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Write, Revise, Revise Some More

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

The Personal Statement, continued . . .

Well, my little experiment didn’t go so well.  No one seems to have read my last post, and even if you had you couldn’t have commented in a truly interactive way because the College (I now know) screens all comments to blogs, and that slows the process of commenting considerably.  OSPGD's Launchpad blog is one of the firsts of its kind at F&M, we learned, and no one had ever wondered before why comments don’t appear right away or how this might affect readers.  ITS is looking into it.  So, you couldn’t have picked the essay intro you liked best even if you’d wanted to—not without waiting several days for your comment to appear and wondering the whole time if you should re-submit it.  But never fear.  Until we have a real interactive blog, I’ll keep writing into the void.

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion of course, but the right answer to the little quiz on March 19 was C.  While each excerpt had something going for it, A was about the profession and not the applicant (personal statements need to hold their focus on the author); B was taking on way too much for a short application essay (and will end up becoming a resume, not an essay); and D drew the reader’s attention toward stylistic “cleverness” and away from anything substantial about the applicant.  There.  Aren’t you relieved?  I know the suspense has been agonizing.

I should remind you that we have a section of the Health Professions Advising website devoted just to the personal statement, including a detailed handout with many do’s and don’ts.  There’s also an audio recording of an info session I did last spring for the students and alumni getting ready to write their application essays, but before you spend an hour listening to that session you might instead view the webinar I did with Justin Hopkins from the Writing Center, “Writing Effective Personal Statements for Graduate & Professional School,” archived here.  Part of Tammy Halstead’s wonderful F&M Alumni Webinar Series, this session is available to current students as well, once you register.  If you’re the type of writer who stares at a blank screen for hours (days, weeks . . .), Justin’s exercises in the webinar are terrific for getting started.  And don’t forget that F&M’s Writing Center is staffed with trained writing assistants who are really into critiquing your work, helping you pinpoint your main ideas and figure out what it is you really want to say about yourself. Last but not least, the updated edition of the book I’m editing, called Write for Success, will be published in June; we’ll make sure to have a copy or two available for you at the HPA/OSPGD office to check out.

Clearly, you’re not wanting for resources when it comes writing a successful personal statement for your med, dental, vet, etc. applications.  If you devote some time to researching the materials listed above; if you don’t worry about uttering perfect sentences but rather dive into a draft bravely, knowing that you will go through many drafts before you’re done; if you actually do revise many times (and allow enough time to do this); and if you have someone you trust read your work for tone, typos, and grammar, you will maximize the impression you make on this crucial part of your application to health professional school.  Remember, the overall objectives for the personal statement are to tell them something in-depth that they do not learn from another part of your application, and ultimately to make them want to invite you for an interview.  Reveal something meaningful and unique about yourself, and leave them wanting to know more . . .

One last note:  For applicants to health professional school intending to matriculate in 2015, there will be a detailed information session coming up later this month (read your email). 

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