Sunday, July 15, 2012
The Personal Statement Essay: 5 Tips for standing out from the crowd and getting into nursing school
Most nursing schools require you to write a personal statement as part of the application process. This can be a daunting task because it is both very personal and very high stakes. I truly believe that my strong personal statement was a key reason why I was accepted into every one of the second career nursing programs I applied to. These included VERY competitive schools such as UC San Francisco, UCLA, and the University of San Diego.
Friends have asked me to review and edit their personal statement essays since then and there are some common mistakes that many people make, which I want to help you avoid. So, without further adieu, here are my top 10 tips for writing a winning personal statement:
#1 Highlight your experience
As a future second career nurse, you have life experiences that have shaped who you are. Ideally, focus on direct patient care experiences and how they effected your choice to apply to nursing school. If you do not have this particular experience, then tie whatever it is you have done to nursing. Avoid talking in generalities about personal attributes such as “caring” “compassionate” or “a people person”. The person reading your essay wants evidence that you are these things and that you know what you are getting into. Personally, I highlighted my experience as an emergency medical technician working in the emergency room and played this up in a big way. Find your most applicable experience and sell the hell out of it!
#2 Avoid the word “unique” like the plague
I have heard over and over again from nurses and administrators that this word is so overused in personal statements that they will literally stop reading your essay. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ever ever ever use the word “unique” in your personal statement for any reason, whether you are describing yourself, your experience, or your background…. EVER!
#3 Tell a story
Nursing school personal statements are generally fairly short so this tip can be a challenge, but you want to tell a cohesive story with a beginning middle and end that engages your reader and makes them care. The beginning will often be either in your childhood or an early formative experience that started you down the path to applying to nursing school. The middle will be all the hard work you have done thus far to make yourself the most amazing applicant that has ever sent in their application to this fine institution. The end is where you involve the reader by implying that your desired end is to go to this amazing nursing school and go on to be a world-changing nurse. Let the reader feel like the decision they make will determine they outcome of your story. If you can pull this off, you will make it very difficult for them to say no to you.
#4 Follow instructions
This seems self-explanatory but if the personal statement directions say 2 pages, 2 pages and 3 lines is NOT OK. The ability to follow instructions is an important skill in nursing school and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by demonstrating a lack of ability to do this. Prune your essay by giving to someone else, who is not so close to the essay and ask them to mark the 3 least important sentences and take them out. Read the instructions and follow them.
#5 Absolutely no grammatical or spelling errors
I consider myself a pretty good writer, but if you take a close look at this blog, I am sure you will be able to find some grammatical or spelling errors. Keep in mind, this is EVEN THOUGH I am using Microsoft Word’s spell-check feature. But this is a blog, and your personal statement is your career as a nurse, so take the time to show it to other people and read it over many times, especially after you change something. Spelling or grammar mistakes can kill an otherwise amazing essay.
I really hope these help you as you begin to craft your nursing school personal statement. Please leave comments and become a member of my blog!
Posted by The Second Career Nurse at 7:00 PM