By: Alessandra Santiago
At this point in the application cycle, it is likely that most pre-meds have a working version of their Primary App materials, including a Personal Statement draft along with a draft of their three most meaningful Activities essay. Now is an excellent time to start finalizing those drafts before sending them out for editing.
But before you send out your essays, be sure to ask yourself if your responses answer the following questions:
- Why do I want to be a physician, specifically?
- Have I demonstrated why my interest in medical schools is unique to me?
- Have I pulled from my experiences to demonstrate what I would contribute to medical school?
Your job, as a prospective medical student, is to provide a clear, concise picture to admissions committees as to who you are. The best way to do this is to ensure that you have a consistent message across your application materials about what motivates you to pursue a career as a physician. You can guarantee success in your essays if you have appropriate readers who can point out any shortcomings or inaccuracies in the picture that you paint of yourself.
If you have selected your editors carefully, you should have chosen readers who can provide keen insights into the consistency of your narrative, the accuracy of the information with regard to who you are as an applicant, and the ‘readability’ of your responses. In other words: select readers who have an eye for identifying themes and tone, who know you well, and who are sticklers for grammar (Author’s note: reviewers are absolutely essential in producing quality written work, and soliciting and incorporating appropriate feedback into your work are skills that extend beyond the application cycle!).
Select someone who knows medicine to serve as your first-pass reader. Whether that be a physician you know well or a P.I. you’ve worked with, these readers can give you feedback about whether or not your essays are in line with what resonates from a health careers standpoint. They can point out any major issues with tone or messaging.
After you nail the tone of your essay, send your essay to someone who knows you well for a second read-through. These readers can best identify if your Personal Statement seems disingenuous or ‘out of character’. A disingenuous essay is obvious in the way that it panders to an audience, so your second reader should be able to cast an accurate light onto how you present in your essays.
Finally, send your essays to someone who is a stickler for grammar and syntax. This might be the same person as listed above, but ideally, this person will go through your essay looking for ‘readability issues’ in particular. Keep in mind that there is no spell-check software in the AMCAS portal, so this last reader is important to catch any lingering mistakes before you submit. After this final pass, your essays should be good to go, and you can feel confident pasting your essays into the AMCAS portal.
Remember: the Personal Statement limits responses to 5,300 characters, and your three most meaningful experiences are given 1325 characters while all other activities are only allotted 700 characters. This should be old news at this point, but it is a good idea to remind yourself of the limitations on the written portions of the application.
Once you have submitted your application materials at the end of May or early June, keep in mind that you cannot change what is written in your essays. There are a limited number of actions you can take once you have submitted your Primary Application, so be very confident before you have submitted your materials that they are entirely up-to-snuff.