While your academic qualifications and preparations may get your application packet past the first round, there is no doubt that the content of your personal statement or narrative will determine if you get to the interview stage of the process.
Never forget that there may be as many as 100 applicants for each available spot in the program you wish to attend. With this in mind, we will discuss the importance of your personal statement.
Your narrative is the first glimmer the selection committee will get of you as a person and as a communicator, so it is imperative that you cast yourself in the best possible light. Remember the CASPA narrative only allows you 5000 characters including spaces and formatting.
While this sounds like a great deal of room to make a clear statement of your qualifications and burning desire to work as an integral part of a medical team, it really only amounts to a little over 600 words.
You should make every word count. Be mindful that should your statement exceed the character limit, it will just end at the character limit, robbing you, potentially, of your closing statement.
Ideally, you should type your statement in Wordpad, since it will count characters instead of words, this is similar to the program that will be used to read your statement. Most of us are accustomed to writing in Word and you still can, but when you are making your final edit save it as a .txt file in Wordpad and get an accurate character count.
Good written communication skills are essential to working in a team environment. This is your opportunity to showcase that asset and hopefully get the opportunity to dazzle them with your oral communication skills at the interview. No matter the format, good writing really boils down to excellent use of your vocabulary and producing a document that is clear, concise and free of grammar errors.
Remember the audience you are writing for, these are highly talented and educated people that you want to impress. They will read literally hundreds of narratives and you want yours to stand out for the right reasons. It should go without saying, but be sure that you are using Standard English, avoid slang and colloquialisms.
Watch for excessive repetition of particular words especially “very” and “and” they can be used, just be mindful if there are multiple sentences in every paragraph that use these words. Another matter that should go without saying is no texting type abbreviations.
Abbreviations are used daily in the charting of patients, but they have no place in the narrative. We do not want our writing shortcuts to leave our readers wondering where else we might take shortcuts.
You will likely write multiple drafts prior to arriving at the statement that best reflects you as a future PA. Take your time with the process. A poorly crafted first paragraph may cause the reader to choose not to read any farther and thus there is no interview opportunity.
Just like any essay your narrative should start with your thesis statement. This should be followed by a minimum of three supporting paragraphs that elaborate on your initial paragraph. Finally, you will close with a strong summary paragraph. What you don’t want to do is waste words on strictly your academic qualifications.
Most certainly you should mention them, but bear in mind they are already acceptable or you would not have made it to this stage in the process. What you should focus on is your desire to become a PA. Why have you chosen the profession? What motivates you to believe this is the right career path for you? What did you learn working in the medical field and as you shadowed one or more Physician Assistants? How do you feel you can contribute to the medical community? This is an opportunity to share your highest vision of yourself and this important profession.
Before you submit your narrative read it out loud, sometimes we can miss errors as we write, but a lack of smoothness will become clear when you hear the statements as you read. Also have someone not invested in your writing or your outcome read it, they may see what you cannot see, because of your vested interest.
As you write your narrative, remember that many times all else being equal the better communicator will get the interview. Frequently, a good, well written narrative can edge out another candidate who is a poor writer, but more qualified academically. So maintain focus as you write, consider your audience and by all means be honest in your approach to the task.