By: Jessica Ngo, UCSF School of Pharmacy
As you write your personal statement or supplemental applications, what happens when you find yourself stuck? Here are a few tips on how to get yourself back into the rhythm of writing:
1. Prepare Ahead
Before anything else, give yourself enough time. Though this might not be relevant if the application’s deadline is the next day, this will be helpful if you still have more application essays to write. Whether it’s your personal statement or supplemental application, take into consideration the extra time that goes into just writing your essay, especially if you normally suffer from writer’s block.
2. Stop Writing
Leave your work and come back to it in a few hours with a clear, fresh mind. Spending hours writing and revising the same one-page document might lead you to second-guess your ideas. After all, Michelangelo did not paint the Sistine Chapel in just one day. When you’re taking a break, do something you enjoy whether that means spending time outdoors, cooking, playing sports, etc. This will help get your mind off of your writing until you are ready to come back to it. When you revisit your work, you will be able to write and revise with a much clearer perspective.
Think about events, people in your life, or organizations you’ve been apart of that have made a significant impact on you. Brainstorm and make a list. As you think about these topics, you might be surprised to see what you come up with. You can then use these events and stories as building blocks for your essay.
Concerned about writing your personal statement for your PharmCAS application? UCSOP wants to help! It’s actually simple – start by thinking of your personal statement as a story about you—specifically, your academic and personal journey. Be sure to include commentary and reflection on how your academic and personal experiences have led up to you wanting to become a pharmacist. Your story should focus on:
- YOU! Talk about yourself. This one of the rare occasions in life you have to actually write about YOU! Take advantage of this opportunity. Explain why you want to be a pharmacist. Talk about the academic, personal and/or work experiences that have led you this point in your academic career.
- Setting yourself apart. Explain how you are different! Committees are looking for something personal as well as analytical. This might require you to disclose information you would not normally share and/or examine your life (successes and failures) more critically.
- Pharmacy. The writing prompt for PharmCAS is specific in that it asks applicants to discuss why they want to pursue a career in pharmacy. In order to capture the attention of committees, it is important to include discussion on why being a pharmacist is important to you. Has it been a life-long dream? Was there an experience or event that led you down this path? Share those things with details to demonstrate your commitment to pharmacy practice.
Still have writer’s block? Brainstorm! Get out a paper (any paper) and a writing implement (pen, crayon, marker—whatever is nearby) and start answering some of these basic questions:
- What is special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about your life story? Do you have notable accomplishments? Have you traveled the world? Do you volunteer to work with patients at a local hospital? Do you currently work in a pharmacy? You get where I’m going here . . . BRAINSTORM!
- Why are you interested in pharmacy? What area of practice might you like to pursue? Community pharmacy? Academic pharmacy? Managed care? Hospital? (Find out more about career options in pharmacy by visiting: http://www.aacp.org/RESOURCES/STUDENT/PHARMACYFORYOU/PHARMACYCAREERINFO/Pages/default.aspx.)
- What work experiences do you have in relationship to pharmacy practice? If you haven’t worked in a pharmacy, what other types of work experiences will help you when working with patients or just with the rigor of the academic program (interpersonal skills, caregiving skills, attention-to-detail, etc.)?
- What obstacles or hardships (personal, professional, academic) have you encountered along your journey?
- What skills/characteristics do you possess—leadership, perseverance, enthusiasm, integrity, etc. that will allow you to be successful?
- Why should the admissions committee be interested in you in particular? Again, brainstorm some ideas. Past academic excellence? Job-related experience? Personal experience?
WRITE! After brainstorming, it’s time to write! You may find it helpful to make an outline using your brainstorming ideas. Organize your thoughts with a strong introductory paragraph. Tell the committee who you are but also consider how your story relates to the desire to join the pharmacy profession. And don’t forget to PROOFREAD. Share with others too! Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes will catch mistakes you do not. Be sure not to hit submit until you are certain there aren’t any grammatical or content errors. And, above all, always be sure that your personal statement is just that, YOURS. Never copy or borrow another person’s work. This can delay your application or even stop the application process altogether!
Additional things to consider:
- Be mindful of the required word limit
- Proofread (more than once)
- Be sure to connect your discussion to pharmacy
- Be honest, open and truthful (but don’t overshare—you don’t want to include things that might cause a committee to question your judgment)
- Don’t write for a specific school*
Good luck with your application and your essay!
*The PharmCAS personal statement is intended for all schools to which you are applying.
Dr. Susan M. Gardner, Assistant Dean for Professional and Student Affairs
University of Charleston School of Pharmacy