Telling Your Story
Your personal statement is a very important piece of your application and should be given a high degree of attention in the process. You can begin creating your first draft as soon as you want, but serious work should be done a few months before applying.
The essay is a great place to tell your story. By this we mean showing the admissions committee more about who you are by choosing experiences you have had and telling a well-crafted story that contains a theme synthesized throughout each paragraph.
Creating a Theme
As soon as you arrive at UCD (or as soon as you read this), buy yourself a journal and begin jotting down all of your impressions on your experiences.
First, make a list of all of the most impactful moments in your life. Start from childhood and go through college. Write a paragraph about each, describing what you did (your actions, behavior, decision making) and what you thought as a result. How did that experience move you to a new place?
Read through all of those impactful moments and try to find a theme. What concept is infused throughout your life? Is there a pattern or reoccurring series of events that has appeared in your life? Do past events parallel with current activities? Try to name those. Once you name it, what does that mean about your future plans?
Don't use your essay as a list of experiences. Your experiences page or resume will tell them what you have done. Use your essay to tell them something they do not already know about you.
Think about your essay as a piece of writing. A good piece of writing has a theme. When you are beginning a draft, write several paragraphs of incidents in your life that were defining moments. Read these paragraphs over and over until you discover a concept or theme synthesized through more than one. Once you have identified a common thread in 2-3 stories, rewrite it using those stories and with that theme in mind.
You do not need to tell your audience anything. Show them through your story what you are about.
Do not use your essay to criticize medicine today. You are not going to change the way medicine is practiced single-handedly. If you want to point out flaws in current practice or society, be quick to acknowledge how you will be a part of the solution, not the solution itself. (An example, "I have seen many patients suffer and I want to stop my patients from suffering." -You won't be able to stop your patients from suffering but you can be sure to comfort each patient and offer accurate information and appropriate advice.
It's ok to address systemic problems, but do so through your story. Your essay is not the place to spout your agenda.
Just avoid the "I want to help people" theme if possible. There has to be more to you than that. Think harder.
You can begin thinking about your essay as early as your first year. Your personal statement will take many shapes and forms over the years as you grow and experience new things. If you are in the early stages of deciding to pursue a health profession, sit down and try to answer the question "Why do you want to be a _____?" Keep your writing in your HPA folder and revisit it from time to time on your educational journey.
You should begin seriously working on your statement around six months away from the due date. Allow yourself plenty of time to revise. A good piece of writing will take many revisions with several sets of eyes. Around January of the year you are applying, you can schedule an appointment with an advisor in HPA to discuss your essay.