Personal Statements

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by twosoakers, May 14, 2007.

  1. twosoakers

    twosoakers Addict & Western U '11
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    Okay, I'm really very doubtful of how personal statements fit into the whole review process (and if they're even looked at). Maybe one of you can tell me different. But if they are, I'd like to offer some tips for writing 'good' personal statements. I worked in the writing lab at Purdue, and students were often coming in with personal statements for med/vet/pharm school, and completely lacking core elements of an essay:

    1. Tell a story. Begin and end with it. Tie all of your integral moments together with that story. Make sure the story shows not only your compassion but your committment and intellectual capability. Do not just state that you have wanted to be a vet since you were a kid. Give your reasoning. I had a pre-pharm student write that she wanted to practice pharmacology because her mother had cancer, and she felt helpless and wanted to help others. I thought that was great. While doing so, be sure to make the tone of your language POSITIVE! Do not sound negative/self-pitying/angry. The story should also convey your leadership abilities (and in cases such as Western, your ability to be both leader and team-player--but the supp. application for schools such as this require multiple other essays to showcase this aspect of your personality).

    2. Be certain to discuss ALL of your animal experience, as most vet schools do not accept CVs/resumes. From your 4-H at twelve up to your current experiences, including clinical (internships, etc), some casual (volunteer work unrelated to strictly clinical), and professional (conferences attended, professional memberships) (When students come into the lab, I ask them to write out their animal/vet experiences, and nine times out of ten, they aren't all included. Make a list of your experiences chronologically, and perhaps weave them into the story. Also, if you have a specific research focus, SHARE IT! It shows you have initiative and knowledge in the field. I had a girl come into the lab who wanted to work with the artificial insemination of sheep. She highlighted that in her essay; it showcased her previous experience AND showed the direction in which she wanted to go.

    3. Do NOT include things that the committee should not know (previously mentioned, I had a pre-vet student come in telling me her vet in GA allowed her to perform spays/neuters on shelter animals--she included this in the essay as 'vital experience,' but it could cost her her app. and the vet his license, depending on state law).

    4. Sometimes, if you can personalize the application (as at Tufts and Western through the supps.), it's a good idea to invoke current faculty and state the reasons you're choosing to attend that school in regard to that faculty. Investigate the research of that faculty, and suggest how it corresponds to your own future work/goals. You cannot do this on the main VMCAS app., unless you are only applying to one school.

    5. If you have any reason that the committee might reject you based on prior 'bad' grades or time differentials or other reasons, write an 'explanatory' essay suggesting why this was the case (however, I'm not sure this is effective at all because I did it for each school, and this did not stop the initial computer-GPA process from chucking my app.).

    6. If you are really concerned about the clarity/flow/overall success of your essay, and you do not have a writing lab on campus, you might want to consider professional editing services, which are rampant.

    7. Good luck! If you have questions, feel free to PM me.

    Other help:

    http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/preprof/essay.html

    http://advisingservices.ucdavis.edu/advising/hsa/handouts/writing_personal_statement_application_health_profession_school.html
     
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  3. Cheska

    Cheska Monkey Power!
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    Great idea Alice!! Very helpful :)
    Here are a few attachments (hopefully I can upload them) that helped me out also, they are from the CSU Writing Workshop that I went to.
     

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  4. PdxYOSHI

    PdxYOSHI Oregon State 2011
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    I think a general move that should be avoided is to start out with the "I've known I wanted to be a vet ever since I was three...." It seems like this way to start a personal statement is a killer for your chances. Generally every little kid wanted to be a vet at some point in their life and it really lacks creativity. In my opinion, you need to show how you stand out, what makes you unique, and how you have evolved to realize the veterinary medicine truly is your calling. But thats just my opinion.
     
  5. Cheska

    Cheska Monkey Power!
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    And here is one more! :luck:
     

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  6. twosoakers

    twosoakers Addict & Western U '11
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    Awesome, guys, thanks! Does anyone know if personal statements are truly 'read' during the admissions process? Are they only read prior to non-blind interviews? I wonder how this differs across schools. I've seen people spend weeks on their personal statements, only to be rejected based on some other more important criteria.
     
  7. PdxYOSHI

    PdxYOSHI Oregon State 2011
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    I think that most personal statements are read but it really probably depends on the school. I'm not sure if UIUC read my statement because it was a blind interview so I ended up talking alot about what I said in my personal statment. However, at schools that don't do interviews then its probably much more important to them. Furthermore some schools will make exceptions and accept you without an interview if they feel like they would accept you anyway. This was the situation in which I was accepted at Oregon so I'm assuming they probably read my personal statement in order to make that judgement. Plus it never hurts to have a well written statement to help you think about how to best describe your talents, weaknesses, and goals.
     
  8. jfitzpatri8

    jfitzpatri8 Trying my darnedest...
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    So, I just want to throw this out there. Y'all have heard the list of things not to do during the process to get into school. Yeah... I heard it, too. Trouble is, you end up hypnotizing yourself to do exactly those things.

    I did them all- yep, from using the first sentence of my personal essay as "I have always wanted to be a veterinarian" to actually saying, during my interview, "I love horses."

    Not a joke- well, its funny but I am not making it up.

    So... take heart. Your personality will shine through, past your flaws... and when you are really ready for vet school, one of them will notice. I can almost guarantee it.

    Just don't say "people always think I'm your wife" to your interviewer... 'cause when he introduces you to her at your orientation, and she says "oh, my competition," you will be horrified. Don't ask me how I know.

    (it was because my last name is Fitzpatrick, but everyone sees Fitz... and adds in Gerald. Fitzgerald. I was not trying to pick up on him. Really. But it did get me into Vet School, so I can't complain.)


    another soapbox found, ridden into the ground, and left for dead.
    J
     
  9. clawsbeatskin

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    I found out during my post application file review that TAMU doesn't even read your PS, LOR's or anything else if you're kicked to the curb early on.

    I was told that "with 1,000 applicants we can't possibly read all of them".

    Hrm, seems CSU and Western manage to find the time (and I believe they have considerably more applicants)
     
  10. twosoakers

    twosoakers Addict & Western U '11
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    Western had 700 applicants this time around.

    At least somebody reads them. Geez.
     
  11. clawsbeatskin

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    Thanks for the correction on Western. (and congrats on the acceptance!) I'm pretty sure CSU had more, though.

    I'm loving the 'subjective' approach some schools seem to support. I'm including Western, CSU, Michigan....any others?
     
  12. twosoakers

    twosoakers Addict & Western U '11
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    Thanks! I thought Tufts, would, too, but now I doubt it. Again, many applicants, automatic GPA dismissal.
     
  13. Angie09

    Angie09 Penn c/o 2012
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    I did that too! At my Davis interview, when they asked why I want to be a vet, I did a great job explaining my well thought-out, convincing, mature perspective about wanting to be able to both do interesting research AND do work that I can see making a difference in the world, and they were all nodding in agreement.........and rather than just stopping there, I said, "And, I really love dogs". I think I even giggled. (hangs head) But, they took me anyway! So this sort of thing can't be that bad. :)
     
  14. ri23

    ri23 OSU CVM Class of 2011
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    I know that in some of the post-rejection interviews some vet schools have recommended to people to re-work their personal statement. It's not surprising that schools don't read all of the personal statements. If you don't fit their minimum interview criteria as far as pre-reqs, GPA, and GRE score go, why would they? I'm sure if you petition the schools because you are barely away from the minimum, the school would read the PS to help make a decision on whether to grant an interview.

    I think the PS plays a minor role in most cases. Many people write things like "I have always wanted to be a veterinarian" and "I love horses/dogs" etc. and though I don't think these hurt your application, they certainly don't make it stand out. I think there are probably only a few applications that really stand out or send up red flags, but that is just speculation from my own experience after reading applications for various things.
     
  15. twosoakers

    twosoakers Addict & Western U '11
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    Yes, but that is such an erroneous system to begin with (merely looking at undergrad GPA and nixing you based on that). Why even have an self-explanatory section on the VMCAS app anyway? Rather pointless.

    Most veterinary schools I've encountered have been exceedingly unforgiving, despite the fact that you maintain a 3.8 graduate GPA in advanced chemistry and biology courses. In grad school you're expected to maintain a 4.0. And graduate courses are much more difficult than undergraduate courses. When I interviewed for the PhD program at OSU, the prof who took me to lunch asked if I was the student who had earned a 4.0 undergrad. I said, "No, but I have a 4.0 grad." She said, "Oh." And didn't really say much to me after that.

    Some schools don't even factor in repeats of courses. God forbid you don't have your goals/ambitions/professional desires straight at 20-years-old. And schools such as Western, which look beyond undergrad GPA scores, are criticized for being lax. :thumbdown:
     
  16. eep29

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    I may be of some help... since I am a residency administrator for human medicine, it's my job to go through all the applications we recieve and review everyones files. Our residents have to submit a PS. Last year we got 3000 applications. I went through the top 800 or so. I can tell you I read all 800 personal statements.

    They are important to us, but there are other components of applications that carry more weight. My genereal advice is to make sure not to write anything too outlandish and you should be fine.

    Hope that helps!
     
  17. critterfixer

    critterfixer Veterinarian
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    I actually told my interviewers I have a "strange and unexplainable fondness for cows." Now if THAT doesn't make them wonder, I don't know what will...
     
  18. clawsbeatskin

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    I can understand their unwillingness to read a PS from an applicant who does not achieve the minimum GPA requirement, but in this particular case, I did. If you meet the minimum, they should read it. It's part of your application, and while I admire those who pull off a 4.0 (having done so after a horrific undergrad record), numbers alone cannot possibly reveal the entire picture.
     
  19. JumptheMoon

    JumptheMoon UPenn Class of 2011
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    I have a lot of horse experience and practically no cow experience, and I believe I actually said the words "I don't know a lot about cows, but they intrigue me" at one of my interviews. :laugh:

    Oh well, they took me anyway!
     
  20. hopefulinPA

    hopefulinPA PennVet '11
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    LOL I told my interviewers I thought the weak part of my application was my lack of large animal experience outside of horses. It went something like:

    "I don't believe I've actually ever touched a real, live cow. But I'm not afraid to do so once I meet one."

    They laughed, and took me anyway ;)

    I think the key to PS is to be both honest and creative, and the same in interviews. I confessed allergies to animals in my PS, and I know at least my interviewer read it because he told me he received allergy injections as well! (And stuck up for me when the "cold" interviewer tried to insinuate that allergies might make me an unfit student)
     
  21. hopefulinPA

    hopefulinPA PennVet '11
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    JumptheMoon it looks like Penn is going to have a bunch of cattle novices!! :D
     
  22. sofficat

    sofficat AU CVM c/o 11
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    i always thought a PS should be.... personal! i wrote a story about pretty much the exact moment i knew i wanted to be a vet and went from there. i thought it was great, but when i didn't get an interview from my state school (UF), i set up a meeting with them. they told me that i should 'start from scratch' and just give them 'the facts' regarding my PS. pooey! i wanted to do something to stand out and be.... personal! i got into auburn... my 1st choice anyways (minus the whole 25K extra a yr that i now have to pay), so UF will just have to do without me!:)
     
  23. prevetblondie

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    I would love to talk to you and get some advice as I am starting the application process this month (especially since Western is my number one school!) Could I email you for advice?
     
  24. cs5910

    cs5910 The Ohio State CVM 2017

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    My personal statement was mentioned (in a good way) during both my Auburn and Ohio State interviews this year. Not mentioned at my other interviews. I do believe they are read.
     
    #23 cs5910, Jun 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  25. hygebeorht

    hygebeorht radiology is best ology
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    As one of those rampant professional editors, I agree with most of the advice here. However, I disagree with some of it.

    Agreed, this is good advice.

    I disagree - don't include all your vet experiences in your PS! This may be the case for other professional applications, but not for veterinary applications. All your experiences are already covered on the VMCAS. Instead, pick one or two standout veterinary experiences/moments to illustrate your personal narrative. Rule of thumb: if you covered it adequately in the VMCAS, don't waste space in your PS listing it.

    Agreed, this is a no-brainer.

    It is always good to show that you have done your research and are serious about considering the school you are applying for.

    Your PS should at least tangentially address something like bad grades, especially if you don't write about your grades in an explanatory essay elsewhere. Be careful. The tone is very tricky to master when writing about your shortcomings and hard times, and it's easy to come across as defensive or woe-is-me.

    DEFINITELY agree. I'm a great editor of others' work, but I can't objectively edit my own, so I farmed it out. A good editor can tighten up your essay, helping to reveal your authentic voice and helping with tone and flow. In my experience, both on the writing and reading end, a good personal statement can really boost a not-so-strong application.

    My last piece of advice is not to write about anything that another person could just have easily written about. What experiences do you have that are unique among all the applicants? The PS is a place to showcase yourself, to put a face on the application. Keep the tone friendly and professional. Talk about your career goals. And if you don't hire a pro to work with you (which I of course highly recommend) then pick one or two people to help you edit. Don't go overboard with too many cooks.

    (Gratuitous plug: I offer editing services and will also give a quick glance for free. Look me up in the PS Readers thread.)
     
  26. cuitlamiztli

    cuitlamiztli onward and upward
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    This thread's from 2007 and I don't think any of the posters are still around. You'll have better luck getting advice with the personal statement readers or personal statement resources threads.
     
  27. DVMDream

    DVMDream Don't disturb the snowflakes
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    I 100% disagree. Your PS is the place in which you are trying to sell yourself, not explain bad things. If you are explaining how you overcame an extremely difficult time as the base of your PS and how that made you want to pursue vet med or something, fine, but otherwise leave things like bad grades, that one withdraw, the C in biochem or whatever it is you are freaking out about for the explanation statement, that is why it exists.
     
  28. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow Skipping the light fandango
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    Agreed. If you have to 'explain' something you think might raise eyebrows, use that section, not your PS. The director of admissions once told me that spending time in your PS talking about things like a history of bad grades is more likely to raise a red flag to the reader than help you. You do have to address unusual shortcomings, but the PS isn't the place.

    For my app (by way of example), I covered the history of failing out of college (twice) in my early years in the explanatory section. I spent two/three sentences detailing the factual history but twice as much space talking about what I learned from it and how I had grown in the intervening years. So even there I focused on the positive (in a way, using it as a chance to write a second mini-personal-statement). I didn't bring it up at all in my PS.

    Amen. I don't know if it carries from professional interviews to vet school interviewers, but if I ever even got a *whiff* of something being hidden or dishonest in an interview (something that should have been appropriate to discuss, that is), I steered clear of that applicant. Entirely possible it would just be me misreading their answer or non-verbal cues, but ... why take the risk. There were always plenty of applicants, and the last thing I needed was a bad hire.
     
  29. adams30

    adams30 Illinois c/o 2017!!!
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    I agree that you should not discuss bad grades in your personal statement as the PS should be a place to sell yourself and you don't want to taint that. Use the explanation essay in you need to write about bad grades (I wouldn't do it unless you have a significant reason why and make sure to explain what you learned from it).

    However ... if something in your personal life happened that might have hindered your academic performance and out of the whole process learned something about yourself and vet med than that could work in a personal statement.

    While it is good to discuss your animal and vet experience to show that you know and understand the profession try to prevent it from sounding like a resume or repeating your VMCAS, remember they have all that stuff. You can pull out a few significant learning experiences from your shadowing and discuss how those experiences allowed you to learn and understand more about the profession and what kind of a vet you will be.

    An adcom told me that one of the most important things to include in a PS is why/when did you make your ADULT decision to become a vet (not the "I wanted to be a vet since I was 5")
     
  30. ChittyBang

    ChittyBang c/o 2018 hopeful

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    Speaking of explanatory sections...

    Has anyone here had to deal with explaining being dismissed from a job? I noticed that being asked on some sample supplementals and, although I think I can give a good explanation, the thought of possibly having the app tossed for being honest scares the crap out of me.
     
  31. Kpowell14

    Kpowell14 Mizzou c/o 2017
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    VMCAS does not ask why you left a job, just a start and end date. You give a contact for each job listed, but not a single one of mine were contacted..

    ETA- none of the supplemental apps I filled out asked this either..

    I will say that honesty is the best policy!! I had to explain my (expunged) misdemeanor charge from when I was 18... I was honest about what happened, and it didn't prevent me from getting into my top choice school!
     
  32. EngrSC

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    Crap, seriously?? My first-ever job was at Subway when I was 16, would I really have to list a contact for that? :eek:
     
  33. ChittyBang

    ChittyBang c/o 2018 hopeful

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    Awesome, thanks! I saw it asked on Cornell's sample supp and one other and I was like, "ugh :( " I totally plan to be honest, but helpful hints would be welcome and helpful ;)
     
  34. kakurubird

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    There were a lot of things where I didn't put a phone number, I'm pretty sure. No one seemed to care.
     
  35. Kpowell14

    Kpowell14 Mizzou c/o 2017
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    I made sure and listed contacts for all of my jobs only bc they are all vet/animal related. I'm sure you can omit a couple here and there lol

    :thumbup:

    No one on my app was contacted for anything. So I wouldn't worry too much about leaving Subway blank lol
     

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