How to Write Your Medical School Personal Statement
JUNE 23, 2017
You likely know that it takes a lot of information to apply to medical school. Whether you are applying to medical school through AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS, OMSAS, or another centralized medical school application system, you will be asked to provide your contact information, course history, grades, GPA, MCAT score(s), and descriptions of your extracurricular activities. In the process of providing this information, it is not uncommon for students to feel unfairly, or at least incompletely, represented by their application. Well, herein lies the purpose of your personal statement!
Your medical school personal statement is an opportunity to express to medical schools whatever you want them to know about you, but have been unable to mention elsewhere in your application. Many students approach their medical school personal statement with the mindset that they should merely describe who they are or what kind of doctor they aspire to be; but, those are only small pieces of the picture. Instead, you should aim to tell a story with your personal statement. Here are some prompts to get you started:
- When and where did you first develop an interest in practicing medicine?
- Describe a loss or challenge you experienced in life and how you overcame it.
- Discuss your non-academic achievements.
- What aspects of medicine interest you the most?
Talking about yourself can be tedious; for, you do not want to come off as arrogant or over-confident nor do you want to convey a lack of interest or motivation. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that your personal statement will most likely be your only chance to introduce yourself to your prospective medical schools prior to your interview. So, you should strive to say what the rest of your application does not say about you. For instance, you may have earned a low grade in Biochemistry lecture, but excelled in Biochemistry lab. Unless your Biochemistry professor writes a letter of recommendation for you and mentions this hidden fact, there is no way the admissions committee will know about your entire Biochemistry performance.
On the other hand, your application usually does not present any of your personal responsibilities except for employment. Say you served as caretaker to a grandparent or guardian to a younger sibling. Admissions committees love to learn about such experiences from their applicants because it speaks to their character, compassion, and level of maturity. Yet, it is up to you, the applicant, to write about it in your personal statement!
Now, here are some things to avoid while writing your personal statement:
- Professing to “know” what it is like or what it takes to be a doctor
- Blaming professors for poor academic performance
- Reiterating information that can be found elsewhere in your application (i.e. “My MCAT score is…”)
- Focusing solely on your strengths or weaknesses
Honesty is the best policy and you can believe that your honesty will come through in your personal statement. So, be genuine, take responsibility for your setbacks, own your strengths and weaknesses, do not be afraid to put yourself out there, and let your passion shine.