I hope all of you are well! Our latest blog is aimed to help you through a key part of the medical school application process: your personal statement. We have tips for each step of the writing process from brainstorming to writing to editing. The blue text is personal anecdotes from our E-Board.

BRAINSTORMING

  • Start the process by just writing: write anything you feel is relevant to your journey to being interested in medicine, the experiences you sought throughout college to cement your interests and your goals as a physician. 
  • This could take anywhere from months to a couple of hours. Every day when I thought about something that could be included in my statement I went to my google doc and wrote another bullet point.
  • This list included personal experiences I had had with medicine myself, memorable moments I had during my volunteering, qualities I had that I thought would make me a good doctor, and what my experiences in college have taught me about medicine and myself.
  • I had 10-15 pages written of completely unedited material and had to cut it down and draw from there for different paragraphs of my actual personal statement. 
  • Don’t ever delete any of these drafts, though, because they will come in handy later for writing secondaries (adversity, diversity, goals) and scholarship essays. You might also be able to use it as inspiration for things you’ll be talking about in the interviews (why us, why medicine, tell me about yourself).
  • A hard thing to do is to then narrow down this list of random thoughts and ideas. To do this, I tried to focus on things that involved a certain theme or story I wanted to tell in my statement. The best advice I was given while writing my personal statement was to make it a story that intertwines your experiences in one narrative.

WRITING

  • Stay away from cliches: sick relative, ignited your passion, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” “I love helping people,” “I was always a precocious child,” etc
  • Make sure you always tie back to WHY MEDICINE, not why altruism, why science, etc…
  • Make sure that your statement is a good mix of introspection, retrospection, and forward projection. You can even organize the whole paper using past, present, and future as three paragraphs or sections in which to tell separate stories that ultimately tie together
  • Show, don’t tell! Paint a picture for your reader by using the 5 senses while you storytell: write about what you heard/saw/smelled during the memory
  • ALWAYS reflect on what you learned each step of the way (this is also advice you could use in your activities section). Admissions don’t just want to see what you did, but how you’ll use that in the future.
  • Instead of just regurgitating your experiences, be sure to reflect and show how your experiences have shaped you into wanting to go to medical school.
  • Beyond your own experiences, also consider talking about how people have changed you and given you perspective.
  • Step away once you’re done writing, and come back a few days later to really see how you feel about what you’ve written.
  • Be okay with re-writing your essay and doing a total overhaul a few times. Sometimes a few complete re-writes will be necessary for you to reach a clear story on paper.
  • The most important piece of your PS will be the hook — make these POP! You want the reader to immediately label you as unique and interesting before they even start reading the meat of your essay

EDITING

  • Don’t use contractions -> DO NOT use contractions
  • Perfect grammar and spelling is a must!! Edit using grammarly or a grammar nazi friend between each edit and before you send it off
  • I also had a younger sibling read mine to make sure I wasn’t using any jargon or complicated sentence structure, because you want your reader to focus on only the content and not get bogged down by confusing details — my little sister was able to tell me when I had to shorten my clauses or find synonyms for certain words
  • Frame your sentences actively instead of passively, and positively instead of negatively
    • Ex) “I published my research” instead of “the research was published”
  • When you feel comfortable enough with your essay, send it to professors, advisors, or recommendation letter writers for final edits.

Redditor u/  gyubari recommends 4-5 people to edit your PS. Try to find people that fit into the following categories…

  • A loved one. Somebody who is close to you that you have a great relationship with. Ideally this person understands you well and can see if your PS is a good reflection of you. Will also possibly boost your ego. This person can be your best friend, mom/dad, SO, etc.
  • A harsh critic. Career advisor/pre-med advisor/some kind of college writing center/college faculty. Pre-med advisors seem to not always know what they’re talking about, but they can dole out some harsh criticism. Mine told me not to bother writing my PS because I wouldn’t get in this cycle. You may need and benefit from some of this criticism and getting critiques from somebody in academia can be helpful. Don’t let it crush your spirit, just internalize the feedback that makes the most sense to you.
  • A stranger. Somebody you don’t know that well. This can be the random guy on the bus or an acquaintance like the girl that sits behind you in history class. How well does your PS paint a word picture of who you are and your goal of med school?
  • A grammar nazi. Somebody who can edit your grammar. This person MUST be different from the aforementioned 3 other categories of people. This can be your old high school English teacher, your study buddy who happens to write screenplays for fun, or maybe even a hired service.
  • For the fifth person, I would repeat one of the 4 previous types of editors. If grammar is your weak spot, pick another person to edit for grammar. If you need a self esteem boost, have one of your buddies read it.
  • Don’t incorporate edits that you inherently disagree with, because you still want to make it your own!
  • Submit your best work — this is the first thing medical admissions will use to judge your character as opposed to your qualifications.
  • Give yourself a deadline and stick to it! It’s easy to keep editing forever, but at some point, realize that you won’t improve the quality of your piece by continuous editing.
  • You should aim to have it ready by mid-June for primary submission; you will be in the earliest submission/verification group within the first two weeks of AMCAS opening (so don’t worry about submitting the absolute first day, when website is likely to crash. Everyone submitting the first couple weeks will receive secondaries at the same time.

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