Personal statement tips for medical school

As you all know, the personal statement is one of the most important components of the medical school application process. It is one of the first opportunities you have to explain to an admissions committee exactly who you are and what you bring to the table. Don’t show up empty handed.

Here are some tips I learned while writing my personal statement.

1. The personal statement on the AMCAS does not have a specific prompt, but that does NOT mean you can write about anything you want. You should keep your essay focused on a single theme and create a coherent narrative that explains why you want to pursue a career in medicine. After reading your essay someone should be able to answer the questions: Why does this applicant want to  be a doctor? What experiences lead her to this decision? How have she actively cultivated her interests in medicine?

2. Highlight your strengths. Elaborate on things that make you unique and show your promise as a future physician. All premedical students like science and want to help people. Those reasons are not good enough to get you into medical school. Dig a lot deeper — tell a compelling story that will pique someone’s interest and make them want to meet you in person!

3. You will have plenty of room to talk about community service, research, and clinical experiences on the AMCAS and secondary applications. Don’t feel pressured to include all the details of this information in your personal statement, especially if they were not the most formative experiences that drew you to medicine.

4. You can’t fake passion. If you aren’t excited about the work you did in a lab, don’t say that you are. Admissions officers can tell when your interest is genuine. Write about what you love, and your enthusiasm will naturally shine.

5. You may want to address major challenges that you have experienced. If you need to show how certain obstacles affected your life, you also need to depict how those same challenges made you a stronger, more adaptable person. No one wants a doctor that crumbles in the face of adversity.

6. Be specific. Use concrete examples to back up your statements and avoid generalities at all costs. If you were active in community service, paint a vivid picture. Describe exactly what you did and more importantly, what you gained from it.

7. Find a few solid editors. If you have too many people correcting your statement you may end up diluting your voice. I had four people read my personal statement. Three out of the four had careers in medicine.

Jennifer Adaeze Anyaegbunam is a medical student who blogs at her self-titled site, Jennifer Adaeze AnyaegbunamShe can be reached on Twitter @JenniferAdaeze.  

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