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Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/17/2019 in Articles

  1. 1 point
    This week, I am continuing my series on the most common personal statement mistakes. If you didn’t catch part one, check it out here. Below, you can find five more mistakes that applicants make when writing their personal statements. Writing About Something That Makes You a “Good Applicant” - Referencing being a “strong applicant” in a personal statement is not something I am a huge fan of. Your goal throughout your academic and clinical experiences should be to build a foundation that will make a better PA student and a stronger PA. It should not be about checking off boxes just because you think that it's what adcoms want to see. Don’t list off your extracurriculars in your personal statement, including things because you feel that they make you a “more competitive” applicant. This essay is not a resume. Instead, write about experiences that you’ve had that are central to your decision to pursue this profession, not about those that you think adcoms want to hear about. Addressing Difficult Topics the Wrong Way - To include or not to include… that always seems to be the question. Whether it’s bad grades, mental health issues, struggles with addiction or other life tragedy, it’s hard to know what should be addressed in a personal statement. I find that when applicants choose to include difficult topics, they focus too much on the negative without emphasizing the positive while including lots of unnecessary details. They often don’t even mention how their experience was relevant to their journey towards the PA profession at all. The big takeaway here is if you are going to touch on a difficult topic in your personal statement, make sure that it's an integral part of your journey before dedicating characters to it. If you have decided to include it, the best thing you can do is be concise about shortcomings/difficult subject matter/etc. Don't dwell on the negative. Instead, emphasize how you addressed the issue whether it's mental health, grades, chronic illness or whatever other issue or circumstance you experienced. Did you grow from it? Did it push you towards the profession more? Did it motivate you to change something? Explore that. Forcing the Reader to Read Between the Lines - I can’t tell you how many times I highlight a sentence and make the comment, “Why?” Applicants will often say something like, “Being a paramedic/scribe/MA/EMT made me want to become a PA. It was a great experience.” But, why?! What exactly was it about this experience that drove you to pursue your goal of becoming a PA? When sharing your experiences, make sure you say exactly what you want to say. Don’t force the reader to make inferences about your feelings and insights. Using Passive, Questioning Language - This one seems minor but it can change the entire tone of your essay. Let me give you an example - “Some of my grades in my undergraduate career were not stellar, but I think that with my recent successes I am likely more prepared to take on PA school. I know it will be a challenge but I feel I could be ready.” Try to avoid using terms like, “I feel… I think… Could… Would... Probably… Likely…” when projecting your future success. Be certain of yourself in your language and your tone. Reframing this and emphasizing some stronger language - “Although I occasionally struggled early on in my undergraduate career, my more recent successes are a reflection of my true academic ability. PA school will be a challenge, but I know that I am ready and more prepared than ever to take it on.” In this iteration, you’ve said that your recent successes are reflective of your abilities, not that “they might be.” You have said that you “know” you are prepared to handle PA school as opposed to just “thinking” you could be ready. Flowery Language - Last, but definitely not least, flowery language. This one is an essay killer. “The morning was crisp and bright when I stepped out my creaky, old door. I noticed the beautiful, pink rose sprouting from the green bush, covered with dew droplets on petals that were as bold and stunning as they were fragrant.” This is drowning in unnecessary descriptors. Please, don’t do this. Adcoms don’t want to read this. You probably don’t even want to read this. It’s all filler. Tell an engaging story but avoid using flowery, overly descriptive prose that says absolutely nothing while taking up an offensive amount of characters. Be concise and intentional with your writing.
  2. 1 point
    Writing a personal statement is one of the most difficult parts of the application process. For some, it may be the single most daunting and intimidating aspect of applying to PA school. The personal statement is something I have discussed here before, with previous articles addressing what the personal statement is and the best way to go about writing it. If you already have a solid understanding of the purpose of the personal statement and have an idea of how you will approach the writing process, you may be thinking about what pitfalls you should try to avoid. After reading and critiquing nearly a hundred personal statements over the last year, I’ve learned that most applicants are all making the same mistakes when writing their essays. In a two part series over the next two weeks, I will be sharing the biggest mistakes applicants are making when writing their personal statement. Here are the first five: 1. Forgetting the Question at Hand - This one is huge, and I tend to make comments about this concept on almost every essay that I read. The purpose of the personal statement is to explain who you are while answering the question, “Why PA?” It really is that simple, and because of that it’s so easy to lose sight of why you’re writing in the first place. I get to the end of so many essays and think, “I have no idea why you want to be a PA.” Which is a huge issue. My advice is to make sure you aren’t getting so caught up in the details of sharing your story that you forget the question at hand. When speaking about your experiences, work to explain how they furthered your interest in the PA profession. Continue to speak directly to that idea throughout the entirety of your essay. 2. Speaking in Generalities - Many applicants write about how they’re interested in medicine or healthcare… but there are so many careers that allow you to work in medicine and healthcare! Be sure that your essay is addressing the PA profession directly. Don’t say that you want to work in healthcare, or that your goal is to be a great provider. Say that you want to be a PA, and tell the reader explicitly why. 3. Telling too Many Stories - Applicants often tell too many stories centered around other people in their personal statement. Often times, each paragraph is a patient story, or a story about a provider they shadowed or have worked with. Your personal statement should not be a series of observations about others. Tell one or two stories about other people, max. Make sure sure that your essay is still about you. And be certain to share your insights on how these experiences furthered your desire to become a PA. 4. Not Telling a Coherent Story - Oftentimes I read through an essay and find that there is nothing that is connecting each of the individual paragraphs. The essay will feel disjointed and scattered, creating a big distraction for the reader. One remedy for this is to identify a theme. You don’t necessarily need to construct a dramatic literary device - a theme can be subtle. Having some kind of running thread throughout your essay that can provide a backbone to relate all your stories helps with continuity. Overall, a theme can make an essay much easier to read. 5. Transitions - This is my absolute, number one personal pet peeve. Seriously, it kills me. I would say that in about 80% of the essays I read I end up writing, “How does this paragraph relate to the last? These are two completely unrelated ideas and you’re in need of a transition.” I find that applicants will regularly paste five paragraphs into a document, with each paragraph having no connection to the next. Starting a new paragraph is NOT a transition. Transitions are so important, as they’re the glue that will hold your essay together. Do not abandon basic grammar and writing rules just because the personal statement is a format that you’re uncomfortable with. Be sure that each paragraph feeds into the next. Much like a theme, transitions create flow throughout an essay and they’re integral to creating a seamless, easy to read personal statement. Keep these common mistakes in mind throughout the writing process. Check back next week when I will share five more of the biggest mistakes that applicants make when writing their personal statements.


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