By: Mathew Hilton, PT, DPT, MS
The 2018-2019 PTCAS personal statement prompt has changed and now reads as:
"Describe a meaningful experience in your life. Reflect on how that experience influenced your personal growth, such as your attitudes or perceptions."
This prompt allows applicants a much greater amount of flexibility in writing their statement. However this flexibility may make it more difficult for applicants to choose the right experience to define their story. Here is one way to identify your topic for the PTCAS personal statement.
1. Pick an Experience
Start by identifying the meaningful experience. An obvious choice would be to choose a PT experience that motivated you to pursue the profession. However, the prompt does not specify that this needs to be clinical or PT-related, so don’t limit yourself to these types of experiences.
Consider the following examples of potential experiences that you can write about:
- Overcoming hardships/adversity
- Living with a disability
- Caring for family with a disability or chronic illness
- Volunteer experience
- Medical missions
- Working with a particular patient case
- Leading a team/Working with others
2. Identify How the Experience Changed You
Once you have a few potential experiences, you will also need to identify how the experience “influenced your personal growth, such as attitudes and perceptions.” If you cannot identify the change in your personal growth, then this experience should be ruled out.
Maybe you worked with someone you disagreed with, but you learned to understand and accept a different perspective. Perhaps your experience as a caretaker helped you appreciate the difficulty of everyday tasks for someone with a chronic illness or disability. Or maybe your work with underserved communities helped you understand healthcare disparities and has motivated you to provide care in these communities.
3. How Does this Experience Affect You as a Future Physical Therapist?
One key point to remember is that you’re applying to physical therapy schools with this essay. Therefore, you ultimately want to bring this response full circle and address how this change in perspective equips or motivates you to become an excellent physical therapist.
Consider a few questions as you address this final part of the prompt:
- Did this experience influence some of your professional goals?
- How has your change in perspective influenced the way you will approach patient care?
- Does any of your response relate to the APTA Core Values?
As you plan for this prompt, you should think each experience through from steps 1-3 before you choose the actual experience. You might even want to write some quick sketches to help get you started on your personal statement before you definitively choose an experience. Take advantage of the flexibility of this prompt. Don’t worry about selecting that one-of-a-kind experience, but rather write about an event that defines your story.
What do you plan to write about for this prompt? Where are you feeling stuck? Let me know below in the comments!