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AACOMAS: Personal Essay

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Do's and Don't's of the

Personal Essay



DON'T write about what you think admissions committees "want to hear"

DO convey your personality by discussing what lead you to selecting the field of medicine, what motivates you, and/or what's important to your journey

DON'T first start thinking about the character limit when you're going to submit your application

DO count characters during every draft of your essay, keeping in mind the limit is 5,300 characters including spaces

DON'T tell the story of parents or siblings

DO tell how family circumstances impacted YOU

DON'T recite your resume or talk about your life in terms of facts or stats

DON'T only read through your personal statement yourself

DO write a convincing narrative including anecdotes that illustrate what kind of person you are and reflections about the meaning and impact of various life events​

DO get many different people to give you feedback on your personal essay: advisors, professors, mentors, friends, everyone!

Don't Know Where to Start?

Questions to Consider:

  • Why have you selected the field of medicine?

  • What motivates you to learn more about medicine?

  • What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn't been disclosed in other sections of the application?

  • What unique hardships, challenges or obstacles have influences your education?

It can also help to write out a timeline of your educational and medical journey, to see what events were most defining or unique.

Resources to Use

  • Offers in-person or online writing help

  • Helpful for establishing flow, tone, and theme of your personal essay (as well as another set of eyes on grammar and spelling)

  • Helpful when trying to narrow down your ideas/speech to meet the character limit

  • Hosts a Personal Statement Workshop in the spring semester

  • Has specific pre-med and science career advisors familiar with what medical schools are looking for in applicants

  • Helpful for narrowing down ideas and figuring out what makes you unique

  • In-person meetings or email, depending on advisor preferences

  • Pre-med and major advisors both have unique perspectives on the medical school admissions process

  • Helpful for deciding what to put in your personal essay

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D.O. 2023

For your personal statement, write your own story. This may seem like common sense, but I think students often become caught up in what they think admissions want to hear from them, rather than focusing on their true motivations, obstacles, and journey to medical school. The personal statement is one of the few places in the entire application where you get to be creative and share your story. The rest of the application is largely objective, so let your personality/individuality show through in your personal statement.

Tips: make sure you write it very early and edit frequently. Ask several others to read it and provide feedback, as well.

Personal statements should be unique to each applicant. There is not a one size fit all to writing these statements and, in some situations, working from a sample can be detrimental to your writing and reflection on experiences. 


Here are some tips to writing your own personal statement.

  • Show don’t tell. Give us the narrative of what the experience was and how it impacted you 

  • Writing it as a story can help you with your structure and it gives enough detail to what the situation was like 

  • Stay focused on your objective – choose a theme, stick to it, and support it with specific examples 

  • Embrace the 5-paragraph essay format

    • 1st paragraph: “catch” your readers attention

    • 3 to 4 body paragraphs consisting of who you are, reflect on your clinical understanding and service 

    • Concluding paragraph, tie it all together 

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