How to write a personal statement

August 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm (Applying to med school)

Thanks to my success in an earlier post about writing essays for secondary applications, I decided to offer some help in writing the personal statement for the primary application. There are three steps and writing a personal statement: first, discuss your excitement for medicine. Second, demonstrate your compassion for helping others. Finally, show that you’re dedicated to the field. Let’s review each of these items.

1. Excitement for medicine. Your personal statement needs to come off with a bang that ensures readers that you are absolutely passionate about becoming a physician. Admissions committees don’t want to come away from your application thinking that the only reason you’re applying to medical school is to say, “My mother’s child is a doctor.” To that end, you want to leave no doubt in your readers’ minds that you have seriously considered this path. Avoid using terms such as “like” and “enjoy” because they are too wishy-washy. Instead, use phrases such as, “I was so excited that I came in my pants.” That way, admissions committees will certainly understand where you’re coming from.

2. Compassion for helping others. Physicians are somehow thought of as being humanitarians — at least by the admissions committees who pick the next generation of doctors. Granted, I’ve never actually known that many attending physicians who have gone on to volunteer their time. But that doesn’t mean you get off easy. You need to do something meaningful which is have a great impact on the lives of others and then sell it to no end to everyone within earshot. Keep in mind that helping some people is more desirable than helping others. Your compassion level is a direct measure of how far you’ve traveled and how dark the skin is of the people you helped. In other words Africa > South America >> Asia >>> Europe. Remember, you aren’t joining medicine because it’s an enjoyable job. You’re joining it because you’re a selfless wanker who wants nothing more than to give your entire life to the pursuit of other people’s happiness.

3. Dedication to the field. Admissions committees want to know that you did not take the decision to apply to medical school lightly. Talking about your decision to become a doctor that was made at the age of 20 is the kiss of death. Instead, pick a more reasonable number such as the age of nine. Tell a story of how you watched your grandfather take his dying breath in an ICU and that you decided right then and there to put an end to the suffering of all people. From that moment forward, everything you did in elementary school and middle school was related to the field of medicine. For example, you petitioned to ban monkey bars because they were a risk to public safety.

Finally, you should close your personal statement by listing a review of all the items from your AMCAS just in case your reader missed it the first time around. A good summary statement looks something like: “Back when I was a server at the Rain Forest Cafe‚ I spent my spare time developing a clean energy solution for my research lab. I would then leave the restaurant to travel to the pool for my water polo practice in the pursuits of joining the Olympic team. I have always hoped of playing in Beijing, China, because I could continue my medical missions in the rest of Asia shortly after the games have finished. My parents, both of whom are physicians, have taught me and my adopted homeless person that we can do anything that we put our minds to.”

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3 Comments

  1. YS said,

    If ~ 90% of students are BSing in their P statements why do school admissions still require them?

    Like for God’s sake what accomplishments would a 18-22 year old guy have in life till now? If according to their PS they already saved the world why enroll into medical school anyway. Medical school admissions over do it. In my opinion average and above MCAT scores, a small interview, and a small PS that shows that the student is intelligent and competent is more than enough.

  2. YS said,

    I mean, is more than enough to show that the student will most likely do well in medical school.

    Please, Admissions, take it easy on the lads.

  3. Jared at The Doctor Job said,

    Very informative!

    Might I add that a lot of students and graduates chose formality over personality, not understanding the potential that results in your personal statement from connecting the two. This comes from a fear that this might appear unprofessional, therefore decreasing the possibility of acceptance into their desired residency program. But actually, quite the opposite is usually true. The busy and exhausted residence/fellowship program director wants to be engaged by an intriguing personal statement.

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