If there’s one thing I know how to do, it is how to master a personal statement format. I have written over 50 personal statements in my lifetime. I think the hardest part is developing your writing voice. The first personal statement I ever wrote was the one when I applied to college. Then came the personal statement when applying for numerous college scholarships. After that, I applied to dental school, and then medical school. I wrote numerous personal statements due to secondary applications that were specific to each school. Anyway, my point is, I have a lot of experience writing personal statements. I have put together my top five tips of mastering your personal statement format in order to get accepted, ANYWHERE!
1. Define Your Career Interest
What is this personal statement for? Are you applying to grad school, nursing school, medical school, college etc.? Write down the type of school you are applying to. Each school is different and some schools may have a separate essay prompt for what you should be writing about in your essay. All schools have one question prompt in common: why do you want to apply to our program? Before you answer that you should define what the program is about. For example, if you are applying to nursing or medical school, you should know what it takes to become a nurse or a doctor. You can’t apply to a program blindly. You should do a little google search on your school or profession of interest. This is important because this will help streamline what you need to articulate in your essay that the admissions committee would find interesting enough to match your qualities to the profession and thus, accept you into their program.
2. Identify Your Why – Statement of Purpose
Do you know why you want to go to this school? Do you know why you want to become a nurse, a doctor, therapist, get a PhD and the list goes on. For many people, there is a story, person or event that happened in their life that was the turning point for them deciding to pursue a career. For example, when I decided to apply to dental school, I had two stories that were related to why I wanted to become a dentist. The first story was winning an award in the third grade where I drew a dentist with her patient for a career contest. The other story was more substantial — me having braces in middle school. I was in the dental office at least once a month for two years to get my braces tightened. From there, I grew to love the field of dentistry and set out to make it my career choice and major in college.
3. Name Your Special Qualities
Admissions committees want to hear about you. They want to be able to learn about your personality in your own words and based on your own actions. This can be articulated by describing the experiences you’ve been through and how they have shaped your mentality moving forward. Specifically, you should write about what qualities make you qualified to gain admission into their program. For example, what qualities would make you a great doctor, nurse, lawyer, therapist, etc.? In my medical school personal statement, I described my qualities of empowering patients who had never regarded their health as a priority. I elaborated on how I used behavioral interventions to help them take charge of their health. I also wrote about my patience and empathetic nature that helps me connect with patients.
4. Frame Your Essay
Every personal statement has a recommended length, usually between 500- 1000 words, although some may vary. Make sure to read the specific details requested on your application. Your essay should ideally be 5 paragraphs. Each paragraph should have at least 6- 8 sentences.
5 Paragraph Format
Body Paragraph #1
Body Paragraph #2
Body 3 Paragraph #3
The first sentence of your personal statement should grab the reader. I like to begin with something slightly obscure to reel the reader in, but not exactly predict what the rest of the paragraph will talk about. For instance, start with an interesting statistic, fact, quote or dialogue. I began my medical personal statement with something I said i.e “But why?” . I then began to tell the story of my adolescent crying fit when the dentist told me that I would be needing braces and possibly headgear. The introduction provides 6-8 sentences of an overview of what you will be discussing throughout the rest of the essay. Roughly speaking, you should use one sentence per topic. The body paragraph is where you elaborate on your journey of when and why you decided to apply to your school of choice.
Body Paragraph #1
Introduce or reintroduce the person, place or event that sparked your interest in your career field. Describe the event in detail
Body Paragraph #2
Describe how this situation impacted you, whether positive or negative. You can also talk about other experiences that have impacted you and inspired you to pursue your career choice.
Body Paragraph #3
Describe specific qualities of your character that was built from that experience. Expand upon the traits you possess to show your passion for your career field.
This is where you tie everything in to summarize your bottom line. For a lack of better words, this is the Point, blank #PERIODT paragraph. This is where you repeat, without stating verbatim what you’ve already written. The conclusion will once again state the who, what and why of your school and career choice. Concluding statements should ambitiously show your passion through the paper. The finale of your bid for acceptance should leave no doubt that you are the best candidate.
Now, that you’ve completed the last four steps, all that’s left to do is, write. You’ve spent enough time reading this post, so spend at least the same amount of time organizing your personal statement, at least for today. Don’t overstress or over think this! Allow your true thoughts and passions to flow and show (hey that rhymes lol) through your essay. Creating the optimal personal statement format can take numerous edits and drafts to finally make it to the final draft. After writing, make sure to reread it at least 10-20 times to check for grammatical errors and completeness. Allow a minimum of 2-3 people to read and give you feedback.
One last helpful tip is to use the voice to text option on your phone or computer. It works wonders for productivity. I’ve been using it with my iPhone on the notes app to write papers and blog posts. There’s a small icon at the bottom righthand corner with a microphone. You simply click and start speaking for about 30 seconds at a time. It will transcribe your voice into actual text. You will be saving yourself hours of typing and decreasing your risk of developing carpal tunnel! If you don’t have an iPhone there’s plenty of apps that allow for voice to text automation.
Good luck to you! For more personal statement writing tips and school and career advice delivered to your email, sign up here to get my newsletter.
As always, I am rooting for you. [insert Tyra gif]