I'm a second time applicant and would love to get some feedback on my personal statement to submit for this round. Thanks so much for reading/reviewing! If you have a PS you'd like feedback on let me know in a comment and I'd be happy to return the favor. Part of me wants to shorten it a bit but I also feel like each paragraph is necessary to 'tell my story.'
Suddenly, I’m enveloped into an embrace with an elderly woman; we maintain our stance for several minutes without parting. When we finally divide, I am held at arm’s length. The remnant of tears trace down the side of her cheeks as she speaks softly. “It will be okay, thank you.” Her words are reassuring, although I am unsure if they are truly allocated for me.
We had attempted to resuscitate her husband in the emergency room for an hour without success. It wasn’t the sudden loss of life that caught me off guard, but the magnitude of the heartbreak I felt for the woman’s family that continues to resonate with me. This experience is part of what has made me realize that providing care within my community drives my passion to become a PA.
After six years of climbing the corporate ladder I came to the realization that I was spending the majority of my day agonizing about a bottom line rather than truly serving our clients. My position required hours of analyzing medical records in preparation for trial. I would become engrossed during my review researching patients’ diagnosis and treatment options. I received the privileged, behind-the-curtain, opportunity to discuss their plans of care directly with physicians during depositions. This experience made me interested in medicine. During this time, I also began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, which is where I had the experience that inspired me to change career paths altogether.
It was a blistering summer day and we were in the final stages of restoring a dilapidated home. My few short months of involvement with Habitat for Humanity were beginning to feel more fulfilling than my corporate. I was wearing a blue hard hat and Habitat shirt which was stained with streaks of grey paint from the day’s work. The home owner, Valerie, waved me over for a cold glass of lemonade which I graciously accepted. As I sat down to enjoy a break from the heat, she relayed the story of how she became the recipient of Habitat’s philanthropic efforts.
Valerie, a single mother with two smaller children, described her youngest son’s severe disabilities, which had left him confined to a wheelchair. She discussed the difficulty of maintaining a job while tending to her son’s full time needs. She went on to explain the many hardships the family had as a result of financing his costly medical treatment. The paint brush in my hand almost seemed to shrink in size as I realized how minuscule my contribution to the community actually was. That day, with Valerie’s story burning in my head, I returned home and enrolled in school to become an EMT.
I could not have fathomed that I would pursue a career in health care, and it is due to my trials and tribulations since completing my undergraduate work that health care has become an interwoven part of my identity. During my undergraduate program, I became discouraged, pursuing unfulfilling majors in multiple career paths. I lost my way during this time and felt disheartened with my education. Since I ascertained my devotion to become a PA I have excelled in my prerequisite course work and contributed over 1,000 hours to the underserved within my community while maintaining a full-time job.
While volunteering at Puget Sound Christian Clinic I began to realize the restrictions of my EMT license. I lacked the education necessary to fully care for my patients that required ongoing medical treatment. I was provided with the opportunity to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team and had my first interactions with a PA. My path to becoming a PA was illuminated after observing our PA’s calming demeanor when faced with managing patients chronic medical conditions while navigating difficult language barriers.
Recognizing the limitations of my EMT license, I strive to assist my patients at a higher level of care and offer greater support to the underserved as a PA. I look forward to using what I learn in a Physician’s Assistant program to lessen the burden of health care expenses for individuals like Valerie and continue to connect to their families in my community in their times of hardship.
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.
Hi! I finished a draft of my personal statement and would be very appreciative if someone could critique it.
For those of you that don’t know, I have started a personal statement editing service. I have read more than 100 statements over the last year working with PA school applicants and have really honed in on what makes a good essay.
I was fortunate enough to have significant support from this community as well as r/prephysicianassistant with my own essay, and I want to pay it forward. For those of you working on your personal statements right now, feel free to DM me and I would be happy to give you some feedback on your draft for FREE. No strings attached.
If you like the initial feedback I provide on your essay and you’re interested in using a service for your PS, we can talk more about working together! I want to say that there are plenty of applicants who DO NOT NEED TO USE AN EDITING SERVICE. There are people here and over on the prePA subreddit who will offer to help with your personal statement. Use them. Seriously. That being said, some essays need a lot more work than others, and in those cases working with a service (any personal statement editing service with a solid reputation, not just mine) can be helpful.
Either way, I’m happy to read through things and give you some pointers, even if you’re not interested in using my paid service.
If you want more information about my service, would like to check out reviews from students I helped this past cycle or are interested in reading articles I have written about the writing process, you can take a look at my page here: https://m.facebook.com/thepersonalstatementproject/