Sample Admission Essays For Physical Therapy School
Topic: What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapist degree program?
Professionalism, in the general sense, is upholding one's own profession to the highest standard. As a student in a doctor of physical therapy program, professionalism means to continuously expand my knowledge on rehabilitation, make strides to communicate with colleagues and patients alike, and uphold a set of ethical and fair morals. A commitment to the aforementioned duties will shape my future as a graduate student and as a rehabilitation professional.
It is without a doubt that without knowledge, there will be no progress. Someone who is ignorant to traditional or "old-fashioned" methods of treatment will be able to treat a certain number of patients. As a student pursuing a career in physical therapy (PT), I will always look forward to learning about new methods to treat a patient of his or her pain and/or discomfort. There is no such thing as knowing enough since there will always be new cases of patients who will require special and individualized treatments. Being able to experience a clinical environment firsthand, I was able to see how knowledge is power when it came to treating patients. Throughout my internships at several physical therapy clinics, the PTs continuously educated the patient and I throughout the entire interaction. She was explaining her approach to treating her patients while making sure both the patient and I understood what the problem is and what the protocol for treatment is. Being able to confidently teach something so specialized, like rehabilitation, is a key goal of mine to achieve in a graduate program.
As people, we are all subject to a set of rules and laws which are in place to maintain the environment from running amok as well as protection. Being a PT student is no different. In fact, we are held to a much higher standard because we are learning to deal and help others in pain on a daily basis. During my internship, I was given the opportunity to work with patients by explaining and guiding them through their prescribed exercises of the day. Oftentimes, they were patients who only needed complete their strengthening exercises and they were free to go. Given that I wasn't allowed to touch a patient, guiding the patients can get tricky. Although challenging, it was a great learning experience to teach the patient in a way that allows the patient to learn. It taught me how it important it is to be able to communicate with patients in an effective manner, which is a quality that makes up professionalism. Proper communication is definitely pertinent to a career like physical therapy, in order for both the therapist and the client to have true altruistic relationship.
Not sure where to go from here, I just wrote this without much planning. Had to start somewhere
Feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Howard, honestly, as I go through the essay, I must say that the words you use in your sentences are very clear, it exudes the clarity of the ideas that you want to convey in your answer. Though the prompt is quiet heavy and geared towards a serious standing on professionalism, I believe you manage to express a positive and rather lighter meaning to the word and its meaning.
Further to your essay, you we're having doubts with the last few sentences of the essay due to the fact that you have exhausted all the pertinent information for the topic and as much as I would like reading your essay, I think you have stretched the idea too long that you run out of information to fulfill the answer to the prompt. However, you don't need to, I believe, aside from the minor enhancements as mentioned above, you can definitely focus on refining the sentence construction as this is a crucial part of the essay.
Overall, it is a well managed essay, the length can still be dragged down to just 2 paragraphs but make sure that you don't eliminate the necessary information and don't worry, a prompt like this doesn't need to be that long, it's just needs to be straight forward and direct to the point.
You have a great start to your essay so far! Your writing seems focused, clear, and academic, so nice job there!
Are you looking to extend your essay or just write a conclusion? If you are looking to extend it, it might be helpful to think about boundaries, as professionalism and boundaries tend to go hand in hand. Some examples of boundaries and general professionalism could be:
-not fraternizing with clients about non-work related things or maybe letting them feel like you might be able to have a non-PT related relationship (like friends or even more
-ensuring that your touch and all of your actions are professional
- being reliable, on time, etc...
-being ethical (not taking advantage of clients)
There are tons of ways to write about being professional.
That's really all I have for you today. Hope I haven't misinterpreted what you were asking. Take care.
@Hiddengrace I was stuck on what else to add on or just if i should add on in general. I felt like my essay wasn't as personal as I thought it could be but I don't write enough to know good writing or not. I'm just stuck on if I should include some type of conclusion at the end. Also, definitely appreciate the examples of being professionalism. I couldn't brainstorm anymore ideas aside from mine.
@justivy03 I will try to shorten it. I felt that a prompt that is given a 4000 character max limit should have a decent amount of writing. I wasn't sure if too little was going to be mad, because I've seen some really short and really long ones and tried to hit the midpoint lengthwise. For my two body paragraphs, I tried to explain my take on the qualities of professionalism I've brought up with real life examples I've experienced through observation. I can see why you would think I was getting a little repetitive, trying to fluff up my essay.
Thank you guys so much! Will be revising my essay this week with your help
I was actually just reading something about this prompt and a lot of people said they found it confusing. They said because they don't ask specifically about your views, experiences, or opinions on professionalism, that made figuring out what to write tricky. However, I think that's exactly what the prompt is asking. This is the website I am referring to and there are some good ideas on how to structure the essay in the very last comment, so give that a read.It might be helpful for you. This will also give you some ideas on what to write and how to make your essay more personal.
Also, you still have a good amount of words to write with, it looks like. I would suggest editing what you have in order to make it more succinct and less wordy. Then you will definitely have extra room to talk more about professionalism, your personal experiences, and add a nice conclusion.
As fas as being on topic, I think the prompt is actually pretty general for a reason. They discuss that, too, in the above link.
Here are some resources for you:
Professionalism in general: greensheet.com/gs_archive.php?issue_number=050801&story=12
Professionalism in PT: pittphysicaltherapy.com/join-our-cause/apta-core-values
These might help you with more ideas.
Hope I've given you some good resources! I'd like to see your edited draft, so post it to this thread when it's done.
Home » Other Health Professions › Personal Essay (OT, PT, PA)
Drafting Your Personal Essay
(Guidelines for Pre-OT, PT, and PA students)
Personal Essay Timeline
- Earlier in your program research (which you should begin now if you haven't already done so), confirm on program websites and central application sites whether any of your programs require that you submit an essay in response to a "custom question" instead of or in addition to your general essay.
- Draft your essay over time, and don't rush the process.The essay often carries great weight with programs, so rushing it could undermine an otherwise strong application. Think of the essay as the interview before the interview. (For programs without interviews, the essay may in fact be the interview.) Those who allow time to set their essay aside and let it simmer between drafts usually produce a more effective document. People often begin writing several months in advance of the application, or even sooner if they wish to provide a rough draft or some organized notes to those they've asked to write a letter of recommendation.
- Keep a journal during your clinical experiences, community service, and so on. Then, when you begin your personal essay you will have already been laying the foundation. If you invest the time in journaling from the start, you will really thank yourself when you sit down to write your first essay draft.
- Very early on, even if you are not positive about your career field, open a personal essay file on your computer and begin dropping ideas and thoughts into it as they occur to you. At this stage, don't worry about organization, grammar, coherence, or using complete sentences.
- Two years prior to when you plan to apply, read the Drafting Your Personal Essay page from top to bottom. You don't need to absorb everything - you will also be consulting this page over time - but reviewing it in its entirely from the start will help you get the lay of land, including gaining an understanding of the kind of journaling you will need to do in the years prior to applying to programs.
- By the winter or middle of the spring prior to applying, have at least a very rough draft written, whether that be junior year, senior year, or later.
- During the spring prior to applying, and often continuing into May or June, continue to redraft and hone your essay into your final draft. Do not put off drafting the essay until late summer or into the fall! Doing so is only okay if you are applying only to programs with winter or spring application cycles (and even then, getting a good start during the summer prior is wise).
- For programs with earlier rolling admission cycles it is advantageous to submit your application in August or even July for OT and PT, and May, June, or July for PA (again, depending on rolling admissions). This means completing the final draft of your essay earlier than you may have expected.
- Therefore, set a goal to complete your final draft close to the opening of your earliest rolling admissions cycle. (With rolling admissions or early decision, programs begin filling spots as soon as their application cycle opens instead of waiting for the application deadline.)
Some Important Fundamentals
As part of the primary application, most physician assistant programs, and many physical therapy and occupational therapy programs, require applicants to submit a personal essay, personal statement, or personal narrative (each term refers to the same thing). The personal essay can be thought of as the interview before the interview, or almost a substitute for the interview for programs that don't offer or require one.
The average personal essay runs between 600 and 750 words, give or take, with the upper end of that range being more common (or the equivalent in characters, which is how Central Application Services tend to measure things - around 4000 to 5000 characters, including spaces). It is important you compose an essay characterized by both conciseness as well as an effective level of detail and specificity. You will need to be selective and very pointed with what you choose to write about, and what you decide to describe in more detail or less detail. The guidelines on this page can help you with these choices.
Establishing your credibility with admission committees
Your transcript and GPA are meant to establish your academic credibility, as someone who manages your time well, has developed the skills to do well in challenging courses, and who follows through on commitments.
Your personal essay, on the other hand, can help establish your credibility as someone who:
- has thoroughly researched your chosen career field
- has undergone a thoughtful process of self-assessment in choosing the profession, understands and can articulate their personal connection with the field, and is 100% devoted to pursuing a career in the field
- has worked hard to develop the temperament and maturity, the desire to keep learning, and the personal and professional skills, necessary to function well in graduate school and in clinical settings
- and who possesses the ability to effectively, professionally, and coherently communicate ideas in writing
As another dimension of credibility that should be displayed in your essay, remember that within the health fields the focus is always on providing excellent service to patients; on the caregiver-patient relationship; on effective rapport-building and communication within that relationship; on working effectively with other healthcare professionals on behalf of your patient; and on patient advocacy. Some aspect of this patient-centric approach should play a role in your personal essay. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's not all about what the profession can do for you (though certainly you want to find your career personally fulfilling), it's about the patient.
Putting the "personal" in personal essay
Personal statements can take many different forms in terms of both style and content. It is a "personal" essay because it describes how your experiences, values, and sensibilities, and your witnessing of others' experiences through shadowing and hands-on experience, build and grow your personal connection with the particular field, and your desire to serve the needs of other people through your work as a healthcare professional within the field.
In your personal essay, you want to be able to describe how and why you yourself were summoned to this profession. Generic reasons such as "I want to help people" are valid on the face of it, but you need to add depth and dimension to them, personalize them. The ideas above and below on this page are meant to help you do that.
Reflect on your shadowing and hands-on patient / client experiences.
- What did you learn about the profession or healthcare in general?
- What did you learn about others and yourself?
- How did the interaction impact you personally? How did it make you feel? What thoughts came to you?
- What skills and which of your personal qualities came into play?
- How did the patient respond, and how did the moment affect them?
- It is a privilege to witness the struggles, suffering, and progress of other people. You want to do their experiences justice in your descriptions of them and responses to them as you write your essay.
- Free-write responses to the above. Then read and reflect on what you have written, and try to describe how and why you yourself were summoned to this profession. Don't strive for perfect writing at this point; you are still in the discovery stage of writing.
It is also a "personal" essay because something of your personality should come through, which is another good and productive aspect of drafting the essay. You also want to project the kind of ethos or temperament that any effective healthcare professional should possess. (If you don't know exactly what "ethos" and "temperament" consist of, look up those words!)
- Stylistically, it is common practice to write the personal statement from the first person (I / me) perspective. This is your opportunity to tell admission committees the three or four most important things about yourself and your preprofessional experience.
- A personal essay is not merely a résumé in paragraph form. Instead, admission committees are interested to see your ability to assess your own experiences and draw conclusions from them about your goals, skills, and attributes; your ability to learn from your experiences; perhaps your dedication to learning from your mistakes, or your willingness to challenge your own preconceptions; your ability to effectively assess your goals and your reasons for pursuing them; and, equally important, your ability to convey this information in a coherent, professional, yet personable manner.
- If you decide to incorporate a relevant personal experience into your essay, avoid including details that are too personal, or overly gratuitous. You don't want to be off-putting or show a lack of good judgment.
Program-specific essay information
Usually, applicants write one essay that they submit to many or perhaps even all of the programs to which they are applying. It is uncommon, and not generally recommended, to write a different essay for each program, nor is it possible to do so through the central application services (CAS). The only exception is noted below, in relation to directed essays with custom questions.
- Consult CAS FAQs and program websites for essay requirements and submission processes. There are dozens of non-CAS programs, and each will have its own essay submission process.
- For CAS programs:
- OTCAS FAQs - Click "Personal Statement"
- PTCAS FAQs - Click "Essay"
- CASPA FAQs - Click "Narrative (Personal Statement) Information"
- For CAS programs:
- As part of the primary application, some programs require that you submit responses to a directed essayor custom questions posed by the program instead of or in addition to the general essay you'll submit to all programs. Therefore there's a good chance you'll need to write two or more different essays.
- In some instances you may need to write responses to custom questions largely from scratch, but often you can pull content and ideas from your general essay and blend them into your responses to custom questions.
- Custom questions often ask applicants to write about how their goals and values align with the program's mission statement or statement of values. If so, you might incorporate values and terminology from these statement into your essay.
- Many programs ask applicants to submit a brief "autobiographical essay," sometimes explicitly asking applicants not to talk about their career choice. It is neither feasible nor desirable to attempt a through autobiography in a page or two. There are many ways to approach this project. For example, you could try to judiciously identify one or two defining moments from your life and use them as a brief autobiographical lens which offers insight into who you are, your values, a defining characteristic, or otherwise conveys something interesting about you. Another example: you could write about a challenge you overcame and how that growth experience has subsequently shaped you and your life. Again, there are many approaches, but simply writing paragraphs of places and dates in your life probably won't suffice.
- Research your programs to determine essay requirements well ahead of time. Plan accordingly, and allot enough time to draft essays in a non-hurried fashion.
- If you are applying to PTCAS programs, note that the central application requires that your personal essay be written
- PTCAS allows programs to require responses to school-specific (custom) questions if they choose. Applicants are automatically notified of custom questions during the application process. For additional details, read the PTCAS FAQ, School-specific Questions.
- Check program sites ahead of time to learn whether any of your PTCAS or non-PTCAS programs require responses to custom questions either as part of the primary / initial application or as part of a secondary / supplemental application.
- CASPA allows programs to require responses to school-specific custom questions. Information about custom questions, if any for your programs, is found within the Program Materials section of the CASPA application.
- Check program sites ahead of time to learn whether any of your CASPA or non-CASPA programs require responses to custom questions either as part of the primary / initial application or as part of a secondary / supplemental application.
- Check program sites ahead of time to learn whether any of your OTCAS or non-OTCAS programs require responses to custom questions either as part of the primary / initial application or as part of a secondary / supplemental application. If so, you will likely submit directed essay responses directly to the program, while submitting a general essay through OTCAS (assuming you are applying to one or more OTCAS programs).
- Some programs may also require that you submit written responses to additional questions during a secondary or supplemental application process, once you have submitted the primary application (whether through the CAS or directly to the program itself for non-CAS programs). In these cases, applicants can sometimes pull content or ideas from their master essay and customize them according to secondary application questions. Other times, secondary application questions may need to be written from scratch, but should be drafted with the same care and professionalism as the personal essay itself.
- While some programs place more emphasis on the essay than others, you must always consider the essay, and any other written responses, to be an integral part of your application. For some programs, the essay is "the interview before the interview." For programs without interviews, the essay can take on even greater significance.
- Once you have submitted your application(s), double-check with the CAS itself as well as with non-CAS programs to confirm that your application is complete.
- Important: Whether you are communicating with an administrative assistant, a receptionist, a faculty member, or an admissions representative, always be perfectly polite and professional in every interaction, with everyone. Not only is such conduct critical in terms of your own developing professionalism, but we know of applicants whose application has been put in the "Denied" stack simply due to a single presumptuous or rude phone or email interaction.
Regularly Backup Your Work!
Always have at least one full backup copy of the latest draft of your essay, preferably two, saved on different devices, even in the earliest stages of brainstorming and writing. Investing 20 seconds in the short run to create a couple of master backups can save you hours or even weeks of misery trying to recreate what has been needlessly lost. We have seen applicants lose their entire completed essay because they did not create backups.
- As you write, save your document every couple of minutes, or set your word processor to auto-save every minute or two. Losing even 20 minutes of work is frustrating and unnecessary.
- Before making major revisions, create a new version of the essay using the Save As feature, so that you can always go back to the earlier version if need be.
- Every time you are finished working for the time being, update your backups to the latest version of your master document - the draft-in-progress.
Preparing To Draft Your Essay
There is not one "correct" way to write or organize a personal essay. Below are some guidelines and ideas to help you get started, and ease you into the writing process:
- Review the notes you took during clinical observation, and during pertinent volunteer and / or patient care experiences. Highlight a few moments which most helped build your knowledge and understanding of the profession, or your decision to pursue it.
- Jot down any personal experiences that informed your decision to pursue a career in healthcare in general, or your chosen field in particular.
- Review formal descriptions of your chosen field.
- Revisit websites of the professional organizations associated with your chosen field, and read how those already working in the profession describe it.
- Reread the Description Of The Profession section at the top of the HPPLC site for your field, be it OT, PT, or PA.
- Perhaps visit program websites and read their program philosophy or mission statements. Doing so can give you a sense of what ideals and goals seem most important to them, which may in turn help you generate ideas, and even help clarify what is important to you as well.
- Important: Revisit the section, Putting the "personal" in personal essay. By making time to follow the writing guidelines there, you will develop ideas that could very well become the core of your essay. (Remember to save your notes periodically, and create backups.)
- Write down or word-process your thoughts with regard to each of the following questions, which often form the basis of admission essays. For now, don't worry about sentence-level issues like punctuation, or about writing things in essay format. Even a rough bulleted list in response to each question is fine. You're simply brainstorming ideas at this point.
- Why do I want to be an [OT / PT / PA]?
- What are the reasons I have specifically chosen to pursue [OT / PT / PA] instead of one of the hundreds of other possible healthcare careers? (Hint: be more specific than "I want to help people." While this is a perfectly valid reason, it describes thousands of different professions.)
- What specific steps have I taken to make this decision?
- Have I shadowed in a variety of settings? - which kinds? (Remember that OTs, PTs, and PAs do practice in a wide variety of settings!)
- Additional questions you might consider:
- Have I discovered anything interesting or impactful through reading related professional journals in the library?
- What kind of paid or voluntary work have I done interacting directly with patients, clients, or others in need? Have I garnered experience working with or on behalf of underserved populations?
- Have I been meaningfully involved in a student organization? (Not mandatory - remember, these are simply brainstorming questions.)
- Remember to save your notes periodically, and create backups.
Next, Add Details
Assessing and recounting your preprofessional experiences
It is very common for applicants to incorporate anecdotal descriptions of a few clinical observation, direct patient care, and / or pertinent volunteer experiences into their personal essays.
If you do so in a thoughtful, detailed manner, these experiences could even become the linchpins of your essay, and can be an effective way to show admissions committees that you have seriously considered your chosen career path, why it is a good fit for you, and what you hope to someday offer your own patients or clients.
Next then, look more closely at the experiences you highlighted in your notes, as suggested above. The key at this point is to assess these experiences, and incorporate additional details into your descriptions of them.
- Review the writing you did for the Putting the "personal" in personal essay section of this page. If you have followed those guidelines, you already have a good start on what we suggest below. If you have not yet done so, do it now. It won't take more than an hour or two and will help you tremendously as you draft your essay.
- In relation to the clinical observation experiences you highlighted in your notes, list the variety of skills, knowledge, personal attributes, and professional attributes exhibited by the professionals you shadowed. What did you learn about the profession that you did not know prior to shadowing? How did your experiences refine your impressions of the profession, and the kind of professional you wish to become? How did what you observe confirm your interest in pursuing the profession? Add these lists, thoughts, and ideas to your essay notes.
- Read through the notes you jotted down in response to the preparation questions and see if any of those thoughts can lend support or detail to the recounting of your experiences.
- Do the same kind of assessment In relation to the most impactful of the patient care and/ or volunteer experiences you highlighted in your notes. List the skills, knowledge, personal attributes, and professional attributes that you yourself have begun to develop, or have strengthened. Add these lists, thoughts, and ideas to your essay notes.
- Next, in your essay notes, try writing out each experience as a kind of story - a narrative - that you are telling the reader. (Remember to save your notes periodically, and create backups.)
- Writers often find it easiest to write long and edit down. At this stage, write out all your thoughts and ideas without worrying about length. You can edit things down later.
- Applicants will often be as specific in their essay as, "...For instance, when shadowing an [OT / PT / PA] at such and such a place, I observed the [OT / PT / PA] treat a patient who was in this or that circumstance, and interact with the patient in this or that manner, and here is what happened, this was the outcome."
- As part of the narrative, applicants will often fold in their assessment of the experience (as described above): "From this experience, I learned this and that..." or "This experience helped me realize / decide this and that." Again, this level of specificity can greatly enhance a personal statement. It can reduce the chances that admission committees will have to read between the lines and guess what you mean, or, worse, assume that you really have not thought much about your goals and your reasons for pursuing them.
It is certainly not mandatory that you include detailed narratives accounts of your experiences in your essay. Many applicants find that doing so helps them demonstrate their interest in the profession, and their preparedness for embarking upon the intensive formal training process. No matter how you choose to present what you learned from your experiences, remember that vagueness and over-generalization are the enemies of a strong personal essay. The details matter.
Assessing and recounting relevant personal experiences
In a fashion similar to that described above, you have the option to include in your essay situations in your own life which, for example, taught you something important about life which you have found relevant to your career choice, taught you something about what does not so much interest you, or impacted you in other ways you think are directly pertinent to your essay. For example, some applicants recount an experience which helped them develop a core value which then became important to their choice of career path, or which helped them earlier on develop an interest in helping others or working in healthcare. Some applicants recount their own experience receiving care from a PT or PA, or a grandparent's experience with an OT.
Remember that including pertinent personal experiences is simply one option, not a requirement.
Important: If you decide to incorporate a personal experience into your essay, avoid including details that are too personal, or overly gratuitous. You don't want to be off-putting, or show a lack of good judgment.
Connect Part To Whole
Congratulations! - if you have made it this far, you have undertaken some preparation and brainstorming, have added additional details, and now have what amounts to a rough draft of your essay.
As always, save your notes again, and update your backups.
Now it's time to connect part to whole throughout your draft. In essay lingo, this is the process of creating coherence. If an essay is coherent it means it flows or progresses from one paragraph to another, one idea to another, one sentence to another in a way that makes sense to the reader.
- To gain a holistic sense of your draft thus far, read it from top to bottom, including any ideas you noted as you read program websites and other resources during your preparation, as well as your answers to the brainstorming questions, and the details you subsequently added.
- Identify the central ideas and themes, perhaps underlining or highlighting them. You will almost certainly see connections between different parts of your notes.
- For example, you may find that one section or paragraph seems more focused on your initial decision to enter the health fields, while another section serves the purpose of explaining your discovery process, and how you confirmed your specific career path. Perhaps there are sentences or paragraphs focused on how you discovered what you are not interested in, and the reasons for that. Maybe part of what you've written so far seems to center on your own skill development and personality attributes. Many different central ideas or themes could emerge.
- Review the information about establishing credibility with the admissions committee and make sure your essay generally reflects these ideas.
- Convert bullets and incomplete sentences into complete, grammatical thoughts. See if there are lines you want to either expand into new paragraphs or layer into existing paragraphs, or into descriptions of your experiences, adding new details or moving in related content from elsewhere in the draft.
- Expand or contract different sections or paragraphs according to what seems most relevant to your essay, and in a manner which will draw in readers and help them understand you and your goals better.
- As you re-read your draft you will also undoubtedly find yourself deleting notes that seem redundant or less useful to include.
- Next, experiment with re-arranging the sections and / or paragraphs in different ways, to see what arrangement seems most coherent, offers the greatest impact, or follows the flow of your career decision process (it is not necessary to arrange your essay chronologically - doing so is simply one option among many).
- Once you have tentatively arranged the various parts of your draft in a way which seems effective, revise your paragraphs and add transitions so as to create coherence from one paragraph to the next, and one section to the next.
Your Introduction And Conclusion
Avoid needless repetition or summaries
Personal essays must be coherent and well-organized, but, unlike the classic essay format, the introduction of this particular kind of essay need not foreshadow the main points covered in the body. In fact, doing so usually detracts from the overall impact of what you've written simply because the essay is so brief to begin with.
Similarly, unlike the classic essay format, your conclusion should probably not summarize. Doing so usually results in needless repetition, and isn't necessary since the reader would have just read the summarized information in the previous few paragraphs anyway. Summarizing in an essay this brief is also a waste of precious space which could be used to convey additional new information to the admissions committee.
Some methods you might try
It is often easier to write the introduction and conclusion last, once you have a sense of the overall content and tone of the body. In fact, once you have a solid draft of the body written (i.e., once you have gone through a drafting process similar to that described previously on this page), you may find that you can actually transform two of your existing paragraphs into your introduction and conclusion, rather than writing an introduction and conclusion from scratch.
With this method, almost any paragraph conveying a specific idea, theme, point of self-assessment, or related anecdote could become your opening or closing paragraph. Experiment with moving different paragraphs into the position of introduction and see if one seems like a compelling way to draw in the reader. Do the same with the conclusion and see if any of your paragraphs can stand on their own as a way to draw the essay to a satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader with a positive impression of you or with an interesting final insight into you or your goals. Or you might also find that one of your paragraphs is particularly representative of the themes or ideas conveyed throughout the essay, and could serve as a kind of wrap up without actually being redundant.
If you do in fact have paragraphs that seem able to become your introduction and conclusion then sometimes just rearranging a sentence or two, or adding one or two additional sentences at the end of what has become your "intro," can create a segue into the body of the essay. Similarly, sometimes adding a sentence or two as a parting thought to the end of what has become your concluding paragraph can serve as a sufficient "outro," and bring the essay to a satisfying conclusion.
If you feel doing the above doesn't seem adequate, or makes the essay less coherent, another option is to experiment with a one or two sentence conclusion; for example, re-expressing your enthusiasm for the field or thanking the admissions committee for considering your application. (This method doesn't work as well with introductions.) Before resorting to this method, try the other ideas described above, which often result in the strongest introductions and conclusions.
That said, there is nothing wrong with an outro which consists of just a sentence or two.
Revise Into A Refined And Complete Draft
At this stage your essay no longer looks like a set of notes, and you instead have a coherent and more or less complete draft. Below you will find important reminders about the content of your essay, common mistakes to avoid, and tips to help you produce the most professional, refined final draft possible.
Common avoidable mistakes
- Avoid needless redundancy. Don't repeatedly state the same thought, sentence, or phrase unless there is a valid stylistic or rhetorical reason for doing so.
- Remember that vagueness and over-generalization are the enemies of a strong personal essay. Specificity is key.
- Avoid generalities and clichés like, "I am very passionate about...," "I love working with people...," or "I have always wanted to be an [OT / PT / PA]." Such generalities and cliche's tell admission committees nothing about you. Hence, these language choices can give the impression that you have not thought in detail about your reasons for pursuing the profession, or not done a thorough assessment of the specific experiences and attributes that will enable you to succeed in graduate school and become an excellent practitioner in the profession. You may indeed feel passionate about pursuing the profession (in fact, if you don't, you should be pursuing something else!), but you need to demonstrate how the passion developed, and how you have channeled that energy into your preparation. Do so by using specific language to describe how your shadowing, patient care experience, volunteer work, academics, and so on, clearly reflect your devotion to the profession. And you have not "always wanted to be a [PT / OT / PA]." It is more effective to explain how you actually developed your interest in the field.
- Avoid oversimplifying the profession. You know enough about it to have decided to pursue it, but there is much you don't know. That's okay because the purpose of the essay is not to define the profession or explain everything you know about it.
- Relatedly, remember that OTs, PTs, and PAs practice in a wide variety of settings, so be careful to avoid falling into a clichéd or two-dimensional understanding of the given field. For example, PTs are not just sports rehab. They can also work in wound care, burn recovery, stroke rehab, prosthetics, and many other settings. The same idea holds true for OT and PA.
- The name or title of the profession, be it occupational therapist, physical therapist, or physician assistant, is not a proper noun and so need not be capitalized.
- It is fine to use the abbreviation - OT, PT, PA - to refer to either the field or to someone practicing within the field (i.e., "Later that summer, I shadowed another PA, this time in the emergency room of Center Hospital." Or, "...the ever-expanding PT profession..."). Alternating in some fashion between the full tern and its abbreviation is a good way to avoid sounding repetitious.
- Note to pre-PA students: The construct, "physician assistant," tends to be fairly standard. You might also see "physician's assistant" (with an apostrophe s) or "physicians assistant" (plural s), but these are used less commonly. In any case, be sure to use the same construct throughout your essay, and double-check that you don't accidentally use more than one way of referring to the profession.
- Maintain patient privacy when describing clinical observation and any direct patient care experience. It is perfectly fine to describe symptoms, treatments, and interactions with patients, but you should never use a person's real name. Instead, you can refer to them using pronouns (he, she, they). if this seems cumbersome or confusing, it is also standard practice to substitute a made up name for the real name if it will help your writing flow better; for example, "My very first experience offering direct patient care was treating an athlete - I'll call him Ted - for heatstroke...". For additional patient privacy information visit HIPPA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
- Your essay should be perfectly free of typos and spelling / grammatical errors. Some admission committees stop reading after two or three such mistakes, and literally drop the offending essay onto the "No" pile. Professionalism is crucial. Just as college is a step up from high school, graduate school is a step (or two) up from your undergraduate degree.
Final Step: Perfect Proofreading
Some admission representatives have told us they stop reading a personal statement after the third mistake (whether spelling, typo, or grammar). Few things in life need to be perfect, or nearly so. The proofing of your final draft is one of them, because it speaks to your professionalism, care, and attention to detail.
- Use an automatic spell checker on your final draft.
- Then, print a hardcopy and meticulously proofread it. Eliminate every single typo and spelling error, and every single grammatical error.*
- Scrutinize your essay for usage errors that a spell checking program will often miss; for example, mistakenly using weather instead of whether, ceratin instead of certain, affect instead of effect.
- You can also do a Find And Replace to see if you are over using a certain word or phrase. If you find this to be the case, replace some instances with a different way of saying the same thing. You can also search for hard to spot typos. For example, to find places where you have accidentally inserted an extra space between words, in the Find box hit the spacebar twice, in Replace hit it once, and click Replace All.
- When you think it is perfectly proofed, set your essay aside for a couple of days, and then proofread it again with fresh eyes, slowly and meticulously.
* For this particular specialized document, instead of consulting IUB Writing Tutorial Services staff or documentation for feedback related to the actual content or style of your essay, you are best off first following the guidelines throughout this webpage. Then, once you have a pretty solid draft in process, you can meet with the HPPLC pre-OT / PT / PA advisor to discuss the content, level of detail, and organization / coherence of your draft.
If you need help learning to identify and correct grammatical errors, feel free to utilize Writing Tutorial Services. However, WTS is not a proofreading service! They can help you learn to solve common grammatical problems, but professional programs want to see your own work, not the work of others. Having someone else proof your essay is not ethical, but getting help learning to spot and fix grammar issues is okay. Again, for feedback related to the actual content or style of your personal essay, you are best off first following the guidelines throughout this webpage and then meeting with a HPPLC advisor if you'd like.
Examples of helpful grammar sites:
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.
^ return to top of page