I’ve spent a lot of time writing about personal statements. There are general rules, which I’ve written about here and here. Also, there are important and simple grammar rules to pay attention to, like these and these. I’ve provided some examples of poor letters of intent, so now it’s time to look at some good examples.
These were all applicants for our internship program, and I obtained their permission and have removed identifying information. Go and read each one, and then I will provide my analysis of why I like it. As always, evaluators are highly variable, so don’t take my perspective as the gospel truth- just one perspective.
The first paragraph is simple and solid. It expresses appreciation- of which I am a huge fan- and makes it clear who they are and for what they are applying. I get the impression that this person is interested in oncology, but isn’t totally fanatic about it, the latter of which can be off-putting.
The second paragraph has some narrative elements in it, and I love that they acknowledge the bad part of their interest (oncology is sad) while explaining why they don’t think that’s the most important aspect of it. I love that they talk about supporting clients, connecting with them, and helping them.
The third paragraph is a delight to me. They show that they know what specialty medicine is and also what they can bring. They don’t do so in a boastful way. I also like that they’re specific. They don’t say “I’m a good leader”; they say “oral communication”. They share some of their experiences and what they’ve gotten from those.
The fourth paragraph talks about celebrating good things. It’s a very positive message. They share that they have a variety of perspectives from living different places, which is tremendously valuable to be a self-actualized human being. They acknowledge they have learned a lot and have more to learn and grow.
Overall, I find the message is very positive, earnest, and insightful. I feel like I know this candidate a little bit.
The first paragraph clearly shows what they want in a program and what they feel their positive characteristics are. They mention a specific interest, but don’t obsess over it.
The second paragraph is all about communication. It doesn’t use “communication” as a buzzword. They clearly articulate what their experience is and how that affected them.
The part of the third paragraph I like the most is “safe and inclusive learning environment”. But, again, it’s supported by their experiences. I believe that this writer understands what that means, rather than just, “yeah, yeah, this is something we’re supposed to say.” I believe their experiences WILL help them make a positive learning experience for those around them.
The fourth paragraph is similar- they give experiences they have had, how they learned from those, and how they grew. Great stuff.
The final paragraph has me convinced that they have a growth mindset and are humble. They want to learn more and are willing to listen. They acknowledge the difficulties an internship entails, so they have some idea of what they’re getting into.
Once again, the opening paragraph is descriptive, clear, shows their professional interests, but isn’t overly aggressive.
The rest of the letter uses examples from their experience to highlight their own skills and professional ambitions.
The final paragraph emphasizes their interest in learning, which makes me think they have a growth mindset. Appreciation expressed when closing the letter is also nice.
1) Be genuine, authentic, and earnest.
2) Use examples from your experience to highlight your skills and how you have grown.
3) Demonstrate that you have a growth mindset and are enthusiastic.
4) Be positive.
5) Don’t go overboard or try to be too much. As always, aim for zero.