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.
For the vast majority of Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs, which one must undertake if one wants to practice in this particular field of nursing, the applicant will be required to submit an essay in order to be accepted into the program. Although the application deadline may still be months in the future, this is something that you should get started on as soon as possible, as it is probably the most important factor in determining whether or not you will be able to achieve your career goals. If you have already applied to one or more schools, you will need to get through mountains of paperwork, completing your personal information, getting all your transcripts together and having hundreds of copies of your letters of recommendation. Although this is a lot of work to do, it is the easy part. Writing the essay, however, is something that sends many prospective students into melt down. What is expected of you? How do you present your essay? What does the university want to hear?
The questions you are likely to need to answer are the hard ones we all hate. For instance, these include questions as to why you want to become a FNP or demonstrating how you have once overcome a relevant challenges. It can be difficult to really put into words why you feel you have a calling for nursing or to eloquently describe how a conflict was resolved, without disclosing private information as well. Naturally, you cannot avoid these questions. Simply indicating that you like the idea of a decent salary and that you will decide what you want to do with the rest of your life later is a sure fire way to get rejected by your university of choice.
So what do you do? How do you get the message across that you really should be given that place at the university?
The following are 7 tips for writing the perfect FNP essay, which hopefully will be of benefit to you.
1 – Be Specific
When you receive your essay questions, you will notice that they are reasonably generic questions. What the university is looking for, however, is how you turn that into something very specific. Hence, don’t just outline your overall feelings about a full topic. Instead, go into details and use specific examples from your personal experience that truly demonstrate the answers that you would like to provide. Not only would this be a better way of answering the question, it also means your essay will be far more interesting. It will properly showcase your personality, which is something that is very important in nursing.
2 – Be Specific But Keep It Simple
Always remember that you are writing an essay and not the next great saga. Very often, there will be a word count limit, but even if there isn’t, you shouldn’t write every little detail that you come up with. What matters is that the information is complete and that it doesn’t go off topic. Stick to the guidelines that are provided, as they have been given for a good reason (one of them is to test you on how well you can follow instructions). Additionally, you must be concrete in your answers. Never use words like “might” or “hope” and this demonstrates that you aren’t entirely sure about what you want to do. Instead, stick to words such as “will” and “can,” which are far more powerful. Do make sure you follow all the directions that have been provided to you. The school may request your essay in a certain format, for instance, which may mean you will need to get to know some different software packages before you hand it in.
3 – Learn About the Various Roles of a Family Nurse Practitioner
Although you will be studying towards becoming an FNP, the university will want to know that you already have an understanding of what that job requires. You need to make sure that your responses represent the overall roles of FNPs. It is likely that you are already employed in a health care setting if you want to be an FNP, as it is a master’s degree, so perhaps you might want to interview someone in your employment before writing your essay.
4 – Be Personal But Not Too Much
It is very likely that you will be asked how you overcame something very difficult in your life. Usually, what they are looking for is something that happened during your career, and not necessarily in your personal life. Although you can use personal challenges, try to avoid true personal hardship, such as having a history of abuse, coming from a broken home or having financial difficulties in your personal life. If you struggle to find something that you would class as a true difficulty outside of your persona life, then pick something that was perhaps not entirely insurmountable but still challenging. So long as it is not trivial, you can use it as an example
5 – Show Off But Don’t Be Arrogant
Your essay is an opportunity for you to show what you are made of. Highlight all the things that are good about you, such as your education, your career and other experiences. Perhaps you have done voluntary work, or you have already been employed in the medical field. It is always a good idea to give some examples of the experiences you have had to demonstrate why you are good at what you do and why you want to become a FNP.
6 – Use as Many Facts as Possible
You will need to describe who you are in your essay as well, and it is best to use facts rather than just descriptive words. For instance, saying you are hardworking may sound really good, but it is much better to given an example of how you have worked hard in your experience. You need to prove any claim you make about yourself.
7 – Edit Again and Again
Finally, once you have completed your essay, proofread it. After that, give it to someone else to proofread and then edit it once more yourself. Misspellings, typos and layout problems are a sure fire way to have your application denied because they show a lack of attention to detail. Share your essay with as many people as possible and ask for their suggestions and edits before you finally submit it.
Remember that the faculty members of the FNP program you are applying for will also look at how well you can write. This is because FNPs often have to deliver reports and work in educational programs. Hence, you have to make sure that it is well-reviewed and well-written. This is your chance to shine and really show them what you are made of, so make sure you don’t hurt your chances in any way by making small and silly mistakes. And this is also why you should start as early as possible, as this is not a job that can be rushed.