The Personal Statement is generally required if you are applying to law school or a healthcare oriented program such as medical or dental school or a Masters in Physician Assistant studies. There may be an essay prompt that provides a specific direction but your writing should generally answer the question “Why do you want to become a lawyer, doctor, dentist and/or physician assistant?” Depending on the type of program you are applying to you may write one statement that is aggregated with other required documents and creates a singular application. Or you will be able to more specifically align each statement with the school/program you are applying to.
Private universities may ask other types of essay questions that are akin to a Personal Statement. The intent is often to elicit an answer as to why you want to attend their school/program in particular. These essays require you to do some research about the curriculum and special attributes of the school/program and indicate how you would contribute in this area and how the program will benefit your particular career goals.
As with all essay writing for graduate school, be sure and get feedback from others, both those who know you well and those with expertise in crafting a compelling statement.
The list below is not a comprehensive summary of all the professional programs that require Personal Statements, but links to various resources that provide suggestions, insights and advice. You will find an extraordinary wealth of information on the web. Here are also links to example essays from successful students: AH Law School Personal Statement; SC Medical School Personal Statement; SG Dental School Personal Statement.
*If you are applying for a program that also asks for a Statement of Purpose in addition to the Personal Statement then you should follow the instructions for the Personal History essay instead of the instructions here for a Personal Statement. Programs often use the same names for different essays but you will usually find a prompt or description of the kind of essay they want and the kinds of information that essay should include. When in doubt, contact the program or department and ask exactly what they are looking for.
Medical School: If you are applying to medical school you will apply through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) which is the centralized medical school application processing services of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Most US medical schools use this service to process applications. You will write a Personal Statement (usually called personal comments) for your primary application with a word count of 5,300 characters (including spaces). You will also be asked to write essays for your secondary applications. Below are links to medical school websites which provide additional advice about the Personal Statement.
- John Hopkins University Medical School This site offers helpful advice including suggested topics and themes to avoid.
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine You will find advice and 10 examples of Personal Statements.
- Indiana University Medical School Helpful Personal Statement warm-up exercises and a podcast with advice.
Dental School: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) administers the Associated American Dental Schools Application Services (AADSAS), a centralized application service for most US dental schools. You are given 4,500 characters (including spaces) to describe why you want to pursue a dental education and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals.
- Here is some advice from the ADEA about how to write the Statement.
- Additional advice from Duke University Pre-dental Society includes some sample statements.
Masters in Physician Assistant Studies: The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) administers the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), an application portal that allows you to apply to almost 90% of the Physician Assistant programs. These are the instructions for the Personal Statement: “In the space provided write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant. Keep your statement general as the same essay will be sent to all schools you will apply to.” You are allowed 5,000 characters (including spaces).
- You can find advice on how to write your statement at the website of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants (AASPA).
- Schools not taking part in the CASPA process can be found here.
Law School: The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) administers the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) which consolidates much of the pertinent information for your application including transcripts, recommendations, evaluations and your LSAT score. A report is then created and sent to the law schools to which you are applying. However, each law school has its own requirements for the Personal Statement and some allow additional essays as well. For comparison, below you can find instructions from three law schools regarding the Personal Statement and other writing you might want to include. You can see that the required statements may vary in length by school but the suggested content is similar.
- Personal statement (500 word limit). Please ensure the correct statement is submitted as updates or revisions are not accepted.
- “Why UCI Law?” Statement (500 word limit). Please ensure the correct statement is submitted as updates or revisions are not accepted.
- Optional statements (Diversity, LSAT and/or GPA addendum, etc.: You may write about multiple topics, however the total word count for all topics must not exceed 750).
- Personal statement of two to four pages (double-spaced, 12-point font). The statement may discuss any of a variety of factors, including academic promise, background information and any discrepancies in GPA and/or LSAT score; growth, maturity and commitment to law study as evidenced, for example, by extracurricular activities, community service, employment experience and advanced study; severe economic disadvantage or physical disability; other factors relating to diversity, including bilingual skills and unusual accomplishments, skills or abilities relevant to the legal profession.
- Supplemental materials for ALL applicants: All optional supplemental material (see below) combined with the personal statement should NOT exceed four pages. Supplemental addenda should follow your personal statement and be appropriately labeled within the personal statement document you plan to upload with your application. Supplemental materials submitted after the four-page limit has been reached may not be added.
- Diversity statement describing background or an experience that enables an applicant to bring a unique perspective to the study of law or contribute to serving diverse populations.
- Addenda (for example, LSAT, GPA, leave of absence from school, etc.) providing additional context and describing special circumstances necessary to evaluate the application fairly.
- A personal statement is required and assists the Admissions Committee in selecting a highly-qualified and diverse entering class. It is also used to assess each applicant’s written English skills. The personal statement provides each applicant with the opportunity to describe his or her interest in law school, the uniqueness of his or her character and experience, and his or her potential to contribute to Loyola’s community.
- The personal statement should be 2-3 pages in length, double spaced, using no smaller than 10 point font. The personal statement must be the original work of the applicant.