Personal Statements

Your personal statement is an essay, included with your primary application, which introduces you to an admissions committee. You should use this statement to communicate your personal voice and provide a sense of who you are beyond your test scores, transcript and r'sum'. This is your chance to establish yourself as an interesting person with good qualities and abilities beneficial for a career in medicine. In other words, someone medical schools will want to get to know better in an interview.

The information provided on this page is meant to help you think about, and then write, an effective personal statement.


What should I write about?
Use the occasion to tell a story that illustrates some of the qualities or experiences you have that make you a good fit for a career in medicine. You might write about a particular experience that resulted in intellectual or emotional growth, your enjoyment of something about which you are passionate or a challenge you met and worked through. Choose only one or two things to write about and go for depth rather than breadth.
Of particular interest to medical schools are a set of core competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) which they have identified as fundamental for students' success in medical school and their future careers. Examples of such competencies include service orientation, social skills, critical thinking, adaptability and capacity for improvement. The full list of core competencies can be found on the Association of American Medical Colleges website.


How should I start?
You can start by thinking about the things you have done from which you have gained particular satisfaction, that have been unusual, or particularly relevant to the medical profession. Experiences in which you had an active role tend to have more impact than experiences you have observed or have happened to you. Make yourself the primary focus of your personal statement and use the experiences about which you write to demonstrate the qualities or personal characteristics you have chosen to emphasize.


The "Do's" for an effective personal statement
Revise and reflect: Do not rush to finish your personal statement without taking the time to understand yourself. Personal statements are about critical self-examination, and admissions committees can tell when statements only begin to scratch the surface. Reflecting on your first draft is just as important as the self-reflection you did in considering your topic.
Focus on yourself: Use first-person "I" when discussing yourself.
Consider your style: Be concise and straightforward without adding unnecessary rhetorical flourishes. Remember that you are limited to 5300 characters, including spaces. In addition, it is not always necessary to have full paragraph introductions and conclusions or very general topic sentences.
Emphasize the present and recent past: Write about relatively recent activities or experiences. Admissions Committees want to know about the adult you are now, as opposed to the child you once were, even if you had significant, formative childhood experiences.
Pay close attention to detail: Proofread and spell-check your statement multiple times. Remember that the spell- and grammar-check tools are not perfect. You should take the time to edit each document yourself.  It can also help to have someone you trust read over your finished product.


The "Don't's" for an effective personal statement
Write a narrative version of your resume: Use your personal statement to provide the admissions committee with an in-depth and interesting picture of you. The primary application has a section in which you will describe your activities.
Forget that you are applying to a professional school: Try to avoid cliches or overly colloquial phrasing. Admissions Committees may be put off by overly informal or casual language in your application materials. You should consider this as one of your first professional exercises in your medical career.
Use Quotations: Avoid using other people's quotations (and direct quotes in general).  This can be viewed negatively by some admissions officers, as you should find your own voice and use it from the outset. In addition, this is a very short essay and you should keep the focus on yourself.
Explain weaknesses in your application: The personal statement is not an appropriate place to provide context for a low GPA or standardized test score. The tone of the essay should be positive and confident. If necessary, you can use secondary applications to explain any of these issues.

Need help?
Career Services: Your pre-health advisor can help you plan your essay and review a draft of it. To have your personal statement reviewed, you can bring it to an appointment or attach it, as a Word document, to an email.
Marks Family Writing Center: Staff at the Center can assist you with things like structure, mechanics and grammar. Please see their website for information about making an appointment.
Other people you trust: Having someone read over your essay and give you feedback can be helpful, but be judicious in receiving feedback. Trying to incorporate the edits and ideas of many different people may result in losing the focus of the essay and dilute your personal voice.