Writing a Personal Statement

A personal statement is an important piece of the application and can help give insight into who you are as an applicant. The admissions committee does not only look at your GPA and DAT scores, they look at whether you are well rounded and outgoing. Your personal statement is a perfect opportunity to show that you are more than just numbers; it is an opportunity to show that you are a person with many attributes and goals. An applicant’s personal statement can play a large role in whether he/she is invited for an interview and can be a point of discussion during the interview process. The following steps will aid in providing a focused, well-written personal statements.

1. Recognize who your audience is

Yes, we know that we are writing to several different admissions committees. Have  you ever asked yourself who is on the admissions committee? If you answered no to this question, then now is the time to ask yourself. So, who is on an admissions committee? The admissions committee is made up of all types of faculty. These faculty members do not necessarily have to have a DDS or DMD degree nor do they have to have a science background. However, despite what their background the admission committee members know what they are looking for and they are looking for specific attributes, qualities, and uniqueness. Each admissions committee may be a little different but in general will be similar to the following list:

      • Source of motivation
      • Passion for the profession
      • Maturity
      • Compassion for others
      • Dedication to service
      • Value lifelong learning
      • Active Learner
      • Persistent
      • Resilient  (ability to overcome obstacles)
      • Accountable
      • Focused
      • Organized
      • Efficient
      • Ethical

These are just a handful of what admissions committees are looking for in a person. Do they expect you to include all of them in your letter but they do want to see that you are this type of person and this is where you come in.

2. Decide what attributes you want to be our point of focus

This is an important step in writing your personal statement. You need to decide what attributes you want to come across in your statement. If you want them to know that you are a leader, then put that down. Make a list of about 8-10 attributes and then rank them. Keep in mind that you may only be able to focus on 3-5 of these in your statement. This does not mean that the others may not be included; it just means they are not a focus.

3. Components of personal statement

Including the different components will enhance your personal statement. It will be helpful to reference these while writing. By doing so, your statement will remain consistent throughout. The following is a short list of some of the components of a personal statement.

      • Write it in the first-person
      • Keep the reader in mind
      • Relate to the audience
      • Use a theme throughout (attributes)
      • Make smooth transitions
      • Provide examples

 

4. How can you best portray the attributes you chose in your personal statement?

Before you begin writing your personal statement, one must decide how they are going to write it.  There are an unlimited number of ways that you can go.  No matter how you decide to write your statement, remember to focus on the attributes that you chose. In general, your personal statement will either be in essay form or story form. Most students include a combination of both. Some make it more story based, while others insert short stories into their essays. At this point, you will want to figure out what is going to suit you best.

5. Beginning the process of writing

Now you are ready to begin writing your personal statement. You will more than likely write several drafts and start over more than once. That is ok; everyone has to go through the same process. It will be easier to reflect and write about your attributes if you keep or kept a personal journal of your experiences. It does not have to be pages long per experience but enough details to help you recall the experience and what you learned from the experience.  Your journal can include things like mission trips, community service, hobbies, or dental related experiences. Reflect upon your experiences. Write them out if you have not already. Don’t worry whether the wording is pretty or if it is all that smooth. Just get the experience down

6. Including your attributes in your personal statement

With a few of your experience written down, it is time to add some attributes. If you wrote down an experience about a mission trip then look back to the list of ten attributes that you wrote down and see which ones best fit the story or experience. Begin rewriting the story focusing on these attributes. If on your mission trip you were a leader of some sort then you may want to focus on that. You may also be able to include teamwork or interpersonal skills in the same experience if those are attributes that you chose to focus on. It may take a few drafts of each experience to get it the way that you want. Refine the experiences and make sure that you have included your top 3-5 attributes.

7. Refining your personal statement

With your experiences polished and all of your attributes included, it is time to put together and refine your personal statement. Remember that the length of your statement is limited to about 4,500 characters. You will want to come up with an attention-grabbing introduction, along with a conclusion that ties the paper together.  Once, you’ve come up with a solid draft and feel like you can share it with others, then share it with others. Take it to the writing center at your school for grammatical errors and suggestions. In addition, have professors, dental students, pre-health advisor, and whoever else you can get your hands on read and critique it. You are not going to be able to please everyone but at least you are receiving lots of feedback. Take it for what it is worth and make the corrections that you feel necessary.

In the end, you want your personal statement to be an easy read for the admissions committee. It should also be unique, eye-catching, filled with details, and interesting. Remember they are reading hundreds and some schools even thousands of these. What sets you apart from the rest? The obvious answer is, you are not everyone else! You are unique and different, but it is up to you to show them.

The following is a list from my pre-health advisor on what you should and should not do while writing a personal statement.

Do’s

  • Understand who your audience is.
  • Give direction with a theme or thesis; the main point you want to communicate.
  • Before writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order of presenting it.
  • Start with an attention-grabbing lead.
  • Use concrete examples from YOUR life.
  • Be unique by telling them what excites, or has had an impression on you.
  • Be honest
  • End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead  theme.
  • Revise and proofread many times.

Don’ts

  • Don’t include information that doesn’t support the theme or thesis.
  • Try and stay away from the “I” syndrome.
  • Don’t write an autobiography, itinerary or resume.
  • Don’t try and be a clown (gentle humor is okay)
  • Don’t be afraid to start over.
  • Don’t try and impress with unnecessary big vocabulary.
  • Don’t provide great quotes unless you really live by it and can support it with all your heart.
  • Don’t give generic statements.
  • Don’t make excuses, explain circumstances and learning.