Medical School Sample Personal Statements
These are real personal statements from successful medical school applicants (some are from students who have used our services or from our advisors). These sample personal statements are for reference purposes only and should absolutely not be used to copy or plagiarize in any capacity. Plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements. Plagiarism is grounds for disqualification of an applicant.
Disclaimer: While these essays ultimately proved effective and led to medical school acceptances, there are multiple components that contribute to being an effective medical school applicant. These essays are not perfect, and the strengths and weaknesses have been listed where relevant.
Sample Personal Statements
“I love Scriabin!” exclaimed Logan, a 19-year-old patient at the hospital, as we found a common interest in the obscure Russian composer. I knew Logan’s story because it was so similar to my own: a classically-trained pianist, he was ready to head off to college in a month, just as I had the year before. Yet it was Logan who was heading into surgery to remove a recently-discovered brain tumor. Hoping to assuage his fears of the daunting operation, I lent him my iPod full of Scriabin’s music. Though the surgery began normally, a few hours later, Logan’s blood pressure started dropping, and he became unresponsive to monitoring provided by the surgical neurophysiologist. As the nurses scrambled to stabilize him, I finally heard the neurosurgeon ask, “Did we lose him?” These four terse words immediately unnerved me. Logan was in the most critical and uncertain situation I could imagine, while the iPod I had lent him, a reminder of the conversation we had just a few hours earlier, was eerily visible on the other side of the room. While Logan, fortunately, went on to make a full recovery after a successful surgery, I was not ready to hear those four frightening words.
Perhaps I was so unnerved by those words because of my experiences with my mother’s sicknesses. My father and I try to be mentally prepared to lose her any day. With a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, my mother has struggled with suicidal tendencies for most of my life. Her other illnesses, including several autoimmune disorders and severe gastrointestinal problems, certainly hinder her from experiencing the joys of life. But what is most difficult for me and my father is her anger and violence when she is in pain. My father would remind me that I had to consider the sources of her feelings, however irrational, in order to communicate with her. Though my relationship with my mother has proved challenging, I am thankful for these experiences.
In medicine, I will be able to use these experiences to understand psychological barriers to wellness and to better empathize with the patients I see in the clinic. Unique life experiences like these helped when I met Enrique, a patient presenting with an unusually painful fungal infection on one of his toenails. Though he was aware that his condition posed no lasting threat to his health, the extreme pain of the infection made him apprehensive of treatment, a soak in Povidone-iodine solution. “How can I help this man?” I asked myself, “He is about to refuse a simple treatment for a painful ailment.” Hoping to calm him, I struck up a conversation in Spanish, which I learned while living for some months in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This was not enough. As he became increasingly uneasy about the impending treatment, I remembered a line from Federico García Lorca’s “Romance de la Pena Negra”: “…wash your body with the water of the lark / and leave your heart in peace.” As Enrique calmly placed his foot into the “lark’s water,” I was relieved to see that this was the encouragement he needed. I believe that my travels have helped me appreciate the cultural backgrounds of many patients and have prepared me to be an empathetic clinician.
While I have been prepared to address patients psychologically and culturally, my training in the lab has prepared me to address patients biologically as well. Having worked extensively in two different labs studying vaccine development and microbial pathogenesis, I have developed a desire to use bench research to improve clinical care. One particularly striking manifestation of this concept came at the beginning of my day at an internist’s clinic. Walking into the office, I heard a most unsettling sound—a distinctive, screeching, painful yelp audible throughout the clinic. I instantly knew what case I would be seeing next: Whooping cough. When I saw Brody, a toddler, I was arrested by a unique commiseration, one of both pity and curiosity. I knew exactly what was happening to Brody. I had spent the last two years performing research on the bacteria that caused the disease, Bordetella pertussis. Describing elements of the microbe’s pathogenesis and explaining how our research could improve vaccine efficacy was comforting to the family, and their response was encouraging to me as I continue my work. My research experiences have engendered a passion to be at the cutting edge of medicine, seeking always to improve patient care, so that in the future, I can come to a family like Brody’s with a better prognosis.
Though I may not have been prepared to hear those frightening words during Logan’s surgery, what I can say with confidence is that I am ready to begin the journey of a physician—the journey of a lifelong learner and a committed healer. I am ready to be challenged by difficult situations in the clinic, like Logan’s, because it is through those circumstances that I will learn and grow. I want to become a physician so that I can use my liberal arts education with my personal and professional experiences to meet medicine’s unique requirement of understanding patients psychologically, culturally, and biologically. I am ready to provide the most excellent patient care, empathetically and holistically appreciating my patients’ stories in order to serve them best.
The author masterfully weaves together multiple elements of his unique experiences in medicine to tell a compelling story. This an excellent example of “show, don’t tell”, whereby the author tells stories and takes the reader on a journey rather than simply listing what he did in the past.
For example, rather than explicitly stating that he did research on Bordetella pertussis, the author tells a story of a patient with Whooping cough and interweaves his research experience there, tying together a message of the future doctor’s interest in translational (from bench to bedside) research. Similarly, rather than explicitly stating he did experience A, and learned important lesson B and C, these themes are implied more indirectly. As a result, the essay reads smoothly as a story, and grips the reader.
The author’s voice comes through, transitions are smooth, the introduction engages the reader, and the story arc neatly comes full circle. The character limit was pushed to the limit (5,299) and the author made every word count. Fantastic essay.
The main reason why I want to go into medicine is because of a promise I made to my sister when I was eight years old. My sister, who was only a few months old, was aware I had been taking care of her while our parents were working late. Caring for her gave me a feeling of responsibility I had never experienced before. When my sister woke up with a fever, I felt helpless. Her doctor was able to take care of the most important person in my life by systematically ruling out possible causes for the fever while still helping my sister feel safe, allowing me to see the beauty of medicine. I made a promise to my sister to become a medical doctor, so I can take care of her and other people who cannot take care of themselves. Later, my mother explained to me that medicine had made my life possible because I had been conceived through in vitro fertilization. This reinforced my motivation to become a physician and encourages me to this day to come full circle and give back to the field that made my life possible by helping others in need.
I continued to pursue my dream of practicing medicine by volunteering in the Intensive Care Unit at the UC San Diego Thornton Medical Center, where I gained first-hand experience interacting with patients. While collecting laboratory samples from nurses, I talked to a patient who only spoke Spanish. As the interpreter had not arrived yet, I was the only Spanish speaker in the unit, and my Spanish was basic at best. I asked the patient about her day and family, which really lifted her spirits. This interaction taught me the importance of personal connections with patients.
Shadowing allowed me to learn the characteristics of a good physician. Before surgeries, I obtained the patient’s consent to let me observe the procedure while the surgeon went over the patient’s last minute concerns. One patient needed an Aortic Valve Replacement, and when I was getting his consent he told me he was a famous Italian singer. The surgeon asked him to sing his hit song, and I was amazed. The patient’s face lit up and all his worries faded before the surgery. Even though the patient was going to be heavily sedated, the surgeon still cared about the patient’s stress about the procedure and that really drew me to the profession and showed me that there is more to being a good doctor than just the technicalities or knowledge from textbooks.
Volunteering at a veterans’ hospital exposed me to a side of medicine I have only read about in the news. People who are underserved and undereducated who refuse medical care. I would call patients who could not go to any other hospital and try to convince them to have their eyes checked for diabetes symptoms in the Teleretinal Imaging department. One veteran answered my call with a groan asking why he needs to go to the hospital when he knows he does not have diabetes. I realized I had to explain to him that symptoms can develop well before the actual disease. This inspired me to help patients in underprivileged communities because some are not educated enough to know when something is wrong with their bodies.
I know if I am given the chance to practice medicine and serve as a leader in the African American community, I can deliver the same inspiration and become a role model for those who are disadvantaged. At UC San Diego I joined the Black Student Union where I was able to reach out to those who were unsure about pursuing a higher education. Speaking to high school students about my college experiences has improved my communication skills and ability to relate to diverse populations. I spoke about how college can open many more opportunities for these students and that there are countless resources and scholarships that can help them. I will use simple and direct communication to help patients understand their disease. Through this experience, I knew I wanted to practice medicine that is personal through interaction with minority communities. After these events, it is clear to me that I cannot give up on my dreams of becoming a doctor because when I rise I will also lift those around me with the same struggle.
In elementary school, I realized there was a lack of famous African-American physicians, so I asked my parents if they knew of anyone. My father told me about my uncle, Roy Harris, who grew up in the inner city, surrounded by drugs and gangs. In order to avoid these hardships, he joined the high school track team and continued running through college while pursuing his medical degree. I began running to remind myself of his inspiring story and, like him, encourage a change in the world so one day students will have more African-American doctors to emulate. I am currently one of the top athletes in the nation, an Academic All-American, and I hope to compete at NCAA Division II nationals next year. Running has given me the discipline to maintain a balanced life, provided me the focus to succeed in medical school, and given me the drive to work toward fulfilling my dreams. Most importantly, I made a promise to my sister, creating an unshakeable foundation of endless motivation that will encourage me even through the most distressing moments of my journey to become a physician. I will never give up nor surrender because I always keep my promises.
The author uses an anecdote to start and finish the essay, which is a common and effective way to create a story arc. He calls back to multiple experiences throughout his life, from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to bolster his resolve for pursuing medicine. His interesting background and stories, such as the promise he made to his sister, and his inspiration for picking up track, make for unique elements in this personal statement.
While the author does reflect back to multiple experiences, this comes across more as “telling” than “showing”. Compare this to the essay above to see the difference. The author has a common and repeating paragraph structure of 1) explain what the extracurricular or experience is, 2) recount a story related to said experience, and 3) draw lessons learned. While this structure gets the point across, it does not come across as engaging or compelling to the reader.
The author’s desire to give back to the African American community as well as his high aspirations are admirable.
At the beginning of the first Alternative Spring Break (ASB) meeting that I was leading in front of a group of nervous volunteers, I used an icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. Being a common face at my campus’s student activities, I have played this game perhaps one too many times. Unlike everyone else who had to take time to think about their interesting truths, I would say the same thing every time. “I want to be a pediatrician, I have alpacas, and I have llamas.”
I do not have llamas.
Growing up on a farm has given me great pride throughout the years and has driven my passion for service to my community, leading me to the goal of a career as a pediatrician. The farm is where I was first introduced to medicine. I would assist my father give shots to our animals, help our alpacas give birth to their crías, and talk with our family veterinarian about his treatment methods. The farm spawned in me a love for science which has shaped my career path, and my knowledge acquired through the farm has been a pleasure to share with people. My mother and I would visit the special education classrooms of different schools to show the kids presentations of the farm. We would lead demonstrations of us cleaning, spinning and crocheting the fiber to an involved and excited crowd of individuals. I have had numerous positive interactions with kids which has made me realize that there is no group I would rather work with more.
Our family farm became close with the few farms that were around us. We would help the alpaca farm 20 minutes from us shear their alpacas, and we once helped a small farm repair its fence that had been ravaged by a tornado. It felt good to be able to help people with things that not everybody has the knowledge to do. The farm helped shape my view of community into one of empathy which encompasses the spirit of being a physician. The joy I received from helping other farms led me to pursue community service opportunities at my university which I found first with ASB, a community service organization in which students dedicate their spring breaks to participate in meaningful service activities, and later as an AmeriCorps volunteer. When I signed up for my first ASB trip in my freshman year, I looked for a trip that involved helping kids. I knew I loved working with the younger population by assisting my mom at her home daycare and those presentations we gave to special education classes. The trip that caught my attention was to Pulaski, VA, which worked with a service organization called Beans and Rice. We would do fulfilling tornado recovery work in the morning, but I most looked forward to afternoons where we got to sit down and chat with kids about their days while helping them with their homework. I heard many stories from the kids about going to bed hungry or their parents being out of work. We were able to sit with whomever we wished during the kids’ lunch which I primarily spent with Chase, a boy who the other kids saw as an outcast due to his sexual orientation. My time with these kids made me realize how some people did not grow up with the strong sense of community that I knew at their age and inspired me to continue my work with their age group.
During my time in Pulaski, the director of the organization recognized my passion for working with kids and encouraged me to apply to AmeriCorps. I found a program in Lincoln, NE which allowed me to work with impoverished kids and share my passion of science with them under my given alias of T-Roy the Science Boy (not to be confused with my rival, Bill Nye the Science Guy). My relationships with the children I was working with grew fast, but one student made a significant impact on me. The second-grader was incapable of paying attention to academics yet had an amazing sense of humor. On the surface, his apparent developmental issues brought on by fetal alcohol syndrome resulted in hyperactivity and an inclination for angry outbursts. I spent time with him every day but came to the realization that, no matter how many times I was able to help him understand something, it did little to help his underlying health problems. Going to medical school will allow me to obtain the knowledge and skills I need to offer the ultimate service to people like my second-grade student—access to a healthy life.
With a strong desire to continue giving back to my community, I signed up to be a patient advocate in Baystate Medical Center’s emergency room. Here I was exposed to different health issues and many upset family members. It was my job to ensure the patients and their families were as comfortable as possible, but my job often morphed into one of a storyteller conversing with the families to get their minds off their difficult situations. Of course, the alpacas were a common topic of discussion since kids always love seeing the goofy haircuts we give them. My mother made this an easy task by uploading a video of us shearing the alpacas onto YouTube titled “Spit Happens”. A fitting name, no doubt. I have been blessed to share my farm-inspired sense of community with a broad range of different cultures from Nebraska to Virginia. I look forward to travelling to new communities as a physician while keeping my community-driven morals close, so alpaca my bags now.
This author is unique in his excellent command of humor. Note that this is a riskier approach and most applicants should avoid humor. In this setting, the humor certainly adds value to the essay, although this may be more off-putting to more traditional and conservative medical school admissions committee members. Overall, a high risk and high reward strategy, because when it lands, it makes for a compelling, unique, and entertaining read. Remember, admissions committees are reading through thousands of essays, and this comes as a breath of fresh air.
The introduction is brilliantly engaging and humorous, and entices the reader for what is to come. Clearly, this author has an interesting story to share and isn’t afraid to make you laugh.
While the essay is overall good, it could be improved in a few notable ways. First, the sentence structure and word choice can be tightened up in areas. The reader may find themself having to reread more than one sentence to understand what the writer is hoping to convey. Secondly, while the author does a great job highlighting a very unique and wide ranging background, showing more than telling would increase the effectiveness of this essay. Additionally, more emphasis and attention on “why medicine” and “why you would make a good doctor” would make this medical school personal statement more universally appealing (and less risky).
It’s not every day you help a kid become Iron Man. It happened for me during an internship at the NIH. I was responsible for designing the electronics and software for a portable robotic exoskeleton to help children expressing crouch gait due to cerebral palsy to improve their gait by retraining their muscles and neuron pathways. I saw the project as a fascinating technical problem and immersed myself in solving it.
Then I met Isaiah. Isaiah is a child with cerebral palsy expressing crouch gait with limited mobility. When Isaiah first began training on the robot, he became frustrated. As I watched him become exasperated using the device, it really hit me that I was creating a device for a real person, and the way we delivered his care was every bit as important to what we were doing as delivering an effective technical solution. As his confidence grew, I witnessed Isaiah, who could barely walk without the device, try to run. We even had to tell him to slow down! He asked if he could bring home the device because it made him feel like Iron Man. This experience crystalized for me my calling, to solve the challenging medical problems children face with love and a deep appreciation for their humanity.
I have firsthand knowledge of what it means to a child with serious medical problems to have loving physicians and nurses. When I was four, I received a heart transplant. Five years later, I fell ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Throughout these difficult and uncertain times, I was fortunate to have a clinical team whose positivity and humor made me feel like a normal kid despite the fact that I was facing grave medical problems. While these experiences were difficult, they gave me a perspective that I treasure because it gives meaning to every day of my life. This perspective is where my calling originates – to become a physician-engineer completely committed to the emotional well-being of each of my patients.
The engineering problems many children face are substantial, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to develop my skills in this area. As a part of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design’s design team program I worked on two projects that taught me different aspects of the process of developing medical devices. The first project, NeoVate, gave me an overview of the design process of bringing medical devices to market. We developed a neonatal monitoring system for the developing world. We began with a needs assessment and then prototyped our solution to satisfy the specifications we developed. While I focused on the technical development, it was valuable to see other members create a sustainable distribution model because it helped me understand the step by step process by which an idea goes from concept to adoption in the medical field.
For the second project, TacPac, I was the team leader. On past teams I had a narrow focus on the technical development, but on TacPac I had to be knowledgeable about all aspects of the project and see the big picture in order to develop strategies to move the team forward. I learned how to create contingency plans by reaching out to our numerous advisors in many different specialties to build decision trees.
This project had an extra layer of meaning for me since we were developing an at-home monitoring system for tacrolimus, an immunosuppressant drug I have been taking for over twelve years. Currently, monitoring of this drug’s levels can only be done in a clinical setting. Our device allows patients to monitor their levels in the home, allowing for less inconvenience to patients and more data to make more informed clinical decisions.
While my engineering training developed my technical skills, the foundation of my heart and why I will pour myself into my vocation is derived from the love and care I received from my own clinical team as a child. I feel called to be of service to children with serious medical issues, just as my physicians and nurses were to me. One of my favorite volunteer experiences was when I was a camp counselor for Heart Camp, where I had previously been a camper. Heart Camp is a week-long camp for children with congenital heart defects designed to create an environment of fun, hope, and normalcy. This is one way in which I can use the difficult experiences of my childhood for good because it is easy for me to bring normalcy to these children’s lives since for me, it is normal.
Another volunteer opportunity that has had a tremendous amount of meaning for me is working with the Washington Regional Transplant Community to spread organ donation awareness by telling my story. Since I never received the chance to know my donor family, I use this volunteering as my way to say thank you.
I have enjoyed my engineering studies and my volunteering experiences have been of tremendous value to me, but I cannot wait to go to medical school. It is my desire to be a bridge between the technical engineering world and the direct delivery of care that only physicians can give. I feel it is my mission to use all of my experiences, both good and bad, to find innovative solutions to help the next Wonder Woman and Captain America thrive both physically and in every other part of their lives.
The superhero theme is unique, timely, and highly relevant to the author’s interest in pursuing a pediatric specialty. The author has a strong research background and ultimately was accepted to a highly ranked and research heavy institution, which is no surprise. While a significant portion of the body of the essay reads as “tell” more than “show”, some aspects of the personal statement use more effective story telling.
Deep interest in research, a unique background of being a lymphoma patient, and a palpable passion to help other kids who are suffering makes this applicant come across as a valuable asset to any research oriented medical school.
To further improve the impact of this essay, the author could remove one or two experiences listed in a more descriptive way and incorporate immersive stories to convey the significance and impact they had on him.