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.
Nursing, unlike many other professions, has a variety of educational paths for those who return for advanced education. You should decide if baccalaureate- or graduate-level work is congruent with your career goals.
If you want to become a nurse, you have several options to get you there. The option you choose will depend upon your particular situation. Before choosing your path, you'll want to consider your current financial situation and your long-term career goals. Depending on what you want to do, you may decide on an associate, bachelor, or master's degree in nursing.
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Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN)
In order to be an RN, you must have at least an associate level degree. If you continue to higher education, you can get your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Likewise, you can move on to doctorate programs. As the level of education increases, so does your opportunity for more complex, specialized, and higher paying jobs. Higher degrees will also qualify you for leadership roles within organizations.
A traditional path
Many students out of high school who are considering getting a nursing degree enroll in school and obtain a BSN right away. Then, depending on their career goals, they move on to graduate school. This allows you to enter the workforce with a solid education under your belt and begin your career at a higher level than just an RN. This works great for students who are financially prepared to enter a four-year college and work towards a degree.
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A more gradual and vocational path
The traditional path mentioned above is great for students who plan to go right to college out of high school. However, that path is definitely not one-size-fits-all. There are some who enter nursing as a second career, or those who simply cannot leave the work force for four years to complete a bachelor degree. In these cases, this more vocational path might fit.
- LPN or LVN: LPN stands for Licensed Practical Nursing. LVN Stands for Licensed Vocational Nursing. This is a fast-paced program that is often offered at a community college, a local hospital or a vocational school. The program usually takes about a year to complete, after which you can take a state exam and enter the workforce as a nurse and continue your education.
- After you are an LPN or an LVN, you can take an accelerated course in order to get an associate degree in nursing. These are called LPN-to-Associate degrees.
- If you are wanting to eventually get your bachelor degree, you can also take an LPN-to-Bachelor program. This typically allows you to take classes part time and eventually earn your BSN.
This path can allow you to enter the workforce as a nurse very quickly and then gradually increase your education as you move along in your career.
Regardless of which path you take, nursing degrees are in high demand and will continue to be in high demand for the next few decades. In some areas, nursing shortages have caused hospitals to actively recruit nurses with signing bonuses and other incentives. It's a great career choice, that includes options that enhance your flexibility in how you obtain the degree.
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