What Is Medical School Really Like?
Just how hard is it here's what to expect.
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If you've been thinking about going to medical school, you might be wondering just how you would spend your time as a med student, how hard it really is and what's required in a typical program. The short answer: You can expect a mixture of coursework , labs and clinical work that varies by year.
The first year of medical school is focused only on classes and labs. Expect to learn lots of basic science, anatomy, and physiology. Expect Labs and dissection. Anatomy will likely be the most difficult course you take, with about an hour’s worth of lecture to five hours of lab each week. You will be expected to memorize vast quantities of information. Lecture notes are usually made available to help you take in the vast quantity of information. You’ll also be able to find supplemental notes online. Expect to spend long days and nights studying. It is very difficult to catch up if you fall behind.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE-1, is taken by all medical school students. This exam determines whether you continue as a med student .
During the third year students complete clinical rotations. They become part of a medical team, but at the bottom of the totem pole, below interns (first-year residents), residents (doctors-in-training), and an attending physician (senior doctor). Third-year students rotate through the clinical specialties of medicine, learning a little bit of what each specialty entails. At the end of rotations, you will take national exams that determine whether you receive credit for your clinical rotation and even whether you continue in the program.
In your fourth year of medical school, you will continue clinical work. In this sense, it is much like year three, but you specialize.
After graduation, you will continue training for at least another three years of residency and possibly more, depending on your specialty.
Personal Life as a Medical Student
As a medical student, you can expect to spend a lot of time on your work. On many days you will find that your entire waking experience is focused on your education, on classes, reading, memorizing and clinical work. Medical school is a time-suck that will leave you emotionally drained and exhausted most nights. Many med students find that their relationships suffer, especially those with “civilian” non-medical student friends. As you might guess, romantic relations are just as difficult. Expect to be drained for cash and to eat a lot of ramen noodles.
In other words, getting through medical school is hard – not just academically but personally. Many students find that it is worth the pain. Others come to see it as years wasted. As you consider medical school try to take off the rose-colored glasses and see what you’re getting into. Think about your motivation to be a doctor before making this significant financial and personal commitment. Make a reasoned choice that you will not regret.
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Resume Objectives for Medical Receptionists
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Dental Assisting Objectives
Medical accounting jobs, objectives of a medical internship.
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A medical receptionist job typically involves greeting patients, scheduling appointments, answering phones, processing patient insurance information and performing medical record-keeping tasks. When writing the objective for your medical receptionist resume, include the experience, skills and knowledge that make you most suitable for this job, recommends Cover Letters and Resume.com .
Typically, objectives are just a sentence long and make your job goal easy to understand at a glance. Reviewing some basics for medical office or hospital receptionist resume objectives will help you create an effective one for your CV.
Obtaining Work Experience
If you are just getting started as a medical receptionist, include your desire to gain experience and develop skills among your resume objectives. Though you may feel nervous about calling attention to your lack of experience, potential employers will note that when reviewing your resume. However, many are willing to train an enthusiastic and well-qualified job candidate.
In such a case, use the objective portion of the resume to highlight your training and any employment experience you do have while noting your desire to gain practical experience as a medical receptionist. For example, you could include this as part of your objective: "To utilize my training and office experience to gain practical experience in the medical field."
Patient Service Skills
Most employers desire medical receptionists with excellent patient service skills, points out Learn.org , so highlight this on your resume. Employers want to know that you will put the patients first and use your excellent communication skills to handle questions, concerns, requests, and scheduling in a pleasant and professional manner.
Incorporate your patient service skills as part of your objectives. For example, you may write: "To utilize my patient service skills, medical office experience and administrative skills in a medical receptionist position."
Administrative Work Skills
A company looking for a medical receptionist will want to know you have the administrative work experience to help the office thrive and service its patients well. Your resume should detail the skills you've gained through administrative courses that provide instruction in computer use, keyboarding, office management and medical record keeping. It should also include details of any past work experience that allowed you to use these skills, even if you worked in a non-medical office.
Front Desk Experience
As a medical receptionist, you will act as the face of the office/clinic. You will greet patients in person and on the phone, contributing to the first impression patients develop of the office or clinic. Your performance in this position will lend the medical practice credibility.
Include your front-desk experience in your objective, like this: "To use my front-desk experience, administrative expertise and patient service skills in a medical receptionist position that..." If you don't have front-desk experience, you can convey something similar by mentioning experience as an event host or manager, even if the job was not in the medical field.
Should You Include One?
According to Monster.com , you don't always have to include an objective in your resume. Instead, you can include a qualifications summary. This section of your resume allows you to detail the qualifications that make you a good fit for a medical receptionist position.
In such a case, a career objective for medical receptionists should make the job you seek clear, like this: "An experienced receptionist, skilled with front-desk management for busy pediatric medical offices." Follow such an introduction with a clear summary of the qualifications related to the medical receptionist position. Some candidates do, however, include both an objective and a qualification summary on their resumes.
You may do well to include both if you are attempting a career change or just getting started in your career. In such a case, your qualifications and work history might not make your immediate job goals clear.
- Coverlettersandresume.com: Medical Receptionist Resume Sample
- Learn.org: Medical Receptionist: Become a Medical Receptionist in 5 Steps
- Monster.com: Career advice: Resume help and job interview tips
Jordan Meyers has been a writer for 13 years, specializing in businesses, educational and health topics. Meyers holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Maryland and once survived writing 500 health product descriptions in just 24 hours.
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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.”
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Medical school personal statement examples.
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THE TOP 10 MEDICAL SCHOOLS
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A GREAT MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT IS KEY IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
If you want to get into the best school, you need to stand out from other applicants.
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How can you separate yourself from the competition successfully? By creating a great personal statement.
body:nth-child(2) > div.body-wrapper > main:nth-child(3) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div.row-fluid-wrapper.row-depth-1.row-number-6 > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div.row-fluid-wrapper.row-depth-1.row-number-7 > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > #hs_cos_wrapper_dnd_area-module-12 > #hs_cos_wrapper_dnd_area-module-12_ > h2:nth-child(2)">Medical School Sample Personal Statements and Essays
We’ve compiled samples to give you ideas for your own essay.
Pay close attention to the consistent format of these effective personal statements:
ENGAGING INTRODUCTION / UNIFYING THEME / COMPELLING CONCLUSION
Give the admissions committee (adcom) readers a clear picture of you as an individual, a student, and a future medical professional. Make them want to meet you after they finish reading your essay.
GET THE SAMPLE MEDICAL SCHOOL ESSAYS IN ONE CONVENIENT PDF!
Here's what you'll find on this page:.
- How Sample Med School Essays Can Help You
- Before you Start Writing
- Writing Your Opening Paragraph
- Writing Your Body Paragraphs
- Writing Transitions
- Writing Your Conclusion
- Common Elements Between Personal Statements
- Personal Statement Examples & Analysis
- Frequently Asked Questions
How can these sample med school essays help you?
You plan to become a physician, a highly respected professional who will have great responsibility over the health and well being of your future patients. How can you prove to the admissions committee that you have the intelligence, the maturity, the compassion, and the dedication needed to succeed in your goal?
The med school personal statements below are all arguments in favor of top med schools accepting these applicants. And they worked. The applicants who wrote these essays were all accepted to top medical schools - most to multiple schools. They show a variety of experiences and thought processes that all led to the same outcome. However, while the paths to this decision point vary widely, these winning essays share several things in common.
As you read them, take note of how the stories are built sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, adding to the evidence that the writer is worthy of acceptance. This evidence includes showing a sustained focus, mature self-reflection, and professional and educational experiences that have helped prepare the applicant to succeed.
As you write your med school personal statement , include your most compelling, memorable and meaningful experiences that are relevant to your decision to become a doctor. Each sentence should add to the reader’s understanding of who you are, what your strengths are, and why you will make an outstanding physician. Your resulting essay will help the adcom appreciate your intellectual and psychological strengths as well as your motivations, and conclude that you are worthy of acceptance into a top medical school.
Techniques for creating successful medical school personal statements
Before you start writing your med school personal statement.
Before you start writing your med School personal statement you will need to choose a topic that will reflect who you are and engage the reader. There are a few strong ways to proceed. Try freewriting with a few of the following topic ideas.
Why medicine? Do you have a personal experience that made you certain about being a physician? How, when, did you know this was the right career for you? Is there a doctor you know (or knew) who emulates an altruistic moral character, someone who won your deepest respect? Can you show this person in action or describe them as they model inherent qualities, those for which you will strive as a physician?
How has a clinical experience been a real growth moment for you? Can you tell that story? Sometimes a clinical experience is deeply personal, something experienced by you or by someone in your family. Sometimes a clinical experience is about a patient whose situation taught you something deeply valuable, something honestly insightful about what good care means, about humanity, about empathy, about compassion, about community, about advantage and disadvantage, about equity and inclusion.
Choose an experience outside the comfort of your own community, an experience where you were the outsider (uncertain, facing ambiguity) and this experience brought about a fresh, resonant understanding of yourself and others, an understanding that made you grow as a person, and perhaps brought about humility or joy in light of this geographical or cultural dislocation. Often this prompt includes traveling to other countries. Yet, it could work just as beautifully discovering people in close places that were previously unfamiliar to you – the shelter in the next town over, a foster home for medically unstable children, the day you witnessed food insecurity firsthand at a local church and decided to do something about disparity.
Read other successful personal statements in guides and publications. You can read sample personal statements that work here: sample personal statements
The prompts above have great possibilities to be successful because they locate experiences that require better than average human understanding and insight. When we re-convey a moving human experience well, we tell a story that aims to bring us together, unite us in our common humanity. Telling powerful stories about humanity, in the end, presents your deeper attributes to others and demonstrates your capacity to feel deeply about the human condition.
Be careful how often you use the first person pronoun, though you may use it. Revise for clarity many more times than you might do in other writing moments. Choose precise vocabulary that sounds like you, and, of course, revise so that you present to your readers the most pristinely grammatical you.
Once you’ve looked at the sample personal statements in the link above, try freewriting again according to one of the themes listed that applies to you. For instance, perhaps your prior freewriting aimed to describe a moment in your life that seeded your interest in medicine. Great. Save that file. Now, start again with a different topic, perhaps one from the linked page of sample personal statements. For instance, let your freewriting explore the time you traveled to another country to participate in a public health mission. What person immediately comes to mind? Hopefully this person is quite different from you in identity and culture. Make sure this comes across. Describe the scene when you first encountered this person. What happened? Tell that story. Why do you think you remember this person so vividly? Did the experience challenge you? Did you learn something deeper and perhaps more complex about humanity, about culture, about your own assumptions about humanity? Hopefully, you grew from this experience. How did you grow? What do you now understand that you did not understand before having had this experience? Hindsight may very well bring about perspective that demonstrates that you now understand the value of that human encounter.
Here is a cautionary bit of advice about writing about childhood. Yes, it is relatively common to have had a formidable experience in childhood about illness, health, healthcare, medicine or doctors. Right? Most of us have had at least one critical health issue in our own family when still a child. Sometimes it is absolutely true that a moment in childhood began your interest in healthcare.
One may have had a diagnosis as a child that turned one’s life path toward being health-aware. For instance, are you a juvenile-onset, Type I diabetic? Do you have a cognitive or physical disability? Were you raised in a home with someone who had a critical illness or disability? Did a sibling, parent or grandparent get gravely sick when you were young?
Upon writing-up any of these situations for your personal statement, there is a catch-22. For medical school application activities, the rule of thumb is “nothing from high school.” So why then is it sometimes a good idea to write about a childhood situation in a personal statement? The answer has to do with the uniqueness of your story and the quality of hindsight through which you narrate it.
Let us slow down for a moment on the issue of writing about childhood. Typically, traditional applicants to medical school are steadfastly dedicated to their academic and pre-professional aims. Science curriculum, especially pre-med curriculum, is demanding and rigorous, and it trains science students to excel in empirical thinking and assessment.
Sometimes, when asked to write a personal essay, hard core science students feel the rug pulled out from under them. Are you more confident and meticulous about action steps and future plans than you are confident about being a sage looking back on your life? Chances are your answer is “yes.”
Of course you can write; you’re a smart person and a very good student. Yet, writing a heartfelt, perceptive essay about yourself or an aspect of your life for an application to medical school is unnerving even as you understand why your application might benefit from story-telling. Yes, your application should benefit from your engaging, authorial presence in the essay. An application that lacks this is wholly at a disadvantage.
Perhaps you are gravitating to the choice to share a story about your childhood.
For instance, what if you sat down to free-write the following prompt:
Draft an essay about a childhood experience that ingrained medicine as one of your inherent interests. Do so in a manner that demonstrates the value of hindsight while telling it.
Is it hard to stay calm about this prompt right now even though this prompt is precisely what could make your personal statement successful? The idea of this prompt is what many successful applicants have written well, and you can too. Why not seek professional guidance for your personal essay? Accepted has consultants who advise applicants through this process. They advise you on the whole process of developing a successful idea for an essay, help you mine your experiences, outline your strongest ideas, and after you’ve written them up, edit your drafts. You can view these personal statement services here: Essay Package
Back to tips. The key to writing a personal statement that frames a moment in childhood well is to stand firmly in the present and stay descriptive and perceptive. Write up that experience trusting you have insight. Quite a bit of time has passed since then, and that distance has given you the opportunity to see things a little differently now.
Let’s presume you want to write about how as a child you had an older sibling with a cognitive impairment. You and your family witnessed time and again doors being shut, so to speak, on his ability to be included in school events or community events.
Free writing A: My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. He was never given field time in soccer games. When this happened, G cried. When this happened, I cried and felt hurt by how much time my parents spent trying to calm him down, eventually leaving the field, holding him close and bringing us back home, another Saturday wrecked.
Example A has no benefit of hindsight.
Free writing B (with some hindsight): My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. Most of the time, kids were kind to him. “Hey G, how are you, man?,” they would say and high-five him. Most kids greeted him, offered him snacks and a seat on the sideline blanket. It was touching to see him included and seen at soccer games.
Further hindsight: G was rarely played in the game.
Reflective comment: No harm would have been done in letting him play. It’s clear to me now how much more work we each need to do about inclusion. Community-based team sports are pretty good about extending kindness at the sidelines, but that is not the same thing as letting all kids play in the game. I am still grateful for every kindness extended to my brother, but perhaps letting him play in the game would have demonstrated to kids and parents alike a deeper message about the importance of inclusion over winning. The coaches meant no harm, but that is precisely how unconscious bias plays. Afterall, community by its very definition is about inclusion.
Standing tall on this matter brings out a maturity and vocabulary to master this kind of personal writing that Free Writing A lacks. You don’t want to go back in time and join your younger self and narrate from that perspective. The “return” to your former child typically results in replicating a childlike emotional capacity – and chances are, that’s not you anymore. You’ve seen more. You’ve grown more. You’re now formally educated. You’re more skilled at making connections between ideas and experiences. You can narrate a scene or circumstance and attach awareness of what you realize now it means – like the over-narratives of documentaries where the author sheds true insight about the meaning of past events.
Most traditional applicants to medical school are just a few years older than teenagers.
When hindsight brings great clarity and insight to the significance of an experience, we demonstrate a keener maturity and an understanding that in authoring an experience we have a responsibility to demonstrate how a personal experience becomes a valuable portal to understanding the situation of others. Hindsight done well can be a stunningly beautiful and engaging narrative skill.
Perhaps you would rather write about a clinical experience? If you write about patients, change names, change gender, change some context to assure anonymity. Nearly all healthcare workers are concerned about telling patient stories because we worry about appropriating someone else’s experience, or feel we may not have the right, literally since HIPAA set rules on patients’ privacy rights in 1996. We should be concerned about telling patients’ stories; however, how we tell them is key in honoring them. When we honor patients and convey their stories to others we demonstrate the reciprocity of the professional relationship. Physicians no longer have a prescriptive, patrician role. Physicians are no longer sole authorities. Physicians and patients establish a reciprocal relationship, a two way street wherein a physician steps into a space of illness with the patient and walks with them, with the goal of healing, curing and advocating for them. When doctors tell stories, they establish that patients matter, that these encounters matter, that doctors think about patients and often learn from them.
How we write patient stories is best done humbly, of course. We can narrate a story that becomes exemplary for its insight and empathy – after all, insight and empathy are desirable traits of a physician. Be sure to show rather than tell, most of the time. Be sure to capture the sensory detail of people and place. For instance, is the patient sitting on a blue plastic chair under ultraviolet lights in the waiting room of a free clinic? Is a woman with her gray hair twisted in a bun wearing a cotton hospital gown, waiting against a concrete wall in a tiny examination room with the door open? (Setting makes a character more real.)
Finally, your story perspective, what you see and understand, becomes another way of revealing who you are.
How to write your opening paragraph:
A strong opening paragraph for a story begins “several pages in.” A strong story begins with you, the narrator, already standing in the ocean with water splashing at your knees. This is called a hook: “D began to bleed after the second attempt to start an intravenous line.”
Then, get the basic narrative facts down, the 5 W’s, the who, what, where, when and why, so your readers will not be confused: “She was a patient in the infusion clinic in the cancer pavilion of a major Boston hospital. She came to the clinic for her first round of chemotherapy.”
What else about this moment engaged you? Did D come to her appointment alone via an Uber ride? Why wasn’t anyone with her? How did that make you feel? Did the two of you hold a conversation while you were trying to start an IV? Why do you think she started to bleed? How did she respond when she saw you were having trouble starting this IV? Why didn’t she have a Medi-port yet? Here, you are building fuller context for her story. Don’t race through the scene; rather, build it, slowing down time, using images and sensory details to “paint” with your words. Smaller details, necessary ones, help you portray D as an individual.
“Semper Fidelis was tattooed on her forearm. ‘Thank you for your service,’ I said.”
“‘This cancer thing,’ she said, ‘this is nothing.’”
“D’s comment set me back. She had triple-negative breast cancer. She had blood running down her arm to her hand, between her fingers and onto a stiff, white pillow case on which she rested her arm. Triple-negative breast cancer was much more than nothing. In fact, it was very serious.”
What questions came to mind that provide several ways of reading this moment? Write them down. For instance,
- Did D not know about the gravity of her diagnosis?
- Was she steely and tough yet informed?
- Did she live through something much worse while enlisted as a Marine?
The questions themselves may wander too much to serve your personal statement as a succinct essay, which it needs to be. However, the answers to those questions may be exactly the additional content you need to develop this story’s acumen and perception as you demonstrate how getting to know the patient is a critical skill in order to help her. And now a theme is starting to come through: a doctor treats a patient, not a diagnosis. Voilà!
Moving forward: How does a doctor reframe clinical assumptions in this instance? What does a future doctor learn from a circumstance like this?
Notice in the example above that the writing is active, uses details, and vivid language.
This writer has a palpable connection to the moment. One key to choosing one experience over another for your personal statement is how visual and vivid your recollection is. Often, moments worth mining for meaning are easy to recollect because they still have unresolved messages that need to be understood. Writing experiences helps us find their meaning, their sense.
Notice as well, the scene above captures a moment of ambiguity, a concept particularly difficult for many health science professionals to embrace because there are multiple ways of looking at and understanding something. Stories send empiricism into the wind. People are not solely empirical. There is the self that is the body, which can be understood empirically, but there’s also the self that inhabits the body, the thinking/feeling/being and perceiving self. Stories are not about right answers. Stories attend to sentience and explore humanity. Patients’ lives are rife with uncertain moments, uncertain decisions, uncertain treatments, uncertain consequences, and uncertain outcomes. How does a physician engage with health uncertainty, understand it, and navigate it through pathways of humanity rather than pathways of diagnosis?
How does health care challenge you to grow in humanistic ways?
How to write your body paragraphs:
Once you have written a compelling scene, it might be a good idea to reflect upon why you were drawn to write about this experience in particular before your proceed. How does this scene illustrate meaningfully something worth explaining about becoming a physician? For instance, D’s scene was illustrative of an unexpected shift in perception that mattered when treating a patient with a serious cancer diagnosis. This unexpected shift happened to you, not to her. D’s been living with herself aplenty. Her point of view surprised you, not her, and reveals an incongruence between her perspective on her illness and yours.
Brief moments of ambiguity like this one can make us talk to each other, make us want to do something, can bring us to explore some further niche, specialty or research. Perhaps D brought you to peruse PubMed to research “Issues in Clinical Practice when Caring for Veterans” to see if you could find articles to help you help D and other veterans. Perhaps D’s comment was so truthful that you now volunteer with a veterans’ organization to scribe their stories for a war history museum? This “call to action” is a worthy story in a personal statement. Tell D’s story and conclude it with empathy and action. (Taking action to help is a demonstration of empathy.) Mindfully showing the experience with D as a catalyst to a path of action to help those under duress -- in distress, in crisis, or adrift in inequity -- matters.
Perhaps, follow this conclusion with a brief explanation of what principles now guide your humanistic path to medical school as long as they are principles that matter to your choice schools.
Here are a few things to avoid in writing your personal statement. Avoid talking about your scholastic path in preparation for medical school in your essay. The essay is not a place to reiterate scholastic achievements, for instance, a high GPA, academic honors, academic awards, publications, or MCAT scores because they’re front and center in other areas of your application.
Instead, frame this application essay around a formidable experience that directly or indirectly led you to pursue medicine. This could be a struggle that you’ve overcome that demonstrates your fortitude (the story of a sociocultural disadvantage or disability), the first time you deeply understood the ramifications of health care disparities you will not forget. Likely, this would be a personal story about yourself or a family member, a clinical story or a mission trip, or a story about a patient from some other volunteer work that you’ve done.
Additional topic ideas for your personal statement: What is a successful doctor? What does a successful life as a doctor look like? What happens to your understanding of best practices when a patient’s situation makes a best practice unrealistic, and what is the remedy? What epiphany, small or large, resides in you now since having mined a critical, clinical experience? Do you see a difference in the way you respond to patients since having had this experience? How has clinical experience matured you, deepened your awareness of living? If a patient experience became a catalyst for you to branch out or deepen your healthcare exposure opportunities, talk about that too. What opportunities? Why?
Writing effective transitions:
How to conclude: you are now ready to proceed to a conclusion that leaves your readers with a lasting impression of you – your life, your mind, your character -- as a 21 st century physician.
Chances are, you’ll need to transition from the previous discussion of a time in the past to squarely speak about yourself here and now or in a comment toward the future.
Can you sum up your main idea for the past experience? Consider the benefit of using a word or phrase -- thus, just as, hence, accordingly, in the same way, correspondingly -- and present your central idea again but only in a few repetitive words (called parallelism) or with synonymous words, creating internal unity in the essay.
Be careful how you do this. The phrasing should feel necessary and fluid rather than reductive or even worse, phrasing that sounds like filler.
The shift you’re making is from then to now, or from then to now and to the future as in “all this is to say.” Would you benefit from a fact, a quote, a statistic, or an informed prediction on the state of medicine, public health, or the future of medicine?
Transitional words can indicate:
- a process: first, second, next, finally…
- time: by lunch time, that evening, two weeks later…
- spatial sequences: down the block, two miles west, one bed over…
- logic sequences: likewise, however, evidently, in other words…
- meta-thought: as I say this, looking back, I have nothing left to say…
If grammar and idea flow are a concern, have a look at Accepted’s editing services: Med School Essay Package
A consultant will walk you through the inception of an essay, an outline, and editing from first through final drafts, including suggestions for idea development and transitions from one idea to another.
How to write your conclusion:
A strong conclusion can highlight the relevance of a timely issue (for instance, the physician shortage in the U.S.), make broader inferences about something you’ve already discussed (for instance, the broader implications of a particular health care disparity), or a call to action that you now embrace (for instance, community-based work that you did during the pandemic that now has become a central interest). Altruism, or understanding another’s disadvantaged situation, should not be represented in your conclusion as “ideas alone.” Commitment to serve others is not solely aspirational (“As physicians, we must do everything we can about inequity"), but a strong conclusion puts ideals into action (“I have joined Dr. T’s research team to conduct qualitative research about how social strata paradigms impact health care inequity”). Action in the conclusion should be associated with an experience shown earlier in the essay and culminate as a demonstration that you have already begun shaping your path in medicine. You are not waiting to begin but have already begun facing the challenges and responsibilities of future physicians. This kind of conclusion shows vision, maturity, commitment and character.
If the story in the body of the personal statement is about an experience, the conclusion should show your growth since then and keep in alignment how you’ve grown with the medical school values and missions of the majority of schools on your list. So, if you’re applying to top-tier allopathic schools, your growth may be in the depth and orientation of your recent research, or in having established a tighter link between your clinical experience and research.
If you’re applying to osteopathic schools, your growth should be in keeping with the osteopathic schools’ values and missions on your list and include recent hands-on experience, something with specific tasks and responsibilities, rather than shadowing, since shadowing is often seen as passive experience. It may be that you’ve become a licensed EMT and will work as an EMT in a relevant region or state during the gap year. It may be that you’ve been certified and now work as a harm reduction specialist for a particular organization in a particular city or county.
If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, each personal statement should align with the academic orientation of each pathway. Using the same personal statement for both AMCAS and AACOMAS applications is rarely a good idea.
Accepted offers help with the whole application process: Primary Application Package
Other elements that each essay below have in common:
Accepted provides sample essays with titles classifying types of narratives that have potential for success. Applicants do have some freedom of choice in what topic will serve their essay best. Why only “some” freedom in topic for this personal essay? Because this essay is one tool you will use to reach a professional goal.
Not all essays help us reach professional goals. Writers of effective essays must take into account who will read them. Think about who your audience is. In this case, it’s an admissions committee – not a friend, not a parent, not a peer. How will you write an essay on the same topic, let’s say a lab experience that went from bad to revelatory. You’d tell this story quite differently to your lab mates than you would to your professor, than you would to the president of your university, than you would in a grant application.
Here’s what can happen when the “audience” isn’t considered sufficiently when writing about a passion. Let’s say you love playing soccer, and played on a Division 3 team as an undergraduate. Let’s say it didn’t matter to you that the team was Division 3 as long as it meant you could get on the field and play through your undergraduate years. It’s quite possible that one can write well about playing soccer, but one must do so in such a way that the reader really believes and understands the parallel between doing what you love and a future in medicine. Otherwise, the writer may very well convey that they love soccer. However, when written without the focus that medical school admissions committees will be readers, the essay could end up conveying that the narrator really wants to be a soccer coach, not a doctor.
So, there’s only some freedom in topic and some freedom in writing approach - and the two must make sense together in order to facilitate accomplishing your goal.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” to writing a successful personal statement. There are, however, aspects to the sample essays on this site that stand out.
First, each sample essay is authored by someone who knows exactly what story they’re telling. No matter what their first draft looked like, by the time the final draft is ready to go, all fuzzy draft moments have been made lucid and engaging. All sections of the essay should have the polish and the same goals.
- Why am I telling this in this way?
- To what ends does each scene or moment speak?
- Have I revised enough to make every sentence demonstrate strong writing skills?
Each sample essay emphasizes narrative control, engages with a direct voice, has conclusive things to show and say, demonstrates logical steps in idea development, and presents effective framing of the composition as a well-written form that displays strong writing skills.
Even when an essay includes a “bookend” structure (a narrative structure that begins and ends with X, with middle content about Y), the story of Y (i.e. a mission trip in Mexico) is the primary story framed by the X bookend story (i.e. the love of running) to give ballast to the context in which this writer wants us to understand the mission trip as well, as a parallel story of challenge, commitment, exhilaration, exhaustion and necessity.
The same is true for stories that contain contrasts. If you’ve traveled ten mile or ten thousand miles, it is quite possible you’ve encountered different assumptions than your own about health care, health care access, trust, understanding of middle-class or first-world beliefs about health, understanding beliefs from poor and disadvantaged communities, illness, health care in contrast with a different cultural standard than what you’re used to, different beliefs about health care access, and a lack of or cautious trust in deference to doctors. (See the “Nontraditional Applicant” and “The Traveler.”) The key to this kind of essay is first demonstrating the contrasts between the two realities (yours and the patient’s reality) and their relative assumptions. Second, demonstrate an understanding of beliefs amid the two experiences and aim to reconcile their adverse assumptions.
However you proceed with the paragraph by paragraph progression of your essay, be sure to see how there’s deeper intuition or knowledge associated with how the ideas progress. Do not repeat yourself, or reiterate a statement or idea unless you are clearly doing so for rhetorical emphasis.
Then, kiss your draft goodnight. Let it sit for two or three days, and return to it time and again with fresh eyes – to trim, tighten, clarify, improve tone and intention, and importantly, to make sure you have direct regard for your audience, who it is, what they’re looking for, and how you are the person whom they seek, as you maintain a tone and direction consistent with your goals and what you’re seeking from an admissions committee.
Do you want our expert advice on your medical school personal statement?
Med School Personal Statement Consultant Dr. Mary Mahoney
Med school personal statement example & analysis
Now let’s explore what you can learn from some of these outstanding sample med school essays:
Medical school personal statement example #1: Emergency 911
"Call 911!" I shouted to my friend as I sprinted down the street. The young Caucasian male had been thrown fifteen yards from the site of impact and surprisingly was still conscious upon my arrival. "My name is Michael. Can you tell me your name?" In his late twenties, he gasped in response as his eyes searched desperately in every direction for help, for comfort, for assurance, for loved ones, for death, until his eyes met mine. "Flail chest", I thought to myself as I unbuttoned his shirt and placed my backpack upon his right side. "Pulse 98, respiration 28 short and quick. Help is on the way. Hang in there buddy." I urged. After assessing the patient, the gravity of the situation struck me with sobriety. The adrenaline was no longer running through my veins — this was real. His right leg was mangled with a compound fracture, and his left leg was also obviously broken. The tow-truck that had hit him looked as though it had run into a telephone pole. Traffic had ceased on the six-lane road, and a large crowd had gathered. However, no one was by my side to help. "Get me some blankets from that motel!" I yelled to a bystander and three people immediately fled. I was in charge. The patient was no longer conscious; his pulse was faint and respiration was low. "Stay with me, man!" I yelled. "15 to 1, 15 to 1", I thought as I rehearsed CPR in my mind. Suddenly he stopped breathing. Without hesitation, I removed my T-shirt and created a makeshift barrier between his mouth and mine through which I proceeded to administer two breaths. No response. And furthermore, there was no pulse. I began CPR. I continued for approximately five minutes until the paramedics arrived, but it was too late. I had lost my first patient.
Medicine. I had always imagined it as saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, overall making life better for everyone. However, as I watched the paramedics pull the sheets over the victim's head, I began to tremble. I had learned my first lesson of medicine: for all its power, medicine cannot always prevail. I had experienced one of the most disheartening and demoralizing aspects of medicine and faced it. I also demonstrated then that I know how to cope with a life and death emergency with confidence, a confidence instilled in me by my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician, a confidence that I had the ability to take charge of a desperate situation and help someone in critical need. This pivotal incident confirmed my decision to pursue medicine as a career.
Of course healing, curing and saving is much more rewarding than trying and failing. As an EMT I was exposed to these satisfying aspects of medicine in a setting very new to me — urban medicine. I spent most of a summer doing ride-a-longs with the Ambulance Company in Houston. Every call we received dealt with Latino patients either speaking only Spanish or very little broken English. I suddenly realized the importance of understanding a foreign culture and language in the practice of medicine, particularly when serving an under-served majority. In transporting patients from the field to the hospitals I saw the community’s reduced access to medical care due to a lack of physicians able to communicate with and understand their patients. I decided to minor in Spanish. Having almost completed my minor, I have not only expanded my academic horizons, I have gained a cultural awareness I feel is indispensable in today's diverse society.
Throughout my undergraduate years at Berkeley I have combined my scientific interests with my passion for the Hispanic culture and language. I have even blended the two with my interests in medicine. During my sophomore year I volunteered at a medical clinic in the rural town of Chacala, Mexico. In Mexico for one month I shadowed a doctor in the clinic and was concurrently enrolled in classes for medical Spanish. It was in Chacala, hundreds of miles away from home, that I witnessed medicine practiced as I imagined it should be. Seeing the doctor treat his patients with skill and compassion as fellow human beings rather than simply diseases to be outsmarted, I realized he was truly helping the people of Chacala in a manner unique to medicine. Fascinated by this exposure to clinical medicine, I saw medicine’s ability to make a difference in people’s lives. For me the disciplines of Spanish and science have become inseparable, and I plan to pursue a career in urban medicine that allows me to integrate them.
Having seen medicine’s different sides, I view medicine as a multi-faceted profession. I have witnessed its power as a healing agent in rural Chacala, and I have seen its weakness when I met death face-to-face as an EMT. Inspired by the Latino community of Houston, I realize the benefits of viewing it from a holistic, culturally aware perspective. And whatever the outcome of the cry, "Call 911!" I look forward as a physician to experiencing the satisfaction of saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, and overall making life better for my patients.
Lessons from med school sample essay #1
What makes this essay work:
- Dramatic opening paragraph:
This paragraph is unusually long as an opener, but it is both dramatic and lays out the high-stakes situation where the writer is desperately trying to save the life of a young man. As an EMT, the writer is safe in sharing so much detail, because he establishes his bona fides as medically knowledgeable. From the urgent opening sentence of “Call 911!” to the sad final sentence, “I had lost my first patient,” the writer has bookended a particularly transformative experience, one that confirmed his goal of becoming a doctor.
- Consistent theme:
The theme of a med school essay in which the applicant first deals with the inevitable reality of seeing a patient die can become hackneyed through overuse. This essay is saved from that fate because after acknowledging the pain of this reality check, he immediately commits to expanding his knowledge and skills to better serve the Hispanic community where he lives. While this is not an extraordinary story for an EMT, the substance, self-awareness and focus the writer brings to the topic makes it a compelling read.
- Evidence supports the stated goal:
This applicant is already a certified EMT, evidence of a serious interest in a medical career. Through going on ambulance ride-alongs, he realizes the barrier in communication between many doctors and their Spanish-speaking patients and takes steps to both learn medical Spanish and to shadow a doctor working in a Mexican clinic. These concrete steps affirm that this applicant has serious intent.
Medical school personal statement example #2: The Non-Traditional Applicant
In this med school personal statement, an older applicant takes advantage of his experience and maturity. Note how this engineer demonstrates his sensitivity and addresses possible stereotypes about engineers' lack of communications skills.
Modest one-room houses lay scattered across the desert landscape. Their rooftops a seemingly helpless shield against the intense heat generated by the mid-July sun. The steel security bars that guarded the windows and doors of every house seemed to belie the large welcome sign at the entrance to the ABC Indian Reservation. As a young civil engineer employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was far removed from my cubical in downtown Los Angeles. However, I felt I was well-prepared to conduct my first project proposal. The project involved a $500,000 repair of an earthen levee surrounding an active Native American burial site. A fairly inexpensive and straightforward job by federal standards, but nonetheless I could hardly contain my excitement. Strict federal construction guidelines laden with a generous portion of technical jargon danced through my head as I stepped up to the podium to greet the twelve tribal council members. My premature confidence quickly disappeared as they confronted me with a troubled ancient gaze. Their faces revealed centuries of distrust and broken government promises. Suddenly, from a design based solely upon abstract engineering principles an additional human dimension emerged — one for which I had not prepared. The calculations I had crunched over the past several months and the abstract engineering principles simply no longer applied. Their potential impact on this community was clearly evident in the faces before me. With perspiration forming on my brow, I decided I would need to take a new approach to salvage this meeting. So I discarded my rehearsed speech, stepped out from behind the safety of the podium, and began to solicit the council members' questions and concerns. By the end of the afternoon, our efforts to establish a cooperative working relationship had resulted in a distinct shift in the mood of the meeting. Although I am not saying we erased centuries of mistrust in a single day, I feel certain our steps towards improved relations and trust produced a successful project.
I found this opportunity to humanize my engineering project both personally and professionally rewarding. Unfortunately, experiences like it were not common. I realized early in my career that I needed a profession where I can more frequently incorporate human interaction and my interests in science. After two years of working as a civil engineer, I enrolled in night school to explore a medical career and test my aptitude for pre-medical classes. I found my classes fascinating and became a more effective student. Today, I am proud of the 3.7 post-baccalaureate grade point average I have achieved in such competitive courses as organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics.
Confident of my ability to succeed in the classroom, I proceeded to volunteer in the Preceptorship Program at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. I acquired an understanding of the emotional demands and time commitment required of physicians by watching them schedule their personal lives around the needs of their patients. I also soon observed that the rewards of medicine stem from serving the needs of these same patients. I too found it personally gratifying to provide individuals with emotional support by holding an elderly woman's hand as a physician drew a blood sample or befriending frightened patients with a smile and conversation.
To test my aptitude for a medical career further, I began a research project under the supervision of Dr. John Doe from the Orthopedic Department at Big University. The focus of my study was to determine the fate of abstracts presented at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand annual meeting. As primary author, I reported the results in an article for the Journal of Hand Surgery, a peer-reviewed publication. My contribution to medicine, albeit small, gave me much satisfaction. In the future I would like to pursue an active role in scientific research.
My preparation of a career as a medical doctor started, ironically with my work as a professional engineer. From my experiences at the ABC Indian Reservation I realized I need more direct personal interaction than engineering offers. The rewarding experiences I have had in my research, my volunteer work at the Los Angeles County Hospital, and my post-bac studies have focused my energies and prepared me for the new challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead in medicine.
Lessons from med school sample essay #2
What works well in this essay:
- Compelling lead: This story begins in a hot desert landscape, an unexpected and dramatic starting point. Can’t you just feel the heat and sense the loneliness of the remote Indian Reservation? Equally powerful in this first paragraph is seeing the writer facing the need to suddenly and completely rethink the approach he had carefully planned to address the tribal leaders. His excitement is dashed. His confidence has plummeted. He is totally unprepared for the mistrust facing him and his plan, and he needs to improvise--quick. Who wouldn’t want to read on to see how he resolves this dramatic turn of events?
- Solid storytelling that leads to a satisfying conclusion: This nontraditional med school applicant is reinventing himself in this essay. From the realization that he wants more human involvement and interaction in his work, he takes this new self-knowledge and shows us the steps he took to achieve his new goal. The steps are logical and well thought out, so his conclusion that he is well prepared in every way for med school makes perfect sense.
- Evidence on hand to support his theme: Through taking prerequisite courses in medicine (and achieving high grades) to bedside hospital volunteering (which provides emotional satisfaction) to helping to write a medical research paper (which provides a feeling that he is making a meaningful contribution), the writer offers evidence that he is well suited for his new career goal in medicine. Each experience shared is relevant to the story. Any reader will agree that his future as a physician is promising.
- Thoughtful perspective: From the opening paragraph the writer shows his ability to adapt to new situations and realities with quick thinking and psychological openness. He assesses each stage in his journey, testing it for intellectual viability and emotional satisfaction. His journey of reflective self-discovery is one that that adcoms will value.
- Vivid imagery : As with any strong essay, there are no wasted words here. Each sentence builds on a foundation, taking us further into a story that has movement and vitality. Additionally, the sprinkling of sentences with vivid imagery and action adds to the essay’s power: “Their rooftops a seemingly helpless shield against the intense heat generated by the mid-July sun.” “With perspiration forming on my brow, I decided I would need to take a new approach to salvage this meeting. So I discarded my rehearsed speech, stepped out from behind the safety of the podium, and began to solicit the council members' questions and concerns.” “I too found it personally gratifying to provide individuals with emotional support by holding an elderly woman's hand as a physician drew a blood sample or befriending frightened patients with a smile and conversation.”
Medical school personal statement example #3: The Dental School Applicant
I could hardly keep myself from staring at the girl: the right side of her face was misshapen and bigger than the left. Only later did I notice that Cheryl, about nine at the time, had light brown hair, lively brown eyes, and a captivating smile. When she walked into the candy shop where I worked six years ago, Cheryl told me she was a student of my former fourth grade teacher with whom I had kept in contact. We talked then and spent time talking each time she visited. She became a very special friend of mine, one whom I admire greatly. At the time we met, I was taking honors and AP classes, working about twenty hours a week, and feeling sorry for myself. Cheryl's outgoing confidence and good cheer put my situation in perspective. Cheryl was strong, kind, and surprisingly hopeful. She never focused on her facial deformities, but always on the anticipated improvement in her appearance. Her ability to find strength within herself inspired me to become a stronger person. It motivated me to pursue a career where I could help those like Cheryl attain the strength that she possesses.
At the time, my initial interest turned toward psychology. Impressed with Cheryl's outlook, I overlooked the source of her strength: she knew that treatment will improve her appearance. Focusing on the emotional aspects of her illness, I volunteered at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. There, I supervised the daily activities of pre-adolescents, played with them, and assisted them in getting dressed. I worked with crack babies, autistic children, and children who had severe behavioral problems. I enjoyed interacting with the children, but I often became frustrated that I was not able to help them. For instance, a young autistic boy frequently hit himself. No one was permitted to stop this child. We had to turn away and allow him to continually strike and hurt himself until he tired.
I was increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress I saw in my volunteer work at NPI, but my job again pushed me in the right direction. During the fall quarter of my junior year in college, I left the candy shop where I had worked for nearly five and a half years, and I began working as a senior clerk in the Anesthesiology Residency Program. Ironically work, which frequently made study difficult, helped me find the right path. There I learned about the oral and maxillo-facial specialty, which will allow me to help people like Cheryl.
To explore my interest in dentistry, I volunteered as a dental assistant in Dr. Miller's dental office. Dr. Miller introduced me to various dental techniques. Although I was mainly an observer, I had the opportunity to interact with the patients. I came in contact with a diverse patient population with different problems and dental needs. I observed as Dr. Miller dealt with each patient individually and treated each one to the best of his ability. He familiarized me with strategies for oral health promotion and disease prevention. I learned a great deal from him, and as a result, my interest in dentistry grew.
I choose to pursue a career in dentistry after following a circuitous path. My friendship with Cheryl motivated me to enter a field where I can help the severely disfigured cope with their condition. Although I initially turned to psychology, I found my work at the Neuropsychiatric Institute to be frustrating and was searching for a different way to achieve my goal. Ironically, Cheryl had told me all along the source of her strength: the knowledge that her condition was treatable and improving. Through maxillo-facial dentistry I will help others with serious facial deformities have the same knowledge and source of strength.
Lessons from med school sample essay #3
- Compelling lead: The reader is riveted by what the writer first describes: a child with a deformed face. Yet the writer doesn’t stay focused on the disturbing image; she segues immediately to the child’s charm, liveliness, and positivity. By the end of the intro paragraph, the reader is rewarded by seeing how this child has become almost a role model for the writer, a gateway to a new professional destination.
- Solid storytelling that leads to a satisfying conclusion: In five tightly written paragraphs, the writer explains what she calls a “circuitous path” to applying to dental school . In fact, since meeting Cheryl in the candy shop, every professional decision she made flowed logically from her motivation to find a career where she could help others like this disfigured child. Notice how each experience builds upon one another, including disappointments along the way, until she finds her calling in the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery. By the last sentence, the writer has neatly tied the entire essay together.
- Consistent theme From the first sentence to the last, this essay remains tightly focused on the writer’s path to applying to dental school. Every sentence is relevant to the story, and every sentence takes the reader further along an interesting journey.
- Thoughtful perspective: In showing how her thinking about her career evolved after meeting Cheryl, the writer reveals herself as a person of emotional depth. Her choices to learn about various fields of psychology and healthcare reveal a dedication to finding her true “north star.”
- Engaging prose : The writer takes her story farther, faster, by using active voice: “I supervised the daily activities of pre-adolescents. . .” “I was increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress I saw. . .” “My friendship with Cheryl motivated me to enter a field. . . ” The buoyant storytelling holds our interest. Notice also the helpful transitions at the beginning of each new paragraph; each links what we have just read with where the writer is taking us now, keeping us rooted in the narrative.
Note how the author reveals a lot about herself without overtly saying "I am this and I am that." She is obviously hard working and disciplined, probably compassionate and kind. Interested in dentistry for a long time, she has clearly considered other options. And she tells a good story . Our experts can help you tell your story just as effectively -- check out our AASDAS application packages here .
Medical school personal statement example #4: The Traveler
On the first day that I walked into the Church Nursing Home, I was unsure of what to expect. A jumble of questions ran through my mind simultaneously: Is this the right job for me? Will I be capable of aiding the elderly residents? Will I enjoy what I do? A couple of hours later, these questions were largely forgotten as I slowly cut chicken pieces and fed them to Frau Meyer. Soon afterwards, I was strolling through the garden with Herr Schmidt, listening to him tell of his tour of duty in World War II. By the end of the day, I realized how much I enjoyed the whole experience and at the same time smiled at the irony of it all. I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.
Experiences like my volunteer work in the German nursing home illustrate the decisive role travel has played in my life. For instance, I had volunteered at a local hospital in New York but was not satisfied. Dreams of watching doctors in the ER or obstetricians in the maternity ward were soon replaced with the reality of carrying urine and feces samples to the lab. With virtually no patient contact, my exposure to clinical medicine in this setting was unenlightening and uninspiring. However, in Heidelberg, despite the fact that I frequently change diapers for the incontinent and deal with occasionally cantankerous elderly, I love my twice weekly visits to the nursing home. Here, I feel that I am needed and wanted. That rewarding feeling of fulfillment attracts me to the practice of medicine.
My year abroad in Germany also enriched and diversified my experience with research. Although I had a tremendously valuable exposure to research as a summer intern investigating chemotherapeutic resistance in human carcinomas, I found disconcerting the constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research. In contrast, my work at the University of Heidelberg gave me a broader view of basic research and demonstrated how it can expand knowledge -- even without the promise of immediate profit. I am currently attempting to characterize the role of an enzyme during neural development. Even though the benefit of such research is not yet apparent, it will ultimately contribute to a vast body of information which will further medical science.
My different reactions to research and medicine just exemplify the intrinsically broadening impact of travel. For example, on a recent trip to Egypt I visited a small village on the banks of the Nile. This impoverished hamlet boasted a large textile factory in its center where many children worked in clean, bright, and cheerful conditions weaving carpets and rugs. After a discussion with the foreman of the plant, I discovered that the children of the village learned trades at a young age to prepare them to enter the job market and to support their families. If I had just heard about this factory, I would have recoiled in horror with visions of sweat shops running through my head. However, watching the skill and precision each child displayed, in addition to his or her endless creativity, soon made me realize that it is impossible to judge this country’s attempts to deal with its poverty using American standards and experience.
Travel has not only had a formative and decisive impact on my decision to pursue a career in medicine; it has also broadened my horizons -- whether in a prosperous city on the Rhine or an impoverished village on the Nile. In dealing with patients or addressing research puzzles, I intend to bring the inquiring mind fostered in school, lab, and volunteer experiences. But above all, I intend to bring the open mind formed through travel.
Lessons from medical school sample essay #4
This applicant effectively links the expansive benefits of travel to his medical ambitions. Sharing vivid anecdotes from these experiences, his reflections allow the reader to easily imagine him as a talented physician in the future.
- Engaging opening that frames the storyline: Many fine application essays open with imagery so vibrant that it could be mistaken for fiction. This essay is no different. We meet the writer in the setting of a nursing home overseas, where he questions whether his volunteer experiences there will help him determine his career path. Notice how the first sentence reflects a worry: “I was unsure of what to expect,” but by the final sentence he concludes with satisfaction, “I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.” With this framing, we appreciate the essay’s theme.
- Reflections and contrasts about varied experiences in medicine: The writer’s reactions to various encounters reveal a maturing mindset: the “unenlightening and uninspiring” experience volunteering in a New York hospital versus the feeling of being “needed and wanted” in the nursing home in Heidelberg; the “disconcerting . . . constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research” versus the “broader view of basic research and . . . how it can expand knowledge -- even without the promise of immediate profit” at the University of Heidelberg. These reflections demonstrate thoughtfulness born of experience.
- How traveling has expanded his potential as a physician: Of the five tightly constructed paragraphs in this substantial essay, the final two paragraphs home in on how travel has had an “intrinsically broadening impact” and stimulated an “open mind” to people and situations. This sophisticated view will be desirable traits to the adcom.
- Out-of-the-box theme: Related to point 3, while this essay’s foundation is built on the writer’s sincere and dedicated aspirations for a medical career, he has allowed himself the space to write about the broadening intellectual benefits of travel, linking them to his professional potential. Even when writing about children working in a factory in Egypt, he brings an expanded mindset and greater cross-cultural understanding that will no doubt benefit him in his career.
Medical school personal statement example #5: The Anthropology Student
Crayfish tails in tarragon butter, galantine of rabbit with foie gras, oxtail in red wine, and apple tartelettes. The patient had this rich meal and complained of "liver upset" (crise de foie). Why a liver ache? I always associate indigestion with a stomach ache. In studying French culture in my Evolutionary Psychology class, I learned that when experiencing discomfort after a rich meal, the French assume their liver is the culprit. Understanding and dealing with the minor — sometimes major — cultural differences is a necessity in our shrinking world and diverse American society. Anthropology has prepared me to effectively communicate with an ethnically diverse population. My science classes, research, and clinical experience have prepared me to meet the demands of medical school.
I first became aware of the valuable service that physicians provide when I observed my father, a surgeon, working in his office. I gained practical experience assisting him and his staff perform various procedures in his out-patient center. This exposure increased my admiration for the restorative, technological, and artistic aspects of surgery. I also saw that the application of medical knowledge was most effective when combined with compassion and empathy from the health care provider.
While admiring my father's role as a head and neck surgeon helping people after severe accidents, I also found a way to help those suffering from debilitating ailments. Working as a certified physical trainer, I became aware of the powerful recuperative effects of exercise. I was able to apply this knowledge in the case of Sharon, a forty-three-year-old client suffering from lupus. She reported a 200% increase in her strength tests after I trained her. This meant she could once again perform simple tasks like carrying groceries into her house. Unfortunately, this glimpse of improvement was followed by a further deterioration in her condition. On one occasion, she broke down and cried about her declining health and growing fears. It was then that I learned no physical prowess or application of kinesiology would alleviate her pain. I helped reduce her anxiety with a comforting embrace. Compassion and understanding were the only remedies available, temporary though they were.
To confirm that medicine is the best way for me to help others, I assisted a research team in the Emergency Room at University Medical Center (UMC). This experience brought me in direct contact with clinical care and provided me with the opportunity to witness and participate in the "behind-the-scenes" hospital operations. Specifically, we analyzed the therapeutic effects of two new drugs — Drug A and Drug B — in patients suffering from acute ischemic stroke. The purpose of this trial was to determine the efficacy and safety of these agents in improving functional outcome in patients who had sustained an acute cerebral infarction. My duties centered around the role of patient-physician liaison, determining patients' eligibility, monitoring their conditions, and conducting patient histories.
I continued to advance my research experience at the VA Non-Human Primate Center. During the past year, I have been conducting independent research in endocrinology and biological aspects of anthropology. For this project, I am examining the correlation between captive vervet monkeys' adrenal and androgen levels with age, gender, and various behavioral measures across different stress-level environments. I enjoy the discipline and responsibility which research requires, and I hope to incorporate it into my career.
Anthropology is the study of humans; medicine is the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease in humans. From my work at UMC and my observation of my father’s practice, I know medicine will allow me to pursue an art and science that is tremendously gratifying and contributes to the welfare of those around me. My anthropology classes have taught me to appreciate cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology. First hand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition has taught me the invaluable role of prevention. Medical school will now provide me with the technical knowledge to alleviate a crise de foie.
[ Click here to view an excerpt from the original draft of this essay. ]
Lessons from medical school sample essay #5
With a diverse background that includes anthropology studies, work as a certified physical trainer, and experience in clinical medical research, this applicant builds a strong case for her logical and dedicated choice of a medical career.
- Engaging opening that frames the storyline: This writer cleverly uses an example from anthropology class describing a heavy, gourmet French meal to an appreciation for cross-cultural understanding that will be an asset during a medical career. Notice that the writer is not describing her own personal experience here but piggybacked on a class lesson to create a colorful, engaging opening.
- Solid variety of relevant experiences: In this six-paragraph essay, the writer links her lessons from anthropology studies to first-hand understanding based on observing how his surgeon-father related to patients, to becoming a physical trainer directly helping others, and then to two different kinds of medical research. Each experience builds logically and chronologically to what came before, adding to the substance of the applicant’s preparation for medical school
- A powerful personal experience with a client: In the third paragraph, the writer’s experience working with a patient with lupus is particularly strong and memorable. Her initial success with Sharon is followed by an almost immediate and radical decline in her condition. This is a moving anecdote that shows the applicant’s understanding of the limitations of medicine--and the power of compassion.
- Excellent summary paragraph that ties everything together: The final paragraph isn’t the place to offer new information, and this one doesn’t. Instead, it reminds the reader about the strong foundation the writer had built from academics to career and medical research. Readers will be persuaded that after these experiences and reflections, the applicant truly appreciates “cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology,” as well as the “first-hand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition teaching the invaluable role of prevention.”
Medical school personal statement example #6: The Runner
This applicant sets herself apart by emphasizing a hobby that she loves and accounts for a dip in her grades caused by illness.
Pounding, rushing footsteps started to close in on me. The roar of the crowd echoed, as I extended my hand to receive the baton that signaled my turn to run. As I tightly wrapped my fingers around it, I felt the wind rush around me, and my tired legs started to carry me faster than I ever dreamed possible. As I rounded the final stretch of track I remember battling fatigue by contemplating two paths: slow down and give up my chance of winning to gain momentary comfort, or push myself even harder and give up momentary comfort to receive greater rewards later. I chose the second path and later held a trophy that represented my perseverance and hard work. The years of running — consistently choosing the second path — have taught me discipline and perseverance. These qualities will help me cross a different finish line and achieve a new goal: becoming a doctor.
I have had to learn to budget my time to meet the demands of school, training programs, and volunteer activities. Although I trained and ran at least thirty miles a week throughout college, I also served as a big sister to Kelly, an abused child, and worked in a hospital trauma unit and as a medical assistant in an OB/GYN clinic. My most satisfying volunteer activity, however, was participating in mission work in Mexico City.
In Mexico City I continually saw young children whose suffering was overwhelming. These children had never received vaccinations, were lice-infested, and suffered from malnutrition. They also frequently had infections that antibiotics can easily treat, but due to poverty were left untreated. For a week our team worked feverishly to see as many children as possible and treat them to the best of our abilities. I will never forget the feeling of complete fulfillment after a long day of using my talents for the betterment of others. The desire to replicate this feeling strengthens my commitment to becoming a physician.
Isaac Asimov once said, "It has been my philosophy on life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly." Difficulties have tested my commitment. In September 1992, at the beginning of the running season I developed a severe case of mono. My doctors advised me to drop out of school for a semester and not run for at least four months. Though devastated, I refused to give up. I managed to keep up with all my classes, even when I came down with pneumonia on top of mono in early November. I resumed training in the beginning of December, two months earlier than doctors originally thought possible. Today I am preparing for the LA Marathon in May.
This test helped shape my attitude towards the work that I am now doing in Dr. Lee's molecular biology research lab. In searching for a cure for colon cancer, the work can become tedious, and the project progresses very slowly. Many just give up, feeling that the answers they seek are buried too deep and require too much effort to find. But my training and the battles I have fought with illness have taught me persistence. I realize that many times progress plateaus, or even declines before I find the results I seek. Most of all, I know that the more hard work I invest, the more exciting, overwhelming, and fulfilling are the later rewards.
As a result of my efforts I have been able to experience the joy of breaking through the tape of a finish line, having my name on a journal article in press, seeing the smile on Kelly's face as I walk with her, and hearing the sincere expressions of gratitude from homeless children who have just received a humble roof over their heads and the medical attention they so desperately need. I hope to cross the finish line in the LA marathon and enter medical school this year.
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APPLICATION STRATEGY / PRIMARY AND SECONDARY ESSAY REVIEW / INTERVIEW PREP
Med school personal statement FAQs
1. when should i start writing my personal statement for medical school.
Typically, traditional applicants who have a goal of submitting their AMCAS or AACOMAS application in June write their personal statement after they take the MCAT in March. Starting the prewriting for the personal statement earlier than that is fine too; however, if an applicant plans to sit for the MCAT in the early spring, writing a compelling personal narrative while preparing for the MCAT can often be too much. Both require very different kinds of thinking. The intensity of studying for the MCAT, and the empirical thinking it requires, can interfere with the imaginative brainstorming needed to find your topic and develop it.
Before focusing on the personal statement, look at all the elements of the primary application. As a whole, the personal statement, activities, MMEs, MCAT, transcript, biographical information and letters, will portray you. One element alone is not enough to bring out the whole you. It might help to strategize about how (and where) to highlight different elements of your background, experience, and character in the different parts of the primary application. Then work on the personal statement knowing what aspects of you are already represented in the other sections of the application. This way, each element adds value to the application and contributes to a more complete picture of you.
It makes sense to compartmentalize completing different parts of the application. Many applicants take the time they need to focus on one application component at a time, which seems to help them be thorough.
Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to write well. Exploring ideas in writing, developing those ideas, showing rather than telling a story, staying clear, writing fluidly, surmising maturely and insightfully, takes much more time than most people anticipate. So, don’t wait until Memorial Day to write your essay and intend to submit on June 1. Give yourself the churn time writing well needs. Also, give yourself time to put a draft down for a day or two and return to it when you’re able to read it afresh. Sometimes, we revise over and over again in one sitting to the point that we can no longer hear the story or its sense because we have been rehearsing and revising a draft to beat the clock. Doing this is a risky way to go about the personal statement. Remember, this essay should be a very impressive part of your application, not merely one more part of the application to finish. At the end of the day, the personal statement is a window that allows others to see you, know you as a person, know you better and beyond your achievements.
2. How do I find the perfect personal statement topic? Does one exist?
Certainly, some ideas are better than others, and one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. However, there is no “perfect” topic. In fact, writing an essay with the approach of trying to out-psych this important application requirement is likely not the strongest way to find your best topic, nor is it the best way to engage your readers.
Instead, consider the following approach. What is an experience you’ve had that matters greatly in helping others understand who you are as a future physician? Why medicine, not in general, but for you, demonstrated by way of a story about an experience that directly ties to being a physician or indirectly demonstrates your sound character as it corresponds with human qualities medical schools desire. When we read what kinds of people medical schools seek, it’s easy enough to identify quite a few character traits that appeal to many schools: compassion, resiliency, adaptability, selflessness, inclusivity, and altruism among them. What experience, when written with key details and description, reveals who you really are?
3. How do you choose the right amount of personal qualities to list?
A strong personal statement should not replicate other parts of the application, with the exception of it being a specific story that stems from a particular experience associated with one of your activities. Otherwise, there’s no listing in this essay. Unfortunately, some applicants do treat the personal statement as an opportunity to list awards, accolades, and experiences, paragraph by paragraph. Meanwhile, the admissions committee can see these awards and experiences in the Experiences section of the application. Rarely, if ever, does this kind of writing bring out voice, vision and identity. Instead, tell a true story, revised with care and precision, that shines with voice, vision and identity.
4. Are there any topics I should avoid for my personal statement?
Certainly, one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. So, there’s a subjectivity in what to write and what not to write. Generally, however, there are some topics to avoid. Don’t write about a time you felt cheated, inconvenienced, frustrated or angry. Sometimes, secondary essay prompts will ask you about a struggle or a mistake, and for these answers, it’s best to show how you turned the situation around or keenly learned from it. Don’t get too caught in childhood. Many applicants do write about a time when they were not yet grown; however, don’t get swallowed by it. Write the scene and then stay in the present to demonstrate your maturity and worthwhile hindsight.
Remember -- no matter what the topic, tone matters.
5. What kind of experience should I include in my personal statement?
6. can the experience i use on my personal statement be from outside of college.
Absolutely. It is relatively common for applicants to only portray themselves as students, and this can be a problem. Sometimes, when applicants write about themselves as excellent students the tone of such a personal statement can sound boastful or pleading. Neither quality is advantageous.
Seeing oneself in any other light can result in a stronger “snapshot” of who you are, as long as the theme or topic of your personal statement still suits the intention of the application in the first place – demonstrating who you are as an appealing candidate for medical school. When we consider the writing task for the personal statement to be much more story-driven, readers go on a descriptive journey. What journey would you like to share?
7. Should I talk about challenges I’ve faced?
If other parts of the application suggest a struggle – whether a lower MCAT score or a notable weak semester on a transcript – it might be advantageous to explain what happened and how you turned that situation around. Whether writing about a challenge in the personal statement or secondaries, the key is to demonstrate resilience. Applicants with physical or cognitive disabilities may choose to write about seeking assistance -- whether a doctor, therapist or a tutor -- and how learning alternative strategies helped them figure out how to attain higher academic achievement.
Sometimes challenges are circumstantial. Sometimes families face financial hardship (did the family breadwinner become unemployed and therefore everyone else had to work more hours, including you?), emotional stress (due to an ongoing illness, Covid-19, or a divorce?) or trauma (a death of a loved one, a house fire, a veteran/sibling returning home with PTSD). Sometimes an applicant has been a caregiver for someone in the family. Sometimes an applicant has taken a leave from school because of someone else’s struggles, or the emotional fallout on the applicant from someone else’s struggle – the loss of a childhood friend, for instance. Self-care is reasonable. We might need to share a life moment in order to frame the context of a life struggle, showing it in the context of responsibility rather than recklessness or immaturity. Showing how you stepped up in a challenging time can show that you are accountable and caring, as long as the story is told to these ends, rather than suggesting resentment or self-pity. Again, neither of these tones is advantageous, nor is blame.
Occasionally applicants have been challenged by a course or by a professor, a classmate or teammate and feel unduly subjected to bias. If there’s discrimination involved, that might be a story to tell. If there’s a personality clash, that might not be a good story to tell.
Finally, as any story of challenge moves along, it’s important to demonstrate what you did, what you learned, how you adapted, or what you now value from having had this life experience that you did not understand before.
Being a doctor is rife with challenges. In the end, your readers may come to understand how you are an insightful leader with great resilience or a compassionate, problem-solver.
8. How do I focus my statement to show that I want to go into medicine and not another field in healthcare?
Great question. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to demonstrate your compassion for others and empathy for people suffering from illness. On the other hand, these are favorable attributes for nearly all healthcare workers -- not only doctors -- but for physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers and psychologists too. Since most applicants have done some shadowing of physicians, it’s not unusual for these experiences to contain moments of learning about being a physician through shadowing or through work in a clinic. However, the more clinical the story, the better especially if you’re applying to osteopathic schools of medicine. If you’re applying to allopathic schools of medicine, it’s possible you have some interest in being a researcher, so telling a story about working in a physician’s lab might demonstrate your insights into the value of research in light of disease or patient care. If you already have an affinity for a specialty, telling how you came to know this could be the way to go.
9. Do I introduce my desired field of healthcare in my personal statement?
Maybe. If you’re very committed and have demonstrated a trend in your activities from general volunteer work (older listings) to more specialized experience in a field of medicine (more recent listings), it may be a good idea to write up how you came to know one field of medicine was really your passion.
Bear in mind that announcing a deep interest in a particular field of medicine may make you “a good fit” or “not a good fit” for some schools. So, if you do write up a story about your desired field of medicine for your personal statement, be sure your list of schools corresponds with this. For instance, if you want to be an obstetrician and you convey this in your personal statement, be certain your schools have clinical exposure or better yet offer specializations in obstetrics, or a required rotation through a hospital for women, for instance.
Lastly, by no means must you announce a desired field of healthcare in personal statement. You may be asked about your specialized interests in medicine in a secondary or in an interview, so it’s a good idea to think this through, but no, you don’t have to tackle this in the personal statement.
10. What should my character limit be?
The AMCAS and AACOMAS character limit for the personal statement is 5300 characters with spaces. The TMDSAS character limit for the personal statement is 5000 characters with spaces. It’s a good idea to use most if not all of this space for your personal statement. Also, try to avoid the temptation to use the same personal statement for AMCAS and AACOMAS. The osteopathic schools seek applicants who know and prefer an osteopathic orientation to medicine, so the AACOMAS personal statement should demonstrate your fit with osteopathic medicine, based on what story you choose to tell and how you tell it, or at the very least, in the conclusion.
11. How do I know when I’m ready to submit my med school personal statement?
I highly recommend getting feedback about this from a strong mentor, advisor or consultant. Accepted offers comprehensive consultation for every part of the writing process, from brainstorming, to outlining, to mentoring on ideas, and editing until a client has a solid final draft in hand, ready for submission. You can review these services here: Initial Essay Package
Generally speaking, when you’ve accomplished FAQ #2 and #3, avoided the pitfalls in #4, revised for clarity and quality of ideas, developed ideas engagingly, and meticulously revised for quality of writing, then, you may be done.
12. What if I don’t have enough space to discuss everything?
Then your topic is too large or unfocused, in which case you need to focus and narrow the scope of your essays. Or you have a bit of editing to do to eliminate wordiness, digressions, or overstatement Ultimately, you want your essay to be focused, clear, and engaging.
13. Should I personalize my personal statement to the med school I am applying to?
Only if you’re applying to one school. Otherwise, your personal statement will reach all schools listed in your AMCAS application or AACOMAS application. It is okay, however, to speak toward the ideals of your first choice, aspirational schools on your list. Other times, applicants choose to write toward the schools that are their safest bets.
Your secondary/supplemental essays will give you plenty of opportunity to show you belong at an individual school.
14. Can I talk about mental or physical health in my statement?
15. should i address any bad grades that i got in school.
Generally yes, as long as bad grades are truly bad grades. It’s likely that you do not need to address a rogue grade of B on a transcript. If you had a bad semester or two, the question becomes how and where to address them. The answer is an individual one dependent on the context. The one certainty: You definitely don’t want your entire application to be a rationalization of those bad grades.
See FAQ #7.
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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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Medical School Sample Personal Statements
These are real personal statements from successful medical school applicants (some are from students who have used our services or from our advisors ). These sample personal statements are for reference purposes only and should absolutely not be used to copy or plagiarize in any capacity. Plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements. Plagiarism is grounds for disqualification of an applicant.
Disclaimer: While these essays ultimately proved effective and led to medical school acceptances, there are multiple components that contribute to being an effective medical school applicant. These essays are not perfect, and the strengths and weaknesses have been listed where relevant.
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Sample personal statements.
“I love Scriabin!” exclaimed Logan, a 19-year-old patient at the hospital, as we found a common interest in the obscure Russian composer. I knew Logan’s story because it was so similar to my own: a classically-trained pianist, he was ready to head off to college in a month, just as I had the year before. Yet it was Logan who was heading into surgery to remove a recently-discovered brain tumor. Hoping to assuage his fears of the daunting operation, I lent him my iPod full of Scriabin’s music. Though the surgery began normally, a few hours later, Logan’s blood pressure started dropping, and he became unresponsive to monitoring provided by the surgical neurophysiologist. As the nurses scrambled to stabilize him, I finally heard the neurosurgeon ask, “Did we lose him?” These four terse words immediately unnerved me. Logan was in the most critical and uncertain situation I could imagine, while the iPod I had lent him, a reminder of the conversation we had just a few hours earlier, was eerily visible on the other side of the room. While Logan, fortunately, went on to make a full recovery after a successful surgery, I was not ready to hear those four frightening words.
Perhaps I was so unnerved by those words because of my experiences with my mother’s sicknesses. My father and I try to be mentally prepared to lose her any day. With a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, my mother has struggled with suicidal tendencies for most of my life. Her other illnesses, including several autoimmune disorders and severe gastrointestinal problems, certainly hinder her from experiencing the joys of life. But what is most difficult for me and my father is her anger and violence when she is in pain. My father would remind me that I had to consider the sources of her feelings, however irrational, in order to communicate with her. Though my relationship with my mother has proved challenging, I am thankful for these experiences.
In medicine, I will be able to use these experiences to understand psychological barriers to wellness and to better empathize with the patients I see in the clinic. Unique life experiences like these helped when I met Enrique, a patient presenting with an unusually painful fungal infection on one of his toenails. Though he was aware that his condition posed no lasting threat to his health, the extreme pain of the infection made him apprehensive of treatment, a soak in Povidone-iodine solution. “How can I help this man?” I asked myself, “He is about to refuse a simple treatment for a painful ailment.” Hoping to calm him, I struck up a conversation in Spanish, which I learned while living for some months in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This was not enough. As he became increasingly uneasy about the impending treatment, I remembered a line from Federico García Lorca’s “Romance de la Pena Negra”: “…wash your body with the water of the lark / and leave your heart in peace.” As Enrique calmly placed his foot into the “lark’s water,” I was relieved to see that this was the encouragement he needed. I believe that my travels have helped me appreciate the cultural backgrounds of many patients and have prepared me to be an empathetic clinician.
While I have been prepared to address patients psychologically and culturally, my training in the lab has prepared me to address patients biologically as well. Having worked extensively in two different labs studying vaccine development and microbial pathogenesis, I have developed a desire to use bench research to improve clinical care. One particularly striking manifestation of this concept came at the beginning of my day at an internist’s clinic. Walking into the office, I heard a most unsettling sound—a distinctive, screeching, painful yelp audible throughout the clinic. I instantly knew what case I would be seeing next: Whooping cough. When I saw Brody, a toddler, I was arrested by a unique commiseration, one of both pity and curiosity. I knew exactly what was happening to Brody. I had spent the last two years performing research on the bacteria that caused the disease, Bordetella pertussis . Describing elements of the microbe’s pathogenesis and explaining how our research could improve vaccine efficacy was comforting to the family, and their response was encouraging to me as I continue my work. My research experiences have engendered a passion to be at the cutting edge of medicine, seeking always to improve patient care, so that in the future, I can come to a family like Brody’s with a better prognosis.
Though I may not have been prepared to hear those frightening words during Logan’s surgery, what I can say with confidence is that I am ready to begin the journey of a physician—the journey of a lifelong learner and a committed healer. I am ready to be challenged by difficult situations in the clinic, like Logan’s, because it is through those circumstances that I will learn and grow. I want to become a physician so that I can use my liberal arts education with my personal and professional experiences to meet medicine’s unique requirement of understanding patients psychologically, culturally, and biologically. I am ready to provide the most excellent patient care, empathetically and holistically appreciating my patients’ stories in order to serve them best.
The author masterfully weaves together multiple elements of his unique experiences in medicine to tell a compelling story. This an excellent example of “show, don’t tell”, whereby the author tells stories and takes the reader on a journey rather than simply listing what he did in the past.
For example, rather than explicitly stating that he did research on Bordetella pertussis, the author tells a story of a patient with Whooping cough and interweaves his research experience there, tying together a message of the future doctor’s interest in translational (from bench to bedside) research. Similarly, rather than explicitly stating he did experience A, and learned important lesson B and C, these themes are implied more indirectly. As a result, the essay reads smoothly as a story, and grips the reader.
The author’s voice comes through, transitions are smooth, the introduction engages the reader, and the story arc neatly comes full circle. The character limit was pushed to the limit (5,299) and the author made every word count. Fantastic essay.
The main reason why I want to go into medicine is because of a promise I made to my sister when I was eight years old. My sister, who was only a few months old, was aware I had been taking care of her while our parents were working late. Caring for her gave me a feeling of responsibility I had never experienced before. When my sister woke up with a fever, I felt helpless. Her doctor was able to take care of the most important person in my life by systematically ruling out possible causes for the fever while still helping my sister feel safe, allowing me to see the beauty of medicine. I made a promise to my sister to become a medical doctor, so I can take care of her and other people who cannot take care of themselves. Later, my mother explained to me that medicine had made my life possible because I had been conceived through in vitro fertilization. This reinforced my motivation to become a physician and encourages me to this day to come full circle and give back to the field that made my life possible by helping others in need.
I continued to pursue my dream of practicing medicine by volunteering in the Intensive Care Unit at the UC San Diego Thornton Medical Center, where I gained first-hand experience interacting with patients. While collecting laboratory samples from nurses, I talked to a patient who only spoke Spanish. As the interpreter had not arrived yet, I was the only Spanish speaker in the unit, and my Spanish was basic at best. I asked the patient about her day and family, which really lifted her spirits. This interaction taught me the importance of personal connections with patients.
Shadowing allowed me to learn the characteristics of a good physician. Before surgeries, I obtained the patient’s consent to let me observe the procedure while the surgeon went over the patient’s last minute concerns. One patient needed an Aortic Valve Replacement, and when I was getting his consent he told me he was a famous Italian singer. The surgeon asked him to sing his hit song, and I was amazed. The patient’s face lit up and all his worries faded before the surgery. Even though the patient was going to be heavily sedated, the surgeon still cared about the patient’s stress about the procedure and that really drew me to the profession and showed me that there is more to being a good doctor than just the technicalities or knowledge from textbooks.
Volunteering at a veterans’ hospital exposed me to a side of medicine I have only read about in the news. People who are underserved and undereducated who refuse medical care. I would call patients who could not go to any other hospital and try to convince them to have their eyes checked for diabetes symptoms in the Teleretinal Imaging department. One veteran answered my call with a groan asking why he needs to go to the hospital when he knows he does not have diabetes. I realized I had to explain to him that symptoms can develop well before the actual disease. This inspired me to help patients in underprivileged communities because some are not educated enough to know when something is wrong with their bodies.
I know if I am given the chance to practice medicine and serve as a leader in the African American community, I can deliver the same inspiration and become a role model for those who are disadvantaged. At UC San Diego I joined the Black Student Union where I was able to reach out to those who were unsure about pursuing a higher education. Speaking to high school students about my college experiences has improved my communication skills and ability to relate to diverse populations. I spoke about how college can open many more opportunities for these students and that there are countless resources and scholarships that can help them. I will use simple and direct communication to help patients understand their disease. Through this experience, I knew I wanted to practice medicine that is personal through interaction with minority communities. After these events, it is clear to me that I cannot give up on my dreams of becoming a doctor because when I rise I will also lift those around me with the same struggle.
In elementary school, I realized there was a lack of famous African-American physicians, so I asked my parents if they knew of anyone. My father told me about my uncle, Roy Harris, who grew up in the inner city, surrounded by drugs and gangs. In order to avoid these hardships, he joined the high school track team and continued running through college while pursuing his medical degree. I began running to remind myself of his inspiring story and, like him, encourage a change in the world so one day students will have more African-American doctors to emulate. I am currently one of the top athletes in the nation, an Academic All-American, and I hope to compete at NCAA Division II nationals next year. Running has given me the discipline to maintain a balanced life, provided me the focus to succeed in medical school, and given me the drive to work toward fulfilling my dreams. Most importantly, I made a promise to my sister, creating an unshakeable foundation of endless motivation that will encourage me even through the most distressing moments of my journey to become a physician. I will never give up nor surrender because I always keep my promises.
The author uses an anecdote to start and finish the essay, which is a common and effective way to create a story arc. He calls back to multiple experiences throughout his life, from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to bolster his resolve for pursuing medicine. His interesting background and stories, such as the promise he made to his sister, and his inspiration for picking up track, make for unique elements in this personal statement.
While the author does reflect back to multiple experiences, this comes across more as “telling” than “showing”. Compare this to the essay above to see the difference. The author has a common and repeating paragraph structure of 1) explain what the extracurricular or experience is, 2) recount a story related to said experience, and 3) draw lessons learned. While this structure gets the point across, it does not come across as engaging or compelling to the reader.
The author’s desire to give back to the African American community as well as his high aspirations are admirable.
At the beginning of the first Alternative Spring Break (ASB) meeting that I was leading in front of a group of nervous volunteers, I used an icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. Being a common face at my campus’s student activities, I have played this game perhaps one too many times. Unlike everyone else who had to take time to think about their interesting truths, I would say the same thing every time. “I want to be a pediatrician, I have alpacas, and I have llamas.”
I do not have llamas.
Growing up on a farm has given me great pride throughout the years and has driven my passion for service to my community, leading me to the goal of a career as a pediatrician. The farm is where I was first introduced to medicine. I would assist my father give shots to our animals, help our alpacas give birth to their crías, and talk with our family veterinarian about his treatment methods. The farm spawned in me a love for science which has shaped my career path, and my knowledge acquired through the farm has been a pleasure to share with people. My mother and I would visit the special education classrooms of different schools to show the kids presentations of the farm. We would lead demonstrations of us cleaning, spinning and crocheting the fiber to an involved and excited crowd of individuals. I have had numerous positive interactions with kids which has made me realize that there is no group I would rather work with more.
Our family farm became close with the few farms that were around us. We would help the alpaca farm 20 minutes from us shear their alpacas, and we once helped a small farm repair its fence that had been ravaged by a tornado. It felt good to be able to help people with things that not everybody has the knowledge to do. The farm helped shape my view of community into one of empathy which encompasses the spirit of being a physician. The joy I received from helping other farms led me to pursue community service opportunities at my university which I found first with ASB, a community service organization in which students dedicate their spring breaks to participate in meaningful service activities, and later as an AmeriCorps volunteer. When I signed up for my first ASB trip in my freshman year, I looked for a trip that involved helping kids. I knew I loved working with the younger population by assisting my mom at her home daycare and those presentations we gave to special education classes. The trip that caught my attention was to Pulaski, VA, which worked with a service organization called Beans and Rice. We would do fulfilling tornado recovery work in the morning, but I most looked forward to afternoons where we got to sit down and chat with kids about their days while helping them with their homework. I heard many stories from the kids about going to bed hungry or their parents being out of work. We were able to sit with whomever we wished during the kids’ lunch which I primarily spent with Chase, a boy who the other kids saw as an outcast due to his sexual orientation. My time with these kids made me realize how some people did not grow up with the strong sense of community that I knew at their age and inspired me to continue my work with their age group.
During my time in Pulaski, the director of the organization recognized my passion for working with kids and encouraged me to apply to AmeriCorps. I found a program in Lincoln, NE which allowed me to work with impoverished kids and share my passion of science with them under my given alias of T-Roy the Science Boy (not to be confused with my rival, Bill Nye the Science Guy). My relationships with the children I was working with grew fast, but one student made a significant impact on me. The second-grader was incapable of paying attention to academics yet had an amazing sense of humor. On the surface, his apparent developmental issues brought on by fetal alcohol syndrome resulted in hyperactivity and an inclination for angry outbursts. I spent time with him every day but came to the realization that, no matter how many times I was able to help him understand something, it did little to help his underlying health problems. Going to medical school will allow me to obtain the knowledge and skills I need to offer the ultimate service to people like my second-grade student—access to a healthy life.
With a strong desire to continue giving back to my community, I signed up to be a patient advocate in Baystate Medical Center’s emergency room. Here I was exposed to different health issues and many upset family members. It was my job to ensure the patients and their families were as comfortable as possible, but my job often morphed into one of a storyteller conversing with the families to get their minds off their difficult situations. Of course, the alpacas were a common topic of discussion since kids always love seeing the goofy haircuts we give them. My mother made this an easy task by uploading a video of us shearing the alpacas onto YouTube titled “Spit Happens”. A fitting name, no doubt. I have been blessed to share my farm-inspired sense of community with a broad range of different cultures from Nebraska to Virginia. I look forward to travelling to new communities as a physician while keeping my community-driven morals close, so alpaca my bags now.
This author is unique in his excellent command of humor. Note that this is a riskier approach and most applicants should avoid humor. In this setting, the humor certainly adds value to the essay, although this may be more off-putting to more traditional and conservative medical school admissions committee members. Overall, a high risk and high reward strategy, because when it lands, it makes for a compelling, unique, and entertaining read. Remember, admissions committees are reading through thousands of essays, and this comes as a breath of fresh air.
The introduction is brilliantly engaging and humorous, and entices the reader for what is to come. Clearly, this author has an interesting story to share and isn’t afraid to make you laugh.
While the essay is overall good, it could be improved in a few notable ways. First, the sentence structure and word choice can be tightened up in areas. The reader may find themself having to reread more than one sentence to understand what the writer is hoping to convey. Secondly, while the author does a great job highlighting a very unique and wide ranging background, showing more than telling would increase the effectiveness of this essay. Additionally, more emphasis and attention on “why medicine” and “why you would make a good doctor” would make this medical school personal statement more universally appealing (and less risky).
It’s not every day you help a kid become Iron Man. It happened for me during an internship at the NIH. I was responsible for designing the electronics and software for a portable robotic exoskeleton to help children expressing crouch gait due to cerebral palsy to improve their gait by retraining their muscles and neuron pathways. I saw the project as a fascinating technical problem and immersed myself in solving it.
Then I met Isaiah. Isaiah is a child with cerebral palsy expressing crouch gait with limited mobility. When Isaiah first began training on the robot, he became frustrated. As I watched him become exasperated using the device, it really hit me that I was creating a device for a real person, and the way we delivered his care was every bit as important to what we were doing as delivering an effective technical solution. As his confidence grew, I witnessed Isaiah, who could barely walk without the device, try to run. We even had to tell him to slow down! He asked if he could bring home the device because it made him feel like Iron Man. This experience crystalized for me my calling, to solve the challenging medical problems children face with love and a deep appreciation for their humanity.
I have firsthand knowledge of what it means to a child with serious medical problems to have loving physicians and nurses. When I was four, I received a heart transplant. Five years later, I fell ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Throughout these difficult and uncertain times, I was fortunate to have a clinical team whose positivity and humor made me feel like a normal kid despite the fact that I was facing grave medical problems. While these experiences were difficult, they gave me a perspective that I treasure because it gives meaning to every day of my life. This perspective is where my calling originates – to become a physician-engineer completely committed to the emotional well-being of each of my patients.
The engineering problems many children face are substantial, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to develop my skills in this area. As a part of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design’s design team program I worked on two projects that taught me different aspects of the process of developing medical devices. The first project, NeoVate, gave me an overview of the design process of bringing medical devices to market. We developed a neonatal monitoring system for the developing world. We began with a needs assessment and then prototyped our solution to satisfy the specifications we developed. While I focused on the technical development, it was valuable to see other members create a sustainable distribution model because it helped me understand the step by step process by which an idea goes from concept to adoption in the medical field.
For the second project, TacPac, I was the team leader. On past teams I had a narrow focus on the technical development, but on TacPac I had to be knowledgeable about all aspects of the project and see the big picture in order to develop strategies to move the team forward. I learned how to create contingency plans by reaching out to our numerous advisors in many different specialties to build decision trees.
This project had an extra layer of meaning for me since we were developing an at-home monitoring system for tacrolimus, an immunosuppressant drug I have been taking for over twelve years. Currently, monitoring of this drug’s levels can only be done in a clinical setting. Our device allows patients to monitor their levels in the home, allowing for less inconvenience to patients and more data to make more informed clinical decisions.
While my engineering training developed my technical skills, the foundation of my heart and why I will pour myself into my vocation is derived from the love and care I received from my own clinical team as a child. I feel called to be of service to children with serious medical issues, just as my physicians and nurses were to me. One of my favorite volunteer experiences was when I was a camp counselor for Heart Camp, where I had previously been a camper. Heart Camp is a week-long camp for children with congenital heart defects designed to create an environment of fun, hope, and normalcy. This is one way in which I can use the difficult experiences of my childhood for good because it is easy for me to bring normalcy to these children’s lives since for me, it is normal.
Another volunteer opportunity that has had a tremendous amount of meaning for me is working with the Washington Regional Transplant Community to spread organ donation awareness by telling my story. Since I never received the chance to know my donor family, I use this volunteering as my way to say thank you.
I have enjoyed my engineering studies and my volunteering experiences have been of tremendous value to me, but I cannot wait to go to medical school. It is my desire to be a bridge between the technical engineering world and the direct delivery of care that only physicians can give. I feel it is my mission to use all of my experiences, both good and bad, to find innovative solutions to help the next Wonder Woman and Captain America thrive both physically and in every other part of their lives.
The superhero theme is unique, timely, and highly relevant to the author’s interest in pursuing a pediatric specialty. The author has a strong research background and ultimately was accepted to a highly ranked and research heavy institution, which is no surprise. While a significant portion of the body of the essay reads as “tell” more than “show”, some aspects of the personal statement use more effective story telling.
Deep interest in research, a unique background of being a lymphoma patient, and a palpable passion to help other kids who are suffering makes this applicant come across as a valuable asset to any research oriented medical school.
To further improve the impact of this essay, the author could remove one or two experiences listed in a more descriptive way and incorporate immersive stories to convey the significance and impact they had on him.
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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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Curriculum Vitae and Personal Statement
You will upload your curriculum vitae and personal statement through your MyUpstate account. You will receive an email prompting you do this. The Residency Advisor will review your C.V. and personal statement and make suggestions.
It is also wise to show your personal statement and C.V. to your letter of recommendation (LOR) writers. They may choose to include some of this information in their letter. Links to sample C.V.s and personal statements are included on this page.
The C.V. is one of the most important parts of your application to residency. It is a snapshot of your accomplishments and gives the applicant selection committees a better idea of who you are. Basically, "What have you been doing with yourself for the past few years?" You should invest enough time to make sure you are “selling yourself” to the best of your ability. Putting a C.V. together helps you organize your thoughts about your college and medical school years, which will help during an interview. Make an effort to tailor the information to your specialty.
Some general rules to follow when writing curriculum vitae:
- Emphasize your strengths. Put them toward the beginning of the C.V.
- Be clear, concise, and accurate. Keep your C.V. to two pages or less.
- Make it pleasant to the eye and appealing. Organization is the key. You want it to attract the attention of your audience. The formatting will not survive in ERAS, but will make an impressive handout at interviews.
- Use action words wherever possible
- General categories to include: Heading: Name, Address, Telephone number, Email address. (Include all addresses and phone numbers where you can be reached during the application and interview process.) Education: Medical School, Graduate School, and Undergraduate Honors / Awards Research / Publications/Presentations Work experience Extracurricular Activities Professional Memberships Personal /Interests Optional information to include: language skills, licenses & certifications, and military information
- Do not put "Curriculum Vitae" at the top of the document. Whoever is reading it will know what it is.
- Triple check your spelling and grammar. Read it backwards!
- Be consistent throughout your C.V.
- Get objective feedback from your advisor, dean, friends, and family. You will revise your C.V. many times. But it will be worth it in the long run.
- Download Sample Curriculum Vitaes
Many applicants spend a great deal of time working on and worrying about their personal statement. However, this is probably not necessary. Application selection committees do not expect personal statements to be literary masterpieces. They only expect you to emphasize your good qualities, be honest about your accomplishments, and be yourself. Most personal statements are relatively similar in style and this traditional style is probably the easiest to use, unless you are an unusually gifted writer. It is acceptable to be general and your remarks can be tailored somewhat to the interest of the individual programs to which you are applying. To make the personal statement more relevant to the PGY-1 programs, you can simple add a sentence or two near the end of the statement about what you hope to gain from your PGY-1 experience.
You can create and upload to ERAS as many personal statements as you wish. This will allow you to tailor your personal statement to each program. However, this is by no means necessary. You may use the same personal statement for all programs. If you are applying for a PGY-2 specialty, you do not need to write a second and different personal statement slanted to your Preliminary program. They understand that you are simply "passing through" your internship on your way to the Specialty.
Topics to include in your personal statement:
- Reasons for specialty selection. You may wish to discuss a salient event that helped you choose your specialty, if there was such an event.
- What about the specialty interests you?
- Skills and abilities you have which are valued by your specialty.
- Relevant experience (a balance of medical and personal examples), coursework, research activity.
- Personal and practice goals and objectives (long term, commitments). Many people like to talk about their long range goals in the specialty.
- Qualities you are seeking or desire in a residency program (some examples: outpatient care, elective time, teaching and research opportunities).
- Your Uniqueness. Personal interests, achievements, life experiences which make you unique. However, there is no need to reiterate everything that is in your curriculum vitae.
How to write your personal statement:
- Write clearly. Use simple rather than long and involved sentences. Vary your sentence length.
- Length: One or one and a half (double spaced) typewritten pages, short, well-developed paragraphs (3 to 6 paragraphs).
- Avoid overuse of "I" statements. You should seldom, if ever, start your sentences with "I".
- Avoid mentioning lifestyle or monetary rewards as your major reason for choosing a specialty.
- Save your acting ability for the interview. Write to be understood not to impress.
- End with a positive, "upbeat" statement.
- Have someone critique your personal statement for grammar, spelling, and composition. The deans will help you with this. (Yes, you will write it more than once!)
- Revise and rewrite. Sharpen your skills; improvement is always possible.
- Avoid starting a paragraph about how you struggled through three years trying to figure out your chosen specialty. Everyone has this experience.
Sample Personal Statement
- Download Sample Personal Statements
AMCAS Personal Statement Examples
Why is the AMCAS Personal Statement Important?
Every year, thousands of graduates apply to medical school. Some of them have fantastic GPAs and MCAT scores, others have astounding extracurriculars, shadowing, and volunteering experience, and yet others have both. Yet many of these stellar students who have spent hours doing all this don’t make the cut. Most medical school applicants go through at least 2 or 3 years of applications before getting an acceptance offer from a medical school. Some others do not get accepted even after a couple of rounds and give up their medical school dreams.
What are we missing? How can we tilt this equation and increase the odds of getting in? What are some winning strategies?
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the people making the decisions and handing out acceptance, rejection, and waitlist letters.
The critical thing to remember is that the admissions committee reviews every candidate qualitatively. This is because while numbers speak for past achievement, the committee is most concerned about future potential: something that may or may not be reflected in those fabulous GPA and MCAT numbers . There are several questions that the committee seeks to find answers to, and one central question is how well a student will fare in their program and beyond.
That brings us to the unknown future. Let us look at some known facts: Even highly successful students will have to give everything they have to thrive in a new environment—one that is much more fast-paced, with varying and several demands, complex challenges, and possible twists and turns that no one can anticipate. At the end of the day, candidates are people. Between fitting the scores and the extracurriculars on the one hand, and the values, perspectives, habits, and attitude of applicants on the other, medical school admissions committees have their work cut out for them.
So they turn to the personal statement. The AMCAS personal statement is one of the tools through which the qualitative review takes place. In a limited personal statement of not more than 5300 characters, including spaces, you get the chance to tell a story that reveals the person you are. It is the only way to tell the admissions committee that you have the conviction, dedication, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to succeed in medical school and beyond. The AMCAS personal statement provides a window into the unique past of every applicant to showcase future potential.
What do I talk about in the AMCAS Personal Statement?
Amcas personal statement sample 1.
Just as every person is unique, each applicant’s personal statement is unique. There is no preferred topic or experience. While the personal statement is anchored around 2 to 3 incidents or life experiences that are personal, the real interest lies in why those incidents are important to the applicant. Let us take an example from an applicant’s AMCAS personal statement:
I grew up in a family where autoimmune diseases were almost synonymous with existence. I watched my diabetic uncle taking two insulin shots each day, avoiding pastries and cakes, and maintaining a stringent routine. I was told that diabetes had afflicted my grandfather as well. At the tender age of 9, when the whole world seemed to be bubbling with opportunities, growth, and promise, I was used to seeing the deterioration in the quality of life that disease can cause.
The strength of this opening statement is that it is deeply personal and suggests that the applicant’s interest in medicine has strong personal roots. Note that it is not necessary to start with clinical or shadowing experience. In some ways, the AMCAS personal statement is a story about your personal quest or self-discovery. Since you are likely to have started your clinical and shadowing work after discovering your career, it is a good idea to start from an earlier point in your life. Even if you start with a clinical experience, tracing back your career interest to an earlier moment is almost a must to give the committee a sense of your journey.
You will also notice that the student continuously connects disease with quality of life (a top concern for patients and doctors alike). Thirdly, the opening remark shows the writer’s concern and empathy which are essential qualities in a doctor.
Let us look at what makes a good personal statement. Like every piece of writing, the AMCAS personal statement has its set of essential ingredients and optional elements. Combined, the two parts should result in a compelling narrative that convinces the school about the applicant’s candidature.
The Essential Components:
Show a key trait or value that is critical to the field: this could be people-centric values such as empathy or helpfulness; it could be more general such as curiosity about life systems, drive to make a difference.
The connection between personal experiences and professional aspirations: The personal statement is a personal account. It seeks to provide personal reasons for pursuing medicine. This indicates that no incident is trivial or significant in and of itself. In AMCAS the personal statement, an event takes on significance in so far as it reveals how it shaped the applicant’s personal journey. Examples of such events could be mundane ones such as:
- Driving through underserved neighborhoods and noticing the lack of health facilities
- Doctor’s visits and becoming curious
- Sitting in a Biology course and being excited about the subject
- Pondering over the effect of sleep on our health and reflecting on daily habits and health
None of these incidents is out of the ordinary. Yet, in the personal statement, they can make a compelling case if presented in the right way. Let us see how the AMCAS personal statement we started with makes such a case:
When I was a freshman in college, I witnessed what hypothyroidism can do to a person. My cousin, who had read so many storybooks to me when I was a kid, loaning her books generously when I became an independent reader myself, was diagnosed with the condition and was severely depressed. Her unaccountable weight gain was baffling, and I sensed she suffered a lot. I was very close to her, and to watch her, after seeing what my uncle had to go through, was to have a déjà vu of how disease can alter a person’s entire lifestyle.
The trait of concern for others’ well-being, which was outlined in the first paragraph, takes center stage here. Also, note the little details about the applicant’s reading interest and the more subtle indication of the writer’s gratitude when she mentions that her cousin had read books to her. The theme of concern for the quality of life is seen again at the end of this paragraph.
So my interest in medicine began when I started to take her little gifts and to spend time chatting with her. Wanting to do more, I started volunteering at the St. Martin Hospital. At first, I helped answer calls. Soon I was allowed to check on supplies and even carry food to patients. Feeling the need to bring a strong scientific perspective to all that I did at the hospital, I selected Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in my sophomore year. I joined with an undeclared major, which gave me the flexibility to explore premed opportunities on campus. As my interest in the health sciences grew, I divided my evenings between volunteering and shadowing doctors.
This paragraph shows a progressive development in the applicant’s interest and the steps she took to address those interests. The key phrase is “a strong scientific perspective” which indicates the applicant’s ability to analyze and identify the most important element in patient care: the science.
The different responsibilities I handled when volunteering and when shadowing showed me the two distinct but complementary sides of medical practice: as a volunteer, I learned to be proactive, to anticipate the needs of patients, nurses, and the administrative staff. Timely help, attention to detail, and working in different departments taught me to be flexible and always alert. I learned that minor tasks were critically important to ensure effective care. As I checked the nutritionist’s instructions on the food tray or ordered a wheelchair for patients, I learned that patient care is at its heart selflessness. Concern for another person’s well-being comes before anything else. The few moments that I had to spare were spent with patients as I chatted with them, talking about their interests, families, the news, or anything else that caught their fancy.
When I shadowed, however, I entered the high realm of diagnostics and treatment. I learned, paying attention to the nuances of the doctor’s analysis of symptoms in the context of family histories, socioeconomic factors, and lifestyle. On the one hand, I learned to see every new case as the latest exemplar that would add to the collective knowledge of doctors. On the other, I realized that medicine called for the ability to creatively connect existing parameters of a known condition with its unique representation in each patient. The dynamic interplay of knowledge, practice, and care enthralled me in the patient rooms every day. Most of the time I was a silent spectator. But occasionally, I would be asked a question to test my knowledge and understanding, and I waited for those moments to learn and to grow.
Once, we were attending a patient who had had angioplasty a few days before and suffered from prolonged discomfort after being discharged. The doctor and nurses were discussing the fluoroscopy footage and possible stent failure. I had been shadowing for over six months by then and the doctor, whom I had shadowed several times, looked at me over the patient’s bed and asked,” Greta, what do you think?” I was stunned and quickly thought of earlier cases of angioplasty that I had seen. Most of the procedures had been successful, and we only saw the patients for routine follow-up. But I knew that tissue scarring was a risk and spluttered, “is it scarring in the stent?” The patient was sent for reassessment and had to go through another angioplasty before we discharged him. Still, I realized that medical decisions call for an incredible amount of attention to detail, knowledge of an arsenal of known causes and treatments, and the ability to determine the exact cause in each case after weighing in patient histories, statistical studies, research findings, and clinical experience.
This paragraph is clearly the most dramatic section of the AMCAS personal statement: The contrast between trivial but critical tasks as a volunteer and the more demanding learning when shadowing doctors is brought out effectively, and the applicant makes it a point to state that she enjoyed both. The second most important anecdote is also in this section of the essay and shows the applicant’s ability to grasp the complex nature of treatments and the various skills required. The ability to handle the menial and the more skilled dimensions of the profession is effectively highlighted here.
As I enter the hospital every day, I look forward to the all-hands-on-deck nature of my job and know that though it is the same place, the day will turn out to be different from every other day I have spent at the hospital. The myriad challenges, the several demands made upon the staff, and the ongoing endeavors to deliver the best for each patient never cease to motivate me. As a cog in a giant wheel, I dive in, and give all I have every day. My understanding of the deep structures of patient care increases every day as I work, study, observe and converse at the hospital. The tremendous efforts in patient care that are always underway at the hospital never cease to enthrall me, and I look forward to making my contribution as a doctor.
This wrap-up brings the essay to the present. The applicant’s interest is indicated in statements such as “the day will turn out to be different from every other day.” The sense of being part of a much larger healthcare system is effectively brought out through the tone of humility as the applicant makes a case for being admitted to medical school.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 2
The narrative of self-discovery through a personal journey is just one of several approaches to the AMCAS personal statement. Another popular theme is a description of a trait that is at the core of the health sciences. The sample below illustrates the applicant’s sociability—a general trait that is very useful in medicine.
Even as a child, I liked to be among people. My mother tells me that I did not cry when she left me in playschool at age two though she had hoped I would. I did sulk however, when I was left out of group activities in middle school, I exalted in the company of classmates when we did projects in high school, and I became an unofficial, self-appointed mentor for new students in college. Through all these enjoyable choices, I have become a person who seeks to make the right decisions by speaking with others and who seeks to correct wrong decisions, again by speaking with others.
The opening paragraph immediately tells the reader the kind of person the applicant is. Touches of humor (my mother hoped I would cry) and modesty (‘unofficial self-appointed mentor’) make the writer likable ( a trait that is usually found in sociable people and which would be very helpful in a doctor).
Though I have made straight As in college, the path forward was never clear to me. My counselor told me that the common path after a Chemistry major was a career in pharmaceuticals or manufacturing. An emerging field was computational Chemistry which would leverage my proficiency in math as well, she enthused. As I read about these fields, each of them as exciting as the other, I started to have some doubts. The idea of spending 40 years in a lab, on a factory floor, or in front of a computer was none too appealing and I had serious questions, bordering on existential angst, about what I would do with my major.
The light vein continues into the second paragraph as the writer talks about his dilemma (“what I would do with my major) even as he deftly rules out options that show clearly that he has gone through some reflection before choosing medicine. The oblique philosophical touch in ‘existential angst’ is also lighthearted though it also captures the student’s dilemma.
It took me some time to realize why I did not warm up to the options the excellent career counselor laid forth for me. I would miss people. I could not work with machines and chemicals in a way that would erode human contact. I would miss the fun people have when thrown together.
The case for medicine is made through the writer’s people-centric world. That he has fun with people shows his aptitude for a highly interactive profession like medicine.
And so it was that one day in my third year, resume in hand, I found myself signing up for shadowing at Elliot Hospital near home. On the first day, I expected the staff to show me the pharmacy; I expected questions about why I did not pursue biology if I wanted to be a doctor. I had prepared myself with several friendly and polite rebuttals: I liked biochemistry a lot but did not like research labs or detergent companies. Armed with that and a fervent prayer, I approached the front desk. Strangely, not a single question was asked about how I fitted, nor was I shown the way to the medicine cabinets. Nurses ushered me into the emergency room, gave me a quick rundown on systolic and diastolic and CPR, and had me help out in bandaging and talking to patients. Every day I would be absorbed into the day’s most urgent tasks. Those were also the days when I spent the most time speaking with patients. I remember Jake, a 50-year-old patient whose appendicitis was causing him a lot of pain. His surgery was scheduled that week, and he had to go through several pre-op tests. As I helped him, I could sense his nervousness which he tried her best to hide. Distracting him while at the same time making sure he completed all the tests showed me the importance of sensitivity and multitasking in patient care. Most of my conversations with patients were about neutral things like news or the neighborhood. I found that intelligent conversations about normal things always made patients feel normal as well. On less busy days, I went around the hospital, looking at the several departments, patient rooms, nurse stations, and doctors’ offices.
After two weeks, encouraged by the staff’s ready acceptance, I ventured into the pharmacy during lunch break. I was thrilled when I found that I understood prescriptions and labels on IV due to my foundational Chemistry courses.
This paragraph emphasizes the writer’s sense of being at home in a hospital—a key detail that will show the admissions committee that he enjoys being in the hospital. His curiosity is also seen in phrases like ‘went around the hospital’. His sensitivity to people’s fears is also captured effectively. Notice also the connections made between a major in Chemistry and medicine. The following paragraph reinforces this further.
When I returned for the next weekend, I felt as if medicine was a common path for Chemistry majors. How else could I explain my ability to understand lab reports so quickly and understand exactly why the doctor was prescribing the medicine that she was? I shadowed every weekend for the rest of the year, got to know most of the staff, was invited when some of them went out, learned about their personal lives and their passion for medicine.
It is not obvious, but this paragraph resolves the central dilemma of what the student wants to do with his major by emphatically stating that medicine is a common path for Chemistry majors. A sense of belonging is effectively built here as the student talks about spending time outside work with the staff.
The time with them taught me that medical professionals love what they do for the same reasons I want to love what I do: being with and helping people. For the hospital staff, work and life were not separate things, and this was not because there was no work-life balance, but rather because their social community was their professional community and because they all shared a common feeling that they could not do enough to help patients. I realized that it did not matter what role you played. In medicine, the most trivial task is as important as the most important one. A simple and small oversight can have drastic consequences that can have a cascading effect. As a result, everyone depended on each other, and this led to the very high level of trust that I experienced myself on my first day.
The applicant addresses a key presupposition about the medical field: the lack of a work-life balance and argues that through shared interests, the boundaries between work and life fade for medical professionals. The applicant also brings up the central element of trust amongst the hospital staff, a point that is all the more authentic because he himself was entrusted with tasks on his very first day.
Luckily, I have found the pathway to professional and personal happiness in medicine. I hope to help patients discover similar pathways to health through medical treatment, trust and communication, paths made possible only when people are thrown together and make decisions by pooling in their collective expertise and skills.
The importance of collective efforts in medical treatment is matched with the writer’s skills with working with people to construct an image of medicine and of medical practitioners through the high level of social interaction that takes place in healthcare.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 3
An equally popular theme for the AMCAS personal statement is the applicant’s personal experience as a patient. The example below uses the applicant’s experience on the patient’s side of healthcare to show how his interest in medicine developed.
When I was assessed as being overweight, I started to run a little daily to slim down. I hated having to do what was a meaningless, monotonous chore, especially since I did not see my friends having to undergo similar tribulations. The doctor’s diagnosis was clear: There was no underlying condition, so it was just genetic. That was both bad and good, medically and socially. It meant that I was born with it, and so, no matter what I did to stay slim, I could always go back to being fat. But it also meant that through a prescribed routine, I could fight obesity to be socially accepted.
The basic understanding of genetics and physiology is established here through a highly personal narrative.
Social acceptance was important to me. I led a community band whose highly popular performances meant that every member was a part of an informal fan club. The popularity of our performance made us conscious of our physical appearance, which mattered to our fans. Though I had been gaining some inches for a few months, people had started noticing it lately. Since the prospect of being seen as ‘obese’ hung over me like Damocles’ sword, running had become mandatory.
This paragraph and the next establish the writer’s interest in books. One example alludes to a myth, and the other alludes to a modern novel.
The first week was bad enough. I ran all of 10 minutes every day on the same route from my dorm to the library. Rather like Papillon, I knew by heart every stone, every pillar that I crossed daily. It dawned on me that I would indeed start numbering and naming those new landmarks and so I changed my route. The fresh path brought fresh vigor despite being longer and I started running for 15 minutes, without really minding it. In a few months, I had become a familiar figure on campus, jogging shoes and headphones, a slightly slimmer body and a higher self-esteem in between. I was clocking one hour daily after six months.
The subtle connection between health and self-esteem is made here and will be developed further in the later part of the essay.
Social acceptance and medical treatment are so frequently linked yet so rarely talked about. Only in extreme cases, such as when a patient has to be hospitalized, do we think of social life as something that is affected by the need for medical care. As I jogged daily to maintain my weight, I asked do we see patients as people and people as patients? Yet that is what they are. As a person, I wanted social acceptance, and as a ‘patient’, I wanted a cure for what could only be managed. I realized that doctors do much more than just hand out prescriptions. They enable the social acceptance of patients, allowing them to lead normal lives. They prevent any impairment to the dignity of human life whenever they can. It is this central place of medical treatment in everyday social life that draws me to medicine as a profession.
This paragraph is the centerpiece of the essay: it is the writer’s own definition of what it is to be a doctor. It also shows his passion and vision as a future medical practitioner.
The subtle and strong mechanism of ongoing treatment to help people maintain a normal routine drew me to medicine. As a doctor, I hope to touch people’s lives through effective patient care. I realize that this would be the work of a team of experts who would look into mental health, nutrition, environment, and socioeconomic background. Through ongoing treatment and consultation, people’s lives are enhanced in innumerable ways. The right intervention at the right time has the power to transform what a person is capable of.
I discovered this at Radcliffe Hospital where I volunteered when I met Martha, a 70-year-old patient with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Psychotherapeutic treatment and physical exercises were essential for Martha to help her retain her mobility in the range required for everyday activities. Between her cortisone shots to fight the inflammation and repeated anti-CCP tests, and through her exercises and therapeutic sessions, she managed to find the agility and time to take her grandkids to Disney Park, knit sweaters for herself and her husband, and cook almost every day. Though I found that patients like Martha always looked at their visits to the hospitals as necessary but not enjoyable, when they left with the prescription or with the doctor’s reassurance, their smiling faces showed that their confidence was restored. And that they were ready for yet another phase of normal social life. Restoring happiness by restoring normalcy is the magic of healthcare.
The anecdote of Marth’s rheumatoid arthritis underscores the theme of medicine as a tool for having normal lives–a very compelling and unique argument.
I was also aware that there are people who do not have access to these timely interventions. Perhaps the most significant class difference in society is not between the haves and the have-nots, but rather between those who have easy access to healthcare and those who don’t because healthcare increases our chance at a normal life.
The connections between healthcare and demographics is brought out here.
I can cover 7 miles with ease today, and the scales say that my weight is within range. As I continue jogging, I have my eyes set on the half marathon; the 13 odd miles run reserved for the well-initiated. The training is teaching me the art of goal setting, finding the optimal pace, and staying focused. There are other payoffs as well: fitness, alertness, and most important of all, self-esteem. The treatment has become an expedition, a quest that has transformed me. Is it my persistence that is paying off? Or do I owe it to my doctor, whose accurate and timely diagnosis set me on a path to increased social acceptance, human dignity and a normal social life? As a doctor, I hope to achieve similar transformations in my patients: prescribing the right treatment at the right time and working with them to enable long-range health and happiness.
The paragraph rounds off the essay with a strong statement of personal achievement (the half marathon) and the promise of medicine as enabling normality. By indicating his achievements through persistence, the writer is also stating that he will be as persistent and achieve success in medical school.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 4
The curiosity essay works well for the AMCAS personal statement. The following example combines the writer’s increasing curiosity about life sciences with the need to fight gender stereotypes as a female science student.
In a classic case of reverse psychology, I tended to pursue the hard sciences in high school, an area that I was told would be dominated by men. Somehow, the laws of nature fascinated me, but the stereotype that “normal” girls did not pursue science led to varying reactions amongst my friends, ranging from awkward silence whenever I discussed science to outright avoidance by the all-boys science majors. Yet the mysteries of the universe and the scientific explanations for several of them enthralled me.
In college, I had the opportunity to understand the nature and properties of the things around us: by measuring the heat capacity of water, I understood why the seas don’t heat up as quickly as the sand on the beach; by exploring the ability of light to accelerate certain chemical reactions, I understood the reasoning behind the instructions on pickle bottles that ask us to keep them out of sunlight. The incredible satisfaction I felt when an experiment succeeded fed my fascination. At the same time, the rigor of scientific methods made me realize that it was very important to be thorough and exact in my experiments, observations, and conclusions.
After describing the natural curiosity in detail, the essay shows how that curiosity changed into a sense of urgency which the applicant is alert to when attending to patients. Notice key phrases such as ‘saving lives’ and’ passion’ which indicate this transformation.
That fascination took on a sense of urgency when I witnessed reports from bloodwork for patients at Amity Hospital. As a volunteer, I was not allowed to even touch the hypodermic needles, much less the surgical scalpel that nurses and surgeons wielded with such dexterity. Yet the connections between saving lives and scientific processes showed me my true calling: medicine. As my own interest took shape, I started to actively seek opportunities in the hospital’s small dementia ward. Short-term hospitalizations for dementia were peaking, and there was a need for additional help, so I could find plenty of ways to work in the ward. Simultaneously, I picked advanced electives in neurological science in college, and the shuttling between my academic work and my volunteer work became the perfect way to explore my new passion.
The next paragraph takes up the example of Brad, a dementia patient. The anecdote is told in a way that only a close observer or volunteer can.
But it was not until I helped Brad, a vigorous octogenarian who suffered from dementia that I realized the importance of medicine today. Brad had started misplacing things when going through an emotionally stressful period of his life when his wife had passed away. But the forgetfulness had stayed. Even after a year, he forgot to take the keys out of the front door, left the stove on, and even forgot to walk his dog sometimes. His treatment included a strict diet to reduce his cholesterol and daily exercise–his neighbors were keeping a tab on his activities. We assessed his progress every six weeks, but his sometimes risky behavior was alarming. We also saw symptoms of sundowning as he sometimes wandered off during his visits and had to be brought back.
In the next two paragraphs of the AMCAS personal statement, the importance of hope and ongoing care despite critical gaps and hurdles and even in deteriorating patients brings out the passion for medicine.
I returned to my coursework in Neurology and Cognition every day after watching Brad for over four months, and as I tried to incorporate the demographic elements that require attention in any treatment in my academic work, I realized that with an aging population, neuroscience faces increasing challenges in improving our understanding of memory, recognition, and cognition. Yet, thankfully, age is not the only factor, and there were means to slow down the disease for certain individuals. I hoped that Brad would be in that group.
But there were others who were beyond help and had to be kept from harm. For these inpatients, independent living was rapidly becoming a dream, and they could not even be discharged with some assistive technology to help them remember or do the right things. As we struggled to deliver care, the gaps in the information we needed, in the research that depended on that information, and in the treatment plans were reminders of the limitations we faced. However, we tried our best to do what we could to help patients.
The shift from curiosity to the personalization of treatment is a key shift in this essay’s theme. It is central to the argument that the applicant is convinced that medicine is the best career option for her.
The ability of science and scientific research to improve life draws me to medicine. But it is not just the science, or just the research. The personalization of treatment by knowing patients closely and monitoring their health over time will be the greatest challenge and will bring the greatest reward. That is what fascinates me most about medical practice: the tweaking of an earlier prescription, a change in treatment or even the protocol, the keen interest in patient wellness–these ongoing and tireless efforts by doctors, nurses, and surgeons validate the science. I feel particularly thrilled when the doctor makes a change in the treatment plan because a patient shows signs of improvement. In common approaches to mental health, all we have are signs and symptoms that show us an underlying improvement or deterioration.
As I continue my coursework and volunteering, I have become keenly aware of the need for customized and nuanced treatment plans. Our scientific foundation is one of several elements that impact total patient outcome; the others are ongoing monitoring and understanding each patient’s unique circumstances, lifestyle, and habits. As a future neurologist, I will bring this passion for understanding patients and for personalizing the science to each individual’s needs to my practice.
AMCAS Personal Statement Sample 5
The dilemma personal statement is rarer and perhaps harder to pull off. But when done right, it can really make an applicant stand out. The applicant is torn between engineering and medicine in the beginning.
Wheeling patients in and out of their rooms at Dr. Faruk’s clinic did not strike me as an activity that would end in an epiphany, but that is exactly how my daily routine ended one day.
As a high school student, I had gravitated towards the physical and life sciences equally. However, I was in a quandary about which stream within the sciences would be my calling. On the one hand, Physics and Mathematics were compelling examples of the transformative power of engineering. On the other, the personal interest that is involved in patient care drew me to medicine.
The interim compromise through a major in Biotechnology is described next.
To continue to understand my options, I chose Biotechnology as my undergraduate major. For many, the sub-specialties of the field were sufficient pointers to what they wanted to do. For some, research careers in biotech labs were attractive. For others, medical equipment design and manufacturing became the area they sought expertise in. I, however, continued to be divided. After classes in Bioinformatics, Medical Devices, Cell and Molecular Engineering, I spent my evenings volunteering and shadowing at various hospitals, hoping that through these experiences, I would understand what interested me the most.
The quest for the right field shows the applicant as one who perseveres to find what he wants to do.
As I continued to explore options, I realized that what I was looking for were intersections between the several sciences. However, it was as if engineering and medicine were on the opposite sides of my chessboard, with no overlap. My quest for intersections left me without a solid plan for my own future as I vacillated between the choices available to me.
The epiphany that resolves the dilemma mentioned earlier is described next.
Almost as a last resort, I started volunteering at Dr. Faruk’s family medicine practice. Little did I realize that my interactions with patients and with him would help crystallize my aspirations while helping me reflect on my own preferences. Working in the patient transportation department, I accidentally discovered the intersections that I had been looking for. How does mobility–a physical event–improve patient health? This led me to further questions that related to Physics as much as to Biology: what does weight have to do with the prognosis of type 2 diabetes? How much can advances in computer science improve our ability to screen and diagnose medical conditions?
I realized that both computer science and the health sciences advance through synergies, and this made my need to choose a career that much more challenging and interesting. While I was thrilled when I interacted with patients, I was equally astounded by the technological advances that benefit us in so many ways. To gain further insight, I approached Dr. Faruk and asked him for advice. To my surprise, he admitted to having had similar doubts himself. I pressed further, and he explained that he had initially considered a position in engineering. Ultimately, he chose medicine because he was more satisfied when he helped others directly. He urged me to think of my career choice as a deeply personal one not influenced by what others were doing.
The dilemma leads to personal growth as seen below, when the applicant stops seeking answers but rather learns to explore.
What had initially been a feeling of dread at not being able to choose a career changed into an open-minded inquiry into the myriad problems each science seeks to solve. My self-doubts gave way to curiosity–a trait that I had frequently seen in Dr. Faruk himself. While I had previously felt that time was running out and that I had to make a decision quickly, I now took time to reflect and research several areas of science.
The next section answers the key question, “why medicine?” by talking about the personalization of science.
Slowly but surely, I started to spend more time understanding patient conditions, the treatment, the progress and the routine checks. I understood that while the science helped me analyze each patient’s condition, speaking with patients and their families gave deeper insights into how to manage the treatment. I remember in particular Mark, a 40-year-old patient who had to have a kidney stone removed. He was in excruciating pain, and we had to work quickly and refer him to a surgeon. Mark was a security guard at a well-established company that provided comprehensive healthcare to all its employees. As I spoke with him and his wife, I understood the different shifts he worked in, the long commute to work, and his sedentary lifestyle. I understood that patient care has to be holistic and for that, patient communication was vital to understand each patient’s unique situation.
Interestingly, the dilemma is resolved but leads to another smaller dilemma, one that remains unresolved and which shows the applicant’s willingness to continue to explore options.
When I realized that I enjoy interacting with people more than with machines and algorithms, I discovered that my career had to be medicine. To be certain, I tried to imagine the sub-specialty that would sustain my interest for a lifetime–the way family medicine sustained Dr.Faruk. When I asked him how he had made his career decision, I did not realize how powerful his words would be in helping me think through my career. He said, “you’ll just know what feels right, and as time goes on, you may view things differently.”
His words helped me identify my career aspirations and encouraged me to be open-minded to future changes within my career choice. Thanks to Dr. Faruk’s advice, I know that I am making the right choice for the right reasons: I like helping people and making a difference in their lives. What field specifically? I don’t know yet, and I don’t need to know. I’ll view things differently with time, and this will shape my aspirations.
Providing guides for different aspects of the medical school application process is just one of the many things we do here at IMA. We also offer medical school admissions consulting (including dedicated personal statement reviews) and pre-medicine internships to help you prepare for medical school. Our consulting services mirror that of traditional admissions committees.
Our award-winning Pre-Medicine Internship Programs are like no other, taking you to underserved populations in countries within East Africa, South America and the Caribbean. We are here to help you in any way we can as you progress in your journey to medical school. It’s a long, difficult road, but the passion for medicine makes it all worth it. We’ll be here if you need help on your journey.
While you’re here, check out some of the medical schools we’ve covered here on our blog.
- California University of Science and Medicine
- UC San Diego Medical School
- California Northstate University College of Medicine
- Touro University of California
- CHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine
- UC Davis School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- UC Riverside School of Medicine
- USC Keck School of Medicine
- UT Southwestern Medical School
- Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
- University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine
- UT Austin’s Dell Medical School
- UTMB School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
- The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
- UNT Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
- University of Houston College of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins Medical School
- Baylor College of Medicine
- George Washington University School of Medicine
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- St. George’s University School of Medicine
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (in Pennsylvania)
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine
- Western University of Health Sciences (in California)
- Drexel University College of Medicine
- Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- Yale School of Medicine
- Perelman School of Medicine
- UCLA Medical School
- NYU Medical School
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Brown Medical School
Good luck from IMA! We believe in you.
International Medical Aid provides global internship opportunities for students and clinicians who are looking to broaden their horizons and experience healthcare on an international level. These program participants have the unique opportunity to shadow healthcare providers as they treat individuals who live in remote and underserved areas and who don’t have easy access to medical attention. International Medical Aid also provides medical school admissions consulting to individuals applying to medical school and PA school programs. We review primary and secondary applications, offer guidance for personal statements and essays, and conduct mock interviews to prepare you for the admissions committees that will interview you before accepting you into their programs. IMA is here to provide the tools you need to help further your career and expand your opportunities in healthcare.
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