12 Steps to a Perfect Medical School Personal Statement (with before and after example)
Have you ever read an example med school personal statement and thought, Wow... I could never write something that good ?
That’s because you’re only seeing the finished product. Take it from me, an editor, someone who sees the essays first thing in the morning without their makeup on.
artist Stephan Schmitz - https://www.theispot.com/artist/schmitz
See all those broken plates? Those are all the personal statement rough drafts, the discarded sentences, the gutted paragraphs, all the sweat and tears of the revision process . No one sees that. They see a guy miraculously juggling five plates at once.
You’re like that juggler - trying to balance multiple things at once in your personal statement, all within certain strict limitations. And guess what? You’ll have to break a few plates before you get it right.
So… let’s break some plates (maybe some hearts and spirits too).
I invite you along to play the role of editor with me. You’ll choose your own path as we go through 12 steps of revision to perfect the personal statement.
I’ll give a “before” version of each section of an example personal statement, and you’ll have to call the 12 shots about how we make it better. Ready?
Default Outline for Personal Statement
Section 1 - hook.
Step 1: Cut down on length
Step 2: Remove the negativity
Step 3: Grab More Attention
Section 2 - When/Why Medicine
When/Why Medicine (BEFORE)
Step 4: Remove red flags
Step 5: Connect to personal narrative
Step 6: Add more definitive “Why Medicine”
When/Why Medicine (AFTER)
Section 3 - Exposure
Step 7: Remove informal language
Step 8: Show more personal value as a candidate
Optional - Explain Issues with Conduct/Grades
Section 4 - meaningful contributions.
Meaningful Contributions (BEFORE)
Step 9: Include above-and-beyond contributions
Step 10: Emphasize impact on others
Meaningful Contributions (AFTER)
Section 5 - Why You/Conclusion
Why You/Conclusion (BEFORE)
Step 11: Balance your voice with professionalism
Step 12: Add more style, cut down on summary
Why You/Conclusion (AFTER)
COMPLETE “Before” Draft
Complete “after” draft.
Don’t have the time or energy for this Do-It-Yourself project?
Then BOOK A FREE MEETING with our expert medical school advisors for more guidance. We’ve helped hundreds of students write their personal statements (including the sample below), and we’d love to help you on your writing journey!
Obviously this can vary, but let’s keep it simple:
Optional: Explain Issues with Grades/Conduct
The goal here is to grab the readers’ attention and compel them to keep reading. Ideally, the hook will pose a problem, share an unexpected challenge, or reverse the readers’ expectations about a situation.
Characteristics of a Good Hook :
* Not too long
* Grabs attention
* Initiates the plot
DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.
HOOK (BEFORE) :
Throughout high school and college, I have been supporting my family in more ways than one. My mother needed a lot of support due to her bad arthritis and physical limitations. It was not the most ideal situation, and it felt like I was living a double life. I went to a pretty good high school since my parents wanted me to have a decent education, but the kids there were protected and shielded from most inconveniences in life. Someone from my background was not very welcome. It was jarring, as vapid girls my age talked about going to equestrian classes and how they knew someone on the Yale admissions committee, while I came to school from my two-bedroom non-air-conditioned home that my family of four shared. I was a nanny at the age of 12 and would juggle taking care of 3-4 kids every week. My dad unfortunately got pretty ill during this time (brain aneurysm and subsequent recovery), so it was definitely a weird time. I got brutally harassed by a girl at school after she found out about my living situation, so I learned to form two identities. In school, I was someone who fake-laughed with people and sympathized with the horrors of a girl’s parents buying a pony she didn’t like. I pretended to act excited for another girl’s European vacation (in reality I was jealous).
Pick an aspect to fix:
Step 3: Grab more attention
Jump to the After version.
STEP 1: CUT DOWN ON LENGTH
Indeed. Currently this opener is ~1300 characters, which is disproportionate for our total space (5300 characters). Hooks should probably be around 700-800 characters instead, so that the remaining sections can have 1000+ each.
What to cut? We want it to be ~10 lines of text, so take a shot at cutting ~5-6 lines.
Without compromising the necessary context, you should cut anything that could go in the Disadvantaged Essay instead, especially the “facts” of the situation that don’t require much editorialization. Admissions committees read the disadvantaged essay before any of the other writing in the application.
STEP 2: REMOVE THE NEGATIVITY
This is a far more common problem than you’d think. For one, it’s hard for us to know how our tone and voice are coming across. Secondly, we sometimes write about things while they’re still “fresh wounds,” leaving room for resentment to creep in.
What’s too negative? Make a list below of the words/phrases/sentences from our sample hook that seem too negative:
pretended to act excited
the horrors of a girl’s parents buying a pony she didn’t like
I can sympathize with the writer, but there’s no point in having a negative spin when you can achieve the same impact with a positive spin.
Simply mentioning one or two details like the equestrian classes will go a long way.
STEP 3: GRAB MORE ATTENTION
Turn the whole hook into a contrast between life at home and life at school. Give it a metaphor that makes it accessible and memorable. Break it up into shorter paragraphs to make it more digestible.
Throughout high school, my life felt like a less glamorous version of Hannah Montana. While Hannah transformed into a pop star after school, I transformed into a nanny. And it wasn’t any regular babysitting job either; at my peak, I managed a gaggle of 14 kids. In one way, school was a sanctuary; there was order, cleanliness, and a schedule. After school, it was all diaper-and-tantrum-filled chaos.
The juxtaposition between home and school was also pronounced due to money. I didn’t understand my classmates’ wealth until they started talking about equestrian classes and Maseratis. Although my life was by no means fun, I chose to stay home for college since my family needed my presence. My father had a brain aneurysm when I was 14, and my family was still facing the remnants of that event.
What we’re looking for here:
* Motivations that build directly off what makes the candidate unique
* A good combination of selflessness (helping others) and self-interest (how the career will fulfill/stimulate you unlike any other)
* A nice balance of idealism and realism - neither naive nor overblown
WHEN/WHY MEDICINE (BEFORE) :
My decision to become a doctor was a culmination of events and experiences that led to an eventual realization, rather than one single revelation. When I first started at my university, I was an 18-year-old who had no clue what to do in life. For one year, I explored pharmacy and finance, but the drudgery of the work made me turn away from these professions. At the start of my second year, I decided to volunteer at the ER to see what the hospital environment was like. Looking back, this mundane decision was a godsend of exposure and clarification. I went into ER expecting to give out glasses of water and wheel patients around. But it was a lot more. I saw patients who were experiencing the worst moments of their lives, and I was beyond my comfort zone. However, I loved interacting with patients, enjoyed being in the hospital, and had a knack for talking and making people feel better.
I started the Pathfinder Internship to determine whether I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. The first three months of the internship were at the Oncology/General Care Unit, where it was incredibly depressing. I felt so helpless seeing people die. Nurses and doctors were mainly just keeping people alive, as most patients were already permanent victims of cancer or chronic unregulated conditions. I did the rest of my rotations at an urgent care clinic and birth center, which were way less depressing, and many times patients left feeling better. During this time, I realized the doctor’s role matched me better than a nurse; I liked how doctors had creative control to create optimal treatment plans for patients. I had already shadowed two interventional cardiologists and an orthopedic surgeon, and I knew I wanted to have a connection with patients and create medical care that suited their needs. Also, by this time, I had started my global health minor, and was learning all about preventative care, women’s health, and disparities in healthcare. The combined clinical care experiences, my interest in science, and the global health minor all came together in a beautiful way to point me into medicine.
STEP 4: REMOVE RED FLAGS
It’s good to be honest and to show that you’ve experienced medicine’s challenges, but these choices in diction will do more harm than good. Let’s nix them.
STEP 5: CONNECT TO PERSONAL NARRATIVE
Right now, section two seems to exist in isolation from our hook, so we’ll want to bring back aspects of the family situation, namely the father’s medical issues, so that we can see the narrative building cohesively.
STEP 6: ADD MORE DEFINITIVE “WHY MEDICINE”
Right now, the “came together in a beautiful way” line is too vague and impressionistic. The writer would benefit from creating a more specific set of criteria that medicine can offer in a career.
Your “Why Medicine” response should not leave any holes or gaps that would tempt the reader to ask, “Why not social work?” or “Why not research?”
WHEN/WHY MEDICINE (AFTER):
After earning my way into a UC college, I dabbled in finance, pharmacy, and psychology, feeling somewhat clueless about what I wanted. Earlier, I had tentatively chosen a biochemistry major, and over time the pre-med path grew more intriguing. I decided to volunteer in the ER during my second year, a weekly commitment that allowed enough time to assist my family again when my dad lost his job. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, especially since the entire ER team went out of its way to expose me to the field. I grew to love each shift as I interacted with people, observed action-packed procedures, and worked in tandem with staff to smooth out workflow. Around this time, I shadowed cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons, and loved the atmosphere of teamwork and patient care. Medicine drew me in, but I was still unsure about what particular role I would fill.
I received the direction I needed during my Pathfinder Internship, where I first rotated in a hospice ward to help terminally ill patients. As I tried to make their passing more dignified, it reminded me of my dad’s recovery, when my family was given no clear prognosis. I knew that patience and presence of mind were key. Even if death was certain, these patients needed help maintaining normalcy. I continued to Expresscare, a small clinic which diagnosed a wide variety of underserved patients. Later on in the Birth Center, I observed OB/GYNs creating long-term and short-term solutions that fundamentally shaped patients’ lives. I wanted to be in a similar position, confidently resolving health issues while providing comfort through both knowledge and bedside manner. Whether it was ER doctors turning off a defibrillator gone awry, OB/GYNs working through unanticipated surgical challenges, or cardiologists providing long-term care, these physicians embodied the roles I wanted to play: decision maker, advocate, and trusted healer.
* A sense of your growing passions within medicine
* Some niche involvement that builds on “Why Medicine” motivations
During this same time, I started my Global Health minor, and my vision became clearer. Global health involves helping those who are often ignored by medicine. I knew that medicine was not like Grey’s Anatomy or Dr. House. There are people who are left behind. I knew what it felt like to be an outsider, as I would transition from a nanny to “one of the girls” in high school and college. I knew how lonely it felt when my dad didn’t have the proper insurance during his job loss, and we didn’t know what to do. My vision in medicine is to level the playing field for all people seeking medical care by doing what fulfills me the most. In the end, it all came together. Volunteering in the ER, interning through Pathfinder, and shadowing doctors helped me discover my calling.
STEP 7: REMOVE INFORMAL LANGUAGE
Make a short list of words/phrases that don’t seem appropriate:
Even though the student is specifically saying medicine is NOT like these TV shows, it still seems like the wrong context or reference point, especially in relation to global health.
Mentioning pop culture versions of medicine is usually ill-advised, and this candidate can make her point just as effectively without them.
STEP 8: SHOW MORE PERSONAL VALUE AS A CANDIDATE
At this point in the essay, the candidate has already explained her motivations towards medicine, so the final few lines of this paragraph feel redundant.
We don’t have a lot of characters to spare, so she’d be better off showcasing the value of her global health minor (the skills, insights, lessons, etc.)
My rotations at Pathfinder and ER volunteering exposed me to diverse, underserved patients, and these interactions inspired me to pursue a Global Health minor to help those marginalized by medicine. On a smaller scale, I knew what it was like to be an outsider, as I transitioned from a messy-haired, sweaty-faced nanny to “one of the girls” at school. I knew how lonely and unsettling it felt when my dad didn’t have insurance during his job loss. Global health offered avenues for putting this empathy into action and showed me the importance of solidarity, in which physicians work WITH patients, not just FOR them. The minor taught me about large-scale entities that govern and dictate the health of the masses, and the tools needed to make healthcare more attainable. The minor also instilled cultural competence, responsibility, and social justice.
This did not apply for this student, but it might for YOU(?).
Want to know the most tactful way to explain that bad semester, your MCAT struggles, or other such snafus?
* Tangible value of your insights and experiences within medicine
* Your ability to leave things better than you found them
MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTIONS (BEFORE):
My interest in providing culturally competent care and helping marginalized people in medicine helped me during an Expresscare shift when I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he might have HIV after one of his several partners was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, all in order to help the NP determine a course of action. I loved advocating for patients who didn’t have proper insurance, and felt gratified when the NP and I found another clinic where patients could receive affordable care.
STEP 9: INCLUDE ABOVE-AND-BEYOND CONTRIBUTIONS
There are two aspects that stand out as being underdeveloped: the candidate’s scope of responsibility and her above-and-beyond efforts. After some brainstorming, she was able to add meaningful details in these areas.
NOTE: this does not mean that you should create a laundry-list of all your tasks and responsibilities. It means focusing on the actions and efforts that exceeded expectations.
STEP 10: EMPHASIZE IMPACT ON OTHERS
Sometimes a paragraph needs more examples so that the one story or patient case doesn’t seem anomalous, but rather the norm for you. Giving 2-3 examples of your impact on different types of patients will show your range and ability to advocate for diverse populations.
MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTIONS (AFTER):
This background helped me during an Expresscare shift, as I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he had HIV after his partner was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, making the patient feel more in control. In this role, I often contacted clinics that admit uninsured patients to help others access care during vulnerable times. My global health training also helped me coach a black woman through a difficult delivery alongside nurses. Through my numerous Maternal Health classes, I knew that black women have double the maternal mortality rates in America, and case studies suggest that valid concerns are often not taken seriously. Therefore, I made sure to follow through on requests, such as taking temperature and BP when she felt feverish. I remained at her side for the last couple hours of delivery, and she said she felt safe knowing someone was there for her. As a physician, I will implement these valuable lessons in my future practice to make every patient feel as safe and cared for as possible.
* Stylistic callback to the intro and themes
* Reiteration of biggest reasons admissions committees should choose you
WHY YOU/CONCLUSION (BEFORE):
In the end, my path in deciding to pursue medicine, especially a medical career that focuses on the medically underserved, was a culmination of years of life experience and exploration into the field. It started as a love of basic science, which led to choosing biochemistry and cell biology as a major. The ER volunteering gig introduced me to clinical medicine, and the Palomar internship confirmed that becoming a physician was my calling. My experiences as an outsider, and a person who had to juggle multiple lifes challenges, made me especially sensitive to those who are marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on bringing care to marginalized folks.
STEP 11: BALANCE YOUR VOICE WITH PROFESSIONALISM
Normally, there’s nothing wrong with ‘gig’ and ‘folks,’ but they seem a bit colloquial for a personal statement. Again, the candidate could communicate the same message without these words, so it’s not worth using diction that could be misconstrued.
*Although ‘my calling’ isn’t too informal, it’s a rather cliche phrase that might make the admissions committees recoil in disgust.
STEP 12: ADD MORE STYLE, CUT DOWN ON SUMMARY
This is a common problem for conclusions. In school, we’re taught that the conclusion should merely summarize the main points of the essay. But that’s short-sighted and ultimately pretty boring. Yes, you need to reiterate certain aspects, but you should use stylistic callbacks when doing so.
Another common problem is candidates spending too much time restating “Why Medicine” reasons, rather than emphasizing what THEY can bring to the table. The key is to sell yourself without sounding full of yourself .
WHY YOU/CONCLUSION (AFTER):
Although my Nanny Montana days are behind me, this experience has helped me empathize with patients who are forced to manage multiple obligations and move between differing realities. I have experiences from across the healthcare spectrum, as both a loved one of an uninsured patient and a scholar looking to improve conditions for all in the long-term. My background as an outsider, who had to juggle multiple life challenges, made me especially sensitive to the marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on empowering others and protecting their well-being.
So, at this point, we’ve changed the essay in 12 different ways - 12 broken plates, if you will. And really, each of these changes required a few iterations, so you can multiply those plates by two or three.
Yes, it’s a messy process, but it results in a beautiful presentation - an essay that successfully juggles all of its primary goals.
Remember: we can help. BOOK A FREE MEETING with our expert medical school advisors for more guidance.
Feel free to leave questions in the comments section below, and we’ll respond to you personally! Best of luck with your personal statement drafts!
Add-On: Explaining Issues with Grades/Conduct
Need to explain some elephant in the room to the admissions committees? Follow this sentence-by-sentence outline, and you’ll be just fine (or as fine as you can be!).
1-2 sentences to explain the factors that led to the issue
It's wise to let the facts speak for themselves. If there were extenuating circumstances that led to this anomalous blip in your record, make sure to include those as evidence, BUT DON'T editorialize or try to make excuses for what happened. The goal in the beginning is to just acknowledge and own up to the failure/mistake.
1-2 sentences to explain how you've rectified the issue
This will depend a lot on your situation, but typically, it will involve some kind of additional tutoring, office hours, retaken classes, better time-management, etc. It might involve probation. Beyond explaining the requirements you fulfilled and your upward trend in grades, discuss the ways you've sought to improve overall as a person.
1-2 sentences to explain the growth, personal qualities, and lessons you’ve gained
Again, this will depend a lot on your situation. Perhaps there's some activity or endeavor that you can use as "proof" of your growth as a person (i.e. tutoring other struggling students or serving on the student judiciary board). If not, just explain what you learned from the experience and how it's turned you into a better person moving forward.
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The Anatomy of a Stellar Medical School Personal Statement
- By Meghana Pagadala
- March 12, 2021
- Medical School Application , Personal Statement
Every medical school application requires a personal statement, but some stand out from others. The composition of these excellent personal statements is not defined by the structure, the number of activities mentioned, or grammar.
What really makes a stellar personal statement is that it is memorable and captures who you are. Read below to see some example personal statements and what makes them excellent.
The Anatomy of a Personal Statement
There is a 5,300 character maximum for your personal statement. That’s about 1.5 pages of single-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font to demonstrate why you want to go to medical school.
A personal statement is made up of three parts:
- Introduction (Bread)
- Body (Meat and Vegetables)
- Conclusion (Bread)
Before you begin writing, we have an article on How to Start Your Personal Statement . It will guide you through research, reflection, and idea generation to get you started.
The Bread: Introduction & Conclusion
The introduction and conclusion are like the slices of bread of an amazing sandwich. No matter how many ingredients in a sandwich, the pieces of bread always bind the whole story together. In other words, the introduction and conclusion should not be throwaways.
The introduction and conclusion are vital components of a successful personal statement. You should take time to ensure that your introduction captures the reader’s attention and the conclusion is memorable.
The first sentence is key. It needs to capture an admissions committee’s attention and entice them to read more.
Here are some examples from the Med School Insiders Personal Statement Database :
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.
It’s not every day you help a kid become Iron Man.
Both of these examples are the first sentences of introductions that immediately capture the reader’s attention.
The first example mentions a promise that the applicant made to his sister. Right away from the first sentence, the reader is curious to know what that promise is. It’s an example of an opening sentence that immediately addresses the applicant’s desire to go into medicine. The sentence is clear, intriguing, and it captures your attention.
The second example is more mysterious. You have several questions after reading it. What kid are they helping? How do you make a kid become Iron Man? However, it accomplishes the same goal of piquing the reader’s interest. Remember, admissions committee members are reading hundreds of applications. How will you stand out? Make sure you grab their attention from the very first sentence.
The introduction is also a chance to set the tone for the essay. In this example, you can get a sense of the applicant’s sense of humor:
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.
The applicant sets the scene at an Alternative Spring Break meeting, sprinkles in humor with the Two Truths and a Lie game, and mentions their desire to become a pediatrician. This example has everything in it, but most importantly, it’s memorable. Often, strong applicants stuff their personal statement with their long list of achievements.
Sometimes less is more. What makes a great personal statement is having a compelling story that illustrates your unique strengths.
For the example above, the applicant likely had several interesting memories, but they chose this experience because it’s interesting and uncommon. Being known as the “alpaca” medical school applicant is a good thing—it makes you memorable and helps you stand out to the admissions committee.
The conclusion is the last paragraph the admissions officer will read, so it requires careful thought, just like the introduction. Not only is the conclusion a summary of your statement, but also a time to emphasize why you want to be a physician and what your future goals are.
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.
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 look forward to travelling to new communities as a physician while keeping my community-driven morals close, so alpaca my bags now.
The excerpts above are great examples of concluding sentences. Ultimately, the admissions committee is looking for applicants who will become excellent future physicians. A stellar essay that does not convince an admissions committee why you want to go to medical school is useless.
Including a well-crafted sentence about your motivation to go to medical school is essential.
The first two excerpts help sum up the applicant’s mission and why they want to be a physician. Ideally, you should tie back to the introduction of your essay. The “alpaca my bags” example connects to the introduction, adds personality, and concludes on a memorable note.
The Meat and Veg: Body
The body is the meat of the essay. It is everything that goes in between those slices of bread. You have more wiggle room to delve into an experience or showcase your personality here. You can use more descriptions and examples in the body. However, it is important that the body of your essay is still clear.****
Do not include anything that does not directly or indirectly support your ultimate case of wanting to become a physician.
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.
Shadowing allowed me to learn the characteristics of a good physician.
This inspired me to help patients in underprivileged communities because some are not educated enough to know when something is wrong with their bodies.
There is no perfect number of paragraphs or set structure for the body of a personal statement. More importantly, the body should convey to the committee your personality, experience, and vision.
Physicians are caring, compassionate, and selfless humans. They have patients’ lives in their hands. They need to make important decisions that can affect the wellbeing of several people.
The medical school admissions committee wants to know that they are admitting someone who upholds the qualities of an excellent physician. Including experiences that showcase your personality is important. In the first excerpt above, the applicant does not explicitly state that he is caring, but rather illustrates it using vivid storytelling.
Don’t shy away from showing your own unique personality. It may be intimidating to talk about yourself, but this is your opportunity to tell your story.
There is no better way to convince an admissions committee that you want to be a doctor than by describing it through experiences. In the second excerpt above, the applicant writes that he shadowed physicians and learned what characteristics make a good physician.
If you are applying to a dual-degree program , like MD/PhD programs or MD/MPH programs, you can include research experiences or community outreach and public health experiences. However, most dual-degree program options have separate applications that always ask why you want to pursue a dual-degree. In your personal statement, try to focus on experiences that explain why you want to be a physician specifically.
Although you will outline your activities and honors in another part of your application, putting your experiences in the context of your personal statement can help you expand on those compelling stories.
An important aspect of the personal statement is describing your vision for your career and future. The personal statement is your chance to share your dreams.
You can describe your ambitions, goals, and feelings. Medical school admissions committees care about finding a diverse, passionate, and enthusiastic group of students who want to be physicians. Outlining your goals or dreams can help them understand who you are and why you want to be a doctor. They want to know what you will do with your MD.
In the third excerpt above, the applicant describes how he wants to help underprivileged communities and why. If you are research-oriented, include how you hope to progress the field of medicine with research. If you are interested in medical education, include your future goals of becoming a physician educator.
The personal statement is a critical part of your application. Although personal statements by definition vary greatly between applicants, there are key elements that an effective personal statement should contain. The personal statement is about putting you on a piece of paper. Ultimately, you should feel proud of your personal statement and how it tells your story.
Professional Feedback and Editing
To set yourself up for the strongest possible personal statement, start early and get regular feedback and editing from those with real medical school admissions committee experience.
Med School Insiders offers a range of personal statement editing packages from a team of doctors with years of experience serving on admissions committees.
Read our free Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement for tips on getting started, what to include, and common mistakes to avoid.
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Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University
Writing a med school personal statement can be nerve-wracking. Read on to learn how to select a topic, highlight your strongest qualities, outline your passion for medicine, and submit a stellar personal statement.
You have spent hours preparing your medical school application. MCAT scores ? Passed with flying colors. Undergraduate record? You nailed it.
You thought you could compete with other school applicants and make it past the first round of the application process, that your application would stand above the rest, but after multiple rejections, you find yourself unsure of where you went wrong.
You had done everything right and submitted all of your medical school admission requirements on time, but you never made it to the next round of the application process. What is stopping you from getting accepted into medical school?
The answer: your personal statement.
No matter how strong your application is, if your personal statement does not stand out, you will not make it past the first round of school application reviews. There is a lot of pressure to make your personal statement reflect why you feel you would be the best candidate. While it may not seem like much, high-quality personal statements carry a great deal of influence in applications.
Medical schools receive thousands of applicants but only have limited spots available, so you need your personal statement to stand out from those of the thousands of other candidates.
Luckily, we're here to provide you with tips and tricks on how to write your med school personal statement to make yours the one to beat.
Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement
Selecting a Personal Statement Topic
Taking the time to figure out what to write in your personal statement for medical school is important. Your statement is an opportunity to shape how admissions committees view you as an applicant. Unfortunately, this step is a stumbling block for many medical school applicants.
In reality, there is no perfect topic; your choice might not work for another applicant.
The most important part of selecting a personal statement topic is choosing one that enables you to link it with your passion for medicine. Remember, it’s vital that your chosen subject tells medical school admissions committees more about you and why you want to be a doctor .
You should aim to write about your qualities that aren’t represented by your GPA or MCAT score. This can include your determination, optimism, or leadership qualities. Revealing your personal qualities, strengths, and weaknesses are brilliant ways to connect with your reader on an emotional level.
If you’re struggling to decide what to write in your personal statement for medical school, start by thinking about what qualities you want to share with the admissions committee. Then, work backward and figure out which of your experiences evidence them.
Step 1: Highlight Your Qualities
The hardest part of writing a personal statement is figuring out where to start, mainly because you are already thinking of everything you want to say. Start your personal statement by telling the admissions committee a little about yourself by highlighting a few qualities.
This could be anything regarding your characteristics, traits, and behaviors. A helpful tip is to gear your qualities toward medical school. How do your qualities translate into the medical field? Will they benefit you? If so, explain.
For example, your audience will want to know if you can handle the pressure and take the lead in day-to-day activities associated with the medical field. Talk about an event that highlights your leadership experience. If you aren’t sure which qualities you should list in your personal statement, think about it from a patient perspective.
What qualities would you want to see in your doctor? For example, would you like a compassionate, empathic doctor or a stern, no-nonsense doctor? Write down these traits and see which ones fit you best. Some notable qualities include but are not limited to the following:
- Analytical abilities
With that being said, do not discuss more than three qualities in your personal statement. You will have to spend time explaining each characteristic, when or where you have demonstrated it, and how it relates to your desire to pursue a career in medicine.
Remember, your experiences that highlight the qualities you chose do not need to come from a clinical (i.e., shadowing a physician , working with dialysis patients) or research experience (discovering a breakthrough in perceptions of neurobiology). They can come from extracurricular activities that eventually led you down this career path.
On a side note, make sure you list up to 15 activities in the AMCAS Work and Activities section of your med school application.
Medical school applicants often write about volunteer work they have done over the years and how those events brought out the qualities they are highlighting, and how it led to their desire to go to medical school. You will want to include as much detail as possible, so discussing too many traits can hinder your personal statement's overall quality.
You may also be limited in how much you can write. Keeping yourself limited to two to three qualities allows you to go more into depth with each one. For each personal experience you use to highlight each quality, you will want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Why? Explain why you decided to go through the experience you mentioned. Readers should know what drew you to it in the first place.
- How did you feel? Describe how you felt during this experience. Try to emphasize those feelings and make them relatable to your audience.
- How has it affected you? Explain how the experience has changed you and your perception of the medical field.
- Has it influenced you? If so, then how? Write about how this event influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine. You can also include how this brought out new qualities or changed previous ones.
While this may seem like a lot of information to provide initially, your personal statement is your chance to shine. You will want to prove that you aren’t just statistics on a paper but a human being. The more you can convey who you are as a person, the better it will be in the long run.
Step 2: Centralize. Don’t Generalize.
With all the information you will be giving in your personal statement, a part of you may think that generalizing a few remarks here and there won’t be a big deal. Wrong! You will be highlighting your qualities through experiences, so you will not want to add any irrelevant information.
However, Dr. Demicha Rankin, Associate Dean for Admissions at Ohio State University College of Medicine , says you do not want your personal statement to be a “regurgitation” of your resume. Instead, it should offer a compelling self-portrait . Your essay should be as clear and concise as possible while capturing the depth of the event stated.
If you have many experiences that could prove the qualities named to the medical school, pick one experience that stands out above the rest, and focus on that. You will not want to regurgitate what the admissions committee already sees in your school application.
Instead, it would be best to concentrate on how your mentioned qualities are related to the experience you are discussing. Do not generalize your story. Centralize your focus on what is essential. You will want to describe in detail your background and how it contributed to your career in medicine. Get to the nitty-gritty of your point.
Step 3: Effective Storytelling in Your Personal Statement for Medical School
Even though you are trying to be as concise as possible in your personal statement, you will want to write about your experiences as though you are telling a story. It should have a beginning, middle, and end; the end should reveal how your background led you to a career in medicine.
Be descriptive. Use imagery. Make the readers feel like they were there with you.
Let’s say you are going to talk about the time you and your friend were caught in a crossfire on the way to the movies. Here’s an example from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine between informative and engaging writing styles:
Informative : “My best friend and I were on our way to the movies when we were caught in a crossfire.”
Engaging : “On April 10th, 2003, at approximately 11 pm, my best friend Kevin and I, intending to see a movie, headed out my front door. We never made it to see a horror movie, but our night was nothing close to mundane when we became innocent victims to gang crossfire.”
As you can see, the informative sentence provides a basic description of the event. The engaging statement captures your attention and makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens next. The admissions committee reads thousands of personal statements, so you need to keep your reader engaged from beginning to end.
Keep the following storytelling tricks in mind when writing your personal statement:
- Keep the story in the first person . Talk about the experience from your perspective. Include your thoughts, interactions, and reactions to the events. For example, say you provided comfort for a dying patient who you have been working with alongside a doctor. It was going to be the first patient you lost. What was running through your mind at that moment? How did you feel?
- Avoid cliches . Because the admissions committee reads thousands of personal statements, your writing should be original. Please do not play it safe by using cliches. Many people think that using cliches is witty and a breath of fresh air in a personal statement; however, it detaches your reader from your writing and makes it a bit dry. Your best bet is to avoid cliches in your personal statement.
- Make it relatable . While you want to convey a serious tone, you want readers to relate to your story. Describe the emotions you felt, even if it was an experience that made you uncomfortable or traumatized you somehow. If readers can relate to your story, they will remember it more.
- Be genuine . Do not lie in your personal statement. As stated earlier, you will want to be as true to yourself as possible. Readers are getting a sense of who you are through this essay, and the last thing you want to do is write something in it that isn’t necessarily true.
Step 4: Explain Why You Want to Pursue Medicine
When talking about yourself and trying to keep your audience engaged, you sometimes forget the main point of a personal statement. While the admissions committee wants to know about you as a person, they are more interested in knowing why you want to pursue a career in medicine.
The prompt provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) — “Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school." — is purposely vague so that you can write on any topic of your choice.
This is something you will reiterate throughout your essay, but you will want to have a paragraph that ties into your conclusion, answering why you want to pursue medicine. This is where it all comes together.
You will want to highlight the qualities mentioned earlier, what you have learned from your experiences, and how everything you have done has contributed to your overall decision to go to medical school.
Step 5: Prepare Your Personal Statement for Medical School
Now that you know what to include in your personal statement, it is time to buckle down and write. One of the common problems admissions committees find is that the writer didn’t review their personal statement before submitting it.
Rachel Tolen , Assistant Director and Premedical Advisor at Indiana University , suggests applicants should start writing their personal statement early and “expect to revise many versions of your draft over time.”
Remember, your first draft will not be perfect, so you want to give yourself plenty of time to revise and edit your medical school personal statement before submission — mainly because you can only submit once.
Tips for Writing a Medical School Personal Statement
Writing a personal statement can be intimidating at first. But with these tips, you’ll breeze right through it.
Research Writing Styles for Your Personal Statement
You can look for a sample medical school personal statement to get a better idea of the writing style for which your target audience is looking. The best place to find sample essays would be from medical schools because those samples are direct examples from the audience you are trying to reach.
For example, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine offers a packet of sample personal statements on their website. Medical school websites are the best place to start your research.
You can also access 27 sample personal statements for med school here:
Outline Your Personal Statement for Medical School
Many applicants find it challenging to know how to start a personal statement for medical school, even after they have spent time researching. Make sure you create an outline before writing a personal statement for medical school.
Plan out how you would like to tell your story. By outlining, you are not only organizing your essay, but you are making sure you include everything your audience requires.
You won’t sit around looking for ideas or wondering what your main point was for your third paragraph; instead, you will be ready to write your statement from start to finish without hesitation. Here is one way to organize your personal statement:
- Pick two to three qualities . Make a bullet for each quality you will be talking about in your essay.
- Pick your experience . Under each quality listed, figure out which experience(s) convey(s) that quality. Note a few key moments that are memorable to you. Imagery will be your best friend here.
- Reflection on career path . Tie your qualities and experiences back into how this made you want to pursue the field of medicine further. Here is where all the elements of your essay come together to prove that you are passionate about medicine, that you wish to further your career, and how you would use your education once admitted to medical school.
It seems like a simple outline, but you will find yourself writing more than you think. Outlining will help you figure out how you want your audience to perceive you.
You want your story to have a beginning, middle, and end that flow and are engaging. By preparing before actually writing your personal statement, you leave little room for error and irrelevant information.
Medical school admissions officers will likely read hundreds of personal statements. So, you have to make yours unique to stand out from the crowd.
Lucky for you, no one else has had the same life as you. US News encourages you to “Give your essay a personal touch by sharing something outside of your passion for medicine to make sure your essay stands out.”
Draw upon your unique background; write about your strengths, failures, and what you have learned from them.
Show, Don’t Just Tell
It is essential to show how you have acquired your strengths, rather than just telling an admissions committee about them.
For example, you can write that your involvement in several sports teams has made you become a good team player. On the other hand, if you just write that you’re a good team player, you are not explaining how you acquired that skill.
Remember to stay on topic; rambling will waste your few precious characters and confuse the reader! Narrowing your focus and reflecting on specific experiences is a brilliant way to write about your unique qualities.
Be Aware of Word Count/Character Limit
Depending on the medical school to which you are applying, you will want to know the word count or character limit allowed for your medical school personal statement. You have no room to go over the set limit. For example, the space for your medical school personal statement in the AMCAS application only allows 5,300 characters .
MD-PhD programs will ask for another medical school personal statement with no more than 3,000 characters, along with a 10,000-character essay discussing significant research experience. If the medical schools you choose require additional essays, make sure you know how much you can write.
Give Yourself Time to Review Your Personal Statement
You will want to have a few days after completing your first draft to review it. Do not try to look over your medical school personal statement the day you finish it.
Give yourself at least 24 hours before going back to check it; this way, you will walk in with a fresh mind and catch more mistakes. Another option would be to have an objective third party read your personal statement.
Get Someone to Look at Your Statement
A new pair of eyes will often find errors you missed. You can ask a family member, friend, or whoever is willing to take a look at your work.
Excellent proofreaders will assess your work in two stages . First, they should interrogate the content by highlighting areas that need more work. Then, they should check your grammar , punctuation, spelling, and style.
While proofreaders will undoubtedly find errors that you missed, it is essential that your writing maintains your voice. After all, your chosen medical schools what to hear about you in your own words.
If you’re still struggling with your statement, consult with a medical school admissions expert who can help you write a stellar personal statement.
Med School Personal Statement FAQ
Hopefully, you now know how to write your personal statement for medical school. But just in case you’re still confused, we’ve put together some questions and answers to help you write the best statement possible.
1. What should I avoid when writing a personal statement for medical school?
Knowing what to include in a personal statement for medical school is difficult. But it’s important to avoid several red flags when you write your statement, as they can undermine your entire application. This is a crucial part of understanding how to write a great medical school personal statement.
As we mentioned above, it’s important to write in the first person. After all, you are describing your experiences. However, using passive language can damage the impact of your writing. Instead, use the active voice. This will give your writing a more direct and clear tone.
Cramming your statement with overly elaborate language is also a faux pas. It’s fine to use advanced terms that relate to medical topics or your particular discipline. But using simple and clear language throughout your statement makes your writing easier to read.
2. How do I write an engaging med school personal statement?
Writing your personal statement for medical school is difficult, especially if you want to make it engaging. But making it personal is a great way to engage your reader.
Bianca Trindade , the Assistant Director of Admissions at Ross University School of Medicine , recommends that you “Imagine a blockbuster movie with your favorite actor or actress. You’re the star of your unique story. Include experiences that have touched you on a personal level and helped you discover your calling as a physician.”
It’s important to reflect on your experiences, not just list them. Explain what you learned, how it shaped you, and why they deepened your passion for studying medicine. If you write a statement that is reflective, heartfelt, and sincere, Trindade notes that it allows “the committee to get a glimpse into who you are.”
All of these tips will come in handy when you have to write your medical school secondary essays like the medical school diversity essay .
3. How do I write my med school personal statement conclusion?
If you don’t know how to write a med school personal statement conclusion, don’t worry. You don’t have to write much. Keep it short and sweet.
This isn’t the place to detail another aspect of your work experience. Instead, use it to recap what you have said in the body of your statement and highlight any key points again. Try to highlight your passion and commitment to studying medicine and end your statement on a positive note.
4. What Topics Should I Avoid in My Statement?
Take a look at our video below to find out!
Wrapping Up: Writing the Perfect Medical School Personal Statement
Writing a medical school personal statement is stressful. You want to include as much information about you as possible while keeping in line with the restrictions. Your personal statement could make or break your medical school application.
It has to stand out above the other thousands of personal statements as well. That puts a lot of pressure on you.
Now is not the time to panic or rethink your career path. With the steps above, your statement will be the one to beat. Remember, keep it simple while capturing the depth and breadth of your experiences.
Never forget the main point of your essay: to convey your passion for medicine and why you wish to pursue it. Keep your audience engaged by showing them you are more than just a number.
With this step-by-step guide, your statement will have you bumped up to the top of the applicant pool in no time.
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How To Structure Your Medicine Personal Statement
Find out how to structure your Personal Statement for Medicine and make sure you meet all the criteria.
Medicine Personal Statement Structure
- Learn how to structure your Personal Statement
- Find out how to write about your motivation
- Get across your exploration of Medicine
- Explain your suitability to study Medicine
- Know when to mention extracurricular activities
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Here’s what you need to know about structuring your Medicine Personal Statement – so you can demonstrate three key things and impress the Medical School Admissions Tutors.
Your Medicine Personal Statement structure should cover three key elements:
Start With Motivation
The first part of your Personal Statement should cover your motivation to study Medicine . Think of this as your “I want to be a Doctor” paragraph – but keep it concise.
Tips For Showing Your Motivation
There are two common ways that people typically choose to show their motivation to study Medicine when writing a Medicine Personal Statement:
- “I love studying science and people, so I want to be a Doctor”
- “I had a medical experience that led to an epiphany, and now I want to be a Doctor”
Both of these are acceptable motivations – but you need to find a way to be unique.
Think about the following prompts:
- Why do you love science? Do you have a personal example of this?
- What is it about caring for people that inspires you? What experience sparked this?
- How do the two things above fuse together in the career of a Doctor?
If you had an experience that made you want to be a Doctor, you can certainly use that in your Personal Statement. However, don’t feel that you will be disadvantaged if this is not the case. You don’t need to manufacture a medical epiphany if there wasn’t one.
If you truly were inspired by one moment, think about these prompts:
- What was the experience exactly? What did you learn about Medicine from it?
- Why did it make you want to go to Medical School and become a Doctor?
- What did you do and where did you go from this point to explore Medicine further?
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Next: Show Exploration
The next thing you need to weave into your Medicine Personal Statement structure is exploration, which means showing how you’ve explored that studying Medicine and becoming a Doctor is the right path for you.
This is the part where you focus on work experience , volunteering , community work, and wider reading. Don’t just write a list of things you’ve done though – Medical School Admissions Tutors are more interested in seeing how you reflect on your experiences.
You should be clear about what you did, and where you gained your experience. It can be good to write in detail about something specific: what happened and, crucially, what did you learn from it?
When it comes to wider reading, you should only mention texts that you’re actually familiar with and would be capable of discussing at interview .
Tips For Writing About Work Experience
- Did you work in multi-disciplinary teams in a hospital, and if so, what did this teach you?
- Did you witness a GP reassuring a patient, and what did you learn from that?
- Did you interact with patients in a care home, and how did that make you feel?
- Did you witness or experience some of the realities of being a Doctor, such as breaking bad news, and how did this affect you?
Whatever work experience examples you cite in your Personal Statement, you must be prepared to talk about these and more at interview.
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Finish With Suitability
Once you’ve shown that you’re motivated to study Medicine and you’ve explored this option thoroughly, you need to explain why you’re suited to becoming a Doctor.
The best way to demonstrate suitability in your Personal Statement for Medicine is to ‘show rather than tell.’ For example, saying “I’m a very empathetic person” is easy to do. And anyone can write that on a piece of paper. It’s better if you can demonstrate it with examples from your work experience or other situations.
There is nothing wrong with using ‘buzzwords’ in your medical Personal Statement, as long as they are backed up with evidence and you can show that you understand them.
Also, remember that suitability for Medicine requires understanding what the medical profession is all about. You can establish this by speaking to medical students and Doctors, reading widely, and carrying out relevant work experience.
When To Mention Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities look great on your Personal Statement. In fact, some Medical Schools, such as Imperial, place a heavy emphasis on them because it shows that you’re a rounded candidate.
Regardless of what they are, you can find ways to relate your extracurricular activities to your suitability for Medicine. For example, have you been a sports team captain and demonstrated leadership? Have you worked as part of team? Do you have a hobby where empathy is important?
Remember the key rule: don’t just list your experiences in your Personal Statement. Reflect on what you’ve learned from them and how they’ve helped you to develop the skills needed to be a good Doctor, such as teamwork, leadership skills and communication skills.
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The Importance of the Personal Statement
The personal statement is so important because it helps the admissions committee connect with and understand you and make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. They’re going to be less willing to take a risk on a student they think will be unhappy as a physician. So if your personal statement reads like you’re going into medicine for the wrong reasons (money, prestige, parental pressure, etc.), they’re unlikely to admit you even if you have great stats.
It’s in your best interest to ensure that you have enough exposure to the field to be sure that this is the right career for you. Otherwise, you might find yourself burned out and miserable early in your career or leave medicine altogether. There is no single right reason to become a physician, but pursuing medicine should, at the very least, be an informed decision.
Like nearly everything in this process, how each school weighs the personal statement depends on the school. Many schools will rely heavily on the personal statement when deciding whether to offer a student an interview, and other schools may weigh other sections more heavily.
Since you can’t know or control how the admissions committee will evaluate your personal statement, you should focus on doing your best on each aspect of the medical school application.
When Should You Write the Personal Statement?
Most students find that the personal statement takes longer than they think it will. You don’t want to be caught not giving yourself enough time to write a great personal statement, so starting early is critical. Because of the time required to draft the personal statement, we recommend beginning in January of the year you apply to medical school.
You might be tempted to try to write the perfect personal statement on your first try or feel like you have to. This kind of thinking will only hold you back and keep you from getting started.
This very early stage of drafting might just look like brainstorming and listing all of the stories you might want to include in your personal statement. It’s also a good time to journal and reflect on your journey so far so that you can dig deeper in your personal statement and activity descriptions .
Starting early gives you plenty of time to write the personal statement, edit your drafts, get feedback from fresh eyes, and polish it. Taking time away from it between drafts will also give you the perspective to be able to evaluate your own work.
Ideally, you’re journaling and reflecting long before it’s time to actually sit down and write the personal statement. How you do this journaling is up to what makes sense for you. You can do it in a physical journal, a spreadsheet, a word document, or in the journal entry space in Mappd whenever you go to log your hours. This way, even if you’ve forgotten the details or the impact of an experience when you go to write your personal statement, you can refresh it in your mind.
How Long is the Personal Statement?
AACOMAS and AMCAS cap the personal statement at 5,300 characters, including spaces. TMDSAS allots 5,000 characters for the personal statement, also including spaces. While you don’t have to use every character available to you, you should aim for a length of at least 5,000 characters for AACOMAS and AMCAS. Anything shorter may not have enough substance or may not flow as well as a slightly longer essay would.
If you’re really struggling to come up with enough material for your personal statement, this might be a clue that you haven’t had enough experience to prove to yourself that you want to be a physician. Or it might be a sign that you haven’t reflected on your experiences deeply enough. Either way, this should be a sign to take a hard look at your journey so far and look for any shortcomings. You want to find and fix these before you hit submit on your application.
What Makes a Great Personal Statement?
The best personal statements tell a story that is authentic to the student writing it. You should aim to engage the senses of the reader and let them in on what you felt emotionally. The best and easiest way to do this is to focus on showing vs. telling. If you need advice on how to do this effectively, you can find plenty of guides and articles online about showing and effective storytelling.
You might need to spend your first draft just getting the facts down and then reword a lot of it to do more showing as you revise and edit, and that’s okay. Focus on improving each draft and emphasizing showing by the final draft instead of getting stuck on doing it perfectly from the very beginning.
You also want to start in a way that makes the admissions officer want to keep reading. Keep in mind that the personal statement doesn’t have to be in chronological order, so you can start with the most interesting part of your story.
As you get into the later stages of editing, you can also rearrange the pieces and see which order is the most interesting to read. This is a place where having another set of eyes can be incredibly helpful in giving feedback on whether things make sense or flow well.
By the end of a great personal statement, the reader knows and deeply understands why you want to be a doctor because they went along the journey with you. They saw your first interaction with a patient and felt what you felt as you held your mother’s hand in the hospital. It makes complete sense that your path has led you here and that this is what you want to do.
Should You Worry About Being Cliche?
Many students worry that their personal statement is cliche because their experiences are common. Common and cliché are not the same thing. The basic facts of a story might be common, but once you add your unique reflection and your unique background, it moves beyond that. If you don’t add anything to make it specific to your story, then it will be cliché. As long as you focus on your story and how you got here, someone will be able to connect with your story and want to get to know you better.
Reflection is the Key
One of the biggest mistakes students make in both their personal statement and activity descriptions is focusing too much on the what and not enough on the why – why these experiences matter.
You can tell the most interesting story in the world, but if you don’t dig deeper and explain why these experiences affected you and made you want to be a physician, your story won’t have any lasting impact on the reader.
In order to help someone else understand why you want to be a doctor, you need to fully understand that yourself. This will help make sure that you’re making the right decision, and it will allow you to tell your story more clearly and with a greater impact on the reader.
Then, once you fully understand for yourself your why and all of your reasons, you can more easily express that to the reader. You should follow each anecdote and each experience with a reflection on why that particular experience was so meaningful to you. What impact did it have on your journey? How did it strengthen your desire to become a physician? What did you learn from it?
You don’t have space to answer all of these questions for every story, but they’re the questions you should ask yourself, and then focus on the most important takeaway when writing. You should focus on the lessons or experiences that strengthened your desire to be a physician. Resist the temptation to describe what you learned about being a physician or the temptation to lean into the generic.
A Strong Send-Off
Just like you want a strong hook at the start to pull the reader in, you also want a strong conclusion. When you’re writing an English paper, your conclusion is often a summary of everything you’ve said before. This is not true for the personal statement. Repeating yourself is a waste of the limited space you have and isn’t very interesting for the reader.
Instead, the conclusion is a great place to talk about what you hope to do as a physician. What kind of change do you want to make in the world? How will you make your school proud after you’ve received your diploma? Paint a picture of the kind of physician you want to be.
Editing the Personal Statement
Who should you ask.
The ideal person to edit your personal statement is someone with knowledge of the medical school application process and an understanding of what makes a good personal statement. A great first stop is your school’s pre-health advising office. Hopefully, your advisor will have enough experience to give you great feedback on your personal statement.
If you take time away from the personal statement between drafts, you will also be in a better place to evaluate your own work, and you might find the examples in The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement helpful during this process.
If you ask someone in your life or a mentor to edit your personal statement, you can give them this review sheet to help guide their feedback. This is especially helpful if they’re not an expert on the medical school application process.
There are also lots of paid services out there. We also offer essay feedback services . Students who join Application Academy can submit their essays for feedback during class and get feedback from their fellow students and TAs.
Editing for Grammar
We recommend that in addition to using your word processor’s built-in spell check, you sign up for a free Grammarly * account. It will not only help with things like spelling and punctuation but will also help ensure your sentence structure is clear.
You can use Grammarly for your application essays, academic papers, and emails to professors asking for letters of recommendation. You should take care to make sure that your personal statement and other application essays are free of errors and typos.
A high amount of errors can be distracting to the reader and make it come across that you didn’t take enough time and care with your personal statement to proofread it thoroughly. Proofreading is a step in the editing process where it’s perfectly fine to have someone less knowledgeable about medical school applications look over your work since they’re not editing for content. If you know someone with really good attention to detail or who gets good grades on their own papers, ask them to look over it for you with an eye to grammatical errors and misspelled words.
What to Avoid In Your Personal Statement
While writing your personal statement, you should write your story authentically, and you should try to avoid anything that will make the admissions committee want to stop reading or view you in a negative light. Here are a few examples of things to avoid, and you can find more examples in The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement .
We all come away from our experiences with positive and negative things about them. However, you should avoid focusing on the negative aspects of your experiences when writing your medical school application.
People who are overly negative aren’t fun to be around and don’t make for very good classmates or community members. It’s easy to say no to a student who seems negative, as the admissions committee is building a community of students who will work closely together and rely on one another for the next four years.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about a time when you had a negative experience or can’t be honest. You should instead focus on what you learned from the situation and what positive aspects you can take from it.
You should not use your personal statement as an opportunity to rehash your resume. That isn’t interesting to read and is a waste of the opportunity you’re given to let the admissions committee understand your journey. You’ve already shared your most important activities and experiences in your activity descriptions. Focusing on your resume also does not answer the question that the personal statement is asking you, which is: why do you want to be a physician?
You can talk about research as part of your personal statement, but you should not focus on it. It’s better to talk about it in your conclusion as part of what you want to do as a physician rather than the driving force behind why you want to be a physician.
When a student focuses on research in their personal statement, it calls into question whether they have enough clinical experience to drive their interest in medicine or if they are more interested in lab work than patient care. Even if you are applying to MD/Ph.D. or DO/Ph.D. programs, you are given multiple other opportunities to talk about your research experiences so far and your future interest in it.
With this, you need to think carefully about how you will handle it if the topic is brought up in an interview. Anything you put in your application is fair game to be asked about in an interview, and you should keep that in mind.
Our cofounder Rachel Grubbs likes to advise students to discuss “scars, not wounds.” If the emotional topic is something you’ve already processed, it will be easier to talk about calmly during an interview. Tearing up is okay and human, but you don’t want to get so emotional that you find it difficult to continue your interview.
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The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
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Don't underestimate the power of the medical school personal statement to make a strong, positive impression on an admissions committee. Combined with your interview performance, your personal statement can account for 60% (or more) of your total admissions score!
Medical schools want to enroll bright, empathetic, communicative people. Here's how to write a compelling med school personal statement that shows schools who you are and what you're capable of.
Personal Statement Topics
Your medical school personal statement is a component of your primary application submitted via, TMDSAS (for Texas applications), or AACOMAS (NB: If you are applying to medical school in Canada, confirm the application process with your school, as not all application components may be submitted through AMCAS).
These applications offer broad topics to consider, and many essay approaches are acceptable. For example, you could write about:
- an experience that challenged or changed your perspective about medicine
- a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual
- a challenging personal experience
- unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
- your motivation to seek a career in medicine
You'll write an additional essay (or two) when you submit secondary applications to individual schools. These essays require you to respond to a specific question. Admissions committees will review your entire application, so choose subject matter that complements your original essay .
Read More: Strategies for Secondary Applications
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Follow these personal statement tips to help the admissions committee better understand you as a candidate.
1. Write, re-write, let it sit, and write again!
Allow yourself 6 months of writing and revision to get your essay in submission-ready shape. This gives you the time to take your first pass, set your draft aside (for a minimum of 24 hours), review what you’ve written, and re-work your draft.
2. Stay focused.
Your personal statement should highlight interesting aspects of your journey—not tell your entire life story. Choose a theme, stick to it, and support it with specific examples.
3. Back off the cliches.
Loving science and wanting to help people might be your sincere passions, but they are also what everyone else is writing about. Instead, be personal and specific.
4. Find your unique angle.
What can you say about yourself that no one else can? Remember, everyone has trials, successes and failures. What's important and unique is how you reacted to those incidents. Bring your own voice and perspective to your personal statement to give it a truly memorable flavor.
5. Be interesting.
Start with a “catch” that will create intrigue before launching into the story of who you are. Make the admissions committee want to read on!
6. Show don't tell.
Instead of telling the admissions committee about your unique qualities (like compassion, empathy, and organization), show them through the stories you tell about yourself. Don’t just say it—actually prove it.
7. Embrace the 5-point essay format.
Here's a trusty format that you can make your own:
- 1st paragraph: These four or five sentences should "catch" the reader's attention.
- 3-4 body paragraphs: Use these paragraphs to reveal who you are. Ideally, one of these paragraphs will reflect clinical understanding and one will reflect service.
- Concluding paragraph: The strongest conclusion reflects the beginning of your essay, gives a brief summary of you are, and ends with a challenge for the future.
8. Good writing is simple writing.
Good medical students—and good doctors—use clear, direct language. Your essays should not be a struggle to comprehend.
9. Be thoughtful about transitions.
Be sure to vary your sentence structure. You don’t want your essay to be boring! Pay attention to how your paragraphs connect to each other.
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10. Stick to the rules.
Watch your word count. That’s 5,300 characters (including spaces) for AMCAS applications, 5,000 characters for TMDSAS, and 4,500 characters for AACOMAS.
11. Stay on topic.
Rambling not only uses up your precious character limit, but it also causes confusion! Think about the three to five “sound bytes” you want admissions committee to know and remember you by.
12. Don't overdo it.
Beware of being too self-congratulatory or too self-deprecating.
13. Seek multiple opinions.
Before you hit “submit,” ask several people you trust for feedback on your personal statement. The more time you have spent writing your statement, the less likely you are to spot any errors. A professor or friend whose judgment and writing skills you trust is invaluable.
Read More: 12 Smart Tips for Your AMCAS Application
14. Double-check the details.
Always check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This goes for the rest of your application (like your activities list), too. A common oversight is referencing the wrong school in your statement! Give yourself (and your proofreaders) the time this task truly requires.
15. Consult the experts about your personal statement strategy.
Our med school admissions counselors can diagnose the “health” of your overall application, including your personal statement. Get expert help and guidance to write an effective personal statement that showcases not only your accomplishments, but your passion and your journey.
Want to get an edge over the crowd?
Our admissions experts know what it takes it get into med school. Get the customized strategy and guidance you need to help achieve your goals.
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- Medicine: How to Apply
Medicine: Anatomy of a Personal Statement
Download this page as a pdf document
Below is a personal statement from a recent applicant for A100 Medicine at Oxford. It is not perfect and it may not be suited to every medical school. There is no single template for success in terms of an application to Oxford. Other styles can be equally effective: we encourage individuality and diversity in our students. This statement is however a good example for an Oxford application because it helps us see that the applicant is attempting to match our selection criteria .
An applicant's personal statement is likely to be discussed by tutors during interview.
A well-written statement will not in isolation gain you an interview or a place. It forms one part of an application from a gifted applicant that can be considered alongside other information - academic record, BMAT score, school reference, interview performance - in the selection process at Oxford.
Statement & comments
Choosing to study medicine is not a decision I have taken lightly. It isn't a career I have wanted to do since a particularly young age, nor did a life changing event prompt my choice. I have thought very long and hard before deciding to apply.
At first glance, this might seem like a down-beat opening paragraph. Although you may think that an arresting opening statement will impress, admissions tutors may be sceptical of exaggerated descriptions of a revelatory moment or lifelong desire to become a doctor. This introduction shows honesty and a degree of introspection. Throughout the statement, the applicant works hard to show that they have a realistic view of medicine. You won't prove that you have the motivation for medicine by simply saying that you do: it is what you have done to inform yourself about the career - and the views that you have formed - that will convince us that you really know what being a doctor is like and that this is what you want to do.
Various periods of work experience have taught me much about the career. A local hospital placement gave me the opportunity to visit A&E, Radiology and Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
You won't prove that you have the motivation for medicine by simply saying that you do.
Whilst fleeting, these visits to the departments highlighted the variety and diversity of the fascinating specialities medicine encompasses. A placement shadowing a clinic staff was hugely informative regarding daily life as a doctor. During the day I sat in on consultations ranging from routine post natal checkups to discussions of treatment for young people with diabetes and overactive thyroid glands.
This student describes their experiences of healthcare that have helped them decide that they want to study and practise medicine. We understand that opportunities to obtain experience vary, so you won't be judged on what you've done: we want to know what you learned from doing it. The description of the placements here isn't over-exaggerated, and the applicant takes care to explain what they have seen and done and the insight each opportunity afforded them. The relatively detailed account of the infant's check-up conveys the impression of engagement during the placement and suggests an intellectual curiosity to understand the infant's condition and its treatment. The applicant also takes care to point out an example of the importance of good communication skills and argues how their sales position has helped them develop such skills.
Throughout my time there the doctor's genuine interest in his cases and unfaltering motivation highlighted to me the privilege of having such a stimulating profession. This, together with the ever advancing nature of a career in medicine, was brought to the fore by an infant who was having a check up as a result of her being put on an ECMO machine after her birth with Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. The ease with which the doctor broached and dealt with sensitive subject matter also emphasised the importance of a warm, approachable manner and an ability to communicate to a person on their level of understanding. I believe I have honed these skills and gained invaluable experience of the eccentricities of the general public myself in my job as a salesperson.
It is important to convey an impression of engagement and intellectual curiosity when talking about any work experience/placement/voluntary work.
Since February of this year I have volunteered in a care home for a couple of hours each week. I assist with serving meals to the residents as well as feeding one of the more infirm ladies. My time there has brought to my attention the more unpleasant side of medicine and has proved by far the most useful work experience I have had; preparing me for the stark realities of physical ageing and senility. In spite of this, I genuinely enjoy my time there; giving residents, some of whom go months without visitors, 10 minutes of my time to chat can be very rewarding in the obvious enjoyment they get from it. The experience has shown me very clearly the importance of caring for the emotional as well as the physical needs of patients.
This paragraph reaffirms the applicant's motivation for medicine. They admit that working in a nursing home is not glamorous but explain how rewarding it has been. There is evidence of analytical skills here and there is no doubt that the applicant has become well-informed about the realities of healthcare. Empathy comes across as well, with the applicant recognising that a brief interaction can have such a positive effect on the overlooked residents of the home.
Outside of my lessons I enjoy orienteering with a local club. As part of an expedition I took part in, we walked 80km over 4 days in torrential rain. The challenging conditions demanded teamwork and trust to maintain morale and perform effectively as a group; as well as calm rational thought in stressful situations. Also, through this activity and the people I met, I have become a member of the SJA which has enabled me to gain first aid qualifications and go out on duties.
Although the bulk of a personal statement should be academic-related, it is important to show a life outside of studying. The involvement in a club or association demonstrates wider spare time interests, and the description of the challenging walking expedition provides evidence that the student can work with others and can cope in an arduous situation, obliquely suggesting that they might have the capacity for sustained and intense work . The student also shows that they understand that taking time out to relax and manage any stress is important, and conveys the impression of good time management. The passing reference to the drama group reinforces the impression that this applicant is a team-player. It is useful to describe sporting or musical interests although, as, this applicant shows, these non-academic interests don't need to be particularly high-powered ones.
Other activities I enjoy include drama - I was a member of a local group for 6 years - cycling and playing the guitar and piano which allow me to relax.
Non-academic interests don't need to be particularly high-powered.
I know that medicine is not a "9 to 5" job and is by no means the glamorous source of easy money it is often perceived to be. I understand the hours are long and potentially antisocial and that the career can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. It is apparent that becoming a medic will involve inherent sacrifice.
However medicine is also a deeply gratifying and fascinating career path. I want to be a medic because my passion and aptitude is foremost scientific and to me 5 or 6 years more of formal education followed by a lifetime of further learning sounds like a stimulating career option and, thankfully, a far cry from the monotony some jobs pose. Nevertheless, as an intrinsically social person, I would relish a career requiring the development of strong empathic relationships with patients too. Crucially, I know I have the enthusiasm, capacity for hard work and the open and enquiring mind needed to succeed in such a fulfilling vocation.
In the concluding paragraphs, the statement is emphasising that, although aware of the negative aspects associated with the practice of medicine, fact-finding placements have given the applicant the insight and motivation to be certain that it is the right career for them. The applicant ends by summarising the key personal attributes that they believe make them well-suited to medicine.
Verdict and advice for improvement
Of course, there is room for improvement with this statement. No reference is made to the scientific subjects that are being studied at school or to particular modules that the applicant has found particularly exciting: this could have helped convey enthusiasm and curiosity in science. Although the applicant asserts that they have an 'open and enquiring mind', there is no description of any extracurricular project or reading that the applicant might have undertaken, perhaps to help them understand a highly-charged ethical issue.
Despite those omissions, this is an effective personal statement. It is well constructed, connects with the reader, and the material flows in a logical sequence. It further conveys the impression that the applicant has done the research and knows exactly what is in store: they are not applying with a naive view or because that is what is expected of them. Writing a statement along these lines would provide a good foundation for a competitive applicant and offers lots of material that can be discussed at an interview.
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The Medical School Personal Statement: How To Stand Out
Posted in: Applying to Medical School
Impressive GPAs and MCAT scores, research experience, physician shadowing, and meaningful volunteer work are only one part of a successful medical school application . You may meet all other medical school requirements , yet face rejection.
One thing can help you stand above the rest: A compelling personal statement.
The medical school personal statement is important because it highlights your hard work, your pre-medical school accomplishments, and why you’re a better candidate than everyone else.
In other words: Who are you, what makes you unique, and why do you deserve a spot in our school?
We’ve helped thousands of prospective medical students increase their odds at acceptance with better personal statements. Now, we’ll show you exactly how to do it.
Working on your personal statement? Speak with a member of our enrollment team who can walk you through the step-by-step med school application process from start to finish.
Table of Contents
What’s in a great med school personal statement.
An excellent medical school personal statement should contain:
- Passion for an area of the healthcare field.
- Storytelling that captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence.
- Emotion and personality to show (not tell) admissions committee members who you are.
- A unique answer to the question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
A powerful personal statement shows that you are the kind of candidate who will make an exceptional physician and be a valuable asset to the school during your medical education. Additionally, it helps to distinguish your application from the many other students with similar MCAT scores and GPAs.
A weak personal statement would, in turn, have the opposite effect.
Not only does the personal statement weed out unqualified candidates, but it also serves as a foundation for many interview discussions and questions .
Admission committee members often only have a few minutes to review an application. Personal statements provide them with the right amount of information. Since it’s possible this is the only part of your application they’ll read, it needs to be perfect .
When writing your personal statement, you’ll also want to note the AAMC core competencies that are expected of all medical professionals. Some, if not all, of these competencies should shine through in your application essay.
The AAMC core competencies include :
- Interpersonal competencies: service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, and oral communication.
- Intrapersonal competencies: ethical responsibility to self and others, reliability and dependability, resilience and adaptability, and a capacity for improvement.
- Thinking and reasoning competencies: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, and written communication.
- Science competencies: living systems and human behavior.
It’s important to show passion for something specific — a group of underserved people, a type of patient, the benefit of a particular area of medicine, etc. Your passion should be evident, non-generic, and authentic. Ask yourself, “What makes a good doctor?”
It’s crucial to avoid cliches in your personal statement, like claiming you want to become a doctor “to help people.”
Dr. Renee Marinelli, Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach, warns that certain cliches may not truly represent meaningful experiences that influenced your decision to pursue medicine.
You may have decided to become a doctor from experiencing a kind physician as a child, but that personal experience doesn’t convey genuine passion. Your enthusiasm for medicine doesn’t need to originate from a grand experience or sudden revelation.
Your interest in medicine probably developed gradually, perhaps when you fell in love with psychology during college and volunteered at nursing homes. You don’t need a lifelong dream to demonstrate passion and become an outstanding doctor.
A memorable personal statement captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence, which you can do with an interesting personal story or anecdote. Including some creativity, ingenuity, humor, and character.
Immersing the admissions committee in your personal statement allows you to show , not just tell , how your experiences have impacted your journey to medicine.
Don’t repeat the data your admissions committee can read on the rest of your application — SHOW the passions and experiences that have led you to this field using a narrative approach.
Consider the following examples of statements about a student’s volunteer experience at a food pantry:
"“Through my work at the local food pantry, I came to understand the daily battles many individuals face, and it allowed me to develop deeper empathy and compassion.” “When I saw Mr. Jones, a regular at the kitchen, struggling to maneuver his grocery cart through the door, I hustled over to assist him. My heart sunk when I saw he was wearing a new cast after having been assaulted the night prior.”
Which do you think performed better in terms of conveying personal characteristics? Your personal statement is a deep dive into one central theme, not about rehashing all of your experiences.
3. Emotion & Personality
An engaging personal statement allows your unique personality and real emotions to shine through.
As Dr. Davietta Butty, a Northwestern School of Medicine graduate, avid writer, pediatrician, and MedSchoolCoach advisor, puts it, “I think the best personal statements are the ones that showcase the applicant’s personality. Remember that this is your story and not anyone else’s, and you get to say it how it makes sense to you.”
This is why storytelling is such an important part of personal statement writing. Your writing process should involve quite a bit of writing and editing to express emotion in a relatable, appropriate way.
A Note On Writing About Tragedy
One way you can show who you are is by expressing an appropriate level of emotion, particularly about challenging or tragic experiences. (But don’t worry — not everyone has a tragic backstory, and that’s perfectly fine!)
If you are discussing a tragedy, don’t go into an extended explanation of how you feel — show emotion and your personality while sticking to the plot.
Personal tragedies, such as the death of a loved one, can powerfully motivate a personal statement. In a field where life and death constantly clash, experiences with death might appear impressive qualifications; however, approach them cautiously.
Focus on the reasons behind your motivation, rather than the details of the tragedy. Explain how the experience impacted your medical career aspirations, including skill development or perspective changes.
How have you applied these new skills or perspectives? How would they contribute to your success as a medical student?
4. Why You Want To Be a Doctor
Becoming a doctor is no small feat. What journey brought you here?
Writing things like “I want to help people” or “I want to make a difference” won’t set you apart from all the other students applying for medical school .
Knowing who you want to serve, why you want to help them (in story form), and where you’d like to end up will show admissions officers that you are serious about your medical career.
After all, this career doesn’t just involve many years of post-graduate education — you need a significant motivation to see this career through. That’s what admissions committees are looking for!
Read Next: Medical School Interviews: What To Do Before, During & After
How long is a personal statement for medical school?
Your statement is limited to:
- 5,300 characters (including spaces) on the AMCAS application ( MD programs )
- 5,000 characters on the TMDSAS (Texas MD programs)
- 5,300 characters for AACOMAS ( DO programs )
That’s roughly 500-700 words, or 3 double-spaced pages of text.
We typically suggest our students divide their personal statement into about 5 full paragraphs — an intro, 2-3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Pro tip: Do not type directly into the text box — if something goes wrong, you’ll lose all of your work. Write in another program first, then copy and paste the edited copy into the application text box.
Use a text-only word processing tool (TextEdit on Mac devices or Basic Text Editor on Windows), or type the essay into Microsoft Word or a Google Doc. Just remember to save the file as a *.rtf. This will eliminate formatting issues when you copy and paste the essay into the AMCAS box.
How To Write a Personal Statement For Medical School
Your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your passion for medicine and your unique experiences. Be genuine, focused, and concise; your personal statement will leave a lasting impression on medical school admissions committees.
Some questions you may want to consider while writing your personal statement are:
- Why have you selected the field of medicine?
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What do you want medical schools to know about you that has yet to be disclosed in another application section?
In addition, you may wish to include information such as unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits. Comment on significant academic record fluctuations not explained elsewhere in your application.
With thousands of students, we’ve developed a nine-step process for how to write a personal statement that’s sure to get noticed. Follow these steps in order to uplevel your personal statement writing.
1. Choose a central theme.
Sticking to one central theme for your personal statement may sound tricky, but sticking with a central theme can give your statement more of a rhythm.
Here are a few examples to use when thinking of a central theme:
- What is an experience that challenged or changed your perspective on medicine?
- Is there a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual that has significantly influenced you?
- What was a challenging personal experience that you encountered?
- List unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits.
- What is your motivation to seek a career in medicine?
2. Choose 2-4 personal qualities to highlight.
Keep this part brief and highlight the strengths that will make you an exceptional doctor.
What sets you apart from others? What makes you unique? What are you particularly proud of about yourself that may not be explained by a good GPA or MCAT score?
Here are a few examples of quality traits great doctors possess:
- Good judgment under pressure
- Excellent communication skills
- Leadership skills
3. Identify 1-2 significant experiences that demonstrate these qualities.
In this section, you should include that these experiences exemplify the qualities above and outline your path to medicine.
The top experiences college admissions seek are research projects , volunteer activities, and mentorship.
Here are a few ways to narrow down what makes an experience significant:
- Which experiences left you feeling transformed (either immediately, or in retrospect)?
- Which experiences genuinely made you feel like you were making a difference or contributing in a meaningful way?
- Which experiences radically shifted your perspectives or priorities?
- Which experiences have truly made you who you are today?
Pro tip: If you’re still in your third year of pre-med and want to participate in more experiential projects that will support your future medical career, check out Global Medical Brigades . We partner with this student-led movement for better global health, and brigades are a transformative way to begin your medical career.
4. Write a compelling introduction.
Your personal statement introduction is the first thing the admissions committee will read. The first paragraph should be a catchy, attention-grabbing hook or story that grabs the reader’s attention and sets up the main point of your essay.
Check out this webinar for more examples of what makes a great introduction.
5. Use storytelling to write the body paragraphs.
Since the goal is to achieve depth rather than breadth (5,000 characters isn’t a lot!), focus on key experiences instead of discussing everything you’ve accomplished. Remember, you’ll have the Work & Activities section to share other relevant experiences.
Use the following five-step formula to elaborate on important experiences in the body paragraphs of your personal statement:
- Discuss why you pursued the experience.
- Mention how you felt during the experience.
- Describe what you accomplished and learned.
- Discuss how your experience affected you and the world around you.
- Describe how the experience influenced your decision to pursue medicine.
The best personal statements tell a story about who you are. “Show, don’t tell,” what you’ve experienced — immerse the reader in your narrative, and you’ll have a higher chance of being accepted to medical school.
6. Create an engaging conclusion.
Your goal is to make the person reading want to meet you and invite you to their school! Your conclusion should:
- Talk about your future plans.
- Define what medicine means to you.
- Reflect on your growth.
- Reiterate how you’d contribute to your school’s community and vision.
7. Use a spellchecker to proofread for basic errors.
Misusing “your” instead of “you’re” or misspelling a few important words can negatively impact how your personal statement is received. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be perfect on your personal statement.
Use Grammarly or a similar spellchecker to check for errors before completing your personal statement. You can also use an AI tool like ChatGPT for proofreading, although it’s more likely to make sweeping changes.
8. Edit your draft.
Editing your personal statement a few times over will benefit you in the long run. Give yourself time to write, edit, reread, and re-edit your personal statement before submitting it with your application.
You can use AI technology like ChatGPT for small edits or to help you add in information where you might feel stuck, but don’t rely too much on it.
9. Ask a few trusted people to read your draft.
Have at least one friend, family member, and at least one person who’s a medical professional review your draft. A professor in your pre-med program would be a great person to review your draft.
Be willing to receive as much feedback as your trusted people are willing to give. Don’t get caught up in obsessing over one statement you really like if all three of your readers suggest cutting it.
If you’d like a professional eye on your personal statement, consider a personal statement editing service. Our editors are medical professionals, often who have reviewed personal statements and applications submitted to admissions committees.
We’d love to help you craft a personal statement that’s sure to stand out.
30 Prompts To Inspire Your Personal Statement
Here are 30 prompts to inspire your personal statement:
- Describe a defining moment in your life that solidified your desire to pursue a career in medicine.
- Discuss a challenging situation you faced and how it shaped your perspective on healthcare.
- Reflect on a time when you made a meaningful impact on someone’s life through your actions or support.
- Explain your motivation for wanting to become a physician and how it has evolved over time.
- Describe a personal quality or skill that will contribute to your success as a medical professional.
- Discuss the importance of empathy and compassion in the medical profession and share a personal experience demonstrating these qualities.
- Reflect on a specific medical case or patient that inspired you and how it influenced your future goals.
- Share a story about an interaction with a mentor or role model who has inspired your path in medicine.
- Describe a time when you overcame adversity or faced a significant challenge in your journey to medical school.
- Explain how your background, culture, or upbringing has influenced your perspective on healthcare.
- Discuss a medical issue or topic you’re passionate about and why it’s important to you.
- Describe your experience working or volunteering in a healthcare setting and the lessons you’ve learned.
- Reflect on a time when you had to adapt or be resilient in a challenging situation.
- Discuss how your interest in research or innovation will contribute to your career as a physician.
- Share a personal experience that has shaped your understanding of the importance of teamwork in healthcare.
- Describe a leadership role you’ve held and how it has prepared you for a career in medicine.
- Discuss the impact of a specific medical discovery or advancement on your decision to pursue medicine.
- Reflect on your experience with a particular patient population or community and how it has influenced your perspective on healthcare.
- Share your thoughts on the role of social responsibility in the medical profession.
- Explain how your experiences with interdisciplinary collaboration have prepared you for a career in medicine.
- Describe a time when you advocated for a patient or their needs.
- Share your experience with a global health issue or project and how it has impacted your perspective on healthcare.
- Discuss your interest in a specific medical specialty and why it appeals to you.
- Reflect on a time when you encountered an ethical dilemma and how you resolved it.
- Describe an experience that demonstrates your commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth.
- Share a story about a time when you had to think critically and problem-solve in a healthcare setting.
- Discuss how your experiences with diverse populations have informed your approach to patient care.
- Describe an experience that highlights your ability to communicate effectively with others in a medical setting.
- Reflect on a time when you demonstrated your commitment to patient-centered care.
- Share your thoughts on the importance of balance and self-care in the medical profession and how you plan to maintain these practices throughout your career.
Avoid These Common Personal Statement Mistakes
Avoid these 5 common mistakes students make when writing their personal statements:
- Clichés : “I just want to help people,” “from a young age,” “I’ve always wanted to,” and “for as long as I can remember,” are just some of the overused phrases in personal statements. Other clichés we’ve seen often include saying that you’ve wanted to be a doctor for your whole life, using overly dramatic patient anecdotes, or prideful-sounding stories about how you saved a life as a pre-med student. Eliminate clichés from your writing.
- Typos/grammatical errors: We covered this already, but the grammar in your statement should be flawless . It’s hard to catch your own typos, so use grammar checking tools like Grammarly and ask your readers to look for typographical errors or grammar problems, too.
- Name-dropping: At best, naming a prominent member of the medical community in your statement sounds braggadocious and will probably be brushed off. At worst, an adcom reader may think poorly of the person you mention and dismiss you based on the connection. If you do know a well-known and well-respected person in the medical field and worked closely with them, request a letter of recommendation instead.
- Restating your MCAT score or GPA : Every character in your personal statement counts (literally). Don’t restate information already found on your application. If your application essay is being read, an algorithm has already identified your prerequisite scores as being worthy of reviewing the rest of your application.
- Using extensive quotes from other people: This is your chance to show who you are. Quoting a philosopher or trusted advisor in these few precious characters takes away from the impact you can have. A single short quote might be okay if it’s highly relevant to the story you’re telling, but don’t go beyond that.
Should you use ChatGPT to help you write?
ChatGPT is a great AI tool to help you get your personal statement off the ground. However, since this is your personal statement, ChatGPT won’t be able to effectively write transitions or tie your personal statement together.
Only you can effectively convey what being a doctor means to you. Only you carry the experiences in your mind and heart that have compelled you to pursue this competitive profession. Don’t rely on artificial intelligence to fake those experiences — it will show, and not in a good way.
We’ve found that ChatGPT can help speed the processes of ideation, editing, and grammar-checking. If you’re not using it to emulate human experiences but just treating it as a helpful assistant, go for it!
When should you start writing your personal statement?
Begin writing your personal statement early enough to have months of reflection and editing time before your application cycle begins. We recommend writing your personal statement as the first step when applying to medical school , starting in December or January before applications open.
As you progress, anticipate revising multiple versions of your draft. Spend time reflecting on your life experiences and aspirations.
Dr. Katzen, MedSchoolCoach Master Advisor and previous admissions committee member at GWU, recommends starting your personal statement in December/January if you plan to apply in May/June (you should!).
This gives you plenty of time to have others review it or to get professional personal statement editing services. It also gives you time to write multiple drafts and be 100% satisfied with your final essay.
9 Personal Statement Examples That Led To Med School Acceptance
We’ve included some of our favorite medical school personal statement examples below. Each of these was written by a student who was accepted at one or more programs of their choice.
1. Embracing Diversity: Healing Through Cultural Connections
Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM
With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and from behind my ear suddenly appeared a coin. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctors’ feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.
Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I was hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day physicians comforted me, asking how I was, taking time to reassure me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as I could to learn more about different illnesses.
In addition to conventional medical settings, I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father had been actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances, for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced myself, I spent hours in inipis, chewing on osha root, finding my own healing through songs. In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, the home of my mother, who came from a long line of healers, which involved herbal remedies and ceremonies in the healing of the mind, body, energy and soul. I can still see my mother preparing mixtures of oils, herbs, and incense while performing healing rituals. The compassion and care she put into healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers.
Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with an unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I made the difficult decision to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I found myself continuously reflecting on the experiences in the hospital that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license to get more experience in the medical field.
As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient who came from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to speak with him to learn his story. Afterwards, he became more comfortable, and I helped walk him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice.
My journey to become a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic. I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.
2. The Calling to Heal From the Battlefield
Student Accepted to Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Medical School, Yale SOM
I’ll never forget his screams of pain.
It was the first time I had heard a man cry for help, and it shook me to my core. It had been a long night of training in South Korea for me and my fellow Army Rangers. We were reaching the end, heavy with exhaustion, when my friend took the direct impact of an explosive to his leg. The shockwave momentarily rattled my sense of balance. Struggling to see in the dark, I switched on my headlamp. In that instant, all I could focus on was his face. His eyes darted back and forth, sweeping the surroundings for any semblance of help, but all I could do was stand there and watch as our medics treated him.
No amount of training prepared me to see a friend in pain. As I watched the helicopter fly him away, I couldn’t help but think— even though I’d gone through some of the best military training in the world, in that moment, I could do nothing for him. Fortunately, he is okay, but had there been no medic available, the situation could have ended with tragedy. That night, I realized that through a career in medicine, I could be more than just a bystander to suffering— I could be in the position to not only reduce unnecessary pain but to also help those affected by conflict and trauma be restored to the fullness of life.
Upon returning home from this deployment, I shifted my focus to developing my skills in trauma care. I completed various trainings on caring for casualties in a combat environment and preparing non-medic Rangers to provide self-aid or buddy-aid in the absence of a medical provider. In a final scenario-based training lane, I helped lead my team in the treatment and packaging of a trauma patient for evacuation, setting a record time in our company and earning a military medal. This achievement, however, was only the beginning. These trainings and my successes served as a foundation that I built upon to ensure I could provide life-saving care in combat situations. I continued to hone this skillset over my next two combat deployments as a machine gunner to Afghanistan, where, I was prepared to use these critical abilities to decrease mortality on the battlefield. In medicine, like in the army, the actual practice of one’s craft may be life or death. Therefore, evolving both dependability and proficiency during training is imperative in preparation for that final test, both in war and in medicine.
After leaving the military, confronting injury and trauma continued to be a reality. A year after exiting the service, two Army Ranger leaders whom I knew were critically injured on a mission overseas. One was my former team leader, who was shot in the neck, and the other was caught in an explosion that later resulted in a triple amputation. The relentless efforts of doctors and nurses is the reason why both of these brave men are alive today. Recognizing that without the diligent care of these medical professionals, these men would not have survived, I became ever more dedicated to serving others.
While in college, this dedication pushed me to routinely visit the West Haven VA Hospital to provide a community of support for the older, disabled veterans there. I first began visiting this hospital for my own medical care but witnessing the suffering of the other veterans at the hospital spurred me to return repeatedly not as a patient, but as a friend to my fellow veterans. As a veteran and student, seeing and hearing about the pain and loss of function experienced by many other veterans reminded me of the importance of advocacy in healthcare: to understand, to care for, and to fight for those who are unable to do so themselves.
I continued to see these effects of conflict while volunteering as a tutor to individuals from the Middle East who were affected by the very war I served in. Alaa lives in Syria and dreams of becoming a surgeon. Together, Alaa and I discussed chemistry, biology, and math. Despite his love of learning and dedication, the instability of his community, which was plagued by violence, often barred him from focusing on his studies and committing to a routine tutoring schedule. Although I’ll never intimately know the reality of growing up in a war-torn country, working with Alaa taught me to keep the bigger picture of healthcare in mind. It reminded me that a career as a physician would provide me with the capability to help those like Alaa who are affected by conflict.
When I reflect on medicine, I draw many parallels to my life in army special operations. The training is intense, the hours are long, and the structure is hierarchical. The mission, above all else, is to provide the best outcome for those around you. On my journey to a career in medicine, I plan to continue to add to what I’ve learned from my experiences so far: humility, empathy, dependability, communication, teamwork, and leading from the front. For over four years I lived by the Ranger Creed, and I plan to imbue the same ethos in serving as a physician— to keep myself mentally alert and morally straight, to shoulder more than my share of whatever task presents itself. In crossing from the path of a warrior to that of a healer, I hope to continue a life of service to improve the human condition and reduce unnecessary suffering in the world one person at a time.
3. Community-based Health and Empathy: Serving Underserved Communities in Crisis
Student Accepted to Weill Cornell
My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it at the time, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.”
In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.
As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built an intermixed friend group and began to understand how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw at school: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table, and therefore language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.
Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects its cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I had witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?
My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment in his life. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised. I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes in order to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion that I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine—the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with an individual to serve their needs.
With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how inequities in socioeconomic status and job security left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts. Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and even simple small talk to build rapport. When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.
Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident that I want to dedicate my life to this profession.
4. Creating a Judgment-Free Zone with The Power of Acceptance in Healthcare
Student Accepted to George Washington SOM and Health Sciences, Drexel University COM
Immigrating into a foreign country without speaking a word of the language is a terrifying task for anyone. My mentee at Computers4kids, Sahil, came to the United States at seventeen and had been struggling to integrate with society due to the language barrier. Although I was born in the United States, I can empathize with the struggle he encounters daily, since both my parents and many members of my family have dealt with the same issues. Often, these barriers exacerbate mundane issues the immigrant population faces as they have difficulty finding people who can understand and care for them. Since I am bilingual in Farsi, when Sahil approached me with his driving instructions manual written in Dari, I thought I could teach him the rules of the road with no issues. I asked him to read the first sentence, but he diverted his gaze and mumbled that he did not know how to read. As I realized he seemed embarrassed by his illiteracy, I placed my hand on his shoulder and assured him that he could learn. I increased my weekly hours at the site to spend an equal amount of time on the rules of the road and on phonetics and reading. Within a few months, he was more comfortable greeting others around the Computers4Kids site and participating in interactive projects. Upon reflection, I appreciate the importance of creating a judgment-free zone that encourages learning and reciprocal care. Once Sahil noticed that I saw him no differently after learning of his illiteracy, he was ready and willing to work on the basics of language and reading, instead of solely memorizing words.
I did not realize how pivotal a judgment-free zone in a medical environment is until I worked at the University of Virginia Emergency Department as a medical scribe. Although I had scribed at a smaller hospital before, I had always strived for a position at a high-volume healthcare center and level one trauma center. Close to the end of a long shift, I walked into the room of a patient with the chief complain of ‘Psychiatric Evaluation’. A male patient with schizophrenia was hyperventilating and speaking through tears as he described seeing his deceased wife and daughter everywhere he looked. Between short breaths, he mentioned he was going to Florida to attack the person who “murdered his family”. The resident diffused the situation by acknowledging the patient’s feelings and suggesting that he stayed for psychiatric help instead of flying to Florida. Eventually, the patient agreed and was admitted. Seeing the resident create this judgment-free environment was eye opening, as the previously distressed patient was now accepting counseling. The powerful influence of acceptance can lead to valuable insights about patients’ lives, potentially increasing the range of care one can administer.
I decided to transition to primary care in the most recent fall season because I would be able to build a more personal relationship with families in my community. I began working at Union Mill Pediatrics and was finally able to serve the community I grew I up in. I was given the responsibility of acting as the primary contact for a few families with children who have autism. Dr. Maura and I perused the plan of care for one of these children, Ayaan, determined by the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), to ensure that set therapeutic goals were reasonable and generalizable. When I asked Salwa, Ayaan’s mother, about some of the goals set by her BCBA and the school, she mentioned they would repeat exercises he already knew how to complete. I informed Salwa of her right as a patient to bring up her concerns with Ayaan’s teachers. I was overjoyed when she updated me that she instructed Ayaan’s teacher to continue putting his hearing aid in despite Ayaan’s constant cries. Salwa explained that the tantrums would curb after two days, which proved to be true. Similarly to how I encourages Salwa to advocate for her son, I will advocate for my patients and help them develop confidence to speak about their needs. After finding her voice as the patient’s guardian, Salwa gained the confidence to ask about a support group as she faces difficulties raising Ayaan alone. After some research, I found a few active groups to send her. By proving to Salwa I had her best interests in heart, she opened up to me about her mental health issues, which enabled me to extend the appropriate resources her way.
I have witnessed the potential that physicians have at work to forever change a family’s quality of life by being open-minded and remaining judgment-free. As a physician, I will aim to provide for my community through attentive healthcare and community service. I will advocate for my patients with cultural, language or socioeconomic barriers to healthcare. Building a trusting relationship with my future patients can result in a more productive office visit and enhance my ability to administer holistic care. My goal is for patients to leave their visit with not only a reasonable plan of care, but also a greater appreciation of their health and their rights as patients.
5. The Intersection of Medicine and Creativity
Student Accepted to Hackensack Meridian SOM, Nova Southeastern CoOM/KPCOM
Growing up, I inherited a deep admiration for medicine. From my grandfather’s chilling stories as a forensic psychiatrist assessing mental fitness, to my father’s heroic accounts as a pediatric dentist operating on toddlers with severe tooth decay, I was enamored with the honor of healing. These exposures nurtured my natural curiosity and innate aptitude for the sciences. Yet my mother, who had studied dance and theatre, instilled in me a fervent love of the arts and creative practice. Following in her footsteps, I took up multiple musical instruments, attended a high school for the arts, and earned a degree in art history coupled with a dance minor. Still, my dream was to pursue medicine, and though it seems counterintuitive, my love of art has only facilitated my enduring love of science, reinforcing why pursuing a career as a holistic, health-centered physician is my deepest aspiration.
My affinity for the health sciences began in the dance studio, where I devoted many hours of my adolescence. Dance, insidious in its promotion of grotesque health practices, demanded that I limit my calories to 1,200 a day counting everything from ibuprofen to a stick of gum, and to dance through a severe hamstring tear. My conceptions of health were severely warped until college dance came to my rescue. These new progressive teachers uplifted dancers of all physical and cognitive abilities, distributed scientific journals on effective warm-up techniques, and abandoned conventional dance norms. I was disturbed by all the unlearning I had to do, but eager to reacquaint myself with my body and disseminate new knowledge. Thus, I was honored when dance again presented an opportunity in health, as I was hired to teach dance at my childhood summer camp. Here, I could separate my curriculum from unreasonable physical expectations and interpersonal competition. I found a fierce sense of joy and fulfillment from being an advocate for physical and emotional health, and I knew I wanted to continue helping others heal while also deconstructing my own negative health experiences.
These formative experiences in the arts profoundly supported my intellectual development, allowing me to thrive in science-based settings and ultimately prompting me to seek out colleges with robust research programs. At the University of Michigan, I had the privilege of participating in a campus research lab, undoubtedly resulting in my most valuable college experience. The world of scientific inquiry can be intimidating, but after a year of reading dozens of papers and learning novice lab protocols, I began my own independent investigation of zebrafish retinas. My goal was to uncover the mechanisms of retinal regeneration in fish, thus addressing vision loss. The excitement I felt in utilizing challenging lab techniques, working with animals, witnessing the culmination of my efforts through image analysis, and being a part of such life-altering research was unmatched. What once seemed like magic was now tangible; I was an artist helping craft the solutions to science’s unanswered questions. In the context of my multidisciplinary interests, my research reinforced the creative, humanitarian side of science, and that science was where I felt compelled to take action and build a career.
Art continued to deepen my passion for and understanding of medicine. The revolutionary approaches of my dance teachers modeled the importance of critique as it pertains to health. This was not a new concept to me; my high school art teachers had urged us to challenge institutional weaknesses. It was not until college, however, that I realized how this line of thinking intersects with medicine. Studying art history, I repeatedly encountered artists whose work tackled issues in health. Keith Haring confronted the AIDS crisis when society had turned on the gay population, and Marc Quinn confronted the disease of addiction in his self-portrait sculptures, made entirely of his own frozen blood. Art, I learned, is so often a response to disease, be it physical, mental, or sociological. These artists had been champions of health in light of its stigmas and politics; art thus fostered new intentions, instilling within me an ardent goal of social activism through medicine.
Art has contributed to my journey, and while it is not my ultimate goal, I hope to incorporate my artistically based insights into my work in science and medicine as a health and social justice advocate. I am driven to continue exploring these intersections, having compiled an entire portfolio on the connection between dance and science, researched disability in the arts, and pursued my personal interest in LGBTQ+ health advocacy by connecting with and shadowing a variety of gender care physicians. My intention to pursue medicine is personal, fulfilling, and pressing, and I take seriously the responsibility I will have as a physician to be a mogul for change in areas of healthcare that compromise the human experience. Further, my natural inclination towards science and involvement in academic research has instilled in me the confidence and skills necessary to be an effective medical practitioner. With this balanced mindset, I know I will contribute to a more ethical and well-rounded approach to healthcare.
6. Innovation in Medicine and a Quest for Discovery
Student Accepted to Johns Hopkins SOM, Washington University SOM, Hofstra Zucker SOM
As a notoriously picky nine-year-old with a penchant for grilled cheese, I was perplexed when I learned that my younger sister, Rachel, had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I felt a sting of betrayal knowing my comfort food was the culprit for Rachel’s terrible stomach aches. Yearning to understand how my favorite food was poisoning my favorite person, I developed an insatiable desire to discover the “why” behind Celiac. As Rachel’s doctor explained her disease, I was both fascinated that a simple protein could cause so much damage and inspired by the doctor’s compassion. He described every detail in a way Rachel would understand, addressed her every concern, and held her hand when she was scared. I wanted to be just like Rachel’s doctor so that I too could use science to decipher medical mysteries while also reassuring my patients that I would be their advocate and help them heal.
My interest in medicine drove me to learn more about what it meant to be a doctor. As a freshman in high school, I arranged a shadow day with Dr. M, a cardiologist. He taught me about echoes, showed me a pacemaker implantation, and in the midst of a cardioversion, even beckoned me over to press the button that discharged the defibrillator. I could not contain my excitement recounting how much I had learned during my first day in a clinical setting. From there, my curiosity skyrocketed and I embarked on a relentless pursuit to explore the spectrum of the medical field. I was moved by the supportive atmosphere of the NICU, struck by the precision involved in ophthalmology, absorbed by the puzzle-like reconstruction of Mohs surgery, and awed by the agility of cardiothoracic surgery. Between high school and college, I shadowed over a dozen physicians, cementing my interest and furthering my passion for a future medical career.
My college classes allowed me to immerse myself further in the study of the human body. Following my fascination with cancer, I secured an internship working on a melanoma immunotherapy clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health. I savored the stimulation, grasping new experimental techniques and developing assays; but my work took on even greater meaning when I learned that my grandfather had been enrolled in an early-stage immunotherapy trial himself while battling mucosal melanoma. Although immunotherapy did not heal my grandfather, I was immensely proud to be advancing the science years later. Through long nights and evolving experiments, I gave the trial its final push through an FDA approval checkpoint; ultimately, my contributions will help more grandparents go into remission. The most fulfilling moments came every Monday when I accompanied the leading physician scientists on their rounds. As I met patients, listened to their stories, and celebrated their improvements, the pulsating blister on my thumbpad from endless pipetting became akin to a medal of honor. Reflecting on these encounters, I wanted to continue driving scientific innovation, but I also wanted a more active and personal impact in the patient’s experience.
My desire to connect with patients brought me to Alliance Medical Ministry, a clinic serving uninsured, disadvantaged communities in North Carolina. I stepped up to lead efforts to organize a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic, communicating personally with every eligible patient and arranging vaccine appointments for over a thousand people across the hardest hit areas of Raleigh. The experience became even more rewarding when I trained to administer vaccines, becoming a stable, anchoring presence from the beginning to the end of the process. One memorable patient, “Amy,” had not seen a doctor in years because of the associated financial burden. When she came to the clinic suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, she was not even aware of her diabetes diagnosis. While I waited with her for transportation to the ER, she expressed her fears about contracting COVID at the hospital. However, she emphatically dismissed my suggestion about receiving a vaccine. I listened intently to all her concerns. Not only was she worried about the vaccine infecting her with the virus, but also her history of being denied healthcare due to her socioeconomic status had instilled fears that she would not be taken care of should she have an adverse reaction. I took her hand in mine and reassured her of the clinic’s mission to provide care regardless of ability to pay. I further explained everything I knew about how the vaccine worked, its safety and efficacy, and how my body reacted when I received my own injection. I could not help but beam behind my N95 when days later, Amy returned, sat in my chair and confidently rolled up her sleeve for me to give her the protective shot.
I have grown by exploring the multifaceted world of medicine through shadowing, pioneering research to advance patient care at the NIH, and cultivating trusting relationships with patients from the vaccine clinic. As a doctor, my desire to be an innovative thinker and problem solver will fuel my unrelenting quest for discovery throughout a lifetime of learning. Most importantly, I aspire to use my medical knowledge to improve lives and establish meaningful patient partnerships, just as Rachel’s doctor did with her.
7. Transforming Pain into Purpose: Inspiring Change in the Field of Medicine
Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School
Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals. A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain. From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.
A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive. Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown. Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.
Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain. At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time. My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.
Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.
My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.
8. Overcoming Bias, Stigma, and Disparities in Medicine
Student Accepted to University of Florida COM
Growing up as a Black woman, my family’s experiences with racial bias in medicine were central to my perception of doctors. From my grandmother’s forced electric shock therapy in the Jim Crow South that resulted in severe brain damage, to my father’s ignored appendicitis that led to a near-death infection after rupturing, every trip to the doctor came with apprehension. Will these strange men with sharp tools heal me or hurt me? This question repeated in my head as I prepared to undergo my first surgery to remove suspiciously inflamed lymph nodes at age 11. I woke up groggy from anesthesia with a negative cancer diagnosis but a blistering third degree burn. The surgeon had successfully removed the malignant masses but had left the cauterizing iron resting on my neck in the process. Today when I look in the mirror and see the scar, I am reminded of the troubling reality that myths such as black people having thicker skin and less sensitive nerve endings are still pervasive in the medical field. By challenging the systemic disparities in medicine that disadvantage minority populations, I vow to my inner child that I will be a different kind of doctor, a doctor who values the patient as much as the procedure.
My experiences with a variety of communities, minority and majority, stem from growing up in a military household that came with frequent relocations. I was exposed to a wide range of communities from an early age—rural Oregon to tropical Hawaii, industrious Japan to politicized D.C, sunny San Diego and finally to radical Berkeley where I began my pre-medical education. I chose to view medicine from an anthropological lens while at Cal and supplemented my coursework with community service. As co-coordinator of UC Berkeley’s chapter of Peer Health Exchange, my 9th grade students were, at first, mistrusting –even with my Angela Davis-esque afro, I was clearly not from Oakland and not quite old enough to be lecturing them. But it was the Good Samaritan Law lecture, during which students learned they would not face police penalty for calling 911 if a friend was in trouble, that I finally gained their trust. One student shared, “I always worried that I wouldn’t be able to call for help because I’m undocumented.” Later as a health advocate at UCSF, I encountered the same sentiment from families in the pediatric clinic who worried that accessing healthcare for a sick child might put their immigration or legal status at risk. I learned that to get to the root of barriers to access, trust is invaluable. Navigating marginalized spaces with cultural competency is an asset that I pride myself in.
I carried this foundation into my research and clinical work on HIV, a disease that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities and is often left untreated by the stigmas surrounding medicine for these communities. As an HIV PreP Navigator at the Oasis clinic, I was on rotation when a thirteen-year-old girl was referred to the clinic after testing positive for HIV. We analyzed her T cell count and viral load, and discovered she fit the AIDs criteria. In the following weeks, we worked on medication adherence, and as the girl’s CD4 count rose, so did her spirits and mine. Medicine is more than just a diagnosis and prescription—it is active compassionate treatment. It is holding steady when the entire ground seems to shake with the magnitude of an illness. It is being able to look a patient in the eye and truly see them despite the myriad of differences.
The disparities and differences in patient circumstances has been emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing this disproportionate effect of the virus on minority communities, I worked at a COVID-19 testing facility in one of the most underserved and impoverished communities in the Los Angeles’ area. Assuring patients of the safety of Covid testing measures was a big part of the job. “Have you done it?” They would ask. “What about Tuskegee?” Being Black, I felt the burden of responsibility that came with these questions. How could I have such faith in medicine knowing the traumatic past? My response was simple, “I believe in the science. I can explain PCR testing to you if you like.” By eradicating some of the mystery surrounding these lab techniques, people felt more comfortable. The opportunity to serve as a trusted community leader by directly interacting with patients and working on a team with doctors, EMTs, and nurses amid an international crisis reaffirmed my journey into medicine.
Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” As an aspiring physician, these words have served as a motivating mantra. To “get off the ground” for me means to become the first medical doctor in a lineage of sharecroppers and farmers. Medicine has been my “sun” for as long as I can remember; its promise to bring light has kept me jumping at every opportunity. Like my grandmother, my father, and so many others, I have experienced disparity in medicine. The scars that mar our bodies are my constant reminder that there is much work to be done. I see medicine as the ability to directly enact that change, one patient at a time.
9. Navigating Personal Struggles to Become a Compassionate Physician
Student Accepted to Touro CoOM, Nova Southeastern CoOM/KPCOM
I fight the heavy sleepiness that comes over me, but before I know it, I am out like a light. Forty-five minutes later, I wake up with a sore throat, watery eyes, and an intensely cold, painful feeling plaguing my entire right leg. Earlier, my parents and I arrived at the Beckman Laser Institute for another treatment of my port-wine stain birthmark. Despite my pleas to not undergo these procedures, my parents still took me twice a year. As I was rolled into the cold, sterile operating room on a gurney, I felt like I was experiencing everything from outside of myself. Despite my doctor’s and nurses’ best efforts to comfort me, I felt my heart racing. Feelings of apprehension and fear of the unknown flooded my senses at the sight of beeping machines and tubes that seemed to go everywhere. As the anesthesiologist began to administer the “sleepy juice,” I felt sad, realizing that my birthmark was a permanent resident on my leg and that I would have to receive this treatment for the rest of my life.
As an adult, I am grateful my parents continued to take me to the laser institute. Starting treatment so early aided in the lightening of my birthmark, which did wonders to improve my self-confidence. However, I suffered daily, feeling like I constantly had to hide something about myself. I kept my secret from everyone except my parents. Despite there being several medical doctors in my family, I knew that any sign of illness or disease would be held against me socially amongst other Egyptians. My secrecy was made even more difficult by the advice of my doctor to avoid certain physical activities, as they could worsen the underlying pathology of the veins in my legs. On his advice, I only wore long pants and would not run with other children during recess and gym class. This all added to the isolation I felt growing up, not knowing anyone with a similar condition to mine. Even as a child, no amount of explaining or encouragement could make me understand the benefit of those painful laser treatments.
What eventually changed my perspective was the team of compassionate doctors and nurses who have been caring for me since I began this journey. I was particularly touched when one of my doctors shared with me that she had also undergone a procedure that she would be performing on me. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Not only was she a specialist in the field, but her empathy for what I would soon go through became a source of instant comfort and ease for me. I knew that what she said was heartfelt, and not simply an attempt to convince me to undergo a procedure. I realized then that one of the reasons I had felt so afraid was because I had been alone in what I was going through.
A few years later, I attended a conference held by the Vascular Birthmark Foundation, where a variety of specialists convened to discuss port-wine stain birthmarks and other related conditions. Once we arrived at the hotel where the conference would take place, I met a woman who had a facial port-wine stain birthmark. As we began sharing stories about our experiences with our condition, we connected over how difficult it had been to receive treatment. We both knew what it felt like to be told that the birthmark was simply a cosmetic issue, and that any form of treatment we received would have no corrective purpose, if it was even considered treatment in the first place. There was a certain sense of freedom that I felt in finally being able to talk about my illness with someone I could trust to understand. Thinking back to the doctor who connected with me over a procedure she had also experienced as a patient, I felt truly called in that moment to pursue my goal of becoming a vascular physician. My goal would be to become a source of comfort and familiarity for patients who struggle as I have, to give them the same relief that I experienced from finally being understood.
Despite the pains I went through, I now realize that the experiences I have had as a patient can help me better understand what it means to be a physician. By being an excellent listener and openly sharing my experiences with receiving treatment, I can foster an honest and safe physician-patient relationship. I believe this approach will not only comfort my patients, but also help them make informed decisions about their treatment. My commitment to this approach has also led me to choose a DO path for my medical career. Having researched the holistic treatment approach that a DO delivers, I realized that being treated by a DO would have done wonders for my self-confidence and overall health as a young patient. The aspects of my port wine stain that were always left untreated were the emotional and social side effects of my condition. As a DO in the dermatology or interventional radiology specialty, I hope to gain the tools to provide empathetic and comprehensive care to my patients that reassures them that they are not alone in their journey to better health.
Want to read a few more great samples? We also broke down the things that make these 3 personal statements excellent and compelling.
Other Resources For Personal Statement Writing
Do you want to learn even more about personal statements? Dive into these great resources!
FREE MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT WEBINARS
Preparing Your Personal Statement For Medical Programs Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Director of Writing & College Advising, Jennifer Speegle.
Creating the First Draft of Your Medical School Personal Statement Hosted by MedSchoolCoach advising and writing advisors, Ziggy Yoediono MD and James Fleming.
Where to Begin When Writing Your Personal Statement Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Associate Director of Writing and College Advising, Jennifer Speegle, Associate Director of Advising, Ziggy Yoediono MD, and Writing Advisor, Carrie Coaplen Ph. D.
The Medical School Personal Statement – What Makes a Great Intro and Why It’s Important Hosted by Director of Advising, Dr. Renee Marinelli, MD, Master Advisor, Dr. Ziggy Yoediono, MD, and Founder of MedSchoolCoach, Dr. Sahil Mehta, MD.
THE PROSPECTIVE DOCTOR PODCAST
Episode 2 – The Personal Statement
Episode 42 – Writing Your Personal Statement
Episode 76 – How to Tackle the Medical School Personal Statement
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- Medical School Application
Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances
Including one that got six acceptances.
These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow the strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .
>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<
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Article Contents 29 min read
30 stellar medical school personal statement examples, example #1/30.
I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.
Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.
Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.
My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.
Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.
Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.
This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.
We are here to help you articulate your own vision, passion, and skills in a way that is equally captivating and compelling!
Would you like to learn why "show, don’t tell" is the most important rule of any personal statement? Watch this:
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.
I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.
I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.
In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.
Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.
My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.
28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Medical school personal statement example: #3 /30, medical school personal statement example: #4 /30, medical school personal statement example: #5 /30, medical school personal statement example: #6 /30, medical school personal statement example: #7 /30, medical school personal statement example: #8 /30, medical school personal statement example: #9 /30, medical school personal statement example: #10 /30, medical school personal statement example: #11 /30, medical school personal statement example: #12 /30, medical school personal statement example: #13 /30, medical school personal statement example: #14 /30, medical school personal statement example: #15 /30, medical school personal statement example: #16 /30, medical school personal statement example: #17 /30, medical school personal statement example: #18 /30, medical school personal statement example: #19 /30, medical school personal statement example: #20 /30, medical school personal statement example: #21 /30, medical school personal statement example: #22 /30, medical school personal statement example: #23 /30, medical school personal statement example: #24 /30, medical school personal statement example: #25 /30, medical school personal statement example: #26 /30, medical school personal statement example: #27 /30, medical school personal statement example: #28 /30, medical school personal statement example: #29 /30, medical school personal statement example: #30 /30.
As one of the most important medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!
So let's help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. Check out AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples for more excellent essays.
#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement
Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .
As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.
A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!
You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
- Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
- What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
- Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
- What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
- What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
- Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
- What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
- What are your favorite activities?
- What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
- What was your "Aha!" moment?
- When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
- How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?
As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. They will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.
Review AAMC Core Competencies : The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into four general categories:
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You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.
Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.
Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.
- The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
- The events that led you toward this path
- Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
- Challenges that helped shape your worldview
- Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
- Demonstrate your commitment to others
- Your dependability
- Your leadership skills
- Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict
These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else.
Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay.
Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.
Medical School Personal Statement Structure
When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.
Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:
The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.
The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.
That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.
I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]' code='tab3' template='BlogArticle'>
In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.
Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.
The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles.
A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.
While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.
Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.
Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.
One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.
They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."
There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.
One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.
How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid
Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools.
Emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.
Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:
Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!
Step 3: Writing Your First Draft
As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.
As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.
You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).
#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?
Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.
#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?
Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.
Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.
#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?
If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.
#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?
The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity. Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.
Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.
Would you like 8 medical school personal statement tips? Check out our video below:
FAQs and Final Notes
Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.
Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.
All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.
Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through OMSAS , the University of Toronto medical school requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.
Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.
To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.
Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.
While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.
Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.
In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.
If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.
Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?
The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.
Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.
Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.
So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.
The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or MCAT scores are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.
The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.
This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.
5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:
- Content and Theme
- Multiple Drafts
- Revision With Attention to Grammar
While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!
Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
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I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!
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