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15 Tips to Help You Write a Stellar Essay
Essay-writing can be easier than you might think if you have a grasp of the basics and a willingness to engage with the subject matter. Here are 15 top tips for writing a stellar essay.
Do Your Research
This is one of the most important tips you’ll ever receive. Research thoroughly, even if it means you have too many notes. It’s better to have to leave stuff out than not have enough to write about.
Make an Outline
Without a properly structured outline (with an intro, a four- to five-point body and a conclusion), your essay may be hard to write and to follow.
While you might just be writing your essay for a teacher or professor that is paid to read it, it still pays to grab their attention. A “hook” like a quote or surprising statistic in your intro can make your reader want to read on.
Lay Out Your Thesis
The intro isn’t all about flair and grabbing attention. It’s also about laying out your thesis. Make your main argument clear in the first few sentences, setting up a question to answer or statement to prove.
Avoid Passive Voice
If you want your writing to be persuasive, passive voice should be avoided. (That sentence was full of it, by the way. For example, “You should avoid passive voice” is a more convincing way to say “passive voice should be avoided.”)
Avoid First-Person Voice
If you’re writing an academic essay, you should almost certainly avoid first-person voice. In other words, avoid saying “I” or “my.” Also restrict your use of the second-person voice (e.g., don’t use “you” unless it’s necessary).
Start With Your Strongest Point
In general, it’s a good idea to start with your strongest argument in your first body paragraph. This sets the scene nicely. However, this might not be appropriate if you are structuring your essay points chronologically.
Relate All Points Back to Your Thesis
Make it clear to your reader how each point you make relates back to your thesis (i.e., the question or statement in your introduction, and probably your title too). This helps them to follow your argument.
Contextualize Without Losing Focus
Add contextualizing information for a richer presentation of your topic. For example, it’s fine (or even desirable) to discuss the historical background for certain events. Just don’t get bogged down by irrelevant details.
Use Transition Phrases
Transition phrases, such as “furthermore,” “by contrast” and “on the other hand,” can also help your reader to follow your argument. But don’t overuse them at the cost of clarity. Read your essay aloud to gauge how it flows.
Conclude With a Return to Your Thesis
A conclusion can do many things, but it’s useful to think of it as an answer to the question or statement in your intro. It’s sensible to summarize your key points, but always relate back to your thesis.
Make Your Conclusion Seem Obvious
Restating your thesis in your conclusion (after having made all of your points and arguments in the body) can be persuasive. Aim to make your conclusion feel irrefutable (at least if it’s a persuasive essay).
If your spelling is sloppy, it’s natural for your reader to assume your approach to writing the essay was too. This could harm the strength of an otherwise persuasive essay.
Grammar is also important, for the same reason. It’s usually easy to pick up on dodgy grammar if you read your essay aloud. If you’re not a native English speaker, however, you might want to ask someone who is to check your essay.
To avoid harming your persuasiveness and authority, it’s fundamentally important to use the right words. Overly obscure language can detract from the clarity of your argument, but if you feel you have to use it, then you better know what it means.
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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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2023 How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement (11 Steps)
- By Med School Insiders
- December 13, 2022
- Medical Student , Pre-med
- Medical School Application , Personal Statement
Each piece of a med school application brings a unique set of anxiety-ridden challenges, but few equal that of the personal statement. A personal statement is much, much more than a narrative-version of your CV. Reiterating your grades and extracurriculars in complete sentences is not how to write a medical school personal statement.
A personal statement is an opportunity to tell your story. Why do you want to study medicine? What drives you? This is your chance to let an admissions committee know who you really are beyond your grades.
Of course, you’re studying to become a doctor, not a novelist, which means the idea of crafting your personal statement may seem daunting, to say the least.
In this guide, we’ll take a comprehensive, step-by-step look at how to write a medical school personal statement, including how to get started, everything you need to include, and common mistakes to avoid.
- Anatomy of Medical School Personal Statement
What Med School Admissions Committees Look For
How to get started.
- How to Write a Personal Statement
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Medical school personal statement examples, anatomy of a medical school personal statement.
A personal statement has a 5,300 character maximum, about 1.5 pages of single-spaced 12-point Times New Roman font. The challenge isn’t trying to fill in words; the challenge is selecting the key moments in your life that made you want to be a doctor and expressing them concisely.
A personal statement is made up of three parts:
It’s essentially a short essay that uses your life experience to succinctly demonstrate why you’re the right person for the job. If someone’s making a movie about your life and the events that shaped your desire to become a doctor, what key moments do you want to highlight?
Your introduction must capture an admissions committee’s attention. Use the introduction to hook your readers. The first few sentences should entice them to read more.
There isn’t a perfect number of paragraphs or set structure. This is where you discuss the experiences that have shaped your personality, your desire to study medicine, and your dreams for the future.
This is the summary of your statement, and it should tie in directly to your introduction. Now is the time to emphasize why you want to be a physician and your future goals.
Learn more about the Anatomy of a Stellar Medical School Personal Statement .
Admissions committees need to know they’re accepting students who are ready to face the rigorous day-and-night grind of medical school. They have your CV and transcripts; now you need to demonstrate you have what it takes to succeed.
The personal statement is your chance to display your personality and highlight the experiences that shaped you. What drives you? What strengths and experiences will you bring to medical school? Why are you an asset?
The admissions committee isn’t looking for a list of your accomplishments. They want to know your story . Don’t tell the admissions committee you’re compassionate and driven; show them with tangible examples from your life.
So you’re a great listener. What’s a moment in your past that demonstrates this? If you care deeply about the wellbeing of others, what story from your life illustrates that passion?
1 | Read Real Personal Statement Examples
Right off the bat, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone—far from it. Every medical student who came before you has written personal statements, which means you have a wealth of examples to read and learn from.
Every personal statement is unique to the writer. Don’t expect to find a perfect blueprint you can copy off of, but reading several different personal statements will give you a sense of the themes, concepts, strategies, and stories that can help you find success.
If you know people in your own life who have successfully matriculated to med school, it’s a good idea to ask them if you can take a look at their personal statement. Med School Insiders compiled a database of personal statements donated by successful medical school applicants. Reading successful personal statements will give you an idea of what’s expected.
Reading bad personal statements can also give you an idea of what mistakes to avoid. Learn from our bad personal statement examples , which includes key insights into what you should do instead.
2 | Reflect on Past Experiences
Take this as an opportunity to reflect. Don’t think of it as brainstorming, and don’t worry about being creative just yet. Simply think back on key moments from your past.
Think of your personal statement like your superhero origin story. You may have excellent grades, abilities, and a natural aptitude for science, but why are you pursuing medicine? What moment or moments in your life revealed to you why you had to be a doctor?
Take Spider-Man. Yes, Peter Parker received his superpowers from a radioactive spider bite, but that’s not why he fights crime; Spider-Man fights crime so that what happened to his Uncle Ben never happens to anyone else. Bruce Wayne is incredibly smart, incredibly strong, and incredibly rich, but that’s not why he fights crime as Batman. Bruce Wayne became Batman so that no one else would lose their parents to a random act of violence like he did.
The truth is, a lot of superheroes have pretty similar motivations, and doctors have similar motivations, too. Your desire to become a doctor likely stems from a genuine intellectual interest in medicine, a desire to work closely with other humans, and a drive to help people and save lives. The other med school hopefuls you’re applying with have very similar motivations.
The key is digging deep and determining what you value most about becoming a doctor. Once you know that, think about the tangible experiences in your life that helped you realize those values.
Utilize our list of 25 medical school personal statement prompts as you ideate and reflect on your life to date.
3 | Choose Which Experiences/Traits to Highlight
Identify three to four personal strengths you are particularly proud of and want the admissions committee to know. Where did these strengths shine in your premedical years? What experiences helped you build on these strengths? This will make up the body of your personal statement.
Remember: writing a personal statement takes time—and lots of it. It will likely take several different attempts and drafts. After discussing your selected strengths, you may find that they don’t define you well enough or that there are better options. Don’t be discouraged. Give yourself plenty of time to reflect on and explore a variety of different strengths.
Don’t forget about the interview; the admissions committee will certainly ask you to further elaborate on the experiences outlined in your personal statement. Share personal stories that you want to be asked about and feel comfortable addressing.
Generally, personal statements involve experiences in the following categories:
- A passion for patient interaction
- Intellectual curiosity for medicine (academics, research, etc.)
- Dedication and discipline (medicine or another pursuit)
- Perseverance in the face of adversity
- Interpersonal and professional skills
How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement
4 | show, don’t tell.
If essays or storytelling aren’t necessarily your strong suit, think back to math class and those equations where the teacher made you show your work for the full grade. It’s not enough that you got the answer right; you had to show how you arrived at the answer.
Think of this in the same way. It’s great that you’re compassionate, but the admissions committee isn’t going to take you at your word. They want you to back up that claim with evidence. It is vital that you show the admissions committee you’re compassionate with concrete examples from your life that illustrate your journey to medicine.
It’s much more impactful to share a story that demonstrates specific qualities than it is to tell someone you have those qualities directly. Saying you are hardworking or resilient is not enough. You need to craft a story that allows the reader to infer those qualities about you.
5 | Leverage the Narrative-Based Approach
You are applying to medical school along with an immense number of other students with great grades, stellar qualifications, and impressive clinical hours. These are all key to your medical school application, but the best grades in the world won’t set you apart in the eyes of the admissions committee.
Your personal statement is a chance to stand out in a crowded field. Too many personal statements read like a CV but with full paragraphs, which quickly becomes monotonous.
Leverage a narrative-based approach so that the admissions committee is excited to learn more about you. Your entire application should illustrate your compelling journey toward becoming a doctor. Highlight how your experiences make you an asset who will contribute uniquely to the medical school.
It’s not enough to simply check off the boxes. The admissions committee wants to know your story.
Learn How to Develop a Cohesive Narrative for Medical School Applications .
6 | Create an Outline
After taking the time to reflect on the experiences and traits you want to include in your personal statement, create an outline to structure your approach .
You do not need to stick to it, but this is the general structure of most personal statements:
- Introduction (A strong hook to catch the reader’s attention—usually an anecdote or reflection that introduces the theme of your story. Hook the reader with the opening sentence.)
- Experience 1
- Experience 2
- Experience 3
- Conclusion (Tie your story back to the opening hook/theme. Summarize why you want to be a physician and what your future goals are.)
Remember, this is not a list of your accomplishments. The personal statement must read like a cohesive narrative, not a resume.
Establish a theme in the introduction that’s central to your desire to become a doctor. Each following paragraph will illustrate how your personal experiences have shaped that desire and prepared you for your journey. In the conclusion, gracefully tie back to your central theme or hook to turn the personal statement into a consistent, interconnected story.
7 | Force Yourself to Start Writing
It’s understandable and common to feel overwhelmed while writing a personal statement. In fact, if you don’t feel overwhelmed, it’s safe to say that you’re not taking this seriously enough.
Start with a theme, but don’t get stuck trying to come up with the perfect opening sentence. That comes later. Once you have a general outline, just start writing. See what happens, and—most importantly—be kind to yourself.
The first words you write won’t be perfect, but they will get you started. You should fully expect the first draft of your personal statement to be terrible. That’s okay. First drafts are never perfect.
Your first draft probably won’t look anything like your final essay. Put one foot in front of the other and just start writing. Get the ideas out and worry about editing later.
8 | Keep it Concise and Direct
In your subsequent drafts, focus on cutting down your words and being concise. It’s not your use of flowery language that will impress the admissions committee. Forget about extravagant word choices and convoluted sentence structure. You don’t have the space for poetic tangents anyway.
Use your words efficiently, and favor clear language over long, complicated words. It’s easy for readers to spot when you’re using a thesaurus, and it will only take away from your end message. Find the simplest way to say something.
Hard-working over Assiduous
Compassion over Magnanimity
Agree over Concur
Use tools like the Hemingway App to keep your language direct and concise.
9 | Take Some Time Away
Take time away from your drafts. Once you complete a draft, take a break, and let it sit. Go for a walk, watch some TV, or work on a completely different activity. After your break, come back to your personal statement with fresh eyes. You may find that the fantastic opening line you came up with isn’t so fantastic anymore, or that sentence you weren’t so sure about actually works really well.
Writing your personal statement will take time. Even if you feel extremely confident in your personal statement, take time away from it and come back.
10 | Refine, Review, and Edit
We recommend using editing apps like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor , but don’t rely on bots alone to catch possible mistakes.
Ask your friends and family for their first impressions on the content of your personal statement. Tell them to be brutally honest (because the admissions committee certainly will be.) Reach out to a mentor or people who have been through this process before.
Spelling or grammar mistakes indicate carelessness on your part and are an automatic red flag for admissions committees. Read over your work carefully, and ask others you trust to do the same.
The editing process is such a critical phase for your personal statement. Learn how to edit your personal statement to impress admissions committees.
11 | Invest in Essay Editing Services
Your medical school personal statement is arguably the most important piece of your application. While an excellent essay can lock-in your interview offer, a poorly-written personal statement can ruin your chances—even with stellar grades, impressive academic awards, and a notable list of extracurriculars.
Don’t risk your acceptance. Essay editing services can provide the help that friends, family, and mentors cannot.
Med School Insiders Personal Statement Editing Services includes careful analysis of content and tone as well as helpful insights into how you can improve your essay and impress admissions committees.
Avoid the following common personal statement mistakes .
- Don’t list your accomplishments or rehash your CV and extracurriculars.
- Don’t make spelling or grammar errors.
- Don’t overuse the word I. Doing so makes you more likely to state your accomplishments instead of telling a story.
- Don’t use flowery language or words you found in a thesaurus.
- Don’t explain to a physician what medicine is all about. Talk about yourself and your experiences; the admissions committee already understands medicine.
- Don’t state the obvious or use clichés. (Every applicant likes science and wants to help people.)
- Don’t lie or fabricate your personal stories.
- Don’t make excuses for poor grades or a low MCAT score.
- Don’t speak negatively about another physician or healthcare professional.
- Don’t plead for an interview or acceptance.
- Don’t edit your personal statement by yourself.
- Don’t procrastinate.
Learn more: 20 Personal Statement: Dos and Don’ts .
It’s important to read the personal statements of matriculated students. While you won’t be able to mimic someone else’s personal statement, you can still learn a lot from them, and reading different statements can spark ideas for your own essay.
We compiled a selection of real medical school personal statements from successful applicants. These statements are for reference purposes only and should not be plagiarized in any way. Plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements, and plagiarizing is grounds for an automatic disqualification.
Be sure to read the included feedback regarding the personal statements as well, as this will give you extra insight into what admissions committees are looking for.
Read Real Medical School Personal Statement Examples .
Medical School Personal Statement Editing
Don’t write your medical school personal statement alone—we can help. Med School Insiders offers a range of personal statement editing packages , from general editing to unlimited, in-depth editing with a physician who will be there to advise you every step of the way.
Learn more about our Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages . Our team of doctors has years of experience serving on admissions committees, so you’ll receive key insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process.
Next read: Guide to Understanding the Medical School Application Process
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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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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
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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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The Only 3 Medical School Personal Statement Examples You Need to Read
Posted in: Applying to Medical School
The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the med school application process . Why? This mini-essay provides a critical opportunity for you to stand out from other prospective medical students by demonstrating your passion and personality, not just your grades.
Admissions committees receive numerous AMCAS medical school applications , so yours should be unique and captivating. Your medical school personal statement shows admissions officers who you are beyond your high school or pre-med GPA , extracurriculars , and MCAT score .
The best personal statements are… well, personal . This is your chance to share what life experiences have compelled you toward a career in healthcare or the medical field , and how those experiences shape the picture of your ideal future.
MedSchoolCoach has crucial advice for writing your personal statement .
Read these examples of personal statements for prospective med students.
Writing a great medical school personal statement is a lot easier with the right support. We’ve helped numerous med school applicants craft top-notch personal statements and can do the same for you.
But First: 7 Steps to Writing an Engaging Personal Statement
Before you read these excellent examples, you need to understand the process of writing a personal statement.
Include these in your medical school personal statement:
- Why you’re passionate about becoming a doctor
- Your qualities that will make you a great physician
- Personal stories that demonstrate those qualities
- Specific examples of the communities you want to serve as a member of the medical field
What are the most important things to remember when writing a medical school personal statement ?
- Begin the writing process early: Give yourself plenty of time for brainstorming and to revisit your first draft, revising it based on input from family members and undergrad professors. Consult the application timeline for your target enrollment season.
- Choose a central theme: An unfocused essay will leave readers confused and uninterested. Give your statement a clear thesis in the first paragraph that guides its formation.
- Start with a hook: Grab the reader’s attention immediately with your statement’s first sentence. Instead of opening with a conventional introduction, be creative! Begin with something unexpected.
- Be the you of today, not the you of the future: Forecasting your future as a physician can come across as empty promises. Don’t get caught up in your ambitions; instead, be honest about your current situation and interest in the field of medicine.
- Demonstrate your passion: It’s not enough to simply state your interest in becoming a doctor; you have to prove it through personal stories. Show how your perspectives have been shaped by formative experiences and how those will make you an effective physician.
- Show, don’t tell : Avoid cliches that admissions committees have heard hundreds of times, like “I want to help people.” Make your writing come alive with dynamic, persuasive storytelling that recounts your personal experiences.
- Tie everything together: Conclude by wrapping up your main points. Reiterate your passion for the medical profession, your defining personal qualities, and why you’ll make a good doctor.
You can read more about our recommended method in our step-by-step guide , but those are the major points.
Example 1 — From the Stretcher to the Spotlight: My Journey to Becoming an Emergency Medicine Physician
Another siren shrieks as the emergency room doors slide open and a team of EMTs pushes a blood-soaked stretcher through the entrance. It’s the fifth ambulance to arrive tonight — and only my first clinical shadowing experience in an emergency medicine department since my premed education began.
But it wasn’t my first time in an emergency room, and I knew I was meant to be here again.
In those crucial moments on the ER floor, many of my peers learned that they stumble in high-pressure environments. A few weeks of gunshot wounds, drug overdoses, broken bones, and deep lacerations in the busiest trauma bay in the region were enough to alter their career path.
They will be better practitioners somewhere predictable, like a pediatrician in a private practice where they choose their schedules, clients, and staff.
Every healthcare provider has their specialties, and mine are on full display in those crucial moments of lifesaving care. Why am I pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine? Because I’ve seen firsthand the miracles that Emergency Medicine physicians perform.
12 years ago, I was in an emergency room… but I was the one on the stretcher.
A forest-green Saturn coupe rolled into my parent’s driveway. The driver, my best friend Kevin, had just passed his driving test and was itching to take a late-night run to the other side of town. I had ridden with Kevin and his father many times before when he held his learner’s permit. But this time, we didn’t have an adult with us, and the joyride ended differently: with a 40-mph passenger-side collision, T-boned by a drunk driver.
I distinctly recall the sensation of being lifted out of the crumpled car by a paramedic and laid onto a stretcher. A quick drive later, I was in the care of Dr. Smith, the ER resident on call that night. Without missing a beat, he assessed my condition and provided the care I needed. When my mom thanked him for saving my life, he simply responded, “It’s what he needed.”
Now I’m watching other doctors and nurses provide this life-saving care as I observe as a premed student. I see the way the staff works together like a well-oiled machine, and it reminds me of my time in high-school theater.
Everyone has a role to play, however big or small, to make the show a success. All contributions are essential to a winning performance — even the technicians working behind the scenes. That’s what true teamwork is, and I see that same dynamic in the emergency department.
Some actors freeze during performances, overcome by stage fright. Other students are too anxious to even set foot in front of an audience; they remain backstage assisting with split-second costume changes.
Not me. I felt energized under the spotlight, deftly improvising to help my co-stars when they would forget their lines. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best actor or singer in the cast, but I provided something essential: assurance under pressure. Everyone knew me as dependable, always in their corner when something went awry. I had a reputation for remaining calm and thinking on my feet.
My ability to stay unruffled under pressure was first discovered on stage, but I can use it on a very different platform providing patient care. Now, when other people freeze under the intensity of serving public health on the front lines, I can step in and provide my calm, collected guidance to see them through.
As an ER doctor, I will have to provide that stability when a nurse gets flustered by a quarrelsome patient or shaken from an irreparably injured infant. When you’re an Emergency Medicine physician, you’re not following a script. It takes an aptitude of thinking on your toes to face the fast pace and unpredictable challenges of an emergency center.
During my time shadowing, I saw experienced physicians put those assured, gentle communication skills to use. A 13-year-old boy was admitted for a knife wound he’d received on the streets. He only spoke Spanish, but it was clear he mistrusted doctors and was alarmed by the situation. In mere minutes, one of the doctors calmed the patient so he could receive care he needed.
Let me be clear: I haven’t simply gravitated toward Emergency Medicine because I liked it most. It’s not the adrenaline or the pride that compel me. I owe Emergency Medicine my life, and I want to use my life to extend the lives of other people. Every person brought into the trauma bay could be another me , no matter what they look like.
People are more than their injury, health record, or circumstances. They are not just a task to complete or a challenge to conquer.
My childhood injury gave me an appreciation for the work of ER doctors and a compassion for patients, to foster well-being when people are most broken and vulnerable. I already have the dedication to the work and the heart for patients; I just need the medical knowledge and procedural skills to perform life-saving interventions. My ability to remain calm, think on my toes, be part of a team, and work decisively without making mistakes or overlooking critical issues will serve me well as an Emergency Medicine physician.
Some ER physicians I spoke with liked to think that they’re “a different breed” than other medical professionals — but I don’t see it that way. We’re just performing a different role than the rest of the cast.
Breaking It Down
Let’s look at what qualities make this a great personal statement for med school.
- Engaging opening: The writer painted a vivid scene that immediately puts the reader in their shoes and leaves them wanting more.
- Personal examples: The writer demonstrated his ability to stay calm, work as a team, and problem-solve through theater experience, which he also uses as a comparison. And, he explained his passion for Emergency Medical care from his childhood accident.
- Organized: The writer transitions fluidly between body paragraphs, connecting stories and ideas by emphasizing parallels and hopping back and forth between time.
- Ample length: Makes full use of the AACOMAS and AMCAS application personal statement’s character limit of 5,300 characters (including spaces), which is about 850-950 words.
Unsure what traits and clinical or research experience your preferred medical school values ? You can research their admissions requirements and mission statement using the MSAR .
Example 2 — Early Clinical Work For Empathetic Patient Care
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine.
As I walked briskly down the hall to keep up during our daily rounds in the ICU, I heard the steady beeping of Michelle’s cardiac monitor and saw a ruby ornament twinkling on the small Christmas tree beside her. She was always alone, but someone had decorated her room for the holidays.
It warmed my heart that I wasn’t the only one who saw her as more than a patient in a coma. I continually felt guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with her; her usual companions were ventilators, IV bags, and catheters, not to mention the golf ball-sized tumors along her spine. Every day, I thought about running to Michelle’s bedside to do anything I could for her.
Thus, I was taken aback when my advisor, who was visiting me that day, asked me if I was okay. It never crossed my mind that at age 17, my peers might not be able to handle the tragedies that healthcare workers consistently face. These situations were difficult, but they invoked humanity and compassion from me. I knew I wanted to pursue medicine. And I knew I could do it.
From my senior year of high school to my senior year of college, I continued to explore my passion for patient interaction.
At the Stepp Lab, I was charged with contacting potential study participants for a study focusing on speech symptoms in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. The study would help future patients, but I couldn’t help but think: “What are we doing for these patients in return?” I worried that the heart and soul behind the research would get lost in the mix of acoustic data and participant ID numbers.
But my fears were put to rest by Richard, the self-proclaimed “Parkinson’s Song & Dance Man,” who recorded himself singing show tunes as part of his therapy. Knowing that he was legally blind and unable to read caller ID, I was always thrilled when he recognized my voice. The spirit in his voice indicated that my interest in him and his journey with Parkinson’s was meaningful. Talking with him inspired me to dive deeper, which led to an appreciative understanding of his time as a sergeant in the U.S. military.
It was an important reminder: my interest and care are just as important as an effective prescribed treatment plan.
Following graduation, I began my work as a medical assistant for a dermatologist. My experience with a patient, Joann, validated my ability to provide excellent hands-on patient care. Other physicians prescribed her painkillers to relieve the excruciating pain from the shingles rash, which presented as a fiery trail of blisters wrapped around her torso. But these painkillers offered no relief and made her so drowsy that she fell one night on the way to the bathroom.
Joann was tired, suffering, and beaten down. The lidocaine patches we initially prescribed would be a much safer option, but I refused for her to pay $250, as she was on the brink of losing her job. When she returned to the office a week later, she held my hand and cried tears of joy because I found her affordable patches, which helped her pain without the systemic effects.
The joy that pierced through the weariness in her eyes immediately confirmed that direct patient care like this was what I was meant to do. As I passed her a tissue, I felt ecstatic that I could make such a difference, and I sought to do more.
Since graduation, I have been volunteering at Open Door, a small pantry that serves a primarily Hispanic community of lower socioeconomic families. It is gut-wrenching to explain that we cannot give them certain items when our stock is low. After all, the fresh fruits and vegetables I serve are fundamental to their culturally-inspired meals.
For the first time, I found myself serving anguish rather than a helping hand. Usually, uplifting moments strengthen one’s desire to become a physician, but in this case, it was my ability to handle the low points that reignited my passion for aiding others.
After running out of produce one day, I was confused as to why a woman thanked me. Through translation by a fellow volunteer, I learned it was because of my positivity. She taught me that the way I approach unfavorable situations affects another’s perception and that my spirited attitude breaks through language barriers.
This volunteer work served as a wake-up call to the unacceptable fact that U.S. citizens’ health suffers due to lack of access to healthy foods. If someone cannot afford healthy foods, they may not have access to healthcare. In the future, I want to partner with other food banks to offer free services like blood pressure readings. I have always wanted to help people, but I now have a particular interest in bringing help to people who cannot afford it.
While the foundation of medicine is scientific knowledge, the foundation of healthcare is the word “care” itself. I never found out what happened to Michelle and her Christmas tree, but I still wonder about her to this day, and she has strengthened my passion to serve others. A sense of excitement and comfort stems from knowing that I will be there for people on their worst days, since I have already seen the impact my support has had.
In my mind, becoming a physician is not a choice but a natural next step to continue bringing humanity and compassion to those around me.
How did this personal statement grab and sustain attention so well?
- Personalization: Everything about this statement helps you to understand the writer, from their personal experiences to their hope for how their future career will look.
- Showing, not telling: From the first sentence, the reader is hooked. This prospective medical student has plenty of great “on paper” experience (early shadowing, clinical experience, etc.), but they showed this with storytelling, not by repeating their CV.
- Empathy: An admissions committee reading this personal statement would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this student cares deeply about their patients. They remember first names, individual details, and the emotions that each patient made them feel.
- A clear path forward: The writer doesn’t just want to work in the medical field — they have a passion for exactly how they want to impact the communities they serve. Outside of strictly medical work, they care about the way finances can limit access to healthcare and the struggle to find healthy food in food deserts around the US .
Read Next: How Hard Is It to Get Into Medical School?
Example 3 — Beyond the Diagnosis: The Importance of Individualized Care in Medicine
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nova Southeastern University College Of Osteopathic Medicine.
Dr. Haywood sighs and shakes her head upon opening the chart. “I was worried about her A1C. It’s up again. Hypertension, too. Alright, let’s go.”
As we enter the patient’s room, I’m expecting the news about her blood sugar and pressure to fill the room. Instead, Dr. Haywood says, “Roseline! How are you doing? How’s your girl, doing well?”
Dr. Haywood continues to ask questions, genuinely interested in Roseline’s experience as a new mother. If not for the parchment-lined examination chair and anatomy posters plastered to the wall, this exchange could be happening in a grocery store. What about her A1C? Her blood pressure? Potential Type II diabetes?
As I continue to listen, Dr. Haywood discovers that Roseline’s mother moved in with her, cooking Haitian meals I recognize as high on the glycemic index. Dr. Haywood effortlessly evolves their conversation to focus on these. Being Haitian herself, she knows some traditional dishes are healthier than others and advises Roseline to avoid those that might exacerbate her high blood sugar and blood pressure. Dr. Haywood also suggests Roseline incorporate exercise by bringing her baby on a walk through her neighborhood.
During my shadowing experience, I observed one of the core components of being a physician through several encounters like this one. By establishing a relationship with her patient where Roseline was comfortable sharing the details of new motherhood, Dr. Haywood was able to individualize her approach to lowering the patient’s A1C and hypertension. Inspired by her ability to treat the whole person , I began to adopt a similar practice as a tutor for elementary kids in underserved areas of D.C.
Shaniyah did not like Zoom, or math for that matter. When I first met her as a prospective tutee online, she preferred to keep her microphone muted and would claim she was finished with her math homework after barely attempting the first problem. Realizing that basing our sessions solely on math would be fruitless, I adapted my tutoring style to incorporate some of the things for which she had a natural affinity.
The first step was acknowledging the difficulties a virtual environment posed to effective communication, particularly the ease at which distractions might take over. After sharing this with Shaniyah, she immediately disclosed her struggles to share her work with me. With this information, I found an online platform that allowed us to visualize each other’s work.
This obstacle in communication overcome, Shaniyah felt more comfortable sharing details about herself that I utilized as her tutor. Her love of soccer gave me the idea to use the concept of goal scoring to help with addition, and soon Shaniyah’s math skills and enthusiasm began to improve. As our relationship grew, so did her successes, and I suspect the feelings I experienced as her tutor are the same as a physician’s when their patient responds well to prescribed treatment.
I believe this skill, caring for someone as a whole person , that I have learned and practiced through shadowing and tutoring is the central tenet of medicine that allows a doctor to successfully treat their patients.
Inspired by talking with patients who had received life-altering organ transplants during my shadowing experience, I created a club called D.C. Donors for Georgetown University students to encourage their peers to register as organ donors or donate blood. This experience taught me that to truly serve a person, you must involve your whole person, too.
In starting this club to help those in need of transplants, I had to dedicate my time and effort beyond just my physical interactions with these patients. For instance, this involved reaching out to D.C.’s organ procurement organization to inquire about a potential partnership with my club, to which they agreed. In addition, I organized tabling events on campus, which required significant planning and communication with both club members and my university.
Though exciting, starting a club was also a difficult process, especially given the limitations the pandemic imposed on in-person meetings and events. To adapt, I had to plan more engaging meetings, designing virtual activities to make members more comfortable contributing their ideas. In addition, planning a blood drive required extensive communication with my university to ensure the safety of the staff and participants during the pandemic.
Ultimately, I believe these behind-the-scenes actions were instrumental in addressing the need for organ and blood donors in the D.C. area.
From these experiences, I have grown to believe that good medicine not only necessitates the physician cares for her patient as a whole, but also that she fully commits her whole person to the care of the patient. Tutoring and starting D.C. Donors not only allowed me to develop these skills but also to experience such fulfilling emotions: the pride I had in Shaniyah when her math improved, the gratefulness I felt when she confided in me, the steadfast commitment I expressed to transplant patients, and the joy I had in collaborating with other passionate club members.
I envision a career as a physician to demand these skills of me and more, and I have confirmed my desire to become one after feeling so enriched by practicing them.
Here’s what makes this personal statement such a good example of what works:
- Desirable qualities: The student clearly demonstrates qualities any school would want in an applicant: teachability, adaptability, leadership, organization, and empathy, to name a few. This again uses the “show, don’t tell” method, allowing the readers to understand the student without hand-holding.
- Personalized storytelling: Many in the healthcare profession will connect with experiences like the ones expressed here, such as addressing patient concerns relationally or the lack of blood donors during the recent pandemic. The writer automatically makes a personal link between themselves and the admissions committees reading this statement.
- Extensive (but not too long): Without feeling too wordy, this personal statement uses nearly all of the 5,300 characters allowed on the AMCAS application. There’s no fluff left in the final draft, only what matters.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
You can learn a lot from those personal statements. They avoid the most common mistakes that med school applicants make when writing the medical school personal statement.
What makes a bad med school personal statement? Here are some things you should avoid in your personal statement if you want to be a doctor:
- Don’t name-drop: Admissions counselors won’t be impressed when you brag about your highly regarded family members, associates, or mentors. You need to stand on your own feet — not someone else’s.
- Don’t be dishonest: Lies and exaggerations can torpedo your application. And they’re bad habits for anyone entering the medical field. Don’t do it.
- Don’t use AI to write your personal statement: Artificial intelligence can help you edit and improve your writing, but don’t let it do the work for you. Your statement needs to be authentic, which means in your voice! A chatbot can’t feel or adequately convey your own empathy, compassion, trauma, drive, or personality.
- Don’t make mistakes: Have someone reliable proofread your essay and scour it for typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors. Even free grammar-checking apps can catch mistakes!
- Don’t explain without demonstrating: I’ll reiterate how important it is to prove your self-descriptive statements with real-life examples. Telling without showing won’t persuade readers.
- Don’t include too many examples: Have 3-4 solid personal stories at most; only include a few that are crucial for providing your points. The more experiences you share, the less impact they’ll make.
- Don’t waste words: Cut all fluff, filler, and irrelevant points. There are many other places you can include information in your application, such as secondary essays on your clinical experience, volunteer work, and research projects .
You can find more valuable do’s and don’ts in our in-depth guide to writing your best personal statement .
Need extra help? We’ve got you covered.
Schedule a meeting with MedSchoolCoach for expert support on writing and editing your personal statement. We’re here to help you impress medical school admissions committees !
Renee Marinelli MD
Dr. Marinelli is an advisor at MedSchoolCoach and former admissions committee member at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Her insight into the application process is second to none!
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Advisor Corner: Crafting Your Personal Statement
Being able to articulate an answer to the question “why medicine?” is critical for an applicant as they apply to medical school. One of the first opportunities for an applicant to convey this message to admissions officers is through their personal comments essay in the AMCAS application. We asked three pre-health advisors how they advise their students to put their best self forward when crafting their personal statements.
The personal statement is an unfamiliar genre for most students—you’ve practiced writing lab reports, analytical essays, maybe even creative fiction or poetry, but the personal statement is something between a reflective, analytical narrative, and an argumentative essay. You want to reveal something about yourself and your thoughts around your future in medicine while also making an argument that provides evidence supporting your readiness for your career. Well ahead of when you’re writing your personal statement, consider taking classes that require you to create and support arguments through writing, or those that ask you to reflect on your personal experiences to help you sharpen these skills.
As you draft your essay, you may want to include anecdotes from your experiences. It’s easiest to recall these anecdotes as they happen so it can be helpful to keep a journal where you can jot down stories, conversations, and insights that come to you. This could be recounting a meaningful conversation that you had with someone, venting after an especially challenging experience, or even writing about what keeps you going at times when you feel in danger of giving up. If it’s more comfortable, take audio notes by talking into your phone.
While reading sample personal statements can sometimes make a student feel limited to emulating pieces that already exist, I do think that reading others’ reflective writing can be inspirational. The Aspiring Docs Diaries blog written by premeds is one great place to look, as are publications like the Bellevue Literary Review and Pulse , which will deliver a story to your inbox every week. Check with your pre-health advisor to see if they have other examples that they recommend.
Rachel Tolen, Assistant Director and Premedical Advisor, Indiana University
I encourage students to think of the personal statement not just as a product. Instead, I encourage them to think of the process of writing the statement as embedded in the larger process of preparing themselves for the experience of medical school. Here are a few key tips that I share with students:
- Start writing early, even months before you begin your application cycle. Expect to revise many versions of your draft over time.
- Take some time to reflect on your life and goals. By the end of reading your statement, the reader should understand why you want to be a physician.
- When you consider what to write, think about the series of events in your life that have led up to the point where you are applying to medical school. How did you get here? What set you on the path toward medical school? What kept you coming back, even at times when it was challenging? On the day that you retire, what do you hope you’ll be able to say you’ve achieved through your work as a physician?
- Don’t waste too much time trying to think of a catchy opening or a theme designed just to set your essay apart. Applicants sometimes end up with an opening that comes across as phony and artificial because they are trying too hard to distinguish themselves from other applicants.
- Just start writing. Writing is a means for thinking and reflecting. Let the theme grow out of the process of writing itself. Some of the best personal statements focus on ordinary events that many other people may have experienced, but what makes the essay stand out are the writer’s unique insights and ability to reflect on these experiences.
Dana Lovold, MPH, Career Counselor at the University of Minnesota
Your personal statement can and should include more than what you’ve done to prepare for medical school. The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that isn’t conveyed elsewhere in your application.
Advisors at the University of Minnesota employ a storytelling model to support students in finding and writing their unique personal statement. One critical aspect of storytelling is the concept of change. When a story lacks change, it becomes a recitation of facts and events, rather than a reflection of how you’ve learned and grown through your experiences. Many students express concern that their experiences are not unique and wonder how they can stand out. Focusing on change can help with this. Some questions you may want to consider when exploring ideas are:
- What did you learn from the experience?
- How did you change as a result of the experience?
- What insight did you gain?
By sharing your thoughts on these aspects of your preparation and motivation for medicine, the reader has a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value. Then, connect that insight to how it relates to your future in the profession. This will convey your unique insight and demonstrate how you will use that insight as a physician.
In exploring additional aspects of what to write about, we also encourage students to cover these four components in the essay:
- Motivation refers to a student’s ongoing preparation for the health profession and can include the initial inspiration.
- Fit is determined through self-assessment of relevant values and personal qualities as they relate to the profession.
- Capacity is demonstrated through holistically aligning with the competencies expected in the profession.
- Vision relates to the impact you wish to make in the field.
After you finish a working draft, go back through and see how you’ve covered each of these components. Ask people who are reading your draft if they can identify how you’ve covered these elements in your essay so that you know it’s clear to others.
2 Med School Essays That Admissions Officers Loved
Here are tips on writing a medical school personal statement and examples of essays that stood out.
2 Great Med School Personal Statements
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality. (Getty Images)
A personal statement is often a pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions.
"The essay really can cause me to look more deeply at the entire application," Dr. Stephen Nicholas, former senior associate dean of admissions with the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons , told U.S. News in 2017. "So I do think it's pretty important."
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality, according to Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak, director of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program and a professor of medicine and microbial pathogenesis with the Yale School of Medicine.
“The passion that the writer is bringing to this topic tells us about the individual rather than the topic that they’re describing, and the essay is the place for us to learn about the applicant – who they are and what experiences have brought them to this point of applying to medical school,” she told U.S. News in 2017.
Rachel Rudeen, former admissions coordinator for the University of Minnesota Medical School , says personal statements help medical schools determine whether applicants have the character necessary to excel as a doctor. "Grit is something we really look for," she says.
Evidence of humility and empathy , Rudeen adds, are also pluses.
Why Medical Schools Care About Personal Statements
The purpose of a personal statement is to report the events that inspired and prepared a premed to apply to medical school, admissions experts say. This personal essay helps admissions officers figure out whether a premed is ready for med school, and it also clarifies whether a premed has a compelling rationale for attending med school, these experts explain.
When written well, a medical school personal statement conveys a student's commitment to medicine and injects humanity into an admissions process that might otherwise feel cold and impersonal, according to admissions experts.
Glen Fogerty, associate dean of admissions and recruitment with the medical school at the University of Arizona—Phoenix , put it this way in an email: "To me, the strongest personal statements are the ones that share a personal connection. One where a candidate shares a specific moment, the spark that ignited their passion to become a physician or reaffirmed why they chose medicine as a career."
Dr. Viveta Lobo, an emergency medicine physician with the Stanford University School of Medicine in California who often mentors premeds, says the key thing to know about a personal statement is that it must indeed be personal, so it needs to reveal something meaningful. The essay should not be a dry piece of writing; it should make the reader feel for the author, says Lobo, director of academic conferences and continuing medical education with the emergency medicine department at Stanford.
A great personal statement has an emotional impact and "will 'do' something, not just 'say' something," Lobo wrote in an email. Admissions officers "read hundreds of essays – so before you begin, think of how yours will stand out, be unique and different," Lobo suggests.
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Lobo notes that an outstanding personal statement typically includes all of the following ingredients:
- An intriguing introduction that gets admissions officers' attention.
- Anecdotes that illustrate what kind of person the applicant is.
- Reflections about the meaning and impact of various life experiences .
- A convincing narrative about why medical school is the logical next step.
- A satisfying and optimistic conclusion.
"You should sound excited, and that passion should come through in your writing," Lobo explains.
A personal statement should tie together an applicant's past, present and future by explaining how previous experiences have led to this point and outlining long-term plans to contribute to the medical profession, Lobo said during a phone interview. Medical school admissions officers want to understand not only where an applicant has been but also the direction he or she is going, Lobo added.
When premeds articulate a vision of how they might assist others and improve society through the practice of medicine, it suggests that they aren't self-serving or simply interested in the field because of its prestige, Lobo says. It's ideal when premeds can eloquently describe a noble mission, she explains.
Elisabeth Fassas, author of "Making Pre-Med Count: Everything I Wish I'd Known Before Applying (Successfully) to Medical School," says premeds should think about the doctors they admire and reflect on why they admire them. Fassas, a first-year medical student at the University of Maryland , suggests pondering the following questions:
- "Why can you really only see yourself being a physician?"
- "What is it about being a doctor that has turned you on to this field?"
- "What kind of doctor do you imagine yourself being?"
- "Who do you want to be for your patients?"
- "What are you going to do specifically for your patients that only you can do?"
Fassas notes that many of the possible essay topics a med school hopeful can choose are subjects that other premeds can also discuss, such as a love of science. However, aspiring doctors can make their personal statements unique by articulating the lessons they learned from their life experiences, she suggests.
Prospective medical students need to clarify why medicine is a more suitable calling for them than other caring professions, health care fields and science careers, Fassas notes. They should demonstrate awareness of the challenges inherent in medicine and explain why they want to become doctors despite those difficulties, she says.
Tips on Crafting an Excellent Medical School Personal Statement
The first step toward creating an outstanding personal statement, Fassas says, is to create a list of significant memories. Premeds should think about which moments in their lives mattered the most and then identify the two or three stories that are definitely worth sharing.
Dr. Demicha Rankin, associate dean for admissions at the Ohio State University College of Medicine , notes that a personal statement should offer a compelling portrait of a person and should not be "a regurgitation of their CV."
The most outstanding personal statements are the ones that present a multifaceted perspective of the applicant by presenting various aspects of his or her identity, says Rankin, an associate professor of anesthesiology.
For example, a premed who was a swimmer might explain how the discipline necessary for swimming is analogous to the work ethic required to become a physician, Rankin says. Likewise, a pianist or another type of musician applying to medical school could convey how the listening skills and instrument-tuning techniques cultivated in music could be applicable in medicine, she adds.
Rankin notes that it's apparent when a premed has taken a meticulous approach to his or her personal statement to ensure that it flows nicely, and she says a fine essay is akin to a "well-woven fabric." One sign that a personal statement has been polished is when a theme that was explored at the beginning of the essay is also mentioned at the end, Rankin says, explaining that symmetry between an essay's introduction and conclusion makes the essay seem complete.
Rankin notes that the author of an essay might not see flaws in his or her writing that are obvious to others, so it's important for premeds to show their personal statement to trusted advisers and get honest feedback. That's one reason it's important to begin the writing process early enough to give yourself sufficient time to organize your thoughts, Rankin says, adding that a minimum of four weeks is typically necessary.
Mistakes to Avoid in a Medical School Personal Statement
One thing premeds should never do in an admissions essay is beg, experts say. Rankin says requests of any type – including a plea for an admissions interview – do not belong in a personal statement. Another pitfall to avoid, Rankin says, is ranting about controversial political subjects such as the death penalty or abortion.
If premeds fail to closely proofread their personal statement, the essay could end up being submitted with careless errors such as misspellings and grammar mistakes that could easily have been fixed, according to experts. Crafting a compelling personal statement typically necessitates multiple revisions, so premeds who skimp on revising might wind up with sloppy essays, some experts say.
However, when fine-tuning their personal statements, premeds should not automatically change their essays based on what others say, Fogerty warns.
"A common mistake on personal statements is having too many people review your statement, they make recommendations, you accept all of the changes and then – in the end – the statement is no longer your voice," Fogerty wrote in an email. It's essential that a personal statement sound like the applicant and represent who he or she is as a person, Fogerty says.
Dr. Nicholas Jones, a Georgia-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says the worst error that someone can make in the personal statement is to be inauthentic or deceptive.
"Do not lie. Do not fabricate," he warns.
Jones adds that premeds should not include a story in their personal statement that they are not comfortable discussing in-depth during a med school admissions interview . "If it's something too personal or you're very emotional and you don't want to talk about that, then don't put it in a statement."
Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Here are two medical school admissions essays that made a strong, positive impression on admissions officers. The first is from Columbia and the second is from the University of Minnesota. These personal statements are annotated with comments from admissions officers explaining what made these essays stand out.
Searching for a medical school? Get our complete rankings of Best Medical Schools.
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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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More Links and Resources
The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
Join Application Academy – now year-round
FREE Workshop Series
New: Premed Pathway – advising designed for students earlier in the premed journey
Offered a Free Bridge Program to Get Into Med School
Is Openness About Health Right for Your Application?
Study Groups: The Number 1 Thing You Need
Top 5 Biggest Prep Mistakes To Avoid