The key to having a personal statement that flows well is strong transitions. These are sentences that connect concepts like little bridges throughout your essay. Without them, your essay can feel choppy, disconnected and confusing.
Here are some ways you can create transitions for a smooth and seamless essay:
- Placement. First and foremost, when transitioning between paragraphs, your transitional sentence should always come as the first sentence of the new paragraph.
- Find the common element. If you’re trying to link two very different concepts, try to find what the two have in common and focus on that. For example, if your last paragraph was about your volunteer work and your next one is about some important lab research you did, you can focus on how one reinforces the other.
- Transition Example: After working with children suffering from heart defects for three months, I was excited to investigate those same issues from a different angle, this time under a microscope.
- Lean on your timeline. When you're trying to bridge one sentence to the next and things are flowing in a chronological order, you can use time to your advantage. For example, if your last paragraph discussed your accomplishments in college, and your next paragraph discusses the work you did after graduating, go with the flow.
- Transition Example: After graduation, I put my architecture degree to work immediately at an interior design firm in San Francisco.
- Lean on a story. If you’re trying to transition from a general statement to a story, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out how to weave into it without an awkward jump. There’s no need to set it up with an overly complex introduction — just dive in with leads like: “One example of this…”; “One way I was able to accomplish this was…”; “By doing…”; “When I…”
- Transition Example: “I believe that developing strong doctor-patient relationships is key to delivering quality healthcare. I put this value into practice while working with at-risk children in Chicago. For example, I always started our sessions by asking them to tell me about themselves and what they love to do.”
- When in doubt, turn to these transitional words to start your transitional sentences:
- Even though
- In addition
- What’s more
- For the same reason
- In fact
Transitional sentences are key to creating a personal statement that flows well and that guides the admissions reader effortlessly through your past, present and future. If you’re struggling with a choppy essay, try these tips and then send your essay to one of our experienced editors at www.edityour.net. They can help polish your essay until it’s as smooth as glass.
You finally have time to sit down and write you personal statement. You know it’s a big deal, and maybe you know vaguely what you want to write about. But all you can do is stare at that blank white screen helplessly.
“Where do I even begin?”
There are several key points you want to hit with a personal statement, regardless of what your background is and what type of program you’re applying to. A good starting point is to answer the following questions:
- What ignited your passion for career X?
- What moments reaffirmed your decision that YES, this is the career for you?
- How do your background, personality and experiences make you a great fit for career X?
- How does the program you’re applying to take your career to the next level? How is it a good fit for you?
- What are your long-term career goals?
By the way, if you need a little more guidance than that, we have an awesome Brainstorming Packet that we highly recommend for any applicant: https://edityour.net/product/personal-statement-brainstorming-packet/
Ok so if you’ve figured out generally what you’re going to write about, believe it or not, that’s not actually enough! You also need to structure your personal statement in a way that will draw the admissions team into your story and keep them hooked from start to finish. The structure and flow can have a big impact on how powerfully your experiences come across and how organized as a person you seem. For some tips on how to best structure your personal statement, check out our blog post on the topic of structure: https://edityour.net/structuring-your-personal-statement-with-a-strong-backbone/
Once you know what you’re going to write about and how you’re going to structure it, you are well on your way! After that first draft is complete, don’t forget the last step: Get it edited by a professional editor. That way you know it’s as strong as it can possibly be from a grammatical, structural and content point of view.
See all our best tips and resources on the EditYour Blog: https://edityour.net/blog/
Applicants typically have the toughest time writing the introductions of personal statements. You have all this great experience — where to begin? If you find yourself thinking the same thing, these 4 tips are about to change everything:
#1: Start with a story
The best way hook the admissions team into your essay is to start with a gripping story from a moment that changed your life. For example, one applicant described how she had lost a friend in a car accident and pulled the reader right into the thick of that life-changing situation: “Her body laid on the gurney, cold to the touch. I looked at her face once more, kissed her forehead, and whispered goodbye.” A little story like this not only gives the selection committee better insight into who you are, but it also keeps their attention longer so they WANT to learn more about you.
#2: Use vivid imagery
By including little details, active verbs and a more story-like format, you can transform your introduction into a gripping start to your essay. Incorporate aspects of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) to really take it to the next level. As you can see in the following two examples, the little details make all the difference:
Not very vivid: We were sitting in the emergency room and were staring at the ground. It was hard to wait so long and not know if she was ok.
More vivid: The fluorescent lights buzzed as we sat in the emergency room. I sat bent forward with my head resting on my knees, staring blankly at the cracks in the tile floor below. Would she make it? Would I ever see her again?
#3: Bridge your past, present and future
Your introduction has one primary goal: It must tell the admissions team where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. You can do this by using transitions that seamlessly weave those parts together. For example:
“After working for five years as a researcher , I discovered that while I loved problem-solving, I longed to be able to work directly with the real people behind the data. By applying to medical school , I look forward to bringing my unique lab experience into a clinical setting. Becoming a physician , will allow me to form strong relationships with my patients and problem solve for them on an individual level.”
#4: End with your ultimate goal
In the above example, you’ll notice that the final sentence includes a note about what the long-term goal is: becoming a physician. Always make sure to include this in the last sentence or two of your introduction! The admissions team wants to know that you have a specific career goal in mind, which will give them more confidence in you.
Once you sew together a great introduction, it's always smart to run it past an editor to make sure you're on the right track. Don't hesitate to send your first paragraph to our team of pros and we'll help you craft the best intro possible for your killer personal statement.
Undergraduate - Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Sometimes you may be asked to write a short statement of purpose in your undergraduate application. Get your point across quickly. You don't have a lot of time to beat around the bush. It's important to follow the guidelines on length and content that will be provided in the application.
Whether the concept of global warming warming is true or a hoax is something that many people can debate about. However, the effects that can be attributed to it are visible. The massive drought that people in African are suffering, endless floods in the Far East as well as the fatal heat strokes that People in the sub continent of India are experiencing are all effects of Global warming.
These amongst other things have disturbed me for a long time, and if this is to continue, i might be a victim of it one of these days. The looming calamity is man-made and it requires human intervention. The focus of the global leaders is not set on the right things as most of them are busy fighting wars ignoring the looming Armageddon.
Therefore, i have taken this as my personal responsibility to ensure that the world will become as pure as it was many years ago. This can only be achieved by gaining the relevant knowledge to put the menace to an end. That knowledge is Environmental science.
Saint Louis University medical student
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer 4 years ago. He underwent surgery as well as chemotherapy, necessitating his stay in the hospital. With the hours he had, trapped in a hospital bed, he began to write his autobiography. This exercise was his method of taking stock of his life, the mental challenge of grappling with his own mortality by systematically revisiting the trials and tribulations that brought him to where he was. Based on his writings and reflecting on my father’s persona, if he asked me to title his autobiography, I would select : Physician, Father, Researcher, and Activist. Physician before all else simply because it was more than a profession, it describes his ethos, how he went about doing everything else he did in life.
Should I ever complete a similar mental exercise, the title of my autobiography will begin, “: Surgeon”. My first year in medical school exposed me to a handful of specialties and dozens of subspecialties. Finding and choosing a specialty was daunting as many appeared to peak my interests. In an attempt to gain better perspective, I decided to spend as much time in the hospital as possible in the summer between my 1st and 2nd years. I contacted several departments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NWM) in Chicago about shadowing their physicians. My schedule started me on the Trauma Surgery and Critical Care service and rotated between different departments every week. I never ended up leaving the Trauma Surgery service.
Though I spent time in other department’s clinics and floors, I would always gravitate back to the Trauma service. I was fortunate to be at NWM in June when there is a traditional break between 3rd and 4th year for medical students, leaving me the sole medical student in the entire hospital and the only student on a surgical service. This gave me an unparalleled opportunity to explore my interest in surgery. The residents tried to direct me to what they thought would be interesting cases as well as those that I would be of use. My transforming experience that summer, in particular the 200 or so hours in the hospital those two weeks being the only medical student, exposed me to three aspects of surgery that convinced me that I was destined to be a surgeon: the surgical problems, surgical patients and surgeon characteristics.
Surgical problems and patients are difficult, complex and unique. Surgery is an assault on the human body. A surgeon must contend not only with the patient’s natural decline in health, but also the infliction that we cause trying to help. They must deal with three distinct, but complicated problem areas; pre-operative: whether or not to operate, operative: the marriage of medical knowledge and the technical skill and post-operative: management of wounds, infections and a whole host of potential complications. These problems represent the pinnacle of intellectual challenges and are life altering for patients. I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than dedicating my life to solving them.
The uniqueness of surgical problems requires surgeons to not only be intelligent, diligent physicians, but also creative, good with their hands, work well under pressure, decisive and good team leaders. These are all characteristics that throughout my life I have aspired to. I am eager to realize these aspirations as I continue my medical education as a surgical resident.
Saint Louis University medical student
During spring break of 2006, many of my friends were headed to a beach in Florida, but I was headed to a different beach. I had organized an alternative spring break trip to Long Beach, Mississippi. The experience impacted my life in ways I never imagined, most notably by helping me choose a career path. The encounter with John was brief, but it left a deep impression on me of which I have reflected upon many times since.
The heat was oppressive as my group worked on drywall installation in the wind and flood damaged neighborhood. That evening as we made our way back to the gym that would be our home for the next week, we saw John sitting with his head in his hands. The FEMA markings in bright orange behind him revealed everyone in his home had survived. We inquired about his bloodied face and broken glasses and John explained that he had fallen off a ladder earlier that day. He was broken and could not handle any more in the aftermath of the hurricane. We took him back to the gym that night for a meal and a shower, and listened while he explained everything that had happened to him over the past few months. We also found John a new pair of glasses. They were not perfect, but they seemed to give John hope. With tears in his eyes, he told us how relieved and encouraged he felt as a result of our support. That moment made me realize what a difference vision makes in people’s lives. Simply having a pair of functional glasses meant John was ready to face the world. I am not sure what happened to John, but I often think back to my interaction with him and the newly found optimism he was given simply by a new pair of glasses.
The spring break trip impacted my life significantly, but my family has also inspired and guided me. My mom taught me dedication, perseverance, and the value of education. After college, she supported my dad as he finished radiology school. Then, at the age of 38, she completed her MBA after five years of course work. She now works as the director of a small business development program at Missouri State University, a level of success she would not have achieved without education. My dad taught me compassion, patience, and empathy. I watched him comfort and counsel patients working as a sonographer in a high risk pregnancy clinic. The influence he has on patients was recently confirmed when a family came to the office to introduce their newborn son Anderson, whom they had named after my dad. The guidance provided by my family helps me to pursue a career in medicine that I am dedicated to and passionate about.
I approached medical school with an open mind and found that my favorite course was neuroscience during the second year. I hoped the third year clinical rotations would solidify my career choice, but I only became overwhelmed. I liked pieces and parts of many fields, but none seemed to be the right fit. The “hands-on” nature of surgery was exciting and held my attention, but I disliked the lack of patient-physician relationships. Forming relationships in the family medicine clinic was great, but I needed more procedures. I felt compassion for the veterans in the geriatric clinic, but I desired a broad patient population. Thus, I continued my search for something that had it all.
At this point, I thought back to what influenced me to pursue medicine. I thought about John from Mississippi and my family. The next week I set up shadowing opportunities in the ophthalmology clinic and finally started to experience what I had been looking for. Ophthalmology allowed me to practice the full spectrum of care, including preventative medicine, medical management, and surgical treatments. I was able to form relationships with the patients with chronic disease states and offer a cure to others. Best of all, many patients were hopeful, relieved, and ready to face the world as they left the clinic.
I am seeking a preliminary year position that will provide a strong medical foundation for my career in ophthalmology. I realize the importance of this year of my training. What separates us as physicians from other specialty trained medical professionals is our vast knowledge of the entire body and the ability to recognize and treat its disease processes. I am hopeful this preliminary year will provide me with experiences that will help me to become a well trained physician who is able to recognize systemic disease processes that may also manifest in the eye. I am now less than one year away from achieving my goal of becoming a doctor and residency is the next step that undoubtedly brings challenges. I am excited to dedicate myself to the task and I look forward to what the future holds with great anticipation.
Saint Louis University medical student
It was in high school when I was shadowing my father at his medical practice, that I witnessed my first delivery. I still vividly remember it as the patient did not have an epidural and it was very different than what I had previously seen on television. This delivery served a major purpose in introducing me to the world of obstetrics. The incredible feeling I experienced as a witness to the birth of a human life has molded my aspirations in becoming an OB/GYN physician.
During medical school, I had the privilege of working with an OB/GYN physician at Saint Louis University for two years in an elective whose purpose was to allow medical students to follow patients longitudinally. One of the characteristics that is important to me in a specialty is continuity of care. I enjoy getting to know patients on a personal level and monitoring them throughout their pregnancies and lives. OB/GYN offers a unique privilege in following a patient from the beginning of her pregnancy to delivery. It is a gratifying and rewarding experience by helping to build families. OBY/GYN also provides the opportunity to continue to monitor the patient after delivery and provide preventative care.
Medical school has made me realize that one of the primary goals in medicine is preventative care. Preventative care is an important part of OB/GYN. In clinic, I was enthused about finding a lesion on Pap smear which directed care to possibly prevent cervical carcinoma. As I furthered my medical training, I found that I enjoyed the diagnosis, management, and preventative care aspects of medicine in addition to the immediate therapy and hands-on procedures of surgery. OB/GYN fulfills both of these desires.
In addition to my interest in preventative care, surgery and deliveries, I have a strong desire to be involved in the scientific advancements in OB/GYN and the education of future physicians. This led me to a research project studying regression rates of ovarian cysts in reproductive age women. The passion to teach was solidified on my sub-internship when I was able to help third year medical students understand difficult concepts. I was constantly invigorated by the motivation of new medical students, and found that helping future peers was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had during medical school. My father is a preceptor in family medicine and, as a result I have seen the benefits of teaching a medical student. His instruction has made him more caring and motivated, as well as sharpening his clinical skills.
Overall, I am interested in OB/GYN because it is a stimulating and challenging field and it entails a combination of preventative care, research in women’s health, monitoring pregnancies, performing deliveries and surgeries. I am extremely motivated, hardworking, a good team player, and enthusiastic about furthering my medical training. My goal is to attend an academically strong residency program that is committed to teaching and keeping up with advances in the field of OB/GYN.
Saint Louis University medical student
Pediatrics is all encompassing. It is a field whose definition of quality care expands beyond office visits and parental counseling, to a career focused on patient advocacy. Pediatrics is a field where learning and teaching are endless, so that each patient brings new experiences. As far back as elementary school, when my aspirations changed from President of the United States of America to Veterinarian as quickly as every two weeks, I can remember my mother always reminding me that the goal of a career is finding something you love doing, so that getting paid becomes a perk. Later in life, I found my favorite author, Maya Angelou, who has never ceased to inspire, and her words above remind me of my Mother’s life lesson.
I have always enjoyed working with children and spent the majority of my service and leadership activities working with youth of all ages. Third year of medical school has been such a wonderful sampling of clinical experiences, and although I had an idea that I was interested in pursuing a career in pediatrics, it became very apparent on my first few weeks of the pediatric clerkship that it was a perfect match. After full days of floor and clinic work, evening and night calls, I realized that day after day I wasn’t going home drained and tired, but full of new knowledge, stories of interactions with patients, and plenty of topics to research. The time at the hospital passed by effortlessly and at each day’s end, a smile was left on my face with motivation to meet the morning’s challenges. I am a student, a teacher, and an advocate for others. Medicine is full of questions with yet undiscovered answers, but the academic setting of learning by doing and from those with experienced perspectives is inspiring and something I hope to be a part of for life. The team approach to pediatric medicine and the broad scope of possibilities is what I find most appealing. I want to teach my patients and their families and will always expect to learn something new from them. Working with youth is an opportunity for healing, creativity, and becoming part of an individual’s support system and growth. In medical school I expanded my involvement in leadership and community service with a student-run free clinic administrative role, which provided the chance to view community health issues from a provider’s prospective. Writing curriculum for and piloting a healthy lifestyles youth program was an avenue for inspired passion from a small-seeded idea at a first-year medical school conference. Pediatric medicine, I am certain, will continue to provide ample opportunities for motivation and advocacy. I am looking for a path that challenges, encourages, and allows for a wide array of opportunities. My drive and dedication are balanced by genuine passion for my chosen career. I hope to work hard and as Maya Angelou states, “become truly accomplished”, for no other reason than because I love what I do.
Medical School, July 2006
My decision to adopt the lifestyle of medicine was not the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons—no flashing light bulb materialized above my head, nor did a load of bricks fall from the sky and crush me. Medicine has, for as long as I can recall, been as innate to me as composing drafts of this essay right-handed. The earliest queries about my “grown-up” profession were answered by a matter-of-fact “I want to be a pediatrician. That’s a baby doctor.” I could never imagine doing anything else. I wanted to help people who were sick or injured, and I had an avid curiosity about the workings of the human body.
The “B” volume of my family’s World Book Encyclopedia was nearly destroyed by my small hands repeatedly flipping to the ‘Baby’ and ‘Body’ entries, studying the images in an attempt to comprehend pregnancy and birth while puzzling over how those multi-colored organs fit into my own body. Exploration in comparative anatomy began during fishing and hunting trips with my grandparents—cleaning the fish and animals was just as entertaining to me as harvesting them. I wanted to learn more, so I returned to the encyclopedia shelf. Branching out to ‘Bird,’ ‘Dog,’ ‘Ballet,’ and ‘Painting’ quenched a bit of my thirst for more global information, but I never stopped wondering just how the body worked, what happened if something stopped working, and how to fix it. Throughout my childhood, I believed I knew what medicine was, and exactly why I wanted to be a doctor.
Years later, I find myself standing in a cozy kitchen, watching a hummingbird sip red nectar from a feeder outside the window. I cool the running water. I help my grandmother steady herself on reluctant legs, bend forward, and lower her head into the sink. After getting approval of the water temperature, I wet her thin blonde hair and massage in shampoo. I recall frequent baths in her kitchen sink as a toddler and smile. I condition her hair, rinse and gently dry it. I take her into her bedroom and dress her, recounting years of playing dress-up in her fancy dresses just a few years ago. I reflect on all the changes since then, and am in awe of the power of time.
Polymyositis changed my life. When I was seven, my maternal grandmother’s doctors finally gave a name to the phantom causing her escalating symptoms: frequent falls, chronic weakness, and striking loss of muscle mass. The strong, beautiful, dynamic woman who danced with me in her kitchen as we waited for cookies to bake would never be “healthy” again. My young mind could not grasp the long-term consequences of her disease, but I absolutely did not like what happened next. My grandparents sold their split-level home and built a single story with minimal steps in and out of the house. Grandma couldn’t dance anymore. She stopped driving because her legs were too weak to press the pedals, or change between the brake and gas. I had to help her carry small boxes and open jars. About a year ago, she stopped walking. I have always resented the disease that stole so many active years from her; that will never change. However, observing her decline over the last fifteen years has given me a capacity for empathy that I sometimes take for granted. I have seen the shame-filled countenance of a woman who needs help with something most private, but who is embarrassed to ask. I have cried with her after a painful and frustrating fall, and then helped her get back onto shaky feet. I have read countless pages and pamphlets on alternative healing and experimental methods recommended to her by friends and church members, to help her decide which to try next. Despite this, she has never complained. She has remained my dearest friend, and I simply became her arms and legs. Our roles have reversed in several respects, but our love for one another has not diminished a bit. Caring for her has always felt shamefully inadequate compared to her gifts to me. Every time I end a visit, guilt racks me. I want to do so much more for her, but I cannot. Her solution: I should become a doctor and heal others. It seems my grandmother’s altruism is another precious gift.
Medicine has become more than the dream of a five-year-old who ran to aid classmates injured on the playground. Medicine has become my very purpose—improving the quality of life of as many people as I can, using all the information obtainable. My newfound love of social science, ethics, and public policy has led me to a path that combines clinical medicine with a degree in either Law or Public Health, so I can have a significant impact on as wide a range of people as possible. I want the experience of working with my own patients to identify, solve and prevent health problems, but also feel a duty to assist the entire population through education and advocacy.
As I reflect on the winding path that led me to this juncture, I am reassured that I have made the right choice, if one would call it a choice. My entire life has prepared me for this great endeavor in some form or another. I have taken the courses and done the volunteering, spent months in a research lab, and declared a gut wrenching major. I have struggled, but succeeded, yet I become more excited about my future every day. I will be an excellent doctor. I simply need the opportunity to prove it.
Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency
Saint Louis University medical student
At the wise and all-knowing age of 20, after observing my first autopsy (a young ICU patient and long bone donor), I called my mother and proclaimed that I would never, ever, in ten thousand years, become a pathologist. It was smelly, the doctor had used garden tools, off all things, to open the man’s ribcage (not to mention touching all of those organs!), and I simply knew that he lived his entire life in the hospital basement! Today, as an applicant for residency in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, I am unsure whether Murphy’s Law or simply the ignorance of youth is more responsible for my change of heart. Either way, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
My interest in pathology was initially cultivated during histology lab and my introduction to the art of microscopy. Fascinated, the motto of my undergraduate biochemistry professors—‘function follows structure’—took form before my eyes as intricate tissues with their consistent pink-and-violet architecture. Physiology became more understandable based on histology of normal versus diseased tissue presented in organ-system lectures. For this reason, I often found myself studying in reverse, beginning with pathology of the organ or tissue and working my way to a more complete understanding of normal organ function. The organs I had once regarded with such contempt became invaluable pieces of evidence in clinical mysteries, the only means to a definite diagnosis. By the end of my second year, I needed to know more about the field I had sworn off. Ever an easy target for novelty, I decided to complete a post-sophomore fellowship to gain experience of such depth and breadth I would not have received in a series of short electives. After accepting my husband’s proposal, I believe this is the best decision I have ever made.
During my fellowship, I developed confidence, knowledge, and several new skill sets. I was essentially expected to perform at the level of a first-year resident, including call responsibilities, presenting at departmental conferences and multidisciplinary tumor boards, and taking ownership of my cases from start to finish. My schedule was sometimes intense, the specimens daunting, and the amount of reading material overwhelming, but I found myself looking forward to coming to work every day. I enjoyed knowing that I was directly contributing to the care of dozens of patients—far too many for any one team to manage. Every day, different patients required my skills, which meant I never experienced the same day twice. I was able to teach basic concepts to medical students and to provide clinicopathologic correlation to residents and clinicians. I had found my niche in medicine, in the last place I would have searched. By the end of my third month on surgical pathology, I knew that I would become a pathologist.
As I look forward to graduation, I find it difficult not to predict the path my career will take. I have a strong interest in surgical pathology, specifically in renal and head and neck pathology. I believe that those interests, combined with my desire to teach, will lead me to a career in academic pathology. Even as a private practice physician, I plan to participate in one manner or another in the education of my future colleagues. I have been told that I would excel in several fields of clinical medicine, and a decision to become a clinician may have spared me several raised eyebrows and conversations regarding the wasting of my “people skills” in the future, but I have never been as satisfied as I was working with my microscope, slides, and reference texts. I am excited for this coming July, when I can return to the that challenges me every day, but allows me the rewarding career I have always sought.