Write The Perfect PA School Personal Statement [With Examples]

Typerwriter and rocket

Filling out your PA school application is exciting and overwhelming. You’re beginning the first steps to your career goal, but it includes so much!

You’ll need to complete your application through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants ( CASPA application). The application includes letters of recommendation, service hours, and a personal statement.

Your personal statement is one of the most important pieces inside the CASPA application. A PA personal statement is really a personal essay that offers you a time to shine.

The goal is to pique the admissions committee’s interest in you, in hopes they will contact you for a school interview.

Your PA school wants to learn more about you and your past experiences. If you’ve kept a journal of your healthcare experiences, it will make the process a little easier. If not, take a week to think through your past medical experiences, patient interactions, and shadowing experiences.

Your goal is to be accepted into a PA Program, become a PA student, and join the PA profession . To get there, you have to complete your application essay. So, let’s get started!

What Is the Purpose of a Physician Assistant Personal Statement?

Your PA personal statement might be the toughest part of the application process. Ultimately, your application essay is a sales piece about you, and that can be difficult to write. Inside the application, your PA school sees an academic background that talks about what kind of student you are.

Your work history tells them about what you’ve done professionally. Your letters from your PA evaluators show what others have to say about you. This is the only time in your PA school application that you hold the pen.

The American Academy of PAs recommends you pay attention to a few dos and don’ts as you consider what to put in your personal statement. Remember there is a 5,000 character limit. This means you have 5,000 characters, not words, in which to complete your essay. Often, this will come out to be about 800 words.

In your essay, clearly state why you’re pursuing the PA profession while demonstrating your knowledge of it. Communication skills are a necessity in the PA profession, and this is a chance for your communication skills to shine. Use your personal essay to communicate why you’re up to the challenge.

Don’t be vague, don’t use abbreviations, and don’t use informal language like contractions. Instead, write formally and identify the theme that brings the whole essay together.

Be sure to make every word count. Most importantly, do not make your personal statement a reiteration of your application. The admissions committee has already read your application. This is time to make yourself unforgettable.

As you are brainstorming, outlining, and writing your application essay, keep your audience in mind. Admission committee members are physician assistants, and they’re looking for good future PAs.

They’re interested in your desire to be part of a growing profession and your passion for patient care. Communicate this through your application essay.

Your PA School Wants To See You Shine in Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your unique story of why you want to become a physician assistant. To tell your story well, it’s important to do your homework on your audience. Start by investigating the physician assistant school and take note of their mission, ideas, and values. You can find most of this information on their website.

Look for the emphasis the school places on primary care or specialties. Do they encourage out-of-state applicants? What’s their vision for the future of education? As you find these answers of the PA program you hope to attend, ask yourself—How am I a match? Answers to these questions will help you as you write your personal statement.

Medical school yearbook

Each week, skim through the articles that pop up in your news feed to get to know your intended school. The key word here is “skim;” it’s not necessary to read each word. You only need to read enough to find information to include that will help set yourself apart from other candidates.

Unless you’re perfect, you likely have had to overcome some challenges in your education or your personal life. Recount these challenges in your application essay and identify how you’ve overcome them. Above all, be human in your essay so the admissions committee connects with you and is excited about meeting you.

Prepare, Then Write Your PA Personal Statement

Let’s begin at the beginning. Don’t procrastinate! Some prospective PA students put off writing until they feel inspired or they feel the deadline is disturbingly close.

Sadly, this only feeds the anxiety that often accompanies writing a physician assistant personal statement. If you avoid procrastinating and instead use the process below, it becomes easier. The process includes brainstorming, outlining, and finally writing. But first, let’s start with the structure of the personal statement.

Anatomy of a Physician Assistant Personal Statement

The first thing you need to understand is the structure of the document. Once you know that, it’s easier to brainstorm the type of information you’ll need to write it. A PA personal statement includes an opening statement, a body, and a strong conclusion.

Opening Statement

Your opening statement sets the tone for the rest of your essay. It must grab your reader’s attention and make them want to stay along for the ride. This is where your research into the school comes in handy. Some schools prefer a straightforward statement while others are looking for a compelling story that sets the stage for your desire to become a PA student.

Opening statement stories can recount:

  • When you were cared for by a physician assistant.
  • What you learned from your personal medical experiences.
  • What you discovered from a friend or family member in the healthcare field that touched you.
  • Your volunteer experiences.
  • What it was like to live in a medically underserved area.

Providing a personal experience helps the admissions committee decide if they want to invite you to a school interview. Be sure to brainstorm multiple personal experiences to use in your opening statement. That way, as you move forward and start writing your first draft, you can change the opening statement to fit the flow of the rest of the essay.

Body of the Essay

This part of your essay tells the admissions committee why you decided to apply to their physician assistant school. Include in the body of your essay how you built an understanding of medicine and what drove you to want to become a physician assistant.

For instance, shadowing other healthcare professionals, reading, healthcare experience, and personal experience are ways of showing your knowledge and passion for the medical field.

It may also help to touch on why you chose to be a physician assistant and not a nurse practitioner or an MD . Remember, you’re speaking to PAs who already know what a PA does . Instead, address what it is about being a physician assistant that speaks to you personally.

Mention specific skills that make you a great PA, such as teamwork, communication, compassion, and your desire to work as a healthcare provider.

If you were faced with challenges and obstacles during your high school or college career, address them and discuss how you’ve grown from the experience. Don’t make excuses; just take ownership of the situation and address it honestly.

Strong Conclusion

You’ve finally finished the body of your PA school essay. This last paragraph of your personal statement should reemphasize your desire to attend physician assistant school, and, specifically, that school’s PA program. In your last paragraph, let your empathy, passion, skills, and dedication shine through.

Make a Personal Statement List, Then Check It Twice

If the process makes you feel overwhelmed, be assured you’re not the only one. However, taking these next two steps can make writing the essay much easier and less intimidating. Let’s start with a personal statement list from which you will later write an outline.

Schedule a date for when you’ll start writing your first draft. Mark this date in your calendar so you won’t forget or procrastinate. Then, on your calendar, mark one week before your “start writing” date. This is your brainstorming date.

On your brainstorming date, make a list of points you want to cover in your application essay. Because this is a brainstorming session, you don’t consider the character limit, it does not need to be in logical order, nor does it all have to follow the same theme.

Your list should include from 3 to 5 experiences that demonstrate the path you’ve taken to become a physician assistant. Patient interaction, academic experience, shadowing, clinical experience, and volunteering all fit the bill. If you have a particular story that you would like to weave throughout the essay, then include that on the list as well.

If you’re considering beginning your application essay, with a story, it’s helpful to brainstorm multiple ideas. A good opening story will build the structure of the document, so add all potential ideas to the list. Again, this is brainstorming, so there’s no need to nail down your opening story right now.

Now, put the list off to the side for at least 4 days. This will give you a chance to mull over your ideas without pressure, so when the time comes, the essay flows naturally.

Create an Outline of Personal Experiences

After 4 days, pull out the list of your personal experiences and begin to structure your essay in the form of an outline. An outline can help you organize your thoughts, so your content flows together.

Remember, there is a 5,000 character limit, so the outline will help you stay on track as you write on the proverbial paper (because you’re writing it on the computer, right?). .

Most pre-PA students write their essays in chronological order. And, truth be told, this is also the best way for the admissions committee to absorb the information. If you do choose to flashback, make it clear so your reader isn’t confused.

Do not try to be perfect—neither in your writing style nor in how you portray yourself.

Your ability to be vulnerable about your challenges makes you more of a real, relatable person. Set aside 2 or 3 days to nail down the outline for your personal statement. Not 2 or 3 full days, but 2 or 3 days to write, mull, and contemplate over the structure, stories, and theme you’ll use.

Start Writing Your Personal Statement: It’s Time to Put Pen to Paper

It’s time to start writing. Set aside quiet time when you won’t be interrupted, and find a space where you can relax. Turn off your phone notifications and shut the door. Take time during the process to do what helps you to calm the butterflies. Simple exercises, music, prayer, and meditation are all popular methods of quieting your mind.

Then start writing using the outline. As you write, remember this is a first draft; you’ll spend time editing, rearranging, and proofing later. Writing your first draft might be one of the fastest steps in writing your personal essay. This is because you’ve already put in the time and effort to develop the ideas. Now is the time to depend on them.

If you feel stuck, many writers find freewriting loosens the creative juices and helps the words flow.

Freewriting is the practice of continuously writing the thoughts that come to you. It was discovered by Peter Elbow in 1973, and it’s been found to help “un-stick” content development. Plus, since you’re using a keyboard, this technique is much easier for you than it was for Mr. Elbow using pen and paper.

After you write your first draft, you’ll need to edit it. One editing technique is to speak your essay out loud as if you were telling it to someone. Use a recorder so you can playback your thoughts—especially those well-worded statements you can’t seem to recreate later.

Seek a Personal Statement Review

Once you’ve polished your personal statement to the best of your ability, it’s time to seek a personal statement review. This is a review process undertaken by an expert, licensed PA who can help improve the flow of your essay and guide you to produce your best possible personal statement for PA school.

Your PA school essay should not be the area of the application process that limits your acceptance.

Potential PA students do well to have a personal statement review, so they don’t get lost in a sea of applicants. The admissions committee is not looking for a cookie-cutter essay, but rather your strongest response to their prompt.

Some PAs that do personal statement reviews also offer services to review CASPA applications. Consider this when choosing a PA to perform your personal statement review. As you weigh your options, costs, and timing, remember the importance of the personal statement to your PA school application and ultimately getting a school interview.

Examples of a PA School Essay

It’s always easier to understand how to write your essay after you’ve read several examples. The PA Life published and analyzed 31 examples for you to read through. At the end of each of these real-world examples are brief comments to help guide the writer to produce a better essay.

The first time you read through a personal essay example, you may miss some points, so be sure to read through examples multiple times.

Here are two short examples using different perspectives to help you determine what the best option is for your personal statement. Neither of these meets the 5,000 character limit since the objective is to offer you different options in the way they could be written and not to develop a full physician assistant program essay.

Paper role and tensiometer

Personal Statement: Example One

I was seven and my mother was once again giving me cough syrup. I took it standing over the toilet because the cherry flavor made me nauseous, and I was sure I would throw up. This went on for years.

Years of springtime coughing and cherry cough syrup. Years of coughing all night and well into the day. Years and years—until as an adult, I realized I had allergies. In those years, I was cared for by my family physician who was gentle, caring, and took the time to talk with me and my parents.

Over the years I have been treated by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians. Thankfully my lungs have healed well, and I use my inhaler once every two to three years.

But in those years, I grew to have an understanding of the different roles of mid-level providers and physicians. And, from that understanding, I grew to appreciate the flexibility, professionalism, skills, and abilities that a physician assistant brings to their practice each day.

During my hours of healthcare experience as an EMT, I have also had the privilege of working alongside physician assistants who have demonstrated the unique combination of communication skills, teamwork, and compassion that I believe I also hold.

My desire to practice as a physician assistant is driven by my own healthcare experiences as well as those I have witnessed at work.

Over the past five years, I have volunteered at homeless shelters and nursing homes, while working as an EMT. In that time I have come to realize I am driven to help others, and being a physician assistant is the best way for me to fulfill that life mission. [Character count: 1588, Word count: 281]

Personal Statement: Example Two

In the past three years, I have held the hands of children as they died, comforted their parents, and watched their siblings mourn. For three years I have watched the doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in our hospital work to save lives, and I have seen the difference they make.

As a nurse, I had always assumed I would go on to become a nurse practitioner, so I could see my own patients. But, in the past three years, I have had the chance to see these professions in action, and I have come to realize my goal is to become a physician assistant.

Growing up I lived in a medically underserved area of our large metropolitan city. I saw first-hand the injustices that led to the loss of life or permanent disability. Today I am a nurse in a large city hospital serving those same people, the people from my neighborhood.

In these years I have developed strong communication skills that have served me well as I teach my patients how to care for themselves at home. My experience has been that positive patient outcomes rely on patient understanding and a belief in their necessary care.

My patients and colleagues have taught me the meaning of teamwork, compassion, and understanding of cultural differences. In watching the practice of different medical professionals, it has become obvious that physician assistants are the embodiment of the kind of care I want to offer my patients.

Each medical professional comes from different backgrounds, with different perspectives. I know that my perspective has been impacted by the neighborhood and community of my childhood.

I believe this impact has been a positive one, as it has driven home the need for people who are sensitive to cultural differences, have the time and desire to work with patients, and who have the skills and knowledge to care for them. These characteristics describe me, and I believe they are a deep and integral part of the physician assistant’s practice.

During my freshman year of undergraduate school, my grades faltered as I was learning how to live away from home and control my own schedule. By my sophomore year, I understood what was needed to get the grades I desired, and I achieved high marks through the rest of my education.

To achieve my goal requires my diligence, focus, and ability to absorb and utilize knowledge. I believe I have demonstrated these characters in my undergraduate degree and during my work experience. I am confident in my ability to successfully complete my education and close the gap in healthcare as a primary care provider. [Character count: 2,562 Word count: 444]

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January 26, 2024

Writing Your PA School Personal Statement with Impact [Including a PA Personal Statement Example]

why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

There are approximately 300 accredited PA (physician assistant) schools in the United States. In the most recent application cycle, these schools received more than 27,000 applications. The matriculation rate for PA schools hovers near 30%, which is lower than the approximate 40% matriculation rate for medical schools. Is becoming a PA a competitive process? Yes! Is it impossible? No!

For you to stand out in this crowded applicant pool, your  personal statement for your PA application  has got to shine from the first sentence to the last. It needs to tell a compelling story that focuses on your sustained interest in the field, while at the same time building a case for your qualifications. It should not rehash your CV, be loaded with clichés, or focus solely on a story that portrays you as a victim.   

The character limit for the CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) personal statement is 5,000 – which includes spaces ! Some people at first believe the limit is 5,000  words  and end up having to severely cut back their overwritten drafts. Don’t let this happen to you! 

The following successful essay responds to the question, “Why PA?” After reading this essay, you’ll understand why the candidate was accepted into a PA program.  The individual has given permission for their essay to be shared publicly. All personal identifiers and details have been removed to protect their privacy.

why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

PA School Personal Statement Example

I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach. She quickly called my mom, who took me to several different doctors as the “bug bites” continued to spread all over my body. None of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me until I saw a Dermatology PA. He immediately diagnosed me with a delayed allergic reaction. He gave me a medication that almost immediately made the hives disappear. I no longer struggled to open my eyes! It was like magic! To this day, I still have no idea what caused that allergic reaction, but I am grateful for this experience, because it introduced me to a PA who continued to touch my life and cultivate my interest in medicine and healthcare.

Year after year, my love of learning continued to flourish. I began taking gifted classes in math and science in the fifth grade and continued to take honors and advanced placement classes when I reached high school. In addition to my studies, I also began to play volleyball and softball. Through these sports, I learned the skills that a textbook could not teach me, such as accountability, integrity,  teamwork , and leadership. Through my academic achievements, active participation in numerous school clubs, and leadership role as the captain of my volleyball team, my high school nominated me to participate in a National Youth Leadership Forum in the summer of ——. I attended lectures by a PA, a nurse, a chiropractor, a veterinarian, and several physician specialists. In addition to the lectures and countless group activities, I visited several medical facilities. In one of the labs, I saw a table displaying human organs infected with different diseases and cancers. To my surprise, I was eager to touch them and learn why the people they once belonged to could not have been saved. From that experience on, I became determined to pursue medicine.

My  interest in the PA profession  quickly became a driving force in my life after my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma in February —— and quickly passed away in October of that year. I was devastated upon hearing her diagnosis. How could this happen when she went to the Dermatologist every three to six months? The same Dermatology PA who had healed me with his “magic pills” spent a significant amount of time with my mom after her diagnosis. He met with her and my dad following a long day of seeing patients, to determine if he had missed something in her regular exams. He also made himself available to my entire family and recommended specialists and experimental treatments. He explained everything we did not understand along the way. It is because of the compassion, sincerity, and care he provided to my mom and my family during this difficult time that I became certain I wanted to pursue my love of medicine as a PA.

Throughout my undergraduate career, as well as the time since I graduated, I have continued to explore the medical field to learn as much as I can about becoming a PA. Through countless hours of  shadowing and volunteering  as a medical assistant at —— Dermatology, I have learned how crucial teamwork, effective communication, detailed note-taking, and compassion are for effective patient care. There have been numerous instances where doing a simple and nearly painless biopsy could have turned into a serious and most certainly uncomfortable medical situation. By taking thorough patient histories, accurately noting any allergies, and verbally communicating these notes to the practitioner, I have been able to ensure that patients receive the best care possible while averting any avoidable crises.

Every challenge and opportunity that I have encountered since I was the itchy little girl sitting in Mrs. Russell’s class has brought me to this decision. My mom’s passing has only made me more passionate about this profession and has given me a new appreciation for life that I hope to share with my patients and community. With my love of learning and helping others, as well as the skill set I will gain from a PA program, I am certain that I will have the tools needed to become a valued member of a larger care team. I am eager to see how these opportunities will positively impact not only my life, but also the lives of others.

What makes this PA personal statement outstanding?

This essay shows that the writer invested the question “Why PA?” with a great deal of thought. It is exceptional for the following reasons:

1. The writer specifically explains “why PA” from the first paragraph to the last.

She writes with honesty and skill, directly responding to the essay prompt. Each paragraph illustrates an additional reason that becoming a PA is the only profession for her. She builds her case by discussing her academic achievements (advanced placement and honors classes in math and science), shadowing and volunteering as a medical assistant, and learning to appreciate the essential “soft skills” of compassion, sincerity, and care in a PA, which convinces the reader that she is grateful for, dedicated to, and thirsts for knowledge in the field of medicine. For these reasons, the candidate was  invited to interview  and received an acceptance.

2. The writer demonstrates a longitudinal pattern of behavior and involvement that supports her educational goal.

In my experience,  past behavior predicts future behavior . This candidate’s pattern of behavior aligns with the work and responsibilities of a PA. With a love of learning and teamwork, as demonstrated by the experiences she chose in the medical arena, the writer proves through her long-term involvement with medicine that she will seamlessly fit into the role of PA. It is clear how much effort she has invested into preparing for this career.

3. An appealing balance of personal motivations and professional goals are represented in the essay.

From her childhood experience of being successfully treated by a PA to appreciating the clinical skill and sensitivity of PAs she encountered over the years, this writer’s motivations are a perfect blend of the personal and the professional. She writes convincingly about why this career path will be so meaningful on multiple levels. By drawing on both her personal contact with the profession and her preparation for it, she convinces readers of the variety and depth of her commitment. Each paragraph builds from personal to professional motivations, culminating in a conclusion where she ties the two threads together.

The profession of PA continues to grow in stature and popularity. When submitting your CASPA, remember you will be evaluated on the competitiveness of your holistic portfolio, with the personal statement being a critical component. Take time to craft your narrative, leave yourself additional time for reviewing and editing your drafts, and ensure that the statement you submit will captivate the admissions committee!

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As the former assistant dean of student affairs and career development at the William Beaumont School of Medicine, Dr. Valerie Wherely worked directly with the dean of the School of Medicine, the associate dean of student affairs, the associate dean of clinical curriculum, and the assistant dean of admissions, as well as with Year 4 students on both residency application reviews/critiques and mock interview preparation. Work with Valerie! Schedule a free consultation today!

Related Resources:

  • How to Get into Physician Assistant Programs , podcast Episode 515
  • Reapplying to PA School: Tips on Polishing and Refining Your NEW Application
  • Why Should I Consider Allied Health Careers?

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"Why Do You Want to be a PA?" Interview Question: The Best Answer

Why Do You Want to Be a Pa Interview Question

It seems easy but answering the “why do you want to be a PA?” interview question can be deceptively tricky. All PA school interview questions present a challenge because not only do you have to answer quickly, succinctly, and accurately, but you also have to do so in such a way as to leave the best impression on whoever is interviewing you. Preparing for this is one of many PA school requirements that you just have to deal with.

In this article, we’ll give you example answers for how to answer this question as well as a breakdown of how to answer. Plus, we’ll go over expert tips and advice for your PA interview.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 8 min read

Why do you want to be a pa interview question: answers, example answer no.1.

I have always thought of myself as a team player. All of my favorite experiences growing up were learning to be part of a team, whether that was playing soccer, acting in a school play, or playing trumpet in a jazz trio on Saturday nights. I am a person who appreciates being part of the group because I get to bring my talents and skills to both complement and be supported by other members of the group.

Wondering how to succeed as a physician assistant? Check out this video:

Of all the medical careers I looked at, physician assistant appealed to me most because of its dynamic in the health care team. A physician assistant uses a wide knowledge of medicine, anatomy, and diseases to cover cases a doctor can’t get to, or that are outside of the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. Being able to support other team members, and knowing that my colleagues have my back, will create a special work environment that I believe I will thrive in.

With a variety of areas in which I can specialize, I know that I can find a physician assistant path that will ideally suit my goals and let me be a part of a great team of health care professionals.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a nurse. Well, cowboy nurse, but the main thing I seemed to want to do was put bandages on people and make them feel better. As I grew up, I grew out of the naive thinking that bandages amounted to nursing, and I set my sights on a different goal.

I was doing some volunteer work at the hospital and speaking with some of the nurses there. I was talking about my career ambitions and about all the ways I wanted to help people and participate. They told me about nurse practitioners and suggested shadowing one at the hospital.

While I did come away from that experience deeply impressed by the NP I was shadowing, I also felt like I wanted a more direct role with the diagnosis and healing process of the patients. Through more conversations with hospital staff, I found myself drawn to the role of physician assistant. It provides the right balance in terms of my career goals, while fitting my skillset, honed during my time volunteering and shadowing at health care facilities.

Since learning about the job of PA, I have never wavered in my pursuit for years, and I feel I have found something like a calling in my career evolution. It was a long journey of ambition from childhood ideas to the passionate pursuit of my calling, and I am looking forward with excitement to being a PA. Although maybe cowboy PA would be cool, too.

Medicine is the family business. My mother is an MD, my father works as a nurse. Both of my grandfathers were doctors, and one of my uncles is a physician assistant. Growing up, it was almost assumed that I would continue in the family tradition and take up some form of work in health care. I wasn’t convinced at first and didn’t give my career a lot of thought for the first few years of high school. When I did think about it, if anything, I was inclined to rebel a little and do something else.

However, while working as a lifeguard, I got my first aid training and ultimately had to use it to save somebody. As anyone trained in first aid will attest, you never know when you will be called to act, and it’s usually not what you planned for. In my case, I used what I had learned about drowning to intervene with a senior man who was choking. Arriving on the scene at the mall just after the man lost consciousness, I was able to clear his airway and get him breathing again. After the adrenaline cleared out of my system, I knew that I wanted to help people.

My family connections let me understand a lot of the different kinds of health care jobs available, but I shadowed my uncle and loved the idea of being a physician assistant. It seems to me to put me in a direct position to save lives and to help and heal people. The balance of being more patient-oriented than a doctor, but more treatment-oriented than a nurse seems right for me.

So, I have decided to embrace my family’s unofficial tradition after all.

What Makes This a Great Answer?

This also explores the journey that the student has taken to arrive at their conclusions – their goal of being a PA. Likewise, this is another great example of referring directly to the skills this person can bring to the job: the student tells a story of how they not only know first aid but have used it in a life-or-death situation.

This applicant has the advantage of knowing a PA personally – their uncle – but however it is expressed, this student has let the interviewers know that they are very familiar with what the PA job entails.

Example Answer No.4

I have tremendous respect for the physician assistants at the downtown hospital, St. Jerome’s, where I work . Always busy, always helping out, and always cheerful, they're inspiring to observe. I knew that I wanted to work in health care, and I have loved the opportunity to witness health care every day at work. However, it is thanks to my friendships with PAs that I decided to go into the field myself.

First, my friend Abed loves his job as a PA, which requires fast-paced work, attention to detail, and health care teamwork, all traits I have learned by working as a desk clerk at St. Jerome’s. There is always something else to do – phone calls to make, patients to liaise with, family to direct, or paperwork to fill out and file – and keeping a steady, fast pace is necessary. Speaking with Abed about his work inspired my interest in becoming a PA.

Although I am not yet directly involved with patient care, I must be in constant collaboration with other members of the health care team, which is another aspect of the role of PA I would enjoy. In a recent visit, I helped Denise – another PA – with her history-taking for several patients, which showed me how a PA can rule out – or in – potential causes of a patient’s problems. In shadowing other PAs at the hospital as well, I’ve learned how they work and seen the care and dedication required for the job.

The deeper in to the health care field I go, the more excited I am to begin my studies to become a physician assistant.

This person has a wealth of experience working in a health care environment and is clearly passionate about their work. That passion showing through conveys to an interviewer the kind of enthusiasm they will get. Combined with the applicant’s experience, this becomes a great answer to the interview question about why they will be an asset to their desired profession.

Answers should be quick and direct. You don’t want to ramble or extend your answer unnecessarily. On the other hand, you should take enough time to adequately answer the question without rushing. This typically works out to about two minutes or possibly three.

With that said, it is very similar to a small, PA school interview essay , structure-wise. Start with a good opening sentence – a “hook” that draws the viewer in – and then move on to make one main point about why you decided to be a PA. This should take a few sentences before you wrap up at the end.

For what to include, consider what you mentioned in your PA school cover letter or some of your PA school supplemental essays . Although we caution against being repetitive in your application materials, the theme of why you want to be a PA should run through all your essay and interview responses.

Interview Tips and Advice

Preparation is key to success, so be sure to arrive on time. You might drive the route to the school the day before your interview, or if your interview is virtual, check to make sure all your technology and connections are working. ","label":"Tip No.5","title":"Tip No.5"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

Armed with these expert examples and with the best tips for your interview, you should be ready to start studying and practicing for your own PA interview. Remember to plan your study sessions far enough in advance to give yourself time to get ready for anything.

Exact differences between PA vs. MD differ from state to state or country to country. Generally, however, the PA does most of what an MD does. They do not perform surgeries, usually do not take on some of the more complex cases, and they might have restrictions on issuing prescriptions.

Roughly three years.

About 2 or 3 minutes is good.

Long enough to go over potential questions, practice answers, and get at least one round in with a mock interview. Going over material every day for about two weeks is good.

Yes. You should be at least a half an hour early for an in-person interview. If your interview is being conducted virtually, you should log in about three to five minutes early.

Business-casual attire is best. This gives you a professional look and a comfortable feel so that you will be a bit more relaxed in the interview.

Yes, PA to MD is common and a good career path if you so choose. Just keep in mind that PA can be a rewarding career itself and you should decide what is best for your future. Also, you should not discuss this in your interview. PA schools are looking for future PAs, not future MDs, so if you are contemplating making that change later, it’s best not to bring it up in the interview.

Prevention is the best cure; deal with nerves before they hit by studying, practicing, and doing mock interviews. Confidence will cure much of your nervousness. On the day, just focus on your answers.

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why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

Home — Essay Samples — Life — Career Goals — My Motivation To Be A Physician Assistant


My Motivation to Be a Physician Assistant

  • Categories: Career Goals Life Goals Physician

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Published: Mar 18, 2021

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why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

The Best Answer To “Why Do You Want to Attend Our PA Program?”

why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

Not every PA program will make you write supplemental essays, but when they do, one of the most common prompts is “Why do you want to attend our PA program?”

Why Do PA Programs Ask This Question?

  • To see how much you want to go there.
  • To see if you’re a good match for the program.

Other Ways to Ask This Question:

  • How will we be mutually beneficial for each other?
  • In what ways are our mission and opportunities personally relevant to you?
  • How will you build on your past experiences at our school?
  • How do your priorities in life apply to your interest in our PA program?
  • What do you expect to contribute to this university and community PA school?

One of the reasons this is so difficult to answer is because many PA programs offer similar curricula and opportunities, not to mention the same generic mission statements that contain all the common buzzwords.

So how do you go about answering this prompt?

The best answers use your past experiences as a base to project what you want from a PA program, even if you might change your mind when you get there.

For example, if you have a lot of experience working at free or mobile clinics, you should focus on finding similar ways to help the underserved at the PA program.

The Why Our PA Program Formula:

What is your specific interest in our pa program what opportunities would you take advantage of as a student here why.

“I am interested in attending the ABC Health Sciences PA program due to its ___________, ___________, and ___________ .”

DON’T start your “Why Our PA Program” essays this way. The PA programs will be used to hearing this narrative, and it will likely bore them to death.

Think about it this way: they know what they have to offer, and they know why it’s generally attractive, but they don’t know why it’s so personally relevant to you.

You’re the interesting X-factor in the whole equation, so even though it might seem counterintuitive, you should start your “Why Our PA Program” essays with something about yourself.

Here’s a General Formula:

why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

Para 1 - "The Hook" - Establishes your major healthcare involvements and values.

Para 2 - "The Value Connection" - Connects to the program's mission, emphases, culture, etc.

Para 3 - "The Concrete Connection" - Specific opportunities at the program that let you embody the value connection.

Para 4 (Optional) - "Locational Ties" - Any locational or personal ties (grew up nearby, family in the area, relationships with alumni or students, etc.).

If you follow this formula, you can reuse the part about yourself across your supplements and find new connections to the other programs.

If you start these “Why Our PA Program?” essays by establishing yourself first, then you’ll sound more personalized and less like a template (even though it’s indeed a useful template for you!).

Reasons Why to Pick a PA Program:

  • Do family obligations anchor you to a particular area?
  • Is commuting or relocating worth the sacrifice? Are you willing to do so if necessary?
  • Some regions or states have fewer schools than others and are swamped with a higher volume of applicants.

Generally, you'll want to apply to most in-state schools where you're a resident, along with a handful of other schools in areas where you have personal ties (former residence, family in the area, went to school there in the past, etc). This is a good way to build the initial list and then whittle down from there.

  • State schools are frequently less expensive than their private counterparts.
  • Consider how much money you will have to borrow and your debt comfort level.

All PA programs are costly, but choosing the best physician assistant program for you will pay off in the end.

How Established is the PA Program?

  • A PA program that has been in operation for 10+ years is ideal - fewer logistical issues, reliable administration, vetted clinical sites and preceptors.
  • A fledgling program may still be working out issues, and you will be along for the ride. Is this the best PA school for you, and are you ready for the ride?

Overall, opt for the most established, reputable program, but keep in mind that you may not be able to be picky.

  • The length may vary from 24-36 months. This could be a deciding factor if you are torn between two similar schools.

In general, a shorter length is probably ideal, unless you're very concerned about keeping up with the rigor of a more accelerated pace.

Fit of the Prerequisites

  • If you've already completed your degree and PA school prerequisites, choose a program with a curriculum that's similar to the work you've done.
  • If not, look at the schools that seem like the best fit and tailor your coursework to programs you desire.

Most Programs Will Require at Least These Prerequisites:

  • One year of chemistry with labs*
  • One course each of human anatomy and physiology with labs
  • One course in microbiology with lab
  • One course in statistics
  • One course in psychology

*Schools can be particular about which chemistry series they prefer. It's important to consult websites of schools.

Other Frequently Required or Recommended Prerequisites:

  • General biology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Additional courses in social/behavioral sciences
  • Languages (some schools require coursework in Spanish)
  • Medical terminology
  • Public speaking

C urriculum Style

  • Do they use Problem-Based Learning , or a more “traditional” lecture format?
  • Is it a pass/fail format that encourages teamwork among students, or is it a competitive “medical school” model where students are ranked by grades?

Overall, try to consider what type of learning environment you've thrived in before and what you envision thriving in as a PA student.

F irst-time PANCE Pass Rate

  • What is the program’s retention rate? If they have a 99% PANCE pass rate for the last five years, that could be terrific, particularly if they retained all or nearly all of the original class.
  • That same pass rate means less if they had a large cohort of students who were cut from the program for lackluster performance.
  • This is good to ask about when you interview. Most program directors are eager to discuss their PANCE pass rates and answer questions that give them the chance to explain what's behind the numbers.

Overall, a higher PANCE pass rate is obviously better, but understand that you need to take it with a grain of salt.

Is There a T hesis Requirement ?

  • A thesis is a paper that is tied to a major research project.

If you like doing research and writing, this could be a boon for you. If not, it could be a nightmare.

Example Answers for “Why Our PA Program?”

Describe your specific interest in the ohsu program. why are you interested in receiving your pa education and training at ohsu what factors did you consider in your decision to apply to ohsu (2250 characters).

During one of my first days as an MA at Thousand Oaks Orthopaedic, I saw the power of teamwork in action. I received a frantic call from an ER nurse stating that a patient, Alyson, had presented in excruciating pain. An x-ray showed that her greater trochanter had broken off after a hip replacement surgery. Our PA and surgeon collaborated with the nurse to schedule an urgent surgery and ensure the patient received the highest level of care. This experience showed me the importance and effectiveness of working on a multidisciplinary team in healthcare. Not only is this teamwork essential in practice, but it is critical to establish its foundation early on in one’s medical training, so that it is second nature and streamlined in times of need. Had the communication not been effective and immediate in Alyson’s situation, she might have suffered even more pain or done further damage to her hip. Outside of Thousand Oaks Orthopaedic, I have a history of working effectively on teams, both clinical and non-clinical. Whether it was my sorority or my teams at Workflow Consulting Group, I found that I can thrive as both a roleplayer and a facilitator given the particular task or context. Through shared efforts, my teams at Workflow recouped millions of unpaid dollars from insurance companies, money that the hospitals could use to ensure they maintain the highest level of patient care. And as in Alyson’s case, working as an MA has shown me that this type of teamwork is especially important in medicine. Based on these experiences, I am interested in OHSU’s Interprofessional Education course, as I have seen the essential role of collaboration between providers firsthand. In addition to building clinical skills and teamwork that ensure patients receive the highest level of care, I appreciate that this course affords students the opportunity to learn from other types of professionals and gain more insight into the unique roles of doctors, nurses, and PAs in the healthcare community. This knowledge is of unparalleled importance when it comes to patient-centered care. I believe that as a PA student at OHSU, I could contribute my experience and enthusiasm for teamwork to the Interprofessional Education curriculum and PA program.

Why have you chosen to apply specifically to the USC Primary Care PA program? (400 words)

When I was 17, I took my friend to Planned Parenthood to get an abortion. Coming from a religious family, she did not want to go to her family doctor and risk her parents finding out. When she had nowhere to turn, Planned Parenthood was there. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were met by people holding a painting of the Virgin Mary, trying, and succeeding, to make my friend feel guilty. My naive 17-year-old self couldn't believe people would be against an organization I felt was so important. Ten years later, as I enter the PA profession, I see more than ever the importance of organizations like Planned Parenthood. Moreover, after working in the healthcare field, I recognize the need to not only advocate for my future patients but for all patients seeking medical treatment. Because of this, USC’s advocacy trip to Washington D.C. is especially intriguing. I appreciate that USC gives its PA students a unique leadership opportunity that will allow them to support both the future of the PA profession and their patients as a whole. It is important for me to have a strong voice for my patients, and this program would allow me to do this. Reciprocally, I believe I could bring a unique perspective from my experiences volunteering for Planned Parenthood. Additionally, I would look forward to volunteering in the USC student-run clinic. During one of my first days as an MA, I saw the power of teamwork in action. I received a frantic call from an ER nurse, stating that a patient had presented in excruciating pain. An x-ray showed that part of the greater trochanter of her femur had broken off after a total hip replacement surgery. Our PA and surgeon collaborated with the nurse to schedule an urgent surgery and ensure the highest level of care. This experience showed the importance of working on a multidisciplinary team in healthcare. As such, I appreciate that the student-run clinic gives PA students the chance to work on teams with medical, pharmacy, and OT students. This teamwork is essential in practice, but also critical as a foundation early in one’s training, so that it’s second nature and streamlined in times of need. My brother and sister both attended USC as undergraduates, and it would be an honor to blaze my own path as part of the Trojan family!

How to Create a Template for the “Why Our PA Program?” Prompt

Let’s say you only have 1000 characters. Here’s how you might handle the initial challenge:

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate BLANK PA Program’s (BPP) Exploratory Program, which allows new students to incorporate personal benchside pursuits into their curriculum. Under the guidance of Dr. Dream in the Wonderful Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my hopeful future specialty of pediatric oncology at BPP Children’s Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at BPP’s Saturday Clinic for the Uninsured. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments. As an eager, hands-on learner, I value BPP’s early clinical exposure and Specialist Mentoring in the first two years. BPP will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a new community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (999 characters)

Reusing the Template:

In a longer essay, 2-3 sentences can be added to show your personal ties to the location, your relation to alumni, or your interest in continuing an important non-medical activity they offer that matches your background, personality, or prior experiences.

Let’s say you’re writing for a school with a longer limit, maybe 1500 characters. Here’s how you could use your previous answer as a template :

Due to my passion for oncology research, I appreciate TOKEN PA Program’s (TPP) Cancer Center, which houses breakthrough studies in T-cell isolation and customized vaccines. Under the guidance of Dr. Smart in the Brainiac Lab, I can build off my previous cancer studies while also volunteering in my hopeful future specialty of pediatric oncology at TPP Youth Hospital. After witnessing the dire needs of the poor and homeless at free clinics in college, I would feel honored to work at TPP’s Student-Run Clinic for the Underserved. Many of my experiences have been with terminal patients or in end-of-life care, so I am thrilled at the chance to have more direct impact through acute, immediate treatments.

As an eager, hands-on learner, I value TPP’s early clinical exposure and Equal Partner Teaching. TPP is located in Tokenville, a community near my hometown, and I would be honored to return there and serve the populations who helped raise me. Being near extended family will provide a great support system for me while adjusting to the rigors of PA school. Since I have always used my athletic hobbies to destress and stay sharp, I am excited to partake in the TPP Fitness Club during my rare free time. TPP will allow me to apply my growing expertise toward a familiar community in need, while also giving me novel opportunities that can hone my future practice. (1370 characters)

Always think about what you can reuse across PA programs to make the overall application process easier. If you utilize a template, then the only real burden is doing research for each PA program and making a list of what to include about them in your essays.

How to Answer "Discuss the three most important priorities in your life, and how they apply to your interest in our PA program."

This prompt is fairly common and has appeared as a supplemental essay for several PA programs in recent years. One notable example is Marshall B. Ketchum, a program that only gives you 1,000 characters to answer this question.

Generally, you'll want to approach it similarly to the regular "Why do you want to attend our PA program?" question - it's still important to "tee up" anything you say about the school with something about yourself. But in this case, you'll set up three short paragraphs (~300 characters) that build a bridge between your priorities and the school's mission, curriculum, opportunities, etc.

Here's a good example that illustrates this approach:

1. Personal responsibility

My faith has instilled the priority of ethics and morality. I do my best to live my life with a clean conscience. My obligation to live out my faith through good works translates to a level of clinical and professional responsibility. I vow to be a PA who upholds my oath to “do no harm” and provides conscientious care. 

2. Lifelong learning and stepping outside my comfort zone

As a scribe and MA, I’ve embraced learning curves and avoided complacency by experiencing multiple settings: home health, primary care, integrative medicine, ENT, and facial plastic surgery. Each position has required me to expand the depth and breadth of my knowledge and actively apply it. 

3. Teamwork and communication

Lastly, I prioritize strong relationships. Beyond my friends and family, I form close bonds with coworkers and build rapport with patients so that treatment feels like a collaborative partnership. I will carry these values of teamwork and communication into my career. (993 characters)

Obviously, these aren’t the ONLY strategies for answering the “Why Our PA Program?” question, but I have found them to be tried and true. Feel free to borrow their ideas and make them your own. ‍

‍ Have any questions? Feel free to email me at [email protected], and I’ll respond to you personally as soon as I can.

Want to see if we’re a good fit to work together on your PA applications? Book a FREE consultation with me!

Why Do You Want To Be A Doctor? [+ Example Interview Answers]

Table of contents.

Job interview

Many students fall into the trap of providing a vague answer about enjoying science, wanting to help people, or always wanting to be a doctor. What they don’t realize is that most (if not all) applicants to medical school share these characteristics!

What differentiates you in answering the question is unique to your situation, so you’ll want to incorporate memorable specifics into your answer to help paint a better picture of you as an applicant. Answering this question provides you with a unique opportunity to put your journey to applying to med school into a coherent narrative. With a little thought, tailoring your answer can be a great way to highlight the strengths in your application or to shore up weaknesses. Here are a couple of thoughts on how to answer the question, and some pitfalls to avoid: 

Share Your Resume, But Don’t Just Rehash It

Use your answer to highlight not only your interest in medicine but how you came to develop that interest. Applicants often highlight the origins of their desire to be a doctor but are short on details as to how their resume relates to the journey to applying to med school. It’s not enough to say you “always wanted” to be a doctor; show through stories what you did along the way to understand more about yourself and that desire.

Vague answer: “I always knew I wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a kid. I did some shadowing in high school and I volunteered in college at a hospital too, so I basically felt like I understood what doctors did every day and knew I wanted to be one.” 

This answer doesn’t provide much information about the applicant beyond what could already be found on their resume. Your interviewers will want to hear more about you as a person that they couldn’t find out by reading the rest of your application. 

Better answer: “I didn’t come from a family of doctors, but my parents say it was always something I was interested in. After one of my friends told me about how their dad, who is a doctor, used to be on call all the time and would sometimes miss holidays or birthdays from getting called to the hospital, I decided it would be a good idea to try to get a better sense of what it was actually like being a doctor. I asked to shadow him in high school, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that if I was going to do this, I needed to be really sure I was ready to handle the demands of the job. I started volunteering at our local emergency department in college to try to prepare myself even more. I learned a lot from being in the ED – not just about being a doctor, but about all the other roles it takes to successfully care for a patient. Now that I’m better informed, I want to be a doctor because there’s no other job where the sacrifice seems so worth it – you can make an immediate, life-changing difference for people, as I saw time and again when patients came in with strokes, heart attacks, and injuries.” 

This answer adds detail that might not be evident elsewhere in the application. It shows that the applicant understands some of the demands of being a doctor (missing holidays and birthdays, acknowledging  personal sacrifice) as well as highlighting an attempt to grow personally and gain clinical skills as a motivation for volunteering (rather than “checking a box” to show they volunteered). It also opens the possibility of the interviewer asking follow-up questions about what they saw in the emergency department that they liked or disliked, or what they learned from that experience. 

Answer Why Medicine, Rather Than Another Career In The Sciences

There are many jobs where you can use science to help people other than being a doctor, and there seem to be more every day. This might have been your initial motivation for exploring becoming a doctor, but interviewers will want to know how you built on that motivation and decided on medicine specifically. Liking science and wanting to help people are great initial motivations, but interviewers will want to see more than that in an application. Be sure to use your answer to expand on why medicine specifically, versus another career in the sciences.

Vague answer: “I really enjoyed science in high school, and I knew I wanted to help people, so I decided to major in biology in college. I wasn’t really sure whether or not to apply to med school right away, so I took a gap year after college and worked as a scribe.” 

This answer doesn’t sound as if the interviewee has put much thought into addressing the question. It might also invite some unwelcome questions about why the interviewee took a “gap year,” and prompt the interviewer to ask whether they’ve applied to medical school before and failed to get in, or about their academic record, which could present a problem if it is not stellar.

Better answer: “As a high school student, I was fascinated with my science classes. Someone suggested I consider biology as a major in college, so I gave it a shot. Even though I loved my classes and the research lab that I worked in, I wasn’t completely satisfied with how I was applying what I knew. Rather than trying to apply to med school right away, I decided to spend a year working with patients to see if it was right for me. I took a job as a medical scribe, and it really confirmed my suspicion that medicine was a better fit for me than benchwork would have been. Seeing the way the doctors in our clinic utilized their knowledge to help people every day in a tangible way showed me  that medicine was the way I wanted to apply my skills. Having some patient contact scratched that itch of what I needed that I wasn’t getting from my benchwork: the chance to directly apply scientific principles to a person to help them in real time.” 

This answer is actually from the same student, with more detail. It sounds more confident, explains the gap year coherently, and illustrates personal growth. An interviewer would be much more likely to follow up with a question about the applicant’s research background or clinic experience next, rather than trying to get more details about a gap year. 

Consider Why You Want To Be A Physician Specifically

For some interviewers, it’s not good enough to say you want to go into medicine alone. Interviewers will want to know why you want to be a doctor specifically versus a nurse, physician assistant, physical therapist, or any other number of healthcare professionals who care directly for patients. Your answer should explain that you’ve been exposed to these possibilities and have a specific reason for choosing to pursue one over another. 

Vague answer: “I spent a lot of my career as an operating room nurse, but after a while, I really wanted to prescribe medicines, call the shots, and make more money. That’s when I decided to apply to med school.” 

Although this answer is somewhat exaggerated, it isn’t far off from real answers given by less-than-savvy applicants. This answer shows a lack of understanding of the roles of various health professions. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can often prescribe medications, and in an increasingly team-based world, doctors aren’t the sole decision-makers when it comes to patient care. If autonomy were a big motivator for this applicant, there are better ways to express this. 

Better answer: “As an operating room nurse, I loved the patient care contact, and I found myself fascinated by what surgeons did on a daily basis. As time went on, I realized I wasn’t going to be satisfied in my career unless I was able to actually perform surgery independently on a patient. While some of my colleagues went on to become nurse practitioners or physician assistants, I wanted to go the physician route because I knew I wanted to be performing surgery in the OR independently. I want to be a doctor because I want to be a surgeon, and there isn’t another way for me to achieve that dream.”

This answer shows a better understanding of team roles and scope of practice than the previous one. It still gets at the idea of autonomy, while showing an understanding of team roles. A followup question might include a discussion of the applicant’s nursing experience or desire to be a surgeon specifically. 

Related videos

In summary….

There are as many ways to answer the “why do you want to be a doctor” question as there are applicants to medical school, so it pays to prepare an answer ahead of time. Use the fact that the question is virtually guaranteed to your advantage, and highlight elements of your application that aren’t immediately obvious on review of your resume. With some careful planning, your answer can set you up for success in the rest of your medical school interview!

Brennan Kruszewski

Dr. Brennan Kruszewski is a practicing internist and primary care physician in Beachwood, Ohio. He graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in 2018, and recently completed his residency in Internal Medicine at University Hospitals/Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He enjoys writing about a variety of medical topics, including his time in academic medicine and how to succeed as a young physician. In his spare time, he is an avid cyclist, lover of classical literature, and choral singer.

Further Reading

Medical School Interview

What to Bring to a Medical School Interview–And What to Expect

Preparing for Medical School

Preparing for Medical School

Feature How to get into Med school

How to Get Into Medical School: Preparing a Strong Application

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“Why Medicine” and “Why Do I Want To Be A Doctor?” Give Unique Answers

  • Cracking Med School Admissions Team
  • Section 1: How NOT to answer “Why Medicine” and “Why do I want to be a doctor”
  • Section 2: How to answer Why Medicine in your medical school essays
  • Section 3: How to answer Why do you want to be a doctor in your medical school interviews
  • Section 4: Why Medicine  examples

Reasons to Avoid when stating your "Why Medicine" Response

  • I want to help people
  • I want to practice culturally-competent care
  • I want to make a connection with people
  • I want to improve people’s lives
  • I want to help the underserved
  • I find the human body fascinating

Let’s go through common, generic reasons we read in our medical school personal statement edits and why these “why do you want to be a doctor” reasons do not convince us.

Note: we have updated these reasons based on essays we’ve read in the most recent medical school application cycle.

Stay away from these vague “Why Medicine” responses in your personal statement and secondary essays

Reason #1: i want to help people..

  • Why we don’t love this response:  You can help people in literally any profession. This response is not specific enough to healthcare, let alone clinical medicine.

Reason #2: I will be a great doctor who practices culturally-competent care.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  We are big fans of being cognizant of your patient’s cultural and how it may affect his or her health. However, “culturally competent” care is not becoming a buzz word. Oftentimes, when we students write about this in their medical school essays, they write, “As a physician, I want to provide culturally competent care” without giving any substance to that statement.  IF this idea is important to you and you want to include it in your personal statement, then you have to make sure to give a clear example of what culturally-competent care means to you. Finally, remember that you can provide culturally competent care as a Nurse and as a Physician Assistant. So, you still have to a discuss reasons why you want to be a doctor, and not another health care provider.

Reason #3: I want to make a connection with people.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  We think this reason is very vague and you can make a connection with people in any other service-oriented industry. You do not have to go into medicine or healthcare in order to make a connection with people. 

Reason #4: I want to improve people’s lives.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  Similar to “I want to help people,” you can improve people’s lives in a variety of fields. 

Reason #5: I want to help the underserved.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  The phrase “helping the underserved” is too common these days. In fact, through the hundreds of personal statements we have read in the past 2 application cycles, we’ve read “helping the underserved” in 70-80% of medical school applicants. Talk about not standing out! If you want to help underserved communities, we fully support you. But, our Cracking Med School Admissions team wants you to be more specific in  HOW you want to help the underserved or if there are specific populations you want to serve. Ideally, you will include personal experiences with underserved communities. For example, our students who have matriculated into medical school have written about helping refugee populations. Other have discussed that they want to do health policy research on how socioeconomic factors affect access to healthcare. See how these levels of specificity will provide the reader with more insight into your specific interests in improving healthcare.

Reason #6: I find the human body fascinating.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  While this reason is geared towards the medical profession, we also read this fascination with the human body among PhD candidates. If research and the pathophysiology behind our human bodies is what excite you about the practice of medicine, you have to also say why you want to work with patients rather than focus completely on biological research. 

Reason #7: I enjoy learning about science.

  • Why we don’t love this response:  Using “I enjoy science” is a worse reason than “I find the human body fascinating. There are many career paths outside of patient care where you can follow your zeal for science. For example, an individual can work in drug discovery with a biotech or pharmaceutical company. There are other careers in the healthcare industry like medical billing that do not require a medical degree. Furthermore, you can be a scientific researcher, including in non-healthcare fields like botany, veterinary science, food science, and geology. Basically, saying that you like science is too generalized for another individual to believe you want to go into medicine. You have to say more specifically why are you pursuing a career in medicine. 

How to Answer Why Medicine in your Medical School Essays

The first place you should explain why you want to pursue medicine is in your medical school personal statement. Most premed students apply to medical school through the AMCAS.

The AMCAS personal statement prompt is the following: ““Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.”

Your personal statement should really reflect why you want to go into medicine. Additionally, your AMCAS work & activities descriptions as well as your medical school secondary essays should support your med school personal statement’s rationale.

A winning framework to responding to the “Why Medicine” and “Why do you want to be a doctor” questions consists of the following:

Step #1: provide context and your initial interest in pursuing medicine.

  • Questions to answer: Do you have any role models who are medical doctors? Did you have any early experiences with medicine that greatly affected you? Were you a patient as a child? Did you have to take care of any family members? Did you consider other careers before deciding on a career in medicine?
  • Why this is important: Providing initial context from your life experiences can help your interviewer to understand some of your initial environment and how you may have arrived at the decision to pursue medicine.

Step #2: Highlight reasons for wanting to pursue medicine

  • Questions to answer: Why are you passionate about health? Did you study science in school? If you did not study science, how will what you studied help you in becoming a great doctor? How did you cultivate your interests in healthcare and did you pursue any activities or research to do so?
  • Why this is important: By describing how your interests in healthcare have developed, your interviewer can gain a more nuanced understanding of your scientific curiosity and affinity. This is often the metric they use to determine if you will remain inquisitive, enterprising, and capable of absorbing and driving scientific knowledge forwards in medical school and beyond.

Step #3. Give examples of your experience and activities

  • Questions to answer:  Are you passionate about health? Did you study science in school? If you did not study science, how will what you studied help you in becoming a great doctor? How did you cultivate your interests in healthcare and did you pursue any activities or research to do so?
  • Why this is important:  When you are asked these open-ended, common medical school interview questions, you want to give evidence of how you have already tried to make an impact in medicine and healthcare. We strongly encourage students to bring in stories and personal experiences. For example, let’s say you are interested in improving patient care for individuals with disabilities. If you give example of how you worked with a child with autism or did research around improving outcomes for individuals with disabilities, these personal experiences will show the interviewer your passion and experiences. 

Step #4: Describe your desire to use your passion to make a positive and direct impact

  • Questions to answer: Have you engaged in community service work to help others? How does it make you feel and why is it important to you? Why do you want to pursue a career based around service?
  • Why this is important: This section provides a basis for why you are interested in dedicating yourself to a career of serving others. It is also crucial to help you describe why medicine, in particular, is the kind of service that you are interested in doing and why you seek to be a physician and not serve others in a different capacity. Excellent answers will incorporate one’s scholarly endeavors and extracurricular activities. They will link their activities with their career goals.

Step #5: Describe any other reasons and what you hope to accomplish in medicine

  • Questions to answer:  Why do you want to go to medical school – specifically, wre there any unique reasons that are not covered in the other steps for why you are interested in medical school? How do you plan to use your scientific curiosity and desire to help others as a physician? Do you want to advance medical technology? Do you want to advance medical research? Is there a specific field of medicine you are already interested in pursuing?
  • Why this is important: By connecting your current passions with the future impact that you hope to produce, an interviewer begins to get a window into what kind of physician you hope to become and how you could greatly benefit from attending their medical school.

We want to stress that there is not one correct answer to “why do I want to be a doctor” in your medical school application. In fact, you may have multiple reasons why you want to become a physician. What is important is that you show your interests in clinical practice and highlight the unique a position a physician is in to manage somebody’s health. 

We Get Into The Tiny Details Of Your Essays, With Each Draft, So Your Application Will Stand Out

why do you want to become a physician assistant essay

Rishi Mediratta, M.D., M.Sc., M.A.

Undergraduate Johns Hopkins

Residency Stanford, Pediatrics

How to Answer "Why Do You Want to be a Doctor?" in your Medical School Interviews

In medical school interviews, “Why Medicine” or “Why do you want to be a doctor” is one of the common intervioew questions asked. So, you should be prepared.

However, we want to stress this: The BEST med school interviewees will convey why they are pursuing a career in medicine in their “ Tell me about yourself ” response, which is usually the first question asked.

Therefore, our first piece of advice is to make sure you include why you want to be a doctor in your “Tell me about yourself” response.

Now, med school interviewees may receive additional questions about why they want to pursue medicine. The questions are usually asked like this:

  • Why are you interested in medicine?
  • Why are you pursuing a career in medicine?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor? 
  • Why do you want to be a physician?
  • Why do you want to go to medical school?

There are other ways medical school interviewers can gauge your interest and dedication to medicine:

  • Why do you want to be a physician and not a nurse/PA/nutritionist/physical therapist/occupational therapist/other health professional?
  • Why do you want to get an MD and not an MPH or MPP?
  • Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?

Medical School Interview Tip

The best “ Tell me about yourself ” responses – the first question typically asked in medical school interviews – includes your reasons for pursuing medicine. Students are typically not asked BOTH tell me about yourself and why medicine.

How to answer Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor in your interviews

Discussing why you want to be a doctor during interviews is similar to the steps taken above when answering why medicine in your medical school application essays.

The one big difference between discussing medicine in your essays versus your interviews is brevity. You will not have 250 words or entire paragraphs to highlight your interests in medicine.

Take a look at our Why Medicine Answer Examples section below to see examples of what you can say.

Additionally, you can discuss clinical experiences throughout your medical school interview. Discuss various physicians you’ve shadowed or different clinical experiences you’ve been involved with. Our Cracking Med School Admissions interview team advises students to include 1-2 patient stories during each interview. The important point to remember is to discuss that you want to help patients through a clinical setting.

If you striving to stand out in your medical school interview, schedule a mock interview with our Cracking Med School Admissions team!

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If you are prepared, the Cracking Med School Admissions interview gives you the perfect opportunity to standout and shine by sharing with people what you are passionate about.

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Why Medicine Examples

Why medicine and why do i want to be a doctor example answers:.

Again, we want to stress that there is not one correct answer to “why do I want to be a doctor” in your medical school interviews. In fact, you may have multiple reasons why you want to become a physician. What is important is that you show your interests in clinical medicine and highlight the unique a position a physician is in to manage somebody’s health.

Here are examples of how you can convey want you want to pursue a medical career:

Personal experiences + context.

  • Initially, I was not that interested in medicine and instead was passionate about space exploration and aerospace engineering. Because of many personal circumstances, I became more drawn to medicine. First, when my grandfather fell ill with pneumonia, I felt helpless to help him when I visited the hospital all while the medical staff remained attentive to small changes in his condition. Seeing how they listened to our and his questions, tailored their treatment to his needs, and reassured us at every step of the way, encouraged me to consider what role I wanted to play in helping others in the future. Second, after a bad ankle fracture while playing soccer, my doctors were just as attentive and they empowered me to come back stronger and more improved than ever before, solidifying my desire to pursue medicine.

Scientific Background

  • In college, I was a Psychology major. I was able to learn more about cognition and human perception works and how they can be affected by the underlying biochemical processes happening in the brain and rest of the body. I was also able to explore my interest in neuroscience by working at the Department of Neurology, studying the cognition of split-brain patients and trying to understand novel therapeutic options. Studying this has encouraged me to continue neurology research as a medical student. I aspire to alleviate patients suffering from debilitating chronic conditions.

Helping Patients with their Health

  • Throughout my undergraduate years, I’ve been very interested in oncology. I’ve found it to be very rewarding to comfort patients when they receive a very scary diagnosis, and I enjoy helping describe various treatment options. At the Children’s Hospital, I volunteered at the Pediatrics Oncology Department. I helped develop a program where we spoke with parents’ families describing what to expect with chemotherapy. Additionally, I want to translate my patient experiences to the lab when I can develop new targeted cancer therapies.

Ability to Change Healthcare More Broadly

  • As a primary care physician, I will be able to help patients navigate through the healthcare system. This will give me insights into what barriers there are to accessing healthcare. I will use those insights to a) advocate to policymakers for better health policies in our state and b) advise start-up companies and non-profits who want to improve access to healthcare services.

Goals in Medicine

  • I am specifically interested in removing healthcare misinformation and disinformation among Black and Brown communities. As a medical student at ____ school, I want to teach health topics at after school programs in nearby low-income communities. As a physician, I will continue my scientific problem solving and combine this with my humanistic work serving others, my teaching work, and my desire to advocate for those who have traditionally been underserved by medicine.

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Med School Insiders

How to Answer the “Why Medicine” Interview Question

  • By Kevin Jubbal, M.D.
  • September 3, 2022
  • Accompanying Video , Pre-med
  • Interview , Medical School Application

Sometimes the simplest questions are also the most difficult to answer. On the surface, the “why medicine” question may seem like a straightforward question with an equally straightforward answer; however, this isn’t the case.

Simple as it is, this question forces you to deeply examine your own motivations for pursuing medicine. As such, it is one of the most important questions you have to answer – not only for medical school applications and interviews but also for yourself.

Let’s break down how to answer this common interview question.

Medical school is not for the faint of heart. Regardless of how intelligent you are or how hard you work, you will face numerous challenges and obstacles on your way to becoming a doctor. Understanding your true motivations will help you push through difficult times and remind you of why you’re pursuing medicine in the first place.

One of the worst things you can do is fabricate a response in an attempt to present yourself in the best possible light. Not only will you be lying to your interviewer, and make yourself more susceptible to any curveballs they might throw at you, but you’ll also be lying to yourself.

When thinking about how you want to answer this question, it is important to look inward. This is your chance to think about yourself, your life, and why you want to pursue medicine, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

With that out of the way, let’s dive deeper and talk about what interviewers are looking for in your response.

What Interviewers Are Looking For

First and foremost, admissions committees use this question to get to know you better as a person. They have already seen your application and read through your personal statement. Now, they want to get to know the person behind it all.

The “why do you want to be a doctor” question should not be a regurgitation of your primary application or personal statement , but rather a genuine discussion about what led you to pursue medicine and why it’s the career for you.

A well-thought-out answer shows that you have put considerable thought into your reasons for pursuing medicine and weighed the pros and cons of this career field. It also shows that you know what you’re in for and are prepared for the challenges ahead of you.

This is also the perfect opportunity for admissions committees to assess your in-person communication skills – something they can’t do at any other point in the application process. Although admissions committees can get a feel for your written communication skills through your essays and personal statement, the interview is where they get to see how you interact with others.

Communication skills are fundamental for aspiring physicians. You want to make sure to communicate your reasons for pursuing medicine as clearly and effectively as possible. If you can’t explain to someone why you want to go into medicine, you will likely have trouble communicating a difficult diagnosis to a patient.

Another thing that interviewers are looking for is your commitment to medicine. Becoming a physician is one of the longest and most challenging career paths that you can choose. Admissions committees want to make sure that you are committed to becoming a physician and are willing to overcome the challenges ahead of you.

Part of the reason that medical school admissions are so rigorous is that medical schools want to make sure that they’re accepting students who will ultimately graduate and become practicing physicians. Although getting into medical school is no easy feat, there are still some students who don’t end up completing medical school.

Some drop out due to health issues, family circumstances, or other unforeseen events. Others drop out because they are unable to handle the rigors of medical school or decide that they no longer want to become a doctor.

This affects medical schools in two ways. First, it’s bad from a financial perspective. Once a student matriculates into medical school and begins classes, their spot is locked in and is not easily replaced.

If a student drops out of medical school during their second year, the school can’t just replace their spot with another second-year medical student. Instead, they lose out on the tuition that the student would have provided over the next two years of their training.

In addition, a high attrition rate can affect the academic reputation of a medical school. Schools with high dropout rates may deter students from applying or attending that school.

For these reasons, medical schools are incentivized to be cautious when choosing students. The “why do you want to be a doctor” question is one way that schools can determine which students are driven and motivated enough to make it through medical school.

How to Approach the “Why Medicine” Question

Now that you know why this question is so important, how should you approach it?

Much like with your medical school application, you want to build a narrative around the “why medicine” question. You should follow the same approach that you would if you were writing a good story.

First, you want to have a beginning, middle, and end to your response. This will allow you to organize your ideas in such a way that they flow seamlessly together. Remember, this is your chance to show admissions committees your stellar communication skills. If you jump around from point to point haphazardly, your response can be confusing and difficult to follow.

We recommend formatting your response in the following way.

Start by discussing how you were first introduced to the field of medicine. If possible, incorporate specific experiences and follow the “show don’t tell” principle. This will make your response much more engaging and grab your interviewer’s attention.

Next, discuss how you learned more about the field. What did you do to educate yourself about the world of medicine and the realities of being a doctor? This is your chance to discuss any stand-out experiences that you had and what they taught you about medicine.

Lastly, you should talk about why you are committed to medicine. What does becoming a doctor offer you that other careers, especially other careers in healthcare, don’t? Be specific here.

A great way to approach this part of your response is to think about the impact you want to have on your patients. What can you offer your patients as a physician that you can’t offer in other careers and why are these things important to you?

For example, you might discuss the fact that physicians possess deep knowledge and understanding of medicine which provides them with a level of problem-solving ability and intellectual stimulation that you don’t get in other fields of healthcare. By possessing this level of knowledge yourself, you’ll be able to provide more nuanced care to your future patients.

This is just one example to get you thinking. It is important for you to reflect on your specific reasons for pursuing medicine. Your response should be genuine and true to yourself.

Mistakes to Avoid

Now, let’s talk about some mistakes to avoid.

Although it is important to prepare for this question by organizing your thoughts, you should avoid trying to memorize a “perfect response.” Interviewers are trying to assess your communication skills and this approach often feels rehearsed – which can come across as disingenuous.

Remember, you won’t have a script when you’re talking to patients. Instead, you will have knowledge in your head that you need to communicate effectively to the person sitting in front of you. This is no different. You want to show the interviewer who you are as a person, and let your personality shine through. This is often difficult to do when you’re reading from a script.

Next, avoid responses like “I like helping people” or “I love learning about the human body.” These are some of the most common answers that premeds give to interviewers. If you give a similarly generic answer, you will have a difficult time standing out from the hundreds of other premeds who said the exact same thing.

In addition, these responses aren’t specific to becoming a doctor. You can help people and learn about the human body in many different career fields, so why become a doctor instead of a nurse, physician assistant, or physical therapist? You want your answer to reflect why you want to become a doctor specifically and why it’s the best career for you.

Next, avoid answers that involve money, power, or respect . These responses indicate that your reasons for pursuing medicine are extrinsic – meaning they come from external sources instead of internal ones. Although these reasons may be involved in your decision to become a physician, they can come across as selfish and lead interviewers to question your commitment to medicine.

Being a doctor is a field focused on helping people. Your response shouldn’t be focused on what medicine can offer you, but on what you can offer the field of medicine — and ultimately your future patients.

In addition, research has shown that intrinsic motivations for becoming a doctor, such as enjoying the intellectual challenge of medicine, are correlated with increased academic performance, whereas extrinsic motivations had no significant association with a medical student’s academic performance.

This last point should be obvious, but don’t say you’re going into medicine because your parents are doctors or because they want you to go into medicine. Although having family members in medicine can be a great motivator and provide you with firsthand perspectives of what it’s like to be a doctor, this should not be your primary reason.

Similar to the previous point, this response suggests that your motivations for pursuing medicine are extrinsic. They are influenced by what others want for you instead of what you want for yourself – which is often a red flag for interviewers.

Although the “why medicine” question is one of the more difficult questions you will have to answer when applying to medical school, it is just one aspect of the medical school interview. In addition to practicing what to say, you also need to practice how to say it–which is often difficult to do on your own.

While your friends and family can help you sound good, they won’t have the nuanced understanding of what medical school admissions committees are looking for. The best way to prepare is by completing mock interviews with doctors or instructors who have served on actual medical school admissions committees.

In a Med School Insiders mock interview , you’ll work with a former admissions committee physician who knows firsthand what interviewers are looking for and how to present yourself in the best light. Together, our team has conducted thousands of interviews and we know the process inside and out.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our list of the Most Common Medical School Interview Questions  or our Guide to the Medical School Interview .

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Kevin Jubbal, M.D.

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