Personal Statements

Please read over the resources on this page, and then you are welcome to meet with a Pre-Health Professions Coach to discuss your ideas before starting your personal statement.

Recommendations for Personal Statements

The Purpose

The personal statement/essay should provide evidence to the admissions committees that you are knowledgeable about the profession (know what you are getting into) and are well-suited to the profession (have the necessary qualities, strengths and skills).

The Audience

The essays are likely to be read at different stages of the process.

  • Initial review of the application
  • Committee decision to invite for interview
  • By interviewers in preparation for the interview
  • Committee admission decision

You are not writing for one reader as you do for a course where you write what a particular professor is looking for.

The readers are very diverse. A committee may have up to 20-30 people on it who represent different generations and cultures and have a variety of ideas about who is suited to and prepared for the profession and a particular school.

Keys to Content

All essays are essentially about the same thing – you! – your strengths, your knowledge of the profession, how you have tested your desire to pursue this health profession and in what ways you are suited to and prepared for professional education and training. 

You need to know yourself and the profession well enough to choose the personal strengths, knowledge and insights you will write about.

Take inventory.

Take an inventory of your qualities and skills and how they relate to your experiences. Check out the “Tools to Help You Build Your Personal Statement” under Personal Statement Resources & Tools below. 

Get more mileage out of your essay with valuable content. 

Write about experiences that will demonstrate the qualities, strengths and skills that successful health care professionals must have.

Make the invisible visible.

Consider what the committees will see in your application. Is there something important about you that is not obvious from the numbers and information already listed in your application?

Make it matter.

Is there something included in your application that needs to be emphasized? For example, will you be listing one experience where you took on a leadership role, but the actual knowledge and abilities that you developed there are not obvious? Did you volunteer in one place rather than several but the experiences there were substantial and of great value in your pre-professional development? You may decide to give these more weight by writing about them

The Prompt

Read the prompt carefully.

The applicant is responsible for understanding the prompt and providing the kind of information that the admissions committees have asked for. 

Some prompts are as simple as “Why do you want to be a _________?”

Many are more complex.

In either case, the prompt requires thoughtful consideration, first to understand it and then to decide on the content of your response. 

Don’t get hung up on any one word or phrase in the prompt. Read the whole prompt, and decide what they are really asking for.

Can you explain the prompt in your own words? 

Decide which of your personal strengths as well as your knowledge and insight into the profession relate best to the prompt. (This is when the “Tools to Help You Build Your Personal Statement” can be of help.)

In responding to the prompt, your goal is to use your experiences to demonstrate those things about you that predict your success in professional school and in professional practice.

When Writing about You

“Why do you want to pursue a career in this health profession?” is not asking you to write an essay on how very much you want to be in the profession. It is not asking what is so amazing about people who are in this profession. Admissions committees want to know who it is that wants to pursue this career and in what ways you are capable of and prepared for professional school and professional life. 

“I love science and want to help” is important but is not enough. Demonstrating how compassionate and caring you are is great, but there are many careers in which one can apply a love of science to help people. Write about the experiences that demonstrate specific knowledge of and exposure to the profession and the strengths and skills that will help you to succeed in this specific role.

When Writing about Mentors

If you write about what you observed/learned while shadowing a healthcare professional, you must then turn your attention to yourself and in what ways you have developed and demonstrated those qualities that you admire in your mentor.

Remember, this is about your qualities and skills, and knowledge. The experiences you choose to write about are the vehicles that convey that information.

Inspiration is important, but then what ….. ? 

Inspiration is essential to pursuing a health professions career. But… while the most interesting, breathtaking, awesome, unique, inspirational experience can be a place to start, after the aha moment, what did you do to test your motivation and to find out what professional education, training and practice are actually like? Show the committees that you are an informed applicant who has made a rational and mature decision to apply for acceptance into training for this profession.

By the way, it is not at all necessary to have one of those mythic and epic inspirational experiences. There are many health care professionals who realized their interest in their profession in a more gradual evolution of experiences.

No matter how you got here, the committees are more interested in what you’ve done recently than every step along the way.

Writing It

This is not an English or Rhetoric or Creative Writing assignment.

Still it will make an important impression. So, if you want to make a very good impression that will help you earn an invitation to an admissions interview, it should be well-written, technically correct and, most importantly, respond appropriately to the prompt.

Don’t get hung up on having a theme. 

Doing so takes over and steals the room you need for details about valuable experiences. This is a very short essay, and the themes eat characters and spaces for lunch. Let the theme be subtle. Let the theme be the things about you that show you are suited to the profession and have what it takes to succeed and to care for patients. 

Use active verbs and active voice.

Health professionals are proactive. Write about what you’ve done and the value of those experiences. 

Everything you write should add value.  

If you write about a challenge or struggle or obstacle or mistake, get some mileage out of it by showing what you did to succeed, what you learned from it and who you are as a result.  

You have a small space and, hopefully, many strengths and experiences.  Each experience, paragraph, sentence, word takes up space.  Know why you are telling the committees a story and what messages you want to send. 

Your personal statement should be primarily about your experiences since high school. However, a pivotal moment or particularly valuable relevant experience from your pre-college years may be needed to set the stage for who you are today. If so, take care to write it concisely and save room for more current information.

Consider structure.

You may choose to write in a chronological order of events or in a modified chronological order in which you lead with an interesting recent experience and flashback to background information that is relevant. Either way, the first experience you write about should be interesting enough to get the reader’s attention.

There is not a lot of room for the Big Intro paragraph and the Big Concluding paragraph. Usually, a few lines of intro that lead into the first anecdote or background statement will work. You may use only the last few lines for your concluding statement. 

You may have room in a personal statement for only two or three experiences; however, each experience may reveal several different strengths that will be of interest to the admissions committees.

Be concise.

Avoid overuse of descriptive words and introductory words and phrases that are unnecessary to the message.

Get to the point. Each sentence moves the reader forward. No slow build. You don’t have that luxury. Neither does anyone else.

There is no space for reiteration.

There is usually some sacrifice of a smooth, flowing feel that you may have in longer essays.

Use your own vocabulary, not the thesaurus. When you interview, you should sound like the person who wrote the application essay.

Stand out.

You may see or hear the word “unique” in relation to essay prompts. While you want to stand out, you do not need to have an experience that no one else has had. A unique experience can be thought of as being unique or special to you in your own life rather than unique among all of the applicants.

Stand out by being well-prepared, mature, informed, experienced and able to communicate in writing that you possess the qualities that excellent health care students and professionals must-have.

Where to Find Help


Personal Statement Brainstorming – Health Professions Office

Pre-HP Coaches can help with

  • Understanding prompts
  • Content brainstorming
  • Special circumstances – examples: academic difficulties, health issues, gaps in education, reapplication


Personal Statement Review and Feedback – University Writing Center

  • Getting started writing
  • Technical writing questions
  • Help with structure, organization, style, tone

It is not the responsibility of UWC consultants to interpret prompts or select appropriate content. 

As the applicant, you should be able to explain to your writing consultant the prompt and the messages that you are attempting to get across.  Writing consultants can help with whether and how you are getting those messages into writing.

If you are still struggling with this, spend some time reading and thinking through the prompt. Discuss this in your Personal Statement Brainstorming appointment at the HPO.