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Read, Write, Vote!

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By Glenn N. Cummings, Ph.D., Director of Health Professions Advising

For those of you preparing to apply to health professional school this summer, the time has come to draft your application essay, the document that is typically referred to as the “personal statement.”  The rest of you are not off the hook, however—those of you who aren't applicants just yet should still write down some reflections about your health-related experiences, since keeping a loose “journal” of your volunteering, shadowing (even your extracurricular activities and your research) will help you in several ways along the pre-health path, most practically by building a reserve of material to draw from when application time arrives. 

I will be returning to the topic of the personal statement at least once more before summer.  For now, I’m hoping to enlist you to help me just a bit.  I’d like feedback on four short introductory paragraphs taken from personal statements in Write for Success:  Preparing a Successful Essay for Your Application to Health Professions School*, published by the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions.  I’m currently editing the upcoming new edition of this how-to book.  Read these sample intros, then use the “Comments” feature at the bottom of this post to tell me, a) which opening you prefer, and b) why.  In other words, give me your vote, but don’t forget to explain yourself briefly.  (You may have to register with Disqus in order to comment, but it takes just a few seconds.)

So, are you game?  It won’t take you long.  Here they are:

A.  The medical profession combines knowledge and wisdom from just about every aspect of life which is directed toward helping humanity.  A physician is not just part of the health care team but the leader of the health care team.  He is free to practice broadly or to acquire a specialty of his own choosing.  Thus medicine offers the challenges and fulfillment that I am seeking in a career.

B.  During my life, I have worn many ‘hats’:  student, researcher, medical assistant, drug rehabilitation counselor, EKG technician, insurance clerk, nurse’s aid and donut-maker.  My most rewarding experiences have been those which provided opportunities to help others in a medical setting.

C.  When I was a child, I watched the space probe Voyager’s launching.  Mystified by this event, I begged my mother for a satellite.  Instead of saying that it was too expensive or too impractical, my mother simply responded, ‘We’re not getting a rocket ship, because you’re not ready to appreciate it.’  At the time I was unimpressed by her refusal, but now it really makes sense.  Beyond the obvious idea that children and space probes don’t mix is the concept that life experience teaches one how to appreciate the opportunities that present themselves.  My academic and work experience have provided the preparation I needed to appreciate the opportunity and accept the challenges of medical school. 

D.  If I were an artist and had to paint a mural that would be representative of who I was, who I am, and who I will become, it would be a cacophony of colors.  This mural would be a continuum depicting the trilogy of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  The story my mural would tell would be exclusively mine as I travel down the road of life and each color would be representative of me.

Remember, which is the best opening to a personal statement, and why?  I’ll use your comments in a future blog post about this crucial part of the application process.  So, what do you think?  Don’t be shy!


*Evelyn W. Jackson & Harold R. Bardo, Write for Success, 3rd ed., NAAHP: 2005.

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