Ever wonder what PA school admissions directors are really looking for in a winning PA school essay?
Have you been searching the internet and physician assistant forums for samples of PA school applicant essays for reference?
Have you ever thought that your personal statement might be a bit, well, boring?
We’ve got your back.
In this post, we'll look at five sample PA school essays from pre-PAs that have just been accepted into PA school.
That's right, the essays below are from applicants who actually got into PA school, and these are the essays they submitted through CASPA.
Use this as a guide while writing and editing your personal statement. Take note of the introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. Highlight words or phrases that stand out.
Are the sentences short and concise or long and rambling? Does the essay have structure and use correct grammar? Does the essay speak to all programs? Does it demonstrate a passion for the PA profession and for patients? Does the applicant connect with us on a human level? Does it offer a heartfelt, thoughtful, and personal explanation of why the PA profession is a good fit for the applicant?
Accepted: Five PA School Applicant CASPA Personal Statements
Accepted: Essay #1 by Lanisha
"Serving abandoned communities. Thinking critically.” Penned on a slip of paper were several components of my perfect career, listed after attending a seminar on professional gratification. The keynote speaker had emphasized that we must each search out the work that fulfills us to find professional happiness. I had taken the speaker’s advice and constructed a list of careers that reflected traits of my dream profession. Author and engineer topped my list, yet after shadowing both, I realized each had a tendency to work alone. I took up my pen again and added “Must engage with others” to the top of my list.
After graduating from Cal State Northridge four years earlier, I earned amazing opportunities in customer relations. While I enjoyed the luxurious travel and interacting with people from different cultures, I still felt something was missing. My mother-in-law convinced me to seek advice from her ambitious neighbor, PA Natalie. She solved my anguish with one question: “Have you considered becoming a PA?” She explained that each component on my list, including assisting the underserved and thinking critically, were qualities needed by PAs. After researching the profession and networking with several PAs, I shifted my career path toward becoming a physician assistant.
To gain medical experience, I began volunteering as a health scholar with COPE and working as a geriatric nurses’ aide. The same intrinsic values that prompted me to major in English fueled my passion for medicine. Exceptional literature hinges on the author’s ability to quickly connect with her audience. Exceptional patient care is no different; I had only moments to establish a connection. This helped me understand the humanistic side of medicine. While volunteering as a scholar at California Hospital Medical Center, I assisted many patients whose homelessness resulted in extensive skin conditions. Many were ashamed of these conditions, yet I understood their struggles and asked to be assigned to their rooms. As I grew up, my father often discussed his former homelessness; I know too well the health problems it creates. I saw my father in each homeless patient I cared for, making it easy to empathize with them and try to ease their embarrassment.
Serving disenfranchised communities has always been important to me. I volunteer with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and serve hot meals through my church’s soup kitchen. I tutor displaced children through School on Wheels and mentor troubled teens through Big Brothers Big Sisters. I also served as a medical volunteer with Team Heal, helping with physicals for underprivileged high school athletes, and as a medical assistant with United Care Family Medical Center, which serves a large immigrant population. These experiences confirmed my desire to support vulnerable populations by practicing medicine in their communities.
To understand a PA’s role, I’ve shadowed PAs in orthopedic and emergency medicine and observed how to obtain and critically analyze a patient’s medical history. The PAs invited me into their thoughts as they scrutinized chief complaints, past prescriptions, and known allergies to formulate the best treatment plan. Additionally, the PAs educated patients on their conditions. Many patients left their appointments grateful for new knowledge about their bodies. The education required to fully explain a condition exemplifies the advanced training needed to be a successful PA.
My father, who reads at a 4th grade level, always stressed the importance of education. I used to read his mail for him, which developed my love for reading. As a child, I used books to escape my family’s hardships, imagining I was in Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” or lost in the world of Dr. Seuss. Although my father lacked formal education, he encouraged me to pursue college and I became a first-generation college graduate. Initially, I struggled due to poor study habits. After seeking help, I graduated with an upward trending GPA and valuable lessons in perseverance. To excel in my PA prerequisites, I participated in a Growth Mindset workshop that rewired my doubts about my academic capabilities and learned excellent study skills. With every chemistry and biology class I took, I understood more deeply how each scientific discipline plays a role in treating patients. My appreciation for the application of physical science and the human body led to earning a high science GPA.
My journey to the perfect career has not been smooth, yet each obstacle has ensured my appreciation for the opportunity to become a PA. Thanks to the versatility of my experiences, I can interact with patients from any background, though my passion lies with the underserved. While volunteering has partially sustained me, establishing a strong connection and using the humanistic and scientific aspects of medicine to treat and educate abandoned populations will be the ultimate fulfillment.
Accepted: PA School Essay #2 by Rachel
In June 2017, I packed up my Jeep and set out on a new adventure across the country. With two years of EMS experience under my belt in North Carolina, I anxiously awaited my first day as a paramedic in San Francisco. My first shift started with a motor vehicle accident and a serious head trauma, followed immediately by a roadside baby delivery in the backseat of a car, and ended with a boating accident in the marina. My new adventure started with a bang and has kept me busy ever since.
I’ll be the first to admit I was naïve when I started my career as a medic. Having never personally experienced the consequences of limited access to primary care, my eyes were opened when I met Mr. and Mrs. B. My partner and I were called to their home in the middle of the night. Mrs. B told us her husband had been weak, vomiting, and experiencing pain in his right shoulder for the past couple of weeks. Mr. B and his wife thought he had a virus. As a construction worker who lifted heavy equipment, he wrote off the shoulder pain as a strained muscle. Mr. B’s symptoms had become so severe that he had decided to go to the ER but couldn’t make it to the car, so he called 911. Upon further assessment, my partner and I determined that Mr. B was having a heart attack. He was rushed to the cardiac cath lab. I learned a few days later that he had sustained a rupture in his septal wall and died. The cardiologist estimated that Mr. B had been having a cardiac event for over a week but he, along with his family and friends, had missed the warning signs of his heart attack. He had simply waited too long to be treated. My heart broke for the B’s and their community. He hadn’t been educated about the symptoms of a heart attack, nor did he have affordable access to a primary care provider who might have treated his heart disease sooner. Mr. and Mrs. B are just one example of many patients I have met who suffer from lack of access to care. Their stories motivate me to do more for my patients and their communities.
Working in EMS requires me to be at my best in the midst of chaos and uncertainty—thinking critically, educating myself, and contributing to a team. This commitment to excellence is more than just a job requirement; it’s a standard to which I humbly hold myself. Years of treating patients on the street, in their homes, and in the back of the rig has pushed me to want more. I am eager to further my education, widen my scope of practice, and commit to a lifelong career in healthcare as a physician assistant.
I want to be a PA because educating and advocating for underserved patients saves lives. I can contribute more to disease prevention and treatment than I can as a paramedic. Physician assistants are trained quickly and efficiently to go out in the field and start serving patients while focusing on primary care, chronic disease management, and patient education. I want to make a difference, and I want to do so quickly. Practicing as a PA also provides an opportunity to develop my passion for the discovery of new knowledge and experiences.
As a paramedic, I have developed a standard of excellence in the delivery of team-based care in EMS. Being a paramedic has taught me to step up and lead in rudderless situations and to think critically under pressure. I have autonomy on the truck and, while I adhere to protocols, I get to fill in the blanks during calls. Making strategic decisions during emergency calls is one of my strengths, but I still very much appreciate the team with whom I am privileged to serve. I find it very attractive that PAs have the opportunity to treat, diagnose, and prescribe autonomously and in collaboration with healthcare teams and physicians.
Jumping between medical specialties from call to call as a paramedic has sharpened my flexibility and given me a broad base of healthcare experience. As a medic, I have only scratched the surface of these specialties; as a PA, I can deepen my practice by transitioning between specialties to gain expertise in multiple medical settings. The ability to flexibly adapt to our ever-changing healthcare system to most effectively meet the needs of patients, employers, and communities makes the PA an essential piece of the healthcare system.
Researching the profession and shadowing in a variety of disciplines has significantly furthered my resolve to become a PA, yet my passion really stems from my patients—past, present, and future—who deserve a provider who will advocate for them, educate them, and treat them with expertise and compassion.
Accepted: PA School Essay #3 by Anna
It started with one extra beat. One, and then two, and then my heart was racing, palms clammy, sweat dripping down my neck. Time slowed. Sound diminished. My teacher’s voice vanished beneath the throbbing of my heart that grew louder and stronger until it swallowed me.
Losing consciousness was common for me in high school. With my pediatrician unable to determine the cause, I began a journey into medicine. A month with an endocrinologist revealed minor issues, so off I went to a cardiologist. Another month with a cardiac event recorder, every teenage girl’s dream accessory, offered some insight but no answer. An ambulatory EEG led to a memorable birthday, but again no diagnosis. A neurologist declared that my MRI was normal. Although none of my tests led to a solution, I grew more intrigued by medicine with each new exam. Eventually, an electrophysiologist determined that low blood pressure was the issue; a simple medication restored my health.
This yearlong journey inspired my fascination with human body and led me to study biology during college. When choosing a career, I reflected on having been propelled into the world of medicine at just 16 years old. Although it ignited my interest in the field, I was also at my most vulnerable. At each doctor appointment, I waited anxiously in a cold exam room. The PA was always first to enter, beginning the dialogue to put me at ease. PAs also administered my tests, explaining each step and answering my questions. It was a PA who showed me how to check my sugar and use my heart monitor. They were friends to me in difficult times, all while being the doctors’ right hand.
To explore the profession, I shadowed at internal medicine and osteopathic medicine offices, which allowed me to observe the relationship between doctors and PAs in separate practices. I sat with the doctor and the PA as they brainstormed treatment plans for a patient. The PAs I shadowed treated their patients as effectively as the doctor, but they had more time to educate patients and address their concerns. Their compassion and kindness reminded me of the difference my PAs had made for me as a patient. This balance of autonomy and patient engagement was the kind of care I wanted to provide.
After realizing I wanted to be a PA, I set out to build a diverse base of experience. I began by volunteering in a hospital ER. Though I couldn’t do more than offer blankets, kind words and a listening ear, many told me how much my efforts meant. I forge these same connections with patients as a physical therapy aide, listening to their stories while providing electrical stimulation and ultrasound therapy. I often work with geriatric patients who have preexisting conditions that I cannot address but must work around, from dementia to depression. An encouraging smile, a pat on the back, and an ear to listen can be as effective as the therapy itself. As an electromyography and nerve conduction velocity technician, I assist patients at the beginning of their medical journeys by testing for nerve damage and then assisting the pain management specialist with the electromyography test. As a volunteer EMT, I am the first medical professional to assist someone in their time of need. Not only do I have the skills to help in an emergency, but I also have the ability to work calmly in a time of crisis and confusion. These jobs have taught me how to provide medical care, work with diverse healthcare professionals, write medical reports and more. Perhaps most importantly, they have taught me to support patients with kindness and empathy through frightening exams or treatments, skills I will take with me to my career as a PA.
These skills helped me on two medical service trips to developing countries, where I provided care to locals at makeshift clinics. With each whining mosquito, malaria became a reality. During triage, I did not need a list of symptoms to know who was truly sick. As they made their way toward me, beads of sweat as large as tears dripped down their faces. I took their vitals and drew that droplet of blood, but my gut knew what the test would confirm. Watching desperately as the doctor informed the patient of the diagnosis, I could not help but think of the line of people waiting for care. Witnessing their overwhelming need motivated me even more to pursue a career as a PA.
At 16, I could not have imagined that losing consciousness would determine my career. Yet each step in my journey, both personal and professional, has confirmed my belief that I should be a PA. Within each of my different jobs, there has been one constant commonality: people in need of help. Whether in my local neighborhood in Queens or in my global community, like rural Ghana, the skills and knowledge gained from a PA program grant PAs the ability to care for those in need and to make a difference. I believe I have the compassion for patients, the confidence to collaborate, and the desire for knowledge to be an exemplary PA.
Accepted: PA School Essay #4 by Taylor
It was a hectic night in the kitchen, but even the hungriest of our 200+ clients allowed Chris, Deja, and their two sick and crying toddlers to cut to the front of the line. The volunteers and I cheerfully greeted them, but our hearts dropped when we learned that they had just been evicted. In addition to battling the flu, the four of them were now living in their car. Two days later, I saw Chris and asked how his children were feeling. He shared that they were still not well, but the earliest they could be seen by a pediatrician was two weeks. “What’s the point? We’ll just take them to the ER if it gets really bad.”
The nights I serve dinner at the Hollywood Food Coalition (HFC) are a constant reminder of how desperately the struggling individuals and families in our community need help. My compassion for those who lack food, shelter, and medical treatment has grown immensely through the friendly relationships I have developed with many of our regular clients. Like Chris and Deja, some of these people have small children, others suffer from illness and injuries, and many deal with abuse, drug addiction, and mental illness. All of them inspire me to make a difference. Recently, I was appointed to HFC’s all-volunteer board of directors and have been at the helm of new volunteer recruitment. This work has been an eye-opening example of impactful humanitarianism that I will carry with me in my future efforts. My strong desire to relieve the suffering of others extends further than the world of medicine, and I owe this epiphany to my journey to become a physician assistant.
Fifty miles north of Hollywood, I’ve spent many nights on the frontlines of medicine in the emergency department of the rural desert town of Palmdale. While shadowing Mr. Amoani and Mr. Metzger, two thirteen-year veteran ED PAs, I have learned the true meaning of the phrase “medically underserved community.” Palmdale ED functions as a catch-all for sick and injured patients. The providers are grossly outnumbered due to shortages of both PCPs and specialists. My time in the ED has shown me the challenges of a geographically isolated, poverty-stricken community and the stress this places on the area’s few PCPs armed with limited resources. The answer, explained to me simply by ED Lead Mr. Metzger, is to correct the shortage of PCPs in the area so patients can be seen in a reasonable amount of time without resorting to non-emergency ED visits. I now clearly understand the mission of the PA profession and its goal to correct this deficit. I relish the idea of utilizing my training as a PA to make a difference.
My desire to become a PA began during my freshman year anatomy class, when I became infatuated with the study of human biology and disease pathology. This quickly translated to my interest in medicine. Eager to gain patient care experience, I became certified in phlebotomy in college. Many of my patients were physicians, nurses, NPs, and PAs, who asked about my career aspirations. I had the opportunity to shadow a few of my patients, including a pediatric NP, a cardiologist, and an internist. Finally, I met Denae, a PA in cardiology. Shadowing Denae allowed me to witness the grace with which she explained to patients the gravity of their conditions. Her tone was warm and confident, which calmed her patients and gave them hope. I was in awe of her skill, autonomy, and resources as a PA. This career perfectly combined my passion for patient care and science.
From phlebotomy, I transitioned to medical assisting where, for two years, I was taken under the wing of a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon and her expert PA. I worked countless hours with Lucy, our PA and my mentor, whose warmth, intelligence, and wonderful manner with patients perpetuated my dream of becoming a physician assistant. She regularly demonstrated confidence in her ability to think critically and act on her clinical impression, all while being a funny and pleasant human being. Emulating this exemplary PA has been my goal since we met.
Since discovering the PA profession I have eagerly sought out experiences that will develop my perspective as a future PA. Over the last year, I have exposed myself to the tragic effects of poverty, mental illness, and provider shortages in both rural and urban environments. These experiences have truly enriched my understanding of the world in which we live.
It is incredible how much I have grown during my pursuit of becoming a PA, and I look forward to seeing who I will become throughout my career in medicine. My six years in healthcare and experiences volunteering have taught me that treating patients and neighbors alike with compassion and consideration while respecting the trust they have placed in me will be the cornerstone of my work. This is the type of care that families like Chris and Deja’s deserve and it is the type of care I will strive to provide to the members of my community in my career as a physician assistant.
Accepted: PA School Essay #5 by Patrick
As a senior running in the State Class M Cross Country Championship, I set out to do what no one in the history of my high school had done: win an individual championship and help the cross-country team automatically qualify for the State Open. I was so close, but with 250 meters left in the race, I collapsed. I hauled myself up and then fell back down, stumbled to my feet only to watch two figures blur by me, and then collapsed. All that was on my mind was to finish for the team, but my body protested. This time I listened to the faint voice of my coach telling me to stay down. It was a crushing blow, yet it piqued my interest in the body’s complexity and sparked my desire for a career in healthcare.
My memories from after the race—the medical tent, ambulance, and ED—are blurry, but one thing stuck with me: everything in the world of those athletic trainers (ATC) and EMTs stopped except for doing their best to take care of me. Those memories sparked my interest in shadowing the ATC at my high school before and after track practice. I learned that there was no red tape from insurance or worries about co-pays; an ATC simply does their best for each person.
After four years of growth and learning at the University of Maine, I became an ATC and have served in this role through five years filled literally with blood, sweat, and tears. This spring, I was tending to a star player who had been carried off the field with an injury. After evaluating the student-athlete, I diagnosed him with a hamstring strain. While some ATCs will refer these injuries to physical therapy and wish them well, this is when I feel like I truly earn my paycheck. Two weeks of evidence-based practice, guided rehabilitation, use of modalities, constant communication, and dry humor led to the patient's first big game back, where he was responsible for almost half the team’s scoring. The player has since continued to be a big part of the team’s success and is happy that he is no longer subjected to my humor.
My work as an athletic trainer emphasizes loyalty, empathy, desire, and work ethic. It is nothing short of fantastic. Yet as time has passed, I feel ready for a new challenge. An encounter with a PA during a frigid Friday night lights deepened my interest in the PA profession. Our team physician was unable to attend the game, so he sent Scott, a PA from his office. Throughout the night, as I talked with him, I began to learn more about the PA profession. Despite the cold weather, the gears in my head began to turn. As a PA, I could still do evaluations, use modalities, and help give basic lifestyle advice to help people heal, but I could do this at a much higher level.
This epiphany led me to shadow Scott. I am still impressed with his knowledge, not only in orthopedics but also several sub-specialties. Scott is well respected by the patients he treats because of his intelligence, empathy, and ability to see the big picture and its multiple parts. It was also clear that the physicians he works with view him as an invaluable part of the practice. Shadowing Scott showed me that, as a PA, I can become more well-rounded in my medical knowledge while being part of the solution to the healthcare problems our nation faces. This, combined with the profession’s emphasis on developing rapport with patients, are the main factors that lead me to become a PA.
As a college junior, I was on cruise control. I had gotten all A's and B's up to that point, so I mistakenly thought that I had it all figured out. I was surprised to see two C’s at the end of the semester. From that semester, I learned to check my grades regularly so there would be no surprises. I also began to study with other people and went to study groups if I found a topic challenging. These simple changes brought me back to the level I was at before that semester. I have full confidence in my study habits heading into PA school.
Life has a funny way of turning the tables. I was packed into a T car on my way home from a 12-hour day as a finish-line volunteer for the 120th Boston Marathon. When the man beside me suddenly passed out, I stepped forward and began to administer care. Thankfully, the patient regained consciousness quickly. The first thing out of his mouth surprised me. He wasn’t concerned for his own wellbeing. “Please call my wife." He handed me the phone, already dialing “Mrs. Universe.” In that moment, as I notified the patient’s wife and then put the patient into a recovery position, I was reminded of the greater meaning behind restoring my patient’s health. I was returning him whole to those he loved. I can think of nothing more rewarding than that. By attending PA school, I will increase my ability to help my patients return to who and what they love. I cannot wait to continue my journey by entering PA school.
Comparison: The Thief of a Meaningful Essay
In our book How to Write your Physician Assistant Personal Statement, I close with a chapter on fear and comparison.
After reading the samples above be careful not to fall victim to this comparison trap.
When we doubt ourselves or the worth of our life experiences, we lose faith in our words. When we lose faith in our words, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’re comparing their value to the words of others.
Maybe you have read through the sample essays above, and now, when you look at what you have written, it appears elementary or just doesn’t measure up to other essays.
Comparison is deadly, yet it seems to be inherent in human nature. If we look at what others have done or what others have to say and value it above our own work or experiences, we create a barrier between the page and our authentic words.
The healthiest type of comparison is to compare our work with our previous efforts and try to build on that. Keep in mind that the essays above have been edited and re-edited through our personal statement collaborative.
If you embrace openness in your personal statement, you’ve done the best you can. Your only responsibility is to say what’s in your heart and be true to yourself, the admissions committee, and your subject. After that, the world (and the admissions committee) can do what it likes with your words.
- Stephen Pasquini PA-C
View all posts in this series
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant School Application Essay
- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 5, “Then Reach, my Son, and Lift Your People up With You”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 6, “That First Day in Surgery was the First Day of the Rest of my Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 7, “I Want to Take People From Dying to Living, I Want to Get Them Down From the Cliff.”
- Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”
- 9 Simple Steps to Avoid Silly Spelling and Grammar Goofs in Your PA School Personel Statement
- 5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)
- How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!
- How to Write “Physician Assistant” The PA Grammar Guide
- 101 PA School Admissions Essays: The Book!
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 7 Tips for Addressing Shortcomings in Your PA School Personal Statement
- The #1 Mistake PRE-PAs Make on Their Personal Statement
- The Ultimate PA School Personal Statement Starter Kit
- The Ultimate Guide to CASPA Character and Space Limits
- 10 Questions Every PA School Personal Statement Must Answer
- 5 PA School Essays That Got These Pre-PAs Accepted Into PA School