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April 30, 2024

Find Your Voice: Writing a Personal Statement for Medical School

65% of students received admission into medical school after completing a Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) with a Tiber Health university partner. In addition to working hard during their programs, they also worked to ensure their medical school applications truly reflected their potential as physicians.

One of the most crucial components of any medical school application is the personal statement. This is your opportunity to showcase who you are beyond your GPA and MCAT scores, to convey your passion for medicine, and to convince admissions committees that you are not just a capable student but a future compassionate and competent physician.

Crafting an effective personal statement requires introspection, strategic planning, and authentic storytelling. Here are some tips to help you write a memorable personal statement.

Don’t Leave It Until the Last Minute

Crafting a personal statement, especially if you’re not a natural writer, takes time and reflection. You need to give your writing time to breathe between drafts, and you’ll want to draft and revise several times to ensure every word contributes to your goal.

Begin brainstorming ideas and drafting your essay at least three months in advance of application deadlines. Starting early allows you the space to reflect on your experiences, values, and motivations, to refine your prose, and to seek feedback from people you trust.

Know Your Limits and Be Selective

The AMCAS application has a 5,300-character limit for personal statements – this works out to approximately 500 words, or two pages of standard, double-spaced type. 500 words may sound like a lot of space. It isn’t. As you outline your statement, try to consider:

  • Pivotal life events that inspired you to choose a medical career
  • Important lessons you learned from volunteering or clinical experiences
  • Key relationships that influenced your decision

You will need to choose two or three of the most important aspects of your journey toward a career in medicine to highlight in your personal statement. You’ll want to show committees your motivation for choosing a career in medicine, your vision for the kind of doctor you’ll be, and specific experiences you’ve pursued to help you prepare for your future.

Show, Don’t Tell, About Your Motivation

Use concrete examples to demonstrate the qualities and attributes that make you a strong candidate for medical school. Instead of using a cliché, such as “I’m deeply committed to helping people in need,” be specific about the kind of people you want to help. For example, if you assisted with a clinical drug trial, explain how that has ignited your passion to support people with cancer and their families. If you worked as an EMT, discuss how you were inspired by emergency physicians treating a gun violence victim.

Admissions committees are seeking genuine insight into your motivations and aspirations. Giving them a clear, specific image of your “lightbulb moment” – the instant when you knew you had to be a doctor – is one way to strengthen your personal statement.

Demonstrate Your Understanding of What Doctors Do

Inspiration and motivation are starting points. Your personal statement should also communicate your understanding of the responsibilities and challenges inherent in the practice of medicine. Demonstrate your commitment to patient-centered care, empathy, and lifelong learning. Share your vision for the kind of physician you aspire to become.

For instance, you may want to write about a time you began to understand what caring for patients really involves, such as how you built a connection with a patient at your volunteering site who didn’t immediately like or trust you.

Highlight Your Unique Perspective

Have an interesting personal background that isn’t well-represented among medical school students? Consider explaining how your unique experiences, perspectives, or interests can contribute to the diversity of the medical school community. Remember that diversity is about more than ethnic or racial heritage: it can also include religion, disability status, socioeconomic status, and more.

Did you overcome a learning disability? Explain how that affected your approach to medical education. Are you from a lower-income family, or from one that spoke a language other than English at home? Describe how that impacted your ability to access medical care, and how you will work to serve patients from similar origins.

Nail the Basics of Good Writing

Good writing is clear and as simple as possible. It allows your voice to shine through. Avoid using complex vocabulary or jargon. If you do opt for more complicated words, make absolutely sure you understand their meaning and correct usage. If in doubt at all, cut them from your final draft.

Ensure that you fix any grammar and punctuation issues and break up any large paragraphs to help make your statement more readable on a screen. A great way to identify what needs to be re-worked is to read your writing aloud. Sometimes you’ll spot typos or other errors you might otherwise have missed. Other times, you’ll realize there’s a better, more natural way to phrase a thought.

Get a Second Opinion

Revision is an integral part of the writing process. Remember, however, that you can get too close to your own work. Asking a trusted person for feedback can help you further refine your personal statement. Your MSMS advisor, current medical students, physicians, and others may all be useful sounding boards. Also consider asking people from outside the field of medicine for their thoughts to ensure your message resonates with anyone.

By following these tips and staying true to your unique narrative, you can craft a compelling personal statement that helps you stand out with medical school admissions committees. Your voice matters, and your story has the power to make a lasting impression. Good luck!

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