The best of personal statements draw in the reader and make them feel a part of your journey. A personal statement should tell a story that compels the reader to meet you and help you succeed. It should demonstrate your humanity as well as your ambitions.

Additional Resources

  • Mapping Out The Personal Statement
  • UMN Free Personal Statement Workshop
  • Resumes and Personal Statements for Health Professionals – J. Tysinger, 2nd Edition
  • Perfect Personal Statements: Successful Application Essays From Students At America's Top Graduate and Professional Schools – M. Stewart
  • On Writing Well – W. Zinsser
  • Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays: A Student Handbook – J. Schall
  • Write for Success: Preparing a Successful Professional School Application – Jackson & Bardo, 4th Edition
  • Essays That Worked for Medical Schools – Baer & Jones
  • How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School – Stelzer

Think of a personal statement as an intellectual autobiography that explains what drew you to your field of interest, what specific points in college shaped your intellectual trajectory, what you plan to do 5-10 years from now, and how this opportunity will help you get there. All successful personal statements paint a detailed picture, showing a side of you that cannot be fully demonstrated by a list of accomplishments.

Do not expect to write a personal statement in one sitting or even in one week. Starting early is essential, and early may mean months in advance of the submission deadline. Some applicants write several very different draft versions before deciding which approach works best for them. Show drafts of your personal statement to as many people as you can. People who know you well should be able to read it and recognize that only you could have written it, that it doesn't sound generic. People who don't know you well should be able to read it and identify it as a unique piece.

  • Think of characteristics or actions that make you distinctive. How would your friends describe what's important about you?
  • What do you care about most deeply? How have you spent your time in the past few years toward working to further this passion or dream? What are your plans for fulfilling your dreams?
  • What mistakes or challenges have taught you something about yourself?
  • What ideas, events, people have had a profound impact on you and how?
  • How have you changed in these past few years and what have you learned as a result of this change?
  • How do your interests and who you are relate to your goal of pursuing a health career?
  • Think of one of the most significant learning experiences in your life – perhaps when you finally understood something for the first time. How did this experience affect your development and aspirations?
  • Word count limits: allopathic schools = 5,300 including spaces; osteopathic schools = 500 words; dental schools = 4,500 including spaces; veterinary schools = 5,000 including spaces; physician assistant schools = 500 words

Additional advice, tips, and strategies for writing a personal statement are also available through the Career Development Office and the Sagehen Career Tools.