- Medical School Application
Medical School Personal Statement Examples: 30 Best in
Including one that got six acceptances.
These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow the strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .
Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .
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Article Contents 29 min read
30 stellar medical school personal statement examples, example #1/30.
I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.
Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.
Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.
My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.
Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.
Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.
This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.
We are here to help you articulate your own vision, passion, and skills in a way that is equally captivating and compelling!
Would you like to learn why "show, don’t tell" is the most important rule of any personal statement? Watch this:
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.
I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.
I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.
In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.
Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.
My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.
28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples
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As one of the most important medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!
So let's help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. Check out AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples for more excellent essays.
#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement
Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .
As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.
A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!
You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
- Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
- What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
- Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
- What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
- What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
- Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
- What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
- What are your favorite activities?
- What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
- What was your "Aha!" moment?
- When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
- How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?
As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. They will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.
Review AAMC Core Competencies : The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into four general categories:
Science Competencies : living systems and human behavior. ","label":"Science","title":"Science"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>
You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.
Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.
Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.
- The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
- The events that led you toward this path
- Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
- Challenges that helped shape your worldview
- Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
- Demonstrate your commitment to others
- Your dependability
- Your leadership skills
- Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict
These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else.
Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay.
Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.
Medical School Personal Statement Structure
When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.
Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:
The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.
The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.
That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.
I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]' code='tab3' template='BlogArticle'>
In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.
Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.
The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles.
A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.
While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.
Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.
Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.
One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.
They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."
There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.
One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.
How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid
Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools.
Emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.
Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:
Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!
Step 3: Writing Your First Draft
As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.
As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.
You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).
#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?
Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.
#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?
Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.
Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.
#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?
If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.
#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?
The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity. Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.
Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.
Would you like 8 medical school personal statement tips? Check out our video below:
FAQs and Final Notes
Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.
Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.
All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.
Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through OMSAS , the University of Toronto medical school requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.
Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.
To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.
Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.
While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.
Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.
In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.
If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.
Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?
The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.
Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.
Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.
So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.
The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or MCAT scores are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.
The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.
This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.
5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:
- Content and Theme
- Multiple Drafts
- Revision With Attention to Grammar
While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!
Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
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I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!
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2023 Medical School Personal Statement Ultimate Guide (25 Examples Included)
25 medical school personal statement examples, plus a step-by-step guide to writing a unique essay.
Part 1: Introduction to the medical school personal statement
Part 2: a step-by-step approach to writing an amazing medical school personal statement, part 3: in-depth analysis of a top-5 medical school personal statement, part 4: unique vs. clichéd medical school personal statements: 10 key differences, appendix: medical school personal statement examples.
You probably know someone who achieved a solid GPA and MCAT score , conducted research, shadowed physicians, engaged in meaningful volunteer work, and met all the other medical school requirements , yet still got rejected by every school they applied to.
You may have even heard of someone who was rejected by over 30 medical schools or who was shut out by every program two years in a row, despite doing “all the right things.”
It’s also common to come across people who have incredibly high stats (e.g., a 3.8 GPA and a 518 MCAT score) but didn’t get into a top-10 or top-20 medical school.
With stories like these and the scary statistic that over 60% of medical school applicants do not matriculate into medical school in any given year , it’s hard not to be anxious about the admissions process and wonder how you’ll ever get into medical school .
We bet you’ve puzzled over why so many qualified applicants are rejected beyond the fact that there are too few spots. After all, you’ve noticed how some applicants receive many interview invitations and acceptances, whereas others receive few or none.
The main reason why many qualified applicants are rejected from every med school—or significantly underperform expectations based on their admissions profile—is that they do not stand out on their application essays.
While the need to stand out holds true for every piece of written material on your applications, your personal statement is the single most important essay you will have to write during your admissions process. It’s especially important to get right because it allows you to show admissions committees how your story sets you apart among other qualified candidates (i.e., your competition). Moreover, the quality of your personal statement has a significant influence on your admissions success.
Of course, this means that writing a great medical school personal statement comes with a lot of pressure.
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Medical school personal statement challenges and opportunities
As you prepare to write, you’re probably concerned about:
Choosing the “right” topic
Making sure your essay is unique and not clichéd
Your essay clearly highlighting why you want to go into medicine
Whether it’s what admissions committees are looking for
The good news is that the AMCAS personal statement prompt—“Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school”—is intentionally vague and gives you the opportunity to write about anything you want in up to 5,300 characters (including spaces), which roughly corresponds to 500 words or 1.5 single-spaced pages.
In other words, you have complete control over how you show admissions committees the following:
Who you are beyond your numbers and your resume (i.e., why you? )
The reasons you want to go into medicine (i.e., why medicine? )
Remember that admissions committees want to accept people , not just a collection of GPAs, MCAT scores, and premed extracurricular activities. Your personal statement and other written materials must therefore clearly highlight the specific qualities and experiences that would make you an excellent physician.
If your essay does this, you’ll have a leg up on other applicants. On the other hand, a clichéd personal statement will bore admissions readers and consequently make them less interested in admitting you.
Put another way, your personal statement is your best opportunity to stand out—or to look like everyone else who reads tons of sample essays, tries to “play it safe” with boring anecdotes, and ends up in the rejection pile.
What this personal statement guide covers
As you begin drafting your essay, you might find yourself perusing countless medical school personal statement examples online, at your college’s premed counseling office, or from friends who applied to med school a year or two ago. But remember that the sample personal statements you find on Student Doctor Network, Reddit , premed blogs, or at your college’s pre-health advising center are the same ones that everyone else is looking at and attempting to imitate!
To help you avoid common pitfalls and write a memorable personal statement, we wrote a comprehensive guide to help you get one step closer to earning your white coat rather than having to reapply to med school .
At a high level, this guide covers the following:
A step-by-step approach to producing a standout personal statement (Part 2)
A paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a top-5 personal statement (Part 3)
Key differences that separate unique vs. clichéd personal statements (Part 4)
Medical school personal statement examples (Appendix)
Upon reviewing this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to go from having no topic ideas to producing a personal, meaningful, and polished essay. Throughout the guide, you’ll also come across various “special sections” that address common questions and concerns we’ve received from applicants over the years.
And if you’re left with lingering questions about how to write a personal statement for medical school, just submit them in the comments section at the end of the guide so we can answer them, usually within 24 hours.
Without further ado, it’s time to begin the writing process.
When should I begin to write my med school personal statement?
The earliest we recommend you begin working on your personal statement is fall of your junior year. That way, even if you decide to go to med school straight through (i.e., without taking a gap year or two), you will have completed a bulk of the extracurriculars that you will cover on your application and will also have an essay that describes your current thoughts and feelings about medicine. But regardless of whether you apply straight through or apply post-undergrad, it’s a good idea to begin working on your personal statement during the fall or winter preceding your application cycle (e.g., start writing your essay between September 2021 and January 2022 if you intend to apply during the 2022–2023 application cycle) so that you have plenty of time to write a great essay and can take full advantage of rolling admissions by submitting your primary application early.
Before writing, the typical applicant does two things:
Pulls up their resume and attempts to identify the experience that is “most unique” or “most authentic”
Searches for essay sample after essay sample, hoping to be inspired by someone else’s writing
Eventually, students begin to read every sample essay they can get their hands on, hoping that consuming countless examples will give them the “aha moment” they need to produce their own personal statement.
Here’s the problem: Without understanding why an essay is strong, you risk producing a cliche essay based on some “template” you came across.
With this “template approach,” you’ll risk making your essay sound like someone else’s, which is a sure-fire way of producing a clunky or clichéd essay. This is precisely why we included the numerous sample personal statements at the end of this guide.
We also don’t believe that reviewing your CV or thinking through your personal experiences to identify the “most unique” topic ideas is a valuable approach to brainstorming your personal statement. This “resume-first” approach tends to lead to writing an introduction that may not communicate your intended message, especially because it might not flow with the remainder of your experiences.
So, what should your personal statement include? Over the years, our students have found the most success by taking our “qualities-first” approach—thinking through the impression they want to leave on adcoms and then selecting the experiences that best highlight those qualities.
How to write a great personal statement introduction (Goal: Engage the reader)
Before you begin to write, we recommend that you:
Develop a list of qualities you want to demonstrate; and
Think of events or situations that highlight these qualities.
Then , you should write about one of these events or situations in a way that demonstrates these qualities and captures the reader’s attention.
The myth of the "perfect topic"
Every topic can lead to a standout or average personal statement, depending on how compellingly you write it. In other words, there's no such thing as a "good" or "bad" essay topic, only strong or weak execution. Many students delay working on their personal statement until they discover the “perfect topic,” but no such topic exists. We’ve read incredible essays and weak essays on pretty much every topic. What mattered was how the writer linked the topic with their personal path to medicine. We should reinforce a point mentioned in passing in the previous paragraph: pretty much every medical school personal statement topic has been used at this point. You can stand out by sharing your personal stories, unique insights, and eye-opening experiences, not by writing about a brand-new topic, as so few exist.
Step 1: List your greatest qualities.
To answer the personal statement prompt more easily, focus again on the question of what you want admissions committees to know about you beyond your numbers and achievements.
We’re not talking about your hobbies (e.g., “I followed Taylor Swift to every concert she performed in the U.S. during this past year”), although you could certainly point to aspects of your lifestyle in your essay to make your point.
Instead, we’re talking about which of your qualities –character, personality traits, attitudes–you want to demonstrate. Examples include:
Willingness to learn
Great listening skills
And so on. If you have difficulty thinking of your great qualities (many students do), ask family members or close friends what you’re good at and why they like you. It might be awkward, but this exercise really helps because others tend to view us very differently from how we view ourselves.
Finally, choose the two or three qualities that you want to focus on in your personal statement. Let’s use compassion and knowledge-seeking as the foundational qualities of an original example for this guide.
We cannot overstate how important it is to think of the qualities you want to demonstrate in your personal statement before choosing a situation or event to write about. Students who decide on an event or situation first usually struggle to fit in their qualities within the confines of their story. This is one of the biggest medical school personal statement mistakes we see students make.
On the other hand, students who choose the qualities they want to convey first are easily able to demonstrate them because the event or situation they settle on naturally highlights these qualities.
I listed several qualities I can demonstrate, but I'm not sure which to choose. Can you say more?
Your personal statement represents just one part of your much larger application. You'll have opportunities to demonstrate several of your great qualities through your AMCAS Work and Activities section, your secondary essays, and even your interviews. Therefore, any two or three qualities you want to convey through your personal statement will work; don't stress about figuring out the "perfect" ones, as no such thing exists. And when in doubt, ask family members and friends.
Step 2: When or where have you demonstrated these qualities?
Now that we’re off our soapbox and you’ve chosen qualities to highlight, it’s time to list any event(s) or setting(s) where you’ve demonstrated them.
We should explicitly mention that this event or setting doesn't need to come from a clinical experience (e.g., shadowing a physician , interacting with a young adult patient at a cancer center, working with children in an international clinic) or a research experience (e.g., making a major finding in cancer research during your gap year ), although it’s okay if it involves an extracurricular activity directly related to medicine.
In fact, since most students start their essays by describing clinical or research experiences, starting off with something else–travel (e.g., a camping trip in Yellowstone), volunteering (e.g., building homes in New Orleans), family (e.g., spending time with and learning from your elderly and ill grandmother back home in New Hampshire), work (e.g., helping out at your parents’ donut shop)–can help you immediately stand out.
Let’s start with the example of building homes in New Orleans. Why? Because we could easily demonstrate compassion and knowledge-seeking through this experience. Notice how the qualities we select can choose the story for us?
Step 3: Describe your event as a story.
Here’s where the art of writing a great personal statement really comes in.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays, most of which are very clichéd or dry. Therefore, it’s critical that you stand out by engaging the reader from the very beginning. The best way by far to capture admissions officers early is by developing a story about the event or situation you chose in Step 2 at the start of your essay.
Keep in mind, however, that the same event can be written about in a boring or engaging way. Therefore, the story or topic you choose is less important than how you pull it off.
Let’s look at an actual example of how the same event can be described in a routine vs. compelling manner:
One of my most eye-opening experiences came when I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans during the summer months of 2014. Up to that point, I had only heard about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina nine years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to volunteer, it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.
New Orleans was hot and humid during the summer months of 2014–no surprise there. However, for a native Oregonian like me, waking up to 90-degree and 85%-humidity days initially seemed like too much to bear. That was until I reflected on the fact that my temporary discomfort was minute in contrast to the destruction of communities and emotional pounding experienced by the people of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina nine years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like nine-year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people was as much about lifting spirits as making physical improvements.
Many people may feel the routine example is pretty good. Upon closer look, however, it seems that:
The focus is as much on New Orleanians as the applicant
The story is not particularly relatable (unless the reader had also volunteered there)
There isn’t much support for the writer actually being touched by the people there
On the other hand, the compelling example:
Keeps the spotlight on the applicant throughout (e.g., references being from Oregon, discusses her reflections, interacting with Jermaine)
Has a relatable plot (e.g., temporary discomfort, changing perspectives)
Is authentic (e.g., provides an example of how she lifted spirits)
Does my essay need to have an “aha moment,” that is, the moment when I decided to become a doctor? I’ve noticed that so many medical school personal statement examples include one.
Your essay does not need to include an “aha moment.” In fact, many of the best med school personal statements we’ve read do not include such a moment. Students who believe they need to mention an “aha moment” in their personal statement are typically falling into the trap of writing what they believe the reader wants. But frankly, the reader simply wants to learn about your personal and professional path to medicine. We’ve polled many students over the years about whether they had an experience that immediately switched them on to medicine. Our findings indicate that only 10 percent of students have experienced a moment where they knew they wanted to become a doctor and never looked back. The other 90 percent either knew they wanted to become a physician since childhood, had a growing interest in medicine over years, or came to the realization during or after college.
Step 4: Demonstrate your qualities.
(Note: This section applies to all aspects of your essay.)
“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most common pieces of advice given for writing personal statements, but further guidance or examples are rarely provided to demonstrate what it looks like when done well.
This is unfortunate because the best way to understand how standout personal statements demonstrate qualities through an engaging story is by reading two examples of the same situation: one that “tells” about a quality, and another that “shows” a quality.
Let’s revisit the last sentence of each story example we provided in the previous section to better understand this distinction.
Telling (from the routine story):
…it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.
Showing (from the compelling story):
…actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like 9 year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people…
Notice how the second example demonstrates compassion without ever mentioning the word “compassion” (hence no bolded words)? Moreover, the same sentence demonstrates knowledge-seeking:
Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals ...
That’s what you’re going for.
Think about it. Whom do you consider to be more kind:
A person who says, “I’m really nice!”; or
A person who you've observed doing nice things for others?
Clearly, the second person will be viewed as more kind, even if there's no real-world difference between their levels of kindness. Therefore, by demonstrating your qualities, you will come across as more impressive and authentic to admissions committees.
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How to write strong personal statement body paragraphs (Goal: Describe your path to medicine)
After writing your opening paragraph to engage the reader, it’s time to write the meat and potatoes of your personal statement. Specifically, it’s time to discuss experiences that helped you grow and led to you to pursue medicine.
What personal statement topics should I avoid?
Put differently, "What should I not write about in my personal statement?" There are no specific topics that you should definitely avoid in your essay. Unfortunately, you will hear many people tell you not to bring up certain things—a parent who is a physician, a physical health or mental health condition, sports participation, volunteering abroad, etc. However, all of these anecdotes or topics can be the foundation for strong personal statements, but also weak ones; what matters is your writing approach.
Step 5: Discuss your most formative experiences that led you to medicine.
Return to your list from Step 2 (When or where have you demonstrated these qualities?) and choose one to three more experiences/areas (e.g., research, clinical work) that led you to medicine.
Why choose no more than four experiences total?
Because you should be aiming for depth over breadth (remember, you’re working with a 5,300-character limit for both AMCAS (MD application) and AACOMAS (DO application). Rather than discuss everything you’ve done, apply the following five-step formula to expand on key experiences in the body paragraphs of your personal statement:
Discuss why you pursued the experience
Mention how you felt during the experience
Describe what you accomplished and learned
Discuss how your experience affected you and the world around you
Describe how the experience influenced your decision to pursue medicine
Does the guidance in this resource apply to DO personal statements as well?
Yes, for the most part. We cover similarities and differences between AMCAS and AACOMAS personal statements in detail in our MD vs. DO guide .
Below are two examples–one routine and one compelling–to demonstrate how to achieve this:
Shadowing the neurosurgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital and witnessing their unwavering dedication to their patients and patients’ families helped me realize that I wanted to make a similar impact on people's lives.
This sentence doesn't answer the “Why medicine?” question (for example, you could greatly impact people's lives through law or teaching), nor does it demonstrate your qualities (although it makes the neurosurgeons look really good).
I was initially frustrated while shadowing neurosurgeons and caring for patients (e.g., conversing with them during downtime and providing anything in my power to make them comfortable, such as extra pillows, water, or snacks) at Massachusetts General Hospital because many patients recovered very slowly–and sometimes not at all. I wondered whether these experiences would deter me from pursuing medicine. Therefore, I was surprised when the opposite occurred. The physicians’ unwavering dedication to their patients and families' expressed gratitude–even in their saddest days–provided more than enough confirmation that medicine was the path I should pursue to make a similar physical and emotional impact on people's lives.
By going deeper about an experience, this example allowed the student to convey:
How they felt (“I was initially frustrated while shadowing…”)
How they were affected (“…the opposite [of determent] occurred”)
How they were influenced to pursue medicine specifically
Collectively, the student demonstrated their compassion, personal growth, and desire to pursue medicine.
(Note: Discuss your formative experiences in the body paragraphs in chronological order, as long as it doesn’t disrupt your essay’s flow. For example, if you choose to write about one experience in 2014 and another in 2013, write about your 2013 experience first, even if you wrote about the 2014 experience in your introductory paragraph. Having a clear timeline makes it easier for the reader to follow along.)
How many experiences should I cover in my personal statement?
If you’re like most students, you should cover somewhere between three and four personal or professional experiences in your personal statement. Beyond four, and you risk covering too much and not achieving sufficient depth; your essay might read like a narrative. Fewer than three, and your experience descriptions might get too wordy. That said, every essay is different, so you might be able to write a fantastic personal statement with fewer than three experiences or more than four. In fact, one of the best personal statements we’ve ever helped a student produce focused on a single 24-hour time period that spanned two separate experiences.
How to write a memorable personal statement conclusion (Goal: Tie it all together)
It’s (almost) time to end your personal statement and move on!
The concluding paragraph should highlight three things:
Your positive qualities (you can mention them explicitly here rather than “show” them)
Perspectives gained from your formative experiences
Your passion for medicine
Additionally, the best essays somehow refer to their introductory paragraph’s story to “close the loop.”
Step 6: Reemphasize your qualities, perspectives, and passions.
Focusing on experiences in your introduction and body paragraphs that convey your greatest qualities helps you develop a consistent theme throughout your essay. It also makes closing your essay much easier.
To demonstrate this, we’ll show you how New Orleans volunteering and neurosurgery shadowing can be tied together to reemphasize compassion and knowledge-seeking, highlight perspectives gained, and communicate a strong desire to pursue medicine.
The consistent theme throughout my extracurricular work is that, whereas I initially pursue experiences–clinical, volunteer, or otherwise–to learn, what sticks with me even more than newfound knowledge is the compassion I develop for the people I serve. Furthermore, I have realized that there is a multitude of ways to serve, such as treating people’s physical ailments, offering empathy for anxious family members, or leaving my comfort zone to help a struggling community. These perspectives, coupled with my lifelong fascination with the human body’s complexities, leave no doubt that medicine is the path through which I want to use my abilities to make a positive holistic impact on people’s lives. I hope 9-year-old Jermaine knows that I was equally touched by his gratitude for a rebuilt home, and how his reaction was partly responsible for me devoting my career to help others feel the way he did on that hot and muggy summer day.
Let’s see whether this concluding paragraph checks all three boxes:
Positive qualities (“knowledge-seeking” and “compassion,”): check
Perspectives gained from formative experiences (“…realized that there is a multitude of ways to serve”): check
Passion for medicine (“medicine is the path through which I want to use my abilities to make a positive holistic impact on people’s lives”): check
This paragraph also gets bonus points for looping Jermaine in one final time.
Does the guidance in this resource apply to TMDSAS personal statements as well?
Yes, though the TMDSAS personal statement offers a 5000-character limit vs. 5300 characters for AMCAS and AACOMAS. You can learn more about the Texas medical school application by reading our TMDSAS guide , which includes examples of a successful personal statement, personal characteristics essay, and optional essay.
Your medical school personal statement offers a unique opportunity to share your story and describe your path to medicine–however you want to.
Rather than dive right in and list the extracurricular experiences that you think will most impress admissions committees, consider what impression you want to leave them with. In other words, which of your qualities do you want to be remembered for?
Once you've identified your defining qualities, the task of communicating why you are specifically fit for medicine becomes much easier. Through engaging stories, you can leave no doubt in readers' minds that you're not only qualified for this field, but also the right person for the job.
If you've ever read an article or forum post offering “tips” on how to write a great medical school personal statement, you've probably been given clichéd advice with very little supporting information, like:
“Offer a unique angle”
“Show, don’t tell”
“Don’t use clichés”
“Check for grammar and spelling errors”
And so on. Here’s what usually happens when you read tips like these: You understand the information, but you’re still stuck in the same place you were before reading the article. You continue to stare at the blank document on your computer, hoping you’ll have an “aha moment.”
Unfortunately, “aha moments” rarely, if ever, come. Much more typically, students procrastinate and/or end up writing about extracurricular and personal experiences that they think admissions committees (adcoms) will be impressed by.
The problem is that if you don’t get your personal statement right, you can compromise your entire application.
If you’re a high-achieving applicant with a strong GPA, MCAT score , and rich extracurricular activities , you may get into less desirable schools than you’d hoped. If you’re an applicant on the borderline, you may not get in at all.
On the other hand, writing a powerful medical school personal statement provides adcoms insights into who you are as a person and as a budding physician. More importantly, it helps maximize your odds of admission in an increasingly competitive process.
We want you to be part of this latter group so that you can get into the best schools possible. Therefore, we figured it would be valuable to share a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a medical school personal statement that helped one of our students get into their dream school, which also happens to be ranked in the top 5 of the U.S. News & World Report Best Medical Schools rankings.
Throughout the analysis, we apply our internal essay evaluation framework, QPUD , which stands for the following:
You can apply the QPUD framework to analyze your own writing. You’ll soon learn that the best personal statements aren’t produced by accident, but rather through multiple thoughtful iterations.
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Full-length medical school personal statement with analysis
Before we get into the weeds with our analysis, we encourage you to read the personal statement example in its entirety. As you go through it, you should keep the following questions in mind:
Does the applicant demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a physician? If so, which ones?
Is the personal statement mostly about the applicant, or other people?
Could anyone else have written this personal statement, or is it unique to the applicant?
Does the personal statement cover too much, or is there real depth ?
Here’s the personal statement sample:
Sure, it was a little more crowded, cluttered, and low-tech, but Mr. Jackson’s biology classroom at David Starr Jordan High School in South Los Angeles seemed a lot like the one in which I first learned about intermolecular forces and equilibrium constants. Subconsciously, I just assumed teaching the 11th graders about the workings of the cardiovascular system would go smoothly. Therefore, I was shocked when in my four-student group, I could only get Nate’s attention; Cameron kept texting, Mercedes wouldn’t end her FaceTime call, and Juanita was repeatedly distracted by her friends. After unsuccessfully pleading for the group’s attention a few times, I realized the students weren’t wholly responsible for the disconnect. Perhaps the problem was one of engagement rather than a lack of interest since their focus waned when I started using terminology—like vena cava—that was probably gibberish to them. So, I drew a basic square diagram broken into quarters for the heart and a smiley face for the body’s cells that needed oxygen and nutrients. I left out structure names to focus on how four distinct chambers kept the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood separate, prompting my students with questions like, “What happens after the smiley face takes the oxygen?” This approach enabled my students to draw conclusions themselves. We spent much of class time going through the figure-8 loop, but their leaning over the table to see the diagram more clearly and blurting out answers demonstrated their engagement and fundamental understanding of the heart as a machine. My elation was obvious when they remembered it the following week.
Ever since my middle school robotics days when a surgeon invited us to LAC+USC Medical Center to unwrap Tootsie rolls with the da Vinci surgical system, I’ve felt that a physician’s role goes beyond serving patients and families. I feel an additional responsibility to serve as a role model to younger students—especially teenagers—who may be intrigued by STEM fields and medicine. Furthermore, my experience in Mr. Jackson’s classroom demonstrated the substantial benefits of assessing specific individuals’ needs even when it requires diverging slightly from the structured plan. Being flexible to discover how to best engage my students, in some ways, parallels the problem-solving aspect I love about medicine.
Clinical experiences go even further by beautifully merging this curiosity-satisfying side of medicine with what I feel is most fulfilling: the human side of care provision. My experience with a tiny three-year-old boy and his mother in genetics clinic confirmed the importance of the latter. Not only was I excited to meet him because he presented with a rare condition, but also because he and his chromosomal deletion had been the focus of my recent clinical case report, published in Genetics in Medicine. While researching his dysmorphic features and disabilities, other patients with similar deletions, and the possible genes contributing to his symptoms, I stayed up until 4 AM for several weeks, too engrossed to sleep. What was more exciting than learning about the underlying science, however, was learning about the opportunity to meet the boy and his mother in person and share my findings with them.
As soon as I walked into the examination room, I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report. So despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc. Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties. As the appointment progressed, I observed her gradually relaxing. Rather than feel weighed down by the research findings I was eager to get off my chest, I felt light as well.
At the end of the appointment, the mom offered to let me hold her son, who gazed back at me with his bright blue eyes. While cradling the little boy humanized the medical details, the mother’s gesture displayed profound trust. Above all, this experience allowed me to recognize that interactions between a patient plus family and their doctor are more than intermediary vehicles to treatment; they are critical and beneficial in their own right. Learning this affirmed my longstanding desire and eagerness to become a physician. While research is essential and will surely always trigger my curiosity, I want my work to transcend the lab bench. Specifically, I want to continue engaging with patients and helping them through life’s difficult moments—with physical treatment and genuine support. And since working with each patient constitutes an entirely different experience, I know my medical career will never cease to be fulfilling.
(Word count: 835; Character count: 5,223)
What if some of the experiences I choose to write about in my essay aren't directly related to medicine?
No worries. Medical school admissions committees look to admit individuals with qualities befitting good doctors. These qualities can be demonstrated through experiences directly related to medicine, as well as through experiences that seemingly have little to do with medicine but cast a very positive light on you. That said, your personal statement should include at least one experience directly related to medicine. In your essay, you'll want to briefly describe how your interest in medicine developed, followed by how you consistently pursued that interest.
Now, let’s analyze the entire personal statement paragraph by paragraph and answer the questions posed above.
The applicant does a great job of engaging the reader. While reading the paragraph, it’s easy to get transported to the classroom setting they describe due to the level of detail provided. (e.g., “crowded, cluttered, and low-tech,” “Cameron kept texting, Mercedes wouldn’t end her FaceTime call…,” “leaning over the table”) The applicant also highlights their service work in the community, and hints that the school may be in an underserved part of town.
The applicant contrasts the chaotic, distracted classroom with the attention and enthusiasm students exhibit after their educational intervention. This “transformation” reflects positively on the applicant because it demonstrates that they can get creative in addressing a difficult situation.
At this point, we don’t yet know about the applicant’s passion for medicine, but we learn about their interest in biology, teaching, serving, and working directly with people. All of these activities can be pursued through medicine, so the transition to medicine later in their personal statement can be seamless.
Q: Does the applicant demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a physician? If so, which ones?
Patient, assumes responsibility, flexible (e.g., “I realized the students weren’t wholly responsible for the disconnect. Perhaps the problem was one of engagement rather than a lack of interest since their focus waned when I started using terminology—like vena cava—that was probably gibberish to them. So, I drew a basic square diagram…”)
Commitment to helping students/people learn and understand (e.g., “prompting my students with questions…,” “My elation was obvious when they remembered it the following week.”)
P: Is the paragraph mostly about the applicant, or other people?
While the applicant discusses others in the introduction (e.g., the 11th graders, Nate, Juanita), there’s no question that they are the primary and most interesting character in the paragraph.
U: Could anyone else have written this paragraph, or is it unique to the applicant?
Although all competitive applicants participate in service work—many within schools—the writer makes this paragraph their own by doing the following:
Including highly specific details about the setting, environment, and students
Describing their thoughts, insights, and emotions whenever possible
D: Does the paragraph cover too much, or is there real depth?
This paragraph is a model of depth. The applicant describes how they taught a single biology lesson during a single class period at a single school. It doesn’t get much more focused than that.
Does my personal statement's introduction paragraph story have to be about an experience during college or beyond?
Not necessarily. That said, if you write your introduction about an earlier-than-college experience, you'll want to quickly transition to your college and post-college years. While medical schools want to learn about your most formative experiences, they really want to know about who you are today.
The applicant effectively uses the second paragraph to provide context, about their early interest in medicine and in mentoring youth. It becomes clear, therefore, why the applicant started off their essay writing about a teaching experience in an 11th-grade classroom.
In addition, the applicant quickly transitions from a non-medical service experience to introduce reasons behind their interest in medicine. For example, the applicant describes how they intend to serve patients and families through the field, as well as scratch their own problem-solving itch to help people.
Another important piece to highlight is how the applicant uses showing vs. telling differently across the first two paragraphs. Whereas the introductory paragraph primarily shows qualities (e.g., “So, I drew a basic square diagram…”), the second paragraph primarily tells (e.g., “Being flexible to discover how to best engage my students…”).
Because the applicant proved their flexibility in the introduction (i.e., by showing it), they can claim to be flexible here (i.e., by telling it). On the other hand, if the applicant called themselves flexible from the outset without providing evidence, they may have come across as arrogant or unobservant.
Beyond describing their early interest in medicine (i.e., “Ever since my middle school robotics days when a surgeon invited us to LAC+USC Medical Center…” there is little demonstration of qualities here. Nevertheless, the goals for this paragraph—transition to medicine, describe at a high level what draws them to medicine, set up later stories about problem solving—are clearly achieved.
The second paragraph highlights hypothetical individuals (e.g., patients and families, specific individuals) to describe the applicant’s medical interests.
Between the early experience observing the da Vinci surgical system and continuing the discussion of Mr. Jackson’s classroom, it would be very difficult for another applicant to convincingly replicate this paragraph.
The applicant certainly covers more experiences here than in the intro, but they do so to bridge the service discussion with the upcoming discussion of medical experiences. Notice also how this paragraph is intentionally kept short. The goal isn’t to get too deep into their middle school experiences, or to do more telling than necessary. Make the transition and move on so you can achieve more depth later.
Does my med school personal statement need to discuss a challenge I experienced?
It’s a common misconception to think that you have to highlight some major adversity to sound impressive. It’s true that some students have experienced greater challenges than others and their process of overcoming those challenges has led them to develop qualities befitting a great doctor. But what matters is your ability to discuss your commitment to becoming a physician and the insights you developed about your place in the medical field via personal and extracurricular experiences.
The third paragraph immediately builds off of the preceding one by letting the reader know that even more fulfilling than satisfying their own curiosity (and problem solving) is providing care to real people. This is a very important disclosure because the reader may be wondering what the applicant’s primary motivation is. As a medical school applicant, you must convey a “people first” attitude.
The applicant then dives right into what sounds like a fascinating research experience that not only results in a publication (to be discussed further in their AMCAS Work and Activities section ), but also leads to actually meeting the patient with the rare genetic condition. The applicant’s approach clearly integrates their passion for research and clinical work.
The paragraph also ends with a strong “hook.” The admissions reader is left wondering how the meeting with the boy and his mother went, so they will continue to read attentively.
Curious and hard-working (e.g., “While researching his dysmorphic features and disabilities, other patients with similar deletions, and the possible genes contributing to his symptoms, I stayed up until 4 AM for several weeks, too engrossed to sleep”)
Accomplished (e.g., “my recent clinical case report, published in Genetics in Medicine .”)
Once again, the applicant does a masterful job of incorporating storytelling and other characters (i.e., the boy and his mother) to convey the qualities that will make them a great doctor. In other words, this paragraph isn’t really about the boy and his mother, but rather how the applicant prepped for their meeting with them.
Between the upcoming meeting with the three-year-old boy and his mother, researching the boy’s genetic condition, and getting published in a specific journal, it’s basically impossible to replicate this paragraph.
The applicant maintains focus on how their interest in service and research can be applied to help real people. They take it one step further by highlighting a specific time when they did just that. There is no additional fluff, tangential information, or competing storylines.
Does my personal statement need to have a "hook"?
The short answer: Yes. But as with most things related to medical school admissions, the answer is more complicated. A "hook" is a sentence or story, typically presented in the opening paragraph, intended to grab the reader's attention. Because adcoms read tons of applications each year, it's important that they're engaged from the start. Otherwise, it's very likely that they will discount the remainder of your personal statement and your odds of getting into their school will drop precipitously. Unfortunately, many medical school applicants go overboard and force a dramatic story in hopes of presenting a hook—a trauma they observed in the ER, an emotional moment with a patient, and so on. The story might be marginally associated with the rest of their essay but will largely be viewed as a cheap way to capture attention. To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with discussing a difficult medical counter, personal difficulty, or any other particular type of story. However, your selection must be associated with the qualities you want to demonstrate across your entire essay and serve as its foundation. In addition, your hook need not be your opening sentence. It could be the entire first paragraph, a cliffhanger at the end of your opening paragraph, or even a second paragraph that was set up by the first. The goal is simply to ensure that you're engaging your reader early and setting the tone for the remainder of your essay.
As soon as I walked into the examination room, I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report. So, despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc. Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties. As the appointment progressed, I observed her gradually relaxing. Rather than feel weighed down by the research findings I was eager to get off my chest, I felt light as well.
The applicant right away begins to describe their meeting with the boy and his mother. We understand that while the applicant was ready to share their research with the family, the mother appears anxious and is more interested in understanding how she can help her son.
It should also be noted that the applicant does not judge the mother in any way and offers supporting evidence for their conclusions about what the mother must’ve been thinking and feeling. For example, rather than just call the mother “anxious,” the applicant first describes how she avoided eye contact and clutched her son tightly.
The applicant once again demonstrates their flexibility by showing how they modified their talking points to fit the family’s needs rather than satisfy their own curiosity and self-interest. Moreover, they highlight not only the approach they took with this family, but also the impact on their care. For example, after discussing how they validated the mother’s care efforts, the applicant mentions how the mother relaxed.
Socially aware (e.g., “I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report.”)
Flexible (e.g., “So despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc.”)
Socially skilled and validating (e.g., “Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties.”)
At first glance, it may appear that this paragraph is as much about the mother as it is about the applicant. After all, the mother procured various services for her son and has done a marvelous job of caring for him.
Nevertheless, the applicant is not competing in any way with the mother. By demonstrating their flexibility and social skills, the applicant reinforces great qualities they’ve demonstrated elsewhere and remains at the top of our minds.
In isolation, perhaps. However, at this point in the personal statement, along with the loads of insights, thoughts, and feelings, there’s no question that this story is unique to the applicant.
This paragraph is another model of depth. The applicant goes into highly specific details about a memorable experience with a specific family. There’s significant showing vs. telling, which continues to maintain the reader’s engagement.
How many people should i ask to review my personal statement.
Typically, we recommend that no matter than two people—people who have experience evaluating med school personal statements—review your essay. Everyone you show your essay to will have an opinion and suggest changes, but trying to appease everyone usually leads to diluting your own voice. And even if your personal statement is great, someone will eventually identify something they perceive to be an issue, which will only exacerbate your anxiety. Two people is a good number because you can receive more than one opinion but avoid the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen.
The final paragraph accomplishes three key goals:
Concluding the story about meeting the boy and his mother;
Bringing the applicant’s insights full circle; and
Restating their interest in medicine while offering a preview of what type of physician they intend to be.
By describing how they built a trusting relationship with the patient and his mother, the applicant deliberately continues the theme of patient-centered care ultimately being more important to them—and to medicine—than underlying pathologies and interestingness of various medical scenarios.
Although the applicant does not circle back to the classroom story in the introduction, they close the loop with the personal statement’s central and most important story. In addition, they end on a high note by mentioning how enthusiastic they are about their medical career.
Trustworthy (e.g., “At the end of the appointment, the mom offered to let me hold her son, who gazed back at me with his bright blue eyes.”)
Insightful (e.g., “Above all, this experience allowed me to recognize that interactions between a patient plus family and their doctor are more than intermediary vehicles to treatment; they are critical and beneficial in their own right.”)
Patient-centered and caring (e.g., “While research is essential and will surely always trigger my curiosity, I want my work to transcend the lab bench. Specifically, I want to continue engaging with patients and helping them through life’s difficult moments—with physical treatment and genuine support.”)
This paragraph is all about the applicant. Even the detail about cradling the boy highlights their earlier efforts in building trust with the family. After this brief conclusion to the story, the applicant explores their own developing insights about the field and how they intend to practice medicine in the future.
In combination with the insights shared in this paragraph, the story and details up to this point round out the personal statement uniquely.
Conclusion paragraphs should summarize insights and information presented earlier in the personal statement. The applicant does a fine job of solidifying their longstanding interest in medicine without adding significant new details, knowing they can cover additional stories throughout their secondary applications and during interviews .
Can you say a little more about how I can write my essay so that it's clear I want to go into medicine and not another health care field?
- A long-term commitment to medically-relevant experiences
- A clear understanding of what medicine entails that other fields don't
At various points while writing your personal statement, you may wonder whether your essay is “good enough.”
The goal of this guide isn’t to allow you to compare your personal statement to the sample we’ve provided. Rather, we want you to have a framework for evaluating your work to ensure that it conveys your outstanding qualities, engages the reader, and describes your authentic journey to medicine.
If you’re like most applicants, you’re worried about choosing a clichéd medical school personal statement topic . You fear that your application may be thrown into the rejection pile if you fail to present yourself in a unique way.
To help you avoid common pitfalls and write a memorable personal statement, we’ve highlighted eight different ways that unique personal statements differ from clichéd ones.
We’ll first describe the clichéd approach and describe why it’s problematic. Then we’ll provide specific writing techniques you can use to make your essay truly stand out.
Clichéd Approach 1: Only discussing experiences that you think make you seem the most impressive.
Most applicants begin writing their essays by choosing the experience(s) that they think will help them stand out to admissions committees. By focusing on specific experiences that applicants think will impress the admissions committee (e.g. clinical shadowing, research, and volunteering), students often forget to demonstrate their unique qualities.
Let’s see how this becomes a problem.
In your AMCAS Work and Activities section, you may have included your experience conducting chemistry research for three years, shadowing in a clinic for two years, volunteering as an English tutor for underserved youth in Chicago for six years, volunteering with a medical mission trip to Haiti for two summers, and serving as president of a premed organization for one year.
Given these choices, most students would choose to write about clinical volunteering in Chicago or their medical mission trip to Haiti because they think these experiences were most impressive. If you take one of these two approaches, you would probably start the essay by describing an interaction with a very ill patient or one with whom you experienced a language barrier.
An essay about clinical shadowing could start something like this:
I used to eat lunch with Felipa on Wednesdays. She was always very nervous when she came in to get her blood drawn, and she liked to speak with me beforehand. Although she was suffering from breast cancer, she had a positive attitude that made the doctors and the nurses feel like one big family. Her positive attitude helped lift the spirits of other patients in the room. Throughout my lunches with Felipa, she would tell me how she still cooked dinner every day for her husband and two young kids. She brought that same compassion to the hospital, always with a contagious smile. I endeavored to give her the best care by offering her water and chatting with her on her chemo days. However, I was always bothered that I could not treat Felipa’s cancer myself. This powerlessness I felt inspired me to pursue medicine to help future patients battle this horrible illness by discovering new treatments.
While we gain some information about the applicant’s motivations to study medicine (e.g., to help future patients…by discovering new treatments ), it explores a common topic (i.e., a realization that came during clinical shadowing) with a typical delivery (i.e., written broadly about interactions with a specific patient).
The paragraph does not do a good job of painting a picture of the applicant, as we don’t learn about her standout qualities or other aspects of her identity.
Moreover, if we replace “Felipa” with another name, it becomes clear that any applicant who engaged in a similar shadowing experience could have written this paragraph. This is not to say that an essay that includes shadowing will always be clichéd. After all, the topic is only one aspect of your personal statement.
Remember, there are no good or bad topics. Rather, there are strong ways—and poor ways—to write about these topics.
Instead of asking if your topic is “good” or “bad,” you should be asking yourself whether your essay has a “typical” or “standout” delivery.
You want your personal statement to be written so engagingly that it serves as a pleasant interruption to the admissions committee member’s routine. Surprise them when they rarely expect to be surprised.
Unique Alternative 1: Demonstrating the qualities that make you distinct by choosing experiences that highlight your best characteristics.
The best personal statement writers decide which qualities they want to emphasize to admissions committees before choosing a certain experience. Then, they focus on a specific event or situation that captures the admissions committees’ attention by telling a detailed story—oftentimes a story that does not overtly involve medicine.
By deciding on your qualities beforehand, you will choose a story that authentically delivers your intended message.
Don’t be afraid to select an experience or story that strays from the typical, “impressive” premed extracurricular activity. After all, med schools want to accept applicants because of their wonderful qualities and unique attributes, not because of a specific experience or extracurricular activity.
Let’s imagine that the same applicant from the previous example chose to write about her community involvement outside of medicine.
From her list of extracurricular activities, she could choose to write about volunteering as an English tutor or being the lead saxophone player in a campus jazz ensemble. By picking one of these options, this student could write an entirely unique personal statement introduction.
Let’s see how an effective essay might begin with her volunteer work as an English tutor:
I could feel the sweat rolling down my back as twenty first graders stared at me. It was July in Chicago, and the building where I volunteered as an English teacher twice a week did not have air conditioning. I had volunteered as a one-on-one tutor for the past six years, but this was my first time teaching a large group. The students, largely from working-class, Spanish-speaking households, reminded me of myself, as I grew up as the daughter of two Mexican emigrants. I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success.
This introduction would likely stand out to an admissions committee member not only because it discusses something other than clinical shadowing but also because it demonstrates the writer’s commitment to her community, and it reveals something about the applicant’s personal background.
Should I mention bad grades in my personal statement?
In most cases, no. With limited characters, your primary goal for your personal statement should be to tell medical school admissions committees why you will be an excellent doctor. Admissions committees will already see your grades. If you use too much space discussing your poor grades during freshman year or some other time, you'll draw even more attention to the red flags on your application and lose a golden opportunity to demonstrate your impressive qualities. One exception is if you received poor grades due to some extraordinary circumstance, such as recovering from a significant accident or illness. Even then, you might want to discuss your poor grades in another section of your application, such as a secondary essay.
Clichéd Approach 2: Listing your qualities and accomplishments like you are explaining your resume.
When many students begin writing their personal statements, they “tell” and don’t “show”.
Even though the advice to “show, don’t tell” is commonly given, students rarely know what it actually means to demonstrate or “show” their qualities rather than simply listing them.
We’ll provide an overly simple example to highlight why “telling” your qualities is such a problem:
Ever since I was a kid, I have received excellent grades and have excelled at all things related to science. My success in conducting chemistry research and my numerous presentations at biochemistry conferences is testament to my ability to succeed as a doctor. In fact, my family and friends have encouraged me to pursue this route because of my academic success.
While we learn that the applicant thinks that he is a great student who is excellent at science, and we learn that his family believes that he should pursue medicine because of his academic success, we do not actually see any evidence of these qualities. Sure, he tells us that his family thinks that he is brilliant, but we do not know why they think he is brilliant.
Unique Alternative 2: Showing, and not telling, the applicant’s qualities.
When you demonstrate your best qualities through examples, you provide a more authentic glimpse about the type of person you really are.
For instance, if you read the following sentences from two different applicants, who would you think was more caring?
Applicant 1: I am very empathic.
Applicant 2: Volunteering with elderly Japanese women has taught me how aging immigrants face cultural barriers while also navigating health problems, from diabetes to cancer.
Even though Applicant 1 says that they are empathic, you probably picked Applicant 2, even though she never uses the word “empathic” (or a synonym) in her sentence. As the reader, you were able to extrapolate how empathic that applicant is by seeing what they do.
Returning to the introductory paragraph with Felipa from example 1, we can see that the typical introduction “tells” about the applicant’s qualities, whereas the standout paragraph “shows” the applicant’s qualities. Let’s look at some examples to clarify:
I endeavored to give her the best care… (giving)
This powerlessness I felt inspired me to pursue medicine to help future patients… (inspired)
I had volunteered as one-on-one tutor for the past six years, but this was my first time teaching a large group. (dedicated, risk-taking)
I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success (giving, empowering, empathetic)
Is it OK to discuss a mental health condition in my med school personal statement?
You might have heard that, given the stigma surrounding many mental health conditions, that you should avoid discussing them in your personal statement, no matter what. However, as with many things related to med school essays, the answer depends on the specific condition, severity, and reason behind sharing it. Certain conditions have more stigma associated with them than others and are therefore more difficult to sensitively incorporate in your personal statement. But regardless of your specific mental health condition or its severity, it’s important to ask yourself why you would share it. For instance, if the primary reason for sharing your mental health condition is to show adcoms how much adversity you have overcome, then you should probably leave out your condition or reconsider why you would share it. However, if your reason is to describe the insights you developed about people and about medicine, or how your condition served as a springboard for you to pursue certain activities, then it might be worthwhile to share. Writing about mental health conditions in your personal statement should be approached delicately, so make sure to work with someone who has experience doing so.
Clichéd Approach 3: Stating that you want to be a physician to help people or talking about how being a doctor is such an honor.
When you ask medical school applicants why they want to be a doctor, they usually say that they want to help people. While you should include this fact in your personal statement, it can be difficult to articulate why you want to help people or how you will help them in a way that is not clichéd.
Most applicants will probably write some version of the following in their personal statement:
I want to be a physician because I want to help people who are sick. It would be an honor to serve people in need.
The problem with these statements is that any applicant could have written them. Every doctor wants to help patients who are sick or in need.
Failing to offer a specific reason for your motivation to become a doctor or a specific way in which you plan to help your patients will make it hard for the admissions committee to see what unique approaches and insights you will bring to medicine.
Unique Alternative 3: Explaining specific ways that you intend to help patients or specific reasons why you want to help patients.
To make your statement more convincing, you could add a specific method that you will use to help patients. Consider the following example:
I want to become a physician to provide reassurance to a patient awaiting their lab results, and laughter to a patient who needs an uplift after a week of chemotherapy.
Whereas any medical school applicant could have written the statement in the clichéd example, the statement in the unique example demonstrates specific qualities about the applicant. By explaining that certain patients might need reassurance while others might want laughter, the applicant shows us that they are empathic and sensitive to the needs of individual patients.
To make your statement more authentic, you can also explain why you are drawn to a specific aspect of medicine or a certain demographic of patients. Let’s look at another example:
As a woman with PCOS, I want to improve the field of women’s health so that I can provide other young women comfort and reassurance as they come to terms with their bodies.
This applicant shows that she is passionate about women’s health by connecting her desire to enter medicine to her own health condition. This statement suggests that she will use her own experience to empathize with patients when she becomes a physician.
Should I mention my desired specialty in my med school personal statement?
Probably not. Admissions committees want to recruit students who are incredibly curious and open to different training opportunities. Highlighting a desire to enter a specific specialty might make you seem closed off. That said, it's perfectly fine to express a commitment to serving certain communities or a desire to address specific issues so long as you don't inadvertently box yourself in.
Clichéd Approach 4: Focusing too much on characters who are not you.
The previous two approaches focus on how your personal statement introduction should tell a story. And what do we need for a great story? A character!
Applicants often make another character (e.g. a family member, patient, a physician they shadowed or worked under) the most compelling and interesting character. But when you give or share the limelight with another character, you make it easy for the admissions committee to forget the most important person in the story: YOU. You should be the star of your own personal statement.
We are not saying that you should avoid including another character in your personal statement. In fact, including other characters in your statement reminds the admission committee that you have had a positive impact on other people.
However, these other characters must be used to demonstrate your qualities. These qualities can come from an insight you had while interacting or observing them.
We see how this becomes a problem in the clichéd paragraph from example 1. Felipa and the applicant are both main characters. Indeed, we don’t even read about the applicant or their insights until the seventh sentence. Who knows? Admissions committees might even offer Felipa an interview instead of you.
Unique Alternative 4: Maintaining the focus on the main character—you!
In contrast, the unique paragraph from example 1 about the English tutor in Chicago tells us about the applicant’s passions, commitments, and initiative. Let’s revisit the example:
I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success.
Even though she writes about tutoring first-grade students in Chicago, their role in the story is to highlight how she is dedicated to helping her community and empowering students from backgrounds like hers. The students never get in the way of us learning about the applicant.
Now, you may be worried that focusing on you and your qualities will make you come off as arrogant or cocky to the admissions committee. By letting the stories do the talking for you, your personal statement will avoid making you appear egoistical. On the other hand, saying that you are a “good person” or “brilliant” without telling a story can make you seem arrogant.
With only 5,300 characters, you should aim to keep the emphasis almost entirely on you.
Clichéd Approach 5: Focusing too much on describing the activity itself.
Many applicants will write about clinical shadowing, volunteering, or research at some point in their personal statements. Sometimes, however, applicants are so excited by the activity that they forget to include themselves in the experience.
For instance, an applicant looking to highlight their work in a prestigious lab might write:
Working in Dr. Carpenter’s lab, an endowed professor at Harvard Medical School, was exhilarating. The main research project was an experiment that explored how rats responded to various stimulant medications. Our results demonstrated that one of the drugs we tested on the rats may have significant promise for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
While this paragraph demonstrates the student’s familiarity with and excitement about original research, it does not tell us much about the applicant’s specific characteristics or contributions. We learn about the research project in Dr. Carpenter’s lab, but we don’t know what qualities or insights the applicant has gained from conducting the research.
Unique Alternative 5: Unique statements explain how you made an impact through an activity and how the activity impacted you.
While you may think that highlighting a research experience with a famous doctor or in a prestigious lab will bolster your application, writing about it in your personal statement may actually harm you if you do not highlight your own accomplishments and traits.
Focus on activities where you had an impact, even if the activity itself does not seem impressive. Consider the following examples:
Applicant 1: While working in Dr. Smith’s lab, I managed five interns. To make the lab a more congenial environment, I started a weekly lunch hour where we could all discuss our different research projects. This opportunity gave the interns more confidence to talk about their individual lab work, which made it easier for the entire research staff to collaborate on different experiments.
Applicant 2: Working in Dr. Martin’s lab with five other interns taught me the importance of serving on a team. When one of our experiments failed, I made sure that the group met to discuss the results. I offered advice to my lab mates on how they could obtain better results on the next trial. This experience taught me the importance of learning new research methods from my peers to achieve the best results possible.
We do not know whether Applicant 1 or Applicant 2 are working in prestigious labs or with prestigious PIs. However, we do learn that Applicant 1 has shown leadership skills and initiative by working to make the lab a more collaborative space.
Similarly, even though Applicant 2 highlights her lab’s failures, we nevertheless discover that she is a team player, eager to learn from her fellow researchers, and does not let failure stop her. She sounds like someone you might want to have in your medical school study group.
I feel like I don’t have enough space to write everything I want. What should I do?
You shouldn't try to fit everything into your personal statement. In fact, if you try to cover everything within the 5,300-character limit, you'll end up covering nothing well. Remember that your complete application includes multiple written sections: your personal statement, Work and Activities section, and secondary application essays. You should aim to provide admissions committees with a holistic view of who you are across your entire application, not solely through your personal statement. Your personal statement should be used to offer a bird's eye view of who you are and your path to medicine, whereas your AMCAS Work and Activities section and secondary essays should cover the finer details.
Clichéd Approach 6: Articulating an idea without explaining how it relates to your qualities or insights.
Even when some applicants pick unusual topics, they forget to relate those experiences to why they want to be a doctor. Consider the following applicant who has a passion for running.
Applicant 1: I am passionate about running and encouraging others to run because it is good for everyone’s health. That is why I have spent years running marathons and coaching cross country in my free time.
While the applicant says that he is excited about running because it is “good for everyone’s health,” we do not exactly see what the applicant means. Most people believe that exercise is good for your health already, so this applicant would need to explain why he believes running is important, and how his passion for running relates to medicine.
Unique Alternative 6: Explaining your thought process, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities.
When you make an obvious claim (e.g., exercise is good for your health), you should explain why you personally believe this. By drawing on specific evidence and observations, you can show the admissions committee what unique and specific insights you have about a so-called obvious idea.
Applicant 2: After my sister started to run, she began to lose weight. I also noticed that her depression waned and that she regained energy, which manifested in her eagerness to socialize with family and friends. While I always knew that exercise was important, I never believed that it could entirely change a person. This experience led me to believe that exercising can serve as a form of medicine.
Whereas Applicant 1 makes a general claim about running, Applicant 2 draws on a specific, personal example by connecting his sister’s running habit to her holistic health. He mentions her weight loss, improvements in mental health, and increase in energy. In other words, we see why the applicant believes that running provides a health benefit.
Clichéd Approach 7: Writing an overly dramatic first sentence.
Recalling writing courses from high school and college, applicants often try to “hook” the reader’s attention by beginning with a dramatic first sentence. Because of this, applicants sometimes begin their essays with a dramatic moment that fails to offer insight into the applicant’s motivations for studying medicine.
Let’s look at the following first sentence by an applicant who worked in the ER.
It felt as if the world was going to end on that faithful day in the ER when I first witnessed someone die.
This introduction is typical of students writing about clinical shadowing. Rather than showing how he is unique, this statement simply demonstrates that the applicant has had a challenging experience during clinical shadowing.
Unique Alternative 7: Introducing your personal statement with a unique observation or idea that you will further develop in subsequent paragraphs.
Instead of dramatizing or hyperbolizing an experience, you can make your introduction truly unique by making a claim about an idea, insight, or observation that tells the admissions committee why you are excited by medicine. Let’s see how the applicant who wrote about running in example 6 might begin their statement in this way:
For my sister and me, running is a form of medicine.
Even though this example is not as dramatic as the previous one, it catches the reader’s attention by making a unique claim that the reader will want to know more about. The reader will see that the applicant is thinking critically and creatively about what medicine means to him.
Clichéd Approach 8: Writing about various experiences without showing how they are connected.
Even when applicants have thoughtfully selected a few experiences that demonstrate their personal qualities, they sometimes fail to create a “bigger picture” in their personal statement and, consequently, in their entire medical school application. In other words, the experiences described in their essay do not connect or cohere around a central theme.
A personal statement without a theme will come across as unfocused and, most likely, unmemorable. Even if each section of your essay is well-written, if they don’t together add up to highlight something larger, admissions officers will be left without a clear takeaway of who you are and what your goals and motivations are for entering medicine.
Unique Alternative 8: Connecting the experiences in your essay through a common theme.
A theme will serve as the connective tissue that holds everything in your personal statement together. What’s more, it provides a lens through which adcoms will remember you.
For example, if your personal statement discusses playing jazz saxophone, volunteering with children at a community garden, and scribing in an emergency room, you might begin by writing about how studying jazz taught you the value of improvisation, a quality you then brought to the fore while volunteering with children and working as an ER scribe. With a central theme of improvisation, your essay will provide a clear takeaway of you as flexible, adaptable, and creative (i.e., the qualities you decided to highlight).
Alternatively, some applicants choose more concrete themes that focus their essays around a central interest. For instance, perhaps your personal statement describes growing up in a rural community without access to adequate primary care, which led you to eventually volunteer with a mobile clinic for agricultural workers and intern in the public health department of your state. You’ll likely be remembered as “the applicant who’s passionate about improving rural health.”
Just as your personal statement is the foundation of your medical school application, your theme is the foundation of your personal statement. Therefore, it’s important that your personal statement’s theme is reflected throughout your medical school application, including in your Work and Activities section and secondary essays.
Clichéd Approach 9: Moving abruptly from one section of your personal statement to the next.
A theme isn’t the only tool that’s important for connecting the different components of your personal statement; you also want to ensure that you’re using effective transition sentences when moving from one idea to the next.
You can think of theme as the macro glue and transitions as the micro glue that make your personal statement cohere. Without smooth transitions, your personal statement will come across as choppy and your ideas may appear unlinked, making your theme seem illogical or unclear.
Unique Alternative 9: Using effective transitions to smoothly link different experiences and ideas.
There are a number of ways to transition from one experience or idea to the next. Here are a few, along with examples of transitional phrases that can help you build bridges between different parts of your personal statement:
You can show logical consequence or how one event led to another (e.g., “As a result,” “For this reason,” “Therefore”)
You can describe experiences in chronological order (e.g., “Next,” “Since then,” “After”)
You can point out the similarity between two things (e.g., “Similarly,” “Additionally,” “Furthermore”)
You can highlight the contrast between two things (e.g., “Even though,” “Despite,” “However”)
You can give an example (“For instance,” “By doing X,” “When I embarked on Y”)
However (no pun intended!), it isn’t strictly necessary to use transitional phrases or sentences between every section of your personal statement. Sometimes, the logic between ideas will be obvious through simple description, and excessive transitions may get in the way of smoothness and flow.
To learn more, we recommend this resource on transitions from the University of Wisconsin.
When should I aim to have my personal statement finalized by?
We recommend having a final version of your personal statement completed by May 15 of your application year so you can take full advantage of the rolling admissions process. To learn more about writing and submission deadlines, you’re encouraged you to review the ideal medical school application timeline .
Clichéd Approach 10: Writing in a way that can be replicated by other applicants.
Admissions committees are eager to learn about what makes you distinct from your peers, why you want to pursue a career as a physician, and what you will contribute to their school and the larger medical community.
If your personal statement reads like a completely different applicant could have written it, admissions committees will struggle to differentiate you from your competition.
Our earlier example of the applicant who describes her shadowing experience with Felipa does not offer any information specific to her. We do not learn about her physical appearance, town of origin, culture, country of origin, hometown, etc. There simply are not enough details or unique insights that paint a portrait of the applicant.
Unique Alternative 10: Writing a personal statement that could have only been written by you.
At any point while writing the draft of your personal statement, asks yourself whether another applicant could have written it. If the answer is “yes,” you have two options:
You can return to the first few paragraphs of your essay and add distinct details about yourself, such as your town of origin, physical appearance, etc., to help the reader visualize who you are better.
Start over. If you find that it is too difficult to add details about your life story and standout qualities in your original essay, then you may need to start over by including different stories and experiences that show how you are unique.
Let’s look at how you might revise a clichéd sentence to come across as more unique:
Applicant 1: I developed a passion for helping people by volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Applicant 2: Growing up in rural Idaho, I had no idea how many people in my community lived in poverty until I started to volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
Whereas any applicant who has volunteered at a soup kitchen could have written the first sentence, only someone who grew up in rural Idaho could have written the second sentence.
As a bonus, the second statement also shows us a realization that the applicant has about her hometown, which suggests that she is thinking critically about her environment.
In your essay, you can include several unique details, including state of origin, country of origin, religion, hobbies, studies and research outside of medicine, creative pursuits, family’s culture, physical appearance, health history, special talents, language abilities, etc. Admissions committees look for candidates that can bring unique insights and different perspectives to their programs.
While certain details can help paint a meaningful portrait of you, it is important to remember that the personal statement is not a work of creative writing.
For example, including details about the color of your shirt and the type of shoe you were wearing may help make the story in your personal statement more vivid, but these details fail to offer insights about your unique qualities or your life experiences. Admissions committees will be interested by your unique traits, not the look of your clothes.
How can I know when my personal statement is ready to submit?
- It highlights your great qualities;
- It clearly describes your path to medicine—or discusses experiences that led you to develop key insights about the field;
- It tells the actually story of your desire to become a physician and not what you believe someone wants to hear;
- It is highly personal and could have only been written by you; and
- It is devoid of spelling or grammatical errors.
By following these instructions on how to avoid clichés, you can write a memorable personal statement that stands out to admissions committees.
Whereas writing a clichéd personal statement will likely cause your application to end up in the rejection pile, crafting an authentic, unique personal statement will help lead you to your white coat ceremony.
About the Author
Dr. Shirag Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's foremost experts on medical school admissions. For nearly 20 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into medical school using his exclusive approach.
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I partly grew up in Bangkok, a city in which there are more shopping malls than there are psychiatrists. I did this math as soon as I found out that my older sister had attempted suicide outside of a shopping mall. The stigmatization of mental illness is still widespread in Thailand and as a result, the hospital and my family treated her case as anything but an attempt on her own life. At the time, I was reading “The Yellow Wall Paper” in school, a story about inadequately treated postpartum depression in the 1890s. I saw parallels, as my sister had begun to look gray after the birth of her daughter. I repeatedly voiced my concerns, but no one listened to me. No one was addressing her health from a broader perspective, and as a result, she was left to fend for her own mental health. She was powerless, and I felt powerless too.
This blindness for mental wellbeing in my society confounded me, so I chose to study it further at UT Austin. When I began working at the Dell Seton Medical Center, however, my idealism about patient-centered care was quickly put to the test when I was regarded with cynicism due to my own identity. One afternoon, a diabetic patient approached me for assistance in applying for food stamps. Although he was visibly in discomfort, he refused the chair I pulled out for him. While we gathered information, he gruffly asked me where I was from. “America,” I answered. Unsatisfied with my answer, he repeated his question eight more times until I caved and answered with my ethnicity. Following this, he grew impatient and kept insisting he could complete the process with another shift. But I knew arranging transport would be difficult and costly. Determined to turn the interaction around, I soldiered on with the application process. I discovered that he had a daughter, and I asked about her interests. He grew animated as he talked lovingly about her, and I completed my work. Commuting home in the dark, I beamed; I was able to build rapport and assist someone who did not initially believe in me.
I strove to supplement my education with parallel experiences in research and volunteer work. In a course about stigma and prejudice, I discovered that minority status was a marker for increased IL-6 inflammation, and that individuals primed with stereotypes about race, sex, or disease suffer greatly, but often invisibly. Walking out of lecture, I planned out how I could implement these findings in my own work. During data collection for a community sleep study, I applied my renewed perspective on the phone with a participant. I sensed exasperation in her voice, so I sincerely thanked her for her time. Suddenly, she began to wail into the phone. As her personal story unraveled, I found out that experiences of racial discrimination had breached every area of her life, including her healthcare—as a result, she felt alienated and left with inadequate treatment. When she expressed thoughts of suicide, I began to panic. But I kept my voice composed, reinforced her resilience, and gained a verbal confirmation that we would speak the next day. The disempowering marginalization she felt mirrored my sister’s situation years ago. But this time, I was equipped with my education.
The more I learned about the social determinants of health, the clearer it became that healthcare was inherently social. This solidified my interest in medicine and motivated me to pursue research in social psychology. As I trained on how to code facial expressions for my honors thesis, I shadowed Dr. Sekhon, a geriatric psychiatrist, at an assisted living facility. One of his patients was an injured former athlete who was having trouble standing. His wife held back tears as he grimaced and repeatedly referred to “passing on.” Dr. Sekhon studied his patients’ face intently, and then, instead of altering medications or suggesting tests, he encouraged his patient to stand for 10 seconds longer each day. There was a shift in the room, and I could measure it by the expressions on their faces. The man’s eyes wrinkled in a genuine smile and his wife’s enthusiastic agreement reflected Dr. Sekhon’s success. The way a physician could read facial expressions to address what the patient did not verbalize was incredibly powerful—I was awestruck.
Inspired by this observation, I wrote my honors thesis on the relationship between power and health outcomes. Experiences of disempowerment and of illness magnify one another, but a doctor can empower someone in their most vulnerable moments by connecting with them. Much like my sister, many patients need clinicians that address both physical and invisible hardships. I am eager to be part of a new generation of healthcare providers with sensitivity to the diverse ways that people communicate distress and wellbeing. One patient at a time, we can shift archaic mindsets deeply rooted in our communities, and ensure that every life we touch receives socially and culturally competent care. For me, studying medicine means being part of something bigger by empowering others—and myself—along the way.
Paragraph 1 Analysis
The applicant begins their essay by immediately (and effectively) putting their unique upbringing in conversation with their family-inspired interest in medicine. Even though they do not say anything directly about an interest in medicine in this paragraph, we can see that the applicant is clearly passionate about doing the right thing, and about helping people in general. We can also see that they are aware of a gap that needs filling and a stigma that needs addressing.
Thoughtful/empathetic/high moral principles - Despite cultural resistance to mental healthcare, the applicant understands the value of protecting one’s mental wellbeing, and that it is an essential aspect of a healthy life. They take the initiative to listen to their sister, to carefully watch for signs of illness, and to advocate for her even in the face of a society pushing against them.
The paragraph is about how much the applicant cares for their sister, and that makes it personal. Even though the sister is a huge part of this paragraph, and even though Bangkok itself almost reads like a character on its own, the applicant’s careful reflections connect all of these outside sources to who they are and what they value.
The geographical, cultural, and familial details make this paragraph unique. Also notice how the applicant is able to discuss their sister’s suicide attempt without it feeling appropriative or self-serving, since they connect the trauma to a larger cultural issue that the applicant wants to address.
Even in the first paragraph, there is depth that will be fleshed out in the rest of the essay: The applicant sees something wrong in their culture, and is determined to fix it. The applicant is also showing an awareness of just how complicated and imperfect the healthcare system can be, demonstrating a perspective that is nuanced, mature, and compelling.
Paragraph 2 Analysis
Notice how the applicant takes the essay in a different direction than we expected after reading the first paragraph. We move from an anecdote about their sister nearly committing suicide to a seemingly unrelated anecdote about a prejudiced patient. The connecting thread between these two stories, of course, is the applicant. Their reflections on and reactions to both situations highlight their character, which is what the personal statement is all about. We also see another take on how it feels to encounter someone’s resistance to your own voice and perspective, just as the applicant encountered resistance in the face of their efforts to advocate for their sister.
Gumptious/perseverant - Most people would have a hard time helping the patient described in the above paragraph. Prejudiced, unkind, and ungrateful, he seems like a nightmare to work with. And yet the applicant shows us that, despite his rude, racist behavior, they remained strong, patient, and helpful, turning the situation into something more positive for both of them. This ability to face adversity and overcome it is a very desirable quality for any physician to possess. It also shows that the applicant knows how to adapt and problem solve in a high stress situation, putting the needs of the patient before their own, albeit justified, frustration.
As always, although the paragraph tells us the story of a particular patient, it is truly about the applicant’s interaction with that patient.
The specificity of this story makes it utterly unique to the applicant. Also, the applicant is demonstrating a nuanced and unique ability to transition between seemingly disparate experiences in paragraph one versus two.
The depth of this paragraph is rooted in the qualities it highlights in the applicant, as outlined above. As such, the strategy here is doubly effective: Not only are we reading an engaging moment of narrative, we’re also gaining some insight into why this was particularly meaningful for the patient.
Paragraph 3 Analysis
The process of personal growth. This essay does a fantastic job of highlighting the applicant’s personal growth through potent anecdotes and life experiences. This allows the applicant to show how they've changed and brings the personal statement to life. Notice how they set this up in the first paragraph when writing about their sister’s mental health. “She was powerless, and I felt powerless, too.” Later, when the applicant speaks to a patient over the phone and realizes the “disempowering marginalization” she felt, they remark, “But this time, I was equipped with my education.” Adcoms realize that the path to an MD doesn’t start and end at clearly defined points. The process of “becoming” a doctor is a road you will travel even after you’ve earned your white coat. Learning will continue as you grow in your career. You may not have a story of discrimination to tell, but we’ve all experienced moments of personal growth. Positively highlighting your growth is a great way to show your resilience and determination to succeed in medicine.
After detouring from the first paragraph’s anecdote to share with us the prejudice they’ve experienced directly, the applicant returns to the story of their sister’s attempted suicide, but this time the story has a comparative function. By juxtaposing the helplessness they felt in regards to their sister with the empowering experience on the phone, we can see that the applicant has not only grown, they’ve also shown real initiative in taking on a societal problem head on.
Determined/collected/resilient - Despite the emotional impact of being reminded of their sister’s near-death, the applicant pushes forward, collecting themselves and utilizing their education to make a real impact.
Empathetic - The applicant is able to stay calm in a high stakes situation because they are unconditionally empathetic towards the caller.
The paragraph is about the applicant’s genuine desire to help other people. We see a real passion in their desire to make an impact in regards to high-stakes issues, which allows us to get to know who they are not only as a potential physician, but as an advocate as well.
The connection to the first paragraph makes this paragraph unique both narratively and structurally.
The depth of this paragraph can be seen in its comparison to the first paragraph. Where the applicant initially felt powerless in the face of suicide, now they have matured and become better equipped to tackle such a high-stakes situation.
Paragraph 4 Analysis
The applicant provides us with three important details in this paragraph: First, that they trained to code facial expressions, second, that they shadowed Dr. Sekhon, and third, that they were inspired by the shadowing experience. Notice how their education immediately comes into play in discussing the expressions on the patients, and how the interest in the depth of facial complexity speaks both to their interest in mental health and their empathy.
Observant - Although an important aspect of your pre-med career, shadowing is sometimes a difficult experience to write about, for obvious reasons. What about the experience is interesting, if you were merely a shadow? How do you personalize work that nearly every applicant is going to have done? This applicant makes themselves stand out by telling the story of Dr. Sekhon and the retired athlete in such detail that they are indirectly showing us how careful and observant they are.
Although the narrative in this paragraph is entirely focused on other people, the thematic core belongs to the applicant, because the paragraph is about their observation of and reaction to this incident, more so than the incident itself.
The details of this office visit, combined with the hard skills the applicant is displaying and the awareness of a physician whose values they will want to embrace in their own way, make this paragraph unique.
This paragraph has depth in an indirect sense—the way the applicant was inspired is the most important point that the writing gets across.
Paragraph 5 Analysis
To conclude their essay, the applicant employs a tried and true formula: connecting the introduction to the conclusion. By reintroducing their sister into the narrative, we as readers come full circle. We remember where the applicant began, what influenced them, and how they have evolved over the course of their life, an evolution mirrored in the way the essay itself has developed.
Ambitious - This applicant has big dreams. They want to make an authentic change in the healthcare system, and since we’ve seen them mature throughout the essay, we believe that they’re capable of enacting such changes. Since they outlined this desire to make change from the very beginning, we also get a sense of how enduring and consistent it truly is, furthering our respect for the applicant’s goals.
Humble/social - Despite their ambition, the applicant is clearly aware that in order to make a real change, they will have to team up with others.
This concluding paragraph is quite clearly all about the applicant—their goals, ambitions, and values.
Although some of the sentences are broad, the paragraph remains unique due to the references to the sister, as well as the details about the applicant’s honors thesis. Connecting broad goals with specific details helps this conclusion feel more concrete, and less generalized and abstract.
The depth here is in what the applicant tells us directly, speaking to their desire as reiterated throughout the essay: “We can shift archaic mindsets deeply rooted in our communities, and ensure that every life we touch receives socially and culturally competent care.”
Great Medical School Personal Statement Examples (2023-2024) Insider’s Guide
A physician and former medical school admissions officer teaches you how to write your medical school personal statement, step by step. Read several full-length medical school personal statement examples for inspiration.
In this article, a former medical school admissions officer explains exactly how to write a stand-out medical school personal statement!
This guide also includes:
- Real life medical school personal statement examples
- Medical school personal statement inventory template and outline exercise
- AMCAS, TMDSAS, and AACOMAS personal statement prompts
- Advanced strategies to ensure you address everything admissions committees want to know
So, if you want your medical school personal statement to earn you more more medical school interviews, you will love this informative guide.
Let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
Medical School Personal Statement Fundamentals
If you are getting ready to write your medical school personal statement for the 2023-2024 application year, you may already know that almost 60% of medical school applicants are not accepted every year . You have most likely also completed all of your medical school requirements and have scoured the internet for worthy medical school personal statement examples and guidance.
You know the medical school personal statement offers a crucial opportunity to show medical schools who you are beyond your GPA and MCAT score . It also provides an opportunity to express who you are as an individual, the major influences and background that have shaped your interests and values, what inspired you to pursue medicine, and what kind of a physician you envision yourself becoming.
However, with so much information online, you are not sure who to trust. We are happy you have found us!
Because the vast majority of people offering guidance are not former admissions officers or doctors, you must be careful when searching online. Since we are real medical school admissions insiders, we know what goes on behind closed doors and how to ensure your medical school personal statement has broad appeal while highlighting your most crucial accomplishments, perspectives, and insights.
With tight limits on space, it can be tough trying to decide what to include in your medical school personal statement to make sure you stand out. You must think strategically about how you want to present your personal “big picture” while showing you possess the preprofessional competencies med schools are seeking.
When a medical school admissions reviewer finishes reading your medical school personal statement, what are the most important things you want that person to remember about you? Does it sum up your personality, interests, and talents? Does it sound as if it’s written from the heart?
It’s pretty obvious to most admissions reviewers when applicants are trying too hard to impress them. Being authentic and upfront about who you are is the best way to be a memorable applicant.
MedEdits students have done extremely well in the most recent medical school admissions cycle. Many of these applicants have below average “stats” for the medical schools from which they are receiving interviews and acceptances. Why? How is that possible? They all have a few things in common:
- They write a narrative that is authentic and distinctive to them.
- They write a medical school personal statement with broad appeal (many different types of people will be evaluating your application).
- They don’t try too hard to impress; instead they write about the most impactful experiences they have had on their path to medical school.
- They demonstrate they are humble, intellectual, compassionate, and committed to a career in medicine all at the same time.
Keep reading for a step by step approach to write your medical school personal statement.
“After sitting on a medical school admissions committee for many years, I can tell you, think strategically about how you want to present your personal “big picture.” We want to know who you are as a human being.”
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As physicians, former medical school faculty, and medical school admissions committee members, this article will offer a step by step guide to simplify the medical school personal statement brainstorming and writing process.
By following the proven strategies outlined in this article, you will be and to write a personal statement that will earn you more medical school interviews . This proven approach has helped hundreds of medical school applicants get in to medical school the first time they apply!
Learn the 2023 Medical School Personal Statement Prompts ( AMCAS , TMDSAS , AACOMAS )
The personal statement is the major essay portion of your primary application process. In it, you should describe yourself and your background, as well as any important early exposures to medicine, how and why medicine first piqued your interest, what you have done as a pre med, your personal experiences, and how you became increasingly fascinated with it. It’s also key to explain why medicine is the right career for you, in terms of both personal and intellectual fulfillment, and to show your commitment has continued to deepen as you learned more about the field.
The personal statement also offers you the opportunity to express who you are outside of medicine. What are your other interests? Where did you grow up? What did you enjoy about college? Figuring out what aspects of your background to highlight is important since this is one of your only chances to express to the med school admissions committee before your interview what is important to you and why.
However, it is important to consider the actual personal statement prompt for each system through which you will apply, AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS, since each is slightly different.
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2023 AMCAS Personal Statement Prompt
The AMCAS personal statement instructions are as follows:
Use the Personal Comments Essay as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Consider and write your Personal Comments Essay carefully; many admissions committees place significant weight on the essay. Here are some questions that you may want to consider while writing the essay:
- Why have you selected the field of medicine?
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?
In addition, you may wish to include information such as:
- Unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
- Comments on significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application
As you can see, these prompts are not vague; there are fundamental questions that admissions committees want you to answer when writing your personal statement. While the content of your statement should be focused on medicine, answering the open ended third question is a bit trickier.
The AMCAS personal statement length is 5,300 characters with spaces maximum.
2023 TMDSAS Personal Statement Prompt
The TMDSAS personal statement is one of the most important pieces of your medical school application.
The TMDSAS personal statement prompt is as follows:
Explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. Be sure to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.
This TMDSAS prompt is very similar to the AMCAS personal statement prompt. The TMDSAS personal statement length is 5,000 characters with spaces whereas the AMCAS personal statement length is 5,300 characters with spaces. Most students use the same essay (with very minor modifications, if necessary) for both application systems.
You’ve been working hard on your med school application, reading medical school personal statement examples, editing, revising, editing and revising. Make sure you know where you’re sending your personal statement and application. Watch this important medical school admissions statistics video.
2023 AACOMAS Personal Statement Prompt
The AACOMAS personal statement is for osteopathic medical schools specifically. As with the AMCAS statement, you need to lay out your journey to medicine as chronologically as possible in 5,300 characters with spaces or less. So you essentially have the same story map as for an AMCAS statement. Most important, you must show you are interested in osteopathy specifically. Therefore, when trying to decide what to include or leave out, prioritize any osteopathy experiences you have had, or those that are in line with the osteopathic philosophy of the mind-body connection, the body as self-healing, and other tenets.
Medical School Application Timeline and When to Write your Personal Statement
If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, do not assume your osteopathic essay should be the same as your AMCAS essay, with one osteopathy sentence thrown in for good measure. They are really entirely different animals, and it can be easy to spot an allopathic statement in osteopathic clothing. A top-notch AACOMAS personal statement will focus on osteopathy from start to finish. In writing your essay, it’s crucial to show you have a solid grasp of what osteopathic medicine is and how it differs from allopathic medicine, in its approach to treatment and patients. And carry those ideas all the way through the statement. There are some personal statements that can “fit” for both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools depending in your interests.
There are some personal statements that can “fit” for both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools depending in your interests.
Know the Required Medical School Personal Statement Length
Below are the medical schools personal statement length limits for each application system. As you can see, they are all very similar. When you start brainstorming and writing your personal statement, keep these limits in mind.
AMCAS Personal Statement Length : 5,300 characters with spaces.
As per the AAMC website : “The available space for this essay is 5,300 characters (spaces are counted as characters), or approximately one page. You will receive an error message if you exceed the available space.”
AACOMAS Personal Statement Length : 5,300 characters with spaces
TMDSAS Personal Statement Length : 5,000 characters with spaces
As per the TMDSAS Website (Page 36): “The personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. You are asked to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician. The essay is limited to 5000 characters, including spaces.”
Demonstrate Required Preprofessional Competencies
Next, your want to be aware of the nine preprofessional core competencies as outlined by the Association of American Medical Colleges . Medical school admissions committees want to see, as evidenced by your medical school personal statement and application, that you possess these qualities and characteristics. Now, don’t worry, medical school admissions committees don’t expect you to demonstrate all of them, but, you should demonstrate some.
- Service Orientation
- Social Skills
- Cultural Competence
- Oral Communication
- Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
- Reliability and Dependability
- Resilience and Adaptability
- Capacity for Improvement
In your personal statement, you might be able to also demonstrate the four thinking and reasoning competencies:
- Critical Thinking
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Written Communication
- Scientific Inquiry
So, let’s think about how to address the personal statement prompts in a slightly different way while ensuring you demonstrate the preprofessional competencies. When writing your personal statement, be sure it answers the four questions that follow and you will “hit” most of the core competencies listed above.
1. What have you done that supports your interest in becoming a doctor?
I always advise applicants to practice “evidence based admissions.” The reader of your essay wants to see the “evidence” that you have done what is necessary to understand the practice of medicine. This includes clinical exposure, research, and community service, among other activities.
2. Why do you want to be a doctor?
This may seem pretty basic – and it is – but admissions officers need to know WHY you want to practice medicine. Many applicants make the mistake of simply listing what they have done without offering insights about those experiences that answer the question, “Why medicine?” Your reasons for wanting to be a doctor may overlap with those of other applicants. This is okay because the experiences in which you participated, the stories you can tell about those experiences, and the wisdom you gained are completely distinct—because they are only yours.
“In admissions committee meetings we were always interested in WHY you wanted to earn a medical degree and how you would contribute to the medical school community.”
Medical school admissions committees want to know that you have explored your interest deeply and that you can reflect on the significance of these clinical experiences and volunteer work. But writing only that you “want to help people” does not support a sincere desire to become a physician; you must indicate why the medical profession in particular—rather than social work, teaching, or another “helping” profession—is your goal.
3. How have your experiences influenced you?
It is important to show how your experiences are linked and how they have influenced you. How did your experiences motivate you? How did they affect what else you did in your life? How did your experiences shape your future goals? Medical school admissions committees like to see a sensible progression of involvements. While not every activity needs to be logically “connected” with another, the evolution of your interests and how your experiences have nurtured your future goals and ambitions show that you are motivated and committed.
4. Who are you as a person? What are your values and ideals?
Medical school admissions committees want to know about you as an individual beyond your interests in medicine, too. This is where answering that third open ended question in the prompt becomes so important. What was interesting about your background, youth, and home life? What did you enjoy most about college? Do you have any distinctive passions or interests? They want to be convinced that you are a good person beyond your experiences. Write about those topics that are unlikely to appear elsewhere in your statement that will offer depth and interest to your work and illustrate the qualities and characteristics you possess.
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Complete Your Personal Inventory and Outline (Example Below)
The bulk of your essay should be about your most valuable experiences, personal, academic, scholarly, clinical, academic and extracurricular activities that have impacted your path to medical school and through which you have learned about the practice of medicine. The best personal statements cover several topics and are not narrow in scope. Why is this important? Many different people with a variety of backgrounds, interests, and ideas of what makes a great medical student will be reading your essay. You want to make sure you essay has broad appeal.
The following exercise will help you to determine what experiences you should highlight in your personal statement.
When composing your personal statement, keep in mind that you are writing, in effect, a “story” of how you arrived at this point in your life. But, unlike a “story” in the creative sense, yours must also offer convincing evidence for your decision to apply to medical school. Before starting your personal statement, create an experience- based personal inventory:
- Write down a list of the most important experiences in your life and your development. The list should be all inclusive and comprise those experiences that had the most impact on you. Put the list, which should consist of personal, extracurricular, and academic events, in chronological order.
- From this list, determine which experiences you consider the most important in helping you decide to pursue a career in medicine. This “experience oriented” approach will allow you to determine which experiences best illustrate the personal competencies admissions committees look for in your written documents. Remember that you must provide evidence for your interest in medicine and for most of the personal qualities and characteristics that medical school admissions committees want to see.
- After making your list, think about why each “most important” experience was influential and write that down. What did you observe? What did you learn? What insights did you gain? How did the experience influence your path and choices?
- Then think of a story or illustration for why each experience was important.
- After doing this exercise, evaluate each experience for its significance and influence and for its “story” value. Choose to write about those experiences that not only were influential but that also will provide interesting reading, keeping in mind that your goal is to weave the pertinent experiences together into a compelling story. In making your choices, think about how you will link each experience and transition from one topic to the next.
- Decide which of your listed experiences you will use for your introduction first (see below for more about your introduction). Then decide which experiences you will include in the body of your personal statement, create a general outline, and get writing!
Remember, you will also have your work and activities entries and your secondary applications to write in more detail about your experiences. Therefore, don’t feel you must pack everything in to your statement!
Craft a Compelling Personal Statement Introduction and Body
You hear conflicting advice about application essays. Some tell you not to open with a story. Others tell you to always begin with a story. Regardless of the advice you receive, be sure to do three things:
- Be true to yourself. Everyone will have an opinion regarding what you should and should not write. Follow your own instincts. Your personal statement should be a reflection of you, and only you.
- Start your personal statement with something catchy. Think about the list of potential topics above.
- Don’t rush your work. Composing thoughtful documents takes time and you don’t want your writing and ideas to be sloppy and underdeveloped.
Most important is to begin with something that engages your reader. A narrative, a “story,” an anecdote written in the first or third person, is ideal. Whatever your approach, your first paragraph must grab your reader’s attention and motivate him to want to continue reading. I encourage applicants to start their personal statement by describing an experience that was especially influential in setting them on their path to medical school. This can be a personal or scholarly experience or an extracurricular one. Remember to avoid clichés and quotes and to be honest and authentic in your writing. Don’t try to be someone who you are not by trying to imitate personal statement examples you have read online or “tell them what you think they want to hear”; consistency is key and your interviewer is going to make sure that you are who you say you are!
When deciding what experiences to include in the body of your personal statement, go back to your personal inventory and identify those experiences that have been the most influential in your personal path and your path to medical school. Keep in mind that the reader wants to have an idea of who you are as a human being so don’t write your personal statement as a glorified resume. Include some information about your background and personal experiences that can give a picture of who you are as a person outside of the classroom or laboratory.
Ideally, you should choose two or three experiences to highlight in the body of your personal statement. You don’t want to write about all of your accomplishments; that is what your application entries are for!
Write Your Personal Statement Conclusion
In your conclusion, it is customary to “go full circle” by coming back to the topic—or anecdote—you introduced in the introduction, but this is not a must. Summarize why you want to be a doctor and address what you hope to achieve and your goals for medical school. Write a conclusion that is compelling and will leave the reader wanting to meet you.
Complete Personal Statement Checklist
When reading your medical school personal statement be sure it:
Shows insight and introspection
The best medical school personal statements tell a great deal about what you have learned through your experiences and the insights you have gained.
You want to tell your story by highlighting those experiences that have been the most influential on your path to medical school and to give a clear sense of chronology. You want your statement always to be logical and never to confuse your reader.
Is interesting and engaging
The best personal statements engage the reader. This doesn’t mean you must use big words or be a literary prize winner. Write in your own language and voice, but really think about your journey to medical school and the most intriguing experiences you have had.
Gives the reader a mental image of who you are
You want the reader to be able to envision you as a caregiver and a medical professional. You want to convey that you would be a compassionate provider at the bedside – someone who could cope well with crisis and adversity.
Illustrates your passion for, and commitment to, medicine
Your reader must be convinced that you are excited about and committed to a career in medicine!
Above all, your personal statement should be about you. Explain to your reader what you have done and why you want to be a doctor with insight, compassion, and understanding.
Medical School Personal Statement Myths
Also keep in mind some common myths about personal statements that I hear quite often:
My personal statement must have a theme.
Not true. The vast majority of personal statements do not have themes. In fact, most are somewhat autobiographical and are just as interesting as those statements that are woven around a “theme.” It is only the very talented writer who can creatively write a personal statement around a theme, and this approach often backfires since the applicant fails to answer the three questions above.
My personal statement must be no longer than one page.
Not true. This advice is antiquated and dates back to the days of the written application when admissions committees flipped through pages. If your personal statement is interesting and compelling, it is fine to use the entire allotted space. The application systems have incorporated limits for exactly this reason! Many students, depending on their unique circumstances, can actually undermine their success by limiting their personal statement to a page. That said, never max out a space just for the sake of doing so. Quality writing and perspectives are preferable to quantity.
My personal statement should not describe patient encounters or my personal medical experiences.
Not true. Again, the actual topics on which you focus in your personal statement are less important than the understanding you gained from those experiences. I have successful clients who have written extremely powerful and compelling personal statements that included information about clinical encounters – both personal and professional. Write about whichever experiences were the most important on your path to medicine. It’s always best, however, to avoid spending too much space on childhood and high school activities. Focus instead on those that are more current.
In my personal statement I need to sell myself.
Not exactly true. You never want to boast in your personal statement. Let your experiences, insights, and observations speak for themselves. You want your reader to draw the conclusion – on his or her own – that you have the qualities and characteristics the medical school seeks. Never tell what qualities and characteristics you possess; let readers draw these conclusions on their own based on what you write.
Medical School Personal Statement Examples and Analysis for Inspiration
Below are examples of actual medical school personal statements. You can also likely find medical school personal statements on Reddit.
AMCAS Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #1 with Personal Inventory
We will use Amy to illustrate the general process of writing an application to medical school, along with providing the resulting documents. Amy will first list those experiences, personal, extracurricular, and scholarly, that have been most influential in two areas: her life in general and her path to medical school. She will put this personal inventory in chronologic order for use in composing her personal statement.
She will then select those experiences that were the most significant to her and will reflect and think about why they were important. For her application entries, Amy will write about each experience, including those that she considers influential in her life but not in her choice of medicine, in her application entries. Experiences that Amy will not write about in her activity entries or her personal statement are those that she does not consider most influential in either her life or in her choice of medicine.
Amy’s personal inventory (from oldest to most recent)
- Going with my mom to work. She is a surgeon — I was very curious about what she did. I was intrigued by the relationships she had with patients and how much they valued her efforts. I also loved seeing her as “a doctor” since, to me, she was just “mom.”
- I loved biology in high school. I started to think seriously about medicine then. It was during high school that I became fascinated with biology and how the human body worked. I would say that was when I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should be a doctor.”
- Grandmother’s death, senior year of high school. My grandmother’s death was tragic. It was the first time I had ever seen someone close to me suffer. It was one of the most devastating experiences in my life.
- Global Health Trip to Guatemala my freshman year of college. I realized after going to Guatemala that I had always taken my access to health care for granted. Here I saw children who didn’t have basic health care. This made me want to become a physician so I could give more to people like those I met in Guatemala.
- Sorority involvement. Even though sorority life might seem trivial, I loved it. I learned to work with different types of people and gained some really valuable leadership experience.
- Poor grades in college science classes. I still regret that I did badly in my science classes. I think I was immature and was also too involved in other activities and didn’t have the focus I needed to do well. I had a 3.4 undergraduate GPA.
- Teaching and tutoring Jose, a child from Honduras. In a way, meeting Jose in a college tutoring program brought my Guatemala experience to my home. Jose struggled academically, and his parents were immigrants and spoke only Spanish, so they had their own challenges. I tried to help Jose as much as I could. I saw that because he lacked resources, he was at a tremendous disadvantage.
- Volunteering at Excellent Medical Center. Shadowing physicians at the medical center gave me a really broad view of medicine. I learned about different specialties, met many different patients, and saw both great and not-so-great physician role models. Counselor at Ronald McDonald House. Working with sick kids made me appreciate my health. I tried to make them happy and was so impressed with their resilience. It made me realize that good health is everything.
- Oncology research. Understanding what happens behind the scenes in research was fascinating. Not only did I gain some valuable research experience, but I learned how research is done.
- Peer health counselor. Communicating with my peers about really important medical tests gave me an idea of the tremendous responsibility that doctors have. I also learned that it is important to be sensitive, to listen, and to be open-minded when working with others.
- Clinical Summer Program. This gave me an entirely new view of medicine. I worked with the forensics department, and visiting scenes of deaths was entirely new to me. This experience added a completely new dimension to my understanding of medicine and how illness and death affect loved ones.
- Emergency department internship. Here I learned so much about how things worked in the hospital. I realized how important it was that people who worked in the clinical department were involved in creating hospital policies. This made me understand, in practical terms, how an MPH would give me the foundation to make even more change in the future.
- Master’s in public health. I decided to get an MPH for two reasons. First of all, I knew my undergraduate science GPA was an issue so I figured that graduate level courses in which I performed well would boost my record. I don’t think I will write this on my application, but I also thought the degree would give me other skills if I didn’t get into medical school, and I knew it would also give me something on which I could build during medical school and in my career since I was interested in policy work.
As you can see from Amy’s personal inventory list, she has many accomplishments that are important to her and influenced her path. The most influential personal experience that motivated her to practice medicine was her mother’s career as a practicing physician, but Amy was also motivated by watching her mother’s career evolve. Even though the death of her grandmother was devastating for Amy, she did not consider this experience especially influential in her choice to attend medical school so she didn’t write about it in her personal statement.
Amy wrote an experience-based personal statement, rich with anecdotes and detailed descriptions, to illustrate the evolution of her interest in medicine and how this motivated her to also earn a master’s in public health.
Amy’s Medical School Personal Statement Example:
She was sprawled across the floor of her apartment. Scattered trash, decaying food, alcohol bottles, medication vials, and cigarette butts covered the floor. I had just graduated from college, and this was my first day on rotation with the forensic pathology department as a Summer Scholar, one of my most valuable activities on the path to medical school. As the coroner deputy scanned the scene for clues to what caused this woman’s death, I saw her distraught husband. I did not know what to say other than “I am so sorry.” I listened intently as he repeated the same stories about his wife and his dismay that he never got to say goodbye. The next day, alongside the coroner as he performed the autopsy, I could not stop thinking about the grieving man.
Discerning a cause of death was not something I had previously associated with the practice of medicine. As a child, I often spent Saturday mornings with my mother, a surgeon, as she rounded on patients. I witnessed the results of her actions, as she provided her patients a renewed chance at life. I grew to honor and respect my mother’s profession. Witnessing the immense gratitude of her patients and their families, I quickly came to admire the impact she was able to make in the lives of her patients and their loved ones.
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine as my mother had, and throughout high school and college I sought out clinical, research, and volunteer opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of medicine. After volunteering with cancer survivors at Camp Ronald McDonald, I was inspired to further understand this disease. Through my oncology research, I learned about therapeutic processes for treatment development. Further, following my experience administering HIV tests, I completed research on point-of-care HIV testing, to be instituted throughout 26 hospitals and clinics. I realized that research often served as a basis for change in policy and medical practice and sought out opportunities to learn more about both.
All of my medically related experiences demonstrated that people who were ‘behind the scenes’ and had limited or no clinical background made many of the decisions in health care. Witnessing the evolution of my mother’s career further underscored the impact of policy change on the practice of medicine. In particular, the limits legislation imposed on the care she could provide influenced my perspective and future goals. Patients whom my mother had successfully treated for more than a decade, and with whom she had long-standing, trusting relationships, were no longer able to see her, because of policy coverage changes. Some patients, frustrated by these limitations, simply stopped seeking the care they needed. As a senior in college, I wanted to understand how policy transformations came about and gain the tools I would need to help effect administrative and policy changes in the future as a physician. It was with this goal in mind that I decided to complete a master’s in public health program before applying to medical school.
As an MPH candidate, I am gaining insight into the theories and practices behind the complex interconnections of the healthcare system; I am learning about economics, operations, management, ethics, policy, finance, and technology and how these entities converge to impact delivery of care. A holistic understanding of this diverse, highly competitive, market-driven system will allow me, as a clinician, to find solutions to policy, public health, and administration issues. I believe that change can be more effective if those who actually practice medicine also decide where improvements need to be made.
For example, as the sole intern for the emergency department at County Medical Center, I worked to increase efficiency in the ED by evaluating and mapping patient flow. I tracked patients from point of entry to point of discharge and found that the discharge process took up nearly 35% of patients’ time. By analyzing the reasons for this situation, in collaboration with nurses and physicians who worked in the ED and had an intimate understanding of what took place in the clinical area, I was able to make practical recommendations to decrease throughput time. The medical center has already implemented these suggestions, resulting in decreased length of stays. This example illustrates the benefit of having clinicians who work ‘behind the scenes’ establish policies and procedures, impacting operational change and improving patient care. I will also apply what I have learned through this project as the business development intern at Another Local Medical Center this summer, where I will assist in strategic planning, financial analysis, and program reviews for various clinical departments.
Through my mother’s career and my own medical experiences, I have become aware of the need for clinician administrators and policymakers. My primary goal as a physician will be to care for patients, but with the knowledge and experience I have gained through my MPH, I also hope to effect positive public policy and administrative changes.
What’s Good About Amy’s Medical School Personal Statement:
Paragraphs 1 and 2: Amy started her personal statement by illustrating a powerful experience she had when she realized that medical caregivers often feel impotent, and how this contrasted with her understanding of medicine as a little girl going with her mother to work. Recognition of this intense contrast also highlights Amy’s maturity.
Paragraph 3: Amy then “lists” a few experiences that were important to her.
Paragraph 4: Amy describes the commonality in some of her experiences and how her observations were substantiated by watching the evolution of her mother’s practice. She then explains how this motivated her to earn an MPH so she could create change more effectively as a physician than as a layman.
Paragraph 5: Amy then explains how her graduate degree is helping her to better understand the “issues in medicine” that she observed.
Paragraph 6: Amy then describes one exceptional accomplishment she had that highlights what she has learned and how she has applied it.
Paragraph 7: Finally, Amy effectively concludes her personal statement and summarizes the major topics addressed in her essay.
As you can see, Amy’s statement has excellent flow, is captivating and unusual, and illustrates her understanding of, and commitment to, medicine. She also exhibits, throughout her application entries and statement, the personal competencies, characteristics, and qualities that medical school admissions officers are seeking. Her application also has broad appeal; reviewers who are focused on research, cultural awareness, working with the underserved, health administration and policy, teaching, or clinical medicine would all find it of interest.
med school personal statement examples
Osteopathic Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #2
Medical School Personal Statement Example Background: This is a nontraditional applicant who applied to osteopathic medical schools. With a 500 and a 504 on the MCAT , he needed to showcase how his former career and what he learned through his work made him an asset. He also needed to convey why osteopathic medicine was an ideal fit for him. The student does an excellent job illustrating his commitment to medicine and explaining why and how he made the well-informed decision to leave his former career to pursue a career in osteopathic medicine.
What’s Good About It: A nontraditional student with a former career, this applicant does a great job outlining how and why he decided to pursue a career in medicine. Clearly dedicated to service, he also does a great job making it clear he is a good fit for osteopathic medical school and understands this distinctions of osteopathic practice..
Working as a police officer, one comes to expect the unexpected, but sometimes, when the unexpected happens, one can’t help but be surprised. In November 20XX, I had been a police officer for two years when my partner and I happened to be nearby when a man had a cardiac emergency in Einstein Bagels. Entering the restaurant, I was caught off guard by the lifeless figure on the floor, surrounded by spilled food. Time paused as my partner and I began performing CPR, and my heart raced as I watched color return to the man’s pale face.
Luckily, paramedics arrived within minutes to transport him to a local hospital. Later, I watched as the family thanked the doctors who gave their loved one a renewed chance at life. That day, in the “unexpected,” I confirmed that I wanted to become a physician, something that had attracted me since childhood.
I have always been enthralled by the science of medicine and eager to help those in need but, due to life events, my path to achieving this dream has been long. My journey began following high school when I joined the U.S. Army. I was immature and needed structure, and I knew the military was an opportunity to pursue my medical ambitions. I trained as a combat medic and requested work in an emergency room of an army hospital. At the hospital, I started IVs, ran EKGs, collected vital signs, and assisted with codes. I loved every minute as I was directly involved in patient care and observed physicians methodically investigating their patients’ signs and symptoms until they reached a diagnosis. Even when dealing with difficult patients, the physicians I worked with maintained composure, showing patience and understanding while educating patients about their diseases. I observed physicians not only as clinicians but also as teachers. As a medic, I learned that I loved working with patients and being part of the healthcare team, and I gained an understanding of acute care and hospital operations.
Following my discharge in 20XX, I transferred to an army reserve hospital and continued as a combat medic until 20XX. Working as a medic at several hospitals and clinics in the area, I was exposed to osteopathic medicine and the whole body approach to patient care. I was influenced by the D.O.s’ hands-on treatment and their use of manipulative medicine as a form of therapy. I learned that the body cannot function properly if there is dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system.
In 20XX, I became a police officer to support myself as I finished my undergraduate degree and premed courses. While working the streets, I continued my patient care experiences by being the first to care for victims of gunshot wounds, stab wounds, car accidents, and other medical emergencies. In addition, I investigated many unknown causes of death with the medical examiner’s office. I often found signs of drug and alcohol abuse and learned the dangers and power of addiction. In 20XX, I finished my undergraduate degree in education and in 20XX, I completed my premed courses.
Wanting to learn more about primary care medicine, in 20XX I volunteered at a community health clinic that treats underserved populations. Shadowing a family physician, I learned about the physical exam as I looked into ears and listened to the hearts and lungs of patients with her guidance. I paid close attention as she expressed the need for more PCPs and the important roles they play in preventing disease and reducing ER visits by treating and educating patients early in the disease process. This was evident as numerous patients were treated for high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes, all conditions that can be resolved or improved by lifestyle changes. I learned that these changes are not always easy for many in underserved populations as healthier food is often more expensive and sometimes money for prescriptions is not available. This experience opened my eyes to the challenges of being a physician in an underserved area.
The idea of disease prevention stayed with me as I thought about the man who needed CPR. Could early detection and education about heart disease have prevented his “unexpected” cardiac event? My experiences in health care and law enforcement have confirmed my desire to be an osteopathic physician and to treat the patients of the local area. I want to eliminate as many medical surprises as I can.
Texas Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #3
Medical School Personal Statement Example Background: This applicant, who grew up with modest means, should be an inspiration to us all. Rather than allowing limited resources to stand in his way, he took advantage of everything that was available to him. He commuted to college from home and had a part-time job so he was stretched thin, and his initial college performance suffered. However, he worked hard and his grades improved. Most medical school admissions committees seek out applicants like this because, by overcoming adversity and succeeding with limited resources, they demonstrate exceptional perseverance, maturity, and dedication. His accomplishments are, by themselves, impressive and he does an outstanding job of detailing his path, challenges, and commitment to medicine. He received multiple acceptances to top medical schools and was offered scholarships.
What’s Good About It: This student does a great job opening his personal statement with a beautifully written introduction that immediately takes the reader to Central America. He then explains his path, why he did poorly early in college, and goes on to discuss his academic interests and pursuits. He is also clearly invested in research and articulates that he is intellectually curious, motivated, hard working, compassionate and committed to a career in medicine by explaining his experiences using interesting language and details. This is an intriguing statement that makes clear the applicant is worthy of an interview invitation. Finally, the student expresses his interest in attending medical school in Texas.
They were learning the basics of carpentry and agriculture. The air was muggy and hot, but these young boys seemed unaffected, though I and my fellow college students sweated and often complained. As time passed, I started to have a greater appreciation for the challenges these boys faced. These orphans, whom I met and trained in rural Central America as a member of The Project, had little. They dreamed of using these basic skills to earn a living wage. Abandoned by their families, they knew this was their only opportunity to re-enter society as self- sufficient individuals. I stood by them in the fields and tutored them after class. And while I tried my best to instill in them a strong work ethic, it was the boys who instilled in me a desire to help those in need. They gave me a new perspective on my decision to become a doctor.
I don’t know exactly when I decided to become a physician; I have had this goal for a long time. I grew up in the inner city of A City, in Texas and attended magnet schools. My family knew little about higher education, and I learned to seek out my own opportunities and advice. I attended The University with the goal of gaining admission to medical school. When I started college, I lacked the maturity to focus on academics and performed poorly. Then I traveled to Central America. Since I was one of the few students who spoke Spanish, many of the boys felt comfortable talking with me. They saw me as a role model.
The boys worked hard so that they could learn trades that would help them to be productive members of society. It was then I realized that my grandparents, who immigrated to the US so I would have access to greater opportunities, had done the same. I felt like I was wasting what they had sacrificed for me. When I returned to University in the fall, I made academics my priority and committed myself to learn more about medicine .
Through my major in neuroscience, I strengthened my understanding of how we perceive and experience life. In systems neurobiology, I learned the physiology of the nervous system. Teaching everything from basic neural circuits to complex sensory pathways, Professor X provided me with the knowledge necessary to conduct research in Parkinson’s disease. My research focused on the ability of antioxidants to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s, and while my project was only a pilot study at the time, Professor X encouraged me to present it at the National Research Conference. During my senior year, I developed the study into a formal research project, recruiting the help of professors of statistics and biochemistry.
Working at the School of Medicine reinforced my analytical skills. I spent my summer in the department of emergency medicine, working with the department chair, Dr. Excellent. Through Dr. Excellent’s mentorship, I participated in a retrospective study analyzing patient charts to determine the efficacy of D-dimer assays in predicting blood clots. The direct clinical relevance of my research strengthened my commitment and motivated my decision to seek out more clinical research opportunities.
A growing awareness of the role of human compassion in healing has also influenced my choice to pursue a career in medicine. It is something no animal model or cell culture can ever duplicate or rival. Working in clinical research has allowed me to see the selflessness of many physicians and patients and their mutual desire to help others. As a research study assistant in the department of surgery, I educate and enroll patients in clinical trials. One such study examines the role of pre-operative substance administration in tumor progression. Patients enrolled in this study underwent six weeks of therapy before having the affected organ surgically excised. Observing how patients were willing to participate in this research to benefit others helped me understand the resiliency of the human spirit.
Working in clinical trials has enabled me to further explore my passion for science, while helping others. Through my undergraduate coursework and participation in volunteer groups I have had many opportunities to solidify my goal to become a physician. As I am working, I sometimes think about my second summer in Central America. I recall how one day, after I had turned countless rows of soil in scorching heat, one of the boys told me that I was a trabajador verdadero—a true worker. I paused as I realized the significance of this comment. While the boy may not have been able to articulate it, he knew I could identify with him. What the boy didn’t know, however, was that had my grandparents not decided to immigrate to the US, I would not have the great privilege of seizing opportunities in this country and writing this essay today. I look forward to the next step of my education and hope to return home to Texas where I look forward to serving the communities I call home.
Above all, and as stated in this article numerous times, your personal statement should be authentic and genuine. Write about your path and and journey to this point in your life using anecdotes and observations to intrigue the reader and illustrate what is and was important to you. Good luck!
Medical School Personal Statement Help & Consulting
If all this information has you staring at your screen like a deer in the headlights, you’re not alone. Writing a superb medical school personal statement can be a daunting task, and many applicants find it difficult to get started writing, or to express everything they want to say succinctly. That’s where MedEdits can help. You don’t have to have the best writing skills to compose a stand-out statement. From personal-statement editing alone to comprehensive packages for all your medical school application needs, we offer extensive support and expertise developed from working with thousands of successful medical school applicants. We can’t promise applying to medical school will be stress-free, but most clients tell us it’s a huge relief not to have to go it alone.
MedEdits offers personal statement consulting and editing. Our goal when working with students is to draw out what makes each student distinctive. How do we do this? We will explore your background and upbringing, interests and ideals as well as your accomplishments and activities. By helping you identify the most distinguishing aspects of who you are, you will then be able to compose an authentic and genuine personal statement in your own voice to capture the admissions committee’s attention so you are invited for a medical school interview. Our unique brainstorming methodology has helped hundreds of aspiring premeds gain acceptance to medical school.
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2 Med School Essays That Admissions Officers Loved
Here are tips on writing a medical school personal statement and examples of essays that stood out.
2 Great Med School Personal Statements
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality. (Getty Images)
A personal statement is often a pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions.
"The essay really can cause me to look more deeply at the entire application," Dr. Stephen Nicholas, former senior associate dean of admissions with the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons , told U.S. News in 2017. "So I do think it's pretty important."
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality, according to Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak, director of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program and a professor of medicine and microbial pathogenesis with the Yale School of Medicine.
“The passion that the writer is bringing to this topic tells us about the individual rather than the topic that they’re describing, and the essay is the place for us to learn about the applicant – who they are and what experiences have brought them to this point of applying to medical school,” she told U.S. News in 2017.
Rachel Rudeen, former admissions coordinator for the University of Minnesota Medical School , says personal statements help medical schools determine whether applicants have the character necessary to excel as a doctor. "Grit is something we really look for," she says.
Evidence of humility and empathy , Rudeen adds, are also pluses.
Why Medical Schools Care About Personal Statements
The purpose of a personal statement is to report the events that inspired and prepared a premed to apply to medical school, admissions experts say. This personal essay helps admissions officers figure out whether a premed is ready for med school, and it also clarifies whether a premed has a compelling rationale for attending med school, these experts explain.
When written well, a medical school personal statement conveys a student's commitment to medicine and injects humanity into an admissions process that might otherwise feel cold and impersonal, according to admissions experts.
Glen Fogerty, associate dean of admissions and recruitment with the medical school at the University of Arizona—Phoenix , put it this way in an email: "To me, the strongest personal statements are the ones that share a personal connection. One where a candidate shares a specific moment, the spark that ignited their passion to become a physician or reaffirmed why they chose medicine as a career."
Dr. Viveta Lobo, an emergency medicine physician with the Stanford University School of Medicine in California who often mentors premeds, says the key thing to know about a personal statement is that it must indeed be personal, so it needs to reveal something meaningful. The essay should not be a dry piece of writing; it should make the reader feel for the author, says Lobo, director of academic conferences and continuing medical education with the emergency medicine department at Stanford.
A great personal statement has an emotional impact and "will 'do' something, not just 'say' something," Lobo wrote in an email. Admissions officers "read hundreds of essays – so before you begin, think of how yours will stand out, be unique and different," Lobo suggests.
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Lobo notes that an outstanding personal statement typically includes all of the following ingredients:
- An intriguing introduction that gets admissions officers' attention.
- Anecdotes that illustrate what kind of person the applicant is.
- Reflections about the meaning and impact of various life experiences .
- A convincing narrative about why medical school is the logical next step.
- A satisfying and optimistic conclusion.
"You should sound excited, and that passion should come through in your writing," Lobo explains.
A personal statement should tie together an applicant's past, present and future by explaining how previous experiences have led to this point and outlining long-term plans to contribute to the medical profession, Lobo said during a phone interview. Medical school admissions officers want to understand not only where an applicant has been but also the direction he or she is going, Lobo added.
When premeds articulate a vision of how they might assist others and improve society through the practice of medicine, it suggests that they aren't self-serving or simply interested in the field because of its prestige, Lobo says. It's ideal when premeds can eloquently describe a noble mission, she explains.
Elisabeth Fassas, author of "Making Pre-Med Count: Everything I Wish I'd Known Before Applying (Successfully) to Medical School," says premeds should think about the doctors they admire and reflect on why they admire them. Fassas, a first-year medical student at the University of Maryland , suggests pondering the following questions:
- "Why can you really only see yourself being a physician?"
- "What is it about being a doctor that has turned you on to this field?"
- "What kind of doctor do you imagine yourself being?"
- "Who do you want to be for your patients?"
- "What are you going to do specifically for your patients that only you can do?"
Fassas notes that many of the possible essay topics a med school hopeful can choose are subjects that other premeds can also discuss, such as a love of science. However, aspiring doctors can make their personal statements unique by articulating the lessons they learned from their life experiences, she suggests.
Prospective medical students need to clarify why medicine is a more suitable calling for them than other caring professions, health care fields and science careers, Fassas notes. They should demonstrate awareness of the challenges inherent in medicine and explain why they want to become doctors despite those difficulties, she says.
Tips on Crafting an Excellent Medical School Personal Statement
The first step toward creating an outstanding personal statement, Fassas says, is to create a list of significant memories. Premeds should think about which moments in their lives mattered the most and then identify the two or three stories that are definitely worth sharing.
Dr. Demicha Rankin, associate dean for admissions at the Ohio State University College of Medicine , notes that a personal statement should offer a compelling portrait of a person and should not be "a regurgitation of their CV."
The most outstanding personal statements are the ones that present a multifaceted perspective of the applicant by presenting various aspects of his or her identity, says Rankin, an associate professor of anesthesiology.
For example, a premed who was a swimmer might explain how the discipline necessary for swimming is analogous to the work ethic required to become a physician, Rankin says. Likewise, a pianist or another type of musician applying to medical school could convey how the listening skills and instrument-tuning techniques cultivated in music could be applicable in medicine, she adds.
Rankin notes that it's apparent when a premed has taken a meticulous approach to his or her personal statement to ensure that it flows nicely, and she says a fine essay is akin to a "well-woven fabric." One sign that a personal statement has been polished is when a theme that was explored at the beginning of the essay is also mentioned at the end, Rankin says, explaining that symmetry between an essay's introduction and conclusion makes the essay seem complete.
Rankin notes that the author of an essay might not see flaws in his or her writing that are obvious to others, so it's important for premeds to show their personal statement to trusted advisers and get honest feedback. That's one reason it's important to begin the writing process early enough to give yourself sufficient time to organize your thoughts, Rankin says, adding that a minimum of four weeks is typically necessary.
Mistakes to Avoid in a Medical School Personal Statement
One thing premeds should never do in an admissions essay is beg, experts say. Rankin says requests of any type – including a plea for an admissions interview – do not belong in a personal statement. Another pitfall to avoid, Rankin says, is ranting about controversial political subjects such as the death penalty or abortion.
If premeds fail to closely proofread their personal statement, the essay could end up being submitted with careless errors such as misspellings and grammar mistakes that could easily have been fixed, according to experts. Crafting a compelling personal statement typically necessitates multiple revisions, so premeds who skimp on revising might wind up with sloppy essays, some experts say.
However, when fine-tuning their personal statements, premeds should not automatically change their essays based on what others say, Fogerty warns.
"A common mistake on personal statements is having too many people review your statement, they make recommendations, you accept all of the changes and then – in the end – the statement is no longer your voice," Fogerty wrote in an email. It's essential that a personal statement sound like the applicant and represent who he or she is as a person, Fogerty says.
Dr. Nicholas Jones, a Georgia-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says the worst error that someone can make in the personal statement is to be inauthentic or deceptive.
"Do not lie. Do not fabricate," he warns.
Jones adds that premeds should not include a story in their personal statement that they are not comfortable discussing in-depth during a med school admissions interview . "If it's something too personal or you're very emotional and you don't want to talk about that, then don't put it in a statement."
Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Here are two medical school admissions essays that made a strong, positive impression on admissions officers. The first is from Columbia and the second is from the University of Minnesota. These personal statements are annotated with comments from admissions officers explaining what made these essays stand out.
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Medicine Personal Statement Examples
Our medicine personal statement examples for university below will inspire you to write your own unique UCAS statement, and help you understand how students have successfully applied for medicine in the past at Oxford, Cambridge, and other universities.
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How do i write a medicine personal statement, what should i include in my medicine personal statement, how do i structure my medicine personal statement, how do i write an introduction for my medicine personal statement, how do i write a conclusion for my medicine personal statement, how do i write an effective medicine personal statement.
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Your medicine personal statement should tell the university all about your strengths, skills, experience and ambitions, as well as your personal traits that will help you become a great doctor.
It should also convey your enthusiasm for medicine and what aspects of the subject you enjoy and why.
Your medicine personal statement will be used by universities to decide whether you are a good candidate to study medicine, and whether they want to offer you a place.
One way is to start your statement with why you want to study medicine at university. Try to pick one or two specific aspects that you like in particular and why they appeal to you.
Make sure you back up everything with examples (always show, don’t tell). You need to convince the admissions tutors that you they should offer you a place on their medicine course over anyone else.
A successful medicine personal statement should be written clearly and concisely, with a good introduction, middle, and conclusion. Remember, medicine is a highly competitive subject, so your personal statement needs to be as polished as possible.
Our personal statement template can help guide you through writing your first draft.
For inspiration on how to write your own unique statement, take a look at some of our medicine personal statement examples above.
It’s important to include skills and experience from all areas of your life and try to relate them to hobbies or extracurricular activities if they helped you to build on certain strengths.
Think about how any work experience has benefitted you, and how it might be useful in your degree.
University admissions tutors want to know what you can bring to their department and what value you can add.
Think about how and why you might treat patients the way you do, and what skills such as empathy, compassion and communication, are important for becoming a doctor. How might you demonstrate this?
Mention your personal traits and how they make you suited to a career in medicine.
You need to be a well-rounded individual in terms of academic talent, people skills and practical experience in order to have a chance of being successful with your medicine UCAS application.
For more help and advice on what to write in your medicine personal statement, please see:
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- Personal Statement Tips From A Teacher
- Analysis Of A Personal Statement
- The 15th January UCAS Deadline: 4 Ways To Avoid Missing It
- Personal Statement FAQs
- Personal Statement Timeline
- 10 Top Personal Statement Writing Tips
- What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline.
A good medicine personal statement should start off with an engaging introduction that tells an anecdote or picks out a specific aspect of the subject that explains why you are passionate about medicine, and why you wish to study it further.
For the middle sections, focus on your work experience and any extracurricular activities, hobbies or clubs you take part in outside of school/college, and how these have helped you develop skills that are important for medicine. For example, you might talk about how shadowing a doctor on a ward taught you about how to relate to patients and their problems, and how to empthasis with their situation.
Your conclusion should round off your statement in a memorable way that will confirm to the admissions tutors that you are a student that they want on their course, and make them offer you a place.
This might include reiterating your enthusiasm for the subject and why you think you would make a good student, or mentioning your future plans and ambitions, and how you hope your medical degree will help you achieve these.
To craft a memorable introduction to your statement, you should focus on:
- Grabbing the reader’s attention with an interesting and relevant anecdote.
- Avoiding cliches, such as "I've always wanted to study medicine from a young age..." or "Since primary school I've always been interested in the human body..."
- Conveying personal qualities that show you willl be able to cope with the demands of medical school and a career as a medical doctor.
- Not repeating information that is already in another part of the application form, such as academic achievements.
- Keeping it to an appropriate length (usually no more than 4-6 lines in total). Remeber, you have the main body and conclusion to write as well.
- Demonstrating their enthusiasm and passion for certain subjects relevant to medicine, such as biology and chemistry.
- Showing personal traits that are important for a career in medicine such as empathy, communication and respectfulness.
- Relating relevant experiences, what you learned from them and how they demonstrate you are suitable for a career in medicine.
- Crafting a succinct summary of why you're keen to study medicine at university.
As much as the first impression is crucial, the last impression is very important as well. You need to make sure the admission officers that will read your personal statement are left feeling like you are the right candidate. And that’s why you need to sum up or all the facts that make you a great doctor!
The best way to conclude your personal statement is to loop back to what you were writing about in the introduction. Do not just rewrite it, but reinforce why you think you are a good candidate based on your qualities and your deep interest in Medicine.
Think about what personally motivates you, and why you want to be a doctor. You may have already expressed this in your personal statement, but now is the time to make sure the examiner know this.
You should also consider what has sparked your interest and what you have already spoken about in your personal statement. You may also want to think about some of the challenges that the NHS is facing.
The conclusion should include the following:
- A list of your attributes and qualities that will help you in your medical career
- Your views on medicine and motivation based on your past experiences
- What you hope to achieive once you've completed your medical degree.
Try and keep the conclusion to 3 or 4 lines, you shouldn’t be introducing too much new information at this point. Remember – use the conclusion as an opportunity to remind the admissions tutors why everything you’ve written about makes you so fantastic and worthy of a place at their Medical School!
To write a medicine personal statement that stands out, we recommend you follow these top tips:
- Structure is essential - this is because it can make or break your personal statement. We recommend dedicating one or two paragraphs to each part of your personal statement.
- Plan ahead - we suggest getting down some notes during the summer holidays and putting together a first draft before you go back to school/college for your final year
- Be original - this means picking an aspect of the course you enjoy and explaining why in a way that doesn't include cliches, or any over-used words or phrases
- Explain why you're right for the course, including any relevant skills, work experience and hobbies/extracurricular activities
- Think about what you want to gain from your course and how this will help you with your future career plans
- Include a balance of academic and extracurricular content - admissions tutors want to see that you are a well-rounded individual
- Be positive and enthusiastic about the subject
- Revise and edit thoroughly by asking friends, family and teachers for feedback and incorporating their suggestions to try and improve it
- Proofread carefully (don't just rely on a Spellchecker!)
For more information about applying for a medicine degree and careers in medicine, please see the following:
- Medicine Courses & Undergraduate Degrees - The Uni Guide
- Becoming a doctor in the UK - GMC
- What can I do with a medical degree?
- Medical School Finance - BMA
- Careers in Medicine - RSM
- Healthcare Careers
- Text or Call Us 917-994-0765
Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Your Personal Statement for Medical School will arguably be the most important essay you’ll ever write…So no pressure, right?
Our team has the honor of helping applicants craft their story in an impactful way. Below are a few of those effective personal statement essays from recently accepted medical students.
Please note that these are final drafts. It took multiple rounds of revisions to reach the draft you are about to read.
Read Courtney’s Personal Statement
Read Matt’s Personal Statement
Read Alex’s Personal Statement
Read Suzy’s Personal Statement
Medical school personal statement Sample #1
I stood shoulder to shoulder with choir members, hundreds of eyes in our direction, each seated in the great hall known as the Dallas Myerson Symphony Center. The countless rehearsals, rhythms, and lyrics danced through my mind as I watched the conductor raise his arms, and eagerly awaited his signal. His baton came crashing down and within seconds, the room was filled with the sound of musicians whose every note, melody, and harmony were married together to form an exquisite synchrony. We sang the words of the great poet William Ernest Henley who emphasized resilience in the face of suffering as well as bravery in the face of adversity. I could physically see the impact of our voices on those in the room, particularly evident when beginning an ascent to an emotionally salient crescendo. It was through this experience that I recognized the unifying and healing power of music as well as the importance of holistic healing. This was a theme that has been at the forefront of my growth and empowerment as I faced some of the hardest years of my life in search of my own emotional healing. In a manner similar to music’s impact, I am motivated to become a physician to heal those around me through a holistic approach, advocacy, and continual evolvement along a journey of lifelong learning and growth.
I still remember my mother frantically waking my brother and I to tell us that our, then, dad was in the hospital, which left us searching for holistic healing ourselves. It was not until later that I learned he had suffered an aortic dissection. I was seven years old and struck with worry though simultaneously grateful for the miracle performed by the cardiothoracic surgeons. This was the initial spark that led me to uncover my passion for science as well as interest in medicine. Three years later, he carefully told me that for most of his life he felt as if he has been living in the wrong body. I remember the confusion, lack of comprehension, and most importantly, the newly surfaced and seemingly infinite compassion I felt towards both my mom and my now transgender father. This was a situation far from simple and many times, I was left amongst familial dissension, shadows of lost friends, and fear. Regardless, I remained resilient and found solace in my faith and music. Each provided an outlet to transform sadness and fear into something beautiful and face my emotions head-on with the help of those who loyally surrounded me. In stumbling upon this emotional healing, I saw correlations between the emotional and spiritual healing that our bodies demand to be physically well and later recognized that this was a significant aspect of what drew me to medicine. In the future, I long to bring comfort and peace to patients who trust in me during their most vulnerable times and when they are most afraid, as so many have done for me.
In the words of William Ernest Henley, having been through the trials of my circumstances, I continue to “find myself unafraid” and able to overcome challenges. I think I ultimately learned this perseverance and endurance from my mother, who never gave up even when she had to start over to provide for my brother and I. Simultaneously, I felt the pain my dad faced and saw my mother defy all odds to overcome our situation. My experiences are what pushes me to want to make a difference in a world that can be so cruel to so many. I remember the judgement and lack of compassion I faced when I was with my dad as well as the deliberate marginalization my dad faced as a transgender woman. This incited a sense of advocacy in me and prompted me to become part of a non-profit organization dedicated to serving a similarly marginalized community, the homeless. I have been able to work alongside college students to cultivate change and provide supplies to those in need. I see the ability to reiterate and continue this spirit through a career in medicine. For physicians are the listeners, the branches that extend across communities and through diverse populations, ultimately the advocates for their patients and deliverers of holistic care. I long to begin this journey, even if just as a budding twig among hundreds of branches, on the path to making a difference.
Much as a choir performance is dependent upon each component, pursuing a standard of holistic healing is also far from an individual endeavor. It takes a comprehensive team to meet the needs of a patient and their family, a reoccurring theme that I have been exposed to countless times. For this is a career that requires traversing a path that is no easy feat, but one that will procure undoubtable fulfillment and beauty. This is a place in my life I might never have expected I would be, but one that I welcome with open arms. I have found myself ready to face my journey of endless growth and possibility as I am certain I want to become a physician and certain that I am capable because I have faced adversity and have only grown stronger as a result.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #2
Reading through mission statements of various medical schools, I have discovered an enthralling question: Is medicine science or art? I find this discourse of disparate viewpoints interesting because of a similar battle that has played out in my own mind between the head and the heart. Medicine is where I belong as it provides an avenue between these two raging forces unique to any other field I have found. A career as a clinician is precisely the symphony of problem solving I crave and the opportunity to love humanity I long for, making it the perfect life for me.
My initial attraction to medicine during high school came from my inquisitive nature, a desire to solve puzzles. I enjoy the thrill of mastering a topic, and then either revealing how the pieces fit to others, or using my newfound expertise in the application of solving new problems. Thus, it’s no wonder that I found medicine invigorating. It provides an endless depth of knowledge to plunder, and the opportunity to utilize that material in new situations.
Previously, I saw the human machine as something I could solve and repair if I knew enough. This has driven me to seek out opportunities to understand the deep mechanistic nature of the body. I wanted, and still want, to understand medicine at its most basic level, and then apply that knowledge to fixing diseases. Because of this desire, I have continued to seek out medical knowledge in my own time, through reading and research at school.
Admittedly, this first attraction to medicine was misguided and born of selfishness. I saw my future self as a medical Sherlock Holmes-the smartest person in the room disseminating my own cleverness from on high to solve a medical problem. I had only a mild interest in the artful, human, side of medicine. This intense passion to solve problems I now see is not itself inherently wrong and will indeed serve me well in medical school, but such a desire must be tempered by the heart.
When I arrived at college, my concept of the world, and with it medicine, was completely rearranged. Living in close community, I soon realized a simple, but important Truth: Life is not about you. It isn’t even about each other on an individual level. It’s about how people connect and intersect on the whole and effect change for their fellow man. This perspective shift drastically changed how I lived at school. Now I had a desire to serve others and participate in my activities precisely to do so.
I also shifted how I understood medicine. Medicine, it seemed, was not the cold calculation of Holmesian deduction to fix diseases as I once believed, but the art of understanding, navigating, and mitigating human pain in whatever form-physical, emotional, psychological- via the conduit of scientific understanding. While the science of medicine first attracted me to the field, it is the desire to practice the art of medicine that has continued to propel me towards a career as a physician.
My understanding of medicine as an art and a science and my desire to pursue both have only grown stronger as I have become a patient myself. Last summer, I became very ill, and spent most of my summer asleep, in the bathroom, or at the clinic, only being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the end of July. In such a vulnerable position, I experienced first-hand that importance and impact of medicine as art and science. Dr. Hallak, my gastroenterologist, treated not just my illness, but the fear and pain I possessed, and for that I am forever grateful (and fortunately, also healthy).
Likewise, Dr. Hallak graciously taught me about my disease on a mechanistic level, demonstrating that he understood the science of medicine as deeply as I had hoped a clinician would. Thus, I was assured that a career as a clinician could sate my scientific hunger as well. In Dr. Hallak I clearly saw that I did not have to compromise between my desire to understand the human body as a machine, and my need to serve others and effect change in their lives. When I think of the type of physician I want to be, I know that I want to follow Dr. Hallak’s example and live a life using science to not simply fix disease, but to heal human pain.
Because of these experiences, I believe that medicine is precisely this: the application of knowledge of both humankind- our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies- and human disease towards the eradication of human pain. In this definition, I have found a means to navigate the tricky space between medicine as science and art, between my inquisitiveness and the earnest longing to benefit others, between the head and the heart. I am confident that in my future career as a physician I will be able to fulfill these two desires.
Furthermore, I believe that my perspective on medicine, one that unifies art and science, is necessary for the evolving landscape of medicine. With the advent of new technologies, future physicians will be called to new roles. It is only by understanding and synthesizing the disparate halves of medicine that we as future physicians can fulfill these new, unknown roles. It is my hope that I might bring a fresh perspective to the field of medicine, and bring a positive impact not simply for my own sake, but for all the patients I will have in the future.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #3
I gripped the kitchen phone and listened to a voice utter words that even at six years old, I could never forget: “your father is cured.” A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I realized that the invisible monsters that plagued my father’s body, ones much scarier than the Boogeyman hidden under my bed, were finally gone. My resilient father was no longer infected with hepatitis B and C. During his fight against those invisible monsters, I was far too young to understand the etiology of his ailments, much less the pharmacodynamics of his medications. However, there was one thing that at six years old I undisputedly understood; these monsters were making my father weak despite costly treatments. Seeing the physical and emotional pain my father bore and the constant havoc it wreaked on my family, I desperately scrambled to educate myself, naively using the computer as leverage to find a remedy. Each search was met with medical jargon my juvenile mind could not decode. However, after years of searching, “Dr. S,” my father’s gastroenterologist, accomplished what I had been naively trying to do: find a cure. Dr. S’s holistic understanding of my father and his heroic ability to help planted a seed of motivation inside me to become a physician, like him. One that is dedicated to curing others of the monsters that plague their bodies.
Growing up, various questions flooded my mind regarding my father’s illness. Why did he have hepatitis? Why did it take so long to find a cure? Slowly, answers emerged as I educated myself on healthcare in underdeveloped countries. My father, who was from a village outside X, was unknowingly infected with hepatitis. His life back home was simple, but the unsanitary health practices, lack of infrastructure, smoke-polluted air, contaminated water, and minimal health education or preventative medicine produced a suboptimal environment for sustaining a healthy lifestyle. As a result of these conditions and the insufficiency of available physicians, many individuals were beset by disease and mortality. This predisposition is, unfortunately, a reality that my father and millions of others living in underdeveloped countries or marginalized communities in the United States unjustly face. Learning about these roadblocks to healthcare subsequently made my passion to become a physician even more deeply rooted. My mission has now evolved into becoming a physician dedicated to implementing preventative medicine for underserved individuals.
While immersing myself in clinical experiences as an emergency medical technician (EMT), I became aware of prevailing healthcare inequalities, similar to what my father endured. While sitting on the edge of a blue seat in the ambulance, I watched my patient, “Max,” clutch his abdomen as he sat on the stretcher. “Max, do you have stomach pain?” though was not met with a response. “Max, ¿tiene dolor?” As the words left my mouth, all eyes turned to me. Max sluggishly nodded. “¿Max, dónde le duele?” He slowly pointed to his stomach. I continued to speak to Max in Spanish, which allowed me to further my assessment and obtain vitals. The time I spent caring for Max during transport underscored the importance of being adaptable to linguistic and cultural differences, as equitable patient care is dependent on the ability to acknowledge and cater to these differences. Being an EMT has allowed me to mitigate barriers to healthcare within my community, though I am left with the urge to do more. As a physician, I will be able to provide longitudinal care and make seeking primary care more accessible for marginalized individuals, such as my father and Max.
While becoming a physician for marginalized communities is part of my goal, it was not until my health promotion class that I realized how these populations can benefit from both preventative and osteopathic medicine. For these individuals, imbalances in internal and external stressors, whether they be environmental, social, emotional, or biological, may result in illness, such as my father’s. Rather than advocating for costly or invasive symptomatic treatment, A.T. Still’s philosophy on the mind, body, and spirit has demonstrated that as an osteopathic physician, I can holistically treat or even prevent disease by restoring these imbalances. Moreover, the second tenant of osteopathic medicine surrounding self-regulation and self-healing would allow me to help marginalized individuals realize that they have the innate tools necessary to maintain optimal health and overcome disease. Altogether, this outlook would enable these individuals, who often cannot afford costly treatment, to feel empowered and capable of controlling their own health narratives. Although my introduction to osteopathic medicine was brief, the impact it has made on my journey to medicine is long-lasting.
Never would I have thought that four simple words would lead me down a path towards becoming an osteopathic physician. Yet, the story behind them inadvertently ignited a fire within me. Regardless of cultural differences or even language barriers, I now know that with an osteopathic outlook, I can be the hope in medicine for underserved communities and deliver the life-changing words that I once received.
Medical school personal statement Sample #4
One 40-minute bus ride and three wrong turns later, I arrived at Dr. C’s cardiology clinic in X. After climbing the stairs to the clinic doors, a volunteer coordinator welcomed me and gestured to a waiting room brimming with restless patients. “We’re behind schedule today. Here’s the first patient’s chart. You’ll learn on the go.” He ushered me quickly into the nearest patient room, where I found myself standing in front of a confused elderly woman. I took a deep breath and introduced myself. Then, listening carefully, I began to update her medical chart as she described her sharp chest pain. As I reviewed her family and social history, she inhaled shallowly: her only daughter had passed away a few weeks earlier. She crumpled the medication list in her lap, her gaze downcast. I acknowledged her pain, handed her a box of tissues as well as a glass of water and listened to her as she shared fond memories of her daughter. Once we finished our session, I brought her over to Dr. C, who warmly squeezed her hand. I observed as he listened and patiently attended to each of her concerns while he simultaneously interpreted her electrocardiogram results and prescribed a regimen of beta-blockers. As I watched her leave the office with a renewed sense of calm, I immediately recognized the significance of a patient-physician relationship defined by curiosity, compassion, and communication.
My interest in medicine began as a child living with X, my exuberant autistic brother with a fierce sweet tooth. As I watched childhood friends take part in friendly sibling rivalries, I could not help but wonder if I would ever be able to do the same. With his speech limited to a handful of utterances and with his aversion to physical touch, I had to learn how to connect with X in other ways. Despite my short stature as a child, I remember tenaciously balancing myself upon a kitchen stool, foraging through the top cupboards, and sneaking away with a box of cookies so that my brother and I could eat together in contented silence. Yet this shared silence led me to so many questions: Would I ever know what X was thinking? How did this happen? My love for my brother grew alongside the puzzling nature of his diagnosis. This acted as the initial push into an education in the sciences and into a desire to uncover the intricacies of the human body.
Armed with a background in biochemistry, my pursuit of knowledge propelled me through an undergraduate senior thesis in Dr. K’s lab. Enlightened by the scientific method and curious about the molecular processes underlying complex illnesses, I decided to examine the regulation of transcription factors involved in renal fibrosis, a pathological marker of chronic kidney disease. This laborious but rewarding process allowed me to correlate the presence of the cav-1 gene to the lowered expression of the SP1 transcription factor and the decreased production of follistatin, a protein that neutralizes pro-inflammatory pathways and protects against renal fibrosis. Though I was thrilled by my findings, I was still left unsatisfied. I had originally set out to seek answers, but I realized that what I wanted even more was to be reassured in the face of the unknown. More than that, I wanted to offer assurance to those in similarly ambiguous situations through experiences in clinical and community settings.
For the better part of a decade, I offered assurance in the emergency department (ED) at X. There, I formed strong relationships and gained experience working alongside accomplished and dedicated physicians. However, the ED, for most patients, is often a place of distress. I remember one particular patient crying relentlessly while her mother spoke to me about a research study that we were conducting at the hospital. She mentioned that her daughter loved to draw, but in their haste to the hospital, she had forgotten to bring drawing supplies. As her mother read over the consent form that I presented to her, I excused myself to find paper and crayons. When I returned, I sat next to the child as she drew her favorite cartoons. I complimented her artistic skills. She laughed relentlessly, engrossing herself further in her evolving artwork. This scene continues to replay in my mind – the reprieve that art offered, the child’s pure joy, and her mother mouthing “Thank You” from her seat. While not a technical part of my role as a clinical research project assistant, this small act brought tranquility to a stressful environment. Being willing to exceed beyond expectations for others in a compassion-led approach is essential for connecting with and advocating for patients.
While the silence between my brother and me prompted questions, it equally taught me lessons that no one else could. From him, I learned about the individuality in human connection and the power of kindness. My experiences combined with a penchant for scientific inquiry have both established and continuously reaffirmed my desire to become a physician. Whether it is following up with a distressed cardiology patient or connecting with distraught families in the ED, I want to improve the lives of others and provide a place of solace for all that I meet.
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50 Sample Medical School Personal Statements: Harvard Medical School
Articles from 50 sample medical school personal statements: harvard medical school.
4 Medical School Personal Statement Examples
The personal statement can be one of the most challenging parts of your medical school application process. You want to show admissions committees the qualities that make you stand out while avoiding cliches. After all, a lot is riding on this essay. Don’t panic. We’ve done our homework, talked to insiders, and gathered firsthand personal statements to help you get started.
Before diving into the personal statement examples, here are some tips on framing your experiences to wow admissions officers.
1. Stick to your real-life experiences . While it’s great to express what you want to do in healthcare in the future, that doesn’t really set you apart. All premed students have goals for what they’ll do in the medical profession, but this often changes after time in medical school. Telling a personal story instead gives admission committee members a look at who you already are and if you have the qualities they deem desirable for med school.
Feel free to mention specialties you’re passionate about and touch on your clinical experience, but make sure the experiences you discuss are unique.
2. Build an in-depth narrative. Nobody wants to read a blanket summary of your research experience. This is your chance to get passionate and demonstrate some communication skills. Explain the driving force behind your desire to work in the medical field.
The old writing rule comes into play here: “show, don’t tell.” You will always capture your reader’s attention more by telling a story than by explaining a circumstance. Medical school admissions committees are no different. Showing them your strong work ethic — or dedication, or whatever personal quality you want — without just saying, “I have a strong work ethic” will have a greater impact.
3. Don’t include metrics. Admissions officers already have access to your GPA and MCAT scores. If they want to know how you did in biochemistry, they can find out. Don’t waste space here. If you’re concerned about those numbers, it’s much more important to nail the personal statement and secure a secondary application and eventual medical school interview.
4. Know the character limits — and try to meet them. Both AACOMAS and AMCAS applications have a character limit of 5,300. You do not necessarily need to use all 5,300 characters, but you also don’t want it to be under 3,000. You want to use as many as possible while staying on topic and being relevant. A too-short essay can look careless.
5. Get comfortable with revising . You’ll do it a lot. Expect your first draft to be just that – a first draft. This writing process will take several weeks, if not months. Once you’re confident in your essay, ask for feedback. Avoid asking family members (unless they’re experts in the field of medicine). Instead, have professors, mentors, and peers read it and offer notes.
|| Read more about capturing readers from the first paragraph with our Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide . ||
6. Use coaching to craft the perfect essay. Personal statements like the ones below only come after countless hours of brainstorming and writing drafts. However, with MedSchoolCoach , you’ll work with professional writing advisors step-by-step to develop an impactful medical school personal statement.
|| Check out more Tips for Writing a Personal Statement ||
Personal Statement Example #1
Our second essay contest winner was a medical student who made their submission an AMCAS personal statement . It serves as a great and effective medical school personal statement example . We also thought it was a good read overall!
A four-letter word for “dignitary.” The combinations surge through my mind: emir? agha? tsar? or perhaps the lesser-used variant, czar? I know it’s also too early to rule out specific names – there were plenty of rulers named Omar – although the clue is suspiciously unspecific. Quickly my eyes jump two columns to the intersecting clue, 53-Across, completely ignoring the blur outside the window that indicates my train has left the Times Square station. “Nooks’ counterparts.” I am certain the answer is “crannies.” This means 49-Down must end in r, so I eliminate “agha” in my mind. Slowly, the pieces come together, the wordplay sending my brain into mental gymnastics. At the end of two hours, I find myself staring at a completed crossword puzzle, and as trivial as it is, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
As an avid cruciverbalist, I have a knack for problem-solving. I fell in love with another kind of puzzle in college: organic chemistry. While some of my peers struggled with its complexity, the notion of analyzing mass spectroscopy, IR spectrums, and H-NMR to identify a specific molecule invigorated me. The human body was a fantastic mystery to me in my biology classes. Intricacies such as hormonal up- and down-regulation pulled at the riddler in me; I was not satisfied until I understood the enigma of how the body worked. Graduate school at Columbia was an extension of this craving, and I chose a thesis topic to attempt to elucidate the sophisticated workings of neuro-hormonal balance peri-bariatric surgery.
In non-academic settings, I also pursued activities that would sharpen my intellect. The act of teaching is a form of problem-solving; a good teacher finds the most effective way to convey information to students. So I accepted the challenge and taught in both international and domestic settings. I assumed leadership positions in church because it forced me to think critically to resolve conflicts. In the lab, I volunteered to help write a review on the biological mechanisms of weight regain. It was precisely what I loved: isolating a specific human phenomenon and investigating how it worked.
I believe medicine and puzzles are in the same vein. After participating in health fairs, working at a clinic, and observing physicians, I understand that pinpointing a patient’s exact needs is difficult at times. In a way, disease itself can be a puzzle, and doctors sometimes detect it only one piece at a time – a cough here, lanugo there. Signs and symptoms act as clues that whittle down the possibilities until only a few remain. Then all that is left is to fill in the word and complete the puzzle. Voila!
Actually, it is more complicated than that, and inevitably the imperfect comparison falls through.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a psychiatric patient at Aftercare. He had just revealed his identity as Batman — but it turns out he was also Jesus. During downtime between tests, he decided to confide in me some of his dreams and aspirations. He swiftly pulled out a sketchpad and said confidently, “When I get better, I’m going back to art school.” Any doubts stemming from his earlier ramblings vanished at the sight of his charcoal-laden sheets filled with lifelike characters. “They’re… really good,” I stammered. I was looking for the right words to say, but there are times when emotions are so overwhelming that words fail. I nodded in approval and motioned that we should get back to testing.
Those next few hours of testing flew by as I ruminated on what I had experienced. After working 3 years at the clinic, I got so caught up in the routine of “figuring out” brain function that I missed the most important aspect of the job: the people. And so, just as the crossword puzzle is a 15×15 symbol of the cold New York streets, a person is the polar opposite. Our patients are breathing, fluid, and multi-dimensional. I’ve come to love both, but there is nothing I want more in the world than to see a broken person restored, a dream reignited, to see Mr. Batman regain sanity and take up art school again. The prospect of healing others brings me joy, surpassing even the most challenging crosswords in the Sunday paper.
This is why I feel called to a life in medicine. It is the one profession that allows me to restore others while thinking critically and appreciating human biology. I am passionate about people, and medicine allows me to participate in their lives in a tangible way, aligned with my interest in biology and problem-solving skill.
The New York Times prints a new puzzle daily, and so does the Washington Post, USA Today, and the list continues. The unlimited supply of puzzles mirrors the abundance of human disease and the physician’s ongoing duty to unravel the mystery, to resolve the pain. A great cruciverbalist begins with the basics of learning “crosswordese,” a nuanced language; I am prepared to do the same with health, starting with my education in medical school. Even so, I am always humbled by what little I know and am prepared to make mistakes and learn along the way. After all, I would never do a crossword puzzle in pen.
||Read Our First Essay Contest Winner: Considerations Before Applying to Medical School ||
||Read The Formula For A Good Personal Statement | |
Personal Statement Example #2
Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM
With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and a coin suddenly appeared behind my ear. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctor feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.
Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I became hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day, physicians comforted me, asking how I was, reassuring me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as possible about different conditions.
I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father was actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced, I spent hours in inipis chewing on osha root, finding my healing through songs.
In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, my mother’s home. She came from a long line of healers using herbal remedies and ceremonies for healing the mind, body, energy, and soul. I can still see my mother preparing oils, herbs, and incense mixtures while performing healing rituals. Her compassion and care in healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers.
Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days, with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I decided to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I continuously reflected on the hospital experiences that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license and gain more medical experience.
As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient traveling from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to talk with him to learn his story. Afterward, he became more comfortable, and I walked him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice.
My journey to becoming a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have allowed me to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic.
I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.
||Read: But I Don’t Have 15 Activities ! | Apply to Med School After 3rd or 4th Year? ||
Personal Statement Example #3
Student accepted to Weill Cornell
My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it then, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.”
In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.
As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built a mixed friend group and began understanding how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table and language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.
Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?
My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from his family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised.
I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine — the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with the individual to serve their needs.
With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how socioeconomic status and job security inequities left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts.
Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their one-bedroom and one-bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking about how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and small talk to build rapport.
When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.
Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident I want to dedicate my life to this profession.
Personal Statement Example #4
Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School
Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals.
A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain.
From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.
A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive.
Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown.
Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.
Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain.
At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time.
My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.
Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.
My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.
- The Medical School Personal Statement: Getting Started
- How to Get into Med School When You’re Not Pre-Med
- How to Succeed on Medical School Interview Day
- Why Students Must Connect with Faculty Beyond the Classroom
How to Become a Doctor with 3 Years of Medical School
Acing Academics Freshman Year
CASPer Exam for Medical School: What It Is & How to Prepare
Don’t Forget to Personalize Your Personal Statement
The Ultimate Medical School Personal Statement Guide: (w/ Prompts & Examples)
Writing an effective medical school personal statement.
You may be asking yourself why it’s important to write an effective medical school personal statement. Let’s look at the numbers.
According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in the 2019-2020 school year alone, 53,371 people applied to medical school. Of those 53,371 prospective students, less than 22,000 were accepted. This is an acceptance rate of about 41%.
Getting into medical school is pretty much the gold standard for any college student. People are impressed when you tell them you’ve been accepted into graduate school, and they get really excited for you when they hear you’re working on a doctoral degree.
When you tell someone you’ve been accepted to medical school, though, is when they really become impressed. That’s because not just anyone can make it into med school. It takes someone special who stands out from the crowd.
Numerous doctors, psychiatrists, and researchers will tell you that every generation, people are getting smarter . This is great for the human race as a whole, but it makes it that much harder for smart students to get into competitive programs.
It’s fine for you to have an exceptional GPA and great MCAT scores ( Read : What’s a good MCAT score ), but if every other person applying to med school also has those things, it’s not exactly going to set you apart from anyone.
Limited Spots vs. Numerous Applicants
Each year, a limited number of spots open up for prospective medical school students, and every year, an excessive number of students try to win those coveted spots.
Because they understand how competitive this process is, in addition to keeping their grades up and scoring high on the MCAT, these students also intern in prestigious placements and put in hours of volunteer and community service.
Chances are if you’re applying to medical school, you’ve done these things too. So how do you make sure that your application stands out from the thousands of others from equally qualified students?
You have to write an effective, well-written, and memorable medical school personal statement for your admissions essay.
The personal statement is the one place in the entire application packet where you get to tell your story and shine a light on yourself. This is the place where you get to explain exactly why you’re more qualified and/or deserving of a spot in med school than every other applicant.
That’s why writing the perfect med school personal statement is so important.
Medical School Prerequisites
Before you can even apply to medical school, there are several things you have to do first. If at the time of reading this article, you’re already in the process of applying for med school, you’ve probably already taken care of most of these things.
Feel free to use this as a checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
Step 1: Choose the Right Major and Take the Right Classes
Traditionally, students who want to attend medical school major in one of the following subjects:
- Biomedical Sciences
Med school students can come from many different majors, though, including English, Sociology, Religion, and other fields.
The downside to coming to med school from one of these majors is that you may have to take a few extra classes to ensure you’ve taken the required courses for med school. For most schools, these include:
- English – 1 year
- Biochemistry – 1 year
- Physics & Physics Lab – 1 year
- Biology & Biology Lab – 1 year
- General Chemistry & Chemistry Lab – 1 year
- Organic Chemistry & Chemistry Lab – 1 year
- Various Upper-Level Science-Related Courses & Electives
Most of the science majors have all of these courses as part of their main curriculum, which is why most students hoping to go to medical school major in those fields.
Step 2: Take the MCAT or Equivalent Standardized Test
If you’re headed to medical school in the United States, you have to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).
Read : What’s the MCAT?
If you’re going to medical school in the UK, you’ll most likely be required to take the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) instead. Other countries have their own versions of this test, but at their core, they’re all very similar.
They’re all standardized exams that test students’ knowledge of various fields. The majority of questions focus on the hard sciences, but there are other questions as well.
Some of these include questions about sociology, psychology, and questions to test your critical thinking and analysis skills. Be sure to check out your prospective schools’ required minimum scores for admission.
Step 3: Get Some Experience
During your undergraduate years, you’ll also want to be obtaining some real-world experience . Get out and do some volunteer work. Look for summer internships that place you inside doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Job shadow doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, etc.
Get a job in medical research if possible. Do whatever you can do to be able to show the med school admissions teams that you have real, relevant experience in the field of medicine.
The Admissions Process
The process of applying to a medical school in the United States is a little different than the process of applying to a med school in another country.
For example, in many countries outside the United States, you have to apply to each different medical school individually.
In the United States, though, no matter how many schools you plan on applying to, it all starts in one place: the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) .
If you ever used the Common App to apply for colleges as an undergrad, you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to apply to med school using the AMCAS as a central application starting point.
Applying to medical school through the AMCAS is the first step in a two-step process. This application is your base application that gets sent out to all the medical schools to which you apply.
The AMCAS is a general, standard application. In it, you’ll provide colleges with all the basic information about yourself.
This includes the standard application information, such as your name, contact information, demographic information, education history, resume, transcripts, GPA and MCAT scores, etc.
You’ll then select the medical schools you’d like your application to be sent to, and you’ll be required to write your medical school personal statement.
It can take up to six weeks for your AMCAS application to be processed. During this time, the AAMC will be verifying your educational history and your course work.
After this process is complete, you’ll receive a copy of everything the AAMC verified on your application. If you disagree with something, you have ten days after you’ve been notified that your AMCAS has been processed to dispute it.
After that, your AMCAS application packet, along with verified course work and verified GPA, your list of work and/or volunteer experience and extracurricular activities, your MCAT scores, your letters of recommendation, and your medical school personal statement will be sent to each of the schools you expressed interested in attending.
It’s incredibly important that you enter everything exactly right the first time; otherwise, you could experience delays in processing. There are, though, a few sections on the AMCAS in which you’ll need to be especially careful.
The coursework section of the AMCAS is extremely detailed. You have to list each course you’ve taken, how many credit hours it was worth, your grade in the course, whether you withdrew from or failed the course, whether you took it as a duplicate course, etc.
This goes all the way back to your freshman year of college. Have your transcript on-hand while taking care of this part of the AMCAS because messing up here is the number one cause of processing delays .
Work/Activities (Extracurricular Activities)
In this section , you’ll be able to list any relevant work and/or volunteer/internship experience you have. You’ll also be able to list any awards or honors you’ve received and any extracurricular activities worth mentioning.
There is one catch though. You can only enter a maximum of 15 separate activities. Once you’ve hit the 15 activities, you can’t enter anything else.
For this section, it’s important to note that the quality of the experience is much more important than the “quantity” of experiences you list. If you’re the type of person that was a part of everything and has three pages worth of work, volunteer experience, and extracurricular activities to discuss, you’re going to have to pick the 15 most impressive ones.
Letters of Recommendation
Although you won’t be asked to include any actual letters of recommendation on your AMCAS application, you’ll be asked to provide the contact information for the people you have asked to write your letters. Choose your references carefully.
Your Medical School Personal Statement
This is arguably one of the most important parts of your application. This is the section that can make you seem personable and memorable as opposed to just another application in the pile.
For the medical school personal statement on the AMCAS application, you’re allowed 5,300 characters, which is approximately one page.
This may not seem like a lot of room in which to write your story, but when you remember that over 50,000 people sent in almost 900,000 applications last year, you’ll understand why the admissions committee members want you to be brief. Despite the brevity, though, you still have to make this statement count.
Submitting the AMCAS
Once your AMCAS application packet has been processed, it -along with your transcripts and letters of recommendation- will be sent to the medical schools you selected on the application. There’s a separate fee for each school, so double-check the cost before submitting to each new school.
These schools will look at your initial application, and then they’ll likely request some secondary information from you. This is the second step of the two-step process. Each school’s application process at this point is different. Some may send you a list of yes or no questions to answer and send back to them.
Others will require you to write a more detailed, in-depth personal statement. These secondary personal statements are your second chance to shine and stand out from the crowd, so don’t take this lightly.
Secondary medical school personal statements are one of the few times in life you really do get a second chance to make a first impression. If you do well here, you’ll likely be called in for an interview.
Now let’s discuss these personal statements in a little more detail.
What is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is merely a statement – a short essay – that you write about yourself, your life, your story, your experiences, your goals, etc. For the AMCAS application, you’ll have a specific prompt to answer.
For the secondary school-specific applications, you’ll probably have different prompts to which you’ll be asked to respond.
In the rare case, a college asks you to write a second personal statement but doesn’t provide you with a prompt to guide your writing, there are several things you can include.
First of all, make sure you list the characteristics you possess that would make you a good fit for the medical field. Then talk about a time you demonstrated these exceptional characteristics.
Some qualities that make for a good physician are:
- Empathy and compassion
- Experience with and appreciation for diversity
- A strict code of ethics and a good moral compass
- A desire to serve and help others
- Good people and communication skills
- Kindness, a strong work ethic, and grace under pressure
It’s important to present these things like you’re telling a really good story. You can’t be dry and boring, or your application is likely going to be lost to the bottom of the pile.
You might also mention why you were attracted to the medical field in the first place and what your goals are after successfully completing medical school.
Talk about your passions and the things you hope to achieve once you’re an established physician.
Also: Check out the Best Laptop for Medical School Guide here
Medical School Personal Statement Prompts
Prompt 1: the amcas prompt – use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school..
Remember, for this particular personal statement, you’re only allowed 5,300 characters to thoroughly answer the prompt. That’s 5,300 characters, not words, and that does include spaces.
That doesn’t give you a ton of space to write about yourself, but regardless of that, you still have to find a way to make an impression with your statement.
In this small amount of space, you have two main goals. The first is to tell the admissions committee who you are outside of all the dry information they’re getting about you in your transcripts and scores.
You’re not just telling them who you are; you’re also telling them what it is about you that makes you deserve a request for a second application. You have to sell yourself to this committee and make them want to know more about you.
Secondly, you have to answer the prompt directly. The question asks why you want to go to medical school. You have to address that.
Otherwise, you’ve ignored the prompt completely, which shows the committee that you’re not great at following instructions and that you probably don’t have a clear idea of why you’re interested in med school.
The personal statement is the humanizing part of the application. You have to make the committee see you as a person with dreams, goals, and a desire to better the world somehow.
If the word count permits, talking about why you became interested in medicine in the first place is a great way to lead into why you’ve chosen medicine and what you plan to do with your degree once you’ve earned it.
You don’t have a lot of room here, so you don’t need to waste words with a long introduction or a humbling portion that talks about a weakness you’re hoping to overcome.
In this personal statement, it’s all about highlighting those strengths unique to you that would make you an excellent doctor.
Prompt 2: What aspect of [this school] appeals most to you?
While answering this question, you can easily showcase your specific interests in the field of medicine while also sticking to the prompt.
For example, if that school is well-known for its obstetrics program, and that’s the field you’re interested in pursuing, you can still use the format we’ve outlined above.
You start by talking about what got you interested in obstetrics in the first place, and then you transition into your plans for the future. Along the way, you talk about how and why that particular school’s obstetrician program is the perfect fit for you.
You can discuss the specific elements of the program you’re particularly excited about learning and address how the program will help you achieve your future career goals.
Prompt 3: Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a physician.
This is a great opportunity for you to talk about triumphs in your life. It’s also a question that really allows you to showcase your positive characteristics and attributes.
You take a time in your life when you faced some hardship, and then you dive into talking about exactly how your strengths allowed you to overcome that hardship.
Be sure you explain how that particular situation shaped your morals and your worldview. What about that experience made you the person you are today, and how does that tie in with your goals for your future?
Once you’ve done that, you’ve tied it back into the general prompt and can follow the guidelines outlined above.
Prompt 4: Where do you see yourself in your career 15 to 20 years from now?
Honestly, this prompt is just another way of asking the AMCAS prompt of why you want to go to medical school, only with this one, you’re going to spend a little bit more time talking about your future goals than you do talking about why you became interested in medicine in the first place.
The format for answering this one, though, is just the same as answering the AMCAS prompt.
You’ll start by touching on those characteristics that are likely to make you a successful physician. You can then transition into what, specifically, you plan to do in the medical field and what inspired you to make that choice.
Then you move straight into talking about your after-med-school plans for your future. Be sure to answer the prompt though. Notice that it says “15 to 20 years from now.”
By then, you should be fairly well established and have a decent career. Talk about that point in your career, not the ‘fresh out of med school, first residency’ part of your career.
Standard Medical School Personal Statement Format
Despite the prompt you’re given – or whether you’re given a prompt at all – there is a general format you’ll use when writing your med school personal statement.
When it comes to the AMCAS statement, this format is a little different because you’re encouraged simply to type it up in the text box on the application.
With that in mind, you won’t be able to set margins or choose a font or anything like that. If you want to type your statement up in another window first, do it in something simple and format-free, like Notepad.
Otherwise, you run the risk of your essay not showing up as text in the text box. It may end up looking like gibberish, and you absolutely cannot edit that portion of your application once it’s been processed. It’s best just to type it in the text box and submit.
For the secondary essays and personal statements sent to each individual college, though, you won’t always have to type them in a text box. For these, you’ll use the same basic formatting guidelines, unless otherwise noted in the college’s specific personal statement instructions.
- Using MLA formatting
- Margins set at one-inch on every side
- 12-point font size (Arial/Times New Roman)
- Uniformly double-spaced
- No extra lines between paragraphs
- Use first-line indentation for new paragraphs
You’ll also use the same general formatting style in setting up the structure of your personal statement. As with most essays, you’ll have an introduction, some body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Again, this is only true of the secondary personal statements you receive from the individual colleges.
For the AMCAS personal statement, you won’t have a lot of room, so you’ll want to use introductory and conclusion sentences rather than paragraphs, leaving room for most of your actual information in the body of the personal statement.
Step 1. Introduction
Your main objective in the introduction is to catch the reader’s attention and make him want to keep reading out of interest rather than obligation.
In a general, “tell us about yourself” type of prompt, you’ll pick two or three of the qualities you possess that you feel would be most desirable in a doctor and mention how those three qualities are important facets of your character.
For other types of prompts, you’ll use your introduction to set the tone for your story. Whatever story you’re about to tell to answer the prompt, this paragraph is your lead-in. Set the tone and the stage for what you’re about to say, and let your body paragraphs follow smoothly and seamlessly after.
Step 2. Body Paragraphs
In this section, you’ll tell your story, and it truly does need to be a story. People who work in the admissions offices of medical schools are tasked with reading literally thousands of personal statements each year.
Many of these are full of anecdotes or overused cliches. Others are just horribly boring. It’s important that your story is entertaining, honest, and memorable.
Whatever story you were building up to telling in your introductory paragraph, now’s the time to tell it. There’s an old writer’s adage that says, “Show; don’t tell.” That’s what you need to do in your body paragraphs.
You must paint a picture for the reader. Allow him to see the story you’re laying out for him. This way, you’re engaging him in a story, not just talking at him.
Don’t assume this means being lengthy and rambling though. Always stick to the point, and don’t add a lot of unnecessary details.
Whatever the prompt, you also want to use these body paragraphs to work in something that talks about why medicine is your chosen field.
There are five main questions you should answer in the body paragraphs, even if the prompt doesn’t guide you to these questions specifically. They are:
- What was the experience that made you want to become a physician?
- How did you feel during this experience?
- What did you learn from it?
- How did it affect you, your community, and your worldview?
- What about it made you want to pursue medicine?
No matter what the specific prompt is – unless, of course, it’s something crazy like, “What’s your favorite color in the rainbow?” – you should be able to find a natural, organic way to work this into your medical school personal statement.
Step 3. Conclusion
In the conclusion paragraph, you’ll wrap everything up and make it all fit together neatly. This is the point where you change from ‘show; don’t tell’ to ‘state it boldly and explicitly.’
Restate those two or three main qualities you mentioned having. Then briefly, within one or two sentences, talk about your perspective on the event/story you told in your body paragraphs. Finally, once again proclaim your passage for the medical field.
Medical School Personal Statement Cliches to Avoid
We’ve already discussed some of the things you need to do while writing your personal statement for med school. Now let’s discuss some things you definitely should not do.
1. Don’t Rewrite Your Application
First of all, don’t simply repeat your resume and AMCAS application information. The admissions department has already looked through your application.
They already know what courses you’ve taken, what your GPA and MCAT scores look like, and what types of relevant experience you have. Don’t tell them all of that again.
This is your chance to be unique and tell them something they don’t already know about you. Don’t waste words on things they can read in your application packet.
2. Don’t Be a Snob
Highlighting your strengths and accomplishments is perfectly fine in your personal statement. You want to be impressive.
What you don’t want to do is come off as sounding like a pretentious snob who thinks he’s better than everyone else. You have to find the perfect balance between bragging about yourself and beating people over the head with how great you are.
3. Don’t Fill Your Personal Statement with Overused Cliches
Telling a short personal anecdote isn’t necessarily a bad thing; although you should be aware that many other people will start their personal statements in exactly the same way.
If you do use a personal anecdote, though, keep it to one. Don’t use one after the other after the other , and avoid cliches like the plague!
It’s okay to talk about your goals and how you plan to use your career in medicine to better the world, but you can’t just come out and say things like, “I want to make the world a better place.”
Of course, you do. We all want that. Saying it in those bald-face terms, though, just sounds silly. An article in US News recently discussed cliche topics to avoid specifically in medical school personal statements.
These included listing the reason you wanted to be a doctor as having anything to do with regular doctor visits as a child, overstating your “innate passion for medicine,” beginning a personal statement with a patient anecdote about “Patient X” and/or talking about how you saved someone’s life.
Other overused topics that have become a cliche in medical school personal statements are:
- The doctor who saved my life
- “I broke a bone when I was little, and the doctor made me feel better, so I’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since.”
- The desire to cure an incurable disease
- The desire to make a (usually deceased) family member proud
- Generic “I want to save lives” statements
- Coming from a long line of doctors
4. Don’t Victimize Yourself
It’s okay to talk about times in your life when you’ve overcome adversity, especially if that’s what the prompt asks, but don’t keep heaping on the bad.
Overcoming adversity is admirable, but discussing every injustice that’s ever been done to you in your life just makes you look like you’re whining and looking for special treatment because your life has been hard.
5. Don’t Talk Like a Thesaurus
If the admissions team has to look up the definition of words you’ve used in your personal statement, it’s ostentatious and derisory. ( See what I did there? Annoying, right? ) The admissions department is looking for quality med school applicants, not wordsmiths.
6. Don’t Write Outside the Character/Word/Page Limit
If you’re given a range of “ between x-y words ” (or characters), fall within that range! Don’t give the admissions department less than they asked you to give them; it makes you seem lazy and uninspired.
On the other hand, don’t give them more than what they’ve asked you to write either. It’s disrespectful. You must recognize that they have thousands of essays to read, and every person who goes over the maximum word or character count is just adding more work to their already busy days. Plus, it shows a lack of editing.
Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Example personal statement 1.
“This realization became clear to me in the mountains of Nepal, but the decision was an evolution that began long ago. Lego building blocks as a child were my first introduction to engineering, then came the integration of mechanics and movement with robotics in high school, and eventually human biomechanics as an engineer in college. With these courses I learned to see the body in a new and amazing way. Engineering enabled me to envision muscles not as simple contractile tissues, but as the motors for the pulleys that move our bones. Biomechanics made bones evolve from static connectors into the dynamic moment-arms of life. This fascination with the human body drives my interest in orthopedics and, coupled with my love of patients and surgery, will provide me with a career of continuous discovery and fulfillment.”
– Read the rest here
This is a great example of a body paragraph in a personal statement. The writer is giving us a great explanation of why he’s interested in medicine (orthopedics specifically) and letting us know that he’s been cultivating this interest practically his entire life, but he’s doing so without using that tired old cliche, “ I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember .”
Additionally, the way he writes and his vocabulary show us that he’s intelligent without him ever having to state that fact himself. He gives a glimpse into what his future goals and plans are, and his image of combining his “ interest in orthopedics ” and “ love of patients and surgery ” for “ a career of continuous discovery and fulfillment ” is an excellent mental picture with which to leave us.
We finish reading this and are left with a feeling that this young man is going to do great things in his career, and never once did he have to come out and say it himself.
Example Personal Statement 2
“I was never supposed to become a doctor; that title was meant for my older brother, Jake. My parents held Jake to the highest standard when it came to academics. They did not deem me worthy of being held to the same standard, so I grew up believing I would never be able to outdo him in academics. This notion of intellectual inferiority combined with my childhood success in athletics motivated me to focus on developing as an athlete rather than a student. So why am I applying to medical school and not playing professional baseball? Well, science captivated my attention in 11th grade and hasn’t let go.”
The opening sentence of this personal statement is quite good. It takes the opposite stance of the commonly overused med school cliche’ “ I’ve always wanted to be a doctor .”
Instead, this writer tells us that he was never supposed to be a doctor. That’s an interesting, unique way to start a personal statement. It’s a good hook, and it makes us want to read further to find out what changed.
As we read on, though, we don’t get an immediate explanation. Instead, the writer wastes a ton of words continuing to talk about his brother’s strengths and his own weaknesses.
If this were a novel or even a novella, this would be fine, but in the AMCAS personal statement, you only have 5,300 characters to get to the point. This writer is wasting many precious characters, and even worse, he’s wasting them on talking negatively about himself.
It isn’t until the sixth sentence that we find out what changed, and even then, the explanation is a weak one. This is an example of a writer misunderstanding the “ Show; don’t tell ” adage and using up too much space and time to get to the point.
Example Personal Statement 3
“My passion for medicine was planted by my mother’s accident, sculpted by accompanying the elderly woman and transformed by working alongside physicians in underserved communities. I feel humbled that during my journey, many patients have given me their trust to emotionally support them in difficult times. One day I will apply my knowledge and training in medicine to serve as their companion in their most vulnerable time.”
This is an example of a conclusion paragraph that’s well done. The writer restates her main points and reminds us of her passion for medicine, but she does so in a way that doesn’t just have her repeating everything she’s already said.
Instead, she briefly touches on the three main milestones in her journey that she’s already covered in-depth earlier in her statement.
She reminds us that she initially became interested in medicine due to an accident she witnessed with her mother. Then she reminds us of a nice story she told in the middle of her statement about her volunteer experience working with the elderly in the hospital and explains how that encounter shaped the type of doctor she wanted to be.
Then she reminds us of another piece of her essay, where she talked about her work with the poor and homeless and how that work reshaped her goals for medicine.
Finally, she restates some of her best qualities (trustworthy, warm, smart, well-trained) and gives us a vision for her future. This was a perfectly written conclusion to an equally good personal statement.
Example Personal Statement 4
“I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion.
As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor.
I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness.”
While the overall tone and writing style of this writer isn’t bad, she somehow manages to use three of the most overused cliches prospective students are told to avoid when writing their personal statements.
She starts out with the innate desire to be a doctor dating back to childhood. Then she moves into how she had frequent doctor visits and how much she loved her interactions with her pediatrician.
Finally, she uses a third cliche topic by talking about being hospitalized as a teenager and how much that experience shaped her future goals of working in medicine.
While the essay itself isn’t badly written, it also isn’t memorable or remarkable because she’s using the exact same types of stories of thousands of other applicants.
Example Personal Statement 5
“When I was six years old, I lost my father […]. He was in a coma for four days before he passed away. The images of my father — barely alive, barely recognizable, and connected to multiple machines — are among my earliest memories of medicine and hospitals. Too young to understand the complications of his accident and the irreversible brain damage he suffered, I was a child who thought that medicine had failed. I associated medicine with loss. Fortunately, [my family full of physicians] introduced me to another side of health care, and together they inspired me to seek out other experiences in the medical field.”
Although this writer begins in what seems like another cliche story of loss inspiring the desire to be a doctor, the way he changes the narrative and surprises us makes the cliche work for him.
Most prospective students have stories about how a loved one was in the hospital or dying and watching that person struggle inspired them to study medicine and help save other children from having to watch their own loved ones die.
Instead, this writer surprises us by telling us watching his dad die in the hospital gave him a bad taste for medicine. It gave him a negative association between medicine and failure.
This is just different and unique enough that it draws us in and makes us want to read more. If this young man hated medicine so much, why does he want to go to med school?
The desire to find the answer to that one question is enough to hook us and make us want to keep reading. This is a great example of how an introductory paragraph can grab our attention right away.
With nearly 60% of medical school applicants getting rejected every year, it’s extremely important you turn in the best medical school application packet possible.
This means taking all the right courses, maintaining good grades and a stellar GPA, volunteering in meaningful places, and writing a memorable medical school personal statement.
The importance of the personal statement cannot be overstated. It’s the one area in the whole application where you get to make yourself as appealing and as unforgettable as possible, so make sure you invest an appropriate amount of time, effort, and editing into it ( and we have packages just for that here ).
Avoid using overused cliches. Highlight your most impressive strengths. Use proper grammar, formatting, and punctuation. Spell and grammar check everything ( we recommend Grammarly ) and stay within the mandated word/character range.
Most importantly, show the admissions team that you have a passion for medicine and that they won’t be disappointed in the results if they give you a spot at their school.
You already know how great you are. Now it’s time to show them.
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Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in
Remember that admissions committees want to accept people, not just a collection of GPAs, MCAT scores, and premed extracurricular activities.
In it, you should describe yourself and your background, as well as any important early exposures to medicine, how and why medicine first piqued your interest
SAMPLE PERSONAL STATEMENTS ... TOP 10 MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL. STATEMENT WRITING ... I began to understand how, by taking my medical school training to such.
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School · "Why can you really only see yourself being a physician?" · "What is it about being a
Being actively involved with elderly patients, medical students and doctors (were very rewarding) as I have greatly enhanced my communication skills and also
I have found myself ready to face my journey of endless growth and possibility as I am certain I want to become a physician and certain that I am capable
I acknowledge that, like everyone else, I am simply human. I know that medicine is not an easy road, and I expect for it to knock me down. But
My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a
The personal statement is the one place in the entire application packet where you get to tell your story and shine a light on yourself. This is the place where