The medical school personal statement struggle

If you are in the same boat as I and aspiring to become a physician, you are likely in the process of compiling an application for medical school. If you are like me, then one of the most intimidating parts of the application process is the personal statement segment of the American Medical College Application Service. It is increasingly difficult to stand out in the medical school application pool, as there are so many competitive applications, and the rate of students applying to medical school is growing. Many personal statement tactics that I have tried to apply to my own essay have made my statement sound as if I am reciting my resume, bragging, or asking for sympathy.

Here is what I am afraid of sounding like:

My name is Sheindel Ifrah. I am from Baltimore, Maryland. I studied at W.I.T.S. Baltimore, which is an affiliate college of Thomas Edison State University. In college, I focused on elementary, and, more specifically, special education. Afterward, I taught special education biology and earth science, as well as high school nutrition. I also was an administrative coordinator of the International Cornea Foundation and participated in cornea research. Although I do not have a 4.0 GPA, I can explain myself by telling you all the details of my responsibilities outside of school. I can also tell you that I am a capable student by listing all of my accomplishments.

As hard as it is to sum yourself up in a couple of pages, it is equally hard to present something balanced: sounding enthusiastic about patient care (but not hungry for blood), thrilled with research (but not a lab rat), caring (but not crying whenever you see a puppy), factual (but not robotic). Even with the many tips and advice I receive, summing up what makes me deserve training to become a doctor is as challenging as it sounds. Am I a product of my environment? Or is there something inside me that “calls” toward medicine? If it is a mix of these two, which is most likely, where are the crossroads?

What I know for sure is that I want to communicate that medicine is my dream, and that it always has been no matter how many turns my life has taken. I want to communicate that I will make an excellent doctor whom any medical school will be proud to have as a student. I want whoever reads my statement to see a woman who has had her fair share of struggles, has grown from these struggles, who is grateful to have had the opportunities to be involved in science and patient care, and grateful to have the chance to apply to medical school.

The more I reflect on my reasons for pursuing a career in medicine, the more evident it becomes to me that medicine is always where I felt most excited. Whether it was being treated for a cornea scratch in the fourth grade, the blood draws I watched a nurse conduct on my grandfather, or elementary school lab dissections, my enthusiasm for the field of medicine has been consistent throughout my life, despite the path my journey has veered.  I hope that I am able to reflect this in a powerful and open personal statement.

Sheindel Ifrah is a post-baccalaureate student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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