Becoming a physician assistant (PA) has become a hot career goal, and it’s getting hotter all the time. Over the past several years, applications have more than tripled at some of the most competitive programs, and acceptance rates have dipped to as low as about 30% – lower than the acceptance rate at many medical schools.
For you to stand out in this crowded field, your personal statement for your PA application has got to shine from the first sentence to the last. It needs to tell a compelling story that focuses on your sustained interest in the field while at the same time building a case for your qualifications.
The character limit for the CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) personal statement is 5,000 characters with spaces. (Some people at first believe this is 5,000 words and end up having to make severe cuts to their overwritten drafts. Don’t let this happen to you!)
The following successful essay responds to the question, “Why PA?” After reading this essay, you’ll understand why this candidate was accepted into a PA program. The individual has given permission for their essay to be shared publicly. All personal identifiers and details have been removed to protect their privacy.
PA School Personal Statement Example
I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach. She quickly called my mom who took me to several different doctors as the “bug bites” continued to spread all over my body. None of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me until I saw a Dermatology PA. He immediately diagnosed me with a delayed allergic reaction. He gave me a medication that almost immediately made the hives disappear. I no longer struggled to open my eyes! It was like magic! To this day, I still have no idea what caused that allergic reaction, but I am grateful for this experience because it introduced me to a PA who continued to touch my life and cultivate my interest in medicine and healthcare.
Year after year, my love of learning continued to flourish. I began taking gifted classes in math and science in the fifth grade and continued to take honors and advanced placement classes when I reached high school. In addition to my studies, I also began to play volleyball and softball. Through these sports, I learned the skills that a textbook could not teach me, such as accountability, integrity, teamwork, and leadership. Through my academic achievements, active participation in numerous school clubs, and leadership role as the captain of my volleyball team, my high school nominated me to participate in a National Youth Leadership Forum in the summer of ——. I attended lectures by a PA, a nurse, a chiropractor, a veterinarian, and several physician specialists. In addition to the lectures and countless group activities, I visited several medical facilities. In one of the labs, I saw a table displaying human organs infected with different diseases and cancers. To my surprise, I was eager to touch them and learn why the people they once belonged to could not have been saved. From that experience on, I became determined to pursue medicine.
My interest in the PA profession quickly became a driving force in my life after my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma in February —— and quickly passed away in October of that year. I was devastated upon hearing her diagnosis. How could this happen when she went to the Dermatologist every three to six months? The same Dermatology PA who had healed me with his “magic pills” spent a significant amount of time with my mom after her diagnosis. He met with her and my dad following a long day of seeing patients, to determine if he had missed something in her regular exams. He also made himself available to my entire family and recommended specialists and experimental treatments. He explained everything we did not understand along the way. It is because of the compassion, sincerity, and care he provided to my mom and my family during this difficult time that I became certain I wanted to pursue my love of medicine as a PA.
Throughout my undergraduate career as well as the time since I graduated, I have continued to explore the medical field to learn as much as I can about becoming a PA. Through countless hours of shadowing and volunteering as a medical assistant at —— Dermatology, I have learned how crucial teamwork, effective communication, detailed note taking, and compassion are for effective patient care. There have been numerous instances where doing a simple and nearly painless biopsy could have turned into a serious and most certainly uncomfortable medical situation. By taking thorough patient histories, accurately noting any allergies, and verbally communicating these notes to the practitioner, I have been able to ensure that patients receive the best care possible while averting any avoidable crises.
Every challenge and opportunity that I have encountered since I was the itchy little girl sitting in Mrs. Russell’s class has brought me to this decision. My mom’s passing has only made me more passionate about this profession and has given me a new appreciation for life that I hope to share with my patients and community. With my love of learning and helping others as well as the skill set I will gain from a PA program, I am certain that I will have the tools needed to become a valued member of a larger care team. I am eager to see how these opportunities will positively impact not only my life, but also the lives of others.
What makes this PA personal statement so good?
This essay shows that the writer invested the question “Why PA?” with a great deal of thought. It is exceptional for the following reasons:
- The writer specifically explains “why PA” from the first paragraph to the last.
She writes with honesty and skill, directly responding to the essay prompt. Each paragraph illustrates an additional reason why becoming a PA is the only profession for her. She builds her case by discussing her academic achievements (AP and honors classes in math and science), shadowing and volunteering as a medical assistant, and learning to appreciate the essential “soft skills” of compassion, sincerity, and care in a PA, which convinces the reader that she is grateful toward, dedicated to, and thirsts for knowledge in the field of medicine. For these reasons, the candidate was invited to interview and received an acceptance.
- The writer demonstrates a pattern of behavior and involvement that supports her educational goal.
In my experience, past behavior predicts future behavior. This candidate’s pattern of behavior aligns with the work and responsibilities of a PA. With a love of learning and teamwork, as demonstrated by the experiences she chose in the medical arena, the writer proves through her long-term involvement with medicine that she will seamlessly fit into the role of PA. It is clear how much effort she has invested into preparing for this career.
- An appealing balance of personal motivations and professional goals are represented in the essay.
From her childhood experience of being successfully treated by a PA to appreciating the clinical skill and sensitivity of PAs she encountered over the years, this writer’s motivations are a perfect blend of the personal and the professional. She writes convincingly about why this career path will be so meaningful on multiple levels. Drawing on both her personal contact with the profession and her preparation for it convinces readers of the variety and depth of her commitment. Each paragraph builds from personal to professional motivations, culminating in a conclusion where she ties these two threads together.
The profession of PA continues to grow in stature and popularity. This means not only that your academic stats and professional experience must be topflight but also that your essay cannot afford to be anything less than outstanding. It’s a tall order, but with thought, planning, and guidance, you can do it.
We want to help you get accepted to the PA program of your dreams! Our experienced consultants will guide you in creating the exceptional application and personal statement to make your dreams a reality. Check out our Physician Assistant CASPA Application Package today!
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine’s postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted’s clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!