Chapter 1

Breaking Through the Blank Document Barrier

 

 

How often have you told yourself you must start your personal statement – and how often have you put it off “for a few days”?  Quite a few times, if you’re a typical pre-health professional student.  A blank piece of paper and a mountain of information to choose from – no wonder you procrastinate!  But soon you’ll be studying for the MCAT, DAT, or another grueling entrance exam, and will have even fewer opportunities to work on it. 

 

Ideally, you should begin your first draft at least a full year before you submit your application.  In order to create the best possible essay, you must give yourself enough time to complete the task properly.

 

The personal statement is not something you can knock out in an hour before dashing off to class.  By now you’ve written enough term papers to know that you have to do some solid research if you expect an A.  The same is true for your personal statement.  You must first gather together all the information about yourself that is relevant to your application; you must dig into that mountain of information and extract the very best you have to offer.  Then you must plan, write, reflect, rewrite, ponder, rewrite, obtain feedback, rewrite, polish – your statement must be the closest thing to perfection you have ever written.

 

In general, here is what health professional schools want to know:

·        The reason(s) you chose this career.

·        If your perceptions of the profession are realistic.

·        How you have tested your commitment to the profession and the results of those tests.

·        The qualities you have that are necessary to be a good practitioner.

·        What you have had to overcome, and how hard you will work to achieve your goal.

·        How you will be an asset to the school and the profession.

·        Your professional goals.

 

Before you can write about these things convincingly, you must invest time in thorough, honest self-analysis and research.  In the next chapter you will complete five steps designed to bring out all the information about you that could be of interest to an admissions committee.  The result of this analysis will be a body of personal information that becomes the basis for your statement.  When you spread this analysis over a number of small steps, and over a number of weeks (not hours!), you will gain insight into the accomplishments that will make you stand out from the rest.

 

By spending several days on each step, you allow yourself time to reflect and remember.  Our brains do not always follow a linear path; a memory can come out of nowhere hours or days after we first consider a question.  Make the most of this neural quirk by taking your time to compile your answers. 

 

Purchase (or re-allocate) a small notebook, one that will fit in your pocket or purse.  (If you prefer to keep our guidelines and your inspirations in the same package, you can use the blank pages at the end of this book.)  Keep it with you everywhere you go – to class, to work, even to the gym.  As you go about your normal routine, think about the step you’re working on and write down the things you do that apply to that step.  Ideas will pop into your mind at odd times; don’t take a chance of losing them.  Granted, the things you scribble at Houlihan’s Irish Pub on Friday night might not make much sense on Saturday morning, but keep writing!  Remember, you’re compiling data for an A+ paper!

 

 

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Chapter 2

How Am I Unique?

 

 

Self-assessment step #1 – Qualities of a Health Professional

 

Spread over the next few pages is a chart listing qualities required of a successful health care professional.  At the bottom of the chart are a few blanks for you to write in those that are specific to your desired profession.  These are the qualities you must demonstrate to present a successful application.

 

Important clues to the qualities sought by individual schools can be found in publications offered by many national associations for their respective schools.  For a list of publications and ordering information, see “Resources,” Appendix B.

 

In the middle column, write down everything you have done that demonstrates that you have that quality.  Use every aspect of your life – in addition to academic work, consider volunteer work, club activities, work experiences, family obligations, sports – everything!

 

In the last column, write down what you can do before you submit your application to make that quality a stronger part of your application.

 

After your first burst of writing, put it aside and go on about your normal day.  Keep your notebook with you, and makes notes whenever something new pops into your mind. 

 

Be completely, brutally honest in your self-evaluation.  You may be able to fool yourself if you overstate your accomplishments, but you will not have an accurate assessment of your overall application.

 

[continues with the Self Assessment Step #1 Worksheet and the Assessment wrap up]

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Self-assessment step #2 – Professional Values

 

Will you be a successful practitioner?

 

Complete the chart below.  Listed are a number of values that are important to a health care professional.  In the space provided, describe how you demonstrate those values and why they are important to your career goal.  Don’t try to do this all at once.  Choose a few each day and keep them in mind as you follow your normal routine.  Observe yourself demonstrating (or not demonstrating) each of these values, and write it down in your notebook. 

 

Values of a Health Professional

Where I stand

Attentive listener

 

Committed to continuous learning

 

Committed to professional standards

 

Compassionate

 

Cooperative (team player)

 

 

[List continues]