By: Annika Barnett, MD
The personal statement is one of the most important components of a medical school application. Realistically, most applicants look similar on paper. Many applicants have taken many of the same classes and boast stellar grades, MCAT scores and a myriad of extracurricular activities. Your personal statement serves as a great opportunity to stand out and make an impact on the medical school admissions committee.
Many applicants do not know where to start when writing a personal statement. It is an open-ended essay, and this freedom can be either liberating or debilitating. Don’t get intimidated by the open-ended nature of the personal statement. Use the following tips to structure a personal statement that not only captures the admission committee’s attention but effectively represents who you are as a person and applicant.
Tell a Story
Your personal statement should give the reader a glimpse of who you are on a deeper level than your test scores and grades. The best way to convey this is to tell a personal anecdote.
For example, my medical school personal statement began with the story of how I decided to become a doctor after having a memorable experience at my pediatrician’s office. This not only piqued the reader’s interest but also offered a more personal touch to the essay. Additionally, many of my interviewers referenced my anecdote, which facilitated a more comfortable interview experience.
Tell your story. Why did you decide to go into the medical field? Did a specific event or person inspire you to pursue medicine? Your story is what makes you unique and it helps differentiate your application from others.
Your personal statement offers the opportunity to be transparent to the admissions committee. If you have any weaknesses in your application, you may want to address them briefly in your personal statement. Use caution in putting a lot of emphasis on weaknesses in your application, but you may benefit from explaining any unique challenges or hardships that you may have encountered.
Avoid repeating information that is clearly communicated elsewhere in your application. Your personal statement is not the place to discuss your academic accolades or list your extracurricular activities. You CV will speak for itself.
Make it Personal
The personal statement is your opportunity to communicate to the admissions committee details that may not be apparent elsewhere in your application. Emphasize personal character traits and values that will make you a great doctor. For example, if you are compassionate, give an example of how you have displayed compassion and how it will help you in a future career in medicine.
The best doctors are well rounded and possess not only medical knowledge, but have soft skills necessary to provide effective care to patients. Highlighting these skills will let the admission committee know that you are more than just a good student able to retain facts. In addition, you will also show that you recognize the importance of having more than medical knowledge to be a great doctor.
Learn More: Personal Statement
Have a Vision
A powerful way to conclude your personal statement is to include your vision of how you see yourself impacting the medical field in the future. You may not know the specific subspecialty that you will ultimately pursue, but you can describe where you see yourself in medical field after medical training. Do you think you will have an interest in research and plan to advance medical knowledge through academic pursuits? Do you have an interest in global health or want to improve access to healthcare to underserved populations? Use your personal statement to emphasize your overall goals as a physician in the future and describe how you plan to push the field forward.
Don’t let the medical school personal statement intimidate you. While writing your personal statement, view it as an opportunity to make your application stand out. Use the above tips as a starting point to construct a personal statement that is both memorable and effective in strengthening your application.