So you want to be an occupational therapist, but you still have to jump through the hoops of applying for grad school. And have you yet to write your personal statement?
Well, I’m here to help.
I spent quite a bit of time crafting the best possible personal statement I could. I needed all the help I could get to strengthen my application.
A personal statement is not the only part – or even the strongest/most important part – of your application. But, a great one will help strengthen one of the many facets of your OT school application. This is important to take seriously.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Statement Writing
- Do show sincerity in your writing. It’s encouraged to let your positive emotions and enthusiasm shine through.
- Do talk about why you 100% want to be an occupational therapist. You want the programs to see that you are serious about this decision. You are not just applying because you can’t think of anything else to do for a career.
- Do in one way or another demonstrate through your writing that you know what OT is and why it’s important.
- Do know what the program is looking for in a personal statement, and make sure you do research on this before you start writing. Know exactly what all the questions are that you need to address. Check them off as you go so you don’t miss any.
- Do add your volunteer and work experience relevant to the field of OT.
- Do feel free to use the language of OT if you know it and are familiar with it (i.e. interventions, treatments, occupations, goals, evidence-based, functional, etc.)
- Do tie your personal statement together. If you make several different points, try to piece them together for the reader to show that you’ve really thought through the big picture.
- Do have four to five people read and proofread the final draft of your statement. Ask friends, family members, and someone at your school’s writing center. This can help spark ideas and ensure your application is completely free of typos. The last thing you want is admissions to toss out your application based on a few spelling mistakes.
- Do keep the length to 1-2 pages max. You want it to be short and sweet. If any sentence looks unnecessary after you do a final read-through, get rid of it. As a general rule, personal statements run on average 600-800 words.
- Don’t start your essay with cliches. In fact, leave them out of your statement altogether. Examples of these are “I’ve always wanted to help people” or “I’m very passionate about blah blah blah” etc.
- Don’t plagiarize. There are a lot of personal statement examples on the internet that you can absolutely use to guide your writing process. Do not use them word for word. Programs can find out and will exclude your application. Use the examples as templates of what kind of content you’ll cover in your statement.
- Don’t try to be humorous in your personal statement. I’m sure you are
hilarious, but this is not the time. If you are writing a personal statement to be on the cast of SNL, then maybe.
- Don’t talk about your childhood. Focus on college and post college achievements unless something in your childhood or adolescence is what drove you to OT. Remember that this isn’t an autobiography, it’s a statement on why you chose OT.
- Don’t guess what you think the reader wants you to say. Be honest and don’t write in a way that is out of line with who you really are. Don’t just write something to try to impress people.
- Don’t be a downer. Avoid going into detail about your dislikes, negative views, or problems in your life. If you have a low GPA or lack of experience, don’t mention it unless you can put a really positive spin on it. Listing excuses for your low GPA or GRE score isn’t a good idea either.
- Don’t mention specific programs in your statement if you’re using OTCAS. It will be sent to every school you apply to and therefore won’t make sense. If you apply to an individual school (not on OTCAS) then absolutely mention the school and why you’re passionate about their program.
Ask Yourself This Question
A bonus tip I found while perusing the Student Doctor Network while researching this topic. The tip is to ask yourself this question:
“Can you replace your personal statement with a degree other than OT? If not, it’s solid. If you can, then try to revise to make it only relevant to OT.”
If you have any tips or tricks you’ve discovered while writing your statement, please feel free to throw them up in the comments section. This will help our dear future readers. Of course if you have any questions, post them in the comments as well.