The Personal Statement is generally required for prospective students applying to law school or a healthcare oriented program such as medical or dental school or a Master 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 may be able to more specifically align each statement with the school/program you are applying to.
Other programs may also ask for a Personal Statement that is a combination of what we have described on this website as a Statement of Purpose and Personal History essay. If you are asked to write only one essay than it is best to address both aspects of the SOP and the PH essay while focusing primarily on your professional and research work. Programs often use the same names for different essays so it can get confusing. But you will usually find a prompt or description of the kind of essay each program wants 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.
As with all essay writing for graduate school, be sure and get feedback from others, both those who can correct grammatical errors and know how to write a compelling statement, as well as those with expertise in your field.
Here are example essays from successful students: AH Law School Personal Statement; SC Medical School Personal Statement; SG Dental School Personal Statement.
Below you will find a list of many professional programs that require Personal Statements. It is not comprehensive but is provided primarily for the links to various resources that offer suggestions, insights and advice. You will find an extraordinary wealth of information on the web.
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 for the essays as well as other aspects of the application process.
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.
Master 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 you designate on the CAS form. 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 (750 word limit). Please ensure the correct statement is submitted as updates or revisions are not accepted.
- “Why UCI Law?” Statement (750 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.
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