Writing About Your Experiences
As a pre-health student, you probably know that there are a lot of pieces to put together to create a strong application to a health program, including gaining experience. But, health program admissions committees aren’t just looking to see what you’ve done; they’re looking to see how you reflect on the experiences you’ve had, and connect them to the health profession you want to enter. And when it comes time for you to write about your experiences in your application, you have the opportunity to show admissions committees these reflections.
So, what does documenting your experiences look like? Since each health program uses a different application system, it’ll vary from program to program. For example, students applying to medical school will apply through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which includes a “Work and Activities” section. In this section, applicants can write about a maximum of 15 experiences in up to 700 characters for each. Applicants can designate up to three of those 15 experiences as “most meaningful,” and then have an additional 1325 characters to write about each “most meaningful” experience.
Here are some tips for reflectively writing about your experiences:
- What do admissions committees want to know about an experience I had? Admissions committees will want to understand what you did, but are more interested in what you learned or gained from the experience than the details of your role and tasks. So, spend around 20% of the space you have to write about each experience to provide context around what you did, and the other 80% providing your reflections on your personal growth, lessons learned, and the impact the experience had on you. How were your experiences meaningful and transformative for you? How did your experiences enhance your fit and motivation for the profession? How did they help you gain an understanding of what it’s like to work in that profession? Your ability to self-reflect and make meaning from your experiences is what admissions committees like to learn about you.
- Incorporate the Core Competencies into your experience descriptions: These are the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students, but these competencies are universal to all health professions and are very important to reflect on and articulate within your descriptions. When you include these competencies in your experience descriptions, you’re showing the admissions committee that you’ve started to build a foundation of the skills and qualities you’ll need to be successful as a health professional. Pro tip: Write your descriptions to share how you have demonstrated these competencies, and in a way implies that you have developed a competency.
- What about experiences from high school? Experiences in high school are typically not included as an experience entry within your health professional program’s centralized application. However, personal reflection and/or stories about experiences gained in high school could be part of your personal statement.
- How can I maximize the space I have to write about my experiences? Focus on sharing information that isn’t already documented in your application. Through the process of filling out the experience section of the centralized application system you will provide the name of the organization you were at, the position you held, and the length of time/dates you were involved in your experience. Don't waste character space by sharing this same information within your description, this information will already be at the top of each experience listing.
- Spelling, Grammar Perfection: Get other people to read through your experience descriptions. Make sure to have at least one person you trust read through your writing with an eye on catching spelling and grammar mistakes. Taking your writing to the Student Writing Center on campus could be a resource for you.
- You don’t stand out based on what you did, you stand out by your ability to reflect on and write about what you did!