The Best Ways of Cutting Down Your Too-Long Personal Essay


The PA school application personal statement is a short one. The CASPA essay is limited to 5000 characters, which averages around 700-800 words. 


That's not much space to lay out the case for why you deserve a shot a PA school. Even if you only touch on the highlights of your pre-PA journey, it's easy to find yourself over the character limit. 


So, how do you pare down your essay while still telling a story compelling enough to land a PA school interview? 


In this post, I'll walk you through the exact process I use during a Personal Essay Review to successfully condense a PA school essay that is a little (or a lot) over the limit. 


Start in reverse.

If you're like most applicants with a too-long essay, you're probably attached to your content, which makes cutting some of it out difficult. 


How to Edit Your PA School EssaylBe a Physician Assistant

You can make the process of whittling an essay down a bit easier by starting in reverse. What would ONE element of your essay would you want to keep if everything else had to go? 


Hint: It's some work you've done to prepare for PA school.


Right now, this shouldn't be ALL of the work you've done, just the most essential experience that has equipped you to be a PA (which will likely be a direct patient care role, if you have it). 


Focusing on the work you've done is the most important part of your PA school essay. It shows a selection committee that you've dedicated yourself to your goals and that working toward them is a priority for you.


Discussing your work alone won't make a great essay, but it's the first step in prioritizing your content. 


Download PS Outline


Moving along...

If you could only include one MORE item in your essay, what would it be? 


Hint: It's something that shows that you understand the role of a PA. 


Now, this part is a little different than your first step. It doesn't have to be a stand-alone story or experience. It can merely be a sentence here and there that demonstrates why you want to be a PA. 


For example, "Through my shadowing experience, I witnessed how PAs can practice autonomously and still work as part of a team."


Demonstrating your understanding of the PA role is essential to a quality personal statement. If done well, you can use it to link your experience with your future. And, it doesn't take much of your character limit to do it. 


Choose one aspect of the PA role to highlight for now, and you can circle back to add in more later. 


And finally.

If you could tell a PA school one last thing about you, what would it be? 


Hint: Fill in the gap for the reader and tell us about your inspiration to become a PA. 


Your inspiration comes last because it is the least important. Yes, I'm fully aware that the CASPA prompt asks you to write about your inspiration. 


But, if you are lingering in the past for too long, you're wasting precious space telling PA schools about who you once were rather than discussing the hard work you've done to deserve a spot in their program. 


However, telling a little something about your past and inspiration to be a PA helps to complete your story for the reader. 


So, figure out what single thing they need to know about your inspiration, and list it as your third must-have essay point. 


Rinse and repeat. 

Go through one round of prioritization using the framework as outlined above:

  1. Work
  2. Understanding of the PA role
  3. Inspiration to become a PA


Select a single part of your essay for each priority on the first pass. After that, you don't have to continue with 1:1:1 approach. 


Instead, use the order of importance to guide the remainder of your content, meaning your writing should be work-heavy and inspiration-lite. 

Download PS Outline

If you're having trouble reining in the size of your personal essay, you are not alone. But, keep in mind the point of writing it is not to tell the reader everything about you. 


The goal is to focus on why you're ready for PA school and to start a career as a PA.


You can accomplish this by prioritizing your experience and putting a greater emphasis on discussing the work you've done to prepare you for the next step.