Great Medical School Personal Statement

The medical school application is your single best opportunity to convince a group of strangers that you would be an asset both to the school and to the medical profession. It’s your opportunity to show yourself as something more than grades and scores. Granted, every person who applies will have strengths and weaknesses. But it’s how you present your strengths and weaknesses that really counts. Recommendation letters, personal statements, and admission interviews are ways to showcase your talents and convince the school that you have what it takes.

 

How to Get Great Recommendations

Letters of recommendation are typically sent in the latter part of the application process with Secondary Applications. However, it’s important that you start to think about and solicit your letters much earlier in the game.

Admissions committees are generally very specific about from whom they want to receive letters on your behalf. Don’t take these requirements lightly. You should do everything you can to give the medical schools exactly the kind of letters they have requested.

Sometimes a medical school will ask you for a “pre-med committee letter.” These letters are typically of two types: Either an original letter written by your undergraduate premedical committee on your behalf, or a summary of excerpts of comments made by individuals who have submitted letters (at your request) on your behalf. While the pre-med committee letter used to be a standard component of any applicant’s application, they are rarer today.

Alternatively, you will be asked to submit two or three individual letters of recommendation, of which at least one or two must come from senior science faculty. A letter written by a teaching assistant usually carries less weight. However, letters cosigned by both the teaching assistant and professor are generally acceptable. In addition to the recommendations from science faculty, most medical schools request a letter from a humanities or social science professor, especially for non-science majors. You may also be asked to submit a letter by someone familiar with your clinical experience, research, or work history.

Supplemental Letters of Recommendation

Generally, it is permissible to send supplemental letters of recommendation in addition to the required letters. But note, these will be additional letters, not letters in substitution of those requested. As a rule, you should never send more than twice the number of letters requested. Additionally, remember that more letters is not necessarily better. If you’re going to send supplemental letters they should substantively add to your application.

Make Your Recommendation Letters Personal

Recommendations are essentially personal sales letters written on your behalf and it’s important that the letter writer put the best pitch forward. Understand it this way: It’s clear that the more personal the letter, the better off you are. This means you need to get to know your professors or more importantly, you need to give your professors an opportunity to get to know you. Go to office hours; become a teaching assistant; volunteer to work in their lab; take them to lunch! Whatever it takes so that when the time comes, they will be able to write you a personal letter of recommendation.

When you approach someone to write a letter of recommendation, don’t hesitate to ask whether she can write you a strong letter of support. If the person hesitates in any way, look elsewhere. Although this may be embarrassing, it will hurt you a lot more in the long run to have someone write you a lukewarm or unenthusiastic letter of recommendation. Remember, schools fully expect these letters to be glowing endorsements. Once you have garnered a positive response, be sure to provide your recommender with a resume to provide a more complete picture of you as a person. If you have a strong academic record, you may want to include a copy of your transcript to showcase your academic prowess and consistency. Your Personal Statement and any articles or papers which you think may be helpful should also be offered. Finally, always provide the writer with clear directions for electronic or hard-copy submission of the letter to the appropriate school(s). You should provide addressed and stamped envelopes when needed.

Pre-meds who procrastinate will be left scrambling to get recommendations. Professors and teaching assistants can become overwhelmed with requests. You can imagine the potential quality of these letters. You must give at least one month for your letter writers to write and submit the letters. Keep track of the status of your letters. As the deadlines approach, call and check on their progress. Once you’ve confirmed that your letters have been sent, thank-you notes are a nice touch. Personal visits are in order after you’ve been accepted.

 

How to Write an Effective Personal Statement

The term “Personal Statement” brings a shiver to the spine of many a potential medical student. You should think of the personal statement, however, as an opportunity to show admissions officers what you’re made of. They want to know why you want to enter the medical profession and this is your chance to tell them as clearly and compellingly as you can.

Purposes of a Personal Statement

The Personal Statement shows whether or not you can write a clear, coherent essay that’s logically and grammatically correct. These days, students’ writing skills are often presumed deficient until proven otherwise. If you plan on submitting your application through AMCAS, the length of your personal statement should be 5300 characters, which should be ample space to succinctly set yourself apart from other applicants.

Second, it provides you with the opportunity to present the admissions committee with more of a “three-dimensional” portrait of yourself as a deserving candidate than GPA and MCAT numbers possibly can. What you choose to write sends clear signals about what’s important to you and what your values are. You can explain why you really want to pursue medical graduate work and the career path it will enable you to follow. Your essay also enables you to explain things like weaknesses or gaps in an otherwise commendable record.

How Do Med Schools Use Personal Statements?

Essays are the best way for admissions officers to determine who you are. So, don’t hesitate to go beyond your current experience for essay topics. Feel free to discuss past events that, in part, define who you are. If you have overcome significant obstacles, say so. If you were honored with an award, describe the award and what you did to achieve recognition.

Give some thought to how your past and current experiences have contributed to your intellectual, personal and professional development. Rather than make pronouncements about goals and future activities, which are easily made-up and often exaggerated, select a few stories from your life experiences that showcase the qualities and characteristics that you already possess and that will help you be an empathic, committed doctor. Always remember the adage: Show; don’t tell. Start early, write several drafts, and edit, edit, edit.

 

Top 7 Tips for Med School Personal Statements

  • Avoid the Rehashed Resume

    The personal statement is not the time to recount all your activities and honors in list-like fashion.

  • Make It Personal

    This is your opportunity to put a little panache into the application. Show the admissions committee why you decided to go into medicine. Was it an experience you had in school? Was there a particular extracurricular activity that changed your way of thinking? Did you find a summer lab job so exhilarating that it reconfirmed your love for science? Use vignettes and anecdotes to weave a story and make the essay a pleasure to read.

  • Avoid Controversial Topics

    If you do include discussion of a “hot topic,” definitely avoid being dogmatic or preachy. You don’t want to take the risk of alienating a reader who may not share your politics.

  • Don’t Get Too Creative

    Now is not the time to write a haiku. Remember, the medical establishment is largely a scientific community (although individual physicians may be passionate artists, poets, writers, musicians, historians, etc.). On the other hand, don’t be trite and don’t be boring. Avoid writing “I want to be a doctor because…”

  • No Apologies

    For instance, if you received a C in physics, you may feel compelled to justify it somehow. Unless you believe that the circumstances truly do merit some sort of mention, don’t make excuses. You don’t need to provide them with a road map to your weaknesses. If you had a bad year or semester because of illness, family problems, etc., ask your pre-med advisor to explain the details in his or her cover letter.

  • Write Multiple Drafts

    Have your pre-med advisor and perhaps an English teaching assistant read and edit it. Proofread, proofread, and proofread some more. Also, try reading it out loud. This is always a good test of clarity and flow.

  • Think Ahead to Interviews

    Interviewers often use your personal statement as fodder for questions. Of course, if you’ve included experiences and ideas that are dear to you, that you feel strongly about, you will have no problem speaking with passion and confidence. Nothing is more appealing to admissions folks than a vibrant, intelligent, and articulate candidate. If you write about research you conducted five years ago, you’d better brush up before your interviews. Don’t engage in hyperbole: You risk running up against an interviewer who will see through your exaggerations.

Tags:MCAT

In this article, Medical School Personal Statements that can beat 52,323 Applications, you will learn to create a sincere, interesting, and thoughtful essay that highlights your strengths and qualities.

Remember:

With more than 50,000 applicants to medical school this year, only those with a compelling story will be selected to interview.

What else:

While metrics, such as the MCAT and GPA, are crucial, admissions committee members view applications holistically meaning who you are and what is important to you matters just as much as your “numbers.” 

We’ve got you covered:

Below are some strategies you can employ that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Getting Started

Let’s get started:

Whether you’re applying to AMCAS, TMDSAS, or AACOMAS essay prompts are generally not topic-driven like a traditional essay you might write for an academic class. So let us guide you to understand Medical School Personal Statements that can beat 52,323 Applications.

Keep in mind:

We encourage applicants to try and write a topic-driven essay that has a distinct theme.

“I have a great theme, why I want to be a doctor.”

Of course, from time to time, a student might write a beautiful essay with a theme, but, most of the time these essays do not succeed in telling an applicant’s story comprehensively and convincingly.

 

Related:Too Early to Start Working on Your 2018 Medical School Application? – When to Start Your First Draft

 

I don’t have anything to write about.

Of course you have a story.Everyone does. 

Here is a list of questions that can help a student find key elements of his or her story.

How should you start your medical school personal statement?

You hear conflicting advice. 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:

1) 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.

2) Start your personal statement with something catchy.Think about the list of potential topics above. 

3) Don’t rush your work. Don’t panic. Composing great documents takes time and you don’t want your writing and ideas to be sloppy and underdeveloped.

Medical school personal statements that can beat 52,323 applications.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Know this mantra:

Something my clients hear me say throughout the application process, and a common mantra for anyone who works in admissions, is to “show” rather than “tell.”

What does this mean, exactly?

It means that whether you are writing a personal statement or interviewing, you should show evidence for what you are trying to communicate.

Here’s an example.

In a personal statement, never say that you are compassionate and empathetic; instead, demonstrate that you possess these qualities by offering concrete examples.

Medical School Personal Statements that can beat 52,323 Applications via GIPHY

Also keep in mind:

Like your personal statement, your interview responses, too, should evoke all the qualities and characteristics that your interviewer is seeking.  Again, show don’t tell. 

And consider this:

The following is a medical school interview question, “Tell me about your most valuable shadowing experience and why it was important to you.”

Hit them with this kind of answer:

“My most valuable experience was shadowing Dr. Brit. I really learned so much about oncology, which I found fascinating. I would go home every night and read about what I had heard and learned. But I also enjoyed watching him talk to patients. I noticed that he held each patient’s hand, listened to them attentively and made clear to each person that he really cared.”

And there’s more:

By talking about his mentor, this applicant shows his understanding of the importance of compassionate care, and in expressing this, further suggests that these ideals are important to him, too.

The mantra “show, don’t tell” cannot be said enough. Remember this throughout every stage, written documents and interviews, of the medical admissions process.

Where can I find further inspiration? Need help with your personal statement med school?

1) Click hereto visit the Student Doctor Network website to find out how other students are preparing to write their personal statements.

2) Click hereto see what students on the Reddit medical school personal statement premed forum are saying about their personal statements. 

3) Your application materials must be authentic, but sometimes a little inspiration helps. Read The MedEdits Guide to Medical School Admissions. There you will find examples of ‘successful’ personal statements and application entries.

I would like more resources about medical school personal statements and how to apply.

RELATED: What to Watch out for in Medical School Interviews

Where should I look?

For those of you who love to drink coffee and stay up until the roosters come out.Here’s a great “go to” list where you can read about more personal statement and application topics.

1) Click here to visit www.AAMC.org to learn about AMCAS, the allopathic (M.D) application service.

2) Click here to visit the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine website to review important requirements for your AACOMAS application. 

3) If you want to apply to most medical schools in Texas, you will need to complete the TMDSAS application. Click here for more information.

Personal Statement for Medical School Myths

Personal Statement Myths:The list below is based on an article I wrote all the way back in 2010 for The Student Doctor Network.I guess some solid advice never gets old.

#1: Never write about anything that took place in the past or before college.

#2: Never write about topics unrelated to medicine.

#3: Never write about a patient encounter or your own experience with health care.

#4: Always have a theme or a thesis.

#5: Dont write about anything negative.

Click here to read the article on SDN.

Example Personal Statement 

Synopsis: A first generation college student learns from family illness. This personal statement is an excerpt from The MedEdits Guide to Medical School Admissions, P. 162.

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