Stuck on an idea for your personal statement? Utilize our list of medical school personal statement prompts as an ideation exercise. These prompts will get you thinking about your past, the people who helped to get to where you are today, the challenges you have overcome, and other moments in your life that have shaped who you are.
You’re likely familiar with the main essay prompt for your personal statement: “why do you want to become a doctor?” However, the answer to that question may not be apparent at first. And your initial instinct may be generic, boring, or a surface-level response that fails to entice admissions committees. Coming up with an interesting and engaging story that’s authentic to your life experience will require deep reflection and more than a little soul searching.
Below we share 25 personal statement prompts that will help you dig into your past and reflect on your life in brand new ways.
The Significance of the Personal Statement
While you may want your excellent grades and accomplishments to speak for themselves, that’s not how the medical school application works. Admissions committees aren’t only looking for someone with good grades; they’re looking for well-rounded, passionate, and dedicated individuals who exemplify the values of their respective programs. Your GPA and MCAT score do not communicate your unique personality or how your experiences have shaped you.
The medical school personal statement is your chance to tell your story on your terms. What drives you to get out of bed in the morning? Becoming a doctor is incredibly difficult; why do you want to dedicate your life to one of the most challenging professions out there? Who in your life inspires you? What do you value most? How do you know you have what it takes to become a doctor? What sets you apart from your fellow applicants? Why you?
Your personal statement is the heart of your application. Its significance, as well as its notable difference from the other aspects of your application, make it a difficult task to succeed at and an even more difficult task to start.
We encourage all premeds to set aside adequate time for their personal statement. Writing your personal statement is a process; it won’t be completed in a few days. You need plenty of time to ideate and reflect on your life, outline your most important experiences, and edit and revise your work. This final revision phase could take a while, depending on the strength of your writing and storytelling as well as your understanding of what admissions committees are looking for.
What is a Personal Statement Prompt?
An essay prompt is the question you are asked to answer within your essay. For the AMCAS medical school personal statement, your essay prompt is: “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.”
The essay prompt varies slightly depending on the application service you’re using.
For TMDSAS, the essay prompt is: “Explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. Be sure to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.”
For AACOMAS the essay, you must address why you want to become an osteopathic doctor specifically.
If you are extremely lucky, this one personal statement prompt may be enough to spark an idea for an engaging story that gets to the root of why you want to pursue a career in medicine. If an idea for your personal statement doesn’t come to you immediately, don’t worry; you’re not alone. For many students, it takes multiple brainstorming sessions, plenty of reflection, and many rounds of revisions before landing on an effective personal statement topic.
25 Personal Statement Prompts
Utilize additional prompts during your brainstorming sessions to get your ideas flowing. As you work through the following questions, don’t worry about finding an ideal personal statement topic just yet. First, just reflect on your past. Gather a range of life experiences, anecdotes, moments of clarity, and inspirations so that you have plenty to choose from.
- When did you first know you wanted to become a doctor?
- Was there anyone in your life who particularly inspired your interest in medicine?
- Who in your life has had the greatest impact on who you are today?
- What traits are shared by the people you admire most?
- What do you believe is the most important trait to have as a doctor?
- What values are the most important to you?
- What do you hope medical schools will learn about you that isn’t apparent from the rest of your application?
- Describe yourself in 5-10 words with the first words that come to mind.
- What type of upbringing did you have, and how did it affect who you are today?
- What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your life?
- Are you able to describe a time when you helped someone, and it profoundly affected their life?
- Have you lost a close family member or friend? How did that loss affect you?
- Have you or someone close to you ever suffered from an illness or injury that affected how you live your life?
- What major failures or setbacks have you encountered in your life, and what did you learn from those experiences?
- What are your greatest weaknesses, and how have you worked to overcome them?
- What is your greatest strength, and how can that strength be applied to the field of medicine?
- What aspect of medicine intrigues or interests you most?
- What passions and hobbies do you have outside of medicine?
- What do you think other people see as your greatest strengths?
- When you were a very young child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Has that dream changed?
- Is there a decision from your past that you regret? Why do you feel that way, and what have you learned since?
- What is your earliest memory?
- What people, places, or things bring you the most joy in life?
- What places make you feel the most comfortable?
- What aspects of your life are you most grateful for?
How to Make the Most of Personal Statement Prompts
1 | Clear Your Mind
It’s understandably difficult to use your brain creatively when you are preoccupied with studying, research, getting good grades, and preparing the rest of your medical school application.
Even though it might feel unnatural, take time to clear your brain. Before jumping into a brainstorming session, free yourself from the daily rigors of being a premed. Choose an activity you find relaxing. You might exercise, stretch, meditate, listen to music, go for a walk, or work on a non-scholastic hobby.
Figure out what works best for you and set aside the appropriate amount of time to clear your mind before you begin working through personal statement prompts. Your state of mind can have a profound effect on the ideas you come up with and your willingness to reflect on your past.
2 | Choose a Comfortable Medium
Do you prefer to take notes on a computer, or do you prefer to write on physical paper in a notebook or journal? There is no right answer, so long as you choose a medium you are comfortable with.
If you choose to use a computer, create a separate document that saves automatically, so you don’t have to worry about saving your file in between. An online document, such as a Google Doc, allows you to access the file wherever you go. Ensure you have the applications necessary to access this document on your phone so that you can add ideas if they come to you while you’re on the go or away from your computer.
If you prefer the paper route, choose a notebook or journal that you can exclusively dedicate to personal statement and application essay brainstorming. During the idea generation phase of your personal statement writing, keep this notebook with you at all times. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t carry a lot of things with you, be sure you have a backup pocket notebook with you wherever you go so that you’re able to jot down experiences, inspirations, and thoughts whenever an idea strikes.
3 | Don’t Worry About Getting It Right
There is no right or wrong answer when you’re brainstorming. Don’t worry about bad ideas; instead, release your inhibitions.
Use reflection prompts to help the ideas flow. Even if you don’t think a good idea will come from the prompt, answer it to the best of your ability in order to continue to unravel new thoughts about your past.
The whole concept of ideation revolves around coming up with a lot of ideas, many of which are bad, in order to find one or two brilliant ideas. The more ideas you generate, the more you will have to work with, and the better chance you have of discovering your perfect personal statement story.
4 | Erase Nothing
Resist the urge to erase and backtrack. Even if you think an idea is absolutely terrible, don’t get rid of it. Sometimes our worst ideas are actually our best once we have more information or approach it from a different direction.
It’s important to keep all of your brainstorming notes intact so that you can revisit them if you need to change the direction of your essay. This point is most relevant to those of you utilizing a computer for brainstorming, as it’s so easy to click that backspace button.
Keep it all because you never know what you might use within your essay. And that silly thought or joke you wanted to erase might be exactly what sparks an idea for the perfect personal statement topic.
Working through personal statement prompts is only the beginning. After the reflection and ideation phase, you’ll need to narrow down your options and choose which experiences and traits you want to highlight most.
From there, you can create an outline that utilizes an engaging, narrative-based approach. Remember that the goal is to show, not tell. Simply listing your positive personality traits is not enough. You must show the admissions committee that you exemplify these traits by providing clear examples and anecdotes from your life.
Ensure that you are not simply duplicating information from other areas of your application. Your personal statement should stand as its own unique piece of your application while complimenting the overall narrative you are building across your application. What makes you different from other candidates? Many premeds have an interest in science and a passion for helping people, but what makes your journey unique? What do you have to offer medical schools that other candidates cannot or will not?
Don’t forget to leave plenty of time to edit and revise your personal statement and seek help from others. You may need to completely rewrite it after your first round of feedback. Do not be discouraged; this is a very challenging process, and applicants who matriculate to medical school need to rewrite and edit their personal statement many times before they land on something they really believe in.
Show your personal statement to trusted peers, family members, mentors, and admissions consultants, and give yourself plenty of time to implement their critical feedback.
Learn more in our complete Personal Statement Guide, which outlines 11 steps to writing a personal statement.
Personalized Personal Statement Editing
Are you still struggling to get started on your personal statement? Or, maybe you now have so many ideas that you’re not sure which direction to take them. No matter where you are in the personal statement process, the team at Med School Insiders can help.
We offer a range of personal statement editing packages, from general editing to in-depth editing with a physician who will be there to advise you every step of the way. Learn more about our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages, designed by a team of top-performing doctors who have years of experience serving on admissions committees. You’ll receive key insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process.
Continue learning with our library of online resources:
- Guide to Understanding the Medical School Application Process
- Personal Statement Database (provided by successful medical school applicants)
- Medical School Personal Statement Tips: 6 Costly Mistakes to Avoid