Virgenal Owens is a 2020 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia and will be starting Orthopedic Surgery residency at Carolinas Medical Center. You can follow him on instagram, twitter, and linkedin.
Writing a personal statement can be such an intimidating and scary thing to do. However, it has been done before! You have made it this far into the journey, and are undoubtedly capable of conquering this task as well. Here is a guide to get you through this process. We are also providing you with sample personal statements.
Personal statements allow applicants to tell their stories in their own words. Specifically, it will enable the applicant to:
- Explain why they are interested in pursuing a career in medicine
- Share aspects of their personal story that shaped who they are today
- Further, explain or emphasize extracurricular involvement that was particularly impactful to them
- Describe their personality characteristics and why they feel they would make a competent physician
Step 1: Brainstorming
- Before attempting the first rough draft of a personal statement, it is essential to have a clear vision of how you want the finished product to turn out.
- Ask these questions: “How do I want the reader to feel after reading my personal statement?” “What do I want the reader to understand about me after reading?” “What main point do I want to emphasize to the reader?”
- Additionally, you want to center the personal statement around the following two questions: “Why would I be a good doctor?” or “Why do I want to be a doctor?”
- Also, consider how this personal statement will complement and enhance your entire application. For example, if you have hundreds of hours of shadowing a pediatric pulmonologist in your application, it would be helpful for the admissions committee to understand why.
- Some prompts to begin the writing process are:
- When did you know that you wanted to become a doctor?
- What life experiences have prepared you for a career in medicine?
Step 2: Writing
- Keep every draft: If you start out writing more than enough, you can cut down or rearrange sections later on.
- Create an outline after you write: Compile the best parts of each draft into an overview to get an idea of the flow of your personal statement. As you see fit, rearrange sections, adding different transitions to make the flow of the paper smooth and easy to read.
- The most important message is that we should address our main question, “Why would I be a good doctor?” or “Why do I want to be a doctor?”.
Step 3: Editing
- Enlist a group of editors—mentors, advisors, English professors— to comment and edit your rough draft. Take their advice with a grain of salt when it comes to the essence of the statement and the key pieces that you want to convey.
- Write over many sessions. Do not attempt to write a personal statement in one day or one sitting. Put it down for a few days in between sessions. Each session should begin with a re-read of the statement. Find out where things do not flow and note where you trip up. These are the parts that need revision.
- Scrutinize every detail. No typos allowed! Look carefully for subject-verb agreement, misspelling, and homonym errors (i.e., their, there, and they are).
- Go through and make sure that every word belongs in the statement. If a statement is unnecessary, chop it out!
- Do not use overly flowery language: this can come across as disingenuous and hyperbolic. Instead, demonstrate your excitement and passion for medicine by showing rather than telling. For example, instead of saying, “Talking to the patient one-on-one made me feel connected to him” (telling), say, “I spoke to the patient for hours about everything from his condition to his favorite baseball team” (showing).
- Always substantiate claims: Be sure to say why something is the way it is. Do not just say, “I want to be a doctor,” but instead say, “I want to be a doctor because…”
- Send your statement to other people to read and re-read. Ask them, “Does the essay sound like me?” “Has it convinced you I belong in medical school?” “Where could it benefit from some improvement?”
Your personal statement is your first impression to an admissions committee and will play a huge role in getting admissions committees to like you. It gives you a unique opportunity to share with admissions committees what values and qualities make you truly special. You’ve worked very hard to get here. Now its time to sell yourself.