Elements to Gather Before You Start Writing Your Personal Narrative

The largest and most intimidating part of the PA school application is the personal narrative. Writing a compelling narrative about your experiences is a daunting task in and of itself.  When that narrative also has to sell your merits to an admissions panel, it can seem almost impossible to accomplish.

Before you start writing your personal narrative or even drafting an outline, take some time to ruminate on the following topics. All of these elements are important pieces of your narrative, and having one lackluster component can mean the difference between being invited for an interview and being passed up.  By taking time to gather this information on yourself, you’ll have a wealth of options to choose from when planning your narrative roadmap which will make the writing process much easier.

Your Academic Strength
Compile a survey of your academic strengths and challenges.   GPA is not the determining factor for whether or not you will be accepted into PA school, but it will be taken into account.  The consideration of your GPA will be dynamic depending on the program- some consider the science GPA as well as your overall GPA, some weigh your last two years’ GPA greater than your overall GPA and will factor in the difficulty of your most recent science courses.

If you have a 4.0 GPA, don’t rely on it as your ticket in to any program.  Many PA applicants rely on their 4.0 GPAs and neglect ever effectively expressing the human characteristics that are equally important elements of their academic performance.  If you’ve amassed any academic awards, honors, or feel as if you went above and beyond during your academic career, make note of this as it may come in handy when planning your narrative.  This is also a good time to start brainstorming any academic faculty that have had an impact on you as they could make great references later on.

Patient Contact Experience

When it comes to your health care experience, you must consider the quality of the experience. Experiences that give you true one-on-one time with patients will be most valuable to you and your application. The admissions committee will regard those as superior experiences because they are ones that allow you to develop relationships with patients. This subsequently will help you cultivate a sense of empathy with them.

Once you have learned to make a connection with patients, you will have taken a psychological step from shadow or observer to caregiver.  Do not underestimate the value of caring in your mindset and in your personal narrative.  If you can pinpoint experiences where you show you provided direct care for a patient or had a caring mindset, your attitude will ring throughout your narrative and you’ll be able to naturally build rapport when you’re invited for an interview.

Life Experiences

Each of us has varied life experiences that are unique to our journey.  Some applicants are taking the first steps to a new career path while others are still in college. If you’re beginning a new career, highlight professional experiences that pertain to the PA career.  Any experiences that showcase your ability to work as a team, provide attention or service to a member of the public, show empathy, be a leader, or manage time are great things to add to your narrative.  If you’re still in college, try to pull experiences that show your level of maturity and ability to manage a hefty workload. You’ll find that, by going over your own unique experiences, you’ll find plenty of instances where your most desirable traits were showcased.

There are many more topics you could cover such as maturity, leadership ability, communication skills, etc., but you’ll find that many of them can be categorized under these three main elements.  If you find that further categorizing the elements of your personal narrative helps you plan more efficiently, feel free to come up with your own categories and sub-categories of important narrative items. No matter what you do, you’ll find that this extra preparatory step will make the narrative writing process much more straightforward when it comes time to get down to it!