Tips for Writing an Effective Personal Statement
The application for the Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program at CU Boulder requires that you submit a personal statement limited to 5,500 characters (including spaces). The following information is provided to help you craft an effective statement within that character limit.
Please note – The application form works best if you type your response directly into the field provided. If you intend to copy and paste your statement from a word processing software, be cautious, as some of the formatting may carry forward and limit the space available to you. It is recommended that you paste as plain text. The personal statement field is designed to hold 5,500 Calibri or Helvetica characters in a 10 pt font.
When Writing Your Personal Statement
- Explain how you became interested in a career in health care and in this particular career. These topics should take up no more than about one quarter of your essay.
- Devote the bulk of your personal statement to discussing your most meaningful experiences on the pre-health path:
- How have they shaped your understanding of what it means to be a great health care provider?
- How have they allowed you to develop the personal skills that will make you great in your intended role? (Note: Do NOT blandly write, “X experience allowed me to develop Y attribute”; rather, share anecdotes and examples that implicitly convey those traits.)
- Convey how you will do better than simply becoming a competent clinician. What problem (large or small) do you hope to personally address once you are a clinician? What you say should naturally follow from the experiences you shared in the essay.
- Explain why are you interested in participating in CU Boulder’s Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program.
The Approach You Should Take
- Share illustrative anecdotes of relevant, meaningful experiences. Anecdotes help the reader get a sense of who you are by conveying your personal characteristics, values, and motivations.
- If you find yourself making a general statement that any other applicant could make, that is your signal to develop the thought further so you share your personal, specific reflections on your experiences.
Personal Statement Checklist
Our admissions team hopes to learn the following about your preparation and decision to change careers:
- What led you to become interested in a career in health care?
- What unique elements of your chosen health care career make it the best fit for you?
- What have you learned from health care providers you admire about outstanding approaches to patient care? How have you developed those same traits from your work and volunteer experiences?
- Why are you drawn to a career requiring a master’s or doctoral-level science education?
- Why are you passionate about patient care? What is your approach to offering care from your own experiences interacting with injured or ill patients in clinical settings?
- What is the positive change you hope to bring to the profession? Your answer may relate to the approach you intend to take to patient care. Or, if your past experiences led you to develop a strong interest in caring for patients in a special population (ex. medically underserved rural or urban populations, people with disabilities, etc.), say so. However, only make a statement to this effect if you can back it up with extensive, relevant experience.
Additional Suggestions for Your Personal Statement
- Proofread carefully! An essay containing spelling errors and/or grammatical mistakes is unprofessional and indicates a lack of attention to detail.
- If you were involved in research as an undergraduate or since graduation, be sure to speak to the intellectually satisfying aspects of doing research rather than the lab techniques you learned. We are interested in your intellectual engagement in the topic and in the critical thinking skills you used when dealing with unexpected results or difficulties.
- If you mention a person who has inspired you, do so in a concise manner. Refer to their example only as a way to lead into a discussion about your subsequent experiences, as inspired by them.
- When describing your patient interactions, focus on them rather than on the gratitude they expressed or the interest they took in your career path.
- If you overcame significant life challenges (ex. economic challenges, first-generation college student, etc.), speak to that. We consider it a strength.
- The personal statement should not be a chronological retelling of the activities you are listing in the Experience section of your application.
- Do not assume your reader read the Experiences section of your application; we usually read your Personal Statement first. When describing any activity, put it into context. That said, do not use valuable space to reiterate detailed information found in the Experiences section.
- Ask someone who knows you well to read your first draft and tell you if it sounds like you. Also ask people who do not know you well to read it and to give you feedback on the main impressions about you they gained from the essay. Which comments come up consistently among various readers? If those consistent impressions match what you hoped to convey, then you’re on the right track!
Topics to Avoid
The following topics are quite common in applicants’ personal statements. We recommend avoiding these topics so your essay sounds unique and personal.
- Describing the “eye-opening” or chaotic experience of an international medical relief trip or in an Emergency Department. (The chaos of a setting is not the point. The point is what you learned from the experience about authentic, compassionate service to others.)
- Referring to Paul Farmer or a TV show.
- Beginning the essay with a statement indicating that you have/haven’t always known that you want to be a health care professional.