The Personal Statement
The "personal statement" or "statement of purpose" is often part of the required application materials for colleges, graduate schools, scholarship programs, and research internships. It is a narrative that allows you to tell the admissions or scholarships committee more about who you are and to demonstrate your fit for their program. It's a place for you, the applicant, to demonstrate how your research interests, academic history, work experience or other personal qualities are compatible with the expectations of the program to which you are applying. It is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants and allows the reader to get to know you beyond your grades, test scores, and application and generates interest in meeting you!
Personal Statement - who you are!
Statement of Purpose - what you want to do!
To determine your compatibility, some programs may ask you to respond to a specific question or cover specific topics. While others may offer you an open-ended prompt and allow you to write about the topic of your choice. The focus of your statement will vary depending on the context of the guidelines. Because the personal statement accompanies other materials, such as application forms and resumes, it should compliment, but not merely repeat, the information in these other documents.
What to Consider
Considering your audience is an important part of the writing process for any document, but it is especially important for your personal statement. These readers will be trying to determine your compatibility with their school or program. To better understand your audience, you can review the organization's or university's website, mission statement, and even the application guidelines. As you review these, look for key words in the prompt or program description. Look for the language that the program uses to describe itself. By using this language and referencing specific details about the program or using the language the university or organization uses to describe their program, you can show the readers how well you would fit into this community.
After you've researched the program in order to understand your audience, you should consider the context of the prompt in order to determine whether it values your past experiences, your plans during the selective program or your goals after you finish. The language in the prompt can help you see what to highlight in your essay. The readers often want to see how you've prepared for their program, what you will contribute to the program, and how their program will help you achieve your goals. They need to see that your past, present, and future align with their program.
Now, consider yourself as the author. Think about unique experiences you have to share. It's important to spend some time thinking about the story you can tell the admissions committee, the one that will set you apart from other applicants. The story doesn't have to be exotic or surprising, (just unique to you) but it should leave the readers with a specific impression. As the author of the personal statement, you'll bring specific qualities, unique experiences, and personal preparation to any organization or university. Conveying these specific aspects that set you apart is important.
Before you begin your personal statement, you need to familiarize yourself with the personal statement parameters specified by your application.
- Character Limitations
- AMCAS and AACOMAS - 5,300 characters
- AADSAS, OptomCAS, OTCAS, CASPA, and PTCAS - 4,500 characters
- The personal statement text fields of most applications have limited (if any) formatting options. This means you can't bold, underline, or italicize text. We recommend writing your personal statement in a plain text document.
- Specific Prompt
- Your application may have a specific prompt around which you should orient your personal statement. Make sure that your statement adequately addresses the prompt. For some applications the prompt can change from year-to-year, so be sure to verify the prompt for your application cycle.
Once you know the parameters, you can begin brainstorming and drafting your personal statement.
If you are an academic advisor to a student interested in pursuing a healthcare profession, this toolkit is here to assist you in answering questions and getting them on the right track.View Toolkit
Subscribe to our mailing list
Sign up for the Pre-Health Newsletter to be notified of important news and deadlines.
* indicates required