PA School narrative: How to frame your weaknesses as strengths

As you write your personal narrative, you’ll need to portray yourself as honestly as possible. This means that, while you get to praise yourself by pointing out the key abilities and characteristics that make you a stand-out physician assistant, you may also need to address your weaknesses. While you might be reluctant to pinpoint something that could harm your chances of being the optimal candidate, weaknesses can be an outstanding way to frame your strengths- you just need to know how to present them.

The key to addressing your weaknesses is showing them in a way that reveals how you’ve grown from them. If you choosing to include a weakness in your personal narrative be sure that you can fully explain how you’ve grown from it, or at the very least convey that you’ve improved somehow from it.

If you cannot provide an explanation as to how you’ve grown from your weakness, don’t include it! Not providing actual evidence of your progress will hurt your chances with the admissions committee and will give them a sense of unpreparedness. While including an honest assessment of your negatives can potentially add some credibility to your strengths, this technique is typically not worth the risk without a good explanation to back it up.

Do not try to use your weaknesses to gain sympathy from your admissions committee because they simply won’t have any! Remember, they’re taking an objective assessment of you as a potential student for their program as well as a potential physician assistant. Playing the room for sympathy rather than bolstering yourself up as a stellar candidate will only hurt your chances.

When you address your weaknesses and associated strengths, make sure you try and relate them to the physician assistant profession or patient care. Apologizing or making excuses for your weaknesses will only frame them in a negative light, but speaking to your weaknesses as challenges you’ve overcome you can turn them into compelling strengths.