How Physician Assistant Programs Use the CASPA Personal Statement in Their Admissions Process

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PurposeThis research surveyed physician assistant (PA) program admissions personnel to determine how the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) personal statements are used, what influence the statements had on certain admissions processes, whether there was any concern about authorship of the statements, and how important certain previously identified content themes were to admissions committees and personnel.MethodsThe PA programs participating in CASPA were contacted and interviewed using a computer-assisted telephone interview system. Participants were asked a series of open-ended questions related to the usefulness of the personal statement and asked to score certain items using a Likert-type scale.ResultsThe response rate for the telephone survey was 75%. Most of the programs (93%) used the personal statement in the applicant review process, and almost two-thirds (62%) indicated that the statement was useful or very useful. Three-fourths (76%) of respondents sometimes or always used the statement for the selection of candidates for interviews. Only 29% of respondents were very to extremely concerned that the statements were not written by the applicants.ConclusionsDespite the observation that the statements were relatively homogeneous in content, respondents ranked identified content themes as an important influence on decision-making. Almost all respondents used the personal statement in their admissions process, usually in the selection of interviewees. Although there was some concern that the statements were not the original work of the applicant, less than a third of respondents were very concerned about this possibility. The homogeneity of the statements was also a concern, but the importance placed on the identified theme content areas validates the applicants' inclusion of these themes in the statements.

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