Guide to Writing a Personal Statement for Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, and PA School

Guide to Writing a Personal Statement for Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, and PA School

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This entry is a guide to help you write your personal statement for medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school.  The information provided here can help you put together the elements for a compelling essay and make you more competitive on paper.  To learn more about our personal statement coaching and assistance services, call us today at 1(888) 839 – 9997 or email us!

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Admissions Helpers Guide on Writing a Strong Personal Statement for Medical School, Dental School, Pharmacy School or PA School:

Before writing a personal statement, it helps for us to consider why admissions committees look for a personal statement.  Having an understanding of the purpose of a personal statement could help you get a better sense of what important elements to include.  The personal statement serves several purposes.  It helps to:
• To describe who you are as a person
• To add a personality to your numbers
• To bring your motivations to light
• To provide reflection on your relevant personal and professional experiences
• To demonstrate your understanding of the healthcare profession you want to pursue

Many students fall into the trap of not knowing what to write about or how to tackle the personal statement.  We recommend a few important pieces of advice that would help you approach your medical school personal statement.  These pointers also apply to the dental school, pharmacy school and PA school personal statements:

• Write a simple, clear, concise, well-organized essay
• A simple essay that captures all the important points is better than a poetic/philosophical essay that lacks necessary content
• Your essay should be easy to read and understand in 2-3 minutes
• Remember your audience is physicians/scientists so get to the point
• Write your essay yourself and make sure it is your own language
• Your written and verbal communication style should be consistent in your primary application, supplemental applications, and interview

Where do I start?

Students often ask, where should I start?  How do I begin the writing process and what steps do I take?  A medical school admissions consultant can help you with this process.  In summary, we recommend the following steps to help you approach your medical school personal statement.  Again, these recommendations apply to dental, pharmacy, and PA school personal statements as well:

Step 1: Brainstorm and Generate Content
Step 2: Organize the Content
Step 3: Proofread and Make Edits
Step 4: Trim the Excess

Step 1: Brainstorm and Generate Content

Remember that writing a personal statement is 70% a thinking exercise and 30% a writing exercise.  This means that before you sit down and start writing or typing, you should brainstorm and carefully consider what you want to include in the essay.  In order to generate content for your essay, try answering the following questions:

Question 1: Why do you want to pursue medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.?   Break this question down into the following two questions:

Part A: How did you become interested in medicine, or dentistry, or pharmacy or the PA profession?

In this section, consider your personal experiences and your upbringing.  Try to determine what events from your personal background motivated you to pursue the field of your choice.  For example, some students write about seeing a loved one’s struggle with an illness.  Alternatively if you decided to pursue the health professional field of your choice after shadowing, describe the specific shadowing experience that got you interested in medicine.

Part B:  What aspects of the medical, dental, pharmacy, or PA profession do you enjoy?

After you have described how your interest in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or PA developed, you need to explain how this interest was further solidified.  You also need to explain what key elements of the profession you enjoy.  To achieve this, you should reflect carefully on your professional experiences in a clinical setting.  Think about how your volunteer and shadowing activities in the hospital, medical office, pharmacy, or dental office made you more interested in the health professional field of your choice. For example, if you are applying to medical school, describe what you saw while shadowing physicians or volunteering that you found appealing about the medical profession.

Question 2: What attributes, skills, characteristics do you possess that make you a good candidate for further training and for a career in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or PA?

For this section, it is important to not just list your positive experiences.  Instead, explain specific qualities and attributes that you have acquired through your personal background or through your professional experiences.  Do not limit this to activities relating to medicine.  If you have served as a tutor, community volunteer, or researcher for example, consider how the role helped you acquire skills that are transferrable to medicine.

Question 3: What is your understanding of medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy and how has this understanding evolved through your experiences?

In this section, you should draw on your exposure to medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or PA to demonstrate what you have learned about the profession.  It is crucial to demonstrate a mature and realistic understanding of the profession, not an idealistic one.

Question 4: What are your professional goals?

As you are brainstorming for your essay, you should consider including a description of what you envision yourself doing in the future.  Beyond expressing your interest in becoming a physician, dentist or PA, you should explain what type of career you envision for yourself.  Consider explaining in which setting you wish to practice, what patient population you aspire to serve and any additional activities that you may want to participate in.  These may include teaching, research, community health, or other activities.  Avoid just listing these activities, instead describe them and show how your background proves your commitment to the activity.  For example, if you were heavily involved in research as a premedical student, it makes sense if you claim that you want to pursue medical research alongside your practice as a future physician.

Step 2: Organize the Content

Like any other essay, the personal statement should follow the structure below:

• Introduction
• Body Paragraph
• Body Paragraph
• Body Paragraph
• Conclusion

Introduction: This section should start with a catchy hook.  This is the initial sentence of the personal statement.  It should help grab your reader’s attention and engage them in your essay.  Your introduction should also introduce your thesis: A 1-2 sentence description of why you want to pursue medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or PA.

Body Paragraphs:  It is important to limit each body paragraph to one main idea.  Do not try to explain your research and clinical work in one paragraph. Always start your body paragraphs with the main theme of the paragraph and get into detail further on.  Conclude each paragraph with a general statement reiterating the theme of that paragraph.  Many applicants choose to break down their paragraphs by experience type (e.g. clinical work, research, community service, etc.).  If you choose to take this approach, consider answering the following questions regarding each type of activity:

• What was the activity?
• What motivated you to get involved?
• What was your role?
• What skills did you gain from this activity?
• How did this activity make you further interested in pursuing the career of your choice?

Please note, although the answers to some of these questions can be found on your application, you cannot assume the reader will take the time to go back to your application to find it.  Its always helpful to give a brief synopsis of the venue in which you worked and the role you played.

Conclusion:  In your conclusion you should briefly review what you have discussed in the essay.  Bring together your various strengths and draw a conclusion about why you would be a competitive candidate

Step 3: Proofread and Make Edits

When you first start, write freely without worrying about space limitations.  After working on your essay for a day or two, give yourself a break for 24 hours and come back to the essay with a fresh perspective. At this point, make sure the ideas within each paragraph and between paragraphs are connected with transitions.  Be sure to sound humble and avoid making comments that come across as negative.  Do not be critical of the medical or dental profession.  Steer away from negative interactions you have had with physicians, dentists, pharmacists or PAs.

Step 4: Trim the Excess

When reviewing your essay to shorten the content, look for repetitions and redundancies and eliminate them.  Remember that adjectives and adverbs do not always strengthen your essay.  Read each sentence and ask yourself what purpose it is serving in your essay. If it is not relevant to the case you are making for getting accepted to medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or PA school, you may want to eliminate it.  Keep in mind that you cannot include everything in this essay, so consider the points that are most important.

To get more information about how to write a strong personal statement, check out the videos below:

 

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