PA Training – Writing a Winning PA School Application Essay

Physician Assistant medicine is a fast growing career track, and it’s not hard to see why.  PAs are in great demand due to a national shortage of primary care physicians.  They make a good living, are usually able to balance work and family commitments, and do meaningful work.  If you’ve decided that becoming a PA is for you, writing an impressive application essay or personal statement is crucial. The following guidelines will increase your chances of acceptance.

  1. Learn about the program.  Each school has its own priorities, likes, and dislikes, so get familiar with them.  Go to the program’s website and read their mission carefully.  Do they accept applicants from your state?  Do they emphasize primary care or a particular specialty?  Your essay should demonstrate that you are familiar with their program, and that you are a match for it. 

  2. Separate yourself from the pack.  PA school applications are on the rise, so your essay should set you apart from the crowd.  Develop a memorable opening to draw in readers and interest them.  Relevant quotes, revealing bits of dialog, or brief anecdotes from your experiences can often serve this purpose.  Avoid boring and straightforward responses, such as, “The reason I want to become a Physician Assistant is because I have always…” 

  3. Tell a (true) story.  Answering with a laundry list of reasons you want to be a PA, no matter how heartfelt, won’t keep the reader interested.  Instead, craft a true story about who you are and why you are the perfect candidate.  Describe how your work and educational experiences have prepared you for work as a Physician Assistant, highlighting the positives.  No matter what your background, you have skills that — properly worded — could be assets to a career as a PA. 

  4. Frame problems as obstacles you have overcome.  In recovery?  Single parent?  Chained to a family business?  Don’t apologize.  Instead, use these situations as examples of challenges you have faced.  If you got a low grade in a class, briefly explain whatever pressures you have overcome that may have contributed, and then move on.  Admissions committees love to feel that they are admitting someone who has withstood great trials. 

  5. Don’t say you want to go to PA school so you can one day become a physician, or because it pays well.  Even if this is true, saying so is a mistake.  Physician Assistants don’t see themselves as wannabe-doctors, they don’t take pride in their work because of what it buys them, and they don’t view their field as a stepping stone to something else.  Most of them would rather be a PA than a physician (just ask a few).  Convince your reader that, more than anything, you want to be a PA.

  6. Share your skills as a team player.  After all, if you become a PA, you will be supervised by a physician, and you will draw on these skills daily.  There isn’t much room in this field for vanity or the “lone wolf.”

  7. Proofread, edit, proofread, edit.  Put in the time to write a great essay.  Read it aloud (many times, if necessary) to evaluate how it sounds.  How do you come across to the reader?  Do your words have impact?  Fix confusing and awkward sentences, and remove unnecessary ones.  Have a friend (or several) read your work and give you constructive feedback.  Then take it back to the drawing board and make it even better. 

  8. Finally, stay positive and don’t apologize for who you are.  Your essay should be upbeat, or at least not a downer.  Few people who get in were “perfect” candidates, but all who get in put their best foot forward.  It bears repeating: keep things positive.

     

Work hard on your essay, and only send it out when it reads well and makes you proud of who you are, no matter what your background. 

Law School – Avoiding Expository Writing in Law School Essay Exams

In law school, as well as in the practice of law, you will have many opportunities to demonstrate your skills at many types of writing. One type of writing you will need to use from time to time is expository writing. Expository writing is a rhetorical mode of writing in which the purpose of the author is to inform, explain, describe, or define his or her subject to the reader.

However, when answering law school essay exam questions, you are called upon to demonstrate a different type of writing. Exams are opportunities to show your professor your skills of resolving legal problems by identifying issues, stating concise rules that will be used to resolve the problems, then applying your analytical talents to reason to conclusions. That requires a departure from expository writing.

By way of example, in order to prove a negligence claim, a plaintiff must provide evidence of several elements, one of which is the existence of a “duty” on the part of the defendant to act with reasonable care in relation to the plaintiff. The following is unnecessary in an essay response:

“Duty” can serve as a touchstone when trying to understand the essence of the concept of negligence. The notion of duty appears to be a universal keystone in legal systems throughout the world. In civilized societies, all human action is conformable to the law, which members of each society are required to obey. Duty may be obliged by law or by contract. When imposed by law, a duty is an obligation requiring the actor to conform to a certain standard of conduct for protection of others against unreasonable risks. The word “duty” is used throughout the Restatement of Torts to denote the fact that the actor is required to conduct himself in a particular manner; if he does not do so he runs the risk of becoming subject to liability to another to whom the duty is owed for any injury sustained by such other, of which that actor’s conduct is an actual and proximate cause.

From an essay-writing standpoint (outside of law school) this may be a fine paragraph. Including it in an expository writing could be helpful. Although introductory explanations, historical justifications, moral discussions, and segue paragraphs tend to round out good collegiate expository writing, these are not hallmarks of good law school essay exam writing.

Parents Guide to Writing Private High School Application Essays

Your teenager’s entrance into private high school cannot be taken for granted. With public schools beset with a variety of problems – discipline, poor test results, safety – private high schools offer your child a quality education in a safe environment.

When you request an information package from a private high school, you will discover that essays and short answer essays are required from both you and your teenager. Your teen, who should be comfortable with answering essay style questions will be asked about his academic strengths and weaknesses, his desire to attend the private school and about his hobbies and extra-curricular activities. Questions directed to parents, however, often have a different focus and are designed with different purposes in mind.

Usually, the essay questions directed to parents are analytical in nature. Instead of asking for facts, these questions ask you to speak about your teens character, to discuss family dynamics and to gauge your role as a supporter of the private school. Private high school admittance directors recognize that teenagers who are brought up in a stable, education focused home, are much more likely to succeed than their peers who have less support at home.

Similarly, private school administrators look at your essay answers to determine whether you can be counted on to support the high school financially or through volunteer work. As you might imagine, administrators cannot legally or ethically ask some of these questions but they can draw inferences based on your answers to application questions.

Analytical Questions

For example, an entrance application question may ask what you believe your child can contribute to the XYZ school. This type of question is really asking you to speak to your child’s academic, social, athletic and out-of-school interests. If you have visited the school, reference your visit to show that you have made an effort to learn more about the school. Your answer should address each of your child’s areas of interest and strength. Here is a sample answer to this question:

During our recent visit to the XYZ School, Tommy pointed out to me the well equipped science lab and asked a number of questions about the science curriculum available to students at the school. Tommy has a long standing interest in studying science and he has performed well in elementary school and we believe that he will bring that interest and aptitude to his high school studies. His current teachers note that Tommy regularly asks thoughtful and insightful questions in class. In addition to working hard to perform well academically, Tommy will be an willing participant in the school’s baseball team and/or its marching band. Tommy keeps a busy schedule during the school year and as a well rounded and serious young man, he will represent the ideals and message of the XYZ School now and in the future.

Family Stability and Religious Questions

Other questions will more directly ask you about your future participation in school fund raising and other activities. These questions are designed to evaluate the stability of your home life and your future financial support potential. For example a religious school application might ask about the role your religion plays in your life. A non-religious school might ask why you are considering the XYZ School. Here is a sample answer to this type of question:

Our family is an active member of XYZ church. We are active members of the social action committee and every Thanksgiving, our entire family, including Tommy and his two sisters, volunteer at the XYZ Church gently used clothing center where we help distribute gently used clothes to homeless people. Tommy and his sisters have been greatly impacted by this activity as well as other church related functions. With a hands-on opportunity to minister to the less fortunate, Tommy has a personal understanding of the message of XYZ religion. We try to reinforce that message at home by attending services regularly and making daily prayer a part of our routine. At the XYZ Private Elementary School, both my husband and I have served on the Board of Directors and we are active participants in the school’s Feed the Hungry annual campaign.

Answers like the ones set out above are designed to send a message to school administrators that both you and your teen are serious, dedicated and stable people who will fit in well with the community that develops within a particular private school. If you make an effort to study the type of community that exists within a particular school and you model your entrance questionnaire essay to that community, you greatly enhance your child’s chances at gaining admission.