When preparing to apply to a graduate nursing program, there are many requirements and submission guidelines to remember. The component that allows you to tell your unique story — your personal statement — is one of the most important.
Writing a compelling personal statement for an MSN program, like the Nursing@Simmons online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, takes time and can be challenging for some applicants. Just as a poorly written essay can hinder your chances of acceptance, a great one can set you apart from other applicants. Below are three steps to writing a personal statement that will make a positive impression on any admissions committee.
1. Plan Your Story
Very few people can sit down at a keyboard and craft the perfect personal statement without preparation. It may take several weeks of thinking about how to communicate your story, so give yourself plenty of time to plan, jot down thoughts, and make an outline as ideas come to you. Use the following tips to gather the information you’ll need to create an excellent statement.
- Consider how your work experience as a registered nurse (RN) has influenced you and shaped your goals for the future. How will an advanced education promote your professional growth and help you transition into the role of an FNP?
- Think beyond your resume. What traits, strengths, and accomplishments aren’t captured there? Consider your interests, including how they will contribute to your success in the program. Provide examples of nursing goals, leadership, mentorship, or growth you have accomplished or experienced. Write these down and keep them in mind as you begin your draft.
- Choose appropriate topics for your statement. Avoid soapbox issues, and don’t preach to your reader. This kind of statement can come across as condescending and obscure the point you’re trying to make.
- Research the program. Make sure you understand the school’s values and reputation. Do they align with yours? How so?
2. Create Your Draft
- When it is time to start putting your thoughts on paper, try to avoid overthinking your work. Strive for a natural voice. Pretend you are talking to a friend and write without fear — you can edit and polish your piece to perfection in the next stage.
- Avoid cliches and nursing generalities. Generic descriptors, such as “caring,” “compassionate,” “people person,” and “unique,” have been so often overused that they no longer carry much weight with an admissions committee. They also don’t address your personal experience in the nursing sphere. Try not to start your story with phrases like “for as long as I can remember” or your audience may stop reading.
- Show, don’t tell. Strong storytelling is grounded in personal details that illustrate who you are, both as a nurse and a person. Be specific by describing how many patients you managed, how you earned promotions, or a time when your supervisor praised your professionalism and clinical abilities. Here are examples that illustrate the difference between telling and showing:
“I perform well under pressure.”
“Although my patient arrived for a different ailment, I suspected that her symptoms were consistent with a serious infection. As a result, I was able to advocate for a care plan that prevented further damage.”
- Use specific examples when talking about your experience with direct patient care and evidence-based practice. Provide details about how your clinical experiences have demonstrated patient advocacy, leadership, communication, or confidence.
- Discuss how earning a Master of Science in Nursing aligns with your career plans and why you want to become a FNP. Explain that you understand the commitment required and that you have the skills and dedication to become an FNP. Be sure to let the admissions committee know why you are choosing their program and what makes their program stand apart from the rest. Reflect on the school and program research you did during your planning stage.
3. Edit and Perfect
Even the best writers have to edit and polish their work. Reviewing and revising your personal statement ensures that the piece is clear, organized, and free of errors.
- Once you have written your first draft, take a break and distance yourself from your work. This will allow you to return to the draft with a clear head to review objectively and spot potential issues and errors.
- Read your statement aloud. Does it sound like you? Does it reflect your best qualities and the strengths you’ll bring to a nursing program?
- Take great care to submit a statement that is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Even minor mistakes can make you look careless. Multiple errors could indicate to the admissions committee that you are disorganized or not taking the application process seriously. Here are some tools and tips to help you present a perfect piece of writing:
- Always use spell check on your essay, but be careful as it won’t catch every spelling error.
- Use a grammar editing tool, such as Grammarly.
- Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to review your statement. This is a great way to catch errors or awkward phrasing that you may have missed.
Your nursing personal statement should be a window into your life. Use it to share specific experiences that have influenced your decision to advance your nursing education. Adhering to professional standards and presenting yourself in a positive, open, and honest way will help the admissions committee determine your fit and future in an FNP program.
Writing your personal statement will take time, effort and several revisions before you can submit it, so don’t leave it right up until the deadline to start work on it.
A personal statement should be just that - personal.
Any employer, or university in particular, could check your statement using specialist plagiarism software that detects whether or not you’ve directly lifted text from someone else. If they discover you have copied someone else’s work, you could be rejected by that university or employer for this or any future place.
So, the message is, make it personal to you. Writing a high quality nursing personal statement can be difficult, but we’ve broken it down into manageable sections below.
Start With Who You Are
Your personal statement is your chance to talk directly to the course admissions officer about who you are, what motivates you, and why you should be chosen for a place in the branch of nursing you’ve applied for.
You should demonstrate your knowledge of nursing and the healthcare industry in accordance with your level of education and experience. For example, if you’ve never worked in healthcare before, you should show that you’ve researched the role of a nurse and some of the tasks involved with it. You should show that you know what the day to day routine can be like and how you're suited to it.
If you've worked in healthcare, you can definitely give details of your experiences to back up your reasons for applying. Be specific about how your work has affected your decision to apply and why you feel suited to progressing your career in nursing. Give practical examples of your interactions with nurses, and how they may have influenced your decision to apply.
Relevant Experience And Skills
Everyone has skills and experience that can be applied in a nursing environment, even if they weren’t acquired in a healthcare setting.
Here are some examples of skills and qualities that can be applied in nursing:
Relevant nursing experience can also come from family situations. If you’ve cared for someone in any way at all, then you can definitely use this to back up your statement.
Try to avoid rambling if you’re going to do this, be concise about the tasks you undertook and how it has helped you develop as a person and as a potential student nurse.
Your Ambitions And Career Goals In Nursing
The competition for nursing course places in every branch at every university is fierce, and consequently they want to ensure the places go to candidates who genuinely want to become a nurse, and are motivated to pursue their career in nursing.
Even if you don’t have a specific nursing role you would like to attain in your career, you should go into some detail about what sort of environment you could see yourself working in.
For example if you’re applying for children’s nursing then your ambition should be focussed around children and the age group you could see yourself working with. It may be that you want to focus on neonates in SCBU or childhood diabetes, but either way you should detail some of the professional development you might need in order to achieve your goals.
Things To Watch Out For
Check any documentation from the university to see if there is a word limit set for a personal statement. You don’t want to risk your application not being considered because your personal statement is too long.
Make sure your application is sent before the deadline; the earlier the better. This means you need to start work on your personal statement as soon as you decide to apply. It’s by far the most time consuming part of the application process, and it will undoubtedly require revisions prior to submission.
Don’t feel you have to write in a ‘forced’ way. It’s easy to feel insecure if you don’t feel you can write well, but it’s worse if you feel you have to write in an unfamiliar way just to sound more academic.
It’s important it comes from you and your experiences, and if you can get the reader interested in you as a person from the very beginning, you’ll be in with a better chance of getting an interview.
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