A Compelling Personal Statement

This is the opportunity for you to tell your story. Why to you want to be a clinician? What is your burning desire? What fueled that fire ?

List your abilities/ skills and how you have demonstrated them throughout your life

Maybe you have worked hard in your life, perform well under pressure, are gifted with understanding and working with children, are capable of managing multiple tasks while staying focused. Think honestly about your strengths (and weaknesses).

List your personality traits

List some major influences and/or mentors you have had throughout your life

List some short term and long term goals as they relate to your story

Ask yourself these questions as you sit down to brainstorm:


What is unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about my life story?

What details of my life (personal or family situations, history, people or events) have shaped or influenced my goals?

What might help the committee better understand me or help set me apart from other applicants?

When did I become interested in this field?  What have I learned about it (and myself) that has further stimulated my interest and reinforced my conviction that I am well suited for this field?

How have I learned about this field — through research, classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?

If I have worked a lot during my college years, what have I learned (leadership or managerial skills for example)?  How has that work contributed to my growth?

Are there any gaps or discrepancies in my academic record that should be explained, such as great grades but mediocre MCAT or GRE scores or a distinct upward pattern to my GPA, if it was only average in the beginning?
Have I had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships such as financial trouble, familial problems, or serious illness?

What personal characteristics (e.g., integrity, compassion, persistence) do I possess that would improve my prospects for success in the profession? How have I demonstrated these characteristics?

What skills (e.g., leadership, communication, analytical) do I possess?

Why might I be a stronger candidate for professional school — and more successful and effective in the profession than other applicants?

What are the most compelling reasons I can give for the admissions committee to be interested in me?


Make an Outline

Don't start writing until you have thought through the questions above and organized your thoughts into an outline.

You have many choices for structuring your essay. You may have a section for each character trait that you have chosen to enumerate in your essay. Each paragraph my show how you consistently demonstrate that trait in your life and how it will serve you in your profession and your professional training. Or, you may want to present information chronologically if a series of events and experiences have accumulated to create a desire to be a clinician. If you are focusing on one experience as the defining moment that galvanized your desire to enter the health care profession, you may look at that moment through three or four different lenses.

The Final Draft: Principles for writing

Unifying theme is key.
  Organize your essay around the theme, rather than merely listing your accomplishments.

Give good examples and explanations.   Do not just provide lists; explain how and why an experience or person had an effect on you. These details show your passion, enthusiasm and dedication far more effectively.

Help your reader understand how the information is important. Demonstrate your potential and preparedness for this type of advanced study, with sound and concise reasons.

Respond to the question(s) listed on the application .  Some schools will give you a specific prompt to respond to, while others leave the question wide open. Follow instructions carefully.

Cover your bases.  Make sure that you have called attention to your successes and relevant experience and explain any discrepancies in your record.

Do not duplicate information already present in your application.  There is no need to include information that is listed elsewhere in your application, transcript, or resume.

Be precise and concise. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is a case of less is more! Committees value substance and do not value flowery words or excessive ramblings.  

Use “I” and speak from the first-person voice.   It is YOUR personal statement.

Avoid clichés.  Do not write that you are "a good science student and that you enjoy helping people.” This is a given if you are applying for admission to a health-related professional school.

Cover any questionable/controversial subjects.  If there are stories and comments about your life and past that need to be explained, do so thoroughly but concisely and move on. Indicate what you have learned from the event and how you could handle/avoid the circumstance differently in the future.  Most applications for professional schools have a word or character limit for the personal statements.
Check and double-check your word/character requirements. 

For more help with writing your personal statement, make an appointment with the ETSU Writing & Communication Center.