Physician Assistant Essay: What to Write About

Okay, welcome everybody. This is Paul from Inside PA Training and welcome We’re just going to do a brief video today Next in our series on the physician assistant school narrative. which is just another word for the essay. that is part of the PA school application process And if you’ve watched my previous videos you know that we consider the essay to be very important. we consider the essay to be very important. very important, in fact, crucial. It is a chance for you to do a number of important things, not the
least of which is to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd. So, first, today we’re going to talk about what you actually write about. It’s a tough question. People come to the website all the time and they want to know, “How do I know what to write about?” Obviously, CASPA makes it very easy – the narrative instructions that they give you are really simple, right? “In the space provided write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant.” That’s what it says. It’s always the same, every year some slight variation on that. They want to know what your motivation is to become a PA. And the other requirement is that you do it
with a maximum length of 5000 characters Just to be sure you understand, that 5000 characters is including spaces, punctuation, and formatting. After 5000 characters, nothing else that you write is included in your narrative So it sounds easy. Just write down
why you want to be a PA. That’s what they want to know, that’s what you’re going to give them, right? Well, no. It’s not easy. And if there’s one
message I want you to take away from this video today, it is, you really shouldn’t answer this question, at least the way that it’s asked. If they just wanted a list, then everybody would just say, “Well, I want to be a PA because I want
to help people, blah, blah, blah.” Yeah, sure. You know, that may be true, but
that’s exceptionally boring, and that’s not what they’re asking for, believe it or not. They’re not
going to tell you exactly what they’re asking for but thankfully, you’re watching this video, and you read articles on the blog and you can see Inside PA Training up there at the top. We’re going to tell you what they’re looking for. Basically, strong essays have a couple of things in common, and yours should too, at least if you want to become accepted, and that is obviously why you’re writing it. First of all they do answer the question of why
do you want to become a PA, but that is not the only question, and that’s why I implore you not to answer the question in that way. The question they’re asking you is actually quite a
bit deeper. They want to know about you, and so good pa school essays you will learn from this are personal in some way or another, and by personal I don’t mean that you share necessarily embarrassing things, or you know, your inner workings, although some of that might be really helpful, the main thing is your essay needs to have a flavor of your personality imbedded in it or they’re going to lose interest, and they’re not not going to see you as the person you are. so that’s important – they need to be personal, secondly, they need to get them familiar with who you are,
and this is the part that they don’t share with you. They want you to
explain your motivation for becoming a PA but they really want you to do it
in such a way that they know who you are – they become familiar with you as a person, and If you think about it, it makes sense:
they’re reading a lot of these paper applications, these two dimensional essays about people and they’re trying in their minds to imagine you as as a real thinking, living breathing person so they can decide if you are a good candidate for their program or not. Well your essay, your narrative is your opportunity to make yourself come alive as a living, breathing, 3-dimensional applicant, and not this little paper version of you that’s really easy to throw on another pile – the “do not interview” pile, or the “not a good candidate” pile. finally, good essays – strong essays get them curious, and this curious has to do with the primary goal of your application essay, which is to get you an interview. You want to make them curious about who you are, so that they will want to invite you for that interview. you can get into physician assistant school without perfect grades, without lots of health care experience. Those things definitely help, but you can’t get into pa school without an interview. So, how do you accomplish these things? How do you do you make your interview personal, and answering that
question of why you want to be a PA, and doing so in a way that makes them curious? Well there are a couple things that you can do, but my primary
advice for you is really simple, and that is to share experiences. You need to in your essay talk about things that you
have done in your life, where you have been and what you have accomplished. And you to do
so in a way that’s personal, and that ends up actually not being nearly as hard. If I told you
to write a personal essay about why you want to become a PA, that might be a little more complicated in
your mind, I would think, than if I said I want you to write a personal essay about an experience
you had that changed your life. Wow. Suddenly you probably have pages and pages that you could write. So what experiences do you share? This is
going to be really crucial. There are certainly things that you could share that would
be less than helpful. But the primary experiences – the ones that are good to share –
have a few things in common. The one jobs right off the bat makes sense. If
you’ve had a job as a paramedic, boy, you better write about that. If you’ve worked as a medical assistant, or if you have worked in
an AIDs clinic, or if you have been an xray tech, for example, those are important jobs, and I’m sure that you learned some things in those experiences
that made you want to become a PA. So those are relevant. Travel. There’s something about travel that really makes people take stock of their lives, and it
really gets them in touch with who they are, so I think if you’ve had any really potent travel experiences, I would share them definitely fertile ground there. Any kind of service that you’ve done any kind of volunteer work that you’ve done, if
you’ve volunteered in an emergency room, and if you’ve volunteered for Rock Med (you can google that
one if you don’t know what Rock Med is), if you have worked for a nonprofit that
did counseling, those are all totally relevant Next are formative experiences. Just to explain this
one, formative experiences are ones that were experiences you had that were really important to helping you shape who you are as a person, and for example –
a couple months ago, Nelson Mandella passed away. if you happened to have the good fortune to have met Nelson Mandella at, say, a youth conference,
and he really made an impression on you, that would be a very relevant thing to share in your
essay, and if you could find a way to relate that to why you want to become a PA, all the better. Formative experiences can also be things that happened with family, Anything your wise old grandmother said to you, whatever, you know, You get the picture. Health stories. Health stories can be about
a family member – I’ve read a fair number of essays that were by people who had a family member who had cystic
fibrosis, or maybe a disability like being paraplegic or quadriplegic I have a good friend who has siblings
who are deaf and schizophrenic, and He wrote about them. Those experiences in health were a
big factor in this person wanting to become a PA If you’ve watched our interview with Sundance, who was in my PA school class –
a good friend of mine – you’ll know that one of the things that motivated her to become a PA was that she was building a house with her husband And she accidentally cut the tops of two of
her fingers off with a table saw. It was a horrible experience for her, obviously, and what came
of it was she said “I met surgeons, I met primary care doctors, I had physical therapy, I had rehabilitation, and through all that, I got a real potent exposure to to the medical community and I really realized, wow, medicine
really might be the thing for me.” So if you have a health story about yourself or about
a family member that you feel comfortable sharing, that would probably would be very relevant to your essay. Now, what I want to ask you to do at this point, we’re
early in the process – we’ve only talked about the importance of the essay, and now we’ve talked about what types
of things you talk about in the essay The first step – and you can get started right now
– and that step is to make a list and that list is going to have your life experiences on it. No this
is a place where a lot of people get stuck – they say I really haven’t done anything very interesting in my life –
I grew up, I went to middle school, I went to high school, I went to college, and here I I am. Well…no. You have. You may need
to get a little bit creative, you may need to search your mind for experiences that you had
that were important in making you who but I guarantee you that you’ve had them.
So at this point what I’m going to ask you to do is to make a list and don’t edit the list, don’t pare it down, don’t say, “no, that’s not a good one to share. Just put everything on there.
This is kind of like a brainstorming technique where you basically write everything down and you write everything down and you let your brain
explore all kinds of possibilities rather than nixing any of them so that you don’t take out
any of them that actually, if you were creative about it could be really helpful. From that
list, we’re going to pare it down to the two to three experiences that were the most relevant to who you are and to you becoming a physician assistant and we’re going to use that and we’ll talk about that
in a future video. Now if you need Now, if you need more resources for creating
your essay, you have them. there are plenty of them here – more than you realize –
you see our web address up at the top there n blue – it’s and you can also find us at But the first resource I have for you is part
of our forum which is attached to the website. The forum is free, you go to www.mypatraining .com/forum and in there you’ll find all kinds of discussions about the
profession, about becoming a PA, and you’ll see one thread, one topic, called physician assistant personal statements, and if you click on
that, you have a really cool opportunity. What you can do is if you do your part for the community, you get to lean
on the community a little bit and get their assistance, so what’s involved, briefly – read about this if you’re
going to do it, in more detail, but there’s a post where it will show you how to do it, and basically
what you do is you’re going to review two other people’s essays, and and leave them helpful feedback, and after doing that, if you want to leave
your essay, other people can leave their feedback on it for you so So that’s a nice way to get some suggestions, “I liked this this I might consider changing – have you thought about doing this? Secondly, Crafting a Winning PA School Application Essay: a Step-By-Step
Guide to Tipping the Odds in Your Favor This is our ebook. It is just
a little bit more than 50 pages of really – I think – excellent ebook on how to write an essay.
It takes you through the kinds of things we’re talking about right now, and in some more detail. It’s got a lot of
examples, it has sample essays. It’s selling well and I think people have really appreciated it. We’ve had very good feedback, I’ve had
a number of people write me and say, “Hey, I just go into my first choice PA school and I think a lot of it
was because I had a really knock ’em dead essay, thanks to your book, so I’ll toot my own horn there; I worked really hard on the
book and I think it really paid off, so that is available on the website. Now finally, the nuclear option. If
you really need someone to sit with you and talk directly one on one with you about what you’ve written or what
you’re going to write, you can get that. We do PA school essay coaching. And basically
this is where we can either help you with the planning and construction of your essay, or we can read what
you already have and give you very specific feedback on it in terms of syntax and spelling, and structure, but it can also be
about the ideas – what you communicate and how and how it comes across. So we’ll give you all
kinds of – not just I don’t like how it comes across. So we’ll give you all kinds of – not just “I don’t like
this,” we’ll give you “I don’t like this but have you considered doing it this way?” we’ll give you different options, so this is a way to really
get some nice feedback about how your essay could read and hopefully in the end, make it your essay,
but a better version of your essay there’s nothing plagiarism about it; we give you the ultimate
decision in the end what you write, but I like to think that with our feedback, your essay can be
even more impactful and more powerful than it would otherwise have been. So I hope this has been helpful.
Tune in for our next video and we’ll talk a little about where you’re going to go with that
list, and do check out those resources. Thanks.


  1. Hi Paul! My question is unrelated to this video but related to PA school applications in general. I want to take an online pharmacology class to satisfy PA school elective requirements. Do you think that this may be frowned upon?

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