The personal statement can be one of the most challenging parts of your medical school application process. You want to show admissions committees the qualities that make you stand out while avoiding cliches. After all, a lot is riding on this essay. Don’t panic. We’ve done our homework, talked to insiders, and gathered firsthand personal statements to help you get started.
Before diving into the personal statement examples, here are some tips on framing your experiences to wow admissions officers.
1. Stick to your real-life experiences. While it’s great to express what you want to do in healthcare in the future, that doesn’t really set you apart. All premed students have goals for what they’ll do in the medical profession, but this often changes after time in medical school. Telling a personal story instead gives admission committee members a look at who you already are and if you have the qualities they deem desirable for med school.
Feel free to mention specialties you’re passionate about and touch on your clinical experience, but make sure the experiences you discuss are unique.
2. Build an in-depth narrative. Nobody wants to read a blanket summary of your research experience. This is your chance to get passionate and demonstrate some communication skills. Explain the driving force behind your desire to work in the medical field.
The old writing rule comes into play here: “show, don’t tell.” You will always capture your reader’s attention more by telling a story than by explaining a circumstance. Medical school admissions committees are no different. Showing them your strong work ethic — or dedication, or whatever personal quality you want — without just saying, “I have a strong work ethic” will have a greater impact.
3. Don’t include metrics. Admissions officers already have access to your GPA and MCAT scores. If they want to know how you did in biochemistry, they can find out. Don’t waste space here. If you’re concerned about those numbers, it’s much more important to nail the personal statement and secure a secondary application and eventual medical school interview.
4. Know the character limits — and try to meet them. Both AACOMAS and AMCAS applications have a character limit of 5,300. You do not necessarily need to use all 5,300 characters, but you also don’t want it to be under 3,000. You want to use as many as possible while staying on topic and being relevant. A too-short essay can look careless.
5. Get comfortable with revising. You’ll do it a lot. Expect your first draft to be just that – a first draft. This writing process will take several weeks, if not months. Once you’re confident in your essay, ask for feedback. Avoid asking family members (unless they’re experts in the field of medicine). Instead, have professors, mentors, and peers read it and offer notes.
|| Read more about capturing readers from the first paragraph with our Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide. ||
6. Use coaching to craft the perfect essay. Personal statements like the ones below only come after countless hours of brainstorming and writing drafts. However, with MedSchoolCoach, you’ll work with professional writing advisors step-by-step to develop an impactful medical school personal statement.
|| Check out more Tips for Writing a Personal Statement ||
Personal Statement Example #1
Our second essay contest winner was a medical student who made their submission an AMCAS personal statement. It serves as a great and effective medical school personal statement example. We also thought it was a good read overall!
A four-letter word for “dignitary.” The combinations surge through my mind: emir? agha? tsar? or perhaps the lesser-used variant, czar? I know it’s also too early to rule out specific names – there were plenty of rulers named Omar – although the clue is suspiciously unspecific. Quickly my eyes jump two columns to the intersecting clue, 53-Across, completely ignoring the blur outside the window that indicates my train has left the Times Square station. “Nooks’ counterparts.” I am certain the answer is “crannies.” This means 49-Down must end in r, so I eliminate “agha” in my mind. Slowly, the pieces come together, the wordplay sending my brain into mental gymnastics. At the end of two hours, I find myself staring at a completed crossword puzzle, and as trivial as it is, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
As an avid cruciverbalist, I have a knack for problem-solving. I fell in love with another kind of puzzle in college: organic chemistry. While some of my peers struggled with its complexity, the notion of analyzing mass spectroscopy, IR spectrums, and H-NMR to identify a specific molecule invigorated me. The human body was a fantastic mystery to me in my biology classes. Intricacies such as hormonal up- and down-regulation pulled at the riddler in me; I was not satisfied until I understood the enigma of how the body worked. Graduate school at Columbia was an extension of this craving, and I chose a thesis topic to attempt to elucidate the sophisticated workings of neuro-hormonal balance peri-bariatric surgery.
In non-academic settings, I also pursued activities that would sharpen my intellect. The act of teaching is a form of problem-solving; a good teacher finds the most effective way to convey information to students. So I accepted the challenge and taught in both international and domestic settings. I assumed leadership positions in church because it forced me to think critically to resolve conflicts. In the lab, I volunteered to help write a review on the biological mechanisms of weight regain. It was precisely what I loved: isolating a specific human phenomenon and investigating how it worked.
I believe medicine and puzzles are in the same vein. After participating in health fairs, working at a clinic, and observing physicians, I understand that pinpointing a patient’s exact needs is difficult at times. In a way, disease itself can be a puzzle, and doctors sometimes detect it only one piece at a time – a cough here, lanugo there. Signs and symptoms act as clues that whittle down the possibilities until only a few remain. Then all that is left is to fill in the word and complete the puzzle. Voila!
Actually, it is more complicated than that, and inevitably the imperfect comparison falls through.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a psychiatric patient at Aftercare. He had just revealed his identity as Batman — but it turns out he was also Jesus. During downtime between tests, he decided to confide in me some of his dreams and aspirations. He swiftly pulled out a sketchpad and said confidently, “When I get better, I’m going back to art school.” Any doubts stemming from his earlier ramblings vanished at the sight of his charcoal-laden sheets filled with lifelike characters. “They’re… really good,” I stammered. I was looking for the right words to say, but there are times when emotions are so overwhelming that words fail. I nodded in approval and motioned that we should get back to testing.
Those next few hours of testing flew by as I ruminated on what I had experienced. After working 3 years at the clinic, I got so caught up in the routine of “figuring out” brain function that I missed the most important aspect of the job: the people. And so, just as the crossword puzzle is a 15×15 symbol of the cold New York streets, a person is the polar opposite. Our patients are breathing, fluid, and multi-dimensional. I’ve come to love both, but there is nothing I want more in the world than to see a broken person restored, a dream reignited, to see Mr. Batman regain sanity and take up art school again. The prospect of healing others brings me joy, surpassing even the most challenging crosswords in the Sunday paper.
This is why I feel called to a life in medicine. It is the one profession that allows me to restore others while thinking critically and appreciating human biology. I am passionate about people, and medicine allows me to participate in their lives in a tangible way, aligned with my interest in biology and problem-solving skill.
The New York Times prints a new puzzle daily, and so does the Washington Post, USA Today, and the list continues. The unlimited supply of puzzles mirrors the abundance of human disease and the physician’s ongoing duty to unravel the mystery, to resolve the pain. A great cruciverbalist begins with the basics of learning “crosswordese,” a nuanced language; I am prepared to do the same with health, starting with my education in medical school. Even so, I am always humbled by what little I know and am prepared to make mistakes and learn along the way. After all, I would never do a crossword puzzle in pen.
||Read Our First Essay Contest Winner: Considerations Before Applying to Medical School||
||Read The Formula For A Good Personal Statement||
Personal Statement Example #2
Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM
With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and a coin suddenly appeared behind my ear. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctor feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.
Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I became hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day, physicians comforted me, asking how I was, reassuring me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as possible about different conditions.
I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father was actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced, I spent hours in inipis chewing on osha root, finding my healing through songs.
In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, my mother’s home. She came from a long line of healers using herbal remedies and ceremonies for healing the mind, body, energy, and soul. I can still see my mother preparing oils, herbs, and incense mixtures while performing healing rituals. Her compassion and care in healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers.
Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days, with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I decided to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I continuously reflected on the hospital experiences that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license and gain more medical experience.
As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient traveling from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to talk with him to learn his story. Afterward, he became more comfortable, and I walked him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice.
My journey to becoming a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have allowed me to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic.
I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.
||Read: But I Don’t Have 15 Activities! | Apply to Med School After 3rd or 4th Year?||
Personal Statement Example #3
Student accepted to Weill Cornell
My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it then, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.”
In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.
As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built a mixed friend group and began understanding how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table and language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.
Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?
My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from his family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised.
I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine — the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with the individual to serve their needs.
With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how socioeconomic status and job security inequities left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts.
Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their one-bedroom and one-bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking about how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and small talk to build rapport.
When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.
Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident I want to dedicate my life to this profession.
Personal Statement Example #4
Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School
Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals.
A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain.
From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.
A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive.
Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown.
Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.
Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain.
At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time.
My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.
Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.
My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.