Independent Minds, Working Together

Personal Essay

The personal essay is your opportunity to tell the admissions personnel about your qualities and experience that would make you a successful health care professional.  It is an opportunity for them to better understand your personality and hear your voice.  Do not underestimate the time necessary to construct a good essay nor its impact.  

A “personal” statement is just that:  personal.  That means no one could possibly write what you write.  Unfortunately, many statements can read the same because the writers have failed to express their own values and convey the qualities most important to them and tried, instead, to write what they think the admissions committee wants to hear.  You want to be creative with the goal of conveying themes and points that will justify your suitability for your career choice. This is better conveyed through a story or an indirect way versus “I want to be a doctor because…”  

Make a list of key experiences that have influenced you or demonstrate your suitability for the field.  Look for themes that connect them.  You do not need to write a narrative resume where you try to include everything – you have your application, resume, and potentially an interview to do that.  Instead, focus on one key theme and then choose the stories/experiences that best support that theme. With any clinical exposure you may have had, you want to emphasize what you learned. When writing about research experience, you should try to convey qualities such as creativity, initiative, and original thinking.  Focus on your contribution rather than your research topic.  

You may find it helpful to sit down with an advisor to brainstorm themes for your essay using the questions below.  Write a rough draft and don’t worry about length. Let others read it to see if you are on the right track before spending a lot of time perfecting it and making it conform to any word or character requirements. A chart of the word requirements for the different centralized applications is available below.  Be prepared to revise, revise, and revise some more.  It is a process.  

Brainstorming Questions

  • What might help the evaluating committee better understand you? What sets you apart from other applicants?
  • Why are you interested in this field? What things have stimulated and reinforced your interest?
  • How did you learn about this field (classes, seminars, work experience)?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Have you had unusual hardships or obstacles that you have overcome?
  • Do you have unusual accomplishments, whether personal, professional, or academic?
  • Are there any gaps, problem areas, or discrepancies in your academic record that need to be explained?
  • What skills or personal characteristics do you possess that would enhance your chances for success in this field?
  • Why should an admissions committee be interested in you?    

 Students planning to utilize centralized application services, please note the following maximum character (counting spaces) or words for the various services:  (4500 characters using spaces equals approximately 750 words and is about one page)

Osteopathic
DO
Dental
DDS
Podiatry
DPM
Allopathic
MD
AACOMAS AADSAS AACPMAS AMCAS
4,500 char. 4,500 char. 4500 char. 5,300 char.
Physician
Assistant
Pharmacy/
Pharm.D.
Physical
Therapy
Public
Health
CASPA PharmCAS PTCAS SOPHAS
5000 char. 4,500 char. 4,500 char. 1500 words

View Personal Statements