By: Alessandra Santiago
It’s heavy-hitter time: drafting your Personal Statement. This is the chance for you to provide a committee of strangers a full ‘picture’ of who you are as a candidate for medical school. By demonstrating your individual, unique qualifications for pursuing medicine, you can paint a picture as to why you would be an ideal future medical student at that school. So while, yes, it is too early for you to submit your primary application, it’s never too early to get acquainted with the Personal Comments Essay a.k.a. the Personal Statement.
To start, check out the AMCAS Applicant Guide to see their recommendations for thinking about the Essay. It provides you with questions to consider before writing, including:
- Why have you selected the field of medicine?
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What do you want medical schools to know about you that haven’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?
In 5300 characters, this essay is your chance to authentically paint a picture of yourself to admissions committees. In conjunction with your activities section as well as your letters of recommendation, this essay is your opportunity to showcase what makes you shine as an applicant. You get to decide what the committees learn about you through this piece of writing, so make it personal and make it count!
The Personal Statement should make your motivations for medicine clear. By using one or two specific incidents to highlight your relevant experiences in medicine, you can discuss who and what has influenced you to become a physician. It is important to explain how these experiences have led to your personal growth and maturity in a clear and concise manner.
This may not be a place to take a writing ‘risk’, like playing around with writing structure or composing a flowery poem in lieu of highlighting your unique ‘story’ through a few specific and highly-personal life experiences. A format you may choose for your essay breaks down as follows: defining life event → student is inspired to pursue medicine → student pursues experiences that expose them further to the practice of medicine.
So, in order to assist with the writing process, here are a few tips to get you started on the very early stages of the drafting:
- Outline what you want to say and the order in which you want to make your points.
- Brainstorm what interests you about medicine.
- Find a few incidents that formulated your interest in medicine along the way (and be specific!): what concrete events distinguish you from other candidates?
- Consider your motivation: Why do you want to become a physician? Why NOT become a teacher, social worker, counselor, minister, etc.?
In addition, consider these basic themes for your essay:
- What was a life-changing personal experience with a health profession—either as patient or support person—which led to your interest in medicine?
- Was there a relationship with an inspiring individual that led to your interest in medicine?
- Was there an experience that challenged or changed your perspective on healthcare?
Above all else, you have the time to reflect on what makes you uniquely qualified for a career in medicine. You are the only person with your particular story, and the Personal Statement is the place where your voice can truly shine through. Focus on what you’ve learned, how you have been motivated or captivated by your experiences, and frame your obstacles as learning experiences that have contributed to your growth.