Keys to a winning personal statement

Your personal statement to professional school is arguably, the most important part of the entire application. You can have great grades, fabulous MCAT / DAT / PCAT scores, but if you can’t put pen to paper and come up with a statement that sets you apart from the thousands of applicants then you and your excellent grades and stellar standardized test scores won’t make it too far in the admission’s committee pile. Below are a few pointers as  your prepare to write your personal statement.

When should I start working on this:   Preprofessional students do themselves a disservice by not placing enough emphasis and time into crafting a quality product.  If you are a junior, who plans to enter professional school in August 2013, then you need to be working on your statement NOW ( if you haven’t started already). Medical school prospects will need  to have a statement ready to go for June 5th when AMCAS submission opens. Future dental students should have their application ready for submission on June 4,  and future pharmacists are lucky that pharmacy school has rolling admissions, but you still want to pay attention to the deadlines for your specific schools and have your applications ready to  go on the first date that applications are accepted. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, the things to do now is to start acquiring experiences that give you exposure to the medical profession that you hope to pursue.  This will be important for when you prepare to write your statement a year or two from now.

SIDE NOTE: I am a big advocate for applying early!  It just makes sense.  If AMCAS opens up on June 5, your application should  be in that day.  TRUST ME…your competitors will stay up late so they can click the submit button as soon as the clock strikes midnight, so if you want compete, I suggest you be ready by the opening date)

Purpose of the personal statement:  The point of your personal statement is to give admissions committee members an inside look into you as an individual.  As you prepare to write, you should aim to answer two basic questions:  Why you? and Why medicine / dentistry / pharmacy, etc.   The key is to show and not tell.  You don’t want to overtly say things like : “The reason I want to do medicine is because…”  Questions to answer through your personal statement include:

1.  Why have you chosen to pursue medicine / dentistry / pharmacy

2.  What do you want schools to know about that you that isn’t presented elsewhere.  you don’t want to rehash thingss that can be found elsewhere.  you may want to explain or expound on

3. What experiences have given you exposure to the field and what impact did these opportunities have on you and you decision.

Basic parts of your statement

1. Strong and compelling opener.  You want the reader to keep reading.  Compelling, doesn’t mean outrageous  or untrue however.

2.  Answer the basic questions described above by painting a story.  The body of your statement should explain why you want to do medicine, how you know you want to do medicine, and why you feel that you’d be a strong candidate not only for professional school, but also the field of medicine.  I would recommend starting with an outline

I.  Why I want to do medicine?   II: How do you know you want to do medicine?    III: Why you feel you would be a strong candidate.

3.  Strong closing argument that summarizes why you want to do medicine / dentistry etc, how you know you wanna do medicine and why you feel like you’d be a good candidate.  At the end of your statement, you need to make the reader want to meet you, because the purpose of the statement is to get your foot in the door, to get you an interview where your winning personality shines through. 🙂

Be prepared to draft and revise, and revise again.  Your statement won’t be at its best on the first go around. Compose a first draft, have a few people edit it and be prepared to make some revisions after that.   Be careful about who you ask to edit your draft.  You want people who are good writers, who have experience reviewing  / writing personal statement.  You want somone who will be honest! You want to know if they found it interesting, were they bored, did they feel it was organized?  You may need someone to inspect for content and another person to review it specifically for grammatical errors, just in case you can’t find those qualities in one person. 🙂

Last but not least, be  honest and sincere.  Admissions committees read tons of statements.  They can spot a liar or an overly exaggerated story, or outright plagiarism.  So save yourself the trouble and just be honest.

Final Words:  There are many commercially available books that offer advice on writing personal statements for professional school.  You may or may not want to purchase one.  They key is to get access to a few statements of successful applicants, so you can get a feel for how it should be written.  Don’t try to make your statement identical in format or tone to those your may read in books or online.  Its YOUR statement, so it should be personal. 🙂  Just start writing and while it may be tedious, you’ll get through it, and you should be able to come up with a quality product. 

Happy Writing

I am always welcome to be another pair of eyes to look over your statement if you like, so feel free to shoot me an email at healthou.org@gmail.com.

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