Do's and Don't's of the
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
I wrote mine about a medical trip I took to Ecuador and how that fueled my interest in serving underserved populations through medicine. I then tied that time in my life into other moments that also fueled that interest. I HIGHLY recommend the writing center to read over your personal statement, even multiple times. I think I went in there several times to tweak it and they were incredibly helpful, giving me so much advice. It's free and everyone is so knowledgable! I also had a huge variety of friends/family/advisors/mentors read it and give me advice.
Before writing your personal statement, try to reflect on a few experiences that have been particularly transformative for your own desire to pursue medicine. If you are passionate about one single experience you can write about that, or if there are several that have been meaningful then you can try to integrate them together. Having a few family members and friends read it can be a great way to identify weaknesses/errors that you can improve upon.
Start on your personal statement early! Creating a personal statement is kind of like creating a work of art, it requires a lot of thought and needs to be very well curated. To an extent parts of your personal statement are going to be very similar to others but there are many areas where you can add creativity as far as the writing style goes and also include your unique experiences that will surely make you stand out. I would recommend working with the tutors in the Writing Center to help you with your personal statement, whether it is to come up with creative ideas or if you just need help with proof reading and cutting down characters. Start writing it a couple months in advance, jot down ideas and experiences that you think you want to include and slowly it will all come together. As far as the application goes, familiarize yourself beforehand with some of the information that you need to include in the application because it is more writing than I had anticipated. When I applied, we had to write a 250-character long summary of each significant extra-curricular activity that we participated in and it was more time consuming than I had expected to write all the paragraphs and make sure they were within the character limit while still conveying all the important information I wanted to include. Make sure to have at least a couple different people review your application materials for content and for grammar. Be sure to have at least two people read your application: one person you don’t know and one person who knows you very well so that you can get a good idea of how your application reads and make edits as necessary.
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
Use the MD-PhD Essay to state your reasons for pursuing the combined MD-PhD degree. Your response will be forwarded only to your designated MD-PhD program(s). This essay is limited to 3,000 characters.
This is submitted in addition to your personal essay, so make sure you say something new in it!
Significant Research Experience Essay
Use the Significant Research Experience Essay to describe your significant research experiences. Specify your research supervisor’s name and affiliation, the duration of the experience, the nature of the problem studied, and your contributions to the research effort. The essay is limited to 10,000 characters. If your research resulted in a publication on which you were an author, please enter the full citation in the Work/Activities section of your application.
Many admissions committees say they like to see depth over breadth here. They want to know you are passionate about some area of research - enough that you could dedicate yourself to it in a PhD program.
These essays want to know all about your research and why you're interested in the program, you best talk about both! I focused on how my research pertains to my love of medicine and how I want to be able to tie these fields together. You really have to emphasize the research you've been doing because that's key for the application. The deeper understanding of the research, the better off you will be.