Writing your personal statement

You’ve already written your personal statement. Through every action you’ve taken, you’ve created a long arc that has pulled you towards medicine. Your personal statement is a cover letter introducing all of your brilliance with admissions. It’s space for you to write the narrative to your pathway to medicine.

You’re going to write a lot of drafts, cut/paste/delete, wear out your thesaurus, start over again, introspect, and all of the above. Why? Because your story deserves your best effort! How are you going to get started? I’m not sure, but here is how I wrote my personal statement.

  • List out all the reasons why you want to become a doctor. Why do I want to be a doctor and not any other profession, including other healthcare professions? Are there any memories that signified my commitment to medicine? Do I understand what it takes to become a doctor and the life a doctor has? Why do the pros outweigh the cons? (Protip: If you’re going to have a vignette or narrative hook, I highly recommend centering it on an interaction you’ve had with a patient. This advice came again and again to me while I was drafting)
  • List out all the activities you’ve done. Even the ones not healthcare-related. Why did I do these activities? What value, joy, or teachings did they bring me? How have they prepared me for medicine or deepened my interest/understanding of medicine? (Protip: On your AMCAS, you will have to describe your activities and for three of them, why they are meaningful. Putting some time into this can help you save time & improve the quality of your application later on!)
  • Describe what kind of doctor do you want to become. What do you admire about the doctors you know? What doctor do you wish to become? Have you already started on that path? How so?
Image Credit: CartoonStock
  • Describe yourself. Reflecting on all of your values, dreams, and accomplishments, who are you? As what kind of student do you want admissions to see you? What kind of student will you be in medical school?
  • Write. Write and write. Freely and excessively, and then narrow it down. Chip at it away slowly until you have a piece you feel represents you. Make several outlines, and even reverse outline from a full draft. Keep all your drafts, but let go of the ones that do not have any momentum. Writer’s block? Listen to music and go for contemplative walks. Allow your mind to wonder and then start weaving the phrases and paragraphs together.
  • Choose a theme. What is common among the majority of your experiences? It can be broad as ‘communication’ or narrow as ‘improving healthcare access among underresourced communities.’ This theme is usually in line with what you can offer to a school; it could summarize the one-liner the reviewer might remember you by. However, please remember that the goal of this statement is to be as personal as possible: why you would like to attend medical school. Focus less on sharing your world perspectivies, editorializing, etc. Tip: Cut out as many adjectives, adverbs, etc.
  • Edit, on repeat. Choose a few trusted, but diverse voices who can help you improve your statement so that it reflects your trajectory well. Many views can cloud your statement and render it generic. A lack of critique can limit the quality of your account. Editing can be uncomfortable, but try to be open to starting all over again or massive changes. During this process, try not to read example statements or other people’s work. Cultivate your uniqueness! Once you feel confident about your PS or are looking to understand to what depth you need to dive, check out some examples here and here.
  • Set it aside. You don’t need a perfect personal statement. You need one that is 80% perfect. One of my English professors explained that a writing process would never culminate into the last draft, but you will have to choose from the following: “love it” or “love it a lot” or “never be satisfied and find yourself mired in existential angst.”
  • Send it to your recommenders. It should go without saying, please do not forget to paste the proper version in your AMCAS. 🙂

I hope this helps! Feel free to contact me for free* personal statement edits.

*I emphasize this because none of my friends charged me for their help. Not every exchange in life has to be transactional, and the medical school application could have a lot fewer fees.

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