The personal statement is the last hurdle you have to jump before submitting your AMCAS application. In some ways it’s a pretty dreaded exercise, but it’s also the last part of the application you actually have control over at this point, so it’s important to make it as strong as possible.
I want to start out by emphasizing that the personal statement is not a place to restate things that are in other parts of your AMCAS application. The AMCAS has sections for activity descriptions, awards, where you studied abroad, etc., so you don’t want to restate these things in your personal statement.
With that said, I have three tips for what the personal statement should include:
- The personal statement should tie together all the different parts of your application, and explain how your experiences have led you to where you are today (which is applying to med school). It should go into how the sum of your experiences led you to believe that being a doctor is the path for you.
- When you explain why you want to go into medicine, it should be specific to being a physician- you don’t want schools to think that you could get what you want from being a nurse or a PA. It has to be clear why medicine is for you, but also why being a doctor is for you.
- How do you explain how your experiences led you to medicine without restating what those experiences were? You reference them. In other words, don’t say “In 2015, I worked as a scribe, and my responsibilities were to do xyz. I was in charge of abc. While working as a scribe, I realized xyz.” You can/should, however, say “My experiences working as a scribe taught me xyz” or “I realized xyz while working as a scribe”, or “While working as a scribe, I had xyz meaningful experience that led me to see myself as a doctor.”
- The personal statement should explain where you see yourself in medicine long term- what specialty, what type of practice you’d want to be part of, whether you see yourself doing research, etc. And again, you want to explain how your experiences have led you to believe all of that. It wouldn’t make sense to say you see yourself working as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon if you’ve only ever had clinical experiences working with geriatric patients.
- Most medical students will change their mind a couple times about which specialty they want to enter, so what you say in the personal statement is in no way binding. That said, you want to show that you’ve given some thought to where you see yourself down the line. This can just be a rough idea of where you think you’ll end up.
- This relates to the aforementioned point, but I think it is great whenever a personal statement mentions what you would like to change/improve about medicine or health care. In other words, what will you bring to the field?
- A lot of schools, especially the research focused schools, want to churn out the future leaders of health care, so it will be a great sign if you are already thinking about how you’ll improve health care and/or what you want to contribute to the field.
- This sounds a little daunting, but it doesn’t need to be something huge; it’s totally fair to talk about a more subtle change you’re interested in bringing. You just have to sound enthusiastic about it.
Q: What do schools expect from the personal statement?
A: I think they expect you to tell them something new that isn’t already in the rest of your AMCAS application, why you want to be a doctor, and to see that you can express yourself articulately in writing.
Q: How can I talk about my achievements in a way that doesn’t come across as conceited?
A: When you are discussing your activities in the activities section of the AMCAS application, keep it oriented around facts and figures. State how many people you led, how many people were impacted by what you did, how many people attended your event, etc. If you are just stating facts, that will not be considered conceited. I don’t think schools expect you to downplay your achievements at all. In fact, they probably assume that people are trying to make themselves sound as impressive as possible, so downplaying what you did in an effort to sound humble will probably just work against you.
Q: What is the best way to start out the essay?
A: The ONLY goal for the opening is just to capture the reader’s attention and get them interested in what you have to say. Any interesting or catchy anecdote works, in my opinion. I’m sure some people start with inspirational quotes or whatever, but I’m not sure how interesting that really is. Overall, I think the best way to start out is any way that captures the reader’s interest, whatever that is.
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