Writing a Personal Statement

When applying to professional or graduate schools for health care programs, students will need to write a personal statement to identify their interest and background for this field and depending on the application, address their desire to be enrolled in a particular program.

Some schools or centralized application systems will specifically delineate what they want covered while others will give more vague instructions on what to include in a personal statement. Regardless, there are certain techniques to be used when drafting an effective personal statement.

Purpose

A personal statement is typically a 1-2 page, single-spaced narrative in first person explaining why an applicant wants to go into a particular profession and what life experiences shaped their development. It is not the same as a resume or cover letter. Health professions applications have different prompts, and applicants should be sure to review the prompt when drafting their essay.

  • Tells your story.
  • Explains your fit and readiness for the profession. Doesn’t stop at your initial introduction to the field; explains what has led to your sustained interest in this profession.
  • Describes your values and goals.

Quick Tips

  • Start writing early!
  • Have your drafts reviewed. Use your best judgment on what feedback to incorporate, especially with conflicting feedback.
  • Be aware of your tone. Avoid hypercorrection so that your language is genuine and natural but not too casual that it comes across as unprofessional.
  • Use precise and clear language so stories and examples are clear to the reader.
  • Make the essay personal to you. Write about you, your experiences, and your insights rather than other people.
  • Use examples to “show” your audience what you did rather than “tell” them.
  • Answer all parts of the prompt as directed. Be mindful of character, word, and document-size limits.
  • Highlight key experiences rather than repeating everything covered in your application or on your resume in the essay.

Starting the Writing Process

To begin your first draft, you can use the application prompt or the questions below to generate your initial topics. If you have writer’s block, it may help to try freewriting. Be patient with yourself. A strong personal statement takes time to come together. Most applicants write several drafts before submitting their application. This is why starting early is beneficial.

  • Why do you think you would be happy taking care of people?
  • What motivates you to pursue this field?
  • What have you observed or learned from your clinical experiences that excites you?
  • How would this field fit your goals/values?
  • Describe a meaningful life experience that influenced your interest in the field or your professional goals.
  • What challenges have you overcome along your vocational journey? How have you grown as a person?

Resources

The health professions advisor is available to help in this process. Please schedule an appointment to make sure you are on the right track. The following resources may also be useful as you begin writing.

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