Applying to medical school? Often the worst and most stressful part of the application is the personal statement. It’s a blank slate – which means there are a million ways people do it. But it also gives you a chance to tell YOUR side of your application and YOUR personality that doesn’t show up in the GPA or MCAT numbers. Read below for some personal statement tips as well as a copy of my own personal statement as I submitted it to medical schools way back in 2008 (yes, for those of you new to #LifeofaMedStudent – I’m a PGY-4 anesthesia resident, about to finally finish this medical education journey).
I touched on some tips for personal statements in my personal statement for residency applications post. Some of the same tips hold true for the medical school one. A good personal statement (PS) is pretty easy to know when you have it, but a bad one is even easier to spot. Avoid having a bad personal statement with a couple of simple tips – no grammatical errors, don’t try to be too flashy or stylistic, do not simply repeat your CV, and do not exaggerate or lie. These are mistakes that instantly will tarnish your PS as well as your entire application. For this reason, it is very important to have someone well-educated and that you trust to be honest proofread your PS several times.
What makes a good personal statement? A good personal statement should complement your CV. It should in your words be able to show your personality and your desire to go into medicine. It should give examples of the what and the why – i.e. why do you care about patients, what do you like about the medical field, why is this your career desire. It should flow and be easy to read, preferably with a central theme or idea tying the paragraphs together. And if you aren’t a great writer capable of impressive creative writing, the personal statement should probably be a touch boring. There are few good personal statements out there that are very imaginative and work – but most students that try this end up coming off unusual or weird, even worse for their application than a boring PS would have been.
So below is my personal statement, unchanged from my med school application in 2008:
“The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it.” – Maimonides
I want to be a physician. Why? To help people, to hold respect, to engage in a challenging career? All are motivations for undertaking the rigorous training required of an aspiring doctor, but it is deeper than that. I aspire to be the doctor who does not just diagnose, but educates; the doctor who does not just treat, but advises; the doctor who does not just prescribe, but heals. In my pursuit of a medical career, it is my desire to give each patient the attention they deserve that is my major driving force.
While medical school can teach a student the science behind medicine, it is a doctor’s personality and character that ultimately determines his or her success with patients. Effective and personable communication is essential for patient comfort and success with their doctor. I have found that I have a unique ability to connect quickly with people and earn their confidence. While shadowing Dr. Beams, he instilled in me his belief that primary care is about educating more than anything, and the doctor’s greatest battle is motivating patients to change their lifestyle, rather than always asking the doctor to treat their symptoms. The skill to communicate cannot be overlooked in the medical field as patients must learn to trust the people they depend on for their healthcare.
A second personality characteristic that will be greatly beneficial in medicine is my enjoyment of thriving under pressure. Whether it be studying for an exam late before test day or taking the final shot in an intramural basketball game, I have always felt confident in dealing with pressure. For a physician under constant stress, their decisions can result in life or death and must be made quickly and confidently. This is an environment that I not only know I can succeed in, but comprises another part of my interest in becoming a doctor. I will be passionate about a job in which I am looked upon to make split-second decisions that can directly save lives.
Medical school is among the most challenging endeavors one can undertake. My strong academic success has undeniably helped prepare me for this immense task, but it is the way in which I have gone about this that is more significant. I have constantly pushed myself to learn more than what was simply required. I started anew in my foreign language classes with Spanish, when I could have simply continued Latin from high school. I majored in chemistry, despite it being one of the most challenging majors at Indiana State. Medical school will be another tough endeavor, but also another opportunity to push myself academically.
I know I have the potential to be a great doctor, and not only because of my academic success or the amount of science knowledge I will obtain in medical school. I also have the intangible qualities to relate well to people and the compassion to use my talents to make a meaningful contribution to the medical profession and my community. I have a yearning to do what would seem a commonplace task – talking with my patients. One day I know I will be a great doctor because I will treat the patient, not just the disease.
So how did I do? Well it’s technically fairly well written, with few grammatical mistakes that I can find. It’s has a central theme, though it doesn’t flow perfectly. It’s boring, and maybe even “too” boring. I wish I would have added a greater emphasis to a singular experience – either clinical or volunteering – that would have been more memorable. It’s probably flirting with over-confidence (not an unusual problem of mine, ha), and could have used a touch of humility somewhere. It’s not overly lengthy, gets to the point, but likely touches on many common personal statement themes. Overall though it a decent, if unspectacular, personal statement. Likely didn’t impress, but also was unlikely to be a negative on my overall application. However, if you aren’t a particularly strong writer, I think that’s an ok place to end up. My personal statement for residency was actually a little better in large part because I used a more memorable and unique experience to tie everything together.
What do you think? What are some tips you have for personal statements? What would you change or do differently in mine? Feel free to comment in the section below!
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