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Great Medical School Personal Statement Examples (2024-2025) Insider’s Guide

Medical School Personal Statement Tips

A physician and former medical school admissions officer teaches you how to write your medical school personal statement, step by step. Read several full-length medical school personal statement examples for inspiration.

In this article, a former medical school admissions officer explains exactly how to write a stand-out medical school personal statement!

Our goal is to empower you to write a medical school personal statement that reflects your individuality, truest aspirations and genuine motivations.

This guide also includes:

  • Real life medical school personal statement examples
  • Medical school personal statement inventory template and outline exercise
  • AMCAS, TMDSAS, and AACOMAS personal statement prompts
  • Advanced strategies to ensure you address everything admissions committees want to know
  • The secret to writing a great medical school personal statement

So, if you want your medical school personal statement to earn more more medical school interviews, you will love this informative guide.

Let’s dive right in.

Table of Contents

Medical School Personal Statement Fundamentals

If you are getting ready to write your medical school personal statement for the 2024-2025 application year, you may already know that almost 60% of medical school applicants are not accepted every year . You have most likely also completed all of your medical school requirements and have scoured the internet for worthy medical school personal statement examples and guidance.

You know the medical school personal statement offers a crucial opportunity to show medical schools who you are beyond your GPA and MCAT score .

It provides an opportunity to express who you are as an individual, the major influences and background that have shaped your interests and values, what inspired you to pursue medicine, and what kind of a physician you envision yourself becoming.

However, with so much information online, you are not sure who to trust. We are happy you have found us!

Because the vast majority of people offering guidance are not former admissions officers or doctors , you must be careful when searching online.

We are real medical school admissions insiders and know what goes on behind closed doors and how to ensure your medical school personal statement has broad appeal while highlighting your most crucial accomplishments, perspectives, and insights.

With tight limits on space, it can be tough trying to decide what to include in your medical school personal statement to make sure you stand out. You must think strategically about how you want to present your personal “big picture” while showing you possess the preprofessional competencies med schools are seeking.

When a medical school admissions reviewer finishes reading your medical school personal statement, ask yourself:

  • What are the most important things you want that person to remember about you?
  • Does your medical school personal statement sum up your personality, interests, and talents?
  • Does your medical school personal statement sound as if it’s written from the heart?

It’s pretty obvious to most admissions reviewers when applicants are trying too hard to impress them. Being authentic and upfront about who you are is the best way to be a memorable applicant.

The Biggest Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes

The most common medical school personal statement mistake we see students make is that they write about:

  • What they have accomplished
  • How they have accomplished it

By including details on what you have accomplished and how, you will make yourself sound like every other medical school applicant. 

Most medical school applicants are involved in similar activities: research, clinical work, service, and social justice work. 

To stand out, you must write from the heart making it clear you haven’t marched through your premedical years and checking boxes.

We also strongly discourage applicants from using ChatGPT or any AI bot to write their medical school personal statement. Writing in your own voice is essential and using anything automated will undermine success.

The Medical School Personal Statement Secret

MedEdits students stand out in the medical school personal statement because in their personal statements they address:

WHY they have accomplished what they have.

In other words, they write in more detail about their passions, interests, and what is genuinely important to them. 

It sounds simple, we know, but by writing in a natural way, really zeroing in on WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO, you will appeal to a wide variety of people in a humanistic way. 

MedEdits students have done extremely well in the most recent medical school admissions cycle. Many of these applicants have below average “stats” for the medical schools from which they are receiving interviews and acceptances.

Why? How is that possible? They all have a few things in common:

  • They write a narrative that is authentic and distinctive to them.
  • They write a medical school personal statement with broad appeal (many different types of people will be evaluating your application; most are not physicians).
  • They don’t try too hard to impress; instead they write about the most impactful experiences they have had on their path to medical school.
  • They demonstrate they are humble, intellectual, compassionate, and committed to a career in medicine all at the same time.

Keep reading for a step by step approach to write your medical school personal statement.

“After sitting on a medical school admissions committee for many years, I can tell you, think strategically about how you want to present your personal “big picture.” We want to know who you are as a human being.”

As physicians, former medical school faculty, and medical school admissions committee members, this article will offer a step by step guide to simplify the medical school personal statement brainstorming and writing process.

By following the proven strategies outlined in this article, you will be and to write a personal statement that will earn you more medical school interviews . This proven approach has helped hundreds of medical school applicants get in to medical school the first time they apply!

“Medical

Learn the 2024-2025 Medical School Personal Statement Prompts ( AMCAS , TMDSAS , AACOMAS )

The personal statement is the major essay portion of your primary application process. In it, you should describe yourself and your background, as well as any important early exposures to medicine, how and why medicine first piqued your interest, what you have done as a pre med, your personal experiences, and how you became increasingly fascinated with it. It’s also key to explain why medicine is the right career for you, in terms of both personal and intellectual fulfillment, and to show your commitment has continued to deepen as you learned more about the field.

The personal statement also offers you the opportunity to express who you are outside of medicine. What are your other interests? Where did you grow up? What did you enjoy about college? Figuring out what aspects of your background to highlight is important since this is one of your only chances to express to the med school admissions committee before your interview what is important to you and why.

However, it is important to consider the actual personal statement prompt for each system through which you will apply, AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS, since each is slightly different.

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2024 AMCAS Personal Statement Prompt

AMCAS Personal Statement

The AMCAS personal statement instructions are as follows:

Use the Personal Comments Essay as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Consider and write your Personal Comments Essay carefully; many admissions committees place significant weight on the essay. Here are some questions that you may want to consider while writing the essay:

  • 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 hasn’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?

In addition, you may wish to include information such as:

  • Unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
  • Comments on significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application

As you can see, these prompts are not vague; there are fundamental questions that admissions committees want you to answer when writing your personal statement. While the content of your statement should be focused on medicine, answering the open ended third question is a bit trickier.

The AMCAS personal statement length is 5,300 characters with spaces maximum.

2024 TMDSAS Personal Statement Prompt

TMDSAS Personal Statement

The TMDSAS personal statement is one of the most important pieces of your medical school application.

The TMDSAS personal statement prompt is as follows:

Explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. Be sure to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.

This TMDSAS prompt is very similar to the AMCAS personal statement prompt. The TMDSAS personal statement length is 5,000 characters with spaces whereas the AMCAS personal statement length is 5,300 characters with spaces. Most students use the same essay (with very minor modifications, if necessary) for both application systems.

You’ve been working hard on your med school application, reading medical school personal statement examples, editing, revising, editing and revising.  Make sure you know where you’re sending your personal statement and application.  Watch this important medical school admissions statistics video.

2024 AACOMAS Personal Statement Prompt

AACOMAS Personal Statement

The AACOMAS personal statement is for osteopathic medical schools specifically. As with the AMCAS statement, you need to lay out your journey to medicine as chronologically as possible in 5,300 characters with spaces or less. So you essentially have the same story map as for an AMCAS statement. Most important, you must show you are interested in osteopathy specifically. Therefore, when trying to decide what to include or leave out, prioritize any osteopathy experiences you have had, or those that are in line with the osteopathic philosophy of the mind-body connection, the body as self-healing, and other tenets.

Medical School Application Timeline and When to Write your Personal Statement

If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, you can most likely use the same medical school personal statement for both AMCAS and AACOMAS. In fact, this is why AACOMAS changed the personal statement length to match the AMCAS length several years ago.

Most medical school personal statements can be used for AMCAS and AACOMAS.

Know the Required Medical School Personal Statement Length

Below are the medical schools personal statement length limits for each application system. As you can see, they are all very similar. When you start brainstorming and writing your personal statement, keep these limits in mind.

AMCAS Personal Statement Length : 5,300 characters with spaces.

As per the AAMC website :   “The available space for this essay is 5,300 characters (spaces are counted as characters), or approximately one page. You will receive an error message if you exceed the available space.”

AACOMAS Personal Statement Length : 5,300 characters with spaces

TMDSAS Personal Statement Length : 5,000 characters with spaces

As per the TMDSAS Website (Page 36): “The personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. You are asked to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician. The essay is limited to 5000 characters, including spaces.”

Demonstrate Required Preprofessional Competencies

Next, your want to be aware of the nine preprofessional core competencies as outlined by the Association of American Medical Colleges . Medical school admissions committees want to see, as evidenced by your medical school personal statement and application, that you possess these qualities and characteristics. Now, don’t worry, medical school admissions committees don’t expect you to demonstrate all of them, but, you should demonstrate some.

  • Service Orientation
  • Social Skills
  • Cultural Competence
  • Oral Communication
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Resilience and Adaptability
  • Capacity for Improvement

In your personal statement, you might be able to also demonstrate the four thinking and reasoning competencies:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Written Communication
  • Scientific Inquiry

So, let’s think about how to address the personal statement prompts in a slightly different way while ensuring you demonstrate the preprofessional competencies. When writing your personal statement, be sure it answers the four questions that follow and you will “hit” most of the core competencies listed above.

1. What have you done that supports your interest in becoming a doctor?

I always advise applicants to practice “evidence based admissions.” The reader of your essay wants to see the “evidence” that you have done what is necessary to understand the practice of medicine. This includes clinical exposure, research, and community service, among other activities.

2. Why do you want to be a doctor?

This may seem pretty basic – and it is – but admissions officers need to know WHY you want to practice medicine. Many applicants make the mistake of simply listing what they have done without offering insights about those experiences that answer the question, “Why medicine?” Your reasons for wanting to be a doctor may overlap with those of other applicants. This is okay because the experiences in which you participated, the stories you can tell about those experiences, and the wisdom you gained are completely distinct—because they are only yours. 

“In admissions committee meetings we were always interested in WHY you wanted to earn a medical degree and how you would contribute to the medical school community.”

Medical school admissions committees want to know that you have explored your interest deeply and that you can reflect on the significance of these clinical experiences and volunteer work. But writing only that you “want to help people” does not support a sincere desire to become a physician; you must indicate why the medical profession in particular—rather than social work, teaching, or another “helping” profession—is your goal. 

3. How have your experiences influenced you?

It is important to show how your experiences are linked and how they have influenced you. How did your experiences motivate you? How did they affect what else you did in your life? How did your experiences shape your future goals? Medical school admissions committees like to see a sensible progression of involvements. While not every activity needs to be logically “connected” with another, the evolution of your interests and how your experiences have nurtured your future goals and ambitions show that you are motivated and committed.

4. Who are you as a person? What are your values and ideals?

Medical school admissions committees want to know about you as an individual beyond your interests in medicine, too. This is where answering that third open ended question in the prompt becomes so important. What was interesting about your background, youth, and home life? What did you enjoy most about college? Do you have any distinctive passions or interests? They want to be convinced that you are a good person beyond your experiences. Write about those topics that are unlikely to appear elsewhere in your statement that will offer depth and interest to your work and illustrate the qualities and characteristics you possess.

Related Articles:

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  • How To Get Into Columbia Medical School
  • How To Get Into UT Southwestern Medical School
  • How To Get Into Harvard Medical School

Complete Your Personal Inventory and Outline (Example Below)

The bulk of your essay should be about your most valuable experiences, personal, academic, scholarly, clinical, academic and extracurricular activities that have impacted your path to medical school and through which you have learned about the practice of medicine. The best personal statements cover several topics and are not narrow in scope. Why is this important? Many different people with a variety of backgrounds, interests, and ideas of what makes a great medical student will be reading your essay. You want to make sure you essay has broad appeal.

The following exercise will help you to determine what experiences you should highlight in your personal statement. 

When composing your personal statement, keep in mind that you are writing, in effect, a “story” of how you arrived at this point in your life. But, unlike a “story” in the creative sense, yours must also offer convincing evidence for your decision to apply to medical school. Before starting your personal statement, create an experience- based personal inventory:

  • Write down a list of the most important experiences in your life and your development. The list should be all inclusive and comprise those experiences that had the most impact on you. Put the list, which should consist of personal, extracurricular, and academic events, in chronological order.
  • From this list, determine which experiences you consider the most important in helping you decide to pursue a career in medicine. This “experience oriented” approach will allow you to determine which experiences best illustrate the personal competencies admissions committees look for in your written documents. Remember that you must provide evidence for your interest in medicine and for most of the personal qualities and characteristics that medical school admissions committees want to see.
  • After making your list, think about why each “most important” experience was influential and write that down. What did you observe? What did you learn? What insights did you gain? How  did the experience influence your path and choices?
  • Then think of a story or illustration for why each experience was important.
  • After doing this exercise, evaluate each experience for its significance and influence and for its “story” value. Choose to write about those experiences that not only were influential but that also will provide interesting reading, keeping in mind that  your goal is to weave the pertinent experiences together into a compelling story. In making your choices, think about how you will link each experience and transition from one topic to the next.
  • Decide which of your listed experiences you will use for your introduction first (see below for more about your introduction). Then decide which experiences you will include in the body of your personal statement, create a general outline, and get writing!

Remember, you will also have your work and activities entries and your secondary applications to write in more detail about your experiences. Therefore, don’t feel you must pack everything in to your statement!

Craft a Compelling Personal Statement Introduction and Body

You hear conflicting advice about application essays. Some tell you not to open with a story. Others tell you to always begin with a story. Regardless of the advice you receive, be sure to do three things:

  • Be true to yourself. Everyone will have an opinion regarding what you should and should not write. Follow your own instincts. Your personal statement should be a reflection of you, and only you.
  • Start your personal statement with something catchy.  Think about the list of potential topics above.
  • Don’t rush your work. Composing thoughtful documents takes time and you don’t want your writing and ideas to be sloppy and underdeveloped.

Most important is to begin with something that engages your reader. A narrative, a “story,” an anecdote written in the first or third person, is ideal. Whatever your approach, your first paragraph must grab your reader’s attention and motivate him to want to continue reading. I encourage applicants to start their personal statement by describing an experience that was especially influential in setting them on their path to medical school. This can be a personal or scholarly experience or an extracurricular one. Remember to avoid clichés and quotes and to be honest and authentic in your writing. Don’t try to be someone who you are not by trying to imitate personal statement examples you have read online or “tell them what you think they want to hear”; consistency is key and your interviewer is going to make sure that you are who you say you are!

When deciding what experiences to include in the body of your personal statement, go back to your personal inventory and identify those experiences that have been the most influential in your personal path and your path to medical school. Keep in mind that the reader wants to have an idea of who you are as a human being so don’t write your personal statement as a glorified resume. Include some information about your background and personal experiences that can give a picture of who you are as a person outside of the classroom or laboratory.

Ideally, you should choose two or three experiences to highlight in the body of your personal statement. You don’t want to write about all of your accomplishments; that is what your application entries are for!

Write Your Personal Statement Conclusion

In your conclusion, it is customary to “go full circle” by coming back to the topic—or anecdote—you introduced in the introduction, but this is not a must. Summarize why you want to be a doctor and address what you hope to achieve and your goals for medical school. Write a conclusion that is compelling and will leave the reader wanting to meet you.

Complete Personal Statement Checklist

When reading your medical school personal statement be sure it:

Shows insight and introspection

The best medical school personal statements tell a great deal about what you have learned through your experiences and the insights you have gained.

You want to tell your story by highlighting those experiences that have been the most influential on your path to medical school and to give a clear sense of chronology. You want your statement always to be logical and never to confuse your reader.

Is interesting and engaging

The best personal statements engage the reader. This doesn’t mean you must use big words or be a literary prize winner. Write in your own language and voice, but really think about your journey to medical school and the most intriguing experiences you have had.

Gives the reader a mental image of who you are

You want the reader to be able to envision you as a caregiver and a medical professional. You want to convey that you would be a compassionate provider at the bedside – someone who could cope well with crisis and adversity.

Illustrates your passion for, and commitment to, medicine

Your reader must be convinced that you are excited about and committed to a career in medicine!

Above all, your personal statement should be about you. Explain to your reader what you have done and why you want to be a doctor with insight, compassion, and understanding.

Medical School Personal Statement Myths

Also keep in mind some common myths about personal statements that I hear quite often:

My personal statement must have a theme.

Not true. The vast majority of personal statements do not have themes. In fact, most are somewhat autobiographical and are just as interesting as those statements that are woven around a “theme.” It is only the very talented writer who can creatively write a personal statement around a theme, and this approach often backfires since the applicant fails to answer the three questions above.

My personal statement must be no longer than one page.

Not true. This advice is antiquated and dates back to the days of the written application when admissions committees flipped through pages. If your personal statement is interesting and compelling, it is fine to use the entire allotted space. The application systems have incorporated limits for exactly this reason! Many students, depending on their unique circumstances, can actually undermine their success by limiting their personal statement to a page. That said, never max out a space just for the sake of doing so. Quality writing and perspectives are preferable to quantity.

My personal statement should not describe patient encounters or my personal medical experiences.

Not true. Again, the actual topics on which you focus in your personal statement are less important than the understanding you gained from those experiences. I have successful clients who have written extremely powerful and compelling personal statements that included information about clinical encounters – both personal and professional. Write about whichever experiences were the most important on your path to medicine. It’s always best, however, to avoid spending too much space on childhood and high school activities. Focus instead on those that are more current.

In my personal statement I need to sell myself.

Not exactly true. You never want to boast in your personal statement. Let your experiences, insights, and observations speak for themselves. You want your reader to draw the conclusion – on his or her own – that you have the qualities and characteristics the medical school seeks. Never tell what qualities and characteristics you possess; let readers draw these conclusions on their own based on what you write.

Medical School Personal Statement Examples and Analysis for Inspiration

Below are examples of actual medical school personal statements. You can also likely find medical school personal statements on Reddit.

example of medical school personal statement, medical school personal statement examples

AMCAS Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #1 with Personal Inventory  

We will use Amy to illustrate the general process of writing an application to medical school, along with providing the resulting documents. Amy will first list those experiences, personal, extracurricular, and scholarly, that have been most influential in two areas: her life in general and her path to medical school. She will put this personal inventory in chronologic order for use in composing her personal statement.

She will then select those experiences that were the most significant to her and will reflect and think about why they were important. For her application entries, Amy will write about each experience, including those that she considers influential in her life but not in her choice of medicine, in her application entries. Experiences that Amy will not write about in her activity entries or her personal statement are those that she does not consider most influential in either her life or in her choice of medicine.

Amy’s personal inventory (from oldest to most recent)

  • Going with my mom to work. She is a surgeon — I was very curious about what she did. I was intrigued by the relationships she had with patients and how much they valued her efforts. I also loved seeing her as “a doctor” since, to me, she was just “mom.”
  • I loved biology in high school. I started to think seriously about medicine then. It was during high school that I became fascinated with biology and how the human body worked. I would say that was when I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should be a doctor.”
  • Grandmother’s death, senior year of high school. My grandmother’s death was tragic. It was the first time I had ever seen someone close to me suffer. It was one of the most devastating experiences in my life.
  • Global Health Trip to Guatemala my freshman year of college. I realized after going to Guatemala that I had always taken my access to health care for granted. Here I saw children who didn’t have basic health care. This made me want to become a physician so I could give more to people like those I met in Guatemala.
  • Sorority involvement. Even though sorority life might seem trivial, I loved it. I learned to work with different types of people and gained some really valuable leadership experience.
  • Poor grades in college science classes. I still regret that I did badly in my science classes. I think I was immature and was also too involved in other activities and didn’t have the focus I needed to do well. I had a 3.4 undergraduate GPA.
  • Teaching and tutoring Jose, a child from Honduras. In a way, meeting Jose in a college tutoring program brought my Guatemala experience to my home. Jose struggled academically, and his parents were immigrants and spoke only Spanish, so they had their own challenges. I tried to help Jose as much as I could. I saw that because he lacked resources, he was at a tremendous disadvantage.
  • Volunteering at Excellent Medical Center. Shadowing physicians at the medical center gave me a really broad view of medicine. I learned about different specialties, met many different patients, and saw both great and not-so-great physician role models. Counselor at Ronald McDonald House. Working with sick kids made me appreciate my health. I tried to make them happy and was so impressed with their resilience. It made me realize that good health is everything.
  • Oncology research. Understanding what happens behind the scenes in research was fascinating. Not only did I gain some valuable research experience, but I learned how research is done.
  • Peer health counselor. Communicating with my peers about really important medical tests gave me an idea of the tremendous responsibility that doctors have. I also learned that it is important to be sensitive, to listen, and to be open-minded when working with others.
  • Clinical Summer Program. This gave me an entirely new view of medicine. I worked with the forensics department, and visiting scenes of deaths was entirely new to me. This experience added a completely new dimension to my understanding of medicine and how illness and death affect loved ones.
  • Emergency department internship. Here I learned so much about how things worked in the hospital. I realized how important it was that people who worked in the clinical department were involved in creating hospital policies. This made me understand, in practical terms, how an MPH would give me the foundation to make even more change in the future.
  • Master’s in public health. I decided to get an MPH for two reasons. First of all, I knew my undergraduate science GPA was an issue so I figured that graduate level courses in which I performed well would boost my record. I don’t think I will write this on my application, but I also thought the degree would give me other skills if I didn’t get into medical school, and I knew it would also give me something on which I could build during medical school and in my career since I was interested in policy work.

As you can see from Amy’s personal inventory list, she has many accomplishments that are important to her and influenced her path. The most influential personal experience that motivated her to practice medicine was her mother’s career as a practicing physician, but Amy was also motivated by watching her mother’s career evolve. Even though the death of her grandmother was devastating for Amy, she did not consider this experience especially influential in her choice to attend medical school so she didn’t write about it in her personal statement.

Amy wrote an experience-based personal statement, rich with anecdotes and detailed descriptions, to illustrate the evolution of her interest in medicine and how this motivated her to also earn a master’s in public health.

Amy’s Medical School Personal Statement Example:

She was sprawled across the floor of her apartment. Scattered trash, decaying food, alcohol bottles, medication vials, and cigarette butts covered the floor. I had just graduated from college, and this was my first day on rotation with the forensic pathology department as a Summer Scholar, one of my most valuable activities on the path to medical school. As the coroner deputy scanned the scene for clues to what caused this woman’s death, I saw her distraught husband. I did not know what to say other than “I am so sorry.” I listened intently as he repeated the same stories about his wife and his dismay that he never got to say goodbye. The next day, alongside the coroner as he performed the autopsy, I could not stop thinking about the grieving man.

Discerning a cause of death was not something I had previously associated with the practice of medicine. As a child, I often spent Saturday mornings with my mother, a surgeon, as she rounded on patients. I witnessed the results of her actions, as she provided her patients a renewed chance at life. I grew to honor and respect my mother’s profession. Witnessing the immense gratitude of her patients and their families, I quickly came to admire the impact she was able to make in the lives of her patients and their loved ones.

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine as my mother had, and throughout high school and college I sought out clinical, research, and volunteer opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of medicine. After volunteering with cancer survivors at Camp Ronald McDonald, I was inspired to further understand this disease. Through my oncology research, I learned about therapeutic processes for treatment development. Further, following my experience administering HIV tests, I completed research on point-of-care HIV testing, to be instituted throughout 26 hospitals and clinics. I realized that research often served as a basis for change in policy and medical practice and sought out opportunities to learn more about both.

All of my medically related experiences demonstrated that people who were ‘behind the scenes’ and had limited or no clinical background made many of the decisions in health care. Witnessing the evolution of my mother’s career further underscored the impact of policy change on the practice of medicine. In particular, the limits legislation imposed on the care she could provide influenced my perspective and future goals. Patients whom my mother had successfully treated for more than a decade, and with whom she had long-standing, trusting relationships, were no longer able to see her, because of policy coverage changes. Some patients, frustrated by these limitations, simply stopped seeking the care they needed. As a senior in college, I wanted to understand how policy transformations came about and gain the tools I would need to help effect administrative and policy changes in the future as a physician. It was with this goal in mind that I decided to complete a master’s in public health program before applying to medical school.

As an MPH candidate, I am gaining insight into the theories and practices behind the complex interconnections of the healthcare system; I am learning about economics, operations, management, ethics, policy, finance, and technology and how these entities converge to impact delivery of care. A holistic understanding of this diverse, highly competitive, market-driven system will allow me, as a clinician, to find solutions to policy, public health, and administration issues. I believe that change can be more effective if those who actually practice medicine also decide where improvements need to be made.

For example, as the sole intern for the emergency department at County Medical Center, I worked to increase efficiency in the ED by evaluating and mapping patient flow. I tracked patients from point of entry to point of discharge and found that the discharge process took up nearly 35% of patients’ time. By analyzing the reasons for this situation, in collaboration with nurses and physicians who worked in the ED and had an intimate understanding of what took place in the clinical area, I was able to make practical recommendations to decrease throughput time. The medical center has already implemented these suggestions, resulting in decreased length of stays. This example illustrates the benefit of having clinicians who work ‘behind the scenes’ establish policies and procedures, impacting operational change and improving patient care. I will also apply what I have learned through this project as the business development intern at Another Local Medical Center this summer, where I will assist in strategic planning, financial analysis, and program reviews for various clinical departments.

Through my mother’s career and my own medical experiences, I have become aware of the need for clinician administrators and policymakers. My primary goal as a physician will be to care for patients, but with the knowledge and experience I have gained through my MPH, I also hope to effect positive public policy and administrative changes.

What’s Good About Amy’s Medical School Personal Statement:  

Paragraphs 1 and 2: Amy started her personal statement by illustrating a powerful experience she had when she realized that medical caregivers often feel impotent, and how this contrasted with her understanding of medicine as a little girl going with her mother to work. Recognition of this intense contrast also highlights Amy’s maturity.

Paragraph 3: Amy then “lists” a few experiences that were important to her.

Paragraph 4: Amy describes the commonality in some of her experiences and how her observations were substantiated by watching the evolution of her mother’s practice. She then explains how this motivated her to earn an MPH so she could create change more effectively as a physician than as a layman.

Paragraph 5: Amy then explains how her graduate degree is helping her to better understand the “issues in medicine” that she observed.

Paragraph 6: Amy then describes one exceptional accomplishment she had that highlights what she has learned and how she has applied it.

Paragraph 7: Finally, Amy effectively concludes her personal statement and summarizes the major topics addressed in her essay.

As you can see, Amy’s statement has excellent flow, is captivating and unusual, and illustrates her understanding of, and commitment to, medicine. She also exhibits, throughout her application entries and statement, the personal competencies, characteristics, and qualities that medical school admissions officers are seeking. Her application also has broad appeal; reviewers who are focused on research, cultural awareness, working with the underserved, health administration and policy, teaching, or clinical medicine would all find it of interest.

Personal Statement Examples

med school personal statement examples

Osteopathic Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #2

Medical School Personal Statement Example Background: This is a nontraditional applicant who applied to osteopathic medical schools. With a 500 and a 504 on the MCAT , he needed to showcase how his former career and what he learned through his work made him an asset. He also needed to convey why osteopathic medicine was an ideal fit for him. The student does an excellent job illustrating his commitment to medicine and explaining why and how he made the well-informed decision to leave his former career to pursue a career in osteopathic medicine.

What’s Good About It: A nontraditional student with a former career, this applicant does a great job outlining how and why he decided to pursue a career in medicine. Clearly dedicated to service, he also does a great job making it clear he is a good fit for osteopathic medical school and understands this distinctions of osteopathic practice.. 

Working as a police officer, one comes to expect the unexpected, but sometimes, when the unexpected happens, one can’t help but be surprised. In November 20XX, I had been a police officer for two years when my partner and I happened to be nearby when a man had a cardiac emergency in Einstein Bagels. Entering the restaurant, I was caught off guard by the lifeless figure on the floor, surrounded by spilled food. Time paused as my partner and I began performing CPR, and my heart raced as I watched color return to the man’s pale face.

Luckily, paramedics arrived within minutes to transport him to a local hospital. Later, I watched as the family thanked the doctors who gave their loved one a renewed chance at life. That day, in the “unexpected,” I confirmed that I wanted to become a physician, something that had attracted me since childhood.

I have always been enthralled by the science of medicine and eager to help those in need but, due to life events, my path to achieving this dream has been long. My journey began following high school when I joined the U.S. Army. I was immature and needed structure, and I knew the military was an opportunity to pursue my medical ambitions. I trained as a combat medic and requested work in an emergency room of an army hospital. At the hospital, I started IVs, ran EKGs, collected vital signs, and assisted with codes. I loved every minute as I was directly involved in patient care and observed physicians methodically investigating their patients’ signs and symptoms until they reached a diagnosis. Even when dealing with difficult patients, the physicians I worked with maintained composure, showing patience and understanding while educating patients about their diseases. I observed physicians not only as clinicians but also as teachers. As a medic, I learned that I loved working with patients and being part of the healthcare team, and I gained an understanding of acute care and hospital operations.

Following my discharge in 20XX, I transferred to an army reserve hospital and continued as a combat medic until 20XX. Working as a medic at several hospitals and clinics in the area, I was exposed to osteopathic medicine and the whole body approach to patient care. I was influenced by the D.O.s’ hands-on treatment and their use of manipulative medicine as a form of therapy. I learned that the body cannot function properly if there is dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system.

In 20XX, I became a police officer to support myself as I finished my undergraduate degree and premed courses. While working the streets, I continued my patient care experiences by being the first to care for victims of gunshot wounds, stab wounds, car accidents, and other medical emergencies. In addition, I investigated many unknown causes of death with the medical examiner’s office. I often found signs of drug and alcohol abuse and learned the dangers and power of addiction. In 20XX, I finished my undergraduate degree in education and in 20XX, I completed my premed courses.

Wanting to learn more about primary care medicine, in 20XX I volunteered at a community health clinic that treats underserved populations. Shadowing a family physician, I learned about the physical exam as I looked into ears and listened to the hearts and lungs of patients with her guidance. I paid close attention as she expressed the need for more PCPs and the important roles they play in preventing disease and reducing ER visits by treating and educating patients early in the disease process. This was evident as numerous patients were treated for high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes, all conditions that can be resolved or improved by lifestyle changes. I learned that these changes are not always easy for many in underserved populations as healthier food is often more expensive and sometimes money for prescriptions is not available. This experience opened my eyes to the challenges of being a physician in an underserved area.

The idea of disease prevention stayed with me as I thought about the man who needed CPR. Could early detection and education about heart disease have prevented his “unexpected” cardiac event? My experiences in health care and law enforcement have confirmed my desire to be an osteopathic physician and to treat the patients of the local area. I want to eliminate as many medical surprises as I can.

Personal Statement Examples

Texas Medical School Personal Statement Example and Analysis #3

Medical School Personal Statement Example Background: This applicant, who grew up with modest means, should be an inspiration to us all. Rather than allowing limited resources to stand in his way, he took advantage of everything that was available to him. He commuted to college from home and had a part-time job so he was stretched thin, and his initial college performance suffered. However, he worked hard and his grades improved. Most medical school admissions committees seek out applicants like this because, by overcoming adversity and succeeding with limited resources, they demonstrate exceptional perseverance, maturity, and dedication. His accomplishments are, by themselves, impressive and he does an outstanding job of detailing his path, challenges, and commitment to medicine. He received multiple acceptances to top medical schools and was offered scholarships.

What’s Good About It: This student does a great job opening his personal statement with a beautifully written introduction that immediately takes the reader to Central America. He then explains his path, why he did poorly early in college, and goes on to discuss his academic interests and pursuits. He is also clearly invested in research and articulates that he is intellectually curious, motivated, hard working, compassionate and committed to a career in medicine by explaining his experiences using interesting language and details. This is an intriguing statement that makes clear the applicant is worthy of an interview invitation. Finally, the student expresses his interest in attending medical school in Texas.

They were learning the basics of carpentry and agriculture. The air was muggy and hot, but these young boys seemed unaffected, though I and my fellow college students sweated and often complained. As time passed, I started to have a greater appreciation for the challenges these boys faced. These orphans, whom I met and trained in rural Central America as a member of The Project, had little. They dreamed of using these basic skills to earn a living wage. Abandoned by their families, they knew this was their only opportunity to re-enter society as self- sufficient individuals. I stood by them in the fields and tutored them after class. And while I tried my best to instill in them a strong work ethic, it was the boys who instilled in me a desire to help those in need. They gave me a new perspective on my decision to become a doctor.

I don’t know exactly when I decided to become a physician; I have had this goal for a long time. I grew up in the inner city of A City, in Texas and attended magnet schools. My family knew little about higher education, and I learned to seek out my own opportunities and advice. I attended The University with the goal of gaining admission to medical school. When I started college, I lacked the maturity to focus on academics and performed poorly. Then I traveled to Central America. Since I was one of the few students who spoke Spanish, many of the boys felt comfortable talking with me. They saw me as a role model.

The boys worked hard so that they could learn trades that would help them to be productive members of society. It was then I realized that my grandparents, who immigrated to the US so I would have access to greater opportunities, had done the same. I felt like I was wasting what they had sacrificed for me. When I returned to University in the fall, I made academics my priority and committed myself to learn more about medicine .

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Through my major in neuroscience, I strengthened my understanding of how we perceive and experience life. In systems neurobiology, I learned the physiology of the nervous system. Teaching everything from basic neural circuits to complex sensory pathways, Professor X provided me with the knowledge necessary to conduct research in Parkinson’s disease. My research focused on the ability of antioxidants to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s, and while my project was only a pilot study at the time, Professor X encouraged me to present it at the National Research Conference. During my senior year, I developed the study into a formal research project, recruiting the help of professors of statistics and biochemistry.

Working at the School of Medicine reinforced my analytical skills. I spent my summer in the department of emergency medicine, working with the department chair, Dr. Excellent. Through Dr. Excellent’s mentorship, I participated in a retrospective study analyzing patient charts to determine the efficacy of D-dimer assays in predicting blood clots. The direct clinical relevance of my research strengthened my commitment and motivated my decision to seek out more clinical research opportunities.

A growing awareness of the role of human compassion in healing has also influenced my choice to pursue a career in medicine. It is something no animal model or cell culture can ever duplicate or rival. Working in clinical research has allowed me to see the selflessness of many physicians and patients and their mutual desire to help others. As a research study assistant in the department of surgery, I educate and enroll patients in clinical trials. One such study examines the role of pre-operative substance administration in tumor progression. Patients enrolled in this study underwent six weeks of therapy before having the affected organ surgically excised. Observing how patients were willing to participate in this research to benefit others helped me understand the resiliency of the human spirit.

Working in clinical trials has enabled me to further explore my passion for science, while helping others. Through my undergraduate coursework and participation in volunteer groups I have had many opportunities to solidify my goal to become a physician. As I am working, I sometimes think about my second summer in Central America. I recall how one day, after I had turned countless rows of soil in scorching heat, one of the boys told me that I was a trabajador verdadero—a true worker. I paused as I realized the significance of this comment. While the boy may not have been able to articulate it, he knew I could identify with him. What the boy didn’t know, however, was that had my grandparents not decided to immigrate to the US, I would not have the great privilege of seizing opportunities in this country and writing this essay today. I look forward to the next step of my education and hope to return home to Texas where I look forward to serving the communities I call home.

Final Thoughts

Above all, and as stated in this article numerous times, your personal statement should be authentic and genuine. Write about your path and and journey to this point in your life using anecdotes and observations to intrigue the reader and illustrate what is and was important to you. Good luck!

Medical School Personal Statement Help & Consulting

If all this information has you staring at your screen like a deer in the headlights, you’re not alone. Writing a superb medical school personal statement can be a daunting task, and many applicants find it difficult to get started writing, or to express everything they want to say succinctly. That’s where MedEdits can help. You don’t have to have the best writing skills to compose a stand-out statement. From personal-statement editing alone to comprehensive packages for all your medical school application needs, we offer extensive support and expertise developed from working with thousands of successful medical school applicants. We can’t promise applying to medical school will be stress-free, but most clients tell us it’s a huge relief not to have to go it alone.

MedEdits offers personal statement consulting and editing. Our goal when working with students is to draw out what makes each student distinctive. How do we do this? We will explore your background and upbringing, interests and ideals as well as your accomplishments and activities. By helping you identify the most distinguishing aspects of who you are, you will then be able to compose an authentic and genuine personal statement in your own voice to capture the admissions committee’s attention so you are invited for a medical school interview. Our unique brainstorming methodology has helped hundreds of aspiring premeds gain acceptance to medical school.

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Sample Medical School Personal Statement

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What to avoid in a medical school personal statement.

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/24

If you’re completing your med school application, and are stuck on your personal statement, read on to learn more about what to avoid in medical school personal statements. 

Since medical school personal statements typically have a two-page limit, it can be difficult to figure out what to write in this limited amount of space. 

The list of possible topics you could write about in your personal statement is endless. If written well, almost any topic can be unique and reflective of your experiences. 

However, there are certain topics and tropes you should stay clear of. This guide will go over bad medical school personal statement examples and tell you exactly what to avoid to ensure you write a stellar personal statement!

Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement

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There are six common types of medical personal statements you should avoid:

The Medical History Buff

Even if you think you have a wealth of medical knowledge that you’d like to show off to impress the admissions committee, writing a personal statement detailing your medical history, or a family member’s, is risky and borders on oversharing. 

Remember, you’re writing to a committee of medical professionals who have been in the field for years and have several qualifications. You have a high chance of relaying incorrect or outdated information if you choose to write a technical personal statement.

The Overachiever

There are several ways you may be perceived as an overachiever in your personal statement. One way would be to grossly exaggerate or even make up a story just to make yourself the hero. For instance, saying you saved someone’s life as a pre-med student is bound to raise eyebrows.

Bragging about achievements and putting down your fellow classmates or colleagues is also a surefire way to make the judges think you're pretentious.

Doctors must be able to collaborate well with other healthcare professionals in order to provide the best care to their patients. If your entire personal statement places you on a pedestal, and other pre-med students below you, it’s clear you are not a team player.

The last way to be considered an overachiever is by using flowery language. Your writing should be clear and concise, not poetic. By trying to use vocabulary you are not familiar with, you risk using these words incorrectly, which will reflect poorly on your writing skills.

The Underachiever

While you don’t want to spend your entire personal statement bragging, you also don’t want to completely avoid mentioning significant achievements. You need to still impress the committee through your personal statement, so refrain from portraying yourself as the underdog, the overlooked, or the one that was always in last place. 

Medical school is highly competitive, and admission committees are only looking for the best and brightest. If you paint yourself as the opposite, you’ll be hurting your chances of getting accepted into your top choices . 

The Repeater

You want to focus on important achievements but don’t want to repeat what’s already on your application. Don’t treat your personal statement like a resume or cover letter.

The committee will already have access to this information, so use this space to tell them something new! 

You want the committee to read your personal statement and remember it as they go through other applicants’ statements. If you rely on cliches, the committee will have a hard time remembering your statement.

One common cliche is telling the committee you’ve wanted to pursue medicine for as long as you can remember. While it’s a nice sentiment, it’s overused. Focus less on how long you’ve wanted to become a physician and more on why you chose this career path. 

The Careless Writer

Lastly, you want to ensure you proofread your personal statement multiple times before submitting it. If you have typos, punctuation errors, or spelling mistakes, the committee will think you are careless. 

Considering how competitive medical school is, committees expect you to bring your A game to your applications. Having avoidable writing errors in your personal statement tells the committee you aren’t as dedicated as other students who took the time to revise their statements.

Medical School Personal Statement Topics To Avoid

Although we’ve covered the general types of personal statements to avoid, you may be wondering which topics are inappropriate to write about. Here are the six topics you should absolutely avoid in your medical school personal statement:

Selective Niches 

Students participate in various extracurriculars to diversify their med school applications. Many students play school sports as part of their extracurriculars, and use their favorite sports-related metaphors and sayings in their statements.

There is no guarantee that the entire admissions committee will understand these references. To give yourself the best chance of impressing the committee, ensure you choose a topic that is universally understood. 

Early Childhood Memories

A common way students introduce their medical school personal statements is “I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was three, four, or five years old.” The truth is, almost every child wants to be a doctor at some point! They also want to be astronauts, princesses, and firefighters.

Your childhood career ambitions mean nothing to the admissions committee, and it’s unlikely you even remember much from that age, anyway.

Rather than mentioning that your favorite childhood game was playing “doctor” with your siblings, focus on your motivation to pursue medicine when you were old enough to understand the time and effort it would require.

Incriminating Adversity

Using adversity you faced to prove your resilience and dedication to medicine can be an excellent topic for your personal statement. However, if this adversity involves criminal activity or academic misconduct, it’s best to leave it in the rough drafts. 

Highly Personal Information

You want to make your statement personal, but not too personal. Avoid sharing information that you would only tell your therapist or best friend. 

Fake Stories

While the majority of students exaggerate their personal statements a little, you shouldn’t make up stories. You’ll likely be asked to elaborate on your personal statement during your interview . One lie will turn into many, which isn’t a good way to start off your medical career.

Low MCAT or GPA Scores

Don’t use your personal statement to provide excuses for low MCAT scores or a low GPA . While you may talk about adversity that created obstacles in your med school journey, excuses will only make you seem like you can’t take accountability for your actions.

FAQs: What To Avoid In a Med School Personal Statement

For any remaining questions about what to avoid in medical school personal statements, read on to find your answers.

1. What Should I Not Write About in a Personal Statement for Medical School?

You should avoid writing about complex medical terminology, focusing solely on your accomplishments, mentioning none of your accomplishments, or sharing highly personal information.

Ensure you also avoid using clichés, false stories, or excuses.

2. Should I Mention Illness in a Personal Statement for Medical School?

You should only mention your own major illnesses if they presented challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are today. However, you should be very cautious and ensure you don’t make any medical mistakes, overshare, evoke pity, or make excuses.

3. What Is an Example of a Bad Medical School Statement?

Common medical school personal statement mistakes include statements that use selective metaphors and sayings, overshare, rely on clichés, or use complex and misused vocabulary.

Statements that share incriminating information, that are obviously false, that play the underdog card, or make excuses should also be avoided.

Final Thoughts

By knowing what to avoid in your medical school personal statement, writing one should be less intimidating. 

Remember, your personal statement gives the committee direct insight into who you are and what you value. If you read your personal statement, and it doesn’t capture your essence, it may be time to go back to the drawing board or reach out to our admissions experts who know exactly how to write a winning personal statement!

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., 15 tips for your medical school personal statement.

Don't underestimate the power of the medical school personal statement to make a strong, positive impression on an admissions committee. Combined with your interview performance, your personal statement can account for 60% (or more) of your total admissions score!

Medical schools want to enroll bright, empathetic, communicative people. Here's how to write a compelling med school personal statement that shows schools who you are and what you're capable of.

Medical school personal statement

Personal Statement Topics

Your medical school personal statement is a component of your primary application submitted via, TMDSAS (for Texas applications), or AACOMAS (NB: If you are applying to medical school in Canada, confirm the application process with your school, as not all application components may be submitted through AMCAS).

These applications offer broad topics to consider, and many essay approaches are acceptable. For example, you could write about:

  • an experience that challenged or changed your perspective about medicine
  • a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual
  • a challenging personal experience
  • unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
  • your motivation to seek a career in medicine

You'll write an additional essay (or two) when you submit secondary applications to individual schools. These essays require you to respond to a specific question. Admissions committees will review your entire application, so choose subject matter that complements your original essay .

Read More: Strategies for Secondary Applications

How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School

Follow these personal statement tips to help the admissions committee better understand you as a candidate.

1. Write, re-write, let it sit, and write again!

Allow yourself 6 months of writing and revision to get your essay in submission-ready shape. This gives you the time to take your first pass, set your draft aside (for a minimum of 24 hours), review what you’ve written, and re-work your draft.

2. Stay focused.

Your personal statement should highlight interesting aspects of your journey—not tell your entire life story. Choose a theme, stick to it, and support it with specific examples.

3. Back off the cliches.

Loving science and wanting to help people might be your sincere passions, but they are also what everyone else is writing about. Instead, be personal and specific.

4. Find your unique angle.

What can you say about yourself that no one else can? Remember, everyone has trials, successes and failures. What's important and unique is how you reacted to those incidents. Bring your own voice and perspective to your personal statement to give it a truly memorable flavor. 

5. Be interesting.

Start with a “catch” that will create intrigue before launching into the story of who you are. Make the admissions committee want to read on!

6. Show don't tell.

Instead of telling the admissions committee about your unique qualities (like compassion, empathy, and organization), show them through the stories you tell about yourself. Don’t just say it—actually prove it.

7. Embrace the 5-point essay format.

Here's a trusty format that you can make your own:

  • 1st paragraph: These four or five sentences should "catch" the reader's attention.
  • 3-4 body paragraphs: Use these paragraphs to reveal who you are. Ideally, one of these paragraphs will reflect clinical understanding and one will reflect service.
  • Concluding paragraph: The strongest conclusion reflects the beginning of your essay, gives a brief summary of you are, and ends with a challenge for the future.

8. Good writing is simple writing.

Good medical students—and good doctors—use clear, direct language. Your essays should not be a struggle to comprehend.

9. Be thoughtful about transitions.

Be sure to vary your sentence structure. You don’t want your essay to be boring! Pay attention to how your paragraphs connect to each other.

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10. Stick to the rules.

Watch your word count. That’s 5,300 characters (including spaces) for AMCAS applications, 5,000 characters for TMDSAS, and 4,500 characters for AACOMAS.

11. Stay on topic.

Rambling not only uses up your precious character limit, but it also causes confusion! Think about the three to five “sound bytes” you want admissions committee to know and remember you by.

12. Don't overdo it.

Beware of being too self-congratulatory or too self-deprecating.

13. Seek multiple opinions.

Before you hit “submit,” ask several people you trust for feedback on your personal statement. The more time you have spent writing your statement, the less likely you are to spot any errors. A professor or friend whose judgment and writing skills you trust is invaluable.

Read More: 12 Smart Tips for Your AMCAS Application

14. Double-check the details.

Always check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This goes for the rest of your application (like your activities list), too. A common oversight is referencing the wrong school in your statement! Give yourself (and your proofreaders) the time this task truly requires.

15. Consult the experts about your personal statement strategy.

Our med school admissions counselors can diagnose the “health” of your overall application, including your personal statement. Get expert help and guidance to write an effective personal statement that showcases not only your accomplishments, but your passion and your journey.

Want to get an edge over the crowd?

Our admissions experts know what it takes it get into med school. Get the customized strategy and guidance you need to help achieve your goals.

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The Medical School Personal Statement: How To Stand Out

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Posted in: Applying to Medical School

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Impressive GPAs and MCAT scores, research experience, physician shadowing, and meaningful volunteer work are only one part of a successful medical school application . You may meet all other medical school requirements , yet face rejection.

One thing can help you stand above the rest : A compelling personal statement.

The medical school personal statement is important because it highlights your hard work, your pre-medical school accomplishments, and why you’re a better candidate than everyone else. 

In other words: Who are you, what makes you unique, and why do you deserve a spot in our school?

We’ve helped thousands of prospective medical students increase their odds at acceptance with better personal statements. Now, we’ll show you exactly how to do it. 

Working on your personal statement? Speak with a member of our enrollment team who can walk you through the step-by-step med school application process from start to finish.

Table of contents, what’s in a great med school personal statement.

An excellent medical school personal statement should contain:

  • Passion for an area of the healthcare field.
  • Storytelling that captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence.
  • Emotion and personality to show (not tell) admissions committee members who you are.
  • A unique answer to the question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?”

A powerful personal statement shows that you are the kind of candidate who will make an exceptional physician and be a valuable asset to the school during your medical education. Additionally, it helps to distinguish your application from the many other students with similar MCAT scores and GPAs.

A weak personal statement would, in turn, have the opposite effect.

Not only does the personal statement weed out unqualified candidates, but it also serves as a foundation for many interview discussions and questions . 

Admission committee members often only have a few minutes to review an application. Personal statements provide them with the right amount of information. Since it’s possible this is the only part of your application they’ll read, it needs to be perfect .

When writing your personal statement, you’ll also want to note the AAMC core competencies that are expected of all medical professionals. Some, if not all, of these competencies should shine through in your application essay.

The AAMC premed competencies include: 

  • Professional competencies:  Factors like communication skills, interpersonal skills, commitment to learning and growth, compassion, dependability, and cultural awareness and humility
  • Science competencies:  Understanding of human behaviors and living systems, both of which are best demonstrated in data-driven measures like research, MCAT scores, and science GPA (in other words, not things that necessarily need to be displayed in your personal statement)
  • Thinking & Reasoning competencies:  Critical thinking, reasoning, scientific inquiry, and written communication

A MedSchoolCoach review for personal statements, secondary essays, and interview preparation.

It’s important to show passion for something specific — a group of underserved people, a type of patient, the benefit of a particular area of medicine, etc. Your passion should be evident, non-generic, and authentic. Ask yourself, “What makes a good doctor?”

It’s crucial to avoid cliches in your personal statement, like claiming you want to become a doctor “to help people.”

Dr. Renee Marinelli, Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach, warns that certain cliches may not truly represent meaningful experiences that influenced your decision to pursue medicine.

You may have decided to become a doctor from experiencing a kind physician as a child, but that personal experience doesn’t convey genuine passion. Your enthusiasm for medicine doesn’t need to originate from a grand experience or sudden revelation.

Your interest in medicine probably developed gradually, perhaps when you fell in love with psychology during college and volunteered at nursing homes. You don’t need a lifelong dream to demonstrate passion and become an outstanding doctor.

2. Storytelling

A memorable personal statement captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence, which you can do with an interesting personal story or anecdote. Including some creativity, ingenuity, humor, and character.

Immersing the admissions committee in your personal statement allows you to show , not just tell , how your experiences have impacted your journey to medicine.

Don’t repeat the data your admissions committee can read on the rest of your application — SHOW the passions and experiences that have led you to this field using a narrative approach.

Consider the following examples of statements about a student’s volunteer experience at a food pantry:

"“Through my work at the local food pantry, I came to understand the daily battles many individuals face, and it allowed me to develop deeper empathy and compassion.” “When I saw Mr. Jones, a regular at the kitchen, struggling to maneuver his grocery cart through the door, I hustled over to assist him. My heart sunk when I saw he was wearing a new cast after having been assaulted the night prior.”

Which do you think performed better in terms of conveying personal characteristics? Your personal statement is a deep dive into one central theme, not about rehashing all of your experiences. 

3. Emotion & Personality

An engaging personal statement allows your unique personality and real emotions to shine through.

As Dr. Davietta Butty, a Northwestern School of Medicine graduate, avid writer, pediatrician, and MedSchoolCoach advisor, puts it,

“I think the best personal statements are the ones that showcase the applicant’s personality. Remember that this is your story and not anyone else’s, and you get to say it how it makes sense to you.” 

This is why storytelling is such an important part of personal statement writing. Your writing process should involve quite a bit of writing and editing to express emotion in a relatable, appropriate way.

A Note On Writing About Tragedy

One way you can show who you are is by expressing an appropriate level of emotion, particularly about challenging or tragic experiences. (But don’t worry — not everyone has a tragic backstory, and that’s perfectly fine!)

If you are discussing a tragedy, don’t go into an extended explanation of how you feel — show emotion and your personality while sticking to the plot.

Personal tragedies, such as the death of a loved one, can powerfully motivate a personal statement. In a field where life and death constantly clash, experiences with death might appear impressive qualifications; however, approach them cautiously.

Focus on the reasons behind your motivation, rather than the details of the tragedy. Explain how the experience impacted your medical career aspirations, including skill development or perspective changes.

How have you applied these new skills or perspectives? How would they contribute to your success as a medical student?

4. Why You Want To Be a Doctor

Becoming a doctor is no small feat. What journey brought you here?

Writing things like “I want to help people” or “I want to make a difference” won’t set you apart from all the other students applying for medical school .

Knowing who you want to serve, why you want to help them (in story form), and where you’d like to end up will show admissions officers that you are serious about your medical career.

After all, this career doesn’t just involve many years of post-graduate education — you need a significant motivation to see this career through. That’s what admissions committees are looking for!

Read Next: Medical School Interviews: What To Do Before, During & After  

How long is a personal statement for medical school?

Your statement is limited to:

  • 5,300 characters (including spaces) on the AMCAS application ( MD programs )
  • 5,000 characters on the TMDSAS (Texas MD programs)
  • 5,300 characters for AACOMAS ( DO programs )

That’s roughly 500-700 words, or 3 double-spaced pages of text.

We typically suggest our students divide their personal statement into about 5 full paragraphs — an intro, 2-3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Pro tip: Do not type directly into the text box — if something goes wrong, you’ll lose all of your work. Write in another program first, then copy and paste the edited copy into the application text box.

Use a text-only word processing tool (TextEdit on Mac devices or Basic Text Editor on Windows), or type the essay into Microsoft Word or a Google Doc. Just remember to save the file as a *.rtf. This will eliminate formatting issues when you copy and paste the essay into the AMCAS box.

How To Write a Personal Statement For Medical School

Your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your passion for medicine and your unique experiences. Be genuine, focused, and concise; your personal statement will leave a lasting impression on medical school admissions committees.

Some questions you may want to consider while writing your personal statement are:

  • 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 has yet to be disclosed in another application section?

In addition, you may wish to include information such as unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits. Comment on significant academic record fluctuations not explained elsewhere in your application.

With thousands of students, we’ve developed a nine-step process for how to write a personal statement that’s sure to get noticed. Follow these steps in order to uplevel your personal statement writing.

1. Choose a central theme.

Sticking to one central theme for your personal statement may sound tricky, but sticking with a central theme can give your statement more of a rhythm.

Here are a few examples to use when thinking of a central theme:

  • What is an experience that challenged or changed your perspective on medicine?
  • Is there a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual that has significantly influenced you?
  • What was a challenging personal experience that you encountered?
  • List unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits.
  • What is your motivation to seek a career in medicine?

2. Choose 2-4 personal qualities to highlight.

Keep this part brief and highlight the strengths that will make you an exceptional doctor.

What sets you apart from others? What makes you unique? What are you particularly proud of about yourself that may not be explained by a good GPA or MCAT score?

Here are a few examples of quality traits great doctors possess:

  • Persistence
  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Good judgment under pressure
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Leadership skills

3. Identify 1-2 significant experiences that demonstrate these qualities.

In this section, you should include that these experiences exemplify the qualities above and outline your path to medicine.

The top experiences college admissions seek are research projects , volunteer activities, and mentorship.

Here are a few ways to narrow down what makes an experience significant:

  • Which experiences left you feeling transformed (either immediately, or in retrospect)?
  • Which experiences genuinely made you feel like you were making a difference or contributing in a meaningful way?
  • Which experiences radically shifted your perspectives or priorities?
  • Which experiences have truly made you who you are today?

Pro tip: If you’re still in your third year of pre-med and want to participate in more experiential projects that will support your future medical career, check out Global Medical Brigades . We partner with this student-led movement for better global health, and brigades are a transformative way to begin your medical career.

4. Write a compelling introduction.

Your personal statement introduction is the first thing the admissions committee will read. The first paragraph should be a catchy, attention-grabbing hook or story that grabs the reader’s attention and sets up the main point of your essay.

Check out this webinar for more examples of what makes a great introduction.

5. Use storytelling to write the body paragraphs.

Since the goal is to achieve depth rather than breadth (5,000 characters isn’t a lot!), focus on key experiences instead of discussing everything you’ve accomplished. Remember, you’ll have the Work & Activities section to share other relevant experiences.

Use the following five-step formula to elaborate on important experiences in the body paragraphs of your personal statement:

  • Discuss why you pursued the experience.
  • Mention how you felt during the experience.
  • Describe what you accomplished and learned.
  • Discuss how your experience affected you and the world around you.
  • Describe how the experience influenced your decision to pursue medicine.

The best personal statements tell a story about who you are. “Show, don’t tell,” what you’ve experienced — immerse the reader in your narrative, and you’ll have a higher chance of being accepted to medical school.

6. Create an engaging conclusion.

Your goal is to make the person reading want to meet you and invite you to their school! Your conclusion should:

  • Talk about your future plans.
  • Define what medicine means to you.
  • Reflect on your growth.
  • Reiterate how you’d contribute to your school’s community and vision.

7. Use a spellchecker to proofread for basic errors.

Misusing “your” instead of “you’re” or misspelling a few important words can negatively impact how your personal statement is received. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be perfect on your personal statement.

Use Grammarly or a similar spellchecker to check for errors before completing your personal statement. You can also use an AI tool like ChatGPT for proofreading, although it’s more likely to make sweeping changes.

8. Edit your draft.

Editing your personal statement a few times over will benefit you in the long run. Give yourself time to write, edit, reread, and re-edit your personal statement before submitting it with your application.

You can use AI technology like ChatGPT for small edits or to help you add in information where you might feel stuck, but don’t rely too much on it.

9. Ask a few trusted people to read your draft.

Have at least one friend, family member, and at least one person who’s a medical professional review your draft. A  professor in your pre-med program would be a great person to review your draft.

Be willing to receive as much feedback as your trusted people are willing to give. Don’t get caught up in obsessing over one statement you really like if all three of your readers suggest cutting it.

If you’d like a professional eye on your personal statement, consider a personal statement editing service. Our editors are medical professionals, often who have reviewed personal statements and applications submitted to admissions committees.

We’d love to help you craft a personal statement that’s sure to stand out.

30 prompts to inspire your personal statement.

Here are 30 prompts to inspire your personal statement: 

  • Describe a defining moment in your life that solidified your desire to pursue a career in medicine.
  • Discuss a challenging situation you faced and how it shaped your perspective on healthcare.
  • Reflect on a time when you made a meaningful impact on someone’s life through your actions or support.
  • Explain your motivation for wanting to become a physician and how it has evolved over time.
  • Describe a personal quality or skill that will contribute to your success as a medical professional.
  • Discuss the importance of empathy and compassion in the medical profession and share a personal experience demonstrating these qualities.
  • Reflect on a specific medical case or patient that inspired you and how it influenced your future goals.
  • Share a story about an interaction with a mentor or role model who has inspired your path in medicine.
  • Describe a time when you overcame adversity or faced a significant challenge in your journey to medical school.
  • Explain how your background, culture, or upbringing has influenced your perspective on healthcare.
  • Discuss a medical issue or topic you’re passionate about and why it’s important to you.
  • Describe your experience working or volunteering in a healthcare setting and the lessons you’ve learned.
  • Reflect on a time when you had to adapt or be resilient in a challenging situation.
  • Discuss how your interest in research or innovation will contribute to your career as a physician.
  • Share a personal experience that has shaped your understanding of the importance of teamwork in healthcare.
  • Describe a leadership role you’ve held and how it has prepared you for a career in medicine.
  • Discuss the impact of a specific medical discovery or advancement on your decision to pursue medicine.
  • Reflect on your experience with a particular patient population or community and how it has influenced your perspective on healthcare.
  • Share your thoughts on the role of social responsibility in the medical profession.
  • Explain how your experiences with interdisciplinary collaboration have prepared you for a career in medicine.
  • Describe a time when you advocated for a patient or their needs.
  • Share your experience with a global health issue or project and how it has impacted your perspective on healthcare.
  • Discuss your interest in a specific medical specialty and why it appeals to you.
  • Reflect on a time when you encountered an ethical dilemma and how you resolved it.
  • Describe an experience that demonstrates your commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth.
  • Share a story about a time when you had to think critically and problem-solve in a healthcare setting.
  • Discuss how your experiences with diverse populations have informed your approach to patient care.
  • Describe an experience that highlights your ability to communicate effectively with others in a medical setting.
  • Reflect on a time when you demonstrated your commitment to patient-centered care.
  • Share your thoughts on the importance of balance and self-care in the medical profession and how you plan to maintain these practices throughout your career.

Avoid These Common Personal Statement Mistakes

A review of MedSchoolCoach's personal statement and secondary essay services.

Avoid these 5 common mistakes students make when writing their personal statements: 

  • Clichés : “I just want to help people,” “from a young age,” “I’ve always wanted to,” and “for as long as I can remember,” are just some of the overused phrases in personal statements. Other clichés we’ve seen often include saying that you’ve wanted to be a doctor for your whole life, using overly dramatic patient anecdotes, or prideful-sounding stories about how you saved a life as a pre-med student. Eliminate clichés from your writing.
  • Typos/grammatical errors: We covered this already, but the grammar in your statement should be flawless . It’s hard to catch your own typos, so use grammar checking tools like Grammarly and ask your readers to look for typographical errors or grammar problems, too.
  • Name-dropping: At best, naming a prominent member of the medical community in your statement sounds braggadocious and will probably be brushed off. At worst, an adcom reader may think poorly of the person you mention and dismiss you based on the connection. If you do know a well-known and well-respected person in the medical field and worked closely with them, request a letter of recommendation instead.
  • Restating your MCAT score or GPA : Every character in your personal statement counts (literally). Don’t restate information already found on your application. If your application essay is being read, an algorithm has already identified your prerequisite scores as being worthy of reviewing the rest of your application.
  • Using extensive quotes from other people: This is your chance to show who you are. Quoting a philosopher or trusted advisor in these few precious characters takes away from the impact you can have. A single short quote might be okay if it’s highly relevant to the story you’re telling, but don’t go beyond that.

Should you use ChatGPT to help you write?

ChatGPT is a great AI tool to help you get your personal statement off the ground. However, since this is your personal statement, ChatGPT won’t be able to effectively write transitions or tie your personal statement together.

Only you can effectively convey what being a doctor means to you. Only you carry the experiences in your mind and heart that have compelled you to pursue this competitive profession. Don’t rely on artificial intelligence to fake those experiences — it will show, and not in a good way.

We’ve found that ChatGPT can help speed the processes of ideation , editing, and grammar-checking. If you’re not using it to emulate human experiences but just treating it as a helpful assistant, go for it! 

When should you start writing your personal statement?

Begin writing your personal statement early enough to have months of reflection and editing time before your application cycle begins. We recommend writing your personal statement as the first step when applying to medical school , starting in December or January before applications open.

As you progress, anticipate revising multiple versions of your draft. Spend time reflecting on your life experiences and aspirations.

Dr. Katzen, MedSchoolCoach Master Advisor and previous admissions committee member at GWU, recommends starting your personal statement in December/January if you plan to apply in May/June (you should!). 

This gives you plenty of time to have others review it or to get professional personal statement editing services. It also gives you time to write multiple drafts and be 100% satisfied with your final essay.

9 Personal Statement Examples That Led To Med School Acceptance

We’ve included some of our favorite medical school personal statement examples below. Each of these was written by a student who was accepted at one or more programs of their choice.

1. Embracing Diversity: Healing Through Cultural Connections

Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM

With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and from behind my ear suddenly appeared a coin. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctors’ feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.

Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I was hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day physicians comforted me, asking how I was, taking time to reassure me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as I could to learn more about different illnesses.

In addition to conventional medical settings, I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father had been actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances, for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced myself, I spent hours in inipis, chewing on osha root, finding my own healing through songs. In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, the home of my mother, who came from a long line of healers, which involved herbal remedies and ceremonies in the healing of the mind, body, energy and soul. I can still see my mother preparing mixtures of oils, herbs, and incense while performing healing rituals. The compassion and care she put into healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers.

Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with an unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I made the difficult decision to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I found myself continuously reflecting on the experiences in the hospital that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license to get more experience in the medical field.

As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient who came from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to speak with him to learn his story. Afterwards, he became more comfortable, and I helped walk him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice.

My journey to become a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic. I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.

2. The Calling to Heal From the Battlefield

Student Accepted to Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Medical School, Yale SOM

I’ll never forget his screams of pain.

It was the first time I had heard a man cry for help, and it shook me to my core. It had been a long night of training in South Korea for me and my fellow Army Rangers. We were reaching the end, heavy with exhaustion, when my friend took the direct impact of an explosive to his leg. The shockwave momentarily rattled my sense of balance. Struggling to see in the dark, I switched on my headlamp. In that instant, all I could focus on was his face. His eyes darted back and forth, sweeping the surroundings for any semblance of help, but all I could do was stand there and watch as our medics treated him.

No amount of training prepared me to see a friend in pain. As I watched the helicopter fly him away, I couldn’t help but think— even though I’d gone through some of the best military training in the world, in that moment, I could do nothing for him. Fortunately, he is okay, but had there been no medic available, the situation could have ended with tragedy. That night, I realized that through a career in medicine, I could be more than just a bystander to suffering— I could be in the position to not only reduce unnecessary pain but to also help those affected by conflict and trauma be restored to the fullness of life.

Upon returning home from this deployment, I shifted my focus to developing my skills in trauma care. I completed various trainings on caring for casualties in a combat environment and preparing non-medic Rangers to provide self-aid or buddy-aid in the absence of a medical provider. In a final scenario-based training lane, I helped lead my team in the treatment and packaging of a trauma patient for evacuation, setting a record time in our company and earning a military medal. This achievement, however, was only the beginning. These trainings and my successes served as a foundation that I built upon to ensure I could provide life-saving care in combat situations.  I continued to hone this skillset over my next two combat deployments as a machine gunner to Afghanistan, where, I was prepared to use these critical abilities to decrease mortality on the battlefield. In medicine, like in the army, the actual practice of one’s craft may be life or death. Therefore, evolving both dependability and proficiency during training is imperative in preparation for that final test, both in war and in medicine.

After leaving the military, confronting injury and trauma continued to be a reality. A year after exiting the service, two Army Ranger leaders whom I knew were critically injured on a mission overseas. One was my former team leader, who was shot in the neck, and the other was caught in an explosion that later resulted in a triple amputation. The relentless efforts of doctors and nurses is the reason why both of these brave men are alive today. Recognizing that without the diligent care of these medical professionals, these men would not have survived, I became ever more dedicated to serving others.

While in college, this dedication pushed me to routinely visit the West Haven VA Hospital to provide a community of support for the older, disabled veterans there. I first began visiting this hospital for my own medical care but witnessing the suffering of the other veterans at the hospital spurred me to return repeatedly not as a patient, but as a friend to my fellow veterans.  As a veteran and student, seeing and hearing about the pain and loss of function experienced by many other veterans reminded me of the importance of advocacy in healthcare: to understand, to care for, and to fight for those who are unable to do so themselves.

I continued to see these effects of conflict while volunteering as a tutor to individuals from the Middle East who were affected by the very war I served in. Alaa lives in Syria and dreams of becoming a surgeon. Together, Alaa and I discussed chemistry, biology, and math. Despite his love of learning and dedication, the instability of his community, which was plagued by violence, often barred him from focusing on his studies and committing to a routine tutoring schedule. Although I’ll never intimately know the reality of growing up in a war-torn country, working with Alaa taught me to keep the bigger picture of healthcare in mind. It reminded me that a career as a physician would provide me with the capability to help those like Alaa who are affected by conflict.

When I reflect on medicine, I draw many parallels to my life in army special operations. The training is intense, the hours are long, and the structure is hierarchical. The mission, above all else, is to provide the best outcome for those around you. On my journey to a career in medicine, I plan to continue to add to what I’ve learned from my experiences so far: humility, empathy, dependability, communication, teamwork, and leading from the front. For over four years I lived by the Ranger Creed, and I plan to imbue the same ethos in serving as a physician— to keep myself mentally alert and morally straight, to shoulder more than my share of whatever task presents itself.  In crossing from the path of a warrior to that of a healer, I hope to continue a life of service to improve the human condition and reduce unnecessary suffering in the world one person at a time.

3. Community-based Health and Empathy: Serving Underserved Communities in Crisis

Student Accepted to Weill Cornell

My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it at the time, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.”

In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.

As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built an intermixed friend group and began to understand how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw at school: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table, and therefore language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.

Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects its cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I had witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?

My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment in his life. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised. I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes in order to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion that I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine—the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with an individual to serve their needs.

With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how inequities in socioeconomic status and job security left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts. Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their 1 bedroom/1 bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and even simple small talk to build rapport. When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.

Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident that I want to dedicate my life to this profession.

4. Creating a Judgment-Free Zone with The Power of Acceptance in Healthcare

Student Accepted to George Washington SOM and Health Sciences, Drexel University COM

Immigrating into a foreign country without speaking a word of the language is a terrifying task for anyone. My mentee at Computers4kids, Sahil, came to the United States at seventeen and had been struggling to integrate with society due to the language barrier. Although I was born in the United States, I can empathize with the struggle he encounters daily, since both my parents and many members of my family have dealt with the same issues. Often, these barriers exacerbate mundane issues the immigrant population faces as they have difficulty finding people who can understand and care for them. Since I am bilingual in Farsi, when Sahil approached me with his driving instructions manual written in Dari, I thought I could teach him the rules of the road with no issues. I asked him to read the first sentence, but he diverted his gaze and mumbled that he did not know how to read. As I realized he seemed embarrassed by his illiteracy, I placed my hand on his shoulder and assured him that he could learn. I increased my weekly hours at the site to spend an equal amount of time on the rules of the road and on phonetics and reading. Within a few months, he was more comfortable greeting others around the Computers4Kids site and participating in interactive projects. Upon reflection, I appreciate the importance of creating a judgment-free zone that encourages learning and reciprocal care. Once Sahil noticed that I saw him no differently after learning of his illiteracy, he was ready and willing to work on the basics of language and reading, instead of solely memorizing words.

I did not realize how pivotal a judgment-free zone in a medical environment is until I worked at the University of Virginia Emergency Department as a medical scribe. Although I had scribed at a smaller hospital before, I had always strived for a position at a high-volume healthcare center and level one trauma center. Close to the end of a long shift, I walked into the room of a patient with the chief complain of ‘Psychiatric Evaluation’.  A male patient with schizophrenia was hyperventilating and speaking through tears as he described seeing his deceased wife and daughter everywhere he looked. Between short breaths, he mentioned he was going to Florida to attack the person who “murdered his family”. The resident diffused the situation by acknowledging the patient’s feelings and suggesting that he stayed for psychiatric help instead of flying to Florida. Eventually, the patient agreed and was admitted. Seeing the resident create this judgment-free environment was eye opening, as the previously distressed patient was now accepting counseling. The powerful influence of acceptance can lead to valuable insights about patients’ lives, potentially increasing the range of care one can administer.

I decided to transition to primary care in the most recent fall season because I would be able to build a more personal relationship with families in my community. I began working at Union Mill Pediatrics and was finally able to serve the community I grew I up in. I was given the responsibility of acting as the primary contact for a few families with children who have autism. Dr. Maura and I perused the plan of care for one of these children, Ayaan, determined by the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), to ensure that set therapeutic goals were reasonable and generalizable. When I asked Salwa, Ayaan’s mother, about some of the goals set by her BCBA and the school, she mentioned they would repeat exercises he already knew how to complete. I informed Salwa of her right as a patient to bring up her concerns with Ayaan’s teachers. I was overjoyed when she updated me that she instructed Ayaan’s teacher to continue putting his hearing aid in despite Ayaan’s constant cries. Salwa explained that the tantrums would curb after two days, which proved to be true. Similarly to how I encourages Salwa to advocate for her son, I will advocate for my patients and help them develop confidence to speak about their needs. After finding her voice as the patient’s guardian, Salwa gained the confidence to ask about a support group as she faces difficulties raising Ayaan alone. After some research, I found a few active groups to send her. By proving to Salwa I had her best interests in heart, she opened up to me about her mental health issues, which enabled me to extend the appropriate resources her way.

I have witnessed the potential that physicians have at work to forever change a family’s quality of life by being open-minded and remaining judgment-free. As a physician, I will aim to provide for my community through attentive healthcare and community service. I will advocate for my patients with cultural, language or socioeconomic barriers to healthcare. Building a trusting relationship with my future patients can result in a more productive office visit and enhance my ability to administer holistic care. My goal is for patients to leave their visit with not only a reasonable plan of care, but also a greater appreciation of their health and their rights as patients.

5. The Intersection of Medicine and Creativity

Student Accepted to Hackensack Meridian SOM, Nova Southeastern CoOM/KPCOM

Growing up, I inherited a deep admiration for medicine. From my grandfather’s chilling stories as a forensic psychiatrist assessing mental fitness, to my father’s heroic accounts as a pediatric dentist operating on toddlers with severe tooth decay, I was enamored with the honor of healing. These exposures nurtured my natural curiosity and innate aptitude for the sciences. Yet my mother, who had studied dance and theatre, instilled in me a fervent love of the arts and creative practice. Following in her footsteps, I took up multiple musical instruments, attended a high school for the arts, and earned a degree in art history coupled with a dance minor. Still, my dream was to pursue medicine, and though it seems counterintuitive, my love of art has only facilitated my enduring love of science, reinforcing why pursuing a career as a holistic, health-centered physician is my deepest aspiration.

My affinity for the health sciences began in the dance studio, where I devoted many hours of my adolescence. Dance, insidious in its promotion of grotesque health practices, demanded that I limit my calories to 1,200 a day counting everything from ibuprofen to a stick of gum, and to dance through a severe hamstring tear. My conceptions of health were severely warped until college dance came to my rescue. These new progressive teachers uplifted dancers of all physical and cognitive abilities, distributed scientific journals on effective warm-up techniques, and abandoned conventional dance norms. I was disturbed by all the unlearning I had to do, but eager to reacquaint myself with my body and disseminate new knowledge. Thus, I was honored when dance again presented an opportunity in health, as I was hired to teach dance at my childhood summer camp. Here, I could separate my curriculum from unreasonable physical expectations and interpersonal competition. I found a fierce sense of joy and fulfillment from being an advocate for physical and emotional health, and I knew I wanted to continue helping others heal while also deconstructing my own negative health experiences.

These formative experiences in the arts profoundly supported my intellectual development, allowing me to thrive in science-based settings and ultimately prompting me to seek out colleges with robust research programs. At the University of Michigan, I had the privilege of participating in a campus research lab, undoubtedly resulting in my most valuable college experience. The world of scientific inquiry can be intimidating, but after a year of reading dozens of papers and learning novice lab protocols, I began my own independent investigation of zebrafish retinas. My goal was to uncover the mechanisms of retinal regeneration in fish, thus addressing vision loss. The excitement I felt in utilizing challenging lab techniques, working with animals, witnessing the culmination of my efforts through image analysis, and being a part of such life-altering research was unmatched. What once seemed like magic was now tangible; I was an artist helping craft the solutions to science’s unanswered questions. In the context of my multidisciplinary interests, my research reinforced the creative, humanitarian side of science, and that science was where I felt compelled to take action and build a career.

Art continued to deepen my passion for and understanding of medicine. The revolutionary approaches of my dance teachers modeled the importance of critique as it pertains to health. This was not a new concept to me; my high school art teachers had urged us to challenge institutional weaknesses. It was not until college, however, that I realized how this line of thinking intersects with medicine. Studying art history, I repeatedly encountered artists whose work tackled issues in health. Keith Haring confronted the AIDS crisis when society had turned on the gay population, and Marc Quinn confronted the disease of addiction in his self-portrait sculptures, made entirely of his own frozen blood. Art, I learned, is so often a response to disease, be it physical, mental, or sociological. These artists had been champions of health in light of its stigmas and politics; art thus fostered new intentions, instilling within me an ardent goal of social activism through medicine.

Art has contributed to my journey, and while it is not my ultimate goal, I hope to incorporate my artistically based insights into my work in science and medicine as a health and social justice advocate. I am driven to continue exploring these intersections, having compiled an entire portfolio on the connection between dance and science, researched disability in the arts, and pursued my personal interest in LGBTQ+ health advocacy by connecting with and shadowing a variety of gender care physicians. My intention to pursue medicine is personal, fulfilling, and pressing, and I take seriously the responsibility I will have as a physician to be a mogul for change in areas of healthcare that compromise the human experience. Further, my natural inclination towards science and involvement in academic research has instilled in me the confidence and skills necessary to be an effective medical practitioner. With this balanced mindset, I know I will contribute to a more ethical and well-rounded approach to healthcare.

6. Innovation in Medicine and a Quest for Discovery

Student Accepted to Johns Hopkins SOM, Washington University SOM, Hofstra Zucker SOM

As a notoriously picky nine-year-old with a penchant for grilled cheese, I was perplexed when I learned that my younger sister, Rachel, had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I felt a sting of betrayal knowing my comfort food was the culprit for Rachel’s terrible stomach aches. Yearning to understand how my favorite food was poisoning my favorite person, I developed an insatiable desire to discover the “why” behind Celiac. As Rachel’s doctor explained her disease, I was both fascinated that a simple protein could cause so much damage and inspired by the doctor’s compassion. He described every detail in a way Rachel would understand, addressed her every concern, and held her hand when she was scared. I wanted to be just like Rachel’s doctor so that I too could use science to decipher medical mysteries while also reassuring my patients that I would be their advocate and help them heal.

My interest in medicine drove me to learn more about what it meant to be a doctor. As a freshman in high school, I arranged a shadow day with Dr. M, a cardiologist. He taught me about echoes, showed me a pacemaker implantation, and in the midst of a cardioversion, even beckoned me over to press the button that discharged the defibrillator. I could not contain my excitement recounting how much I had learned during my first day in a clinical setting. From there, my curiosity skyrocketed and I embarked on a relentless pursuit to explore the spectrum of the medical field. I was moved by the supportive atmosphere of the NICU, struck by the precision involved in ophthalmology, absorbed by the puzzle-like reconstruction of Mohs surgery, and awed by the agility of cardiothoracic surgery. Between high school and college, I shadowed over a dozen physicians, cementing my interest and furthering my passion for a future medical career.

My college classes allowed me to immerse myself further in the study of the human body. Following my fascination with cancer, I secured an internship working on a melanoma immunotherapy clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health. I savored the stimulation, grasping new experimental techniques and developing assays; but my work took on even greater meaning when I learned that my grandfather had been enrolled in an early-stage immunotherapy trial himself while battling mucosal melanoma. Although immunotherapy did not heal my grandfather, I was immensely proud to be advancing the science years later. Through long nights and evolving experiments, I gave the trial its final push through an FDA approval checkpoint; ultimately, my contributions will help more grandparents go into remission. The most fulfilling moments came every Monday when I accompanied the leading physician scientists on their rounds. As I met patients, listened to their stories, and celebrated their improvements, the pulsating blister on my thumbpad from endless pipetting became akin to a medal of honor. Reflecting on these encounters, I wanted to continue driving scientific innovation, but I also wanted a more active and personal impact in the patient’s experience.

My desire to connect with patients brought me to Alliance Medical Ministry, a clinic serving uninsured, disadvantaged communities in North Carolina. I stepped up to lead efforts to organize a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic, communicating personally with every eligible patient and arranging vaccine appointments for over a thousand people across the hardest hit areas of Raleigh. The experience became even more rewarding when I trained to administer vaccines, becoming a stable, anchoring presence from the beginning to the end of the process. One memorable patient, “Amy,” had not seen a doctor in years because of the associated financial burden. When she came to the clinic suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, she was not even aware of her diabetes diagnosis. While I waited with her for transportation to the ER, she expressed her fears about contracting COVID at the hospital. However, she emphatically dismissed my suggestion about receiving a vaccine. I listened intently to all her concerns. Not only was she worried about the vaccine infecting her with the virus, but also her history of being denied healthcare due to her socioeconomic status had instilled fears that she would not be taken care of should she have an adverse reaction. I took her hand in mine and reassured her of the clinic’s mission to provide care regardless of ability to pay. I further explained everything I knew about how the vaccine worked, its safety and efficacy, and how my body reacted when I received my own injection. I could not help but beam behind my N95 when days later, Amy returned, sat in my chair and confidently rolled up her sleeve for me to give her the protective shot.

I have grown by exploring the multifaceted world of medicine through shadowing, pioneering research to advance patient care at the NIH, and cultivating trusting relationships with patients from the vaccine clinic. As a doctor, my desire to be an innovative thinker and problem solver will fuel my unrelenting quest for discovery throughout a lifetime of learning. Most importantly, I aspire to use my medical knowledge to improve lives and establish meaningful patient partnerships, just as Rachel’s doctor did with her.

7. Transforming Pain into Purpose: Inspiring Change in the Field of Medicine

Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School

Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals. A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain. From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.

A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive. Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown. Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.

Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain. At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not  an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time. My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to  how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.

Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.

My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.

8. Overcoming Bias, Stigma, and Disparities in Medicine

Student Accepted to University of Florida COM

Growing up as a Black woman, my family’s experiences with racial bias in medicine were central to my perception of doctors. From my grandmother’s forced electric shock therapy in the Jim Crow South that resulted in severe brain damage, to my father’s ignored appendicitis that led to a near-death infection after rupturing, every trip to the doctor came with apprehension. Will these strange men with sharp tools heal me or hurt me? This question repeated in my head as I prepared to undergo my first surgery to remove suspiciously inflamed lymph nodes at age 11. I woke up groggy from anesthesia with a negative cancer diagnosis but a blistering third degree burn. The surgeon had successfully removed the malignant masses but had left the cauterizing iron resting on my neck in the process. Today when I look in the mirror and see the scar, I am reminded of the troubling reality that myths such as black people having thicker skin and less sensitive nerve endings are still pervasive in the medical field. By challenging the systemic disparities in medicine that disadvantage minority populations, I vow to my inner child that I will be a different kind of doctor, a doctor who values the patient as much as the procedure.

My experiences with a variety of communities, minority and majority, stem from growing up in a military household that came with frequent relocations. I was exposed to a wide range of communities from an early age—rural Oregon to tropical Hawaii, industrious Japan to politicized D.C, sunny San Diego and finally to radical Berkeley where I  began my pre-medical education. I chose to view medicine from an anthropological lens while at Cal and supplemented my coursework with community service.  As co-coordinator of UC Berkeley’s chapter of Peer Health Exchange, my 9th grade students were, at first,  mistrusting –even with my Angela Davis-esque afro, I was clearly not from Oakland and not quite old enough to be lecturing them. But it was the Good Samaritan Law lecture, during which students learned they would not face police penalty for calling 911 if a friend was in trouble, that I finally gained their trust. One student shared, “I always worried that I wouldn’t be able to call for help because I’m undocumented.”  Later as a health advocate at UCSF, I encountered the same sentiment from families in the pediatric clinic who worried that accessing healthcare for a sick child might put their immigration or legal status at risk. I learned that to get to the root of barriers to access, trust is invaluable. Navigating marginalized spaces with cultural competency is an asset that I pride myself in.

I carried this foundation into my research and clinical work on HIV, a disease that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities and is often left untreated by the stigmas surrounding medicine for these communities. As an HIV PreP Navigator at the Oasis clinic, I was on rotation when a thirteen-year-old girl was referred to the clinic after testing positive for HIV. We analyzed her T cell count and viral load, and discovered she fit the AIDs criteria.   In the following weeks, we worked on medication adherence, and as the girl’s CD4 count rose, so did her spirits and mine. Medicine is more than just a diagnosis and prescription—it is active compassionate treatment. It is holding steady when the entire ground seems to shake with the magnitude of an illness. It is being able to look a patient in the eye and truly see them despite the myriad of differences.

The disparities and differences in patient circumstances has been emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing this disproportionate effect of the virus on minority communities, I worked at a COVID-19 testing facility in one of the most underserved and impoverished communities in the Los Angeles’ area. Assuring patients of the safety of Covid testing measures was a big part of the job. “Have you done it?” They would ask. “What about Tuskegee?”  Being Black, I felt the burden of responsibility that came with these questions. How could I have such faith in medicine knowing the traumatic past? My response was simple, “I believe in the science. I can explain PCR testing to you if you like.” By eradicating some of the mystery surrounding these lab techniques, people felt more comfortable.  The opportunity to serve as a trusted community leader by directly interacting with patients and working on a team with doctors, EMTs, and nurses amid an international crisis reaffirmed my journey into medicine.

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” As an aspiring physician, these words have served as a motivating mantra. To “get off the ground” for me means to become the first medical doctor in a lineage of sharecroppers and farmers. Medicine has been my “sun” for as long as I can remember; its promise to bring light has kept me jumping at every opportunity. Like my grandmother, my father, and so many others, I have experienced disparity in medicine. The scars that mar our bodies are my constant reminder that there is much work to be done. I see medicine as the ability to directly enact that change, one patient at a time.

9. Navigating Personal Struggles to Become a Compassionate Physician

Student Accepted to Touro CoOM, Nova Southeastern CoOM/KPCOM

I fight the heavy sleepiness that comes over me, but before I know it, I am out like a light. Forty-five minutes later, I wake up with a sore throat, watery eyes, and an intensely cold, painful feeling plaguing my entire right leg. Earlier, my parents and I arrived at the Beckman Laser Institute for another treatment of my port-wine stain birthmark. Despite my pleas to not undergo these procedures, my parents still took me twice a year. As I was rolled into the cold, sterile operating room on a gurney, I felt like I was experiencing everything from outside of myself. Despite my doctor’s and nurses’ best efforts to comfort me, I felt my heart racing. Feelings of apprehension and fear of the unknown flooded my senses at the sight of beeping machines and tubes that seemed to go everywhere. As the anesthesiologist began to administer the “sleepy juice,” I felt sad, realizing that my birthmark was a permanent resident on my leg and that I would have to receive this treatment for the rest of my life.

As an adult, I am grateful my parents continued to take me to the laser institute. Starting treatment so early aided in the lightening of my birthmark, which did wonders to improve my self-confidence. However, I suffered daily, feeling like I constantly had to hide something about myself. I kept my secret from everyone except my parents. Despite there being several medical doctors in my family, I knew that any sign of illness or disease would be held against me socially amongst other Egyptians. My secrecy was made even more difficult by the advice of my doctor to avoid certain physical activities, as they could worsen the underlying pathology of the veins in my legs. On his advice, I only wore long pants and would not run with other children during recess and gym class. This all added to the isolation I felt growing up, not knowing anyone with a similar condition to mine. Even as a child, no amount of explaining or encouragement could make me understand the benefit of those painful laser treatments.

What eventually changed my perspective was the team of compassionate doctors and nurses who have been caring for me since I began this journey. I was particularly touched when one of my doctors shared with me that she had also undergone a procedure that she would be performing on me. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Not only was she a specialist in the field, but her empathy for what I would soon go through became a source of instant comfort and ease for me. I knew that what she said was heartfelt, and not simply an attempt to convince me to undergo a procedure. I realized then that one of the reasons I had felt so afraid was because I had been alone in what I was going through.

A few years later, I attended a conference held by the Vascular Birthmark Foundation, where a variety of specialists convened to discuss port-wine stain birthmarks and other related conditions. Once we arrived at the hotel where the conference would take place, I met a woman who had a facial port-wine stain birthmark. As we began sharing stories about our experiences with our condition, we connected over how difficult it had been to receive treatment. We both knew what it felt like to be told that the birthmark was simply a cosmetic issue, and that any form of treatment we received would have no corrective purpose, if it was even considered treatment in the first place. There was a certain sense of freedom that I felt in finally being able to talk about my illness with someone I could trust to understand. Thinking back to the doctor who connected with me over a procedure she had also experienced as a patient, I felt truly called in that moment to pursue my goal of becoming a vascular physician. My goal would be to become a source of comfort and familiarity for patients who struggle as I have, to give them the same relief that I experienced from finally being understood.

Despite the pains I went through, I now realize that the experiences I have had as a patient can help me better understand what it means to be a physician. By being an excellent listener and openly sharing my experiences with receiving treatment, I can foster an honest and safe physician-patient relationship. I believe this approach will not only comfort my patients, but also help them make informed decisions about their treatment. My commitment to this approach has also led me to choose a DO path for my medical career. Having researched the holistic treatment approach that a DO delivers, I realized that being treated by a DO would have done wonders for my self-confidence and overall health as a young patient. The aspects of my port wine stain that were always left untreated were the emotional and social side effects of my condition. As a DO in the dermatology or interventional radiology specialty, I hope to gain the tools to provide empathetic and comprehensive care to my patients that reassures them that they are not alone in their journey to better health.

Want to read a few more great samples? We also broke down the things that make these 3 personal statements excellent and compelling.

Other Resources For Personal Statement Writing

Do you want to learn even more about personal statements? Dive into these great resources!

FREE MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT WEBINARS

Preparing Your Personal Statement For Medical Programs : Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Director of Writing & College Advising, Jennifer Speegle.

Creating the First Draft of Your Medical School Personal Statement : Hosted by MedSchoolCoach advising and writing advisors, Ziggy Yoediono MD and James Fleming.

Where to Begin When Writing Your Personal Statement : Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Associate Director of Writing and College Advising, Jennifer Speegle, Associate Director of Advising, Ziggy Yoediono MD, and Writing Advisor, Carrie Coaplen Ph. D.

The Medical School Personal Statement – What Makes a Great Intro and Why It’s Important : Hosted by Director of Advising, Dr. Renee Marinelli, MD, Master Advisor, Dr. Ziggy Yoediono, MD, and Founder of MedSchoolCoach, Dr. Sahil Mehta, MD.

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Personal Statement for Your Medical School Application: Complete Guide

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The personal comments essay on the AMCAS application is one of a candidate's first chances to tell admissions officers this. Applicants must clearly answer the question, " Why medicine? " 

This is your chance to impress the admissions committee that you are worthy of acceptance. You must give it your best shot. After all, remember that you are competing against hundreds of candidates. 

This article is a complete guide on composing your personal statement for your medical school application to stand out. If you are interested, please read on.

What is a Personal Statement for Medical School?

One of the first components of your medical school application that you will write is your personal statement. It is also the section most students spend the most time on, and with good reason. 

Never undervalue the significance of writing the finest personal statement you can.

The personal statement aims to describe your motivation for becoming a doctor.

Not to promote yourself as a student or potential doctor. 

The admissions committee wants to ensure you understand what you are getting into and that you are doing it for the right reasons.

The events that initially motivated you to consider a profession in healthcare should be mentioned in your personal statement. This is still true even if you had originally considered pursuing a career other than medicine.

Why Do Medical Schools Care About Personal Statements? 

The personal statement is crucial since it is a bridge leading to an interview. 

Your personal statement will still be a remarkable journey about why you are applying to medical school. 

Your medical school personal statement allows the admissions committee to get to know you better, ensure you understand what you are getting yourself into, and establish a connection with you. 

They will be less inclined to take a chance on a student they believe will not be content as a doctor.

Your best course of action is to ensure you have enough industry exposure to know if this job is right for you. 

If you do not, you can be burned out and miserable early in your profession or decide to stop practicing medicine entirely. Although there is not just one good reason to pursue medicine, it should, at the very least, be a deliberate choice.

Each school's weight to the personal statement depends on the school, as in the procedure. 

Many institutions may prioritize the personal statement when considering whether to offer a student an interview. At the same time, other schools may give other portions more consideration.

Medical School Personal Statement Checklist

Never undervalue the ability of the personal statement for medical school to leave a lasting, favorable impression on the admissions committee. 

Your personal statement could make up your overall admissions score when combined with how well you did in the interview.

Below is a checklist of how to succeed in writing a compelling personal statement for your medical school application:

Does Your Introduction Explain Why You Want to Practice Medicine?

Why you desire to study medicine and become a doctor should be explained in the opening paragraph of your medical school personal statement. 

A generic or overused justification that many other applicants might provide should be avoided. 

Describe your interest in medicine in detail. Was it a particular event you had? Was it something you saw while working or volunteering?

Did You Apply What You Learned from Your Volunteer Work or Employment Experience?

When describing them in your personal statement, it would be best to consider what you gained from your professional experience and volunteer work . 

Medical schools are more interested in your reflections than a simple list of accomplishments, so avoid doing that.

  • What did you discover?
  • What abilities did you gain?
  • What has this experience taught you about a medical career?

Are Your Extracurricular Activities Included?

Your extracurricular activities are crucial to your personal statement, even though you may have forgotten about them or thought they were irrelevant. 

Admissions committees want to know that you have the means to unwind and will not become burned out under pressure because medical school can be difficult. 

Hobbies and interests outside of medicine also demonstrate that you are well-rounded and will contribute significantly to the university.

Is Your Grammar Flawless Throughout?

Even though it might seem apparent, rechecking your grammar before submitting the work does not hurt. 

You can read your personal statement with fresh eyes if you print it out and read it aloud.

You may also catch errors that you previously missed. It can be a good practice to read it aloud. It is also a brilliant idea to have it verified by another person because they might notice details you overlooked.

Can You Provide Evidence of How You Meet the Requirements to Become a Doctor?

Ensure your personal statement illustrates that you possess the traits required to be a doctor, such as empathy and the capacity to work well in a team. 

Do not just claim that you have the attributes or list them without supporting details.

To support your claims, include concrete instances from your employment history, volunteer activity, extracurricular activities, or other aspects of your life.

Can You Explain and Defend Everything You Have Written?

Some medical schools will create interview questions based on your personal statement. This means you should never include information in your personal statement that you would find difficult to discuss in an interview.

You do not want to be caught off guard or stranded. Give a copy of your cover letter to a friend or family member and ask them to quiz you on it to see whether it will stand up in an interview.

Do the Sentences Add Something to Your Personal Statement?

Consider the meaning of each sentence as you read your personal statement. 

Does it give the reader information about you or a lesson you have learned? 

If not, you might want to remove it.

Ensure that every sentence in your personal statement relates to why you want to be a doctor. 

The admissions committee reads hundreds of personal statements, and sharing irrelevant information could jeopardize your chances of admission.

Can You Show You Are Aware of the Reality of Being a Doctor?

It would help if you mentioned in your personal statement that a medical career is demanding. This will demonstrate to admissions tutors that you are knowledgeable, have done your study, and are not entering the field of medicine with exaggerated expectations.

Does Your Last Paragraph Succinctly State Why You Believe You Are a Good Fit for the Profession?

Your final paragraph or conclusion should summarize your qualifications for the course and your suitability for a medical career. 

Do not add any new examples here. Instead, summarize and make reference to what you have already stated.

What Do You Think About Your Personal Statement?

To be as objective as you can, read your medical school personal statement three times, focusing on one of these three essential points that it must prove:

  • Why do you wish to pursue a career in medicine?
  • What have you done to acquire knowledge about medicine?
  • Why do you consider yourself a good fit for medicine?

Consider giving your personal statement a motivational, exploratory, and suitability score. 

Please keep an open mind and make adjustments where you believe they are required.

Sample Personal Statement for Medical School Application 

Your personal statement could make or break your medical school application. It would help if you devoted your time and effort to developing a compelling personal statement. 

Below is a sample personal statement that has granted admission to a medical school applicant.

I made a promise to my sister when I was eight years old, and that promise is the primary reason I want to pursue a career in medicine. My sister knew I had been watching over her while our parents were at work late. I never felt more responsible than when I was caring for her.

I was helpless when my sister woke up with a fever. By methodically eliminating potential causes of the fever while ensuring my sister's safety, her doctor took care of the most significant person in my life, allowing me to appreciate the wonder of medicine.

I vowed to my sister that I would pursue a medical career to care for her and other people who cannot look for themselves. My mother later told me that because I was born through in vitro fertilization, medicine had made it possible for me to live. 

This boosted my desire to pursue a medical career and motivated me to complete the circle. I want to give back to the industry that helped make my life possible by aiding those in need.

By volunteering in the intensive care Unit at the UC San Diego Thornton Medical Center, I was able to further my aim of becoming a doctor and gain first-hand experience relating to patients. I chatted with a patient who could only speak Spanish while obtaining test samples from nurses.

I was the only Spanish speaker in the group, and my language skills were at best, rudimentary because the interpreter was still on the way. The patient's mood significantly improved when I asked her about her day and her family. I learned from this meeting how crucial it is to have personal relationships with patients.

I was able to discover the qualities of a competent doctor through shadowing. Before procedures, I acquired the patient's consent to let me view the process as the surgeon reviewed the patient's last-minute worries. When I gained a patient's consent for an aortic valve replacement, he revealed that he was a well-known Italian musician.

I was astounded when the surgeon invited him to sing his hit song. Before the procedure, the patient's face brightened, and his concerns vanished. That drew me to the field and demonstrated there is more to being a good doctor than simply the technicalities or information from textbooks, even though the patient would be heavily sedated. The surgeon still cared about the patient's stress over the procedure.

I experienced a side of medicine that I had only read about in the news when volunteering at a veterans hospital. People who refuse medical care are underprivileged and uneducated. I would try to persuade people who could not visit other hospitals by phone to have their eyes examined for signs of diabetes in the Teleretinal Imaging department.

When I called, a veteran groaned and asked why he needed to go to the hospital, knowing he did not have diabetes. I realized I needed to let him know that diseases can have symptoms before they manifest. Because some people in these places lack the education necessary to recognize when something is wrong with their bodies, this motivated me to assist patients there.

If given a chance to practice medicine and lead the African American community, I could inspire others and serve as an example for those less fortunate.

I became a member of the Black Student Union at UC San Diego, which allowed me to connect with others who were on the fence about going to college. My communication skills and capacity to relate to various demographics have increased due to talking to high school students about my college experiences.

I explained how these students could have a lot more chances after they graduate from college and how many resources and scholarships are available to them. I'll explain my condition to patients in an easy-to-understand manner. After this experience, I was sure I wanted to interact with minority populations while practicing personalized medicine.

After all these, it was evident that I must continue pursuing my goal of becoming a doctor. If I succeed, I will also grow in helping those who are battling a similar battle.

I learned there weren't many well-known African American doctors in elementary school, so I asked my parents if they knew of any. My father told me about my uncle Roy Harris, who was raised in an inner city where gangs and narcotics were prevalent. He joined the high school track team and ran through college while seeking his medical degree to escape these obstacles.

I started running to inspire a change in the world and remind me of his motivational narrative so that one day, more African American doctors would be there for kids to aspire to.

As one of the top athletes in the country right now and an Academic All-American, I intend to participate in the NCAA Division II Nationals the following year. Running has given me the discipline to lead a balanced life, the concentration to do well in medical school, and the motivation to pursue my objectives.

Most importantly, I kept a promise to my sister. I set an unbreakable foundation of never-ending inspiration to sustain me through even the most trying parts of my life.

Anecdotes are a typical and efficient approach to building a story arc.

The author does just that by using one at the beginning and end of the article. To strengthen his resolve to pursue medicine, he refers to several incidents throughout his life, from infancy to youth to young adulthood.

His compelling past and tales, including his commitment to his sister and why he started running again, add exciting dimensions to this personal statement.

Additionally, It is commendable that the author wants to support the African American community and has such lofty goals.

For more medical school personal statement samples, please visit the link below:

Personal Statement Examples

Final Thoughts.

You are aware that the personal statement for medical school is a critical opportunity to demonstrate to medical schools who you are outside of your GPA and MCAT score . It also lets you describe your identity and the significant influences and backgrounds shaping your interests and values. 

Therefore, you must ensure that you stand out. You must carefully consider how you want to convey your "big picture" while demonstrating that you have the pre-professional skills medical schools seek.

However, know that your medical school personal statement is but one aspect of your application. 

You must give the other components ( primary application, letters of recommendation, interviews, etc. ) equal importance. This gives you the best chance of becoming the doctor you have always wanted to be. 

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Advisor Corner: Crafting Your Personal Statement

New section.

Being able to articulate an answer to the question “why medicine?” is critical for an applicant as they apply to medical school. One of the first opportunities for an applicant to convey this message to admissions officers is through their personal comments essay in the AMCAS application. We asked three pre-health advisors how they advise their students to put their best self forward when crafting their personal statements.

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

The personal statement is an unfamiliar genre for most students—you’ve practiced writing lab reports, analytical essays, maybe even creative fiction or poetry, but the personal statement is something between a reflective, analytical narrative, and an argumentative essay. You want to reveal something about yourself and your thoughts around your future in medicine while also making an argument that provides evidence supporting your readiness for your career. Well ahead of when you’re writing your personal statement, consider taking classes that require you to create and support arguments through writing, or those that ask you to reflect on your personal experiences to help you sharpen these skills.

As you draft your essay, you may want to include anecdotes from your experiences. It’s easiest to recall these anecdotes as they happen so it can be helpful to keep a journal where you can jot down stories, conversations, and insights that come to you. This could be recounting a meaningful conversation that you had with someone, venting after an especially challenging experience, or even writing about what keeps you going at times when you feel in danger of giving up. If it’s more comfortable, take audio notes by talking into your phone.

While reading sample personal statements can sometimes make a student feel limited to emulating pieces that already exist, I do think that reading others’ reflective writing can be inspirational. The Aspiring Docs Diaries blog written by premeds is one great place to look, as are publications like the Bellevue Literary Review and Pulse , which will deliver a story to your inbox every week. Check with your pre-health advisor to see if they have other examples that they recommend.

Rachel Tolen, Assistant Director and Premedical Advisor, Indiana University I encourage students to think of the personal statement not just as a product. Instead, I encourage them to think of the process of writing the statement as embedded in the larger process of preparing themselves for the experience of medical school. Here are a few key tips that I share with students:

  • Start writing early, even months before you begin your application cycle. Expect to revise many versions of your draft over time.
  • Take some time to reflect on your life and goals. By the end of reading your statement, the reader should understand why you want to be a physician. 
  • When you consider what to write, think about the series of events in your life that have led up to the point where you are applying to medical school. How did you get here? What set you on the path toward medical school? What kept you coming back, even at times when it was challenging? On the day that you retire, what do you hope you’ll be able to say you’ve achieved through your work as a physician? 
  • Don’t waste too much time trying to think of a catchy opening or a theme designed just to set your essay apart. Applicants sometimes end up with an opening that comes across as phony and artificial because they are trying too hard to distinguish themselves from other applicants. 
  • Just start writing. Writing is a means for thinking and reflecting. Let the theme grow out of the process of writing itself. Some of the best personal statements focus on ordinary events that many other people may have experienced, but what makes the essay stand out are the writer’s unique insights and ability to reflect on these experiences.

Dana Lovold, MPH, Career Counselor at the University of Minnesota Your personal statement can and should include more than what you’ve done to prepare for medical school. The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that isn’t conveyed elsewhere in your application.

Advisors at the University of Minnesota employ a storytelling model to support students in finding and writing their unique personal statement. One critical aspect of storytelling is the concept of change. When a story lacks change, it becomes a recitation of facts and events, rather than a reflection of how you’ve learned and grown through your experiences. Many students express concern that their experiences are not unique and wonder how they can stand out. Focusing on change can help with this. Some questions you may want to consider when exploring ideas are:

  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How did you change as a result of the experience?
  • What insight did you gain?

By sharing your thoughts on these aspects of your preparation and motivation for medicine, the reader has a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value. Then, connect that insight to how it relates to your future in the profession. This will convey your unique insight and demonstrate how you will use that insight as a physician.  

In exploring additional aspects of what to write about, we also encourage students to cover these four components in the essay:

A graphic showing the components "motivation," "fit," "capacity," and "vision" over an arrow that reads "The Competitive Applicant"

  • Motivation refers to a student’s ongoing preparation for the health profession and can include the initial inspiration.
  • Fit is determined through self-assessment of relevant values and personal qualities as they relate to the profession.
  • Capacity is demonstrated through holistically aligning with the competencies expected in the profession.
  • Vision relates to the impact you wish to make in the field.

After you finish a working draft, go back through and see how you’ve covered each of these components. Ask people who are reading your draft if they can identify how you’ve covered these elements in your essay so that you know it’s clear to others.

What NOT to do in your personal statement for medical schools

turn challenges into changes and stress into success-1

“Snowflake.”

“Entitled.”

When I worked on my own personal statement, I took care to select experiences and to phrase things in a way that would highlight maturity, steering away from anything that might cause an admissions committee to apply those words to me. In some ways, this is an unreasonable task: most medical school applicants are young, still acquiring the life experience that they are supposed to be writing about. Still, there are ways to write a persuasive personal statement that highlights a mature and thoughtful adult ready to take on medical school.

Who am I to say that a given personal statement is reading as immature? Unlike the applicants who figured things out early, I took my time finding my way to a career in medicine. I spent 6 years serving in the U.S. Air Force and was in my thirties by the time I applied to medical school. As such, I’ve developed a sharp awareness for writing that lands as immature. I’ve used my unique perspective to help applicants emphasize their strengths and avoid common missteps. Based on my experience, here are nine things you should NOT do in your personal statement:

1. “I always wanted to be a doctor.”

My trusted mentor (who used to serve on an admissions committee herself) said that this statement is a red flag. A young child barely knows what a doctor is - how did they decide to be one? They didn’t; their parents decided. This is concerning to anyone evaluating applications - a student who was pushed into medicine is a less compelling candidate than a student who freely chose medicine.

But having pushy parents is not a disqualification! I advise applicants in this position to think about moments they had as a young adult that solidified their pursuit of medicine. When did the journey become your journey? This focuses your response on your growth and maturity, as answering this question makes you reflect on your experiences as a young adult.

2. The hook highlights an early childhood incident.

While this hook can be done well, it frequently can backfire. First, it focuses on the applicant as a child, rather than on the young adult who is going to attend medical school. Secondly, it can raise concerns about the applicant’s life experience: were there no other substantial experiences that happened to the applicant since childhood? For a life or death incident, this can make sense. For anything else, it can look like the applicant is very sheltered.

The fix: talk about a more recent story! And if the childhood event truly played a pivotal role, go ahead and mention it, but make sure to connect it to more recent reflections and experiences as you progress through your statement.

3. The parents get too much attention.

Parents are a huge part of our lives. But part of growing up is branching out and forming an adult identity that is separate from them. A number of personal statements I have read focus on the parents so much that it left me questioning whether that process of growing and differentiating occurred for the applicant. An excessive presence of parents in a story can make the applicant read as immature and dependent.

It’s okay to mention parents (since they are the starting point of your journey), but make sure they don’t take center stage. Are you the focus in key locations in your statement? The hook and the conclusion, in particular, should be about you . And the bulk of the story should focus on your experiences and actions.

An editing trick to check for this issue is to highlight the text of your personal statement - how much is your parent’s story and how much is your story? You’ll quickly see if the ratio is off.

4. The hook is about a quirk.

This strategy may seem like a fun way to start off, but it can hurt applicants in several ways. First, readers only have so much attention to give, and the hook is their first impression - so don’t waste the hook on an icebreaker fact! Use this key part of the essay to talk about something more meaningful, like your years of preparation or a moment of personal growth.

If I gave you ten seconds to blurt out one thing that makes you stand out from other applicants and shows you are ready for medical school, what is it? If your hook doesn’t include this information, it isn’t serving you as well as it could be.

5. Using long words.

I have yet to edit a personal statement and not encourage the applicant to use simple, clear language. First, many applicants don’t use more complicated words correctly - don’t be that person. Second, long words make an applicant seem like they’re only invested in sounding smart. This can read as insecure or insincere, which paints a less than flattering portrait. Third, longer words quickly eat into the precious character count. And for what? Your grades and your MCAT score already highlight your mind and your aptitude - don’t waste the character count on sounding smart when that information is present elsewhere.

The fix: short words are better words! One technique I employed for my personal statement was to write my statement in my second language. I don’t have the vocabulary to dance around the things I’m trying to say when writing in my second language. For anyone who speaks another language, this can be a tool to help you get to the point.

6. Using quotes from big thinkers.

Including lofty quotes is a strategy that can work well for college essays (nothing like a little Marcus Aurelius to add some polish). But I have yet to see this done well for a med school application. Bringing in sophisticated thinkers can make it seem like the applicant lacks confidence in their own ideas. Keep your statement focused on your own ideas and beliefs!

7. Overblowing a small event.

Lavishing description for a small or routine event can raise questions about the quality of an applicant’s perspective. Additionally, dramatizing events can detract from the heart of the story being told. Make sure you’re telling your stories and sharing your experiences as truthfully as possible - added drama will only get in the way of what you’re saying.

8. Neglecting to show results (of the small event).

Still, if a small event truly was important to your growth, make sure you fully explain the results and impact of that event! I see applicants miss this particular opportunity to show maturity and growth over and over again. The key is to always show the results of every experience you write about. What did you make of it? How did this event change you or change your assessment of the world? No matter how small or average the incident, showing exactly how an event was a catalyst for reflection and growth is a powerful narrative. Furthermore, it is a narrative that shows you will make the most of every opportunity in medical school. You don’t deserve an interview or acceptance because of who you are now, but because of who you have the capacity to become.

Consider a scenario where a butterfly flaps its wings and causes a storm - the flapping is small and routine; the storm it creates is anything but. If I want to convince you of the importance of this event, should I spend my time describing the up/down motion of the butterfly’s wings in excruciating detail? Or, should I just say it flapped and spend most of my time describing the storm? The latter option will be a more compelling, persuasive, and rewarding essay.

An example from my own application is the shadowing I did in an HIV clinic. I did not shadow for a remarkable length of time, and nothing inherently dramatic occurred while I was there. Nonetheless, I was deeply impressed by the care shown to the patients there. Now, it’s easy for an admissions committee to toss off a statement like “I was deeply impressed,” so I made sure my essay focused on what I did after the clinic. I spent most of my essay describing how I went on to do more shadowing related to infectious diseases and how I spent my gap year doing HIV research. I didn’t make the case that the initial HIV clinic was an important experience for me by waxing poetic on one patient’s problems, but rather I offered evidence regarding how I changed based on this experience. An event does not need to be huge and dramatic in itself to be deeply important to you.

9. Only friends and family read the statement before submitting.

Many applicants have only their family, close friends, or trusted mentors read their personal statement. These are people who already know and love the applicant, and this personal bias can allow these people to subconsciously give the applicant the benefit of the doubt if a story doesn’t land quite right. It’s important to test your statement against a slightly less sympathetic audience (like a tutor!) to make sure that you are submitting the strongest pieces with the clearest messages.

If you can avoid the nine common mistakes I’ve described here, you will be well on your way to crafting a mature and authentic personal statement for medical schools. I wish you all the best as you work on your applications!

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Crafting a Compelling Medical School Personal Statement: Examples, Structure, Tips & More

February 22, 2024

Zach French

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Over 60% of aspiring students don’t get admitted into medical school each year. And there is a great reason for this: regardless of their admissions profile and excellent grades, they don’t stand out in their application essay.

Your personal statement is your opportunity to share your motivations and aspirations in pursuing medicine. It allows the admissions committee to understand who you are beyond mere academic achievements.

In this guide, we will explain step-by-step how to write a compelling medical school personal statement. We'll cover:

  • Why your personal statement matters
  • How to get started with your med school personal statement
  • How long should a personal statement be?
  • How to structure your essay and what to include
  • 5 Writing tips and best practices
  • 2 Medical school personal statement examples [+ full explanation]
  • 8 Common mistakes to avoid

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Why Your Personal Statement Matters

Medical schools receive thousands of applications every year, many from candidates with excellent academic records and impressive extracurricular achievements. What sets you apart? Your personal statement is your chance to tell your story in a way that goes beyond grades and test scores . It's an opportunity to showcase your unique personality, aspirations, and dedication to the field of medicine.

Use your experiences, whether through volunteering, research, or personal encounters, to illustrate why you’re a fit. It's not just about what you've done, but how these experiences have shaped your understanding and desire for a medical career.

‍ You need to present yourself as not just academically capable, but also personally suited to the demands and rewards of being a physician. Your personal statement is your voice in the application process—a chance to make a compelling case for why you belong in their next class of medical students.

How to Get Started

As you get ready to write, you might be worried about selecting the perfect topic, avoiding clichés, and wondering if it aligns with what admissions committees expect. Fortunately, the AMCAS personal statement prompt, which reads "Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school," is deliberately broad. This open-ended prompt offers you the freedom to write about virtually anything that drives your ambition to pursue a medical career.

However, the very openness of this prompt can also be daunting. With the liberty to choose any topic, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the possibilities. To narrow down your choices, consider reflecting on the following questions:

  • Why do you feel a strong inclination only towards being a physician?
  • What aspects of being a doctor truly inspire you to pursue this field?
  • Envision the type of doctor you aim to become - what does that look like?
  • What role do you aspire to play in your patients' lives?

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

You have a limit of up to 5,300 characters, including spaces, for your essay. To give you an idea of the length, this character limit approximately translates to about 500 words or 1.5 pages when single-spaced.

Hence, it’s important to strategically pick experiences that highlight varied traits in you and are all linked to what’s expected of a physician. Thus, you can demonstrate your diverse skills while remaining concise.

What Experiences Should You Pick? What Qualities Are Sought?

If you're finding it challenging to determine what to include in your medical school personal statement, begin by identifying the qualities you wish to highlight to the admissions committee. From there, reverse-engineer your approach by selecting experiences from your life that best exemplify these qualities.

In general, admissions committees look for the following qualities:

  • Analytical abilities
  • Persistence
  • Great listening skills
  • Knowledge-seeking

Keep in mind that the experiences you select to showcase your chosen qualities don't necessarily have to stem from clinical settings or from research accomplishments. They can also be drawn from extracurricular activities that have influenced your journey toward medicine.

If you're struggling to identify your strong qualities (a common issue among many students), consider asking family members or close friends what they think your strengths are and why they appreciate you. While it might feel a bit uncomfortable, this exercise can be incredibly insightful.

Last but not least, bear in mind that the admissions committee is likely to ask you to expand on the experiences you've described. Therefore, include personal stories that you're eager to discuss further and feel confident speaking about.

How to Structure Your Essay 

A well-structured essay is fundamental for clarity, balance, and impact. It provides a clear and logical flow of ideas, making it easier for the reader to follow and understand your arguments or story. Each paragraph should seamlessly lead to the next, maintaining a consistent thread of thought. ‍

This cohesion and structure help in:

  • Keeping the reader's interest and engagement from beginning to end
  • Reflecting a well-rounded intellect and personality
  • Showcasing your multifaceted profile effectively, as it ensures that you don't dwell too long on one point while neglecting others. 

Make an outline to help you structure your personal statement after reflecting on the experiences and traits you wish to include. We suggest you begin with a compelling introduction that captures your motivation for pursuing a career in medicine. This could be a brief anecdote, a pivotal moment in your life, or a unique perspective that led you to this path. Your goal is to engage the reader from the outset and set the tone for the rest of your statement. ‍

The body of your application essay is where you delve into your experiences, skills, and aspirations. We suggest you focus on three and use a paragraph to elaborate on each. Delve into how your personal experiences have not only nurtured this desire but also equipped you for the journey ahead in the medical field.

‍ Finally, conclude your personal statement by reinforcing your commitment to medicine. Elegantly loop back to this central theme or initial hook.  

summarize the key points made throughout your statement, and articulate your vision for the future as a medical professional. ‍

This technique will weave your personal statement into a cohesive and interconnected story, providing a sense of full circle from start to finish.

Best Practices: Writing Tips and Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Crafting a compelling personal statement for medical school requires more than just sharing your experiences; it's about how you present them. Here are some key writing tips and best practices to help you create a standout essay.

Read Real Medical School Personal Statement Examples

Before you start writing, take the time to read actual personal statements from successful medical school applicants.

We’ve taken a moment to make a full disclosure of our favorite personal statements of all time on our YouTube channel. 

Alternatively, you can take a look at some examples online from various universities, including institutions like the University of Pittsburgh . You can also ask someone who got into medical school to send you a copy of their personal statement.

Med school essay samples will give you an understanding of what works and the variety of ways you can express your own story. Pay attention to the structure, language, and the way they weave their experiences into a cohesive and compelling narrative. After all, stories are king. However, don't expect to find a perfect blueprint that you can copy. Personal statements are (and should be) unique to each writer.

Show, Don't Tell

Rather than listing your qualities, like compassion or drive, it's more effective to illustrate them through real-life examples. The admissions committee wants to see your story unfold through your actions and experiences. Narrate instances where you've actively displayed these traits. This method brings your personal statement to life, making it more engaging and authentic for the readers.

Make It Personal and Relatable

When presenting your experiences, aim for a balance between showcasing your achievements and reflecting on the challenges you've encountered along the way. Share the lessons these experiences taught you. This approach not only adds authenticity and depth to your narrative but also makes it more engaging for the reader.

Maintain a first-person perspective throughout your story. Describe the experience from your viewpoint, incorporating your thoughts, interactions, and reactions to the events. This personal touch allows the reader to see the world through your eyes, creating a more intimate and relatable connection.

Nevertheless, use “I” moderately in your writing. Using "I" too much can lead to focusing on achievements rather than storytelling.

Stay Away from Clichés

Given that many premed students share a common love for science and a desire to help people. Dig deeper into your experiences, we suggest you follow this five-step approach to do so:

  • Explain your reasons for seeking out the experience.
  • Share your emotions and feelings during the experience.
  • Highlight your achievements and the lessons you learned.
  • Consider the long-term effects of this experience on you and those around you
  • Describe how this experience has influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine.

Overall, it's not enough to love science; explain how your relationship with science is different from others or how specific life experiences have shaped your approach to medicine.

Review Your Essay

Once you have written your personal statement, the editing and refining process is critical to ensuring its effectiveness and polish.

We suggest that you:

  • Seek feedback from trusted mentors or peers. They can offer valuable insights, point out areas that need clarification, suggest improvements, or even identify strengths that you can further emphasize. 
  • Proofread to eliminate any grammatical errors or awkward syntax. These mistakes can distract from the content and may leave a negative impression on the admissions committee. It may be helpful to read your statement out loud or use digital tools for grammar checks (e.g. Grammarly or QuillBot)
  • Ensure clarity and conciseness by avoiding unnecessary jargon, overly complex sentences, or vague statements. The goal is to convey your experiences and motivations in a straightforward and compelling manner. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

According to the experts , you should be mindful of these common pitfalls when crafting your personal statement:

  • Don’t make excuses, and avoid justifying poor grades or test scores. Instead, focus on positive aspects and growth.
  • Be careful not to beg for an interview or acceptance into the program.
  • Don't use overly complex words or phrases. Clarity and authenticity are more impactful than fancy language.
  • Don’t focus on explaining the field of medicine in your essay to professionals who already understand it. 
  • Don't fabricate or exaggerate your experiences. In your interview, you'll have to elaborate on these points, and your exaggeration will be evident.
  • Don’t simply reiterate your CV or list your achievements. The personal statement is an opportunity to tell your story.
  • Watch for spelling and grammar errors. These mistakes can detract from your statement's professionalism and readability.
  • Avoid clichés and obvious statements like "I love science" or "I want to help people." These are overused and don’t add value to your personal story.

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Your personal statement is more than just a part of your application; it's a chance to leave a lasting impact on the admissions committee. Dedicate the necessary time and effort to ensure it's a true reflection of who you are and why you're destined for a career in medicine. However, crafting an assertive essay can be indeed overwhelming. Here’s where Premed Catalyst can help you out.

At Premed Catalyst, we specialize in guiding aspiring medical professionals like you. Our mission is to help you lay a solid foundation and craft a unique narrative for your medical school application, ensuring your essay stands out.

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Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide [With Examples]

Typical medical school personal statements list qualities and accomplishments in paragraph form and can be boring to read for admissions committee members. But the best personal statements demonstrate qualities through engaging stories. Those stories reveal insights into your personality, as well as interests outside healthcare and medicine (especially those that align with the medical schools you’re applying to ).

Medical school admissions committees want to learn who you uniquely are and why you want to become a medical professional. They also want to know what you are going to contribute to their school and the larger medical field.

Our in-depth guide will help you explore unique personal topics and stories to capture admission committee members’ attention and help you stand out in a sea of ordinary med school personal statements.

Table of contents

1. brainstorm topics, 2. choose stories that show your character, show, don’t tell, stay on topic, common medical school personal statement mistakes, get an expert’s opinion.

The first step in the personal statement writing process is to decide what stories and facts are most important to reveal and how to weave in your motivation for applying to a school of medicine.

When you’re ready to brainstorm, don’t just sit down to stare at a list of your premed activities like research experiences, volunteering, or shadowing. Instead, compile the fundamental personal experiences and people that helped shape you. These stories will likely translate beyond your personal statement into interviews , so be picky to choose only the most transformative.

When brainstorming your personal statement for medical school, consider these topics:

Significant or formative life experiences: something that changed the course of your life, your outlook on the world, or made you think differently about your future

  • Learning to do something that leads you to excel/teach others/make a contribution (e.g., sports, science, foreign language, special skills)
  • Being given a second chance
  • Connecting with someone who made an impact on you
  • Being out of your comfort zone (experiences with people of different backgrounds, travel, moving, doing something for the first time)

Challenging life experiences: something that forced a lesson upon you

  • A mistake you made
  • An event that was out of your control that nonetheless caused you suffering or loss
  • Overcoming an obstacle

People that shaped your life:

  • Mentor, family member, friend
  • Author, actor, speaker, personal hero

Think about what each element on your list taught you or how it changed your thinking. Answer for yourself why the event or person is important. Then brainstorm how one or two medically related activities can be tied in.

With this strategy, your personal statement will develop around a narrative that is unique to you. It will also communicate to admissions officers who you are and why you want to provide medical care.

To further your thought processes, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is distinct or unique about you/your life story?
  • What are some specific details about your personality, values, or experiences you can share to help them get a better understanding of who you are?
  • In what ways have your experiences contributed to your growth?
  • Have you overcome any obstacles or difficult circumstances in your life?
  • What valuable personal characteristics (integrity, compassion, diligence, etc.) do you have?
  • What soft skills (leadership, teamwork, communication skills, etc.) do you have?

Next, connect those answers to medicine-specific questions:

  • How and when did you become interested in medicine?
  • What have you learned so far about medicine?
  • Why do you want to become a doctor?
  • How do you know you want to be a doctor?
  • How have your experiences and your understanding of yourself confirmed your desire to do medicine?
  • In what ways have you shown that you have the characteristics necessary to succeed in the field of medicine?
  • How will your skills translate into being a good doctor?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that need explaining? This can be an obstacle or difficult circumstance.

Though you don’t want to include the answers to all these questions in your personal statement, knowing the answers to these questions is a good starting point.

You should highlight a few unique experiences, skills, or personal characteristics and make those the focal point of your essay.

Ordinary personal statements focus on the experiences that applicants think will make them seem impressive. The best personal statements focus on the qualities that make applicants truly special.

Instead of choosing their standout qualities — character, personality traits, attitudes — many applicants simply choose experiences they think will help them stand out to admissions committees. Then, they try to force those qualities into the experiences they’ve already chosen.

Why is this an issue? Imagine you have participated in the following extracurricular activities:

  • Biochemistry research for 2 years
  • Clinical experience shadowing for 3 years
  • Math tutor for underserved youth for 2 years
  • Trombonist in the high school band and trombone instructor for 3 years
  • International medical mission trip volunteer for 3 summers
  • Premed organization member for 3 years (vice president for 1 year)

At face value, which of these experiences do you think would make you seem the most impressive to an admissions committee? Given these choices, most students would choose to write about clinical shadowing (2) or medical mission trips (5).

Most students who choose one of those two topics will take a very similar approach, such as starting off the essay describing some interaction with a very ill patient or one with whom they experienced a language barrier.

Typical Applicant Personal Statement Example:

“Mary was well known at our clinic by all of our doctors, nurses, and medical staff. Based on her sharp intellect and cheerful pattern of making our staff feel like we were her best friends, it would be difficult to tell why she frequently visited the hospital. Besides her use of a walker, her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis had not slowed her down much. Throughout my interactions with Mary, I wondered how she maintained such a positive attitude despite her ailments. She seemed to give our staff more joy with her beaming smile than receiving care. I wanted to give her the best care possible, whether through asking our great nurses to check in on her or offering an extra blanket or favorite snack to ensure comfort throughout her stay. However, I was simultaneously frustrated that my ability to help Mary ended there. This lingering lack of fulfillment has served as a great motivator to find ways to do more for patients like her.”

What’s wrong with this example?

Although the above example provides some insights about the applicant’s motivations (“…find ways to do more for patients…”), it is written about a common topic (a realization that came during clinical shadowing) with a typical delivery —  written broadly about interactions with a particular patient.

The best personal statement writers, on the other hand, first think of the personal qualities they want to demonstrate in their essay before choosing a situation or event to write about. Next, they think of an experience that best highlights these qualities, regardless of whether or not it seems most “impressive” at face value. Finally, the best personal statements zero in on a particular event or situation to capture the reader’s attention with a detailed personal story.

By taking this approach, the best personal statement writers are better able to demonstrate their qualities because their story was chosen expressly for that purpose. After all, schools are attracted to particular candidates because of their qualities and not a specific experience they’ve had.

Let’s suppose this same applicant wanted to highlight her community involvement and commitment to serving underprivileged groups. Returning to the list of extracurriculars above, she could choose to write about working as a math tutor (3) or being a trombonist in the school band and trombone instructor (4). By choosing the latter and zooming in on a particular event, this same student could write the following personal statement introduction:

Better Personal Statement Example:

“My palms had never been as sweaty as when I walked on stage with my trombone in front of a 500-plus member audience on June 9th, 2015. Sure, I was pretty good. But I would like to think that being invited to play Curtis Fuller’s “Along Came Betty” at the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame had as much to do with the music skills I had honed over the past decade as it did with training the 8-member band of 10 to 13 year-olds from the inner city to join me on that same stage. I was nervous because this performance was for them; I needed to be at my best.”

Why is this example better than the one before it?

This introduction would likely stand out because it is about an uncommon topic (a musical performance) and seamlessly demonstrates the writer’s community involvement, especially with underserved youth. As a bonus, it captures the reader’s attention in 382 fewer characters.

Typical personal statements could have been written by any applicant. Good personal statements are those that can only be written by a specific applicant. The example of a typical introduction could have been written by any number of medical students who volunteered in a hospital. There simply aren’t enough unique insights and details about the applicant. On the other hand, the second introduction could have only been written by that individual.

So, how do you avoid a dull introductory paragraph? Use the approach above — first, list your unique qualities, then identify situations where you’ve expressed those qualities, and finally, zoom in to tell a detailed story.

Want to improve your chances of acceptance? Get world-class coaching from former admissions committee members for a more compelling personal statement and polished application. Students who work with us double their chances of getting accepted!

You’ve likely heard the adage “Show, don’t tell” enough already. Rarely do we receive practical advice on exactly how to demonstrate our qualities, rather than list them. When you can do this, you provide a more authentic glimpse of who you really are.

If you read the following sentences from two different applicants, which one would you think was more giving?

  • Applicant #1: I am a very giving person.
  • Applicant #2: I volunteer 4 hours every week to work at the homeless shelter.

You’d probably choose applicant #2, even though they never used the word “giving” in their sentence. As a reader, we extrapolate how giving that applicant is.

Going back to the intro paragraphs above, we can see that the typical one “tells” about the applicant’s qualities, whereas the better paragraph “shows” the applicant’s qualities.

More Medical School Personal Statement Examples :

Typical introductions:

  • “I wanted to give the best patient care possible…” (giving)
  • “This lingering lack of fulfillment has served as a great motivator to find ways to do more” (motivated)

Better introductions:

  • “…the music skills I honed over the past decade…” (dedicated)
  • “…training the 8-member band of 10-13 year-olds from the inner city to join me on that same stage.” (giving, empowering)
  • “I was nervous because this performance was for them; I needed to be at my best.” (selfless, motivated)

Strive to let your accomplishments, approaches, and insights speak for themselves. Describe your work in an engaging way and let the reader do the complimenting for you.

Some applicants make the mistake of putting the focus on supporting characters, like a parent or patient, making them more compelling than themselves or sharing the limelight. But the best personal statements maintain the focus on the applicant.

Like any great story, your personal statement should highlight a compelling character. But that character, the star of your story, should always be YOU. There is nothing wrong with including another character in your personal statement’s story. But other characters should only be used to demonstrate your qualities, whether through an interaction you had or an insight you gained after.

Returning to our examples above:

In the typical paragraph, Mary and the applicant are co-leads in the story. We don’t even read about the applicant or her insights until the fourth sentence. Mary seems just as impressive as the applicant.

The better paragraph is all about the applicant — her concerns, dedication, and motivations. Even though she mentions the inner-city youth, they serve only to demonstrate the applicant’s qualities.

Your opportunity to impress med school admissions committees with your personal statement is limited to 5,300 characters. Strive to keep the focus nearly entirely on you.

Know ahead of time that your first draft is just that — a first draft. Once you get something on the page, you can start rewriting and revising it into the perfect statement.

Explaining the answer to “Why I want to be a doctor” can be overwhelming. Many applicants end up making the mistake of answering a different question: “What have I done that qualifies me for medical school?” The result is a tedious list of GPAs and MCAT scores that make personal statements read like a resume.

A better approach is not to focus on the question that your essay will answer, but on the personal aspects of your experiences on earth that shaped who you are — a person whose goals and values align with entering the medical profession.

More common mistakes to avoid:

  • Not being concise
  • Using clichés
  • Breaking character limits
  • Not using transitions between paragraphs and topics
  • Not getting a second opinion or consulting an expert

There are some red flags to keep in mind as well. Admissions experts will not be impressed with:

  • Arrogance or narcissism
  • Self-deprecation or lack of confidence
  • Unexplained gaps in education
  • Generalizations
  • Poor grammar
  • Lack of passion

Read Next: A Guide To Medical Schools That Don’t Require The MCAT

What is the AMCAS personal statement prompt?

The AMCAS personal statement prompt is: Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.

How many characters are allowed in the medical school personal statement?

You can use up to 5,300 characters in the medical school personal statement sections of the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications . Spaces count as characters. You’ll have roughly 500 words to write.

How long should a personal statement be for medical school?

A personal statement for medical school should be approximately one page. It should be long enough to take a deep look at a transformative experience or concept.

What personal statement topics should I avoid?

There are no specific topics that you should completely avoid in your personal statement outside of openly offensive topics. You may receive advice to steer clear of topics like mental health, having a parent who’s a doctor, or volunteer work. But it’s not these topics themselves that are a problem; how you use these stories and experiences to show your personality and character is what matters.

Your personal statement is one of the few times in the medical school application process where your personality, experiences, and uniqueness can shine through. It’s too important to leave it to guesswork, particularly if you’re reapplying !

Work with experienced Writing Advisors and Physician Advisors to give your personal statement the X factor sure to be noticed by admissions committees. Many of our advisors are former AdComs !

Related posts:

  • Why I Picked UC Denver
  • Finding the Perfect Research Project
  • How to Succeed on Medical School Interview Day
  • How to Answer “What is the Biggest Healthcare Problem” During an Interview

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The Importance of the Personal Statement

The personal statement is so important because it helps the admissions committee connect with and understand you and make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. They’re going to be less willing to take a risk on a student they think will be unhappy as a physician. So if your personal statement reads like you’re going into medicine for the wrong reasons (money, prestige, parental pressure, etc.), they’re unlikely to admit you even if you have great stats.

It’s in your best interest to ensure that you have enough exposure to the field to be sure that this is the right career for you. Otherwise, you might find yourself burned out and miserable early in your career or leave medicine altogether. There is no single right reason to become a physician, but pursuing medicine should, at the very least, be an informed decision.

Like nearly everything in this process, how each school weighs the personal statement depends on the school. Many schools will rely heavily on the personal statement when deciding whether to offer a student an interview, and other schools may weigh other sections more heavily.

Since you can’t know or control how the admissions committee will evaluate your personal statement, you should focus on doing your best on each aspect of the medical school application.

When Should You Write the Personal Statement?

Most students find that the personal statement takes longer than they think it will. You don’t want to be caught not giving yourself enough time to write a great personal statement, so starting early is critical. Because of the time required to draft the personal statement, we recommend beginning in January of the year you apply to medical school.

You might be tempted to try to write the perfect personal statement on your first try or feel like you have to. This kind of thinking will only hold you back and keep you from getting started.

This very early stage of drafting might just look like brainstorming and listing all of the stories you might want to include in your personal statement. It’s also a good time to journal and reflect on your journey so far so that you can dig deeper in your personal statement and activity descriptions .

Starting early gives you plenty of time to write the personal statement, edit your drafts, get feedback from fresh eyes, and polish it. Taking time away from it between drafts will also give you the perspective to be able to evaluate your own work.

Ideally, you’re journaling and reflecting long before it’s time to actually sit down and write the personal statement. How you do this journaling is up to what makes sense for you. You can do it in a physical journal, a spreadsheet, a word document, or in the journal entry space in Mappd whenever you go to log your hours. This way, even if you’ve forgotten the details or the impact of an experience when you go to write your personal statement, you can refresh it in your mind.

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

How Long is the Personal Statement?

AACOMAS and AMCAS cap the personal statement at 5,300 characters, including spaces. TMDSAS allots 5,000 characters for the personal statement, also including spaces. While you don’t have to use every character available to you, you should aim for a length of at least 5,000 characters for AACOMAS and AMCAS. Anything shorter may not have enough substance or may not flow as well as a slightly longer essay would.

If you’re really struggling to come up with enough material for your personal statement, this might be a clue that you haven’t had enough experience to prove to yourself that you want to be a physician. Or it might be a sign that you haven’t reflected on your experiences deeply enough. Either way, this should be a sign to take a hard look at your journey so far and look for any shortcomings. You want to find and fix these before you hit submit on your application.

What Makes a Great Personal Statement?

The best personal statements tell a story that is authentic to the student writing it. You should aim to engage the senses of the reader and let them in on what you felt emotionally. The best and easiest way to do this is to focus on showing vs. telling. If you need advice on how to do this effectively, you can find plenty of guides and articles online about showing and effective storytelling.

You might need to spend your first draft just getting the facts down and then reword a lot of it to do more showing as you revise and edit, and that’s okay. Focus on improving each draft and emphasizing showing by the final draft instead of getting stuck on doing it perfectly from the very beginning.

You also want to start in a way that makes the admissions officer want to keep reading. Keep in mind that the personal statement doesn’t have to be in chronological order, so you can start with the most interesting part of your story.

As you get into the later stages of editing, you can also rearrange the pieces and see which order is the most interesting to read. This is a place where having another set of eyes can be incredibly helpful in giving feedback on whether things make sense or flow well.

By the end of a great personal statement, the reader knows and deeply understands why you want to be a doctor because they went along the journey with you. They saw your first interaction with a patient and felt what you felt as you held your mother’s hand in the hospital. It makes complete sense that your path has led you here and that this is what you want to do.

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

Should You Worry About Being Cliche?

Many students worry that their personal statement is cliche because their experiences are common. Common and cliché are not the same thing. The basic facts of a story might be common, but once you add your unique reflection and your unique background, it moves beyond that. If you don’t add anything to make it specific to your story, then it will be cliché. As long as you focus on your story and how you got here, someone will be able to connect with your story and want to get to know you better.

Reflection is the Key

One of the biggest mistakes students make in both their personal statement and activity descriptions is focusing too much on the what and not enough on the why – why these experiences matter.

You can tell the most interesting story in the world, but if you don’t dig deeper and explain why these experiences affected you and made you want to be a physician, your story won’t have any lasting impact on the reader.

In order to help someone else understand why you want to be a doctor, you need to fully understand that yourself. This will help make sure that you’re making the right decision, and it will allow you to tell your story more clearly and with a greater impact on the reader.

Then, once you fully understand for yourself your why and all of your reasons, you can more easily express that to the reader. You should follow each anecdote and each experience with a reflection on why that particular experience was so meaningful to you. What impact did it have on your journey? How did it strengthen your desire to become a physician? What did you learn from it?

You don’t have space to answer all of these questions for every story, but they’re the questions you should ask yourself, and then focus on the most important takeaway when writing. You should focus on the lessons or experiences that strengthened your desire to be a physician. Resist the temptation to describe what you learned about being a physician or the temptation to lean into the generic.

A Strong Send-Off

Just like you want a strong hook at the start to pull the reader in, you also want a strong conclusion. When you’re writing an English paper, your conclusion is often a summary of everything you’ve said before. This is not true for the personal statement. Repeating yourself is a waste of the limited space you have and isn’t very interesting for the reader.

Instead, the conclusion is a great place to talk about what you hope to do as a physician. What kind of change do you want to make in the world? How will you make your school proud after you’ve received your diploma? Paint a picture of the kind of physician you want to be.

Editing the Personal Statement

Who should you ask.

The ideal person to edit your personal statement is someone with knowledge of the medical school application process and an understanding of what makes a good personal statement. A great first stop is your school’s pre-health advising office. Hopefully, your advisor will have enough experience to give you great feedback on your personal statement.

If you take time away from the personal statement between drafts, you will also be in a better place to evaluate your own work, and you might find the examples in The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Personal Statement helpful during this process.

If you ask someone in your life or a mentor to edit your personal statement, you can give them this review sheet to help guide their feedback. This is especially helpful if they’re not an expert on the medical school application process.

There are also lots of paid services out there. We also offer essay feedback services . Students who join Application Academy can submit their essays for feedback during class and get feedback from their fellow students and TAs.

Editing for Grammar

We recommend that in addition to using your word processor’s built-in spell check, you sign up for a free Grammarly * account. It will not only help with things like spelling and punctuation but will also help ensure your sentence structure is clear.

You can use Grammarly for your application essays, academic papers, and emails to professors asking for letters of recommendation. You should take care to make sure that your personal statement and other application essays are free of errors and typos.

A high amount of errors can be distracting to the reader and make it come across that you didn’t take enough time and care with your personal statement to proofread it thoroughly. Proofreading is a step in the editing process where it’s perfectly fine to have someone less knowledgeable about medical school applications look over your work since they’re not editing for content. If you know someone with really good attention to detail or who gets good grades on their own papers, ask them to look over it for you with an eye to grammatical errors and misspelled words.

What to Avoid In Your Personal Statement

While writing your personal statement, you should write your story authentically, and you should try to avoid anything that will make the admissions committee want to stop reading or view you in a negative light. Here are a few examples of things to avoid, and you can find more examples in The Premed Playbook Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement .

We all come away from our experiences with positive and negative things about them. However, you should avoid focusing on the negative aspects of your experiences when writing your medical school application.

People who are overly negative aren’t fun to be around and don’t make for very good classmates or community members. It’s easy to say no to a student who seems negative, as the admissions committee is building a community of students who will work closely together and rely on one another for the next four years.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about a time when you had a negative experience or can’t be honest. You should instead focus on what you learned from the situation and what positive aspects you can take from it.

You should not use your personal statement as an opportunity to rehash your resume. That isn’t interesting to read and is a waste of the opportunity you’re given to let the admissions committee understand your journey. You’ve already shared your most important activities and experiences in your activity descriptions. Focusing on your resume also does not answer the question that the personal statement is asking you, which is: why do you want to be a physician?

You can talk about research as part of your personal statement, but you should not focus on it. It’s better to talk about it in your conclusion as part of what you want to do as a physician rather than the driving force behind why you want to be a physician.

When a student focuses on research in their personal statement, it calls into question whether they have enough clinical experience to drive their interest in medicine or if they are more interested in lab work than patient care. Even if you are applying to MD/Ph.D. or DO/Ph.D. programs, you are given multiple other opportunities to talk about your research experiences so far and your future interest in it.

Emotional Topics

With this, you need to think carefully about how you will handle it if the topic is brought up in an interview. Anything you put in your application is fair game to be asked about in an interview, and you should keep that in mind.

Our cofounder Rachel Grubbs likes to advise students to discuss “scars, not wounds.” If the emotional topic is something you’ve already processed, it will be easier to talk about calmly during an interview. Tearing up is okay and human, but you don’t want to get so emotional that you find it difficult to continue your interview.

* This link is an affiliate link, meaning we receive a small commission when you sign up at no cost to you.

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what not to write in a medical school personal statement

The College Application

The Ultimate Medical School Personal Statement Guide: (w/ Prompts & Examples)

Writing an effective medical school personal statement.

You may be asking yourself why it’s important to write an effective medical school personal statement. Let’s look at the numbers.

According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in the 2019-2020 school year alone,  53,371 people applied to medical school.  Of those 53,371 prospective students, less than 22,000 were accepted. This is an acceptance rate of about 41%.

Getting into medical school is pretty much the gold standard for any college student. People are impressed when you tell them you’ve been accepted into graduate school, and they get really excited for you when they hear you’re working on a doctoral degree.

When you tell someone you’ve been accepted to medical school, though, is when they really become impressed. That’s because not just anyone can make it into med school. It takes someone special who stands out from the crowd.

Numerous doctors, psychiatrists, and researchers will tell you that every generation,  people are getting smarter . This is great for the human race as a whole, but it makes it that much harder for smart students to get into competitive programs.

It’s fine for you to have an exceptional GPA and great MCAT scores ( Read :  What’s a good MCAT score ), but if every other person applying to med school also has those things, it’s not exactly going to set you apart from anyone.

Limited Spots vs. Numerous Applicants

Each year, a limited number of spots open up for prospective medical school students, and every year, an excessive number of students try to win those coveted spots.

Because they understand how competitive this process is, in addition to keeping their grades up and scoring high on the MCAT, these students also intern in prestigious placements and put in hours of volunteer and community service.

Chances are if you’re applying to medical school, you’ve done these things too. So how do you make sure that your application stands out from the thousands of others from equally qualified students?

You have to write an effective, well-written, and memorable medical school personal statement for your admissions essay.

The personal statement is the one place in the entire application packet where you get to tell your story and shine a light on yourself. This is the place where you get to explain exactly why you’re more qualified and/or deserving of a spot in med school than every other applicant.

That’s why writing the perfect med school personal statement is so important.

Medical School Prerequisites

Before you can even apply to medical school, there are  several things  you have to do first. If at the time of reading this article, you’re already in the process of applying for med school, you’ve probably already taken care of most of these things.

Feel free to use this as a checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

Step 1: Choose the Right Major and Take the Right Classes

Traditionally, students who want to attend medical school major in one of the following subjects:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Sciences

Med school students can come from many different majors, though, including English, Sociology, Religion, and other fields.

The downside to coming to med school from one of these majors is that you may have to take a few extra classes to ensure you’ve taken the required courses for med school. For most schools, these include:

  • English – 1 year
  • Biochemistry – 1 year
  • Physics & Physics Lab – 1 year
  • Biology & Biology Lab – 1 year
  • General Chemistry & Chemistry Lab – 1 year
  • Organic Chemistry & Chemistry Lab – 1 year
  • Various Upper-Level Science-Related Courses & Electives

Most of the science majors have all of these courses as part of their main curriculum, which is why most students hoping to go to medical school major in those fields.

Step 2: Take the MCAT or Equivalent Standardized Test

If you’re headed to medical school in the United States, you have to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).

Read :  What’s the MCAT?

If you’re going to medical school in the UK, you’ll most likely be required to take the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) instead. Other countries have their own versions of this test, but at their core, they’re all very similar.

They’re all standardized exams that test students’ knowledge of various fields. The  majority of questions  focus on the hard sciences, but there are other questions as well.

Some of these include questions about sociology, psychology, and questions to test your critical thinking and analysis skills. Be sure to check out your prospective schools’ required minimum scores for admission.

Step 3: Get Some Experience

During your undergraduate years, you’ll also want to be obtaining  some real-world experience . Get out and do some volunteer work. Look for summer internships that place you inside doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Job shadow doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, etc.

Get a job in medical research if possible. Do whatever you can do to be able to show the med school admissions teams that you have real, relevant experience in the field of medicine.

The Admissions Process

The process of applying to a medical school in the United States is a little different than the process of applying to a med school in another country.

For example, in many countries outside the United States, you have to apply to each different medical school individually.

In the United States, though, no matter how many schools you plan on applying to, it all starts in one place:  the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) .

If you ever used the Common App to apply for colleges as an undergrad, you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to apply to med school using the AMCAS as a central application starting point.

Applying to medical school through the AMCAS is the first step in a two-step process. This application is your base application that gets sent out to all the medical schools to which you apply.

The AMCAS is a general, standard application. In it, you’ll provide colleges with all the basic information about yourself.

This includes the standard application information, such as your name, contact information, demographic information, education history, resume, transcripts, GPA and MCAT scores, etc.

You’ll then select the medical schools you’d like your application to be sent to, and you’ll be required to write your medical school personal statement.

It can take  up to six weeks  for your AMCAS application to be processed. During this time, the AAMC will be verifying your educational history and your course work.

After this process is complete, you’ll receive a copy of everything the AAMC verified on your application. If you disagree with something, you have ten days after you’ve been notified that your AMCAS has been processed to dispute it.

After that, your AMCAS application packet, along with verified course work and verified GPA, your list of work and/or volunteer experience and extracurricular activities, your MCAT scores, your letters of recommendation, and your medical school personal statement will be sent to each of the schools you expressed interested in attending.

It’s incredibly important that you enter everything exactly right the first time; otherwise, you could experience delays in processing. There are, though, a few sections on the AMCAS in which you’ll need to be especially careful.

Course Work

The coursework section of the AMCAS is extremely detailed. You have to list each course you’ve taken, how many credit hours it was worth, your grade in the course, whether you withdrew from or failed the course, whether you took it as a duplicate course, etc.

This goes all the way back to your freshman year of college. Have your transcript on-hand while taking care of this part of the AMCAS because messing up here is  the number one cause of processing delays .

Work/Activities (Extracurricular Activities)

In  this section , you’ll be able to list any relevant work and/or volunteer/internship experience you have. You’ll also be able to list any awards or honors you’ve received and any extracurricular activities worth mentioning.

There is one catch though. You can only enter a maximum of 15 separate activities. Once you’ve hit the 15 activities, you can’t enter anything else.

For this section, it’s important to note that the quality of the experience is much more important than the “quantity” of experiences you list. If you’re the type of person that was a part of everything and has three pages worth of work, volunteer experience, and extracurricular activities to discuss, you’re going to have to pick the 15 most impressive ones.

Letters of Recommendation

Although you won’t be asked to include any actual  letters of recommendation  on your AMCAS application, you’ll be asked to provide the contact information for the people you have asked to write your letters. Choose your references carefully.

Your Medical School Personal Statement

This is arguably one of the most important parts of your application. This is the section that can make you seem personable and memorable as opposed to just another application in the pile.

For the medical school personal statement on the AMCAS application, you’re allowed 5,300 characters, which is approximately one page.

This may not seem like a lot of room in which to write your story, but when you remember that over 50,000 people sent in almost 900,000 applications last year, you’ll understand why the admissions committee members want you to be brief. Despite the brevity, though, you still have to make this statement count.

Submitting the AMCAS

Once your  AMCAS application packet  has been processed, it -along with your transcripts and letters of recommendation- will be sent to the medical schools you selected on the application. There’s a separate fee for each school, so double-check the cost before submitting to each new school.

These schools will look at your initial application, and then they’ll likely request some secondary information from you. This is the second step of the two-step process. Each school’s application process at this point is different. Some may send you a list of yes or no questions to answer and send back to them.

Others will require you to write a more detailed, in-depth personal statement. These secondary personal statements are your second chance to shine and stand out from the crowd, so don’t take this lightly.

Secondary medical school personal statements are one of the few times in life you really do get a second chance to make a first impression. If you do well here, you’ll likely be called in for an interview.

Now let’s discuss these personal statements in a little more detail.

What is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is merely a statement – a short essay – that you write about yourself, your life, your story, your experiences, your goals, etc. For the AMCAS application, you’ll have a specific prompt to answer.

For the secondary school-specific applications, you’ll probably have different prompts to which you’ll be asked to respond.

In the rare case, a college asks you to write a second personal statement but doesn’t provide you with a prompt to guide your writing, there are several things you can include.

First of all, make sure you list the characteristics you possess that would make you a good fit for the medical field. Then talk about a time you demonstrated these exceptional characteristics.

Some qualities that make for a good physician are:

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Experience with and appreciation for diversity
  • A strict code of ethics and a good moral compass
  • A desire to serve and help others
  • Good people and communication skills
  • Kindness, a strong work ethic, and grace under pressure

It’s important to present these things like you’re telling a really good story. You can’t be dry and boring, or your application is likely going to be lost to the bottom of the pile.

You might also mention why you were attracted to the medical field in the first place and what your goals are after successfully completing medical school.

Talk about your passions and the things you hope to achieve once you’re an established physician.

Also:   Check out the Best Laptop for Medical School Guide here

Medical School Personal Statement Prompts

Prompt 1: the amcas prompt – use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school..

Remember, for this particular personal statement, you’re only allowed 5,300 characters to thoroughly answer the prompt. That’s 5,300 characters, not words, and that does include spaces.

That doesn’t give you a ton of space to write about yourself, but regardless of that, you still have to find a way to make an impression with your statement.

In this small amount of space, you have two main goals. The first is to tell the admissions committee who you are outside of all the dry information they’re getting about you in your transcripts and scores.

You’re not just telling them who you are; you’re also telling them what it is about you that makes you deserve a request for a second application. You have to sell yourself to this committee and make them want to know more about you.

Secondly, you have to answer the prompt directly. The question asks why you want to go to medical school. You have to address that.

Otherwise, you’ve ignored the prompt completely, which shows the committee that you’re not great at following instructions and that you probably don’t have a clear idea of why you’re interested in med school.

The personal statement is the humanizing part of the application. You have to make the committee see you as a person with dreams, goals, and a desire to better the world somehow.

If the word count permits, talking about why you became interested in medicine in the first place is a great way to lead into why you’ve chosen medicine and what you plan to do with your degree once you’ve earned it.

You don’t have a lot of room here, so you don’t need to waste words with a long introduction or a humbling portion that talks about a weakness you’re hoping to overcome.

In this personal statement, it’s all about highlighting those strengths unique to you that would make you an excellent doctor.

Prompt 2: What aspect of [this school] appeals most to you?

While answering this question, you can easily showcase your specific interests in the field of medicine while also sticking to the prompt.

For example, if that school is well-known for its obstetrics program, and that’s the field you’re interested in pursuing, you can still use the format we’ve outlined above.

You start by talking about what got you interested in obstetrics in the first place, and then you transition into your plans for the future. Along the way, you talk about how and why that particular school’s obstetrician program is the perfect fit for you.

You can discuss the specific elements of the program you’re particularly excited about learning and address how the program will help you achieve your future career goals.

Prompt 3: Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a physician.

This is a great opportunity for you to talk about triumphs in your life. It’s also a question that really allows you to showcase your positive characteristics and attributes.

You take a time in your life when you faced some hardship, and then you dive into talking about exactly how your strengths allowed you to overcome that hardship.

Be sure you explain how that particular situation shaped your morals and your worldview. What about that experience made you the person you are today, and how does that tie in with your goals for your future?

Once you’ve done that, you’ve tied it back into the general prompt and can follow the guidelines outlined above.

Prompt 4: Where do you see yourself in your career 15 to 20 years from now?

Honestly, this prompt is just another way of asking the AMCAS prompt of why you want to go to medical school, only with this one, you’re going to spend a little bit more time talking about your future goals than you do talking about why you became interested in medicine in the first place.

The format for answering this one, though, is just the same as answering the AMCAS prompt.

You’ll start by touching on those characteristics that are likely to make you a successful physician. You can then transition into what, specifically, you plan to do in the medical field and what inspired you to make that choice.

Then you move straight into talking about your after-med-school plans for your future. Be sure to answer the prompt though. Notice that it says “15 to 20 years from now.”

By then, you should be fairly well established and have a decent career. Talk about that point in your career, not the ‘fresh out of med school, first residency’ part of your career.

Standard Medical School Personal Statement Format

Despite the prompt you’re given – or whether you’re given a prompt at all – there is a general format you’ll use when writing your med school personal statement.

When it comes to the AMCAS statement, this format is a little different because you’re encouraged simply to type it up in the text box on the application.

With that in mind, you won’t be able to set margins or choose a font or anything like that. If you want to type your statement up in another window first, do it in something simple and format-free, like Notepad.

Otherwise, you run the risk of your essay not showing up as text in the text box. It may end up looking like gibberish, and you absolutely cannot edit that portion of your application once it’s been processed. It’s best just to type it in the text box and submit.

For the secondary essays and personal statements sent to each individual college, though, you won’t always have to type them in a text box. For these, you’ll use the same basic formatting guidelines, unless otherwise noted in the college’s specific personal statement instructions.

These include:

  • Using MLA formatting
  • Margins set at one-inch on every side
  • 12-point font size (Arial/Times New Roman)
  • Uniformly double-spaced
  • No extra lines between paragraphs
  • Use first-line indentation for new paragraphs

You’ll also use the same general formatting style in setting up the structure of your personal statement. As with most essays, you’ll have an introduction, some body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Again, this is only true of the secondary personal statements you receive from the individual colleges.

For the AMCAS personal statement, you won’t have a lot of room, so you’ll want to use introductory and conclusion sentences rather than paragraphs, leaving room for most of your actual information in the body of the personal statement.

Step 1. Introduction

Your main objective in the introduction is to  catch the reader’s attention  and make him want to keep reading out of interest rather than obligation.

In a general, “tell us about yourself” type of prompt, you’ll pick two or three of the qualities you possess that you feel would be most desirable in a doctor and mention how those three qualities are important facets of your character.

For other types of prompts, you’ll use your introduction to set the tone for your story. Whatever story you’re about to tell to answer the prompt, this paragraph is your lead-in. Set the tone and the stage for what you’re about to say, and let your body paragraphs follow smoothly and seamlessly after.

Step 2. Body Paragraphs

In this section, you’ll tell your story, and it truly does need to be a story. People who work in the admissions offices of medical schools are tasked with reading literally thousands of personal statements each year.

Many of these are full of anecdotes or overused cliches. Others are just horribly boring. It’s important that your story is entertaining, honest, and memorable.

Whatever story you were building up to telling in your introductory paragraph, now’s the time to tell it. There’s an old writer’s adage that says,  “Show; don’t tell.”  That’s what you need to do in your body paragraphs.

You must paint a picture for the reader. Allow him to see the story you’re laying out for him. This way, you’re engaging him in a story, not just talking at him.

Don’t assume this means being lengthy and rambling though. Always stick to the point, and don’t add a lot of unnecessary details.

Whatever the prompt, you also want to use these body paragraphs to work in something that talks about why medicine is your chosen field.

There are five main questions you should answer in the body paragraphs, even if the prompt doesn’t guide you to these questions specifically. They are:

  • What was the experience that made you want to become a physician?
  • How did you feel during this experience?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • How did it affect you, your community, and your worldview?
  • What about it made you want to pursue medicine?

No matter what the specific prompt is – unless, of course, it’s something crazy like, “What’s your favorite color in the rainbow?” – you should be able to find a natural, organic way to work this into your medical school personal statement.

Step 3. Conclusion

In the conclusion paragraph, you’ll wrap everything up and make it all fit together neatly. This is the point where you change from  ‘show; don’t tell’  to  ‘state it boldly and explicitly.’  

Restate those two or three main qualities you mentioned having. Then briefly, within one or two sentences, talk about your perspective on the event/story you told in your body paragraphs. Finally, once again proclaim your passage for the medical field.

Medical School Personal Statement Cliches to Avoid

We’ve already discussed some of the things you need to do while writing your personal statement for med school. Now let’s discuss some things you definitely should not do.

1. Don’t Rewrite Your Application

First of all, don’t simply repeat your resume and AMCAS application information. The admissions department has already looked through your application.

They already know what courses you’ve taken, what your GPA and MCAT scores look like, and what types of relevant experience you have. Don’t tell them all of that again.

This is your chance to be unique and tell them something they don’t already know about you. Don’t waste words on things they can read in your application packet.

2. Don’t Be a Snob

Highlighting your strengths and accomplishments is perfectly fine in your personal statement. You want to be impressive.

What you don’t want to do is come off as sounding like a pretentious snob who thinks he’s better than everyone else. You have to find the perfect balance between bragging about yourself and beating people over the head with how great you are.

3. Don’t Fill Your Personal Statement with Overused Cliches

Telling a short personal anecdote isn’t necessarily a bad thing; although you should be aware that many other people will start their personal statements in exactly the same way.

If you do use a personal anecdote, though, keep it to one. Don’t use one after the other after the other , and avoid cliches like the plague!

It’s okay to talk about your goals and how you plan to use your career in medicine to better the world, but you can’t just come out and say things like, “I want to make the world a better place.”

Of course, you do. We all want that. Saying it in those bald-face terms, though, just sounds silly. An  article in US News  recently discussed cliche topics to avoid specifically in medical school personal statements.

These included listing the reason you wanted to be a doctor as having anything to do with regular doctor visits as a child, overstating your  “innate passion for medicine,”  beginning a personal statement with a patient anecdote about  “Patient X”  and/or talking about how you saved someone’s life.

Other overused topics that have become a cliche in medical school personal statements are:

  • The doctor who saved my life
  • “I broke a bone when I was little, and the doctor made me feel better, so I’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since.”
  • The desire to cure an incurable disease
  • The desire to make a (usually deceased) family member proud
  • Generic  “I want to save lives”  statements
  • Coming from a long line of doctors

4. Don’t Victimize Yourself

It’s okay to talk about times in your life when you’ve overcome adversity, especially if that’s what the prompt asks, but don’t keep heaping on the bad.

Overcoming adversity is admirable, but discussing every injustice that’s ever been done to you in your life just makes you look like you’re whining and looking for special treatment because your life has been hard.

5. Don’t Talk Like a Thesaurus

If the admissions team has to look up the definition of words you’ve used in your personal statement, it’s ostentatious and derisory. ( See what I did there? Annoying, right? ) The admissions department is looking for quality med school applicants, not wordsmiths.

6. Don’t Write Outside the Character/Word/Page Limit

If you’re given a range of “ between x-y words ” (or characters), fall within that range! Don’t give the admissions department less than they asked you to give them; it makes you seem lazy and uninspired.

On the other hand, don’t give them more than what they’ve asked you to write either. It’s disrespectful. You must recognize that they have thousands of essays to read, and every person who goes over the maximum word or character count is just adding more work to their already busy days. Plus, it shows a lack of editing.

Medical School Personal Statement Examples

Example personal statement 1.

“This realization became clear to me in the mountains of Nepal, but the decision was an evolution that began long ago. Lego building blocks as a child were my first introduction to engineering, then came the integration of mechanics and movement with robotics in high school, and eventually human biomechanics as an engineer in college. With these courses I learned to see the body in a new and amazing way. Engineering enabled me to envision muscles not as simple contractile tissues, but as the motors for the pulleys that move our bones. Biomechanics made bones evolve from static connectors into the dynamic moment-arms of life. This fascination with the human body drives my interest in orthopedics and, coupled with my love of patients and surgery, will provide me with a career of continuous discovery and fulfillment.”

– Read the rest  here

This is a great example of a body paragraph in a personal statement. The writer is giving us a great explanation of why he’s interested in medicine (orthopedics specifically) and letting us know that he’s been cultivating this interest practically his entire life, but he’s doing so without using that tired old cliche, “ I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember .”

Additionally, the way he writes and his vocabulary show us that he’s intelligent without him ever having to state that fact himself. He gives a glimpse into what his future goals and plans are, and his image of combining his “ interest in orthopedics ” and “ love of patients and surgery ” for “ a career of continuous discovery and fulfillment ” is an excellent mental picture with which to leave us.

We finish reading this and are left with a feeling that this young man is going to do great things in his career, and never once did he have to come out and say it himself.

Our Verdict:  

Image of a smiling face with heart-shaped eyes emoji

Example Personal Statement 2

“I was never supposed to become a doctor; that title was meant for my older brother, Jake. My parents held Jake to the highest standard when it came to academics. They did not deem me worthy of being held to the same standard, so I grew up believing I would never be able to outdo him in academics. This notion of intellectual inferiority combined with my childhood success in athletics motivated me to focus on developing as an athlete rather than a student. So why am I applying to medical school and not playing professional baseball? Well, science captivated my attention in 11th grade and hasn’t let go.”

The opening sentence of this personal statement is quite good. It takes the opposite stance of the commonly overused med school cliche’ “ I’ve always wanted to be a doctor .”

Instead, this writer tells us that he was never supposed to be a doctor. That’s an interesting, unique way to start a personal statement. It’s a good hook, and it makes us want to read further to find out what changed.

As we read on, though, we don’t get an immediate explanation. Instead, the writer wastes a ton of words continuing to talk about his brother’s strengths and his own weaknesses.

If this were a novel or even a novella, this would be fine, but in the AMCAS personal statement, you only have 5,300 characters to get to the point. This writer is wasting many precious characters, and even worse, he’s wasting them on talking negatively about himself.

It isn’t until the sixth sentence that we find out what changed, and even then, the explanation is a weak one. This is an example of a writer misunderstanding the “ Show; don’t tell ” adage and using up too much space and time to get to the point.

Our Verdict:

An image of an unamused face emoji

Example Personal Statement 3

“My passion for medicine was planted by my mother’s accident, sculpted by accompanying the elderly woman and transformed by working alongside physicians in underserved communities. I feel humbled that during my journey, many patients have given me their trust to emotionally support them in difficult times. One day I will apply my knowledge and training in medicine to serve as their companion in their most vulnerable time.”

This is an example of a conclusion paragraph that’s well done. The writer restates her main points and reminds us of her passion for medicine, but she does so in a way that doesn’t just have her repeating everything she’s already said.

Instead, she briefly touches on the three main milestones in her journey that she’s already covered in-depth earlier in her statement.

She reminds us that she initially became interested in medicine due to an accident she witnessed with her mother. Then she reminds us of a nice story she told in the middle of her statement about her volunteer experience working with the elderly in the hospital and explains how that encounter shaped the type of doctor she wanted to be.

Then she reminds us of another piece of her essay, where she talked about her work with the poor and homeless and how that work reshaped her goals for medicine.

Finally, she restates some of her best qualities (trustworthy, warm, smart, well-trained) and gives us a vision for her future. This was a perfectly written conclusion to an equally good personal statement.

Image of a star-struck grinning emoji

Example Personal Statement 4

“I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion.

As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor.

I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness.”

While the overall tone and writing style of this writer isn’t bad, she somehow manages to use  three  of the most overused cliches prospective students are told to avoid when writing their personal statements.

She starts out with the innate desire to be a doctor dating back to childhood. Then she moves into how she had frequent doctor visits and how much she loved her interactions with her pediatrician.

Finally, she uses a third cliche topic by talking about being hospitalized as a teenager and how much that experience shaped her future goals of working in medicine.

While the essay itself isn’t badly written, it also isn’t memorable or remarkable because she’s using the exact same types of stories of thousands of other applicants.

Image of face with rolling eyes emoji

Example Personal Statement 5

“When I was six years old, I lost my father […]. He was in a coma for four days before he passed away. The images of my father — barely alive, barely recognizable, and connected to multiple machines — are among my earliest memories of medicine and hospitals. Too young to understand the complications of his accident and the irreversible brain damage he suffered, I was a child who thought that medicine had failed. I associated medicine with loss. Fortunately, [my family full of physicians] introduced me to another side of health care, and together they inspired me to seek out other experiences in the medical field.”

Although this writer begins in what seems like another cliche story of loss inspiring the desire to be a doctor, the way he changes the narrative and surprises us makes the cliche work for him.

Most prospective students have stories about how a loved one was in the hospital or dying and watching that person struggle inspired them to study medicine and help save other children from having to watch their own loved ones die.

Instead, this writer surprises us by telling us watching his dad die in the hospital gave him a bad taste for medicine. It gave him a negative association between medicine and failure.

This is just different and unique enough that it draws us in and makes us want to read more. If this young man hated medicine so much, why does he want to go to med school?

The desire to find the answer to that one question is enough to hook us and make us want to keep reading. This is a great example of how an introductory paragraph can grab our attention right away.

With nearly 60% of medical school applicants getting rejected every year, it’s extremely important you turn in the best medical school application packet possible.

This means taking all the right courses, maintaining good grades and a stellar GPA, volunteering in meaningful places, and writing a memorable medical school personal statement.

The importance of the personal statement cannot be overstated. It’s the one area in the whole application where you get to make yourself as appealing and as unforgettable as possible, so make sure you invest an appropriate amount of time, effort, and editing into it ( and we have packages just for that here ).

Avoid using overused cliches. Highlight your most impressive strengths. Use proper grammar, formatting, and punctuation. Spell and grammar check everything ( we recommend Grammarly ) and stay within the mandated word/character range.

Most importantly, show the admissions team that you have a passion for medicine and that they won’t be disappointed in the results if they give you a spot at their school.

You already know how great you are. Now it’s time to show them.

Related Reading:

5 Best MCAT Prep Books, According to Med Students

5 Best MCAT Prep Courses, According to Med Students

10 Best Books for Psychology Students Today

The Best Laptop for Medical School in 2022, According to Med Students (Easy Guide)

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Guide to Writing a Medical School Personal Statement

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Don't underestimate the importance of your personal statement in your medical school application . Your GPA and MCAT scores show that you are academically capable, but they do not tell the admissions committee what type of person you are. Who you are matters, and the personal statement is the place to tell your story.

Tips for a Winning Med School Personal Statement

  • Make sure your personal statement is "personal." It needs to capture your personality and interests. What makes you uniquely you?
  • Clearly and convincingly present your reasons for wanting to attend medical school.
  • Don't summarize your activities, accomplishments, or coursework. Other parts of your application will convey that information.
  • Use logical organization, flawless grammar, and an engaging style.

The medical school admissions process is holistic , and the admissions folks want to enroll students who are articulate, empathetic, and passionate about medicine. Your personal statement provides you an opportunity to make the case that you have what it takes to succeed in medical school and that you will contribute to the campus community in positive ways.

You will want to put significant thought and time into your personal statement since it will play a role in all of your medical school applications. Nearly all medical schools in the United States use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) to manage their applications, much like hundreds of undergraduate institutions use the Common Application. With AMCAS, the prompt for the personal statement is pleasingly (and perhaps frustratingly) broad:

Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.

This simple prompt allows you to write about almost anything, but some topics will be much more effective than others.

Choosing Personal Statement Topics

A medical school personal statement is relatively short (less than 1/3 the length of this article), so you'll need to be selective when deciding what to include. As you identify your areas of focus, always keep the prompt in mind—your personal statement needs to explain why you want to go to medical school. If you find yourself straying from that goal, you'll want to refocus and get back on track.

Successful medical applicants typically include several of these topics in their personal statements:

  • A meaningful academic experience. Did you take a specific class that truly fascinated you or convinced you that you want to pursue a career in medicine? Did you have a professor who you found inspiring? Explain how the academic experience affected you and how it relates to your current desire to go to medical school.
  • A research or internship experience. If you had the opportunity to conduct research in a science laboratory or intern at a medical facility, this type of hands-on experience is an excellent choice for inclusion in your personal statement. What did you learn from the experience? How did your attitude towards medicine change when you worked side-by-side with medical professionals? Did you gain a mentor from the experience? If so, explain how that relationship affected you.
  • A shadowing opportunity. A significant percentage of medical school applicants shadow a doctor during their undergraduate years. What did you learn about the real-world practice of being a doctor? If you were able to shadow more than one type of physician, compare those experiences? Does one type of medical practice appeal to you more than another? Why?
  • Community service. Medicine is a service profession—a doctor's primary job duty is helping others. The strongest medical school applications show that the applicant has an active history of service. Have you volunteered at your local hospital or free clinic? Have you helped raise money or awareness for a health-related issue? Even service that has nothing to do with the health professions can be worth mentioning, for it speaks to your generous character. Show that you aren't in this profession for you, but for others including those who are often underserved and underrepresented.
  • Your personal journey. Some students have a personal history that is integral to their desire to become a doctor. Did you grow up in a medical family? Did serious health concerns of family or friends raise your awareness of the work doctor's do or motivate you to want to solve a medical problem? Do you have an interesting background that would be an asset to the medical profession such as fluency in more than one language or an unusual range of cultural experiences?
  • Your career goals. Presumably, if you are applying to medical school, you have a career goal in mind for after you earn your M.D. What do you hope to accomplish with your medical degree. What do you hope to contribute to the field of medicine?

Topics to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

While you have many choices about the type of content you can include in your personal statement, there are several topics that you would be wise to avoid.

  • Avoid discussion of salary. Even if one factor that draws you to medicine is the potential to earn a lot of money, this information does not belong in your personal statement. You don't want to come across as materialistic, and the most successful medical students love medicine, not money.
  • Avoid early childhood stories. A brief anecdote about childhood can be fine in a personal statement, but you don't want to write entire paragraphs about your visit to a hospital in second grade or how you played doctor with your dolls as a young child. The medical school wants to get to know the person you are now, not the person you were over a decade ago.
  • Avoid presenting television as an inspiration. Sure, your interest in medicine may have begun with Grey's Anatomy , House , The Good Doctor or one of the dozens of other medical dramas on television, but these shows are fiction, and all fail to capture the realities of the medical profession. A personal statement that focuses on a television show can be a red flag, and the admissions committee may worry that you have some sanitized, exaggerated, or romanticized notion of what it means to be a doctor.
  • Avoid talk of school rankings and prestige. Your choice of a medical school should be based on the education and experience you will get, not the school's U.S. News & World Report ranking. If you state that you are applying exclusively to the top-ranked medical schools or that you want to attend a prestigious school, you may come across as someone who is more concerned with surfaces than substance.

How to Structure Your Personal Statement

There is no single best way to structure your personal statement, and the admissions committee would get quite bored if every statement followed the exact same outline. That said, you do want to make sure each point you make in your statement flows logically from what precedes it. This sample structure will give you a good starting point for conceptualizing and crafting your own personal statement:

  • Paragraph 1: Explain how you became interested in medicine. What are the roots of your interest, and what about the field appeals to you and why?
  • Paragraph 2: Identify an academic experience that affirmed your interest in medicine. Don't simply summarize your transcript. Talk about a specific class or classroom experience that inspired you or helped you develop the skills that will help you succeed in medical school. Realize that a public speaking, writing, or student leadership class can be just as important as that cellular biology lab. Many types of skills are important for physicians.
  • Paragraph 3: Discuss a non-academic experience that has affirmed your interest in medicine. Did you intern in a biology, chemistry or medical laboratory? Did you shadow a doctor? Did you volunteer at a local hospital or clinic? Explain the importance of this activity to you.
  • Paragraph 4: Articulate what you will bring to the medical school. Your essay shouldn't be entirely about what you will get out of med school, but what you will contribute to the campus community. Do you have a background or experiences that will enrich the diversity of campus? Do you have leadership or collaborative skills that are a good match for the medical profession? Do you have a history of giving back through community service?
  • Paragraph 5: Here you can look to the future. What are your career goals, and how will medical school help you achieve those goals.

Again, this is just a suggested outline. A personal statement may have four paragraphs, or it may have more than five. Some students have unique situations or experiences that aren't included in this outline, and you may find that a different method of organization works best for telling your story.

Finally, as you outline your personal statement, don't worry about being exhaustive and covering everything you have done. You'll have plenty of space elsewhere to list and describe all of your extracurricular and research experiences, and your transcript will give a good indication of your academic preparation. You don't have a lot of space, so identify a couple important experiences from your undergraduate years and a couple character traits you want to emphasize, and then weave that material into a focused narrative.

Tips for Personal Statement Success

Well-structured, carefully-selected content is certainly essential to a successful medical school personal statement, but you need to consider a few more factors as well.

  • Watch for commonplace and cliché statements. If you claim that your primary motivation for becoming a doctor is that you "love helping others," you need to be more specific. Nurses, auto mechanics, teachers, and waiters also help others. Ideally your statement does reveal your giving personality, but make sure you stay focused on the specific type of service doctors provide.
  • Pay careful attention to length guidelines. The AMCAS application allows 5,300 characters including spaces. This is roughly 1.5 pages or 500 words. Going under this length is fine, and a tight 400-word personal statement is far preferable to a 500-word statement filled with digressions, wordiness, and redundancy. If you aren't using the AMCAS form, your personal statement should never go over the stated length limit.
  • Attend to grammar and punctuation. Your personal statement should be error-free. "Good enough" isn't good enough. If you struggle with grammar or don't know where commas belong , get help from your college's writing center or career center. If necessary, hire a professional editor.
  • Use an engaging style. Good grammar and punctuation are necessary, but they won't bring your personal statement to life. You'll want to avoid common style problems such as wordiness, vague language, and passive voice. A strong statement pulls the reader in with its engaging narrative and impressive clarity.
  • Be yourself. Keep the purpose of the personal statement in mind as you write: you are helping the admissions officers get to know you. Don't be afraid to let your personality come through in your statement, and make sure your language is natural to you. If you try too hard to impress your reader with a sophisticated vocabulary or jargon-filled description of your research experiences, your efforts are likely to backfire.
  • Revise, revise, revise. The most successful medical applicants often spend weeks if not months writing and rewriting their personal statements. Be sure to get feedback from multiple knowledgeable people. Be meticulous, and revisit your statement many times. Almost no one writes a good statement in a single sitting.
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what not to write in a medical school personal statement

6 Medical School Personal Statement Topics to Avoid

April 3, 2018

what not to write in a medical school personal statement

We all know that your GPA and MCAT score are important metrics when applying to medical schools. But it’s your medical school personal statement that makes you truly stand out as a dynamic human being who is more than just numbers. While there’s a lot of opportunity within the personal statement to show who you are, why you’re unique, and why you’re passionate about medicine, there are also a lot of potential mistakes you can make. In fact, many applicants immediately go awry with the first step by selecting poor medical school personal statement topics .

Phenomenal candidates face medical school rejection every year after choosing bad medical school personal statement topics . To make sure you avoid this common pitfall in the application process, here are 6 medical school personal statement topics to avoid:

1. Medical School Personal Statement Topics About the The Injured Athlete

I get it. I played a Division I sport in college, and I know just how important athletics can be to your development as a person—particularly when you overcome an injury. And most of the time, this type of experience is one that truly helped you on your path towards medical school. But you need to think about how admissions committee members will read this story.

First, tearing your ACL, for example, while horrible and tough to overcome, is not the same as battling cancer or some other life-threatening, long-term condition. In fact, when you do focus on something like an ACL tear, it calls into question whether you understand the full scope of medicine or have the right perspective.

Second, know your reader. Not every AdCom member is going to be a sports nut, and even if they are, medical school personal statement topics like this are all too  common. A story like this naturally grows boring after you’ve read a couple hundred similar essays.

Instead, focus on your personal background and development towards a career in medicine. Think about your clinical experience and patient interactions. Leave the epic sports story for Hollywood to tell.

2. Medical School Personal Statement Topics that Exaggerate Adversity

This example goes hand-in-hand with the sports injury. It’s all about putting your experiences in perspective.

While your own adversity has, without a doubt, played a role in your development towards medical school, you need to understand the bigger picture. There might be students applying to your schools who grew up homeless or experienced tragic losses in their lives. While that doesn’t mean your personal hardships aren’t meaningful, you do need to understand them in a comparative sense.

If you are someone who has experienced significant adversity in your life, work to keep the overall message of your personal statement positive. The emphasis should be on overcoming obstacles and growing in the face of hardship. If you’re someone who has had a stable upbringing, avoid the adversity narrative in which you describe overcoming a challenge. What you’ve faced will ring hollow when read alongside many other applicants in your pool.

3. Repeating Your Activities and Experiences Section

The personal statement is an incredible opportunity to say something new about yourself. Wasting that space by repeating your activities is a missed opportunity and an all too common mistake.

Many students fall into this trap without fully realizing it—mainly because applicants often feel that the personal statement is a place to cover all of their bases. But it isn’t. Focusing on 2-3 main stories or anecdotes as major, developmental moments of growth leads to a much stronger essay.

A good way to avoid falling into this trap is to sketch a general framework for how you plan to present yourself in your personal statement first; draft your activities descriptions second; and only then should you draft your essay. If you have already written out your descriptions, you should be able to clearly see the repetition if it arises. Regurgitating your resume will read as an uninspired medical school personal statement topic .

4. Telling Your Entire Life Story

While we’re on the topic of not trying to do too much… do not tell your entire life story. Some students have a tendency to try and cram in every major life event they’ve ever experienced into a single essay. The application is not your autobiography. Don’t make this mistake.

Medical school personal statement topics that attempt to cover everything you’ve ever done (because you have to do a lot of things before you apply to medical school) will read as completely unfocused. Every applicant has had a long and meaningful journey to get to this point. We don’t need to know every twist and turn!

Think about what your individual angle is:

  • Are you passionate about research?
  • Have you completed a significant amount of clinical work abroad?
  • Did one of your patient-relationships inspire you to pursue a specific field of medicine?
  • Are you passionate about healthcare policy reform?

Try to break down your general interest in applying to medical school, and think about highlighting your specific angle through the stories you tell with your medical school personal statement topic .

5. Other Professions are the Worst

Surprisingly enough, this is a very common mistake we see. For many students, their development towards this point has included exploring different professions, paths, and future options outside of medicine.

Choosing medicine in this case would result in having not chosen a different path. While that might not have been the right career for you, it is for many other people, so no need to put it down. The most common example of this is people who switch over from a finance or business track towards medicine.

The tendency is for students to assume some sort of moral high-ground for having followed a more “noble” profession. But when you focus on flaws, your application will read negatively. Rather, think about what you learned from your experiences in a different field, and how you can translate those skills towards becoming a better doctor.

Bottom line: always focus on the positives.

6. Your Parents are Doctors or Medical Professionals

For many applicants, you were first exposed to medicine through your parents.

That’s great, but that’s not necessarily personal to you . You don’t want to get caught up talking about how inspiring your parents were when you were growing up. Schools aren’t looking to admit your mom (no matter how great she is). They want to know more about you, your experiences, your perspective on the medical field, your passion for becoming a doctor, and your dedication to helping others. Always keep the focus on YOU with your medical school personal statement topic .

Selecting your medical school personal statement topic is a daunting step! Choosing a strong topic is certainly central to the success of this essay. Remember these tips, but don’t overthink it. Keep it focused on particular stories. Keep it in perspective. And keep it personal.

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Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances

Featured Admissions Expert: Dr. Monica Taneja, MD

Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances

These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow this strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

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Article Contents 36 min read

Stellar medical school personal statement examples that got multiple acceptances, medical school personal statement example #1.

I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.

Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.

Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.

My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.

Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.

It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.

Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.

This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.

I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.

I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.

I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.

In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.

Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.

My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.

28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got Accepted

What my sister went through pushed me to strengthen my knowledge in medical education, patient care, and research. These events have influenced who I am today and helped me determine my own passions. I aspire to be a doctor because I want to make miracles, like my sister, happen. Life is something to cherish; it would not be the same if I did not have one of my four sisters to spend it with. As all stories have endings, I hope that mine ends with me fulfilling my dream of being a doctor, which has been the sole focus of my life to this point. I would love nothing more than to dedicate myself to such a rewarding career, where I achieve what those doctors did for my family. Their expertise allowed my sister to get all the care she needed for her heart, eyes, lungs, and overall growth. Those physicians gave me more than just my little sister, they gave me the determination and focus needed to succeed in the medical field, and for that, I am forever grateful. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #3","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #3"}]" code="tab4" template="BlogArticle">

I came to America, leaving my parents and friends behind, to grasp my chance at a better future. I believe this chance is now in front of me. Medicine is the only path I truly desire because it satisfies my curiosity about the human body and it allows me to directly interact with patients. I do not want to miss this chance to further hone my skills and knowledge, in order to provide better care for my patients. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement #4","title":"Medical School Personal Statement #4"}]" code="tab5" template="BlogArticle">

The time I have spent in various medical settings has confirmed my love for the field. Regardless of the environment, I am drawn to patients and their stories, like that scared young boy at AMC. I am aware that medicine is a constantly changing landscape; however, one thing that has remained steadfast over the years is putting the patient first, and I plan on doing this as a physician. All of my experiences have taught me a great deal about patient interaction and global health, however, I am left wanting more. I crave more knowledge to help patients and become more useful in the healthcare sector. I am certain medical school is the path that will help me reach my goal. One day, I hope to use my experiences to become an amazing doctor like the doctors that treated my sister, so I can help other children like her. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #5","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #5"}]" code="tab6" template="BlogArticle">

My interest in the field of medicine has developed overtime, with a common theme surrounding the importance of personal health and wellness. Through my journey in sports, travelling, and meeting some incredible individuals such as Michael, I have shifted my focus from thinking solely about the physical well-being, to understanding the importance of mental, spiritual, and social health as well. Being part of a profession that emphasizes continuous education, and application of knowledge to help people is very rewarding, and I will bring compassion, a hard work ethic and an attitude that is always focused on bettering patient outcomes. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example # 7","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example # 7"}]" code="tab8" template="BlogArticle">

Medicine embodies a hard science, but it is ultimately a profession that treats people. I have seen firsthand that medicine is not a \u201cone-treatment-fits-all\u201d practice, as an effective physician takes a holistic approach. This is the type of physician I aspire to be: one who refuses to shy away from the humanity of patients and their social context, and one who uses research and innovation to improve the human condition. So, when I rethink \u201cwhy medicine?\u201d, I know it\u2019s for me \u2013 because it is a holistic discipline, because it demands all of me, because I am ready to absorb the fascinating knowledge and science that dictates human life, and engage with humanity in a way no other profession allows for. Until the day that I dawn the coveted white coat, you can find me in inpatient units, comforting the many John\u2019s to come, or perhaps at the back of an operating room observing a mitral valve repair \u2013 dreaming of the day the puck is in my zone. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #8","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #8"}]" code="tab9" template="BlogArticle">

When I signed up to be a live DJ, I didn't know that the oral skills I practiced on-air would influence all aspects of my life, let alone lead me to consider a career in the art of healing. I see now, though, the importance of these key events in my life that have allowed me to develop excellent communication skills--whether that be empathic listening, reading and giving non-verbal cues, or verbal communication. I realize I have always been on a path towards medicine. Ultimately, I aim to continue to strengthen my skills as I establish my role as a medical student and leader: trusting my choices, effectively communicating, and taking action for people in need. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #9","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #9"}]" code="tab10" template="BlogArticle">

\u201cWhy didn\u2019t I pursue medicine sooner?\u201d Is the question that now occupies my mind. Leila made me aware of the unprofessional treatment delivered by some doctors. My subsequent activities confirmed my desire to become a doctor who cares deeply for his patients and provides the highest quality care. My passion for research fuels my scientific curiosity. I will continue to advocate for patient equality and fairness. Combining these qualities will allow me to succeed as a physician. ","label":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #10","title":"Medical School Personal Statement Example #10"}]" code="tab11" template="BlogArticle">

Medical school personal statement example: #11

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Please note that all personal statements are the property of the students who wrote them, re-printed with permission. Names and identifying characteristics have been changed. Plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements. Plagiarism is grounds for disqualification from the application. ","label":"NOTE","title":"NOTE"}]" code="tab2" template="BlogArticle">

As one of the most important  medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!

“Personal statements are often emphasized in your application to medical school as this singular crucial factor that distinguishes you from every other applicant. Demonstrating the uniqueness of my qualities is precisely how I found myself getting multiple interviews and offers into medical school.” – Dr. Vincent Adeyemi, MD

But this is easier said than done. In fact, medical school personal statements remain one of the most challenging parts of students' journeys to medical school. Here's our student Melissa sharing her experience of working on her personal statement:

"I struggled making my personal statement personal... I couldn't incorporate my feelings, motives and life stories that inspired me to pursue medicine into my personal statement" -Melissa, BeMo Student

Our student Rishi, who is now a student at the Carver College of Medicine , learned about the importance of the medical school personal statement the hard way:

"If you're a reapplicant like me, you know we all dread it but you have to get ready to answer what has changed about your application that we should accept you this time. I had an existing personal statement that did not get me in the first time so there was definitely work to be done." - Rishi, BeMo Student

The importance of the medical school personal statement can actually increase if you are applying to medical school with any red flags or setbacks, as our student Kannan did:

"I got 511 on my second MCAT try... My goal was anything over median of 510 so anything over that was honestly good with me because it's just about [creating] a good personal statement at that point... I read online about how important the personal statement [is]... making sure [it's] really polished and so that's when I decided to get some professional help." - Kannan, BeMo Student

As you can see from these testimonials, your medical school personal statement can really make a difference. So we are here to help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. And don't forget that if you need to see more examples, you can also check out our AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples to further inspire you!

Here's a quick run-down of what we'll cover in the article:

Now let's dive in deeper!

#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement

Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. This is how Dr. Neel Mistry, MD and our admissions expert, prepared for his medical school personal statement writing:

"The personal statement is an opportunity for you to shine and really impress the committee to invite you for an interview. The personal statement is your chance to be reflective and go beyond what is stated on your CV and [activities]. In order to stand out, it is important to answer the main questions [of medical school personal statements] well: a bit about yourself and what led you to medicine, why you would make an ideal medical student and future physician, what attracts you to [medicine], and what sets you apart from the other candidates. The key here is answering the last two questions well. Most candidates simply highlight what they have done, but do not reflect on it or mention how what they have done has prepared them for a future medical career." - Dr. Neel Mistry, MD

“my essay also focused on volunteering in the local health clinic during the many summer breaks. volunteering was more than just another activity to tick off my bucket list for my medical school … i volunteered because i wanted to view medical practice through the lenses of already qualified doctors, not because i needed a reason to be a doctor. i understood that the admissions committee would be more interested in how i was motivated.” – dr. vincent adeyemi, md.

A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .

As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.

A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!

You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

“I wrote scores of essays at my desk in those few weeks leading up to application submission. I needed it to be perfect. Do not let anyone tell you to settle. There was no moment when I had this shining light from the sky filtering into my room to motivate me. The ultimate trick is to keep writing. It is impossible to get that perfect essay on the first try, and you may not even get it on your fifteenth attempt, but the goal is to keep at it, keep making those edits, and never back down.” – Dr. Vincent Adeyemi, MD

All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:

  • What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
  • What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
  • Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
  • What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
  • Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
  • What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
  • What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
  • Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
  • What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
  • What are your favorite activities?
  • What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
  • What was your "Aha!" moment?
  • When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
  • How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?

You shouldn't try to answer all of these in your essay. Try only a few main points that will carry over into the final draft. Use these to brainstorm and gather ideas. Start developing your narrative by prioritizing the most impactful responses to these prompts and the ideas that are most relevant to your own experiences and goals. The perfect personal statement not only shows the admissions committee that you have refined communication skills, but also conveys maturity and professionalism. It should also display your motivation and suitability for medical practice. Here's how our student Alison, who was a non-traditional applicant with a serious red flag in her application, used her brainstorming sessions with our admissions experts to get a theme going in her medical school personal statement and her overall application package:

"I think it was during my brainstorming session that we really started talking about... what the theme [was] going to be for my application. And I think that was really helpful in and of itself. Just [reflecting] 'Hey, what's your focus going to be like? How are we going to write this? What's the style going to be?' Just to create an element of consistency throughout..." Alison, BeMo Student, current student at Dell Medical School 

After brainstorming, you should be able to clearly see a few key ideas, skills, qualities, and intersections that you want to write about. Once you've isolated the elements you want to explore in your essay (usually 2-4 key ideas), you can begin building your outline. In terms of structure, this should follow the standard academic format, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. But keep in mind that they too are human, and they respond well to well-crafted, engaging essays that tell a story. Here's what our student Alison had to share about keeping your audience in mind when writing your personal statement:

"Make it easy for the reader to be able to work [their] way through [your personal statement]. Because, at the end of the day, I think one thing that helped me a lot was being able to think about who was going to be reading this application and it's going to be these people that are sitting around a desk or sitting at a table and [go] through massive numbers of applications every single day. And the easier and more digestible that you can make it for them, gives you a little bit of a win." - Alison, BeMo student, current student at Dell Medical School

The admissions committee will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.

The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into three general categories:

You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.

Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.

Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.

  • The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
  • The events that led you toward this path
  • Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
  • Challenges that helped shape your worldview
  • Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
  • Demonstrate your commitment to others
  • Your dependability
  • Your leadership skills
  • Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict

These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else. Dr. Monica Taneja, MD and our admissions expert, shares her tip that got her accepted to the University of Maryland School of Medicine :

"I focused on my journey to medicine and opportunities that I sought out along the way. Everyone’s path and validation is unique, so walking the reader through your growth to the point of application will naturally be different, but that's what I wanted to share in my personal statement." - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD

“the essay is not about what you have been through; it's about who it made you into.” – dr. vincent adeyemi, md.

Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay. Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD and experienced admissions committee member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, encourages you to be creative when it comes to the theme of your personal statement:

"It is very easy to make the “cookie cutter” personal statement. To a reviewer who is reading tens of these at a time it can become quite boring. What I did was [tell] a story. Like any good novel, the stories' first lines are meant to hook the reader. This can be about anything if you can bring it back and relate it to your application. It could be about the time your friend was smashed up against the boards in hockey and you, with your limited first aid experience helped to treat him. It is important that the story be REAL." - Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.

Medical School Personal Statement Structure

When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.

Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:

Introduction

The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.

The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.

That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.

I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]" code="tab3" template="BlogArticle">

In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.

Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.

The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles:

"Remember to use specific personal examples throughout your statement to make it more impactful and memorable for the readers. Often, painting a picture in the reader’s mind in the form of a story helps with this." - Dr. Neel Mistry, MD

A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.

While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.

Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.

Display Professionalism

Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.

One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.

They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."

There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.

One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.

How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools. Here's how I student Alison address an academic discrepancy in her application:

I had an academic dishonesty during undergrad, which, at the time, ended up being this big misunderstanding. But I was going to appeal this and get it off my record. I was supposed to start nursing school two weeks after this whole ordeal had gone down and, at our university, if you try to appeal your academic dishonesty then you'd have to take an incomplete in that class and I needed this class in order to start nursing school. So I wasn't able to [appeal]. So when I talked with the people at the nursing school they were like ‘it's no big deal, it's fine’. [But] it came back and it haunted me very much. When I was applying [to medical school] I started looking online [to see] how big of a deal is it to have this ‘red flag’ on my application. I started reading all of these horror stories on Student Doctor Network and all of these other forums about how if you have an academic dishonesty you shouldn't even bother applying, that you'll never get in. Schools will blacklist you and I was [wondering] what am I going do. [My advisor suggested I use the essay to talk about my discrepancy]. 

First off, if anyone out there has an academic violation don't read student doctor network. don't listen to anybody. you absolutely are still a potential medical student and schools are not going to blacklist you just because of one mistake that you made. that's all lies. don't listen to them. i don't even think it came up a single time during any of my interviews. i think a lot of that came back to how i wrote that essay and the biggest advice that i can give that i got from the [bemo] team is explain what happened… just give the facts. be very objective about it. in the last two thirds [of the essay] you want to focus on what you learned from it and how it made you a better person and how it's going to make you a better physician.” – alison, bemo student, current student at dell medical school.

We hope many of you find a peace of mind when you read Alison's story. Because it shows that with the right approach to your medical school personal statement, you can overcome even red flags or setbacks that made you dread the application process. Use your personal statement to emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.

Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:

Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!

Step 3: Writing Your First Draft

As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.

As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.

You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).

#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?

Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Our admissions expert Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, shares how she got the attention of the admissions committee with her personal statement:

"I also found it helpful to give schools a 'punch-line'. As in I wanted them to remember 1-2 things about me that are my differentiators and I reiterated those throughout [the personal statement]." - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD

Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.

#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?

Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.

Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.

#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?

If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.

#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?

The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity.

“It was very helpful for two of my mentors to review my statements before submitting my application. Ensure you trust the judgement and skills of the person to whom you would be giving your personal statement for review.” – Dr. Vincent Adeyemi, MD

Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.

Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.

Want more examples? Check out our video below:

FAQs and Final Notes

Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.

Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.

All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.

Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through  OMSAS , the  University of Toronto medical school  requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.

Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.

To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.

Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.

While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.

Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.

In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.

If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.

Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?

The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.

Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.

Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.

So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.

The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or  MCAT scores  are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.

The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.

Final Notes

This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.

5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:

  • Brainstorming
  • Content and Theme
  • Multiple Drafts
  • Revision With Attention to Grammar

While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a  medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!

Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Med School Insiders

Medical School Reapplicant Personal Statement Guide

  • By Med School Insiders
  • January 18, 2023
  • Personal Statement , Reapplicant

As a reapplicant, you’ve already gone through all of the motions of applying to medical school before, but something didn’t work the first time around. It’s now up to you to figure out what improvements you need to make to land yourself an acceptance. A reapplicant personal statement, while much the same as one for a first-time applicant, gracefully acknowledges the previous rejection.

Admissions committee members will know you are a reapplicant, and they expect you to address it by illustrating what has changed since you first applied. The personal statement is a huge opportunity to tell your story and share why you want to become a doctor. As a reapplicant, why do you feel this is still the ideal path for you?

In this post, we’ll focus on what admissions committees are looking for from a reapplicant’s personal statement. We’ll cover what’s expected of reapplicants, how to determine what changes you should make, and strategies for crafting a successful essay.

If you haven’t already, save our comprehensive personal statement guide , which includes eleven steps to writing a successful essay.

Is a Reapplicant Personal Statement Different?

Yes, your reapplicant personal statement must be different from your original personal statement. After all, your story has changed, and your new personal statement must reflect that.

This isn’t to say that you should delete your last personal statement. Keep your core reasons and motivations for wanting to become a doctor. If your reasons change from one personal statement to the next, admissions committees could easily question the validity of your story.

Admissions committees expect you to intertwine your reapplicant story with your personal statement. How have you grown? How are you a different applicant now? What have you learned during this extra time? Do you know what went wrong the first time? Have you made the necessary improvements to your application? Do you have new anecdotes or new experiences to add?

Your reapplicant personal statement must convey the notable improvements you’ve made to your qualifications as well as your continued commitment to medicine. Why are you staying the course after your initial rejection? What since your rejection has shown you that you do actually have what it takes to succeed in medical school and beyond? Admissions committees are looking for maturity and growth here.

The Purpose of the Personal Statement—What Schools Are Looking For

Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell an admissions committee who you are, what you stand for, and why you want to be a doctor. Medical schools already have your transcripts and your CV. They know your accomplishments. This is your chance to dig deeper and provide insight into your personality and values, highlighting in detail the experiences that have crystalized your ambition to commit your life to medicine.

What’s your story? What fuels your pursuit to become a physician despite the setback of not being accepted the first time? Why are you still convinced this is the path for you? What recent experiences exemplify this? You are a more mature and more qualified candidate than you were last time. Admissions committees want to see that maturity throughout your personal statement and across your entire application.

You’ve written a personal statement before, so you know you must do more than simply state qualities about yourself. It’s not enough to say you’re more mature now. Demonstrate your maturity through tangible examples from your life. How specifically have your values and dreams kept you going through this difficult time? What concrete steps have you taken to right the wrongs of your previous application?

Admissions committees want to see, with clear examples, how and why you’re a more qualified candidate this time around.

Determine What You Can Keep and What You Need to Change

In order to achieve success with your reapplicant personal statement and reapplication as a whole, it’s imperative you understand where you went wrong the first time.

Which aspect of your application held you back? Was it your personal statement that was the problem? Or was it your grades and MCAT score that kept you from gaining any interviews?

If you had a few interviews but didn’t receive any acceptances, you likely didn’t impress your interviewers, which means your application may not require as much revising. It’s your interview skills you need to improve, which means it would be wise to practice well in advance of interview season and take advantage of the unbiased feedback given in mock interviews .

If your personal statement was one of your weaker areas, you might need to scrap the whole thing. On the other hand, if your previous statement was successful, you may only need to tweak your personal statement to address being a reapplicant.

Don’t analyze your application alone. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses, but be sure to get advice from people who have actually worked on admissions committees before. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it shows a great level of intention and maturity. It shows you understand the value of feedback and want to use your time effectively. Plus, at this point, you can’t risk another failed application attempt.

If you don’t have someone like that in your network, it may be prudent to invest in one-on-one advising to pinpoint where you went wrong. An assessment of your previous application by an unbiased expert on the application process is invaluable. It is vital to your success this time around that you make calculated, smart decisions about where you place your focus. What changes will make the greatest impact for your effort?

If you can’t determine where you went wrong with your previous application, it’s very likely you’ll make the same mistakes this time, which will result in the same lack of acceptance.

Personal Statement Strategies to Remember

Read personal statement examples.

Remember, you’re far from the only person who has written a personal statement before. As a reapplicant, it’s time to once again take a step back and look at both successful and poorly written personal statements.

What makes a great personal statement so great? How have others seamlessly weaved in their story of resilience? What makes for a bad personal statement, and did your previous essay share any common mistakes? After reading other personal statements, does yours still stand out? If you were on an admissions committee, would you find your personal statement interesting after reading 100 others?

Read these successful personal statement examples and learn from these bad personal statement examples , which include key insights into what to do instead.

Create a Cohesive Narrative

It’s critical that your personal statement tells a clear, cohesive narrative. Your reapplicant story shouldn’t feel tacked on or like an afterthought. It should naturally weave into your personal statement in a way that also complements the rest of your application.

Remember, you are trying to engage admissions committee members by telling a consistent story about why you want to pursue medicine and why you, in particular, will make an ideal fit for their medical school. The many components of your application will be viewed together to create a complete picture of who you are, including your personal statement, letters of recommendation, experiences, mini-essays, MCAT score, and grades. Each piece should complement the other, not repeat what’s already been said.

Use your personal statement to complement the other aspects of your application while bringing something new to the table that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere.

A narrative-based approach to your application will entice admissions committees and make them want to learn more about who you are. Learn How to Develop a Cohesive Narrative for Medical School Applications .

Acknowledge the Past While Looking to the Future

Tread lightly when speaking about your previous rejection to medical school. You should address it in your reapplication, including how you have improved as a candidate, but you don’t need to say harsh phrases like, “when I neglected studying for the MCAT and was rejected…” Or, “I made mistakes last time I applied…” “since I failed the last time I applied…”

For example, here’s what not to include in a reapplicant personal statement.

“ Although I failed to gain admittance to medical school, I’ve remained steadfast in pursuit of achieving my dream to be a physician. Instead of accepting failure , I continued to foster these kinds of meaningful experiences with my patients and develop the traits necessary to forge the desired relationships I hope to foster as a physician, like those my father had with his patients.”

Don’t directly call out a “failure.” Instead, look to the future and illustrate how you have improved. Acknowledge the past with a focus on the future. What have you been doing differently? What did you learn? What has your experience as a reapplicant taught you? Why are you continuing your pursuit?

Here’s an example of how to improve that personal statement paragraph.

“Directly witnessing the eternal illumination my father left on the world has shown me the incredible impact physicians can achieve in patients’ lives and their communities. My struggles with his passing forced me to further develop the resiliency necessary to not give up on this path when faced with setbacks and instead to redouble my efforts to be a pillar of luminosity as a future doctor.”

Simple word choice changes can make a big difference in how your personal statement is received. Acknowledging your rejection does not mean you have to put yourself down. Find a way to spin the situation into speaking about what has changed and what you have learned instead of drawing attention to the negative. In doing so, ensure you still sound genuine and sincere throughout your essay.

Refine, Review, Edit

Don’t let a simple mistake ruin your chances of acceptance. It only takes one error to sink an otherwise excellent personal statement. You’re going up against thousands of other medical school applicants, many of whom have very similar qualifications to your own, except you’ve already been turned down once before.

Take your time! Reflect on and brainstorm your ideas early on in the year you are applying. If you’re a reapplicant who is applying again in the immediate next cycle, prioritize writing your personal statement as soon as possible. Assess the time you have as well as what you need to accomplish in order to notably improve your application. You may have to come to the difficult but realistic decision to delay your reapplication by one year.

You absolutely must save time for the editing and refining process. Ensure you make time to receive adequate feedback from those who have been intimately involved in the application process.

Learn how to edit your personal statement to impress admissions committees.

Med School Insiders offers a range of personal statement editing packages , including in-depth editing with a physician who will be there to advise you every step of the way.

How to Write a Personal Statement List of 11 steps

Personal Statement Resources

The Med School Insiders blog is filled with personal statement resources and how-to guides that can help you no matter where you are in the essay writing process.

If you’re stuck for ideas, begin with our Medical School Personal Statement Prompts , which will help you reflect on your past to remember the experiences, people, and setbacks that made you who you are today. Next, read The Anatomy of a Stellar Personal Statement and Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts .

As you complete the rest of your reapplicant application, here are 9 Reapplicant Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make and 6 Steps to Reapplying to Medical School .

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get our latest advice, guides, and videos sent straight to your email. We are always adding to our database of resources, and we continually update our content based on the most recent data, current deadlines, and changes to the application process.

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Secondary Medical School Application Essays: How to Shine

Emphasizing fit and showing authenticity help medical school secondary essays stand out, experts say.

Tips for Secondary Med School Essays

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Getty Images | iStockphoto

One of best pieces of advice when writing an application essay is to be authentic.

Key Takeaways

  • Secondary medical school essays should highlight why an applicant is a good fit.
  • Applicants should submit the essays early without compromising quality.
  • It's important to be authentic in essay responses.

After receiving primary applications, most medical schools ask applicants to complete a secondary application, which typically includes additional essay questions. While primary essay prompts ask why you're pursuing medicine, medical school secondary essays focus on you and how you fit with a specific school.

Secondary essay prompts vary by school, but they're generally designed to help med schools learn about you at a deeper level. They may ask you to reflect on what makes you who you are, a time when you worked with a population different than yourself, an occasion where you asked for help or a time when you worked in a team. They may ask how you spent a gap year before applying to medical school or what you did after your undergraduate degree.

"What we are trying to figure out is if this is a candidate that can fulfill the premedical competencies and whether they are mission-aligned," says Dr. Wendy Jackson, associate dean for admissions at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine . “Can they help fulfill the needs that our institution is trying to deliver?”

A lot rides on these essays, but keeping a few best practices in mind can make the process less daunting.

Emphasize Fit

The first thing medical schools look for is whether an applicant will be a good fit for the school’s mission, Jackson says.

“I would challenge someone who is completing a secondary application to understand the mission of the school and envision how they are going to contribute to that,” she says. “The vast majority of schools are going to ask why you chose their institution, so you need to be prepared to answer that.”

Some secondary essay questions are optional, but experts recommend answering them even though they're extra work. For example, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee asks applicants what makes them interested in the school.

“We just want to see if they’re a good fit for us and that they’ve done a little bit of homework about Vanderbilt," says Jennifer Kimble, director of admissions at Vanderbilt's medical school. "We want to make sure that the students we admit are going to be happy with their Vanderbilt experience.”

Avoid focusing on what you’re going to gain from the school – schools are really asking how you'll be an asset to the program.

"It’s almost like if you’re trying to date someone and you tell them, ‘Here’s what I’m going to get from this relationship,’ without saying, ‘We’re better off together,’” says Shirag Shemmassian, founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting. “You have to sell the idea that you’re bettering one another and how you’re better together than apart. I think students often miss that latter component."

Don't Procrastinate

The medical school application process is often compared to a marathon, but the final steps may feel like a sprint. Applicants typically receive secondary application requests in late June, and in some cases schools want those back within a matter of weeks. Others set deadlines months down the road.

Either way, because of rolling admissions , it's best to send essays in as early as possible without compromising quality, Shemmassian says.

The earlier an applicant submits materials, the less competition they typically face, experts say. For example, Vanderbilt receives nearly 7,000 applications per year. Of those, roughly 600 applicants will be asked to interview and around 260 will be offered admission for 96 spots.

"At the beginning of the cycle, our calendar is wide open and we’re very open to who we bring in for an interview," Kimble says. "Down the road when we only have 30 seats left, it’s highly selective who those candidates are that get those coveted 30 interview spots that are left over."

Prewrite Essays

Applicants won't know the specific language of secondary essay prompts until schools send them, but in many cases, essay prompts are similar year to year and the previous year's prompts are often published on a school's admissions website, experts say. Some schools may change or tweak questions, but you can generally get a head start by prewriting essays based on previous prompts.

"As the new ones come out, you can modify as needed," Shemmassian says. "I would say that about 70% to 80% of prompts will remain the same or similar. If they change, you can usually adapt an essay you’ve written for another school."

Secondary essays vary in length and number. Vanderbilt requires applicants to submit an 800-word essay and two 600-word essays. Some schools may require close to 10 secondary essays. Shemmassian says this is significantly more writing than applicants are used to, so budgeting time is crucial.

But applicants should take care when prewriting essays and make sure each is tailored to the specific school with the correct school name, experts say. Jackson says she's read plenty of essays where applicants included the wrong school name and it cost them.

“You may think you can save time by cutting and pasting or taking half of a previously written essay response and making a modification,” Jackson says. “Be careful, because the questions vary from institution to institution.”

Experts say applicants often neglect to fully read prompts in their haste to complete answers. Though there's a time crunch, it's vital to thoroughly read the prompt and answer the question fully without grammatical or spelling errors.

“That seems kind of silly, but I think we can get going down a road when we’re writing and feel like we’ve completed and written something well but look back and never really have a response to the true question being asked," Jackson says.

Be Authentic

Medical school applicants tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to write something that schools haven't read before, Kimble says. Given that med schools sift through thousands of applicants a year, "we’ve read all sorts of scenarios in life, so take that pressure and put it on the shelf," she says. "That’s not a concern for us. We aren’t looking for something that’s totally innovative."

Experts say schools are mostly looking for authenticity and an organic, genuine tone. The tone "can make or break an applicant," Jackson says.

It may be tempting, especially given time constraints, to rely on outside help – such as ChatGPT or other AI-powered software – to write essays. While some professors and admissions officers have embraced AI to help automate certain processes, Kimble says she strongly discourages med school applicants from using AI to help with secondary essays.

"We had an (application) that you could clearly see was not written by a human voice," she says. "It sounded very computer generated, so we ended up passing on the candidate just because we want to hear their story in their own words."

A Secondary Essay Example

Shemmassian compiles more than 1,000 sample secondary essays each year, using prompts from more than 150 medical schools in various states, and offers them to paying clients. The excerpted example below, created by Shemmassian's team and used with their permission, shows what he considers to be a successful diversity-themed essay in response to a Yale University School of Medicine prompt that asks applicants to reflect on how their background and experiences contribute to the school's focus on diversity and how it will inform their future role as a doctor.

As a child, one of my favorite times of the year was the summer, when I would travel to Yemen… at least until I turned twelve. Suddenly, the traditional and, in my Yemeni American view, restrictive laws for women, applied to me. Perhaps the most representative of these laws was having to cover my hair with a scarf-like garment. Staying true to my values, I decided against returning to Yemen, thereby losing a vital connection to my culture. However, this estrangement did not inhibit my growth.

The 500-word response continues with how the applicant met a Yemeni student who grew up in France and was barred from wearing a headscarf due to a school uniform policy. Where the applicant saw the headscarf as restrictive, the other student saw it as a connection to her roots. The applicant describes how although the same object held different meanings to two people from the same background, she used that to appreciate different perspectives and to advocate for a woman's right to express herself.

Later that year, I applied this lesson in perspective to my work as a clinical coordinator, when a patient walked into the office and handed me a piece of paper explaining she only spoke Arabic...By thinking critically while vernacularly translating the doctor’s advice, I was directly involved in the process of her medical care. Because of my experience in exploring the multi-cultural barriers I faced alongside the Yemeni French student who cherished her headscarf, I spent time talking to this Yemeni patient about the barriers she had faced in receiving care.
This experience motivated me to help overcome cultural healthcare barriers and disparities, showcasing my devotion to equitable treatment by creating a new protocol within the clinic where I work. Now, when scheduling patients over the phone, we ask if they have any language preferences, and we have a series of scripts we can use during each patient’s treatment.

The applicant then drives home why she believes she's a good fit for the school.

My background and experiences will contribute to Yale School of Medicine’s diversity and inform my future role as a physician by creating a student organization that holds informational workshops, utilizing my unique experiences to connect with Yale’s diverse patient population, and working to address healthcare disparities as a future physician. I envision these informational workshops would operate in the Haven Free Clinic patient waiting rooms to empower all patients, regardless of their background.

This essay is successful because it does more than tell essay readers about the applicant's background, Shemmassian says. It shows how the applicant grew "into a more compassionate and culturally humble future physician who will help patients overcome health care barriers."

"Strong diversity essays will always show admissions committees how a unique trait or life experience will help them become a better physician," he says. "This essay is especially successful because the applicant connects their experiences and what they’ve learned because of them to the Yale School of Medicine itself. This is an applicant who is already thinking deeply about not just what they can get out of medical school but how they can contribute to the values and mission of the school they attend."

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Medical School Application Mistakes

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    Each piece of a med school application brings a unique set of anxiety-ridden challenges, but few equal that of the personal statement. A personal statement is much, much more than a narrative-version of your CV. Reiterating your grades and extracurriculars in complete sentences is not how to write a medical school personal statement.

  3. Medical School Personal Statement Guide and Examples 2024/2025

    Medical School Personal Statement Fundamentals. If you are getting ready to write your medical school personal statement for the 2024-2025 application year, you may already know that almost 60% of medical school applicants are not accepted every year. You have most likely also completed all of your medical school requirements and have scoured the internet for worthy medical school personal ...

  4. 3 Medical School Personal Statement Examples [2024 Update]

    Example 3 — Beyond the Diagnosis: The Importance of Individualized Care in Medicine. The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nova Southeastern University College Of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Haywood sighs and shakes her head upon opening the chart.

  5. How to Approach Your Personal Statement: Dos and Don'ts

    Read our free Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement for tips on getting started, what to include, and common mistakes to avoid. The Purpose of a Personal Statement. Medical school admissions committees want to see what inspired you and prepared you to go to medical school. They want to know if you truly have a ...

  6. What To Avoid in a Medical School Personal Statement

    Common medical school personal statement mistakes include statements that use selective metaphors and sayings, overshare, rely on clichés, or use complex and misused vocabulary. Statements that share incriminating information, that are obviously false, that play the underdog card, or make excuses should also be avoided.

  7. 15 Tips for Your Medical School Personal Statement

    Bring your own voice and perspective to your personal statement to give it a truly memorable flavor. 5. Be interesting. Start with a "catch" that will create intrigue before launching into the story of who you are. Make the admissions committee want to read on! Book an Admissions Consultant. For Free. 6. Show don't tell.

  8. Medical School Personal Statement Writing Guide + Examples

    Describe how the experience influenced your decision to pursue medicine. The best personal statements tell a story about who you are. "Show, don't tell," what you've experienced — immerse the reader in your narrative, and you'll have a higher chance of being accepted to medical school. 6. Create an engaging conclusion.

  9. Personal Statement for Your Medical School Application: Complete Guide

    One of the first components of your medical school application that you will write is your personal statement. It is also the section most students spend the most time on, and with good reason. Never undervalue the significance of writing the finest personal statement you can. The personal statement aims to describe your motivation for becoming ...

  10. How to Write a Perfect Medical School Personal Statement: A Complete

    Discuss your strengths: Highlight the strengths and qualities that make you a strong candidate for medical school. This could include your leadership skills, teamwork abilities, or resilience in the face of challenges. Be authentic: Write in your own voice and be honest about your experiences and motivations.

  11. Advisor Corner: Crafting Your Personal Statement

    The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that isn't conveyed elsewhere in your application. Advisors at the University of Minnesota employ a storytelling model to support students in finding and writing their unique personal statement. One critical aspect of storytelling is the concept of change.

  12. Personal statement tips: a general guide : r/premed

    The personal statement is not a resume. I have seen many, many PS that try to list 5-6 different things that have made an applicant want to pursue medicine. It's fantastic that you've had so many experiences that pushed you into the field. But a general rule for essay writing: if you mention it, make it count. Otherwise, don't mention it at all.

  13. What NOT to do in your personal statement for medical schools

    In some ways, this is an unreasonable task: most medical school applicants are young, still acquiring the life experience that they are supposed to be writing about. Still, there are ways to write a persuasive personal statement that highlights a mature and thoughtful adult ready to take on medical school.

  14. Crafting a Compelling Medical School Personal Statement [+ Examples

    Your personal statement is your opportunity to share your motivations and aspirations in pursuing medicine. It allows the admissions committee to understand who you are beyond mere academic achievements. In this guide, we will explain step-by-step how to write a compelling medical school personal statement.

  15. Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide

    More Medical School Personal Statement Examples: Typical introductions: "I wanted to give the best patient care possible…" (giving) "This lingering lack of fulfillment has served as a great motivator to find ways to do more" (motivated) Better introductions: "…the music skills I honed over the past decade…" (dedicated)

  16. How to Write the Medical School Personal Statement

    TMDSAS allots 5,000 characters for the personal statement, also including spaces. While you don't have to use every character available to you, you should aim for a length of at least 5,000 characters for AACOMAS and AMCAS. Anything shorter may not have enough substance or may not flow as well as a slightly longer essay would.

  17. The Ultimate Medical School Personal Statement (w/ Examples)

    Writing an Effective Medical School Personal Statement. You may be asking yourself why it's important to write an effective medical school personal statement. Let's look at the numbers. According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in the 2019-2020 school year alone, 53,371 people applied to medical school. Of ...

  18. PDF Writing a Personal Statement for Medical School

    Writing a Personal Statement for Medical School . The personal statement is a crucial part of any graduate school application. However, the medical school personal statement is unique in several ways. Please see the "Writing Your Graduate School Application Essay" handout for more general information about writing your application essay.

  19. Guide to Writing a Medical School Personal Statement

    Pay careful attention to length guidelines. The AMCAS application allows 5,300 characters including spaces. This is roughly 1.5 pages or 500 words. Going under this length is fine, and a tight 400-word personal statement is far preferable to a 500-word statement filled with digressions, wordiness, and redundancy.

  20. 6 Medical School Personal Statement Topics to Avoid

    Phenomenal candidates face medical school rejection every year after choosing bad medical school personal statement topics. To make sure you avoid this common pitfall in the application process, here are 6 medical school personal statement topics to avoid: 1. Medical School Personal Statement Topics About the The Injured Athlete.

  21. Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances

    28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got Accepted. Medical School Personal Statement Example #3. Imagine holding a baby wearing doll clothes and a diaper made of gauze because she was too small. When I was 4 years old, my sister was born 4 months prematurely, weighing only 1 pound and 7 ounces.

  22. Medical School Reapplicant Personal Statement Guide

    A reapplicant personal statement, while much the same as one for a first-time applicant, gracefully acknowledges the previous rejection. Admissions committee members will know you are a reapplicant, and they expect you to address it by illustrating what has changed since you first applied. The personal statement is a huge opportunity to tell ...

  23. What To Include In Medical School Personal Statement

    The most insightful personal statements will include: The breadth of your interests: While the Admissions Committee will want to hear about your interest in the field of medicine, it's important to include other interests beyond medicine to show you are a multidimensional candidate. A narrative with a personal touch: Show who you truly are by ...

  24. Secondary Medical School Application Essays: How to Shine

    Secondary medical school essays should highlight why an applicant is a good fit. Applicants should submit the essays early without compromising quality. It's important to be authentic in essay ...

  25. 6 keys to creating a medical student CV that sets you apart

    An up-to-date medical student CV can yield benefits—such as internships, research opportunities and key visiting rotations during medical school—well in advance of the residency-application process that concludes with the Match. "I tell students to update their CV and keep track of what they are doing as they do it," Kavan said.

  26. Crafting a Compelling Personal Statement for Medical School

    Personal Statement Assignment Due Week 8 We would like you to begin the process of writing a personal statement, as in recent years, we have noticed that students do not fully understand how to write an effective personal statement. That's understandable - it is hard and it takes time! As a result, we wanted to give you some guidance in this area. . This worksheet is designed to help you ...