This particular topic is a tough one for me to be super helpful with only because as a 3+3 applicant I was not required to write a personal statement, but I still think it's important to touch upon for completeness sake. I'm much more of a writer than I am a reader (hence the blogging), so I feel like I can provide some good writing tips at the very least. Enjoy!
Instead of a personal statement, I was required to answer a series of essay questions provided by my program, each about a paragraph in length. The questions seemed very straightforward, which almost made it more challenging creativity wise. They're actually really good thought-provokers for those of you who feel completely lost on where to begin. These were the questions I was asked, if you were curious:
1. Briefly describe the role of the Physician Assistant.
2. How has your healthcare experience and/or community service activities influenced your decision to become a Physician Assistant?
3. How has your approach to your academic coursework prepared you to be a successful PA student?
4. Describe your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as it pertains to becoming a PA student and a graduate PA.
5. Describe your exposure to PAs in clinical practice.
6. How do you intend to fund your way through your PA program education?
Your personal statement is certainly a key part of your application, but similar to what I said about letters of recommendation, I don't think it should be the sole determining factor in your acceptance. A good applicant needs to be the total package. A good personal statement alone is not enough. That being said, if a program loves your story and loves your personality in your interview but you have a lower GPA, you may still be considered simply based on one of the readers now more personal connection with you. Since a personal statement does have the potential power to have some pull, it's important to take them seriously. And this is definitely the case if you feel your application is lacking somewhere. While programs do look for like-minded individuals to fill their classes, they are also looking for students from all walks of life with all different stories and backgrounds. They don't want a class of cookie cut humans. What makes you a unique addition to the room?
It's common to hear people say your personal statement is what sets you apart from other applicants, and in some cases it does. But to be honest, most personal statements follow a very similar pattern in terms of structure: past, present, future. It starts with some type of moment from the past that impacted you. The middle discusses what you're doing in the present (patient care/ volunteer work etc.) to help reinforce that moment. And it ends with how you intend to use all of this experience to reach your end goal of becoming a PA. If well-written, I think this structure can work for most applicants and their stories. Again, there's nothing wrong with following the same pattern. Be original where you can, but don't overachieve and try to make your personal statement so unique that the message gets lost in the literary piece you've tried to craft.
Everyone is always so concerned about what to write about. No one thinks their story is unique enough. And if you do have a unique story, some struggle with putting it into words. No one feels like the qualities and events that make you you actually matter. Sometimes things you don't even think are unique are where the beautiful stories come from. No one can tell you what to write about, but there's no harm in asking others for their advice. Sometimes outsiders will spark up a topic that you never thought about. Feedback from loved ones should always be welcome during the brainstorming process. But at the end of the day, it's your personal statement and should reflect what you think and feel is important.
I think a lot of people (including myself) think (thought) that a personal statement has to involve some type of large monumental change or heartbreaking story. But that's so not the case. If you had something happen in your life that made you want to go into medicine like the death of a loved one or a rough path to get where you are today, then you have a little less work to do in the brainstorming stage than someone who has all their loved ones intact and had a strong family upbringing. But, you don't have to have a sob story to write a meaningful personal statement is what I'm getting at. Someone's meaningful revelation during a patient encounter as a patient care tech can provide just as strong of a foundation.
I have three big tips for anyone writing a personal statement, and it has nothing to do with the content of your writing. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. I seriously think the quality of your grammar and punctuation tells me just as much, if not more, about you as the actual content of your essay. Read it forwards for grammar. Read it backwards for spelling. Have more than one friend read it over for you. It seems like a hassle, but it makes a difference. If you have a typo in your personal statement, now I'm questioning your eye for detail. Everything in medicine requires you to have an eye for detail. Every last vital sign. Every last lab value. Every last hairline fracture on an x-ray. It all matters. It's a quality I wouldn't be able to just gloss over as an interviewer.
Honestly, some people are just better writers than others. For some people writing comes naturally, while others have to sit and retype for days. This can tend to be a very painful portion of a PA students application process, but it doesn't have to be. Try to minimize the pressure you put on yourself to make your personal statement the absolute perfect embodiment of you. No one can be fully exploited to the core in under 5,000 characters, so don't try to do so. You don't need to include your entire life story start to finish, which is another common mistake. Pick one moment in time and expand upon it.
Emotional personal statements can be powerful, but when your interview comes along and the content is brought up, you can't be so emotional about it that I question if you can handle the heaviness of medicine. Going through hard times should make you stronger, not passionate to the point of crumbling. Trust me, it happens. You have to keep your emotions under control, and if you think it's going to be a problem in your interview, then I suggest not writing about it.
Make sure your personal statement relates back to why you want to be a PA in some respect. It can be pretty confusing reading someone's personal statement about something completely unrelated to providing healthcare in the future. And sometimes the content is related, but the writer just does a poor job of looping everything together at the end, which is probably the most vital part of the essay. Sorry for the brutal honesty here, but here it goes. Okay, so your friend got injured at a tennis match and you helped get her into the ambulance. Okay, so you watched your family member pass away from cancer. Okay, so your dad went into cardiac arrest and you were able to perform CPR to save his life. But, WHY? Why are you writing about this? Why did that moment make you want to become a PA? How have you been working towards making that dream a reality since that event occurred? It's not the traumatic event that tells me about you. It's HOW you have reacted and developed as a person because of it that I care about. It's the WHY that will bring out the beauty in your story. Bring something up that has happened or that you have experienced in the past that has led you to this point of applying for a seat in a program that will allow you to one day provide care to others.
So no, I don't care what you're writing about. Whatever it is just make it the best version of itself. Make it good. Make every line count. Be honest. Be true. Be you. No one can ever fault you for that. Now, get to writing!