Hey, you PA procrastinators
You know who you are — squeaking under deadlines by a nanosecond, feeling compelled to vacuum, or worse (when truly in the grips of avoidance), deciding to clean the toilet rather than tackle that pesky research paper.
Believe me, as a recovering procrastinator, I can relate.
Join the club
When I was in college a gazillion years ago, my friends gave me a t-shirt that read, “I was going to join the Procrastinator’s Club, but never got around to it.”
Maybe putting things off works for you most of the time (there is some reward from the relief that comes from beating that deadline), but it won’t serve you well when it comes to writing your personal statement.
After all, it’s likely the one thing that will make the difference between getting that all-important interview and losing that opportunity to someone else with similar grades and experience.
When I interviewed a dozen Admissions Directors and faculty from top PA programs across the country for our book, “How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement,” they said the essay needs to make them stop and think, “This is someone I want to know better.”
You see why your personal statement is not something to rush through just to get it done. It requires careful consideration, much thought, and many revisions. To help you get going, follow these simple tips.
5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay
1. Put your butt in the chair in front of the computer at a specific time every single day.
This is a favorite trick of writers, especially when we’re suffering from writer’s block. As I’ve discovered, you won’t get anything written if you’re cleaning the toilet. It doesn’t have to be for long, 15 minutes will work. On most days, you’ll be surprised to find an hour has passed.
2. Let your imagination run wild.
When you’re struggling with what to write it is not the time to actually write. Instead, think about life experiences that brought you to this point and type them up. They don’t have to be in formal sentences or in any order. Just as long as you can go back and remember what the heck you meant when you wrote, “neighbor kid, six-years-old, worst day ever.” Most won’t (and shouldn’t) end up in your essay. But you’ll be surprised at the richness of your memories.
3. Decide what’s relevant to your personal statement.
When I’m writing an article, the biggest temptation is to include an amazing anecdote that’s just slightly off topic. When I try to make it fit (and even now I am still guilty of trying), the writing is strained. Ultimately, I’m forced to delete it. Writers call that “killing your darlings,” and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Sure, it’s touching that you bandaged your puppy’s leg when you were nine or saved a baby bird by bottle-feeding it, but those aren’t the things Admissions folks want to know. Copy them into a different document — someday you may want to use them for another purpose, in an interview perhaps, when you are an award winning PA.
4. Write a paragraph.
Now, this comes with a caveat — some people prefer to outline, but those generally aren’t procrastinators, who don’t have the time to outline. (Told you I am a recovering procrastinator). So I say, work with your personality instead of against it. Take one of your experiences and put it in paragraph form. Don’t worry about the little things — character and space count, grammar, spelling or transitions, just put your musings into a three or four sentence paragraph.
5. Write your transition sentences.
You’ll need to get your essay from point A to point Z. Again, this isn’t the time to worry about the details. This is just to help you start to tie those random experiences together. Cohesion is one of the biggest gaps I see when editing personal statements. Make it easy on yourself in the long run by getting a jump on tying it all together.
When you do all this a couple of months before your application is due, you’ve bought yourself time to write a polished essay (and have it professionally edited if necessary) that makes the Admissions folks think, “Hmmm, this is someone I’d like to know better.”
Looking for some more inspiration?
Take a look at these 31 sample PA school personal statements shared through members of our community. Use it as a guide to see what works and possibly what doesn't as you sit down to write your 5,000 character CASPA essay.
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