Med School Personal Statement Concerns
The med school personal statement is often a source of frustration for applicants. Many medical school hopefuls worry that medical schools will find their essay trite. This fear is compounded by premedical college advisers warning about the dangers of a cliche personal statement. A quick google search will show countless articles warning about topics and statements to avoid. Some of these supposedly forbidden topics include:
- wanting to be a physician since childhood
- going into medicine because of a desire to help/serve others
- your personal health stuggles
- a family member’s illness
- any experience suddenly made you want to be a physician
After hearing the dire warnings, many medical schools worry about what they can write about- most every logical topic choice is forbidden. The good news is that there are ways around these ‘rules’ so that you can create a strong med school personal statement.
Its Not a Cliche if You Write it Correctly
The secret most medical school experts won’t tell you is that if executed properly, nearly all the ‘forbidden’ topics are acceptable. The key is to explain yourself, provide examples, and guide the reader to understand your view. For example, instead of writing that you want to go to medical school to help others, describe your volunteer work, what you accomplished, and how the skills you learned there will translate to your career in medicine. In most cases, common topics are only uninspired and dull if they are badly written.
Choose an Interesting Opening Story
The most important part of a med school personal statement is the opening paragraph. This is because it will often determine if the admissions officer will continue to read your essay with interest, or if they skim through it. Your opening paragraph must capture your audience’s attention and make them want to read more. The best way to accomplish this is by telling a story. Choose an event from your life that is interesting and relates to the topic of your essay.
Be (Almost Completely) Truthful
Medical schools want students who are honest and show integrity. Therefore, it is a very bad idea to be dishonest in your personal statement. Most things are verifiable- you do not want to be caught lying on your personal statement. That would be embarrassing for you and devastating to your medical school application. However, it is acceptable to take some creative license in your writing. For example, it is unacceptable to claim that you were a finalist in an international piano competition if you are a mediocre pianist. However, it is fine to say that you learned the value of tenacity and hard work by practicing the piano everyday- (it is also OK not to mention that the reason that you practiced everyday was because your parents made you do it).
Know About the Pre-Professional Competencies
AMCAS has designated 15 skills that prospective medical school must demonstrate to earn admission. The core competencies include service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability, resilience, ethical responsibility, and written communication. Your med school personal statement is the ideal medium to demonstrate some of these core competencies. As you write your essay, use examples to show your skills rather than simply stating that you possess them.
Choose a Good Theme
A good personal statement has central idea that is carried through the entire essay. It is important to choose your theme wisely. It is often a good idea to use one of the pre-professional competencies as a theme. Once you have chosen your theme, make sure that your opening story, and body paragraphs relate back to your central idea.
One of the most worst distractions for an admissions officer is a personal statement riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. Although these mistakes are easy to make, you must screen for them and correct them prior to submitting your essay. Review your work carefully to ensure that it is free of errors.
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