One of the most important prewriting tips you need to know is about the beauty of time.
Appreciate it. Utilize it. Maximize it.
When it comes to your personal statement essay, be generous with how much time you allow for the writing process. It will allow you to craft an essay that reflects who you are and tells the admissions committees things they can’t discover by simply looking at your GPA or your transcripts.
One more time, for the cheap seats: allow more time to write your personal statement essay than you think you’ll actually need.
Create and Inflict Your Own Deadlines
We all know deadlines can be great motivators. Writing your personal statement has multiple steps of creating, reading, editing, and revising (not to mention the steps of procrastination, whining, and copious amounts of coffee) so it requires you to be aware of time and organize your approach to the deadline.
Your most basic deadline is when you want to submit to CASPA. You need to allow for “incidentals” — the hiccups you’re bound to have along the way — so be sure to pad your submission date with at least an extra week, two to be safe.
In addition to creating a deadline for when you’ll upload your personal statement, it’s useful to create other deadlines, working back from your final draft deadline. You can break up the whole writing process this way if you like, and create a schedule for the other steps along the way, such as the different drafts of your personal statements or getting input from trusted friends. Or you can pick a couple key points and make due dates for them.
Here are a few suggestions for possible deadlines:
- Look over the FAQs on the CASPA website so you know the details of what’s required.
- Make a list of themes you’d like to explore. In this list be sure to include the aspects of the PA profession that most captivated you and inspired you to pursue this career path.
- Pick a prewriting strategy and try it out. (You can read more about different prewriting techniques we’ve written about here or here.)
- Pick a date to have a very rough draft prepared. Tell someone that you’ve made this deadline — that will help it feel like a “real” date. Meet that deadline, tell your friend you’ve met it. Celebrate. Then put your essay away for at least two days before you pick it up again.
The Orange Juice of Editing
When you’re in the midst of writing, there are moments of brilliance. You feel confident, knowledgeable, and the words flow from your fingertips. Those are great moments. Revel in those moments. You’ll need them to bolster you as you move through the writing process and into editing.
Think of writing as a bottle of orange juice with lots of pulp. When you’re writing, you’ve shaken that bottle, mixing the pulp into the rest of the juice. Tasty, filled with vitamins and refreshment. But let’s say there’s a big hunk in there you don’t like, or even a few coffee ground that fell in. It’s challenging to filter out those errant pieces and who wants to drink coffee grounds? Nobody, that’s who.
If you set down the bottle and allow time for the juice to rest, the pulp (and other items) will all drift down to the bottom. At that point, it will be much, much easier to strain out what doesn’t belong.
In the same way, allowing time between writing and editing will give you a more accurate perspective on what you’ve created. You’ll be able to see simple things like places you repeated yourself
repeated yourself or places where trailed off instead of finishing a sentence. You’ll be able to see bigger issues, such as idea hopping, or a lack of transition statements, or a nebulous, vague theme structure, or a tendency to inventory your attributes by using lists that go on,
for far too long.
These are things that need clear vision, and time will help give you that vision.
Give yourself Time
The reality is that writing is difficult. It can be really fun and gratifying as well. For most of us mere-mortals it takes work to craft something which effectively communicates our message. Be generous with the time you dedicate to creating that message.
Allow plenty of time to play with ideas before you start the work of outlining or actual writing. Try some prewriting, such as word storming (which you can read about here) or freewriting (which you can read about here). Let your ideas percolate and swirl before you catch them all and lock them onto the page.
Then, once you’ve written your masterpiece, congratulate yourself and take a day off. You’ve earned it! Put your essay aside and get some fresh air. Let the pulp of that orange juice settle to the bottom while you take a long walk and get your blood flowing. Your writing will benefit as well as your body. Think about something else for a few days so that when you return, you’ll have a better perspective on the revisions you need to make.
You got this. Now get to work!
Remember, we’re here to help! We offer different kinds of editing and coaching services, and our coaches are amazing. CASPA opens in April, so don’t wait to begin working — contact us today!