As the application period for health professional schools approaches, I hear the same question all too often from applicants:
“What do I write for my personal statement?”
The personal statement might be the most stressful aspect of the application and for understandable reasons: the prompts are open-ended, the application allows a limited number of words for you to express yourself, and by the end of it, applicants are often still wondering:
“What do they want to hear?”
While the statement is definitely challenging to write, here are a few ways for you to make this process less stressful and more productive:
1. Start by Making a List
Consider ALL of the events in your life that have contributed to your decision to pursue this healthcare profession. Write them all out and sketch the different details for each experience. How did each experience motivate you? Did an event change how you viewed healthcare or the profession?
By writing everything out, you can ask yourself, “what were the key events in motivating me to become a healthcare professional?” After you see all the events, you can more easily decide what to write about or leave out.
2. Use an Outline to Map Your Journey
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
By creating an outline, you’re able to connect the dots of your writing more easily and therefore stay on track with your writing. Many applicants experience writer’s block when they find that they’re writing on a blank slate. They slow their momentum because they are constantly second-guessing where they’re going with their writing.
Writing an outline can also be an informal and more approachable stepping stone to writing the actual essay. Use bullet points, suggest alternatives and make comments/questions to yourself. Remember, this is just the blueprint, so feel free to play around with it until you feel you’ve captured the important parts of your journey.
3. Write as if Nobody is Reading
When I start working with a new client, I often ask them to tell me a stream-of-consciousness synopsis of why they want to become a healthcare professional. The goal is not to have them write a statement in record time, but rather to encourage them to write directly and honestly about their journey.
Many applicants get stuck up on the particular wording and phrasing of their statement. They try to write with flowery words that they don’t really use in conversations. Stories are at times built up to sound overwhelmingly grand. The result: the writer ends up taking hours to find the right words to finish two sentences or the reader finds the applicant sounding distant and overly sentimental.
One of the goals of the statement (and the application as a whole) is to form an image of a real, complete person. The reader wants to gain a sense of the applicant’s motivation, character, work ethic and more. By starting from a stream-of-consciousness summary of your journey, you can anchor yourself to a grounded story when writing your statement.
Do you still feel stuck in writing your statement? Where are you having trouble? Let us know if we can help!