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Writing Personal Statements

All health professional schools require applicants to submit a "Personal Statement" during the initial application phase. This statement is a critical element in the application process and can significantly help or harm a student's chance for success. This page is a tool to help you begin your personal statement. In addition to using this page, it is imperative that you consult with your pre-health advisor for further assistance. 

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is…

  • A revelation of your personality
  • Includes your strengths, beliefs, and values
  • Uses concrete, vivid details to demonstrate the qualities and characteristics you possess and will also aid you as a health care provider
  • Your first (and perhaps only) opportunity to sell yourself

This statement is your initial opportunity to address the admissions committee. This statement can lead to an interview IF you express your commitments, motivations, and values. The personal statement should be a reflection of the unique individual that you are.

What should I include in my personal statement?

Review the following video and information below to learn how to write a personal statement for professional school: 

Discuss WHY you are interested in the chosen profession

  • Schools want to assess your motivation for this career before they ask for an interview.
  • Are there events, people and /or experiences that reinforced your interest? Share personal vignettes that support your stated interest and motivation.
  • Avoid clichés and undocumented generalizations about wanting to help people. Remember that numerous other professions cite "helping people" in their mission statement.
  • Before starting this statement, ask yourself “...what have I done to personally convince myself that I want to be a...?"
  • Being a health care provider often means a lifetime of giving back to society--what sustained commitment have you made to humanitarian activities?

Consider discussing individuals or incidents that have shaped your life

  • Avoid extensive references to childhood or high school experiences. Granted early exposure to medicine may have sparked an interest, but should not be the reason behind your pursuit of this goal. You must convey that you've made an adult decision to pursue this career.

ELABORATE upon extracurricular activities and/or volunteer/work experiences that you have listed elsewhere in the application

  • Do not make the mistake of merely re-listing these activities.
  • Use this opportunity to give new information about your involvement which is not listed elsewhere. Since many students are involved in a number of activities, focus on noteworthy ones.
  • Describe the depth of your involvement in a fashion that implies you have certain characteristics necessary to be a good health care provider.
  • Discuss your contribution, what you have learned from the experience, and the personal satisfaction you have gained. Discuss the personal impact of these activities.

Consider personal qualities that have been developed and/or enhanced through such involvement

  • Do not write "I am a warm, compassionate person"-let the reader draw his/her own conclusions after reading your statement.
  • Describe your experiences so that the reader concludes you are mature, independent, etc.--refrain from directly telling them so.
  • Consider responses to the following questions: What did you learn? How has this reinforced your interest in the chosen profession?

Use this as an opportunity to answer any perceived questions

  • Most applicants will not need to use this space to explain academic irregularities. However, if you have a significant number of "W's" or "I's" on your transcript, you may wish to consider addressing the reasons in the statement.
  • Do not use the entire space to discuss your transcript and leave other questions about motivation and activities unanswered.
  • If necessary briefly explain the nature of the situation and accept responsibility for your academic record.
  • Consult with your pre-professional advisor if you need further guidance.

Many students wish to write about their personal philosophy

  • Caution, this is a tricky thing to discuss in the statement because you may come across as being narrow-minded or intolerant to different opinions.
  • While your personal philosophy is important, it is a difficult task to produce a relevant and sincere statement while discussing these items.
  • Weigh the pros and cons before deciding to include this item. Perhaps your philosophy is better discussed at the interview.

Non-traditional background

  • If yes, use it to your advantage.
  • If returning to school after a significant gap in time, describe why your career change is a well thought out decision.
  • Focus on the positives of your current career while describing how medicine will fill the gaps of what is missing.

What format should I use?

This statement must be well written with an introduction, body and conclusion. Do not expect your first draft to be the final product. Once the statement is complete, it is beneficial to have it reviewed by several individuals with different perspectives. An individual who has good editing skills for both spelling and grammar usage is of particular importance.

Take advantage of the consultants in the "Writing Center" in 300 Bessey Hall and various residence halls who are available to work with writers at all levels of proficiency and at various stages of the composing process.

  • Call (517) 432-3610 to schedule an appointment.
  • The campus grammar hotline (517) 432-1370  can also be consulted for current information of proper grammar usage.

When writing the statement take advantage of the maximum number of characters allowed. You are given a certain amount of space for a reason, and using one-half page does not convey a strong interest in the application. If you are submitting an application through a service (i.e. AMCAS), do not express an interest in a specific health professional school. Your application may not be very successful if MSU-CHM reads about your strong interest in U of M.

Personal Inventory Questions

Download the Personal Statement Questionnaire for more assistance with identifying and developing elements you want to include in your finalized personal statement

Schools Not Participating in Application Service

Personal statements sent directly to schools not participating with an application service should include a brief discussion of your interest in the school and its program.

Maximum characters by application service:

Profession Application Service Maximum Character Count
Allopathic MD AMCAS 5,300
Dental DDS & DMD AADSAS 4,500
Occup. Therapy OTCAS 7,500
Osteopathic DO AACOMAS 5,300
Optometry OptomCAS 4,500
Pharmacy PharmCAS 4,500
Physical Therapy PTCAS 4,500
Physician Assistant CASPA 5,000
Podiatry DPM AACPMAS 4,500
Public Health SOPHAS 1,500

Pre-Health Advisors

Request Pre-Health Tracking Code

Contact for Current Students 

Undergraduate Academic
Student Affairs
Natural Science Building
288 Farm Lane, Room 108
East Lansing, MI 48824

Email: natsci.prehealth@msu.edu
Phone: (517) 355-4470

Schedule an Appointment

Contact for Alumni and MSU Graduates

Please call (517) 355-4470 to schedule a Pre-Health Appointment

Follow us on Instagram @msu_prehealth and visit the Pre-Health Student Blog!

Contact for Prospective Students

Gabby Wahla, M.A.
Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator
Email: natsci.explore@msu.edu  
Phone: 517-355-4470