Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide [With Examples]

Typical medical school personal statements list qualities and accomplishments in paragraph form and can be boring to read for admissions committee members. The best personal statements demonstrate qualities through engaging stories. Those stories reveal insights into the applicant’s personality, as well as interests outside healthcare and medicine.

Medical school admissions committees want to learn who you uniquely are and why you want to become a medical professional. They also want to know what you are going to contribute to their school and the larger medical field.

Use this in-depth guide to explore unique personal topics and stories that will capture admission committee members’ attention and help you stand out in a sea of ordinary med school personal statements.

Brainstorm Topics

The first step in the personal statement writing process is to decide what stories and facts are most important to reveal and how to weave in your motivation for applying to a school of medicine .

When you’re ready to brainstorm, don’t just sit down to stare at a list of your premed activities like research experiences, volunteering, or shadowing. Instead, start compiling the fundamental personal experiences and people that helped shape you.

When brainstorming your personal statement for medical school, consider these topics:

Significant or formative life experiences: something that changed the course of your life, your outlook on the world, or made you think differently about your future

Challenging life experiences: something that forced a lesson upon you

People that shaped your life:

Think about what each element on your list taught you or how it changed your thinking. Answer for yourself why the event or person is important. Then brainstorm how one or two medically related activities can be tied in.

With this strategy, your personal statement will develop around a narrative that is unique to you. It will also communicate to admissions officers who you are and why you want to provide medical care.

To further your thought processes, ask yourself these questions:

Next, connect those answers to medicine-specific questions:

Though you don’t want to include the answers to all these questions in your personal statement, knowing the answers to these questions is a good starting point.

You should highlight a few unique experiences, skills, or personal characteristics and make those the focal point of your essay.

Choose Stories that Show Your Character

Ordinary personal statements focus on the experiences that applicants think will make them seem impressive. The best personal statements focus on the qualities that make applicants truly special.

Instead of choosing their standout qualities — character, personality traits, attitudes — most applicants simply choose experiences they think will help them stand out to admissions committees. Then they try to force those qualities into the experiences they’ve already chosen.

Why is this an issue? Imagine you have participated in the following extracurricular activities:

At face value, which of these experiences do you think would make you seem the most impressive to an admissions committee? Given these choices, most students would choose to write about clinical shadowing (2) or medical mission trips (5). And most students who choose one of those two topics will take a very similar approach, such as starting off the essay describing some interaction with a very ill patient or one with whom they experienced a language barrier.

Typical Applicant Example:

“Mary was well known at our clinic by all of our doctors, nurses, and medical staff. Based on her sharp intellect and cheerful pattern of making our staff feel like we were her best friends, it would be difficult to tell why she frequently visited the hospital. Besides her use of a walker, her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis had not slowed her down much.

Throughout my interactions with Mary, I wondered how she maintained such a positive attitude despite her ailments. She seemed to give our staff more joy with her beaming smile than receiving care. I wanted to give her the best care possible, whether through asking our great nurses to check in on her or offering an extra blanket or favorite snack to ensure comfort throughout her stay.

However, I was simultaneously frustrated that my ability to help Mary ended there. This lingering lack of fulfillment has served as a great motivator to find ways to do more for patients like her.”

Although the above example provides some insights about the applicant’s motivations (“…find ways to do more for patients…”), it is written about a common topic (a realization that came during clinical shadowing) with a typical delivery —  written broadly about interactions with a particular patient.

The best personal statement writers, on the other hand, first think of the personal qualities they want to demonstrate in their essay before choosing a situation or event to write about. Next, they think of an experience that best highlights these qualities, regardless of whether or not it seems most “impressive” at face value. Finally, the best personal statements zero in on a particular event or situation to capture the reader’s attention with a detailed personal story.

By taking this approach, the best personal statement writers are better able to demonstrate their qualities because their story was chosen expressly for that purpose. After all, schools are attracted to particular candidates because of their qualities and not a specific experience they’ve had.

Let’s suppose this same applicant wanted to highlight her community involvement and commitment to serving underprivileged groups. Returning to the list of extracurriculars above, she could choose to write about working as a math tutor (3) or being a trombonist in the school band and trombone instructor (4). By choosing the latter and zooming in on a particular event, this same student could write the following personal statement introduction:

Better Example:

“My palms had never been as sweaty as when I walked on stage with my trombone in front of a 500-plus member audience on June 9th, 2015. Sure, I was pretty good. But I would like to think that being invited to play Curtis Fuller’s “Along Came Betty” at the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame had as much to do with the music skills I had honed over the past decade as it did with training the 8-member band of 10 to 13 year-olds from the inner city to join me on that same stage. I was nervous because this performance was for them; I needed to be at my best.”

This introduction would likely stand out because it is about an uncommon topic (a musical performance) and seamlessly demonstrates the writer’s community involvement, especially with underserved youth. As a bonus, it captures the reader’s attention in 382 fewer characters.

Typical personal statements could have been written by any applicant. Good personal statements are those that could only be written by a specific applicant. The example of a typical introduction could have been written by any number of medical students who volunteered in a hospital. There simply aren’t enough unique insights and details about the applicant. On the other hand, the second introduction could have only been written by that individual.

So how do you avoid a dull introductory paragraph? Use the approach above — first listing your unique qualities, then identify situations where you’ve expressed those qualities, finally zoom in to tell a detailed story.

Show, Don’t Tell

You’ve likely heard the adage “Show, don’t tell” enough already. Rarely do we receive practical advice on exactly how to demonstrate our qualities, rather than list them. When you can do this, you provide a more authentic glimpse of who you really are.

If you read the following sentences from two different applicants, which one would you think was more giving?

Applicant #1: I am a very giving person.

Applicant #2: I volunteer 4 hours every week to work at the homeless shelter.

You’d probably chose applicant #2, even though they never used the word “giving” in their sentence. As a reader, we extrapolate how giving that applicant is.

Going back to the intro paragraphs above, we can see that the typical one “tells” about the applicant’s qualities, whereas the better paragraph “shows” the applicant’s qualities.

More Medical School Personal Statement Examples :

Typical introductions:

Better introductions:

Strive to let your accomplishments, approaches, and insights speak for themselves. Describe your work in an engaging way and let the reader do the complimenting for you.

Stay on Topic

Some applicants make the mistake of putting the focus on supporting characters, like a parent or patient, making them more compelling than themselves or sharing the limelight. But the best personal statements maintain the focus on the applicant.

Like any great story, your personal statement should highlight a compelling character. But that character, the star of your story, should always be YOU. There is nothing wrong with including another character in your personal statement’s story. But other characters should only be used to demonstrate your qualities, whether through an interaction you had or an insight you gained after.

Returning to our examples above:

In the typical paragraph, Mary and the applicant are co-leads in the story. We don’t even read about the applicant or her insights until the fourth sentence. Mary seems just as impressive as the applicant.

The better paragraph is all about the applicant — her concerns, dedication, and motivations. Even though she mentions the inner-city youth, they serve only to demonstrate the applicant’s qualities.

Your opportunity to impress med school admissions committees with your personal statement is limited to 5,300 characters. Strive to keep the focus nearly entirely on you.

Know ahead of time that your first draft is just that — a first draft. Once you get something on the page, you can start rewriting and revising it into the perfect statement.

Common Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes

Explaining the answer to “Why I want to be a doctor” can be overwhelming. Many applicants end up making the mistake of answering a different question: “What have I done that qualifies me for medical school?” The result is a tedious list of GPAs and MCAT scores that make personal statements read like a resume.

A better approach is not to focus on the question that your essay will answer, but on the personal aspects of your experiences on earth that shaped who you are — a person whose goals and values align with entering the medical profession.

More common mistakes to avoid:

There are some red flags to keep in mind as well. Admissions experts will not be impressed with:

What is the AMCAS personal statement prompt? The AMCAS personal statement prompt is: Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.

How many characters are allowed in the medical school personal statement? The characters allowed in the medical school personal statement for the AMCAS application is 5,300 characters. Spaces count as characters, equaling roughly 500 words. The AACOMAS is similar in length and character limit.

How long should a personal statement be for medical school? A personal statement for medical school should be approximately one page.

What personal statement topics should I avoid? There are no specific topics that you should completely avoid in your personal statement. You may receive advice to steer clear of topics like mental health, having a parent that’s a doctor, or volunteer work. But it’s not these topics themselves that are a problem; how you use these stories and experiences to show your personality and character are what matter.

Get an Expert’s Opinion

When you’re ready to consult with experts regarding your medical school personal statement, prep for your medical school interview , or any other part of your med school application or re-application , contact us . MedSchoolCoach and ProspectiveDoctor can provide step-by-step help with your entire application .

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A Guide to Medical School Personal Statements

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Join CollegeVine advisor, Robbie Herbst, for guidance on crafting an effective personal statement for medical school applications. It covers choosing a topic, highlighting relevant experiences, and conveying one's motivation and passion for the field. Participants will gain insights into what admissions committees look for in a strong personal statement and tips for standing out in the application process!

Robbie Herbst


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Undergrad College: Georgetown University '21

Major: History; Minors in French and Russian

Work Experience: The college applications process is all about responding to one question: who are you? I am passionate about helping students craft a creative answer. I have been helping students gain admission to the T25 schools of their dreams since 2018, when I first started working for CollegeVine as an Applications Consultant, and later, blog writer. Soon after graduating from Georgetown, I started my own company to make college advising my career. I currently mentor students through one-on-one consulting sessions and essay editing.

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Medicine Personal Statement: The Definitive Guide

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Writing a Personal Statement can be intimidating; having to pitch the most important reasons why you would make a great addition to a medical school (within a mere 4000 characters) can feel like a Herculean task that can wait until tomorrow.

This guide will help you put pen-to-(metaphorical) paper, and break down what exactly makes a successful Personal Statement for Medicine, including how to structure each section of the statement, things to do, and things to avoid.

Why is a Personal Statement used?

A Personal Statement is a way for Universities to find out a bit more about you as there is only so much that a set of grades (that is going to be remarkably similar to many other applicants) on a UCAS form can say. It is a chance to showcase what makes you a strong applicant and convince them that you deserve an interview. Additionally, many Universities will also use it as a springboard for certain interview questions, so it can be a prompt to help you in this part of the process too.

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What should your Personal Statement include?

Medicine Personal Statements can be slightly different to other subjects as there are some key areas you need to include due to the vocational nature of the degree;

#1 Motivation

Motivation should be conveyed convincingly as the degree and profession can be gruelling.

Medical schools invest a lot in each participant, so naturally would like to ensure the majority want to see the degree through (see more later in the Introduction guide).

Passion is expressing why you would be enthusiastic to undertake this path and what areas truly interest you.

This can overlap with, and form part of, motivation. It can, inevitably, get a little cringey or cliché so there are tips discussed later about how to avoid this.

Make sure you can verbally expand on whatever areas of interest you mention at interview especially if you claim that you read around the topics.

#3 Suitability

Suitability comes under what skills and qualities you have that would make you a good doctor. These can include:

The GMC has a good document explaining some of the traits they require from doctors. Medical schools also often specify which traits they want to see on admissions websites ( like this one from UCL ).

Make sure you show proof of these traits as opposed to just listing, which is less believable – known as “show don’t tell”.

#4 Evidence Of Interest

Evidence of interest (work experience, volunteering etc) – this is crucial to include as it shows you have proactively engaged with your interests.

A key trap many people fall into is listing and going for breadth over depth. It’s understandable as you may want to include everything you’ve done, but what you learn and how you reflect from each experience is far more important than whatever the experience happened to be (see later in the Main body guide).

How do medical schools use Personal Statements?

Medical schools have different marking criteria or ways of using the Personal Statement in the application process.

Medical School Personal Statement Marking Criteria

Some, such as Nottingham, use it alongside UCAT scores to settle tiebreaks between interview scores, whereas others, such as UCL, use it more holistically. To optimise your chances of getting offers, you should do thorough research and hit all the criteria that medical schools ask for.

A good way to approach this is to make a list of the key things each medical school you have applied for requires in the Personal Statement (this is often the motivation, passion, suitability and evidence of volunteering/work experience) and you will often find a lot of this overlaps. This will give you a good base with which to populate the main body of your Personal Statement with.

It can be hard to strike a balance as some medical schools prefer a Personal Statement to show that you are an all-rounded individual and like to hear about the extracurricular activities.

UCL Personal Statement

UCL, for example, like to see “other interests, for example music, travel, sports, or any activities that are considered to broaden the general education of the candidate”. If this is not clear in other parts of the UCAS application, it would definitely be wise to add in a paragraph in the Personal Statement to tick this box.

Cambridge Personal Statement

However, others such as Cambridge, do not place much weight on “specific extra-curricular activities that are not relevant to the course applied for” and like to see additional activities pursued that relate to Medicine or Science.

A way around this for Cambridge applicants could be the SAQ (supplementary application questionnaire), which has a box where you can include additional information that may be more academic and allows you to be slightly more balanced in the PS that goes off to other Universities.

Whichever way you attempt to strike a balance, make sure you do not completely alienate one of your choices in terms of their criteria.

Up-to-date information can often be found on websites for each University and below are some details about how certain Universities use Personal Statements. Remember that this can change year upon year (for example, Nottingham no longer use it as a weighted component) so it is important to get up-to-date information from the specific University websites.

Do not be afraid to drop the admissions team a quick email to signpost you to the correct information if you are ever uncertain!

How to structure a Personal Statement

1. introduction.

There is a reason why many agonise over the perfect way to start their Personal Statement. This is because it is undoubtedly impactful and creates the first impression that sets the tone for how an admission tutor reads the rest of your statement.

If you are finding the introduction hard to write, a good way to begin is by asking yourself why you decided to study Medicine (motivation) and write down the first thing you answer.

The key reason for doing this is once something is written down you can edit it, or change it altogether, but it is something solid to work with. You could even wait until after you have written the main body and then revisit this first attempt at an introduction and reshape it.

Personal Statement Opening Line

There has been research completed about how common certain opening lines were in Personal Statements. Here are the top five (to avoid!):

Things most people like to focus on in the introduction is a few lines about the “personal” nature of their choice to pursue Medicine as this is a good way to segue into writing. This could be some experience that shaped you, or simply what it is about Medicine that makes you want to spend the next 5-6 years studying it. You want to find the balance between conveying passion without being overly dramatic or cliché.

Make sure you are sensible – there is no expectation for your first word to have been “doctor” or to have been driven to study this since age 3. Instead, try to be honest and realistic, and make the reason something you would be comfortable saying out loud face-to-face if it came to it.

2. Main Body

The key things you want to ensure you cover in the main body are:

Some people like to approach the main body by dividing into paragraphs of certain traits/interests + examples and then work experience + reflections. Others like to integrate traits into paragraphs about their experiences. The key point to realise is that you have to prioritise what you want to mention as there is no way to crowbar everything in.

Another crucial thing people forget that they need to do is to reflect. For each major experience you mention (eg. a work experience placement) you MUST reflect on things like what it has taught you or how you have gone off to research further about the area etc.

It is a key skill in the profession itself and without reflecting, the main body becomes a list of things you have done which quickly becomes boring to read. By not reflecting, you do not demonstrate your capacity to improve and it does not add some of your personality and thoughts to experiences that others may have had.

For example, one candidate who simply states they did a flashy placement in a well-known hospital and lists all the things they did will have a far less effective and meaningful point than another who may not have managed to obtain clinical work experience, but reflects profoundly on lessons they learned and skills they acquired whilst making cups of tea for elderly people at a care home. By reflecting on major points, you will manage to strike the correct balance of breadth and depth in the main body.

3. Conclusion

Like the introduction, this can often be one of the hardest sections to write. At this point you have likely toiled away over the main body, and the job of the conclusion is to wrap up the statement and leave a positive impression on whoever is reading it. People like to approach this in different ways. Here is a list of some of the things you could use your conclusion to discuss:

This being said, there are plenty of things to avoid doing in a conclusion:

Check out these Personal Statement Inspiration and Examples Articles:

Dentistry Personal Statement Examples – KCL (Emmy)

Dentistry Personal Statement Examples – KCL (Saif)

Dentistry Personal Statement Examples – Cardiff (Eera)

Are you feeling stuck with your Personal Statement?

Writing Top Tips

Apart from the points made above, here are 5 key tips to use when writing your Personal Statement:

Put pen to paper as early as you can.

The process of editing and checking takes most people longer than the writing of a first draft so organise ahead and leave plenty of time. If you are getting other people to check your statement, remember that they may be busy and take a while to reply. Factor this in and do not cut it too close to the deadline.

Start and end with impact.

Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions tutor who is going to be reading Personal Statement after Personal Statement. They are only human and, even if this is your labour of love, it is natural that they may switch off slightly. To create a lasting impression, make sure you hook them in with a good introduction, and end with a strong resolute conclusion.

Flawless spelling and grammar.

Making a mistake with spelling or grammar is a cardinal sin with such a prepared piece of writing.

As far as spelling goes, make sure you use spellcheck and have a very thorough check for words like “or” that may be typed as “of” etc.

Try reading it aloud a few times to see if commas are in the right place and sentence structure makes sense. Often teachers offer to have a read of your Personal Statement so reach out to them for a fresh set of eyes.

For the content side of things, it may be wise to find someone who has experience with the application process to have a read over but pretty much anyone can help you out by checking for spelling and grammar so don’t be afraid to ask for help and feedback. 

Don’t use a thesaurus too much.

If you’re a fan of Friends think along the lines of Joey with a thesaurus . If you can say something simply in fewer words then that can often be better than using overcomplicated vocabulary that can be misused and make the piece challenging to read.

It’s mentioned in detail in the Main body guide, but make sure your statement is a reflective essay and not a list. This is the best way to ensure you make the Personal Statement about you and shows you can learn and improve.

Want even more writing tips? Check out 5 more ways to improve your writing! Signing up to the Personal Statement Crash Course will provide you with heaps of tips and tricks to write the best Personal Statement you can. 

Mistakes/Things To Avoid

Now that we’ve been through 5 tips for your Personal Statement, let’s go the other way and cover things you SHOULDN’T say:

“Saving lives.”

This point is very medic-specific but often people give their motivation for picking the profession as wanting to save lives.

This can seem harmless and certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does not demonstrate you have a true awareness for the field you are entering as the job will not always mean you can, or will be able to, save lives.

Whilst sounding a little less heroic, a better alternative is talking about how you want to improve their quality of life (and learning that this was the job of a doctor could even work in to a reflective point about something you learned from work experience/exposure to the field!)

The “P-word”…

Although it is a point you want to convey, the word “passion” is very overused. Check how many times you repeat words like this and try to cut out unoriginal phrases like “I am fascinated by” or “I am passionate about”.

It might be tempting to fib and over-exaggerate, but remember that asking about anything you put in your Personal Statement is fair game in an interview.

They aren’t expecting you to be superhuman and have an amazing background, but if you get caught out in a lie during the stress of an interview you basically throw your integrity out the window, which is a key trait for future doctors.

Name-dropping universities.

Remember that all choices see this Personal Statement so do not alienate and show disinterest in other choices by name dropping one.

Similarly, for your 5th non-medical option, check with the admissions team if they mind having a Personal Statement geared towards medicine. It is often the case that many biomedical courses do not mind this, and means you can focus on the medical aspect without alienating them, and give your best shot at the 4 medicine options.

Be VERY aware of plagiarism.

A quick Google search can unleash hundreds of exemplar Personal Statements.

This is a good way to understand the sort of thing you could write about but that should be it. Medical schools are very concerned with ethics and it would be very hard for them to excuse a violation of this before you have even set your foot through the door by means of plagiarising.

A good way to avoid this is by resisting the temptation to write your Personal Statement with another one in the same window on your computer. Additionally, be wary about posting excerpts of your statement in public forums as other people could lift these phrases.

That’s not everything that can go wrong though! Learn more about the mistakes you need to avoid when writing your Personal Statement!

Final Words

Understanding the things to write is as important as learning what not to write when it comes to a Personal Statement. Hopefully reading this has helped break down what you need to do to write a successful personal statement section-by-section and has inspired you to start early.

All that’s left to say is good luck with writing your Personal Statement and the application process as a whole!

There’s plenty more ways to perfect your Personal Statement!

Learn how you can write an amazing personal statement for free on our Personal Statement Resources page. Our top guides include:  

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Medical Personal Statement: Step-by-Step Guide

EssayEdge > Blog > Medical Personal Statement: Step-by-Step Guide

The importance of your medical school personal statement cannot be overestimated. In fact, not taking this reality to heart is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make in your application to medical school. Your GMAT scores and your CV will help the admissions committee understand what you are able to accomplish, but it is only your medical personal statement that can tell them who you are. Ultimately, human beings – not test scores of lists of achievements – become physicians. Your medical personal statement is a unique and invaluable opportunity to show the admissions committee that a real person is applying to their program.

Importance of a Great Medical School Personal Statement

Start Early on Your Medical Personal Statement — or Better Yet, Start Now!

For this reason, it is essential to take the time to craft a great medical school personal statement. Though the process can be difficult, much of the difficulty for those applying to medical school is usually created by procrastination. Writing a medical personal statement that will stand out to admissions committee officers is not complicated, but it does take time. Your time is already fully scheduled, so even taking the time to plan your medical school personal statement can seem overwhelming. Here’s a basic timeline that you can use to kick start your process. Give yourself 45 minutes for each step.

Write the story of why you chose to become a physician. This should be very much like a super-short story that is narrative in nature. Don’t worry about quality at this point, just tell the story like you would if you were to explain it to another person.

Create a paragraph about your academic journey to becoming a physician. Demonstrate a love for the sciences and their relationship to the function of the human body. Again, let it sleep for a week.

Now write 1-2 paragraphs about your experiences either in the laboratory or shadowing/observing. What did you learn? Explain how you now have a better understanding of the day-to-day work of being a doctor.

After that, if you have room, write about an activity outside of medicine that will give the admissions committee insight into your character.

Now it’s time to tie everything together for the admissions committee. Tell them how your character strengths, knowledge, and passion for caring have formed a strong foundation for success in medical school. Let them know the type of environment that you are seeking and what you hope to gain from the program. Finally, end the paragraph with a statement that reflects your vision for your career as a physician.

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By creating your medical school personal statement step-by-step, you will take off the pressure, eliminate the excuses, and ensure that you have a high-quality essay that will help you stand apart from the crowd.

Your decision to apply to med school can’t be one-stage and frivolous. So is the personal statement writing. Make this process as organized as possible to make fewer errors. If you see your writing lacks coherency, conciseness, and structure, consider hiring an expert editor on our medical editing service .

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Medicine Personal Statement Examples

Get some inspiration to start writing your Medicine Personal Statement with these successful examples from current Medical School students. We've got Medicine Personal Statements which were successful for universities including Imperial, UCL, King's, Bristol, Edinburgh and more.

Personal Statement Examples

Personal Statement Example 1

Check out this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, UCL, QMUL and King's.

Personal Statement Example 2

This Personal Statement comes from a student who received Medicine offers from Bristol and Plymouth - and also got an interview at Cambridge.

Personal Statement Example 3

Have a look at this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, Edinburgh, Dundee and Newcastle.

Personal Statement Example 4

Take a look at this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for King's, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield.

Personal Statement Example 5

Pick up tips from this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, Birmingham and Manchester.

Personal Statement Example 6

This Personal Statement comes from a student got into Graduate Entry Medicine at King's - and also had interviews for Undergraduate Medicine at King's, QMUL and Exeter.

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