Your medical school personal statement is one of the most important components of your application. This short essay can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you will spend the remainder of your life practicing medicine.
To be honest, most personal statements will be similar enough that they’ll fit right in with the rest. There will be a handful that stand out above the majority, and if you can be in that handful … great!
However, there will be a larger number that stand out in a bad way. Your first priority is to make sure you are not in the “bad” bag. Here are the top 5 don’ts for your personal statement.
1. Don’t turn your resume into an essay. It is amazing how many premedical students simply transcribe their resume into paragraph form, then add an introduction and conclusion section. Read over your personal statement and if this is what you’ve done, you might as well start re-writing it now. Medical school applications have a specific section for your resume, and it is not the personal statement portion. It is OK to select one or two key of your high accomplishments to include in your essay, but please take caution not to go overboard!
2. Don’t exclude transition statements. Admissions committee members read a lot of personal statements. To say the least, the essays can become somewhat mundane. In order to decrease the pain they face in reading so many, applicants can help them out by writing a “smooth” essay. Transition statements are key in making this happen and cannot be overemphasized. Don’t jump trivially from one paragraph to another, but rather make sure you maintain good flow throughout. Your personal statement does not need to be a Pulitzer literary work of excellence, but it should be readable.
3. Don’t be impersonal. It’s called a personal statement for a reason. Medical schools would like to know how you can make your potential classmates better. In order for them to determine this, it is critical that they get a good idea of the real you, the personal you. Don’t be reluctant to tell your tearjerker story, or to share real life struggles which you have had. Remember, the struggle is not what determines your success; it’s always the way you responded to it.
4. Don’t embellish. Many students work hard to be standout students during undergrad, and once they reach the application process, they come to a false realization that there is “nothing special” about them. This leads to embellishments in their personal statement. All of a sudden, a student’s minor flesh wound injury as child when he or she fell off a bicycle turns into a near-death motorcycle experience. Don’t do this. If you get an interview with that school, it is likely they will ask about the most interesting aspects of your personal statement, and you don’t want to be caught sweating. Lying is a major don’t!
5. Don’t forget to have five people proofread it. Perhaps the biggest mistake, yet easiest to avoid, is leaving typos and grammatical errors in your personal statement. If you want to know the quickest way to get your application tossed out, then submit an essay with errors in it.
“Dr. Dale” is a physician who blogs at PreMed StAR.
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