It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program.
Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. You know most of the things you need to say already. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions.
This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.
I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees.
If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program.
Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length.You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping.What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them.A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one.If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.(Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style.) You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language.But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place.Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants.This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.Like many other patients I would see that year, this man suffered from an illness that only a combination of psychological and medical care would effectively treat.I realized then that I wanted to be able to help people by using that particular combination of skills only a psychiatrist develops.