Writing the Personal Statement
You have taken the prerequisite courses, volunteered and done community service. Writers for your letters of recommendation are identified, and they have agreed to give you glowing reviews. Now comes the "hard" part; writing the personal statement. For many people crafting an effective personal statement is difficult for two reasons; you have to write about yourself, and there are generally no definite guidelines for its structure.
The instructions for the personal statement vary depending upon the profession and the intended school. These instructions should definitely be followed carefully, but they are not a specific set of "do's and don'ts" on what to include in the statement. Its content is up to you. The personal statement is your first opportunity to showcase yourself, using your own words, to the selection committee, and as such you need to devote a significant amount of time to its production. Here are some general suggestions that can make writing the personal statement easier.
- Give yourself plenty of time! You should plan on writing several drafts before attaining perfection, and assuming you are applying to several different programs, you will probably want several different versions, each tailored to a specific program.
- Make sure that the final product is in your "voice." While you will want many people to read the drafts, and make suggestions, if the end result is not written in your style, then it is not giving the readers an accurate view as you. While selection committees will expect a well-written essay, they do not expect "Shakespeare."
- As mentioned previously, have several people read your versions. Ask family members, relatives, friends; the people who know you well. They can help ensure that the statement is accurate in its description of you, both as a person, and a potential health care professional. But, unless you know someone who is an expert in the rules of grammar and style, you also need to have it proofread by such a person. There are some writing centers on campus that will read personal statements; when all else fails, pay to have a professional proofread it for you.
- Make sure that you are giving the reader a more in-depth view of your experiences. Don't just list everything that you have done in preparing for your chosen field; explain how your volunteer experience has altered or enhanced your view of the profession; how community service has given you new insights into people or circumstances. Focus on a few important examples. You will have the chance to list other activities and accomplishments elsewhere in the application.
- While you do not want to "oversell" yourself, do not be reluctant to talk about significant accomplishments, and why you feel you are well-suited to a career in your chosen profession. The personal statement needs to make you stand out as an applicant; after reading it the selection committee should have a clear sense of your motivation towards your chosen health care, and feel enthusiastic about you as a candidate.
If your personal statement is going to be typed or pasted into an on-line application service, you will need to proofread it carefully before submitting it to make sure that it contains no grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors. Compare it to your stored version to make sure it is complete and error free.