6 Tips for the Medical School Personal Statement

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It’s approaching another cycle for med school applications and that means getting your letters of recommendation, transcripts, and your personal statement in order. Arguably the most daunting and challenging part of the AMCAS medical school application process is writing your personal statement. While things like your MCAT and GPA are already set in stone and are very objective measurements of academic performance, the personal statement is an expression of you as a person. Having a memorable personal statement can be a huge factor in making you stand out to admissions committees. And unlike your grades or MCAT, you have complete control over your personal statement, even late into your college career.

|| How to Start Writing the Medical School Personal Statement ||

1. Answer the Prompt

Before setting out on what you are going to write about, it’s important you consider the reason you are writing the personal statement. The questions you should be answering are going to be some variation of the following:
      1. Why do you want to go to medical school and become a doctor?
      2. Why will you be an effective doctor?
Everyone has their own reason for pursuing medicine and becoming a physician. Figure out what yours are and be sure that your entire personal statement is focused around supporting these reasons.   

2. Read Examples

I remember that starting my personal statement was a daunting task and it was tough to get anything down on paper. It’s important to just write and not judge yourself in the process. You can always go back and make edits. Just starting and getting ideas down on paper is the most challenging part but it is also the most crucial part. Everything else will open up from there. That being said, I also found it incredibly helpful to go to my school’s career center and find example personal statements. There were several books that were full of medical school personal statements that served as a point of inspiration and brainstorming. Here are some books to check out: Essays that Will Get You Into Medical School, Successful Personal Statements, Medical School Essays that Made a Difference.  

3. Organization is Key

This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. Treat your personal statement like any other English essay you have written. In other words, frame it around a thesis, with body paragraphs corresponding to support the thesis, and then closing with a conclusion to bring it all together. Without proper organization, personal statements come off as loosely thrown together and readers quickly lose interest.  

4. Show Don’t Tell

Admissions committee members are reading hundreds of personal statements and it’s important that yours stands out. One way yours definitely won’t is if you tell the reader how motivated, driven, and passionate you are about medicine. Instead, tell a story or an anecdote, and use that to demonstrate the desirable qualities you wish to portray. I have a friend who wrote an amazing personal statement that centered around her experience playing the violin and how that made her an excellent applicant. It was memorable, engaging, unique, and told a story of how violin would make her a great fit – she did NOT just list qualities.  

5. Simple is Sometimes Better

Don’t feel like you have to write the best personal statement the world has ever seen. Students often get too creative and end up with a personal statement that does more harm than good. Your main focus should be presenting a coherent piece on why you want to go to medical school and why you will be a good doctor.  Focusing too much on convoluted sentence structure and extravagant word choice will only take away from your end message. Readers can easily spot when you’re using a thesaurus and it doesn’t reflect well on you. Additionally, overly creative or artistic endeavors are also more likely to turn the reader off.  

6. Get Eyes on Your Paper

Reviewing is arguably the most important part of the process. Most everyone knows that they should have a few people read their personal statement for feedback. While sharing it with your friends and family is definitely useful, after writing both my med school and residency personal statements, I have learned that friends are inherently biased. They usually want to be nice and supportive and can give good general feedback and grammatical fixes. However, they aren’t the ones who will tell you your entire essay is garbage and to restart – and sometimes we need that. First, you want a mentor to read your paper. Ideally you want to find someone who has served on the admissions committee in the past. They truly understand what makes a good or bad personal statement because they actually reviewed personal statements of real applicants. They know you on a professional level, but aren’t as invested as friends. I was lucky to find a faculty member who read through hundreds of personal statement every single year. He was also known for being somewhat of a scary person. And that’s a good thing. Many people told me that my essay was decent or good, but he was brutally honest and told me to rewrite the whole thing. And I’m glad he did, because after rewriting it, the essay was much much stronger. It’s important not to take harsh feedback or criticism personally as this is usually the most useful feedback you will receive.  The second group would be essay editing services. Again, I made the investment and my essay came out much stronger in the end. Med School Insiders now offers personal statement editing services. In traditional Med School Insiders fashion, we focused on creating the best quality experience for you. Each essay editor is a real doctor that passed a rigorous screening and selection process to become an editor, and each follows a systematic approach to critically assess and help you mold a memorable personal statement. All of our editors are also real doctors who have served on admissions committees – this gives them the level of insider insight you won’t find elsewhere. Learn more about our Personal Statement Editing Service here.  
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