A Guide to Writing the Best Personal StatementWhen applying for higher levels of education, medical schools and scholarship programs will often ask you to include a personal statement in addition to other application requirements. The purpose of a personal essay is for the admissions team to get a clearer picture of who you are, as the applicant. This helps create a more personalized view of you, as a unique individual, instead of being seen as just another number. Your personal statement provides you with a great opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants and show exactly why you deserve a spot in this program. Here’s a Medical Students Guide on How to Write a Personal Statement For Residency that works for you!
Writing FormatUsing the appropriate language, grammar, and format is important to showcase your writing abilities and professionalism. A few basic format “musts” include:
- Writing the statement in a classical 5 point essay format
- Most programs have a maximum character count that equates to roughly 1.5 pages in length
- Document should be single spaced, 12-point font size, in Times New Roman
- Make sure to include paragraph structure, indentation, and an appropriate Header that follow proper APA formatting
- Maintain the same tense throughout. Deciding between first or third person is your choice.
Purpose of Your Personal StatementThe overall impression of a personal statement, when done correctly, should allow the reader to get an idea of who you are as a candidate for their program. By the end of the essay, the reader should be able to identify key information about where you are now, what you’ve accomplished so far, and what you hope to accomplish for the future. It’s also very important to impress upon your reader why you feel you are well-suited for this particular school and why you would make the right fit for their program. Important topics to outline include:
- Brief summary of educational background
- Highlights of your academic achievement
- Passions and interests of relevance
- Relevant work and volunteer experience
- A story or experience that has led you to this path
- Strengths and qualities that make you well suited for medicine
How To Stand OutComing up with a unique and eye-catching personal statement can be the most tricky part of the application. Almost everything and anything you could possibly write about has likely already been done in the past. So how will you be able to stand out from the pack and make a strong impression on your reader? Remember that your personal statement should be tailored to the specific school and program you are applying to. This means you may need to change a few aspects when applying to a wide variety of programs.
- Read the mission statement thoroughly for the school you are applying to, and be sure to highlight direct parallels for why you would be an asset to the school based on the attributes they emphasize in their mission.
- Briefly touch upon the importance of “Good Doctor” attributes such as leadership and advocacy and how your role in medicine will include these.
- Write the statement using an active voice role, and ensure when adding any personal experiences or stories that the focus still remains on you.
- When including stories and experiences, an element of emotional reflection and vulnerability can help the reader connect to your words. For example: if telling a brief story about a challenging situation that has happened to you, follow it up with the ways in which the experience has helped you to grow or gain further passion for this career.
- Paint a full picture of who you are by including a small detail or two about hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time. This also helps to show the reader that you are a well-rounded applicant .
What To AvoidNow that we’ve discussed what to include in your personal statement, it’s almost MORE important to keep in mind what NOT to include. Some suggestions may seem obvious, but at times you may not even notice you’ve included these BIG deterrents by mistake. For this reason, ensure to have a few trusted friends/colleagues read your statement back to you. These are the absolute NO-NO’s to avoid:
- Cliches; the reader has likely read these same cliches over and over, and will more often than not lose interest in the rest of your message.
- Quotes from other sources; this seems like a great way to showcase your values and education but actually takes the attention away from you, and can appear lazy.
- Overly personal or emotional stories; at times these stories can feel like “too much” or “exaggerating for sympathy.”
- Avoid the phrase “ever since I was a child”; this is another common phrase that many applicants have already used, and the sentiment is often lost on the reader.
- Long stories, or telling a story that lacks concrete relevance to your application.
- Profanity, slang, or “mainstream/pop-culture” references.
- Duplicating detailed information that was already provided elsewhere in your application.
- Confusion with switching between past, present, and future tenses when including a story.