10 Essential Tips For an Effortless Personal Statement

In terms of applications, most applicants appear nearly similar on paper. They all have high GPAs, lengthy extracurricular activities, numerous patient care hours and solid recommendation letters. When schools are going over these applications, things begin to blur. This is where your essay comes in. You must stand out. These are the 10 ways to create a great personal statement that will make you stand out.

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1. First and foremost, have a theme. Throughout the essay, you must carry on with one theme. The theme of the essay is your trunk to the metaphorical tree. It is your foundation and you can use your clinical/life/school experiences as branches off of the trunk that interconnect throughout the essay. This is what truly makes an introspective narrative. So, before you even start typing, gather several themes and choose the one that connects most of your activities. For example, I used work ethic as my theme. Through that theme, I introduced myself being an immigrant, the source of the work ethic, how I developed the work ethic throughout life through life/school experiences and how the work ethic will be a key facet for my success in PA school. Pick a theme, stick to it. 

2. Speaking of themes, avoid cliches. Please, please, please. Unless you have an absolute noteworthy, striking anecdote to your path to medicine, avoid the cliches. Many students choose the "one patient that changed my life" rhetoric and it almost always fails them. I understand that the patient may have impacted your life, but again, your readers will be medical practitioners who see patients every day. Your story will not impact their empathy just because they are more desensitized to patients than you are. It is the unfortunate truth. Sorry!

2. Make sure to catch the reader’s attention in the first sentence/paragraph. The people reading your essay read hundreds of essays per day. Use the first few lines of your essay to capture your reader's attention. You got to start out with a bang. Traditionally in literature, opening statement phrased as a question, a quote, a life anecdote are tremendous way to begin your statement.

3.  This one is an apparent but needs to be stated nonetheless. Be sure to explain WHY you want to become a PA. Medicine has so many different roles you can use to help people. Why not a doctor? Why not a nurse? Specifically explain why you want to be a PA over any other type of healthcare professional. While you address this, be sure that you do not put any other profession in a negative light. An optimistic tone is key here. 

4.  Highlight a moment in life when you were a team player. Medicine is a team sport consisting of MA's, CNA's , nurses, NPs, doctors, PAs, students. Especially being a PA, you're constantly coordinating care between several teams. This is a quality PA schools definitely search for in applicants. Because it is difficult to convey it in your resume, transcripts and CASPA application, use your personal statement as a vehicle to demonstrate your communication and team building skills. 

5. Speaking of taking advantage of the personal statement, the rest of your application is all about your academic feats. This is the place you can tell the PA committee about who you are. Describe what makes YOU! Describe what set you apart from 99% of other candidates. Identify your strengths and really emphasize and elaborate on them. This is the only time aside from your interview where you can actually emphasize your strengths. Again, once you find your theme, structure the essay that is customized to you, not a generic statement from the internet. 

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6. And speaking of generic essays, avoid boring and straightforward responses, such as, “The reason I want to become a Physician Assistant is because I have always…” or "I aspire to become the best PA in the country". Not only do these sound generic, but there is no substance, the writer appears immature, lacking introspection. 

7. Describe how your personal experiences have shaped you. Keep in mind this doesn't apply only to medically related experiences. PA schools seek well-rounded applicants. So, go through any interesting extracurricular activities, hobbies, skills. i.e. Singer, musician, multilingual, car enthusiast, whatever it is. You never know which hobbies you could have similar to the reader. That little detail could get your foot in the door. This is from a personal experience as I mentioned I was an avid golfer in my personal statement and my entire interview was conversing about golf with my interviewer!

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8.  Don’t be afraid to explain a time when you messed up. Just emphasize how much you have matured and learned from it. Use obstacles you've overcome as examples of resiliency. Take the negatives and turn them into how it was a positive experience for you. This demonstrates maturity, adaptability, optimism. 

9 The maximum limit to a personal statement on CASPA is 5000 characters. Aim to write more than 5000 characters. Similar to a film director who shoots more scenes than he/she needs to and shreds the unnecessary fat off during the edits, write more than you need to and edit out things that don't fit within your theme. This will provide options as to which direction you want to lead the reader and which 'scenes' will provide the best wholesome story for you. 

10. EDIT EDIT EDIT! Have as many people read it as possible. Send it to your family, send it to your friends, send it to @thehumerusPA (shameless, I know). The point is; get as many eyes as possible on the essay. Be open to criticism and change your statement accordingly. We offer two services for our personal statement review; basic and premium. 

Basic: One read-through with grammar and sentence corrections and tips on improving the context and theme of the essay. Additionally, constructive criticism on your resume, its format and how to make it stand out.

Premium: Two read-throughs by 2 separate readers with grammar, sentence corrections and tips on improving the context and theme of the essay. This allows more eyes, more corrections and an improved, unique, personalized essay that will stand out within thousands of other applications. Additionally, constructive criticism on your resume, its format and how to make it stand out.