Mastering Your Medical School Application Personal Statement
by Story2, on Jun 6, 2016 5:00:00 AM
It was day three as the HealthCorps Coordinator inside Crenshaw High and I was on my knees, hands on the sternum of Blake, pushing with my palms counting… 28, 29, 30. I pinched his nose, covered his mouth with mine and began exhaling. His chest rose after two intervals of this. He coughed and started gasping. His eyes sprang open, they were bloodshot. He looked up, as if into the future, and I through him, saw my calling.
You got 5300 characters. That’s roughly 1.5 pages, single-spaced, in 12-point font to set yourself apart and beyond with your medical school application.
The personal statement is the portion of your primary application that allows you to express what inspired your decision to pursue medicine. There isn’t enough room to go into your whole life story, but this is your chance to give admissions officers a snapshot of who you are: your values, experiences that have molded you and what future path in medicine you may follow. Here are 10 strategies to consider as you draft, revise, rewrite and ultimately submit.
Structuring Your Personal Statement Essay
There are many valid ways to approach the essay. Some choose to start with an experience that was defining in some way. Witnessing the care given by medical professionals during an emergency or early life experiences that made you a person who questions are good ways to start.
Begin by talking about what sparked your interest in the human body.Many students describe life challenges that have made them want to give back and help others.
Remember that your personal statement must have a central theme. For example, if there is some way you want to contribute to the medical profession or some aspect of the medical profession that you have observed, these can serve as a focal point of your essay. It should be something that gives the reader a sense of your main motivation and drive to become a doctor. Your main theme should be very personal and should demonstrate either a shift in perspective or experiences that made you see the world a certain way.
Try the 80-20 ruleThat is 20% of your essay should cover your past, i.e., your upbringing, culture, prior education as it relates to your current pursuits, and 80% should address your interest in medicine directly.
How to Get Started
Bleed on the page. For many, getting started is the hardest part. Try brainstorming without censoring yourself at first. Free flow writing is the best way to detach from your inner critic and generate ideas, and it will be much easier to create a solid draft once you have all your ideas in writing. Forget about grammar or sentence structure at first. Write from the heart.
Stitch it together. For your first draft, take your brainstorming content to find the authentic version of your story inside yourself – this essay is supposed to be personal, so sometimes it takes a lot of free writing to unearth your authentic voice. Sometimes you discover who you are and what you stand for in the process of free writing. Most writers require multiple drafts and a lot of pre-writing to access this deeper layer of self.
Weave a Story
Telling a story is the most effective way to share who you are and what you stand for. A story describing an experience serves to streamline your narrative and more effectively shows who you are and what you value. The old adage “Show, Don’t Tell” applies regardless of which approach you choose for your personal statement. Broad, descriptive statements are ineffective. Rather, tell the story of a challenging moment and how you mastered the challenge.
Authenticity Matters... Be Personal!
The best essays are those which have a personal element. Admissions committees do not want to read a clinical sounding personal statement. The most engaging essays tell stories that are authentic. Don’t try to use fancy words for the sake of sounding elite, and don’t focus on pleasing your readers or saying what you think they want to hear. Your essay will sound fake, and it will be obvious that you are not being genuine. A simple and truthful expression of your reasons for applying to medical school will actually produce a superior essay. You can write about your feelings, observations and hurdles that you have overcome – whatever made you the person you are today and contributed in some way to your decision to pursue medicine. You can show vulnerability as long as it is relevant to your central theme and you still come across as committed and motivated.
The purpose of the conclusion is to draw your essay back to its central theme and reiterate your goals. You may emphasize in a conclusive, final way how your life experiences have influenced you to apply to medical school and what you hope to contribute as a physician. You should not merely repeat what you said previously in your essay. Rather, the concluding lines should tie your ideas together and serve as a closing affirmative statement.
Getting help from a writing coach is often a good idea for this personal statement. Many applicants find the writing process daunting, and a writing coach can help you fuel ideas and piece together a draft. You should consult someone with an admissions background who can give you the proper advice on what to include in an application essay. The key is to make sure your essay reflects your own voice and tells your story in an original and compelling style. Many medical school applicants have impressive backgrounds and know what they want to convey but have trouble getting it down on paper. Skilled admissions coaches can help you craft an outstanding and original essay.