of your essay is a lot higher!
- Have “something” that helps your essay stick out– this might be a story, an experience, or even a quote…but find something that strays away from the cliche of entrance essays. Granted, your essay will most likely follow the “typical” PA statement in its foundation, but throwing in creative flares here and there really will make your essay “pop”.
- Utilize A Writing Center– Those people are wizards. I do not know how many times I dragged myself into my undergrad’s writing center for various projects, including my personal statement. They are super great at catching not only grammatical errors but also giving you pointers on how to “sharpen” up your essay overall. I could never be as gifted in writing and English as those wonderful students and faculty, but my god was I happy that they were there to share their gift with me!
- Utilize a PA– If you are fortunate enough to shadow a PA and formulate a professional relationship with them, chances are they will be able to sit down with you and help you go over your statement. My dad’s best friend was the main PA I shadowed and he was super helpful when it came to writing my essay. Even just getting basic informational points about the PA profession that I wanted to include in my essay was helpful, and it made it a lot less stressful when I finally hit the “submit” button knowing I had a PA’s approval.
- Give Yourself Enough Time-So disclaimer: I feel like a bit of a fraud even writing this post. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I was a little undecided before plunging into the PA career path…and so I was a VERY untraditional (and unprepared) applicant. In fact, I did not even open or start a CASPA application until early August! (FYI: it opens in April, specifically April 27th of this year) This being said, once I realized how dumb and unprepared I was for applying to PA school…I realized I only had about 4 days to crank out a solid personal statement and other supporting essays to meet the deadline for the program of my dreams: UW-Madison (epic fail). Please, learn from my mistakes and do not give yourself that kind of time frame to work with. It was stressful, I did not sleep for like 4 days, and my poor boyfriend had to deal with the wrath of my stress (to which he diligently brought me lots of coffee to keep me energized…he really is a saint). I had to tell him often:Needless to say, it was a minor miracle when I got the acceptance e-mail from Madison that February. So the point of this whole rant being please do not be like me and give yourself enough time to relax and have fun writing your essay because the application process shouldn’t be a painful or an overly stressful thing in your life, it should be exciting and fun because you’re officially on your way to starting your career as a PA! YAY!
So here is the personal statement I submitted to CASPA for their prompt: “why are you interested in becoming a PA?” I’ll forewarn you, it is not the best piece of literature you will ever read…but it definitely is an example of one way you can go about your personal statement!
Everyone wants to find a career that they are not only passionate about but will help them reach their full potential as a human being. When I first started thinking seriously about a career choice, I knew I wanted to pursue something that allowed me to connect to individuals on a personal level. I’ve always had a passion for my studies in biology, but I took a particular interest in my courses of anatomy and physiology. These interests led me to look further into a career as a Physician Assistant.
Prior to becoming introduced in depth into the world of health care professions, I have dedicated my life to my academic success. In high school, I was an honor roll student, took advanced placement courses, and took many honors courses. School has always been an enthralling part of my life, and it continued to take this course into college. Once enrolled at Edgewood, I have averaged 19-20 credits per semester, with my highest semester load coming in at 24 credits. The average college student would have been overwhelmed and unable to manage that rigorous course load, but I succeeded and ended with a 3.9 grade point average that semester. Increasing my knowledge base will continue to be an important aspect of my life, a task I plan to continue even once my studies in an academic setting have ceased.
Along with my Biology major, I have also pursued a minor in Ethnic Studies. The curriculum that comes with this area of study explores the many diverse cultures, religions, and life practices in the world. I have taken courses on Asian Americans and their experiences voyaging to America, the religion and culture of Islam post 9/11, and even African voodoo practices. This minor is especially important to me because I came from a very small rural area where diversity is very limited. Knowing that someday I will be a health care professional, the infusion and understanding of these cultures in my life is an important skill to have. The biggest take-away I have received from my minor is that just because a part of someone else’s culture is different than your own, does not mean that it is wrong. It is important to be accepting and understanding of other’s beliefs, even if they do not coincide with my own.
In addition to my studies in college, I have also become highly involved with multiple different groups on campus, which has introduced me to a variety of opportunities to volunteer. One of the most important volunteering opportunities I became involved with was my service project I attended over my spring break. The project was called Appalachian Service Project and we were stationed in a small, rural Virginia town called Jonesville. Our mission was to do small home improvements such as re-building porches and replacing dirt floors with cement ones. One of the things I was most astounded about was when they informed us about the health care programs in the area. I was completely blown away that the nearest hospital was over a forty-five-minute drive away. Not only can this be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation, but also many people could not afford vehicles, making the trip to get regular check-ups next to impossible for most. This experience not only gave me a sense of gratefulness that I was able to help these individuals in the smallest way possible by making their homes more inhabitable, but I hope that one day I can go back to that town and initiate a healthcare program that is not only affordable but also in a more convenient location.
To ensure that I would fully enjoy all aspects of being a Physician Assistant, I decided to shadow a close family friend who works in a walk-in clinic. Bryan Rammer, the individual I shadowed, has been working as a Physician Assistant for about twenty years and was able to give me an experienced perspective on the career. My shadowing experience consisted of observing him work directly with patients and collaborating with the nursing staff and physicians in order to effectively treat the patients being seen. This group embodied the definition of teamwork as it was evident they cared for each other deeply on almost a family-like level. This healthcare team was extremely appealing to me, as I believe pooling the knowledge of others, along with your own is the most effective way to treat a patient. Overall, this experience was extremely motivational in pursuing a career as a Physician Assistant.
Along with shadowing, I also became a certified nursing assistant. After completing my course work, I was hired at a nursing home for the summer. I worked the night shift, which was an eye-opening experience for a college student who was used to being awake during the day. The experience of having others rely on you for even the most basic cares such as toileting, feeding, and companionship is a completely humbling experience. This summer I have had the privilege of working in-home care with a single patient. The diversity of both of these jobs displayed the versatility of the healthcare world. My jobs were not glamorous, but it gave me a taste of the patience, effort, and compassion that is needed in order to have a successful experience for both the patient and the health care team.
I have been on the unfortunate side of being at the mercy of a healthcare team. Over the last ten years, I have had multiple relatives succumb to various medical issues such as aneurysms, cancers, strokes, and cardiac complications. Although I was exposed to multiple specialists in different hospitals, almost every doctor, nurse, and physician assistant made a point to put not only the patient at ease but also my entire family. The calming actions of health care profession in such a chaotic time was something I knew that I wanted to do for others in the future. Passing this gift on to another individual would be an incredibly fulfilling experience.
The moment when I solidified my decision to go into the healthcare field was also one of the scariest days of my life. My uncle, who is a brain cancer survivor, suffers from the residual effects of his treatment of radiation. A few of his side effects include a sharp decrease in dexterity and balance. Due to these side effects, my uncle bumped his head getting out a car. The next day he was feeling ill and did not go to work. I volunteered to check-in on him to ensure that all was well. When I arrived, I could tell my uncle was not himself. Seconds later, my uncle loss consciousness and collapsed in the entryway. Having been trained as a lifeguard, I immediately checked to make sure he was breathing and had a pulse. Once I confirmed he had both, I put him into a safe position and called 9-1-1. Not only did I have to act quickly, but I also had to remain calm and not panic in order to keep my uncle safe and ensure that his health condition did not worsen. After being admitted to the hospital, it was found that he was suffering from arrhythmia that needed to be addressed immediately. The feeling of making a difference in a person’s health was such a rewarding experience, and I know that feeling will continue to motivate me through my career as a Physician Assistant.
Ta-da! As you can see it is definitely not a perfect essay…by far! I will be the first to admit that my writing is not the best, but I can tell you what it is: genuinely me. I wanted to admission committee to know about me, my passions, and the true reason why I wanted to pursue a career as a PA. Turns out, they liked it enough to let me in! Moral of the story: yes, your writing should be well proof-read and grammatically correct…but it is the person behind the writing that they want to know first and foremost.
So best of luck to all you future PA’s out there ready to kick off this application cycle! PA school is going to be one of the best decisions you have ever made in your life…and you’re totally going to rock it 🙂
pics: courtesy of giphy.com