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3 Best Ways to Show, Not Tell on Your Personal Essay

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After multiple hours it was clearly official, I had no idea what I was doing or how I would begin. Luckily I reached out to the one person who could help me, my CRNA mentor. When I first began writing my personal statement, the best advice she ever gave me was to show the admissions committee who I was. Whether on my CV, personal statement or interview. Okay, sounds easy to do, right? 

Read: My CRNA Journey: Surgical Tech To CRNA- The Unbelievable

Wrong, it can really seem difficult when you first start writing. One of the reasons I feel it’s hard for us nurses is that we don’t want to brag about all our achievements. This sometimes results in inactivity as we begin the CRNA school application process. But, this is what you don’t want to happen. 

In order to stand out from the hundreds of other CRNA school applicants, you must first demonstrate who you are. So, when I work with writers on personal statements, I often tell them to ask themselves, “Am I showing or telling in this sentence or passage?” 

Read: 9 Key Ways To Maximize Your Personal Statement

After reading this article, you’ll have a better idea of just how easy it can be to demonstrate your personality, inspiration and career goals for becoming a CRNA when using the show versus tell technique.

And the good news is these tips, when implemented right now, will help you get started just like I did in the opening of this article. 

What does show, don’t tell mean? 

In a nutshell, “show, don’t tell” is a common piece of creative writing advice that encourages you to show action. This is done with the use of sensory information in your writing so that your reader can feel the same things in which either you or your character experiences. 

As a result, the writing comes off much deeper and more meaningful and the reader connects with you. In your case this would be the admissions committee and exactly where you want them to be. 

Examples of show versus tell 

  • Telling: Sara was sad to see her patient had passed away. 
  • Showing: Sara wiped away tears as she watched her patient take her last breath.

In the above examples, you can see showing makes the writing more vivid with the use of descriptors. It brings the reader into your story and allows them to feel what you experienced. 

Showing creates a mental image for the reader as if they were there with you. It requires the reader to fully engage in your story in order to find the true meaning behind it. This in turn keeps them interested and wanting to read more of your personal statement. 

Telling, on the other hand, involves the author just summarizing the content which can be boring. Of course, there are times when telling is appropriate. Such as whenever you need to provide concise information or when making note of an important thought. 

Show, Don’t Tell Tips 

Tip #1: Be specific

Remember you are trying to reach the admissions committee with your words. Therefore, you want your words to be effective, easy to understand and to the point. In order to do this, you need to resist the urge to cram too many details into one sentence.

Also, avoid using too many unnecessary filler words so they don’t bog down your message. Another great tip to help you get to the point is to be precise with your words by avoiding redundancy. 

Tip #2: Add depth by using strong verbs

A strong verb is only a more descriptive version of a basic verb that creates a more interesting read. So instead of writing “run down the hall, you would write bolt down the hall”. 

Adding in strong verbs in this way will only enhance your essay. This one addition to your essay could take it from bland to more exciting. So although you can use basic verbs to tell your story, your essay will have a deeper impact on the reader if you use strong verbs instead.  

The goal is to take the reader on a ride with you, to make them feel what you experienced when reading your essay. A great way to ensure this is by using strong verbs to make your story even more powerful. This depicts an even deeper emotion which allows you to show how you felt versus telling exactly what happened. 

Tip #3: Include sensory details

Last, you must add in sensory words when describing what you are trying to get across to the admissions committee. Writing with the 5 senses in mind (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste) is a brilliant way to engage the readers’ emotions. Again this will leave them wanting to read more about you and your story. The key is to use sensory words only when appropriate and also not overdo it. 

Bottom Line 

This method of showing and telling the reader who you are and where you are going is effective and allows them to enter your world. If you follow the steps outlined above, you will have a killer personal statement.

If you’re still stumped on where to start with your personal statement, come join us at CRNA Chase Academy for more help. If your personal statement draft is complete,  we also offer personal statement reviews. Here is the link.

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