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Writing Your Personal Statement

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

Writing a personal statement for professional school can be a daunting experience. This article will offer key tips on drafting a personal statement that displays your strengths and uniqueness.
How to Start?
Start early – writing your personal statement will require much thought and reflection. Schedule time to work on your statement weekly – do not wait until the last minute to begin drafting.
Just start – The writing process will require multiple drafts. Begin by writing whatever comes to mind as it pertains to your application process. As you continue to write, your ideas will become more focused and you will be able to add and delete what you do and do not want to use.
Example Openers:
1) Why you want to be a doctor – this can be a conversation you had with someone or a pivotal experience that revealed your love for medicine. Consider personal experiences you or close family had with medical professionals and how these interactions made you want to pursue a career in medicine
2) A challenge you overcame – discuss a challenge within your life that shaped your character and will make you a better candidate for medical school. Discuss your journey, moments when you may have felt defeated and how you overcame these feelings. Detail specific aspects of the challenge and pivotal moments that strengthened you to persevere.
3) What makes you an ideal candidate – describe your qualities and characteristics that make you an excellent candidate for medical school. Be sure to substantiate each quality with a specific example or experience.
Get to the point. Admissions will read thousands of personal statements. Do not bore them with flowery language and nonessential details or stories.
What are admissions committees looking for? 
Most schools use your personal statement to understand who you are as a person and who you will be as a future medical professional. Schools especially look for examples of leadership, overcoming obstacles, areas of interest, and commitment to society. Think carefully about your experiences and only discuss those experiences that portray you positively. It may help to review your resume and next to each experience categorize it as “leadership”, “community service”, etc. Then use your resume as an outline to help you draft your statement. If you cannot detail how a particular experience contributed to your journey to become a doctor, do not include this experience in your personal statement.
Admissions committees are also looking to see what makes you a unique candidate. What qualities and experiences set you apart. If you have lived abroad, learned a second language, founded a business or organization, have a unique educational background, etc. be sure to include these experiences. It is important to not only list these experiences, but to discuss how they make you the perfect candidate. Also, consider discussing how you will use your medical degree and your specific career goals. For example, if you wish to open a practice, describe the practice, its location, mission, and the demographic it will service.
What experience should I include in my personal statement? 
Your personal statement should highlight your unique qualities and your ambitions for the future in your career. Use your resume/CV to guide your writing. Think about experiences that changed you as a person, solidified your decision to pursue this career, or particular areas of interests. Remember to always answer the ‘Why’. Why do you want to be a doctor? Why did a particular experience make you a better person? Why is helping others important to you? Include research experiences, poster presentations, involvement in organizations/clubs. Do not simply state that you were involved in various experiences be sure to explain how the experiences have shaped you as a person.
When completing your secondary applications, be sure you have reviewed each school’s mission and connect their mission with your personal goals and ambitions.
What to Avoid?
Avoid clichés and overly emotional language. Your reader(s) need to understand who you are and your motivation to become a doctor – they do not need dramatic appeal.
Avoid using the same word more than twice. Diversify your language and do not bore your reader by repeating the same words or phrases.
Avoid being too general. Remember to be specific about your experiences or motivations. Instead of stating that you want to become a doctor because you want to help people, describe what helping others looks like to you and why it is important to you and society.
Avoid careless spelling and grammar errors. Read your statement multiple times and allow others to proofread your writing before submitting.