Medical School Applications: Writing the Perfect Personal Statement

Medical School Applications: Writing the Perfect Personal Statement

You can have a solid GPA and MCAT score, conduct research, shadow physicians, engage in community service, and do everything right, only to be rejected by every school you apply to.

As per Applicants and Matriculants Data 2020, nearly 60% of medical school applicants do not get into medical school in any given year.

The main reason for this is that the students do not curate convincing personal statements.

Read this article so that you do not end up in that 60%. Learn how to craft the perfect personal statement to get into medical school.

1. Have a good opening line

Your personal statement doesn’t necessarily need a perfect opening line. So, instead of stressing about phrasing a catchy opening line, write a short sentence that your statement can live up to.

Don’t treat your opening line as the beginning of your autobiography. Start with something meaningful, rather than descriptive.

Keep in mind that your statement has to answer two questions: Who you are beyond your grades, and why you want to go into medicine?

2. Draw on as many personal experiences as you can

The admission committee is going to read numerous essays. In this pile, it is hard to leave a mark. You need to distinguish yourself.

Your opening line has the potential to gain the readers’ interest, but the essay has to maintain that interest. This is much harder. One way to go about it is by describing your personal experiences with stories.

Be creative. Simple literary devices like metaphors in your essay will show how well you can relate clinical experiences to other aspects of life.

Use your experiences to your advantage. Each quality that you want to highlight should be substantiated by an event where you’ve demonstrated the characteristic.

Your experiences do not have to be clinical or research-based. You can talk about your family, volunteering, or everyday life. A busy schedule can be framed in a way to showcase that you have strong organizational skills.

Try to pick instances that are unique and can convince the committee that you are the perfect candidate.

Make sure that the focus remains on you. The events should be relatable and emotionally evocative.

3. Basic areas to cover

  • Before you start writing, create an outline listing all the qualities you think are pertinent to a medical student. For example, empathy and work ethic.
  • Follow a theme throughout your statement. Think about your statement as an argument, and give evidence to support it.
  • State no more than three experiences that motivated you to pursue medicine. Aiming for depth over breadth will help the committee understand who you are as a person.
  • Write about your short-term and long-term goals, and elucidate how your degree will help you achieve them.
  • Why this college? It is common to send the same personal essay to different colleges. However, try to tweak your statement a little depending on the college. Go to the university’s website and read about it. Mention in your statement how you can further the vision of the university.
  • Your conclusion should briefly go over your qualities, insights from experiences, and your passion.

4. Ask someone to review your statement

After you’re done with your statement, ask a friend to review it. Someone who knows you well, preferably. This will ensure that your voice comes through the essay.

Approach at least two people who have had experience in your field and ask them to read your essay, too.

Incorporating the feedback is not necessary. Just keep them in mind. Trying to incorporate everyone’s feedback can dilute your own voice.

5. Write about your experiences in the field

Medical schools are looking for students who have qualities that befit good doctors. While these experiences can be conveyed through everyday experiences, mentioning your experiences in the field will give you an edge.

Explain an academic experience that stuck with you and fueled your desire to go to medical school. It can be a class you took, or a professor you looked up to.

Write about any field opportunity that you’ve had while conducting research in a science laboratory or interning at a medical facility. Such hands-on experience shows that you already have some skills that can distinguish you from other applicants.

Explain what you learned from the experience, and how your attitude towards medicine changed when working in an actual clinical setting.

Community service and volunteering are also vital experiences for a medical student. Show that you have an active history of service. Your interest in the subject goes beyond you and extends to those who are disadvantaged.

6. Which problems should your address

If your CV reflects any issues, your personal statement can be an opportunity to explain why.

Poor grades can be a hindrance to your candidacy, but with a character count (which includes spaces and punctuation) of only 5,300, your main goal is to convey why you’ll be an excellent doctor. Hence, use less space to address your grades, or discuss the issue in another section of the application.

Because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, do not talk about how your mental health has been or can be a hindrance to your education. However, if you want to use it as an opportunity to discuss the insights you developed about people and about medicine, it might be worthwhile to share.

7. What you should avoid putting on your statement

  • Avoid using terms like “good person” or “brilliant.” Demonstrate such qualities through stories, or else you can come across as arrogant.
  • Avoid clichés. Do not write in a way that can be duplicated by other applicants.
  • Avoid repetitive statements. Each statement should add something of value. Remember that you only have 5,300 characters.
  • Avoid talking about your potential income. You don’t want to come across as materialistic.
  • Avoid talking about fictional shows and series that are based on medicine. This shows that you have a romanticized notion of being a doctor.

8. Model your essay after successful medical school personal statements

You’ll find many sample medical school personal statements. Your sources should be university websites and blogs of medical school students or professors.

Reading these essays will give you an idea about what is expected from the essay, especially in terms of structure.

Do not try to mimic the events that other students have mentioned. Remember, what makes you different is your personal experiences. 

When you’re writing your essay, think about why you actually want to become a doctor, rather than just focusing on what the admission committee wants to hear. This will solve half of your problems. Do not make the central theme that you want to help people, as most applicants will do that. There are many other professions in which you can be of service, too. Be specific about your reasoning, and do your best to stand out.

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