The Personal Statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to admission committees. It can explain your motivation and why you have made the decision to apply. It can bring out your personal attributes and competencies and weave together all of your experiences. A sincere, thoughtful, and introspective personal statement may make the difference to committee members as they decide whether to interview or admit an academically qualified applicant. This is the time to strengthen the narrative part of your application and demonstrate how you view the meaning of your experiences rather than just present them as an annotated resume.
A 5300-character essay (the character limit for AMCAS) requires focus in your essay. You might have a particular interest that spans both your academic achievements and your extracurricular experiences and you can use that interest as a thread to tie your essay together. You may have a unique background that you'd like to begin with. Or you may want to describe a meaningful clinical experience.
Here are some key points to keep in mind when writing the personal essay:
- Use perfect English. Check for typos and remember that spell checkers don’t catch all errors (e.g., “there” vs. “their”)
- Use action verbs and active voice rather than passive. Don't say “I was given the opportunity to volunteer (or work) in”, but rather "I volunteered in ... "
- Circle all the times you used the word “I” and if there are too many, rewrite your sentences
- Be personal when you write, as though you were talking with someone in person
- Be sure to explain the lessons learned, skills, and attributes you’ve cultivated through experiences
- You might use an engaging story and anecdote to personalize your essay; if you do, be careful not to spend half of your essay describing someone else - the essay is about you
- Write an essay that describes you, one that only you could have written
- Multiple rewrites over a period of time are to be expected
- Ask others to read your essay for content, especially those individuals who know you well to ensure that your authentic voice is coming through
- Don’t be wildly creative. This is not a creative writing essay
- Don’t be gratuitous
- Don’t use trite and vague phrases such as “gained valuable experience” and “became intrigued with the human body”
- Don’t list
- Don’t over inflate or under-inflate your accomplishments/activities
- Don’t include inaccuracies or unsubstantiated claims
- Don't begin your essay with how you wanted to be a doctor at age 4 when you received your first Fisher Price doctor kit
- Don’t place blame on others
There are a wide variety of sample essays online (google sample essay questions medical school) that might give you ideas, but remember that this is your personal statement and it needs to be written from the heart.
If you are applying to an MD-PhD program, you will write and include two other essays, one on why you are applying to these programs and one on your research experience.
Our office will be glad to read a draft of your personal statement and offer comments. You can submit a statement with your RMA or at a later date. We'll provide details on how to do this during the spring.