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Sample Essays For Podiatry School

Background-

Podiatry schools seek students who they believe will make a good podiatry student and more importantly, a competent, caring physician.  There is a huge investment made by the podiatry school and the taxpayers in the training of a physician (believe it or not, the $30,000-35,000/year tuition of public podiatry schools cover only a portion of the total costs) and consequently decisions are made very carefully, using information from a variety of sources including:  overall undergraduate GPA, science (BCMP) GPA, MCAT score, letter(s) of evaluation, personal statement, health related experience, extracurricular activities, and the interview.  These factors are assessed by the admissions committee, usually appointed by the Dean of the Podiatry School, that typically include faculty from both basic and clinical science departments, as well as practitioners.

The Evaluation Process-

Admission committees strive for objectivity in their decision making.  Podiatry schools are looking for students who present evidence of strong intellectual ability, a record of accomplishments, and personal traits indicative of the ability to communicate and relate to patients in a realistic and compassionate manner.  The five most important factors used in making the decision are:

1) undergraduate academic record -  Studies indicate that an important predictor of success in the basic science classes in podiatry school is the quality of work in subjects leading to the baccalaureate degree.  It is evidence of your motivation and ability.  The academic record includes the overall GPA, science (BCMP) GPA, non-science GPA, performance in some individual courses, and the overall trend.  For instance, a poor freshmen year followed by improvements over the next 2 years may be somewhat overlooked, whereas a declining record may not be.  The difficulty of your chosen curriculum is also noted.  If you consistently take the path of least resistance and avoid the tough classes, this will negatively impact your record.

2) MCAT score - The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) has been shown to be the best single predictor of podiatry school academic performance used by admissions committees (virtually every school in the nation requires it).  National standardized tests, like them or not, are a fact of life in podiatry school and beyond (e.g. APMLE a.k.a "the boards").  There is a significant positive correlation between MCAT scores and board exam scores.  NOTE: Some schools may accept the DAT and/or GRE in lieu of the MCAT. Check with the individual schools that you are applying to.

3) letter of evaluation -  At WKU, a single committee letter is sent to the admission committee, composed by your pre-podiatry advisor (committee chairperson) with input from two other individuals (e.g. faculty from which you have taken a class or done research with).  The letter is written following a meeting (interview) with each member of the committee.  Many students find this helpful, serving as good practice for your podiatry school interviews.

4) personal statement (essay) - The AACPMAS application forms include a one page essay.  You will be asked write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a podiatric physician.  This can be a very difficult and introspective part of the process.  This is the student's opportunity to really let the admission committee know who they are, to focus on their special strengths that they feel they can offer the profession.  After all, you want to somehow distinguish yourself from all the other applicants with good grades and high test scores.  What interesting experiences or skills do you possess?  What interesting personal anecdotes can you relate that illustrate these experiences, skills, or traits ?   Be yourself and write about your best points.  Be prepared to discuss these points at your interview.

5) supplemental (secondary) application - Some podiatry schools require a supplemental application in addition to AACPMAS.  They vary significantly in their content and reflect the questions that particular school considers important. It is recommended that the applicant review the mission statement of the school and other on-line information before completing the secondary for that school. Submit your secondary in a timely fashion to get an early interview.

6) impression made in the interview - Typically the candidate will be interviewed by 2 members of the admissions committee, each for 30 minutes.  Interviewers will evaluate the student candidate according to:  a.) experience and knowledge of the profession; b.) interpersonal skills; c.) motivation for seeking admission; and d.) responsibility and commitment.  Once an interview is scheduled, students may take advantage of a mock interview conducted by the staff of the South Central AHEC on WKU's campus.  The AHEC office can be reached by calling 270-745-3325.

Extracurricular Activities-

Extracurricular activities are important in that they are indications that you can juggle a rigorous curriculum and still participate in outside activities be they work, athletics, volunteer experience, or research experience. The AACPMAS application allows you to such activities.  The level of your participation is more important than the number and diversity of your activities.  It is better to be immersed in a few activities, and achieve increased levels of responsibility and leadership than to gain a shallow experience in dozens of arenas.  It is important to realize that time spent outside of your academic pursuits is not a substitution for a modest academic record.  It may instead be an indication of poor judgement, poor time management or skewed priorities.  If your time spent in extracurricular activities is negatively impacting your coursework, you would be best advised to scale it back a bit.

Health Related Experience-

It is crucial that you gain some experience in a health related activity.  Whether you volunteer in a hospital, clinic or podiatrist's office this activity will serve three important purposes.  First, it will help you clarify your decision to pursue a career in podiatry.  You may find out that being around injured and dying people makes you uncomfortable, that it is too stressful, or that you faint at the sight of blood or would never be able to perform routine procedures.  Better to find this out now than after you get to Podiatry School.  Second, admissions committees view this as a sign of your dedication and motivation to a career in podiatry and service to your community.  It will show that you have tested your career choice and have reinforced your commitment.  Third, it will give you experiences to draw on for your personal statements and interviews.  To find a DPM near you: Click Here to Find a DPM. While arranging volunteer/shadowing experiences is completely the responsibility of the student, information on willing physicians/agencies/hospital contacts can be obtained from the South Central AHEC on Western's campus 270-745-3325.

Research Experience-

While performing biological research has its own intrinsic rewards (a deeper understanding of concepts, personal satisfaction, development of problem solving skills, exploration of the unknown, etc.), it also is an important extracurricular activity to admissions committees, particularly those schools where academic medicine and biomedical research are stressed.

Part 2: How to Begin (Goal: Engage the Reader)

Before you begin to write, I recommend that you:

  1. Develop a list of qualities you want to demonstrate and
  2. Think of events or situations that highlight these qualities

Then, you should write about one of these events or situations in a way that demonstrates these qualities and captures the reader’s attention.

1.   List Your Greatest Qualities

To answer the personal statement prompt more easily, focus again on the question of what you want admissions committees to know about you beyond your numbers and achievements.

I’m not talking about your hobbies (e.g., “I followed Taylor Swift to every concert she performed in the US during this past year”), although you could certainly point to aspects of your lifestyle in your essay to make your point.

Instead, I’m talking about which of your qualities–character, personality traits, attitudes–you want to demonstrate. Examples include:

  • Extraordinary compassion
  • Kindness
  • Willingness to learn
  • Great listening skills
  • Optimism
  • Knowledge-seeking
  • Persistence
  • And so on

If you have difficulty thinking of your great qualities (many students do), ask family members or close friends what you’re good at and why they like you; that will take care of things :)

Finally, choose the two or three qualities that you want to focus on in your personal statement. Let’s use compassion and knowledge-seeking as the foundational qualities of an original example for this article.

(Note: I cannot overstate how important it is to think of the qualities you want to demonstrate in your personal statement before choosing a situation or event to write about. Students who decide on an event or situation first usually struggle to fit in their qualities within the confines of their story. On the other hand, students who choose the qualities they want to convey first are easily able to demonstrate them because the event or situation they settle on naturally highlights these qualities.)

2.   When or Where Have You Demonstrated These Qualities?

Now that I’m off my soapbox and you’ve chosen qualities to highlight, it’s time to list any event(s) or setting(s) where you’ve demonstrated them.

I should explicitly mention that this event or setting doesn't need to come from a clinical (e.g., shadowing a physician, interacting with a young adult patient at a cancer center, working with children in an international clinic) or research experience (e.g., making a finding in cancer research), although it’s OK if it involves an extracurricular activity directly related to medicine.

In fact, since most students start their essays by describing clinical or research experiences, starting off with something else–travel (e.g., a camping trip in Yellowstone), volunteering (e.g., building homes in New Orleans), family (e.g., spending time with and learning from your elderly and ill grandmother back home in New Hampshire), work (e.g., helping out at your parents’ donut shop)–will make you immediately stand out.

Let’s start with the example of building homes in New Orleans. Why? Because we could easily demonstrate compassion and knowledge-seeking through this experience. Notice how the qualities we select can choose the story for us?

3.  Describe Your Event as a Story

Here’s where the art of writing a great personal statement really comes in.

Admissions officers read thousands of essays, most of which are very cliché or dry. Therefore, it’s critical that you stand out by engaging the reader from the very beginning.

By far the best way to capture admissions officers early is by developing a story at the start of your essay about the event or situation you chose in Step 2.

In a previous article, I wrote about the three critical elements for writing a great admissions essay story: 1) a compelling character, 2) a relatable plot, and 3) authenticity) 

However, I want to go one step beyond that article and provide an actual example of how the same event can be written in a routine vs. compelling way. That way, you can avoid the common pitfalls of typical personal statements and write a standout one.

Routine

One of my most eye-opening experiences came when I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans during the summer months of 2014. Up to that point, I had only heard about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina 9 years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to volunteer, it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.

Compelling

New Orleans was hot and humid during the summer months of 2014–no surprise there. However, for a native Oregonian like me, waking up to 90-degree and 85% humidity days initially seemed like too much to bear. That was until I reflected on the fact that my temporary discomfort was minute in contrast to the destruction of communities and emotional pounding experienced by the people of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina 9 years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like 9 year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people was as much about lifting spirits as making physical improvements.

Many people may feel the Routine example is pretty good. Upon closer look, however, it seems that:

  • The focus is as much on New Orleanians as the applicant
  • The story is not particularly relatable (unless the reader had also volunteered there)
  • There isn’t much support for the writer actually being touched by the people there

On the other hand, the Compelling example:

  • Keeps the spotlight on the applicant throughout (e.g., references being from Oregon, discusses her reflections, interacting with Jermaine)
  • Has a relatable plot (e.g., temporary discomfort, changing perspectives)
  • Is authentic (e.g., provides an example of how she lifted spirits)

(You can find yet another example of a typical vs. standout admissions essay introduction to engage readers in this earlier post.)

4.   Demonstrate Your Qualities

(Note: This section applies to all aspects of your essay.)

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most common pieces of advice given for writing personal statements, but further guidance or examples are rarely provided to demonstrate what it looks like when done well.

This is unfortunate because the best way to understand how standout personal statements demonstrate qualities through an engaging story is by reading two examples of the same situation: one that “tells” about a quality, and another that “shows” a quality.

Let’s take a look at the last sentence of each story example I provided in the previous section to better understand this distinction.

Telling (from Routine story)

“…it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.”

Showing (from Compelling story)

“…actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like 9 year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people…”

Notice how the second example demonstrates compassion without ever mentioning the word "compassion" (hence no bolded words)?

Moreover, the same sentence demonstrates knowledge-seeking: “Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals...”)

That’s what you’re going for.

Think about it. Who do you consider to be more kind:

  • A person who says, “I’m really nice!”; or
  • A person who you've seen do nice things for others?

Clearly, the second person will be seen as more kind, even if there's no difference between their levels of kindness.

Therefore, by demonstrating your qualities, you will look better to admissions committees, and also seem more authentic.

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