Personal Statement Revision

This post is a continuation of AADSAS – Personal Statement. Writing your personal statement is rewriting it. As you progress through your pre-dental career, your experiences will change and your personal statement should absolutely reflect that.

I personally had well over ten drafts of my personal statement, though the final four or so were only minor changes to respect the character limit. My first two drafts were vastly different from one another, demonstrating that your initial pass over your first draft may very well be the most important kind of revision.

Upon completing the first draft of your personal statement, sock it away in a drawer, sit on it, whatever. Just don’t look at it or think about it. Retrieve it a few days later and read it again. Does it still achieve the goal you wished to accomplish? Are the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks delineated? Print off a copy of your first draft and begin marking it up:

First Draft Global Editing:

  • Highlight the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks in four different colors. Each of these should be carefully distinguished. Do all of these pieces fit together in the puzzle of the greater personal statement? Ask yourself the significance of each part relative to the whole.
  • Write out what you think the theme of your personal statement is.
  • Particularly, zero in on the story and the throughline, the so-called “meat” of the personal statement. Does the anecdote you’ve selected adequately address the central theme of the personal statement that you’ve just written? If not, consider re-working the anecdote and subsequent throughline.
  • Does the throughline accurately and explicitly explain the story? Does it answer the why? The throughline should directly reference the story (and therefore the theme) to be most effective.
  • Now, go back to your lead. Is your lead attention-grabbing enough? Is it a concise, clear statement? Go back to your anecdote. Does it live up to your lead?
  • Finally, address your final fireworks. Do these final light rockets highlight the best of you and leave the reader with a solid understanding of who you are?

All of the above should be considered when making the initial pass through your first draft. Here, you are reading for organization and also striking through anything that you might consider “fluff” and taking up precious character space. This is more global revision – addressing big picture things should be the goal of this sort of editing. Everything addressed in this sort of editing should be content, organization, and structure-related.

Congratulations! You now have a complete second draft of your personal statement! You’re nearly there, all of the macro work has been done, and now minor edits need to be made. With the second, third, and subsequent drafts, I recommend the line editing method, which is what most people think of when editing their writing. With line editing, you are reading your personal statement, sentence by sentence, and looking for phrases or words to replace or strike out completely. With line editing, you are also reading into your “voice,” and whether it is active or passive. Note: NEVER use passive voice, see below.

Advice for Line Editing:

  • Never use a $10 word when a 10 cent word will do.” 4500 characters really isn’t much space properly enumerate all of your valuable thoughts, so you need to use the cheapest words possible. What does this mean? Don’t use big words! As I said in my last post, save the lengthy GRE words for impressing your Tinder date. There’s no reason to use a long word that eats up precious characters when a shorter word can do the same job. In fact, the shorter word often does a far better job because it doesn’t make you sound like a try-hard because remember, dental school admission committees hate try-hards. E.g. “Clinicians play a significant role in determining the differential diagnosis of oral pathology” could be “Dentists are key players in finding causes of disease in the mouth.”
  • Keep it short and simple” aka the KISS concept. Use short, concise sentences because the same concept with lengthy words applies here: long sentences don’t impress anybody. On average, if the average length of your sentence is ten words, reader comprehension is 80%. So much for getting under the covers of your reader with your Shakespearean prowess for sonnet essays!
  • Use the Subject-Verb-Object model (S-V-O). Write (or rewrite) your sentences with this structure in mind: the subject should come first, followed by the action (verb) the subject is do-ing, and finally the object of which the subject is do-ing to. Do not delay the sentences meaning by starting with an introductory clause.
    • Do: Dental schools should encourage self-reflection to develop future professionals.” “Dental schools” is the subject, “encourage” is the verb, and “future professionals” is the object.
    • Don’t: “To develop future professionals, dental schools should encourage self-reflection.” “To develop future professionals“is an example of an introductory clause.
  • Remember, never use passive voice, which is funny advice coming from me since I often use passive voice (to be fair, it’s accidental). Active voice + active verbs = active reader.
    • Passive verbs include: is, was, were, will be, being, are, am, there is (are, were) and have has, had, having, will have, there has been.

Final Advice:

  • Continue to edit your personal statement prior to submitting your application. Recognize that it will never seem “perfect,” but with the right editing and revision, will help you sneak beneath the covers of your reader (I just now realized what a horrendous analogy Christian has come up with).
  • Read your personal statement(s) out loud, preferably in an obnoxious accent. The new sound will actually make your ears more acute and adept at catching errors.
  • Ask others to read your personal statement. Last time, I recommended some familiar with the dental school application like a current dental student or a pre-health advisor and someone keen on the English language like a writing center tutor or English professor. Take notes on the feedback they give you. Later, you can parse through your notes and choose what you want to incorporate and where.

Last word: You can go ahead and type out your personal statement in Microsoft Word, but prior to copy/pasting it into the AADSAS application, copy/paste the complete personal statement into TextEdit or some other sort of plain text formatted-word processor. TextEdit should come loaded on all Mac computers. This will help ensure that no symbols get wonky during the import from Word to AADSAS, which is very possible. A middleman like TextEdit should solve this problem. You can copy from TextEdit and paste into AADSAS.

That’s all for now on personal statements, it was a long two posts, but hopefully gave you direction in which to carry your thoughts.

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

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