Tips on Writing an Effective Personal Statement: Have I got the M.E.A.L. Ticket for You?

You have spent years completing challenging courses prerequisites, volunteering countless hours, and gaining experiences in your desired field of study. Yet, the only thing between you and submitting your admissions application is THE personal statement.

Regardless of your health profession of choice, medicine, dentistry, PA, OT, PT, nursing, or veterinary medicine, every health profession’s admissions program requires a personal statement. Specifics will vary depending on the program, especially regarding details such as character count and types of experiences to emphasize in summary. Most programs ask a version of “why” you want to pursue the profession and “what” you have done to prepare yourself for the chosen career.

The number one mistake students make in a personal statement is spending too much time developing their background story for their “why.” What programs want to know after you discovered your “why” is “what” did you do to nurture and develop this passion?

MEAL (Motivation – Experience – Aspirations – Links) is a helpful acronym for health professions students writing an admissions application personal statement, telling both the “why” and the “what” of their journey.

MOTIVATION. Begin by stating your reason for pursuing a particular field of study. For example, why do you want to study and practice medicine? What about the area is unique and draws you to it? Next, note and briefly explain your reasons for wanting to become a specific healthcare provider. This immediately lets readers know that you are a serious applicant, well-researched, with excellent initial knowledge of the profession, and believe it is your only career choice. Be direct and clear about why it is what you want to do!

EXPERIENCE. Describe one or two valuable experiences observing specific health professionals, working with unique patient populations, or volunteering in the community serving the disadvantaged. Explaining what you learned from each experience makes it clear to readers that you understand the multifaceted nature of the profession. Finally, drawing connections between your experiences and your desire to attend professional school shows self-reflection, writing, and critical thinking skills to help you stand out.

ASPIRATIONS. It is essential that you address your future career goals. As a practitioner, what do you hope to do? Do you desire to work with the aging population, or do you want to work in community health and advocate for public health programs? Let your readers know your goals and how you plan to contribute to your community and the profession as a future graduate of their program.

LINKS. A personal statement is usually sent to many programs. This is not the place to discuss a specific program’s unique characteristics or features. However, you can use the STAR method to link your characteristics and experiences in the personal statement to highlight the attributes in the programs you seek to gain attention. Tell stories by explaining the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The Situation allows you to set the scene and give succinct and necessary story details. The Task enables you to describe your role or responsibility. The Action explains precisely what steps you took, and the Results are the outcomes, including data or critical takeaways you learned from experience. The best essays will LINK what a profession offers and what you offer, helping admissions officials and readers better understand how you might contribute to their profession if you were accepted.

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