The PA School Personal Statement: First Draft Must-Dos


Not all PA school applicants are great writers. Many have a background in science, with more experience in academic rather than autobiographical writing. 


All applicants, however, are required to write a personal statement as part of the PA school application process. If you’re not someone who loves the idea of writing about yourself in a personal essay, it helps to have a process to use as a guide.


In this post, we will walk through the most important steps to take after you have created the first draft of your personal statement.


Following this process will not create any additional work for you, but it will take some patience and willingness to be a little vulnerable.


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Step 1 - Accept the limitations of a first draft

The first draft of your personal essay will be awful. Accept this. The first draft of nearly everything is terrible.


The point of a first draft is to bring together the main elements of the story of your journey to PA school. It is an expansion of your essay outline, and it should be rough.


While the first draft is not about perfection, there are some goals that it should meet.


1. It should be close to the 5000 character limit required by CASPA. It can be less, but more than 6500 characters will be difficult to pare down.


2. The flow should be set. Typically, the topics in an essay will follow a timeline of your pre-PA journey. You may choose to do this differently, but the order of what you want to cover should be set in your outline and developed in your first draft. Rearranging large sections will be more troublesome in future drafts, so decide on the flow early on.


Avoid the urge to work on improving your essay on the same day that you write your first draft. Having some time between drafts will improve the quality of your personal statement and decrease frustrations you may have with it.


Time will also allow you to implement the next step.


Step 2 - Ask for a personal statement review

Have someone review your first draft. Yes, your first, rough, possibly embarrassing draft. Do not wait until you have a final product.


It may be a bit intimidating to let someone see your unfinished work, especially when you know it is not your best, but being a little vulnerable will help you in the end.


It is much easier to accept feedback when you know your essay needs work. It will also be easier for reviewers to be honest with you if they know you are in the early stages of writing.


Along these lines, be selective with who you ask.


It does not need to be someone who works in medicine or an English professor, but pick someone who can be objective and give you useful feedback.


If your mom, like mine, would tell you that even your messiest rough draft was a literary masterpiece and any PA school would be foolish not to accept you immediately, don't ask your mom.


Because it is an early draft, give your reviewer some direction. You do not need a full edit on the draft, just an opinion about a few aspects of the essay.


You may consider asking them:

  • Are you able to follow the progression of the statement? Does the flow make sense to you?
  • Do you feel like any part is unnecessary or does not add to the overall effectiveness of the essay? 
  • Do you think there are any experiences I should expand upon or say less about?
  • Do you feel that any part is overly dramatic?

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Writing your personal essay for the PA school application is much easier and less stress-filled when you take it in parts. Accepting your first draft as just a step in the process and asking for input will help to decrease stress during the early part of your writing.


Taking time to plan, review, and think about your essay will not only substantially improve the quality of what you write, but it will also make the writing easier.


You may find these prior posts on the other steps in the PA essay writing process helpful:

The 2-Step Prep for Your PA School Personal Statement

5 Keys to Writing an Effective Personal Statement

How to Start Your Personal Statement