Most PA school applicants delay starting their personal statement, leaving it as the final piece of their CASPA application. To many PA school candidates, "getting the easy stuff out of the way" before diving into writing seems like the logical approach.
But as time progresses, deadlines loom, and the pressure of applying as early as possible weighs on you, the stress of writing a personal statement amplifies.
You don't have to put off starting your essay until you have time for a weekend-long epic writing session. In fact, you shouldn't.
You need time for your potential essay content to rattle around in your subconscious, allowing your ideas to take shape before you start on a first draft.
Before you are ready (or have time) to write, you can get a head start on the process by creating an outline that can act as your essay foundation.
By mapping out a blueprint, you'll avoid the most common essay traps - struggling to start, staying within the character limit, and fumbling with disorganized ideas.
Here's how you can quickly sketch out an outline that will make your future essay writing (and your life) easy.
I. Start by introducing yourself
Choose a story to open your essay that represents you. Remember the CASPA prompt; it asks you to write “a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant.”
Your story shouldn't be dramatic, but it should be meaningful to you. You might choose an experience that started you on the path towards the PA profession or something that happened during your PA school prep that solidified your choice.
If you want some ideas on how to start your essay, check out this prior post on suggestions for opening stories.
If you get stuck on this part, skip over it. Don’t get stuck on making progress because you’re not yet sure how you’d like to start.
Building the rest of your outline may give you better clarity on how you'd like to begin.
II. Briefly touch on your early days
After your introduction, your next essay session should give the reader some background on your journey.
Were you a science major and knew early on you wanted to pursue medicine? Were you a business major and only realized you wanted to be a PA after working in marketing for a few years?
If you have to explain some academic failing that happened long ago, do it here. You want "the old you" to be far removed from who you are now, and in such a short essay, you need to do that early to create some distance.
III. Get to work
The third section of your essay (and perhaps a greater proportion of the overall essay) should focus on the efforts you have made to get to where are you now.
Here, you can describe your shadowing, patient contact experience, and any volunteering. Keep the focus primarily on what you learned from the experience (patient interactions, working with others) rather than any "hard" skills (CPR, learning about medications, taking vitals).
If you have a lot of experience, you may not be able to include it all. Instead of trying to squeeze it all in, concentrate on the most relevant activities that inspired you or pushed you forward.
IV. Confirm your choice
When most people start exploring the PA profession, they are not laser focused from day one. We hear about it, mull it over a bit, and over time, find that it's the right fit.
It's helpful to demonstrate that growth in your essay. You probably had an experience, maybe while working as a CNA or when shadowing a PA, that convinced you that you were going down the right path.
It may be that you just got deeper into what you were doing and continued to grow in your patient care experience. Maybe some interaction with a patient or an encounter with a coworker confirmed your career choice.
Again, it doesn't need to be something heroic, just something authentic that lets the reader know where you are today.
V. Wrap it up
The conclusion of your personal statement should be a summary of what you've already discussed. An effective closing gives specific reasons for why your inspiration and experience has readied you for PA school and a career as a PA.
Do not try to add new details about your experience that weren't included in the body of your essay. If you have nowhere else to mention your volunteer experience, don't try to force it in here. It will seem really out of place and awkward if it's the first time the reader is hearing about it.
The CASPA essay limit is short, and everything cannot fit. Creating an outline before you write helps you to curate the content and make the decision about what gets in before you start writing.
Want an extra boost to get your outline started? Download your FREE PS Outline to help you get started with your essay blueprint.