Standing Out – How to Write an Easy, Yet Strong and Effective Personal Statement

By: Trevor Pugh – Health Policy & Management

With the SOPHAS application season in full swing, I feel like it was only last week when I had to sit down and write my personal statement for my applications. It is a unique item in your application portfolio because you have complete creative control over its content. This is the only item that can truly showcase your motivations, intentions, and personality as an applicant. Given this, I decided to put together my story on how I crafted a personal statement that got me accepted to every school I applied to. I hope these tips and tricks will help give you the guidance that I wish I had when I wrote mine.

Like myself, you are probably unsure about what a personal statement even is. It was never needed in an undergraduate college application and the explanations of this document are vague. While many can see this as frustrating due to the lack of guidance, the vagueness and creative flexibility is your advantage here. My first recommendation is to develop an outline that you feel captures what you want to say regardless of the school you are applying to. Through the use of SOPHAS, the personal statement should primarily reflect who you are as an individual and how you can add to the public health community. Knowing this, build an outline that can set you up to write a statement you can submit to every school without having to drastically change it. This not only makes your application time efficient, but it allows you to truly highlight why you want to be a Master of Public Health student. Another general, and probably obvious, recommendation is to start early. The personal statement was the piece of the application that I spent the most time on and struggled with to create. Getting it done early alleviates extra stress and it even gives you time to have a peer, or two, review it. Drafting it early and getting thoughtful edits on the paper is important for tying up overlooked mistakes.

You may also be asking what should be included in the actual statement. While there is no rubric for how to write it, striking a balance between your personality, your interests, and appealing to the school(s) you are applying for is a pretty good starting point. When I wrote my personal statement, I was coming right from undergrad so I did not have much “life experience” to pull from. Therefore, my tactic was making the emotional appeal while highlighting my interests and strengths. I talked about four main categories in my writing which you may want to consider as well.

  1. What is public health and what does it mean to you?
  2. What experience(s) in your life have led you and/or prepared you to be a public health professional?
  3. What are your career and professional interests in public health?
  4. What about the school appeals to you and how can the program help you achieve your goals?

 If you think about addressing these topics in your statement, it creates a unique piece that makes you stand out. If you add in the piece about what the school specifically can do for you, it shows that you have done your research into the program. Based on prior advice I had been given, this shows the admissions team your interest and commitment to joining their community. Tying that into your own interests and career aspirations further strengthens that bond the school can have with you and helping you reach those goals. 

At the end of the day, the personal statement is your creation. While you can seek out advice and I can give it to you, your statement needs to be something you have confidence in. If you are not confident in including my tips, do not do it. If you are not confident in the first draft you write, start again. Your best work will show through the words you are confident in, and the admissions team of any school will see the same thing. Trust yourself, and you will shine. 

I hope this gives you a little bit of guidance in this process. If you are ever in need of additional advice or insight on the SOPHAS application process, feel free to reach out through the channels I have listed below. As an ambassador, I am always willing to help recruit new members of our Rollins family. Best of luck in your application process!

Warm Regards,

Trevor Pugh HPM ‘21


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