What is a Personal Statement?
Your personal statement is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants. It is the portion of the application where you get to discuss who you are and what is important to you, so take advantage of this opportunity! To successfully utilize the personal statement, spotlight two or three particular experiences or examples that demonstrate your motivation and preparation towards making an informed decision about your career path. Unlike the majority of your application, which is largely concerned with what you did, your personal statement should provide depth into why and how you came to your decision that a career in the health professions is a good fit for you.
Jump to a Section:
- How Does a Personal Statement Fit Into Your Application?
- What Are Admissions Committees Looking For?
- Before Writing: Brainstorm
- The Writing Process
- Expressing Your Clinical Experiences in Writing
- General Do's and Dont's
- Evaluating Your Personal Statement
Your personal statement is important, but so are the other components of your application (e.g., recommendations, clinical exposure, entrance exam score and GPA). The key to a strong application is to be strong in every area of your application. One common mistake students make is to waste time attempting to perfect their personal statement during the application submission phase. Remember to allocate appropriate time to creating a document that demonstrates your interest in the health professions and career goals; but do not let “personal statement perfecting” delay you in submitting your application.
This is perhaps the most frequently asked question by health professional school applicants. Why is it asked so often? Well, there isn’t a clear-cut answer. Everyone has a different opinion on what should be included in a personal statement; therefore, every admissions committee member will have a different approach to reading and reviewing a personal statement. Below are a few questions that committees generally keep in mind when reading a personal statement. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and opinions will vary from reader to reader.
- Who you are as a person? (e.g., background, experiences, education, etc.)
- Why did you choose ___ instead of another career path?
- Do you possess the qualities necessary to be a health professional?
- How do your professional goals coincide with going to a health professional school?
- Have you explored your interest in the health professions?
- Would I be interested in meeting you?
- Do I want to learn more about you?
- Are you a good fit for the program?
The brainstorming phase is an important step in the writing process. During this phase, consider every potential topic to include in your statement. Answer the questions below to start the brainstorming process.
- How have you prepared to be a student and why are you ready to enroll now?
- What is special, distinctive, unique or impressive about you or your life story?
- How did you learn about ___? What stimulated your interest in ___?
- What characteristics and skills do you possess that enhance your prospects for success?
- Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships?
- What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you proud of?
- What are the most compelling reasons for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
- What are your short- and long-term goals?
- Did you take time off after earning your undergraduate degree? If so, why and how have you used this time to grow?
- What is the most important thing for an admissions committee to know about you?
- If you took a bridge year, how have you improved your candidacy since graduation?
As you begin the writing process, use the following exercises to get you started.
- Write your initial draft as if you were writing to a friend about going to a health professional school. Tell him/her why you want to go and why it is the best choice for you.
- Imagine you have five minutes to talk to an admissions committee; what would you tell them and why?
- Write down all you can about your goals, decision to attend a health professional school, what you hope to accomplish, your qualifications, etc. without stopping.
Create a Draft
As you begin to write your initial draft, emphasize identifying the message you want to convey and don’t worry about editing or length. This is the inventing stage of the writing process, so be creative.
Rewrite, Revise and Edit
Be prepared to write several drafts. Look at the content, clarity and overall tone of your statement. Read the introduction. Do you get a clear idea of where the statement is going? As you edit your statement, look at the mechanics, grammar, spelling and punctuation.
The personal statement gives you the opportunity to express how your specific clinical experiences influenced your decision to pursue a career in the health professions. It is not uncommon for students to describe specific events that solidified their decision to pursue a career in healthcare. If you choose to describe a specific clinical experience (involving a physician or patient), please be cognizant of how you are conveying the experience. As a future healthcare professional, confidentiality and compassion are of utmost importance. Writing about one of your impactful clinical experiences is appropriate for the personal statement; but please be aware that including substantial details describing a physician or patient in a negative manner is not advised. Watch your use of adjectives in portraying your experience and aim for a professional tone.
- Meet with a Pre-Health Advisor
- Make an appointment with the UVA Writing Center. Tutors at the writing center work one on one with students in 50-minute appointments. They can assist with drafting, revision, argument structure and other special concerns.
Evaluation is an important part of the writing process. Carefully read over your personal statement and use the personal statement evaluation chart below to critique your statement. Ask at least one person whose opinion you value to review and evaluate your personal statement as well.