What is the purpose?
The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the application. In most cases, schools use the personal statement to understand your motives for entering into the profession. Schools also use it to gain understanding of your personal characteristics. Transcripts and resume information found on the application provide a list of your accomplishments; the personal statement provides information about how those accomplishments and experiences shaped and influenced you. The personal statement should convey a sample of your personality, motivation, passion for the health profession, character, leadership capabilities and other applicable attributes.
What Do I Write About?
You possess a unique combination of experiences and traits. The personal statement should show how that combination further qualifies you for a health professions school. Use the following list to gain an idea of information that could be conveyed in a personal statement.
- What has motivated you to pursue the health profession you have chosen?
- What family experiences have you had that have shaped your life?
- What academic and extracurricular activities have shaped your life?
- What work experiences have shaped your life? How have they shaped your life?
- What are your long term goals? What examples can you think of where you set goals and followed a plan to achieve those goals?
- What experiences have you had that show you work well with people? What did you learn from these experiences?
Not all of these questions need to be answered in the personal statement. This list serves to give you a starting point as you develop your personal essay. Use these experiences to show why you want to become a health professional. Explain how these experiences have influenced you. When applicants discuss their motivation for entering their chosen field, they often think their motivation needs to be explained as having come from a life altering experience. If you had a life altering experience, write about it; however, don't seek to take a past experience and make it seem like a life-altering experience if it really did not have a significant impact.
Planning for the Personal Statement
Planning is critical to writing a strong personal statement. Take time to make a list of events from your life that answer the questions listed above. Write about how they impacted your life and influenced your decision to become a health professional. Some experiences have shaped you more than others; use these specific experiences in your statement. Write out relevant details from your experiences; these details will provide evidence as to why you are a qualified applicant.
Tips and Suggestions
General rules should be followed when writing a personal statement. First, avoid humor. Although you and others who know you might find an experience or joke humorous, it is possible that someone on the admissions committee could be offended or find the comment insensitive. Second, as always, be honest. Third, be aware of grammar and spelling. Often the first part of the application an admissions committee member reads is the personal statement. A poorly written personal statement with multiple grammar and spelling errors will not leave a good first impression. Finally, remember that personal statements are generally permitted to be no more than a page, so words and experiences should be chosen carefully. Here is a list of other items to consider:
- Start writing your personal essay far in advance of application deadlines.
- Write and rewrite your essay many times
- Have your essay read and reread for grammar and content errors
- The opening statement should be interesting and captivating to the reader
- Talk about what makes you different from other applicants
- This is NOT an opportunity to provide a history of your life
- Read your essay out loud. Try to get a sense of the message you are sending in your statement
- Research the internet for other tips and suggestions for writing a personal statement
- Be conservative in your writing style
Some resources available at BYU-Idaho for students to receive feedback on personal statements include:
- The Writing Center - use the writing center for feedback on grammar and writing structure
- Internship and Career Services - career mentors will read through your personal statement and provide feedback on content and message.
- Faculty Mentors - be polite when you ask, and do not ask them at the last minute.
Advice for Re-applicants
Re-applicants should write a new personal statement. While your motivation to become a health professional may have not changed, you as a person and your experiences have changed. Admission committees want to see what you have accomplished during the time between application cycles to improve yourself as a health professions candidate. Many students work, complete an internship, do research, or pursue a master's degree during this time. Health professions schools want to hear about these experiences and how they have helped make you a better candidate.