The personal statement is one of the most important components of your application and is often used as the ‘differentiator’ between applicants with comparable stats. Writing a compelling personal statement is challenging but not impossible. By following a few basic guidelines, you can create an effective essay that shines.
This is your chance to tell your story and share important information about who you are as an individual while highlighting your unique characteristics, acumen and experiences. This is also your opportunity to showcase your writing ability. Solid writing skills are often associated with strong communication skills which are vital in the medical field.
The selection process consists of four basic components or questions:
1. Are you capable? (GPA, MCAT, Personal Aptitudes, etc.)
2. Will you do it? (Your passion & motivation for medicine- meaningful experiences that support your commitment to medicine)
3. Should you be a physician?
4. Why is ______ the right school for you?
Your MCAT, GPA, etc. will answer the first question. The second question is what your personal statement and experiences should answer. The last two will be answered in your interview and secondary application.
After considering the questions, craft an overall theme or concept that conveys why you want to become a physician. What is your true and intrinsic motivation? ‘Because I want to help people’ won’t cut it. Perhaps you are passionate about a specific field of medicine due to a personal experience. Maybe you want to provide care to an underserved demographic or group of people within your own country.
Don’t make the mistake of simply listing what you’ve done. Think deeper. Reflect upon the wisdom and insight you gained from your experiences and most importantly, be sincere.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Imagine reading a pile of repetitive, dull, cliché essays in search of that diamond in the rough. Now BE the diamond by showcasing your personality and what makes you unique. Choose purposeful experiences that display your strong sense of character, integrity and drive.
Tips & Advice:
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Chekhov
In other words, show, don’t tell! Your personal statement should be written in such a way that the reader can close their eyes and see the picture you’ve painted with your words.
Is your personal statement 6-second worthy? Studies have shown you have 6-seconds to capture your reader before they lose interest. Make your first few lines count by leading with a powerful hook. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Begin with a question, catchy story or even dialogue to reel them in.
Once you’ve completed your final draft, walk away from it for a week or longer. Return when you can’t remember it word-for-word and edit, edit, edit. Have an outsider give feedback. Share your essay with someone who isn’t afraid to be brutally honest.
Your essay should give the reader an idea of who you are today and who you will be as a physician. Avoid devoting a great deal of space to childhood and high school activities, focus on more recent events and experiences. Remember, be engaging, authentic and personable.
Don’t simply repeat information found on other parts of your application. The essay is not the place to focus on the data found in your score reports and resume. Highlight the experiences which lead you down your path to medicine.
Medical schools want to see personally meaningful experiences related to your passion and enthusiasm for the medical profession. Focus on what you learned and the wisdom you gained through your experiences.
Still unsure about your theme? Confused about which experiences to share or perhaps you’re worried about your writing skills? Contact one of our physician advisors (who have served on admissions committees) for a free session here.