Get Inspired For Your Medical School Or PA School Personal Statement

May 16 / Deborah Gutman
Are you stuck staring at a blank page? You are not alone.

Writing is hard and it is supposed to be hard. Self-reflection, authenticity, and clarity take time. You summon your muse through hard work. That is why it is important to leave yourself enough time to work on your personal statement.

This is not going to be another blog telling you what “not to do” on your personal statement, but rather, what you can do to get started on your personal statement. 
Here are five ways to get inspired for your personal statement.

1) Read a lot. Just don’t read other people’s personal statements. I understand the impulse to go online and find other people’s personal statements, but ultimately that is not particularly productive – it will just make your personal statement sound like the thousands of other personal statements. Find personal narratives that evoke emotion and feel authentic to get inspired. Pay attention to how and why the writer creates a feeling. Pay attention to how they deliver a clear message in a concise essay. Here are a few good places to find inspiration:
  • The New York Times’ personal narrative essay contest
  • Paul Kalanithi Writing award winners
  • The New York Times “My Story”
  • JAMA A piece of my mind column

2) Write a lot (I mean a lot). Sometimes writing about something other than why you want to be a doctor or PA will get things flowing. This is NOT wasting time, it is creating the back story that will help you identify themes and experiences that create the narrative thread of why you have chosen your career. Writing exercises are helpful down the line for interviews and supplemental essays. Try these:
  • Brave and Interesting Questions
  • Over 1,000 Writing Prompts for Students
  • 445 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing

3) Work on a “values” exercise. Instead of starting from a place of figuring out which “experiences” you want to write about, focus on what values and traits you want to highlight. That requires that you identify your values. If you are a visual or tactile person you can try the essence objects exercise, otherwise, you can go straight to the living into our values exercise.
  • The College Essay Guy’s Essence Objects Exercise
  • Brene Brown’s Living into Our Values Exercise

4) Develop a mission statement. Begin at the end of your personal statement. Figure out where you are trying to take the reader by writing a mission statement.

5) Talk out loud. Written language and verbal language are very different. Once you put a pen and paper (or keyboard) in someone’s hand they change their tone and language. You want your personal statement to sound like your spoken word and voice. The easiest way to do this is to talk out loud. Record yourself on your phone or grab a friend or family member and speak to them while they write down what you are saying. Take away the keyboard and the pen and you’ll find it is much easier to get your ideas out. Then use a transcription app or program to make your words into writing.