The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants requires all applicants to write a narrative essay. In an increasingly competitive field, this essay can determine whether you are accepted into the physician assistant program of your choice. A weak essay will detract from your accomplishments, while a strong one can convince admissions committee members that you are their ideal candidate.
A narrative essay uses a story to showcase your personal qualities and experiences. While you may be tempted to use the essay as an opportunity to provide an admissions committee with your life history, the strongest essay will focus on a specific experience or relationship, which has somehow changed or affected you. Find a moment from your life that illustrates something about who you are or why you want to be a PA. Is there a teacher or family member who has had a profound effect on you? Was your decision to become a PA inspired by a difficult or illuminating life experience? Answering questions like these will help you to narrow your focus.
Many college graduates are accustomed to avoiding the first-person pronoun "I" in academic writing. This convention does not hold true for narrative essays. Here, you should feel comfortable writing in the first person and talking about yourself. A narrative essay also gives you the chance to be somewhat conversational in tone and show a sense of humor. The overall impression you make, however, should remain professional. Avoid using slang or becoming too personal. Check that your grammar and spelling are impeccable.
The admissions committee will have already seen your test scores and academic transcripts. Avoid mentioning these things, no matter how impressive they might be. The reason the personal statement takes the form of a narrative -- instead of a list or graph -- is because members of the admissions committee want to know about you. They want to know whether you are someone who could work well with medical professionals and demonstrate empathy toward patients. Stick to subject matter that highlights your people skills and interpersonal relationships.
An application essay should emphasize your positive qualities; however, reading about a perfect person doing perfect things can get dull and unbelievable. Focus on ways that you have grown or changed as a person. Perhaps you are following a very different path than you were five years ago. Maybe you had an experience that caused you to question your values, choices or beliefs. A story that shows how you have grown into a more mature or focused person is prime inspiration for a narrative essay.
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