Personal Statement

What is your personal statement for?

     In your entire application, you as a Pre-Health Student have the most control over your Personal Statement. This statement is an essay that tells professional schools a little more about you as a person, who you want to be as a professional, your past, and/or your personality. It allows schools to gauge how well you will fit in with the rest of their student body. This is also a chance for schools to judge your communication skills, since there is usually no question specifically asked for you to answer on the central application. The biggest cut of applicants comes between those who apply and those who are interviewed. This is your chance to prove to schools that you are worth their time during an interview day.


What should I write about in my personal statement?

     Your next question is probably, "Okay, well what do I write about?" First you need to take out all of the things schools already know from your application. Based on the information you are asked to provide to the central application services, schools will already know about your academics/application test score, shadowing experience, exposures in healthcare/patient contact, altruism/volunteerism, appreciation for diverse groups of people, leadership/peer interactions, research experience, and unique attributes. Schools will be trying to gain insight into other areas from your letters of evaluation and personal statement. These areas include: "stick-with-it-ness," energy/stamina, perseverance in the face of adversity, thinking and reasoning skills, creative energy, people skills, interest in others/life/lifelong learner, commitment, professionalism/maturity/responsibilitiy, and "fit" with their school. These are the things you should seek to convey in your personal statment.

     Okay, now here are some "dos." Do show strong communication skills and proofread over and over again to prevent spelling/grammatical mistakes. You should write about experiences/interests that weighted into your decision to go into healthcare. Talk about ways you have challenged yourself. Convey the passion, desire and motivation you have for this career. Make your personal statement a natural, positive expression of you. Make sure to include examples to go with statements about yourself. If you state that "I am dedicated and friendly." Back that up with an example to prove that you are telling the truth.

     Now let me tell you what NOT to write about. Your personal statement is not the novel version of your resume. It is not a negative essay; do not step on other applicants or apologize for aspects of your application. Just highlight the great things about yourself. Do not "name drop" in your personal statement. Do not state what a doctor should be or what it is like to be a doctor; and don't specify specialty. This is not the place to be mushy, flippant, or too artistic. Stay away from quotes, poems, songs, stories, etc. Do not go on a political or religious tirade in your personal statement. Don't start every sentence with "I." And Don't be specific about a certain school.


Personal Statement Writing Strategy:

     Before you get busy, remember to stop and reflect on your experiences and career choice, form a concise and clear "mission statement" that conveys why you are going through this application process. What makes this career the one for you. Start jotting down ideas as they come to you, and try to drop the formal "engineering" or "science" style of writing. This is personal! It's a little different than a report. Set some time aside when you are not rushed to brainstorm about ideas. Keep these notes to aid you in your draft and final statement.

     After you have written your statement proofread over and over and over again. Read it out loud; read it backwards; have friends and family read it. Whatever you can do to make it better, do that.


Technical and Formatting Tips:

     Start brainstorming for your personal statement in January of the spring before you apply. Start writing way ahead of time so that you have time to edit and proof and edit and proof. Personal statements should be finished by May (April for CASPA).

     If you are applying to AMCAS (MD) your personal statement should have 5,300 characters (an enter counts as 2 characters). There is no spellcheck or word count on AMCAS software, so be extra carefully when transferring your statement to the box on the application. Proof it online again before you submit. The only prompt provided is why you want to go to medical school. Use that as the underlying message, instead of answering it directly. 

     MD/PhD applicants: Write your statement on why you are pursuing an MD/PhD. Your statement should be 3000 characters. You will also have a second statement in which you will describe your significant research. This should have 10,000 characters.

     AADSAS (DMD/DDS) applicants have about 4500 characters (or one page) to answer the question, "Why are you seeking a dental education and how will it contribute to your professional goals?"

Additional Lengths:     

  • AACOMAS (D.O.) applicants have ~4500 keystrokes
  • CASPA (PA) has ~5000 keystrokes (motivation for becoming a PA)
  • PharmCAS (Pharm.D.) 4500 keystrokes (Why Pharmacy? How did your background prepare you and what are your goals?)
  • SOPHAS (MPH) varies ~1500 words for each school on why you are motivated and why this area of Public Health
  • VMCAS (DVM) is approximately 5000 keystrokes and should explain who you are, why veterinary medicine, and your career goals
  • AACPMAS (DPM) allows approximately 4500 characters (~750 words) and asks about your motivation/desire for podiatric medicine
  • PTCAS (DPT) ~4500 keystrokes (factors leading to PT + additional essays for reapplicants and school-specifics)
  • OptomCAS (OD) ~4500 keystrokes (preparation for training, aptitude and motivation, why OD and goals; you can tailor this one for schools)
  • TMDSAS (Texas applicants) allows ~5000 keystrokes and asks about value of experiences to be a physician. Optional essays - unique experiences and diversity - allow 2500 characters each.
  • NursingCAS (BSN) ~2970 keystrokes; (Why Nursing? Can customize for school)
  • OTCAS (MOT) 4500 keystrokes (Why OT? Goals and Background?)