Tis the season of personal statements. We have read quite a few personal statements over the month and are quite marveled by the stories we've read and the experience people have gone through to get to this point. It is safe to say, that the future of this profession lies in great hands. There are number of good anecdotes, stories and overall substance in the statements, however, most have similar flaws, which is what prompted us to write this article. Today, we will tackle the most common mistakes made in personal statements
We cannot overstate this enough; have a theme for your personal statement!!! Mentioned in a previous article, the theme of the essay is your trunk to the metaphorical tree. It is your foundation and you can use your clinical/life/school experiences as branches off of the trunk that interconnect throughout the essay. It is key that you have a theme as it will make everything in your statement flow smoothly. Ensure that your theme is broad based, allowing you the flexibility to interconnect throughout life experiences as well as your career experiences. Ideally, you want the theme of the essay clearly stated in the last sentences of the introduction. This provides the reader with a direction of the statement and allows the author structure for the rest of the statement. We read a personal statement, where the author's theme resounded with the reader, but it also allowed the author to intricately navigate through the statement with ease.
"The coyote, as smugglers are commonly known, carried me on his shoulders through the Rio Grande River. We ducked behind trees and bushes, carefully avoiding border patrol, until we finally made it. We were ready to live the American Dream—except it was anything but".
Firstly, the author does a fantastic job in terms of imagery, and finishes the introduction strong with the theme. The theme being the 'American Dream' is vague enough, where the author can reveal multiple points through the main focus of the theme, but definitive that the reader is confident of the direction of the rest of the statement. This keeps the reader engaged! Having a strong theme such as this can really elevate your statement! Before you write your statement, sit down, brainstorm some themes and write your statement based on that.
Most statements have great stories, anecdotes, but they lack structure, organization. Individually, paragraphs have content, but there are no transition points between the paragraphs that make it appear as a whole. Each paragraph feels like their own entity. Making paragraph transitions is essential for creating coherent thought throughout an entire written piece. Using transition words and phrases will ensure that your statement appears wholesome, connected and a quality piece of writing. Ensure that each paragraph connects to the prior and the latter, allowing the reader to know when you are moving to a new topic, connecting 2 ideas or solidifying your point. Imagine as if your statement is a jigsaw puzzle and you are connecting the pieces to illustrate an entire picture.
Just avoid it. It’s that simple! Like mentioned in a previous article cliches are never good. Unless you have 1 in a million anecdote, we strongly recommend you stay away from them. They demonstrate ingenuity and show that you lack creative thought process. Just like we mentioned with the theme, really sit down, think and brainstorm the point you want to express. Pin point that thought and elaborate on it with a genuine anecdote. Having cliches in your statement could be an automatic disqualifier. So, please, don’t take that risk. Be genuine, be creative and elaborate your points to reward your readers and sequentially, yourself.
Keep an upbeat and positive tone throughout your statement. Write with optimism. That doesn't mean your entire statement should be on the high rise, every great written piece has its peaks and valleys. In writing those downhills, use a positive tone. By all means, include a time in your life or your academia where you hit an all time low, however write about it as if you are looking in a rear view mirror.
“At 18, my mom demanded I move out. Living out of the trunk of my car, I still chose to enroll in college. I thought I could manage, but my grades reflected my personal struggles. Despite being scared and homeless, I was passionate about patient care and determined to continue exploring the medical field.”
This author did just that. Taking the time that is the lowest part in his/her life and showing the reader the passion that allowed the writer to continue on pursuing medicine. Write about the circumstance, how you overcame it, how you grew from it and how that has shaped you into the person you are now.
5. Pack a punch.
CASPA allows 5000 characters in your personal statement. That's a lot, or very little depending on your content. Just remember 5000 characters is the limit, not the minimum. Yes, some applicants need every character to convey their message. Not all do. Some stories are better left as short stories. If you can get your message across of why you want to be a PA and why you are the ideal candidate for PA school in 3000 characters, then keep it at 3000 characters. Don't add fluff to take up space. It will just obscure your key points and take away message.
Thank you for reading!