The personal statement is a central component of your medical school application. Most med school applicants dread writing the personal statement. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to tell your story and convince the med schools that they should meet you. The personal statement should be engaging and compelling, while being simple and straightforward enough that admissions committees can read them very quickly. Let’s face it: admissions committees have thousands of other applications to read so you should do what you can to make yours shine.
As a premedical advisor for the past 20 years, I have read thousands of personal statements and helped students refine their essays. Once you have a draft of your essay, ask yourself if you’ve achieved these five essential elements of an outstanding personal statement.
Have you conveyed your motivation and reasons for wanting to be a physician clearly and logically? If not, tweak your draft. It should be abundantly clear to the reader why you’ve chosen this path.
Have you showed, with concrete evidence, that you’ve tested your interest in the medical profession through a variety of experiences in the field? If not, consider whether you really know what you’re getting into. Med school admissions committees will want proof that you’ve gotten your hands dirty and know the challenges of the profession.
Have you shown through past experiences in community service that you care about others? All of your experiences do not have to be in the medical profession. Experiences in the community—volunteering at a soup kitchen, in a homeless shelter, or a food bank—are highly prized by med school admissions committees. These experiences indicate that you care about others enough to put it into real action. If you’ve done these things consider including them in your statement to build evidence as to your caring nature.
Have you used relatively simple words and syntax to get across your main points? Readers spend approximately one minute reading your essay. Yes, that’s right: one minute. Make your essay logical and clear, yet compelling. Don’t make the reader struggle to get your meaning; that’s a losing proposition. The reader will lose interest and move to the next file to read if your essay is confusing. This should be a statement of your interest in medicine, not a philosophical treatise.
5.) Smooth Transitions
Applicants often have complicated stories to tell. Sometimes their path to medicine is not altogether straightforward, as in the case of career-changing post-baccalaureate students. No matter your story, your statement should have logical and smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph, which when combined create a convincing whole. Check your statement’s transitions to make sure they are seamless, thereby creating a perfect whole.
In the end, what your statement should do is make the reader want to meet you in person. Once you have written your statement ask yourself the final question: have you convinced the reader to invite you for an interview?
More About Liza Thompson
Liza Thompson has amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge as a premedical advisor since 1993, and as the former director of the Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs at Johns Hopkins and Goucher. She has helped many premedical students achieve their dream of going to medical school. Ms. Thompson has a particular interest in the education of at-risk students and received her master’s degree with a focus on this population.
She continues to help students with premedical choices, the premedical curriculum, MCAT preparation, and the medical school application maze by providing admissions consulting services for both medical school and post-baccalaureate program applicants at Thompson Advising. Ms. Thompson also writes about topics in medical education on her blog.
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.