One of the scariest parts of applying to college is writing the dreaded college essay. Some students hear the words “personal statement” and instantly freeze. What should you say? How much should you share? Where do you start?
Use these tips to stop thinking about your statement and starting writing it.
Don’t think. Don’t edit. Just write.
Start by answering these questions:
- Why did you decide on this career and this education?
- What in your life has shaped you for this field?
- What have you done to prepare for this career/field of study?
- What approach/style best illustrates who you are?
Jot down anything and everything you can think of and then edit it by picking out the most relevant and interesting points. You will want to highlight your strongest features and experience, including your maturity and readiness to take on health professions school and how you will fit into the school you are applying to since this is the committee’s introduction to you, the person, not the data that your transcripts and academic records present.
You should write several drafts over several months so give yourself lots of time. If you are answering a specific question with your statement, be sure to take the time to understand what is being asked.
A generic statement is pretty easy to spot so make sure yours addresses interest in the program’s unique features and how it matches up with your goals. In some cases, you may be submitting your personal statement to a centralized application service. Some centralized application services, including CSDCAS (communication sciences/disorders), HAMPCAS (health administration management/policy) and OptomCAS (optometry), allow you to customize your statement for each program to which you are applying—take them up on this offer!
Don’t tell your life story
Do not give a detailed history of your academic record. That’s what transcripts are for. Don’t use the personal statement to explain your application or focus on any weaknesses in your data. If you do need to discuss something negative—a failing that is relevant—don’t try to hide it or under-represent it, explain it and what you learned from it in a straightforward way.
The admissions committee is interested in why you chose this career, path of study and school. They don’t need to know everything about you to understand that. Make sure that there is at least as much about your current life as there is about your future plans. And remember to explain the “why” of your accomplishments. Why did you take them on? What motivated you?
Open with a quotation, a question or an anecdote. Look through magazine articles to get inspired. You’ll want your introduction to be creative enough to grab your reader’s attention and the body of your statement to keep them engaged as they continue reading.
Employ the 4 Cs
Make it clear, creative, compelling and concise.
Get feedback x 4
You’ll want to share your statement with at least four different kinds of readers:
- Someone with an eye for spelling, grammar, narrative and readability
- A teacher or advisor who is familiar with the schools and/or program to which you’re applying
- Someone who knows you well
- Someone who knows you just a little
Collecting feedback from multiple people who view your essay from varying angles will help you identify what’s missing, what needs to be highlighted and what can be deleted.