Medical School Personal Statements: Tell Your Story, Captivate Your Audience

Story About You

Medical school personal statements are chances for applicants to really stand out. Your medical school personal statement should be one of the best essays you have ever written in your life. It certainly was for me. We even talked about it during my interview at UMDNJ. I scoured my hard drive and e-mails for a copy of my essay so I may share it with you. After several hours of looking, I did not find the final draft but I did find a preliminary draft of my personal statement. I hope it provides enough guideline on what it should be like.

Basically, the personal statement is a story of your wants, motivations, and experiences. I wrote about my quadriplegic grandmother, my volunteering experience, and my desire to be a rural doctor. And somehow, it all flowed together.

Hook the Reader In

The personal statement should be unique and captivating. Do not start it with something generic like, “I wanted to become a doctor ever since I was little.” Make the beginning a bit mysterious and adventurous. In advertising, it would be known as the “hook.” See below for an example of how I would start my essay if I decided to write about a project I was part of called Inner City Missions:

In the summer of 2009, I found myself in the inner city slums of Philadelphia. It was midnight and I was lying on a broken mattress; I was sharing the cramped room with four other guys and one mosquito. I come from a well-off family so the environment was quite a shock. I just arrived with a team of twenty people on a Christian mission trip to serve the needy in the area.

medical school personal statements - hook

Do you have a hook in your medical school personal statement?

Count Your Words, Show Your Essay to Others

The personal statement has a limit in terms of its length. I believe it is 5000 characters but please correct me if I am wrong. If the first draft of the essay should go over the limit, it is no problem. At this stage, you want to include everything the application committee should know about you. Be detailed. Be unique. Be interesting. Let the reader know what you went through. Let him or her know what you’re thinking.

If you are not a natural story teller, it is okay. Find someone who is and ask that person to take a look at what you have written. Does it make sense? Is it understandable? Does it flow?

You should be writing your medical school personal statements in Microsoft Word (or any other software with spell-check and grammar-check). After it is done, you definitely want someone to look over the grammar and spelling. There are many qualified applicants with perfect essays. You don’t want to disqualify yourself with something as silly as a spelling error.

Once your essay flows and is without mistakes, use Microsoft Word to do a word count. Click on the “Review” tab and click on “Word Count.” I have Microsoft Office 2010, so if you are using a different version or a different application, you may need to do something different for the character count.

If you are within the set word limit, have someone who edits essays well review your essay again. After the review and any necessary changes, you should have your final draft. Copy and paste it into the primary application.

Ideally, the essay should have been reviewed by someone else at least twice (once right after the first draft and once right before the final draft).

If You Are a Verbose Writer

If your essay went over the word limit, it is okay. You just have to cut out the fat, meaning take out the parts that are not necessary. Can your point be made without that word or that sentence? If so, take it out. When your essay fits the character limit, have someone take a look at it again to make sure it flows and does not have any errors. Make any necessary changes. Once everything is finalized, copy and paste it into the primary application.

This article is part of the Get into Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about getting accepted into medical school.

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