Many science-focused premedical students don’t relish the thought of writing, especially about themselves. However, the personal statement is your chance to let the committee get to know you beyond your G.P.A., test scores and list of activities. In this entry, I focus on the basics of the personal statement for allopathic (M.D.) schools. Look out for a post in the near future with advice about writing a statement for osteopathic (D.O.) schools.
The personal comments section of the AMCAS application has a length limit of 5300 characters, including spaces. Use this section to discuss your motivations for choosing a career in medicine and the qualities, experiences and history that aren’t found elsewhere on the application but contribute to your ability to become an outstanding physician. The personal statement should not be an extended resume or reiteration of your work/activities section.
As you consider what to write, think about why the committee should choose you over another applicant with similar statistics. What sets you apart? Are there obstacles that you have overcome to get to the place you are at? What experiences motivated you to become a physician? These factors will give the statement depth and help you to stand out from other applicants.
Good writing does not tell the reader, it shows the reader. Use anecdotes and examples to guide the reader to the conclusion you would like him or her to make, rather than always stating the message outright. Start by generating a list of ideas, experiences and details that you can use to give your essay substance and add interest. Determine the main ideas of your essay and use these, along with your list of supporting details, to generate a rough draft.
An outstanding personal statement is written over a period of weeks or even months. Put something down on paper and step away from it for a few days. Come back to it and then write and rewrite until you have a focused, compelling and well-written document that will help to convince the committee to offer you an interview. Along the way, show your work in progress to an advisor or mentor knowledgeable about the admissions process. Use their feedback to hone your essay and ensure that you are presenting a clear, cohesive and compelling statement to the committee.
Once you are done, proofread the statement carefully and then have it proofread by someone with excellent writing skills in order to eliminate errors in spelling, grammar and word usage. The impact of the essay will be diminished if it contains careless mistakes.
Finally, begin work on your statement early. Start generating ideas for the statement in March or April and aim to have a rough draft completed at least a month before you plan to submit the essay. A plan to write the essay in a week is not a good one and will likely result in either a subpar product or a delayed application.
For experienced advising on your application to application to medical school, contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 20 minute phone consultation.