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The Residency Personal Statement (2023/2024): The Insider’s Guide (with Examples)

Residency Match Personal Statement

A physician and former residency program director explains how to write your residency personal statement to match in to your top-choice residency program in 2024.

Read example residency personal statements and suggested outlines..

Introduction

The residency personal statement allows residency program directors and associate directors the chance to get a sense of who you are and your commitment to your chosen specialty. 

As a former program director who understands how residency personal statements are reviewed, what “stands out,” and, most importantly, what will earn you interview invitations, the information below will help you write a residency personal statement to match!

It is imperative to make sure you get the most accurate guidance possible with regards to your residency personal statement content and optimal residency personal statement length (up to 5300 characters with spaces).

Want more personalized suggestions? Sign up for a FREE residency personal statement consultation .

Table of Contents

Goals for Writing Your 2024 Residency Personal Statement

Above all else, your residency personal statement offers the opportunity to show your interest in your chosen specialty when applying to residency to illustrate you are a good fit.

The more details you offer about why you are interested in the specialty and how your med school rotations, accomplishments and experiences have reinforced this interest, the stronger your personal statement will be, the more it will appeal to selection committees and the better you will do in the match process .

I encourage applicants to offer as much “evidence” as possible to “show” rather than “tell” what qualities, characteristics and interests they have. “Telling” a reader, for example, that you are compassionate and hard working means nothing. Instead, you must “show” that you embody these qualities based on your experiences in health care and the patients for whom you have cared.

The residency personal statement also offers the opportunity to write about who you are as a person to convey some details about your background, influences, and interests outside of your given specialty.

The Importance of a Balanced Residency Personal Statement

The key when writing your residency personal statement is to ensure that it is well-balanced so it appeals to a large group of people who might read your ERAS residency application.

However, it is important to understand that every program director and faculty member has his or her own idea of what he would like to read in a personal statement. As an applicant, you must go into this process understanding that you cannot please everyone, or a specific program, and your personal statement should therefore have the broadest appeal possible.

For example, some program directors would rather hear about your personal interests and curiosities and get to know who you are rather than have you focus on the specialty in which you are interested.

At MedEdits, we suggest taking a “middle of the road” approach; include some details about who you are but also focus on the specialty itself. In this way, you will make more traditional reviewers who want to hear about your interest in the specialty happy while also satisfying those who would rather learn about you as a person.

Above all, be authentic and true to yourself when writing your statement. This always leads to the best results! Read on to learn more about how to write a winning personal statement.

About MedEdits

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Residency Personal Statement Outline & Structure

Residency applicants often do well when given outlines or templates to follow, so, we will offer that, but, it is important to realize that many applicants deviate from these rigid rules. One very typical outline that serves applicants quite well in the residency admissions process is:

  • Compose a catchy introduction. Your intro can be related to your interest in the specialty to which you are applying, about a hobby or personal experience, or about your background. Regardless of the topic you choose, you want to tell a story and start with something that will interest your reader and engage him.
  • The next two to four paragraphs comprise the body of your personal statement. We encourage applicants to write about any significant experiences they have had related to their desired specialty and/or future goals. This would include information about rotations, electives, and sub internships related to the specialty, volunteer and research experiences and even significant outside interests.
  • Finally, you want to conclude your essay. In your conclusion, write about what you seek in a residency program, what you will bring to a residency program, and, if you have any idea of your future career goals, write about those as well. Your conclusion is also where you can tailor a personal statement to a specific geographic area of interest or type of program (rural, urban, community).

Residency Personal Statement Length & Residency Personal Statement Word Limit

Residency Personal Statement Length: Our recommendation is that your residency personal statement be between 4000 – 5300 characters with spaces or up to 900 words in length. 

The allowed ERAS residency personal statement length is 28,000 characters which equates to about five pages!

We have been hearing from more and more applicants that the personal statement should not exceed one page when typed in to the ERAS application . Because of this overwhelming trend, we are supporting this guidance unless you have extenuating circumstances that require your personal statement be longer.

Our recommendation is that your residency personal statement be a maximum of 5300 characters with spaces.

ERAS Residency Personal Statement Checklist

  • Ensure your personal statement flows well

The best personal statements are easy to read, don’t make the reader think too much, and make your path and interests seem logical. Rarely does a personal statement have a theme. Also try to have each paragraph transition to the next seamlessly. 

2. Your personal statement should be about you!

Your personal statement should be about you and no one else. Focus on your interests, your accomplishments and your path. This is your opportunity to be forthcoming about your achievements – by writing in detail about what you have done.

3. Be sure your personal statement clearly outlines your interest in the specialty.

Since the reader wants to be convinced of your understanding of, experience in, and curiosity about the specialty to which you are applying, be sure you highlight what you have done to explore your interest as well as your insights and observations about the specialty to show your understanding of it.

4. Make it human.

Again, your personal statement should be about you! The reader wants to know who you are, where you are from, what your interests are and who you are outside of medicine. Therefore, try to include those details about your background that are intriguing or important to you.

5. Express your interest in the specialty.

The reader fundamentally wants to know why you are pursuing the specialty. The more details you offer the more convincing you are about your commitment and your understanding of the specialty. Be sure to include details that might seem obvious. For example, in emergency medicine you must like acute care, but try to include more nuanced details about your interest, too. What do you enjoy about the diagnoses and pathologies involved? What do you value about the actual work you will do? What do you enjoy about the patients for whom you will care? How about the setting in which you will practice?

6. The start and evolution of your interest.

Readers want to know how and when you became interested in your specialty. Was this before medical school? During medical school? What have you done to pursue and nurture your interest in the specialty?

7. What you have done to learn more about the specialty.

You should explain what you have done to pursue your interest. What rotations have you done or have planned? What research, scholarly work or community service activities have you pursued to further your interest?

8. Where you see yourself in the future – if you know!

Without going into too much detail, write about the type of setting in which you see yourself in the future. Do you hope to also participate in research, teaching, public health work or community outreach as a part of your career? What are your future goals? Since many programs typically train a certain type of physician, it is important that your goals are aligned with the programs to which you are applying.

9. What do you bring to the specialty?

You should try to identify what you can bring to the program and the specialty to which you are applying as a whole. For example, are you applying to family medicine and have a distinct interest in public health? Are you applying for internal medicine and do you have demonstrated expertise in information technology and hope to improve electronic medical records? Do you have extensive research or teaching experience, and do you hope to continue to pursue these interests in the future? Have you developed a commitment to global health, and do you hope to continue making contributions abroad? Programs have a societal obligation to select residents who will make valuable contributions in the future, so the more ambitions you have the more desirable a candidate you will be.

10. What type of program you hope to join?

Do you hope to be part of a community or university-based program? What are you seeking in a residency program? Programs are looking for residents who will be the right “fit” so offering an idea of what you are seeking in a program will help them determine if your values and goals mesh with those of the program.

11. Who you are outside of the hospital?

Try to bring in some personal elements about who you are. You can do this in a few ways. If you have any outside interests or accomplishments that complement your interest in your specialty, such as extracurricular work, global work, teaching or volunteer efforts, write about them in detail, and, in doing so, show the reader a different dimension of your personality. Or, consider opening your statement by writing about an experience related to your hobbies or outside interests. Write about this in the form of an introductory vignette. I suggest taking this nontraditional approach only if you are a talented writer and can somehow relate your outside interest to the specialty you are pursuing, however. An interest in the arts can lend itself to dermatology, plastic surgery or ophthalmology, for example. Or, an interest in technology could relate to radiology .

12. Any personal challenges?

Also explain any obstacles you have overcome: Were you the first in your family to graduate from college? Were you an immigrant? Did you have limited financial resources and work through college? Many applicants tend to shy away from the very things that make them impressive because they are afraid of appearing to be looking for sympathy. As long as you explain how you have overcome adversity in a positive or creative way, your experience will be viewed as the tremendous accomplishment that it is. The personal statement should explain any unusual or distinctive aspects of your background.

  • Residency Match: How It Works & How To Get Matched

Common ERAS Residency Personal Statement Mistakes

Do not tell your entire life story or write a statement focused on your childhood or undergraduate career. 

Do not write about why you wanted to be a doctor. This is old news. From the reviewers perspective, you already are a doctor!

Do not write a personal statement focused on one hobby or begin with your birth. Some background information might be useful if it offers context to your choices and path, but your residency personal statement should be focused on the present and what you have done to pursue your interest in the specialty to which you are applying.

Do not preach. The reader understands what it means to practice his specialty and does not need you to tell him. Don’t write, for example: Internal medicine requires that a physician be knowledgeable, kind and compassionate. The reader wants to know about you!

Do not put down other specialties. You don’t need to convince anyone of your interest by writing something negative about other specialties. Doing so just makes you look bad. If you switched residencies or interests, you can explain what else you were seeking and what you found in the specialty of your choice that interests you.

Do not embellish. Program directors are pretty good at sniffing out inconsistencies and dishonesty. Always tell the truth and be honest and authentic. 

Do not plagiarize. While this seems obvious to most people, every year people copy personal statements they find online or hire companies that use stock phrases and statement to compose statements for applicants. Don’t do it!

Do not write about sensitive topics. Even if you were in a relationship that ended and resulted in a poor USMLE score , this is not a topic for a personal statement. In general, it is best to avoid discussing relationships, politics, ethical issues and religion.

Do not boast. Any hint of arrogance or self-righteousness may result in getting rejected. There is a fine line between confidence and self promotion. Some people make the mistake of over-selling themselves or writing about all of their fantastic qualities and characteristics. Rarely do readers view such personal statements favorably.

Do not write an overly creative piece. A residency personal statement should be professional. This work is equivalent to a job application. Don’t get too creative; stay focused.

Writing ERAS Residency Personal Statements For Multiple Specialties

An increasing number of applicants are applying to more than one specialty in medicine especially if the first choice specialty is very competitive. If you are applying to more than one specialty, even if there is disciplinary overlap between the two (for example family medicine and pediatrics ), we advise you write a distinct specialty for each. Remember that a physician who practices the specialty you hope to join will most likely be reviewing your statement. He or she will definitely be able to determine if the personal statement illustrates a true understanding of the specialty. If you try to recycle an entire personal statement or parts of a personal statement for two specialties, there is a high likelihood the personal statement will communicate that you aren’t sincerely interested in that specialty or that you don’t really understand what the specialty is about.

Writing About Red Flags in your ERAS Personal Statement

The personal statement is also the place to explain any red flags in your application, such as gaps in time or a leave of absence. When addressing any red flags, explain what happened succinctly. Be honest, don’t make excuses, and don’t dwell on the topic. Whenever possible, write about how you have matured or grown from the adversity or what you may have learned and how this benefits you.

If you have left a program or had a break in your medical education, you will also have the chance to explain this in your ERAS application . You should also write about this topic in your personal statement only if you have more to explain, however. 

If you have failed a Step exam or one course in medical school, this likely isn’t something to address in the personal statement. However, you should be prepared to discuss any failure during an interview. By the same token, it is best not to address one low grade or poor attending evaluation in your statement. 

Have you taken a circuitous path to medicine? If so you might address why you made these choices and what you found so interesting about medicine that was lacking in your former career.

Residency Personal Statement Example

Below are two great examples of residency personal statements that earned the applicants who wrote them numerous interviews and first choice matches. As you will see, these two applicants took very different approaches when writing the personal statement yet wrote equally persuasive and “successful” personal statements.

Residency Personal Statement Example, Analysis, and Outline: The Traditional Approach

The most common approach to the personal statement is what I will call the traditional approach, in which the applicant conveys her interest in the specialty, when that interest began and what she has done to pursue the particular specialty.

Suggested outline:

  • Introduction: Catchy Story
  • Paragraph 2: Background Information and how Interest Started
  • Paragraph 3: Write about what you did to explore your interest
  • Paragraph 4: Second paragraph about your experiences related to your specialty
  • Conclusion: Wrap it up. Write something about your future goals.

Below is an example of the traditional approach:

I looked into her eyes and saw terror. She knew the life of her unborn baby was in jeopardy. As tears streamed down her face, she looked to the attending physician. In desperation, she pleaded, “Please save our baby.” She and her husband had been trying to conceive for more than two years, and they knew this could be their only chance to have a healthy child. She went into labor at home and because of a horrible snowstorm was not able to reach the hospital for several hours. When she arrived in labor and delivery, she was crowning. But, the baby was having late decelerations. Because of the sweat on my attending’s forehead I knew the situation was serious. Yet we all tried to remain calm and to keep the patient and her husband calm as well. 

I entered medical school with an open mind as everyone suggested. Even as a first year medical student, however, I was fascinated with embryology. I entered my third year still unsure of what I would pursue. I knew I wanted a career that would be challenging and interesting. Because of my background in drawing and painting, I always loved working with my hands. Yet I also enjoyed working with people. Thankfully, my obstetrics and gynecology (ob/gyn) rotation was the first of my third year and I was immediately hooked.

I quickly sought out opportunities for research and became involved in a clinical study investigating the impact of a vegan diet on birth outcomes. I have always had an interest in wellness and nutrition, and this seemed like a perfect fit for me. My research is still in process, but through this experience I have learned how to analyze data, stay objective and critically evaluate the literature. So far, our findings suggest better than normal outcomes for babies born to vegan mothers. This reinforces my goal to educate my patients about the important of diet and nutrition, which I hope to make a part of my future practice. 

Early in my fourth year, I completed an elective rotation at Inner City Medical Center. There I cared for a diverse group of patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. I realized how much I enjoy labor and delivery, but I also value the operative aspects of ob/gyn. I appreciate the importance of understanding the female anatomy so I can operate with precision.  I also value the diversity of practice in ob/gyn. Whether caring for a woman about to give birth, helping a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer navigate her treatment options, or caring for a perimenopausal woman who is coping with symptoms of hormone fluctuations, I enjoy caring for patients with knowledge and compassion. The outpatient aspect of ob/gyn brings satisfaction as well. I look forward to building relationships with my patients, helping them to lead the healthiest lives possible. I have also realized how much I want to care for those who lack access to care. The work I have done at Medical School Free Clinic has helped me realize the gaps that exist in access to care and education. As a future practicing ob/gyn, I hope to work in such a setting at least on a part time basis.

On that snowy night, when we realized the baby was having difficulty being born because of shoulder dystocia, a simple maneuver eased the situation. The baby’s first cry brought such joy and relief to everyone in the room and, at that moment, I knew I had to be part of this specialty. I hope to join a program where I will have the clinical exposure that will give me the skills and experience to care for a wide range of patients. I do not yet know if I will subspecialize, and I will seek out mentors and experiences as a resident to make an informed decision. I would be honored to interview at your program and thank you for your consideration.

Why It’s Great

This is a great personal statement because it clearly conveys the applicant’s interest in, and understanding of, obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and what the applicant has done to pursue that interest. Not only does this applicant have a long-standing interest in OB/GYN, but, she conveys that she has experienced the specialty in different settings and understands the diverse nature of the specialty. She also includes information about her hobbies and interests and writes about her exploration of OB/GYN outside of the clinical arena. An added bonus is that the applicant writes well and uses descriptive language making her statement interesting and fun to read.

Residency Personal Statement Example, Analysis, and Outline: The Outside Interests Approach

Many mentors advise applicants to tell the reader something about them that is unrelated to medicine or the specialty they are pursuing. This is a fine idea, but be sure your personal statement also includes some details about your interest in your specialty if you decide to move in this direction.

Suggested Outline:

  • Introduction: Write a Catchy Introduction. Be creative! Think outside the box.
  • Paragraph 2:Elaborate on your introduction offering more details
  • Paragraph 3: Write about your specialty choice and what appeals to you.
  • Paragraph 4: Write more about your explorations in medical school.
  • Concluding paragraph(s): Write about your future goals, the type of program you hope to join and consider looping back to your introduction.

Below is an example of the outside interests approach:

The landscape before me was lush and magical. We had been hiking for hours and had found a great spot to set up camp. As I was unloading my backpack and helping to pitch the tent, I saw a scene I knew I had to capture. I quickly grabbed my carefully packed Leica before the magnificent sunset disappeared. Trying to get the perfect exposure, I somehow managed to capture this image so accurately that it reflected the beauty of what was before us high in the mountains of Utah, so far away from the hustle and bustle of New York City where we attended medical school.

Throughout my life, I have pursued my interests and curiosities with focus and creativity. One of those interests is photography. Even as a small child, I wanted my own camera, and I started snapping interesting scenes and images at the age of 6. As I grew older, this hobby took on more significance. I took a college level course in photography as a high school student, worked as a photographer’s assistant and even considered a career in photography. Paralleling my interest, however, was a desire to travel and experience new places, foods, and cultures.

I have been fortunate to travel all over the world. Rather than stopping in a city or place for a couple of days and seeing the sights, I prefer to immerse myself in my surroundings, eating the food, meeting the people, and staying for as long as I can. My fluency in Spanish and Italian has made it easier to “fit in” naturally. My most recent trip to Costa Rica allowed me to visit sugar cane fields and rain forests. I also volunteered in a clinic that helps the most desperate citizens. Of course, because I never travel without my camera, I also captured the beauty of this country; those pictures can be found on my blog.

Surgery seemed like a natural choice for me. It is a very tactile and visual field that requires patience, attention to detail and creativity—just like photography. The operating room setting is invigorating. I love to be a member of a team, and in surgery team work is an essential part of practice. The ability to deal with anatomical variations also satisfies my creative side; I have always been fond of puzzles, and the field of surgery represents a real-world puzzle to me. I also appreciate the intensity of surgery and believe I have the personality and demeanor for the field. I have always enjoyed solving problems quickly, something the field of surgery requires. My rotations in surgery – in addition to my core surgery rotation I have done trauma and cardiothoracic surgery – have helped me to understand the tremendous opportunities and diversity of the field. I have heard some residents lament that the only reason they went into surgery is to operate. However, I really enjoy seeing patients postoperatively. It is only at that time that a surgeon can really appreciate the impact of his or her work.

Finally, my trip to Honduras with a surgical team from my hospital and medical school made me realize that I can make a great contribution globally in the field of surgery. There we saw patients who had no resources or access to care. The facilities in which we worked were bare-bones. Yet the impact we made was tremendous, given that this was a group of people who otherwise would have no surgical care. In this way, I hope to combine my interests in travel and surgery as a resident, if I have time, and certainly as a practicing physician. My ultimate goal is to use my training to help populations globally and domestically.

To gain the most clinical exposure possible, I hope to train in a busy urban hospital. I believe that such a setting will give me the operative experience I need to be able to navigate many situations in the future. Such a setting will also give me the outpatient experience to understand how to manage patients once the surgery is completed.

I look forward to the day when I can be snapping my camera intraoperatively, documenting what I am doing and seeking to help other surgeons. For some, such pictures may not represent the art of those pictures I take in the wilderness, but for me they reflect the beauty of surgery and the great opportunity to make a lasting impression on another human being’s life.

This is a really intriguing personal statement because the author writes about his outside interests in a compelling way that makes him instinctively likable. He then goes on to explain what he enjoys about surgery and what he has done to pursue that interest. As you can see, this applicant writes less about his specialty (surgery) than the applicant in statement #1 did, but, he still convinces the reader of his understanding of, and commitment to, surgery. In this statement, the reader gains a much broader understanding of who the applicant is as a person and what he likes to do in his free time.

Final Thoughts

Writing your residency personal statement should be about telling your story in your own voice and style. You want to highlight your interest in the specialty for which you are applying while also conveying some ideas about who you are as a person to keep your reader engaged in learning about you as a person.

Residency Personal Statement Consulting Services

MedEdits Medical Admissions offers comprehensive guidance and document review services for residency applicants to every specialty in medicine. With more than twenty years of experience in residency admissions and founded by a former residency admissions officer and physician, MedEdits understands what program directors want to read and can help you decide what aspects of your background to focus on in your residency personal statement to earn the most interviews possible.

Getting into a residency has never been more competitive. Let the experts at MedEdits help you with your ERAS personal statement. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been matched to one of their top-choice programs.

Sample Residency Personal Statement Page 1

Sample Residency Personal Statements

Residency Personal Statement Example Page 2

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PersonalStatementMan

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Students who matched because of their great personal statements

Follow my proven formula for writing your medical residency personal statement because it’s easy and it works. How do I know it's effective? Because I’ve personally played a role in hundreds of successful matches .

Table of Contents:

The One Rule for Writing Your Medical Residency Personal Statement

My residency personal statement writing suggestions, the cheeseburger method: the best residency personal statement outline, the introduction, or your residency personal statement’s top bun, the middle, or your personal statement’s meat, veggie patty, or whatever, the conclusion, or your residency personal statement’s bottom bun, the final sentence (or two) of your medical residency personal statement.

Toppings, or the Added Tasty Stuff Like Cheese, Bacon, Ketchup, Etc.

3 Takeaways

Faq: red flags, transitions, revision process, how to ask for help, etc..

This guide is meant to be a one-stop shop for personal statement writing. However, I cover additional tips and tidbits if you're interested in digging deeper. For those, check out:

4 Critical Medical Residency Personal Statement Writing Tips

5 Easy Guidelines for Residency Personal Statement Writing

Signs that says "NO"

No matter what anyone says, there are no hard and fast rules you must adhere to in writing your medical residency personal statement.

Sure, there are suggestions . There are good decisions and bad decisions. For instance, some people would advise you never to use informal writing in your residency personal statement. Readers will see “isn’t” or “I’m” and immediately toss it in the trash!

Nope. Not true. A few readers may grimace. Still, some readers might actually prefer conversational writing. Perhaps your casual tone will be the crucial little thing that nudges the scales in your direction and ultimately opens the door of that coveted dream residency spot.

So, what’s the ONE RULE for writing your ERAS personal statement? It’s that there are no true, set-in-stone, ironclad, must-follow-or-else rules.

Okay, so no rules, but here are the tried-and-true parameters I follow:

1) Your ERAS personal statement length should be between 600 and 800 words.

2) Don’t capitalize specialties. It’s incorrect.

3) Don’t name the places you’ve worked or the doctors/mentors you’ve worked with. This personal statement is about you, not them.

4) Include a patient story from rotations that relates to your chosen specialty and shows you in action doing things residency programs like.

Really, that’s it. Now let’s learn about my magic CHEESEBURGER method. Yum!

Big delicious cheeseburger

A strong first sentence or two are important, but it’s a mistake to try too hard to grab attention.

Many people will tell you that immediately captivating your reader is critical. It’s not. In fact, so many students attempt to blow minds with their opening sentences that you’ll probably stand out by NOT doing so.

Instead, go for INTERESTING rather than INCREDIBLE. Here are some examples:

Residency personal statement first sentence examples

Just go for a strong first sentence. After that, focus on answering the following two questions:

Why are you becoming a doctor?

Why do you love your chosen specialty?

Remember that this personal statement is not for your medical school application. You’re applying for RESIDENCY here. Thus, touch lightly on the first question and devote more energy to the second. What is it about psychiatry that you enjoy so much? Why are you so fascinated by surgery? Is there an interesting story that pushed you toward family medicine?

Cheeseburger patty - the meat of your residency personal statement

Your patient story is the juicy good stuff in the middle of your ERAS personal statement. This is where you win your readers over by showing yourself in action in the clinical setting.

Unfortunately, for many applicants, this is the most difficult part. You might be wondering to yourself: Do I REALLY need one?

Including a patient story is one of my core guidelines. There are some rare exceptions. However, when a client tells me they’d rather not share one, I do everything I can to convince them otherwise. Why?

First of all, your audience expects a patient story.

More importantly, it’s a great vehicle for selling yourself as a phenomenal prospective resident. Your readers know you’re just a “lowly student,” but they want to see initiative. They want to picture you in action in circumstances similar to those you’ll encounter in residency.

Here’s how to generate an effective patient story:

1) Remember: just as with your opening sentence, you do NOT need to blow your reader away. It isn’t necessary to portray yourself as a physician superhero.

2) Consider your intended specialty. If you’re applying to family medicine, brainstorm a story that shows you building a longer-term relationship. Focus on education and prevention, and/or other similar family medicine “buzz words.” Internal medicine? Teamwork, detail analysis, etc. Surgery? Calmness under pressure, dexterity, leadership, teamwork. You get the idea.

3) Include pertinent details. Details help paint a vivid picture, but too many weigh down the narrative. In choosing your details, think about what each one conveys to the reader about you. For instance, recalling an exact lab value or catching a subtle symptom or bit of prior history says you’re observant. Bringing a patient an extra blanket relates that you’re compassionate and thoughtful. Some attributes are higher on the list for certain specialties but perhaps lower for others, so prioritize details carefully.

4) Keep yourself at center stage. Sure, your attending did some amazing things that inspired you, but this personal statement needs to show how capable YOU are. Many students say they were “in awe” of what another doctor did and use that as the point their story revolves around. This is a huge mistake.

Still can’t think of a good patient story? Rack your memory or look back through your patient logs. Ask your family and friends to remind you of the interesting stories you’ve told them from rotations.

When did you go above and beyond?

What are your most memorable patients?

It’s totally fine if nothing stands out. I said it earlier, but the patient story is where applicants typically struggle the most. That just means it's time to get creative!

But PersonalStatementMan, is it okay to embellish a so-so encounter? What about completely making a story up out of thin air? Do people do that? Do they actually lie?!

YES, they absolutely do. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines if necessary.

To be very blunt, whether it’s ethical or not, your competition will do anything they can to get ahead of you. This isn’t the time to over-worry about morals.

Bottom bun - the conclusion of the medical residency personal statement

In your conclusion, I recommend briefly answering, in 2-3 sentences at maximum, two questions:

1) What are your aspirations for your medical career after residency?

Readers typically want to see that you’re open-minded. Think about where you were when you began medical school and know that a lot can change in the coming years. Thus, there’s no need to get too specific.

Also, many programs give extra points to applicants they think might stick around after residency. So if you’re absolutely certain about your exact path, and it doesn't involve working for your program, consider sharing that information AFTER you match.

2) What are you looking for in a residency program?

Be brief and general here. You want to come across as humble, that you’re not expecting too much above the basics like a positive workplace, an environment that promotes growth and learning, and good attendings.

I suggest NOT mentioning you want things like research opportunities unless EVERY program you’re applying to offers them.

Additionally, I encourage you NOT to state that you’re looking for a program that promotes resident wellness. Wellness SHOULD of course be a given. I know that’s not always the reality, but like it or not, some readers will view you adding that expectation into your personal statement as a sign you might not be a dream employee/teammate.

Then finally, you will use your conclusion to sum up and reinforce the rest of your medical residency personal statement. How to do this most effectively? Touch back on your introduction. This wraps everything together and creates a satisfying, full-circle reading experience.

You can also sprinkle in a little from your patient story if it fits.

Personal statement transition to conclusion example

The dreaded ending. Don't be intimidated, it's really not that difficult. Just as with everything else, your goal should not be to knock any socks off or blow any minds.

My winning formula for residency personal statement final sentences boils down to a mix of at least two of the following elements:

1) Enthusiasm to start residency

2) A reinforcement of your dedication

3) A reminder about what you offer to your team and patients

This is a lot to include in a single sentence, right? It is, but after writing and revising hundreds upon hundreds of medical residency personal statements, I’ve found this formula to tie the tightest bow.

Be declarative and confident. This is the career you’ve worked so hard for, and you DESERVE this residency position.

Finally, and this is VERY important: The surest way to accomplish a confident ending without sounding arrogant is to mention your team.

Here are some examples:

Personal statement final sentence examples

If you still don’t like how your ending sounds after trying your very hardest, I have a trick for you. It works every time:

Begin a new paragraph and conclude with something like:

“Thank you for your time and consideration.”

Personal statement ending example

Looks pretty good, right?

Ending this way brings finality to your medical residency personal statement. It also implies that you’re respectfully aware of your reader and appreciative of the time they spent going over your application.

Personal Statement Toppings, or the Added Tasty Stuff Like Cheese, Bacon, Ketchup, Etc.

The toppings of your medical residency personal statement

Make your residency personal statement cheeseburger more unique by adding your favorite toppings!

Is there something interesting and different about your path to residency? Did you put yourself through college by working at Old Navy? Were you raised or did you study in a foreign country? Are you particularly proud of your research or volunteer work?

Do you fly airplanes in your free time? Run your own business?

Maybe you play an instrument at a high level, were a collegiate athlete, or have a black belt in karate.

Sharing one or two morsels like these can help you stand out among your competition. However, avoid too much emphasis and always keep in mind that the purpose of your medical residency personal statement is to show what you will bring to your program as a resident.

A common trap some students fall into is reciting their CV experience items to try to prove that they’re qualified.

Firstly, your reader holds that exact information in their hands already. Secondly, listing items from your past makes for very boring writing. You’re telling a story here! Let your other application materials speak for themselves while you make your ERAS personal statement as engaging and readable as possible.

In that spirit, do not include your toppings if they don’t fit naturally. Getting the narrative to flow together takes a lot of work and finesse, but when you get it right, it will place your personal statement among the top 1%. What does that mean? Well, it means your readers will LOVE you and your dream residency will BEG to interview you!*

*Okay you got me. This might be a slight exaggeration.

1) Your residency personal statement's length should be between 600 and 800 words.

2) Don't waste time trying to blow your readers' minds with "incredible" opening or closing sentences. Go for "interesting" instead.

3) A simple, cheeseburger-like outline has been proven over and over to achieve spectacular results: Top bun (introduction), meat (patient story), bottom bun (conclusion). And don't forget to include a few delicious toppings.

Hand waving red flag

I go into more detail about many of these topics in the linked posts, but here are quick answers to some common questions. If you require further clarification and want to set up a meeting to discuss in person, please never hesitate to reach out to me .

Personal Statement FAQ

Hand raised

Do I need different versions of my personal statement for different specialties?

YES. You do not want residency programs thinking that their specialty may not be your first choice.

For an obvious example, a surgeon has a different set of skills than an internist. They excel in different environments, cultivate different knowledge bases, and encounter different types of patients.

Less obvious is that even if you're applying to both family medicine and internal medicine, both primary care specialties, you must write two separate personal statements.

Though similar on the surface, the two fields have subtle (but critical) differences. For example, family medicine is more outpatient focused while internal medicine revolves more around inpatient medicine. FM prioritizes relationships, continuity, and prevention. Yes, these are also important in IM, but IM is more centered in analysis, diagnosis, and teamwork.

The takeaway? You must have separate personal statements for each specialty.

Should I tailor different versions of my personal statement to each program I’m applying to?

Short answer: No, but there are exceptions.

Personalizing versions of your personal statement for each residency program can be cumbersome, confusing, and risky.

I've worked with more than one student who made the fatal mistake of accidentally uploaded the wrong version to the wrong program. Oops! Needless to say, their top choices did not extend interview invitations.

Additionally, I doubt tailoring different versions is very effective. Most students try to lift key phrases from the program's website and saying things like:

"I know I am a great fit for < insert program name > because, like you, my core values are teamwork, results, and patient satisfaction."

And/or they google the geographical area and say something like this:

"When I am not working hard my team and patients, I look forward to hiking the area's plentiful nature trails and exploring < insert nearby city >'s vibrant culinary scene."

Does that seem compelling to you?

Now, there are exceptions to this advice, and the biggest one is if you rotated at the program. Adding in a personal sentence or two will remind your readers they know you, just in case they forgot your name or something.

That said, if you choose to tailor your personal statement to different programs, learn from my previous clients' tragedies. Make sure you triple- or quadruple-check that you've attached the correct one in ERAS.

Who actually reads my residency personal statement?

Program directors and attendings are NOT the only people who you will have the chance to impress with your ERAS personal statement.

It depends on the program, but any number of staff members and current residents might also be given access to your application. Choosing new residents is often a group effort!

It's important to keep this in mind when writing your personal statement. For instance, going way out of your way to appeal to a PD might turn off prospective co-residents. Consequently, you want to remain as authentic and honest as possible, knowing you're communicating with a fairly wide audience.

When and how do I ask for help?

Having another set or two of eyes during the writing process can be very helpful.

However, be wary of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Everyone you ask -- your friends, parents, attendings, teachers, janitors -- will have a different opinion they're sure is correct. Too much input quickly devolves into a counterproductive and confusing ball of stress, anguish, and sleepless nights.

Here's what I recommend:

Complete your first draft before asking for help. Then limit your proof readers/feedback givers to just TWO people. ONE reader is even better. Of course, make sure you choose very carefully.

Then, after another draft or two, hire a professional writing service to tighten things up (see below).

It's extremely important you keep in mind that the only opinion that truly counts is yours. If you believe strongly in a certain passage or story that one of your readers criticizes, defend it. I encounter a lot of students who look to others for the correct answers about their personal statements.

Unfortunately "correct answers" don't exist for things that are subjective.

Remember: Just like our ONE RULE that there are no rules, there is no such thing as a "correct" way to present yourself in your personal statement. No matter what you do, some readers will respond well and others not so well.

Should I hire someone to help?

Given my job, you should know my answer to this question: Yes!!

Here's my in-depth discussion about why and how to hire the BEST ERAS personal statement writing service you can find.

How do I address red flags?

Follow the link for my discussion about the two best methods for addressing red flags .

Can I use ChatGPT or another AI?

You can use it to help you write, but DO NOT use it to write your ERAS personal statement for you. More discussion here !

How do I write great transitions? (coming soon)

What is a good revision process (coming soon), how do i know when i’m done is my personal statement good enough (coming soon), i’m still struggling what do i do (coming soon), residency application faq table of contents:, what if my attending asks me to write my own letter of recommendation (coming soon), what are the eras experiences and how do i write them (coming soon).

Photo credits:

Students Who Matched: https://depositphotos.com/portfolio-12531762.html

Signs that say "NO" - https://depositphotos.com/portfolio-1655708.html

Cheeseburger & Accoutrements: Abby Curtin

Residency personal statement examples: https://www.personalstatementman.com

Red Flag: https://depositphotos.com/portfolio-1020422.html

Hand raised: https://depositphotos.com/portfolio-4218696.html

  • Residency Personal Statement
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4 Critical Medical Residency Personal Statement Writing Tips (Dec 2023)

How to Find the Best ERAS Personal Statement Writing Service (Jan 2024)

5 Easy Guidelines for Residency Personal Statement Writing (Jan 2024)

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Residency personal statement: the ultimate guide.

personal statement outline residency

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 08/08/23

Are you planning on writing your personal statement for residency? We’ll cover everything you need to know about the process.

all about your residency personal statement graphic

The residency application personal statement is an essential part of applying to programs, but it can be intimidating. We get it. It can be challenging to write about yourself and your life experiences within 3,500 characters. We’ll cover everything you need to know about writing a powerful statement!

Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement

image of teacher icon

Importance of Your Personal Statement in a Residency Application

The importance of your personal statement in your application cannot be overstated. Yes, you have secured solid letters of recommendation from physicians and crushed your USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) .

However, your personal statement is the one component of your application where you can make a case for yourself and leave a lasting impression on program directors. 

Think about it this way: program directors receive thousands of applications From aspiring medical residents and review thousands of standardized, quantitative factors like grades and test scores across the board. They also read thousands of essays and want to see something that will pique their interest. 

Your personal statement is an opportunity to show program directors specific qualities that make you stand out and shine . Program directors want to know the person behind the stellar numerical achievements. 

They want to know that you will thrive, reach your greatest potential in their program, and continue to have an exceptional career as a leader in healthcare.

importance of residency personal statement

Because of how competitive programs can be, your writing may very well be the tiebreaker that leads to your acceptance into a top program over another applicant. 

While a strong personal statement might not compensate for low exam scores, a weak one will definitely hurt an otherwise strong application.

Residency Personal Statement Outline

Knowing what you should include in your personal statement will help you get started. Your statement should include and reflect on a combination of the following:

  • What draws you to medicine/your specialty?
  • The desirable qualities, attributes, and skill sets make you well-suited to a  program and will help you succeed.
  • Your long-term plans as a practicing physician after you complete your program. This can include what you hope to accomplish in your residency and your preferred setting.
  • What attracts you to a particular program, and how would it make you a good fit?

Ultimately, program directors are looking for residents who are the best candidates and colleagues to work with and train. Combining the above suggestions will give program directors a good sense of what having you on their team would be like.

What to include in your residency personal statement

3 Tips to Help You Start Writing

Here are three tips to help you get started! 

1. Consider Why You’re Pursuing a Particular Residency

Before you start your application personal statement, you should be clear on why the specialty you’ve chosen is the right one for you . Program directors want to know that you have a realistic idea of what the specialty entails. 

If your writing fails to convey solid, meaningful reasons for pursuing the chosen specialty, you will likely not be invited for an interview. Don’t hurt your chances by sounding disinterested in the field or focusing on superficial aspects of the specialty, like high salaries and benefits.

UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine urges you to “remember that this is your chance to focus on your medical career objectives, i.e., what specialty you'd like to go into and what your ultimate goals might be.” 

2. Brainstorm 

To begin drafting your personal statement, brainstorm. Brainstorming allows you the freedom to be creative and informal. When brainstorming, you do not have to worry about grammar, spelling, or editing. You want to write down your ideas and get your creative juices flowing. 

After you have a body of ideas, you can work on weaving one or several elements into a strong, concise narrative. 

3. Ask Yourself Questions 

The following questions will help you get started brainstorming ideas for your personal statement:

  • What first drew you to the specialty? 
  • What are your greatest qualities, and how have you demonstrated these qualities? Focus on a few desirable qualities for a medical professional during specialization.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Name an experience, clinical or otherwise, that significantly impacted you. Why was the experience meaningful, and how did it change you?
  • What obstacle, challenge, or failure did you overcome, and what did it teach you about adversity?
  • When did you know you wanted to pursue your chosen specialty?
  • What is your most meaningful extracurricular activity?
  • Who are your role models? What qualities do they possess that inspire you to be like them? How does this translate in your chosen field?
  • What medical cause do you care about the most, and what led you to care about it?

Remember, brainstorming aims to put down everything you can remember with as much detail as possible without worrying about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, or revisions. 

The more details you explore while brainstorming, the easier it will be to extract and expand upon the stories you want to tell.

How to Write An Amazing Residency Application Personal Statement

Now that you have completed your preliminary brainstorming, let’s review how to write a personal statement. Later in this guide, we will review samples of other applicants’ personal statements and analyze what makes them successful.

How to write a med school personal statement

Start With A Catchy Introduction 

A captivating introduction pulls the reader in and makes them want to read to the end. Your introduction should lead with detail. Don’t rely on platitudes, clichés, and vague language . 

One way to accomplish this is to have an anecdote or two in mind that will be the central focus of your narrative. Then, introduce that anecdote while being aware of both brevity and detail. 

Focus on Things That Aren’t on Your CV

The personal statement should never regurgitate what’s already on your CV. Instead, focus on important aspects about you, your experiences, and your qualities that do not appear on your CV.

For example, if you have a hobby that demonstrates personal growth over time, tell a story about it and tie it together with your goals.

The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine suggests that if you want to repeat accomplishments, ensure they’re “relevant to your personal/professional growth. You want the emphasis to encourage the reader to bring this up in the interview.” 

Talk About You and Your Desirable Qualities 

Program directors want to get to know you as an individual and what you would bring to their program. While this might seem like a no-brainer, it is important that your personal statement remains about you. 

Program directors often read narratives that include information about the program they already know and not enough information about the candidate. Shift your tone to reflect on what makes you desirable to the residency. 

When talking about your attributes, remember that quality is more important than quantity . Narrow your focus to one or two qualities, and work on incorporating them as part of your storytelling.

Make Use of Storytelling

Avoid generic and superficial declarative statements when you write about yourself and your desirable qualities. For example, don’t simply say, “I am empathetic and compassionate.” This is forgettable, and you will not stand out from all the other applicants. 

Instead, it is better and more memorable to show how you exhibited empathy and compassion by telling a story about a real event. Show, don’t tell. People will remember your name if you tell a great story.

Include What You Expect From a Residency Program 

Program directors want to know why you are pursuing their program and what you want to gain from the experience. Tie this in with nuanced details about what you have done to pursue your particular interests and how your interests will align with what the program offers. 

How will your interests and goals support their mission? What specific strengths will you add or hope to cultivate? Again, the focus should be on you and your expectations, not on over-explaining a program to its directors. 

Cite Strong Reasons to Choose a Particular Specialty

Clearly outline your interest in a particular specialty. Program directors want to know your understanding of and interest in a specialty. Highlight what you have done in your career to explore a specialty and detail some of your insights and observations. 

Perhaps you’ve researched the length of the residency and were swayed by it. Or you were intrigued by the nature of another one. The more details you can provide, the more persuasive you will be. 

For example, you might like acute care in emergency medicine but try to be more specific than that. What do you enjoy about the diagnoses and pathologies involved in emergency medicine? What do you enjoy about the patients in your care? What do you enjoy about the setting in which you will practice?

Include Your Personal and Professional Achievements 

Your achievements should demonstrate personal and professional growth over time. Your unique personal or professional achievement may not be listed on your CV. The personal statement is where you can delve into those exceptional and distinctive details about yourself that will set you apart from the crowd. 

Always uphold your credibility by being honest and authentic. People will pick up on subtle cues of inauthenticity. Remember, you don’t have to use your personal statement to convince someone of how perfect you are because perfection doesn’t exist. 

For example, if you achieve something with a group of colleagues, give credit where it’s due and don’t take the credit all for yourself. Remain true to who you are and the experiences you’ve had thus far. You don’t need to embellish or dramatize them to impress program directors. 

They’re looking for someone reliable, credible, and genuine.

Address Areas of Improvement on Your Application 

If anomalies are anywhere in your application, such as gap years or leaves of absence, address them with a brief explanation. You don’t need to dwell on areas that need improvement, and you shouldn’t provide long explanations or be defensive. 

It’s more important for your readers to see that you faced hardship but took steps to overcome it.

Deliver a Strong Closure

Lastly, end your statement with a punch. Don’t lose steam. Succinctly and naturally wrap up your story. You don’t want to end with a weak declarative statement like, “And that’s why I would be a great resident.” 

Instead, try to deliver a callback to your introduction and include the imagery and insights that bring everything together.

5 Things to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

There are certain things that you should avoid in your personal statement. As a rule of thumb, avoid topics and language that risk alienating your readers. Be aware of the following:

1. Acronyms and Jargon 

Avoid abbreviations, acronyms, and jargon. Don’t assume that your reader knows everything. Be courteous and spell everything out. According to The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), “If there’s a shorter, simpler, less pretentious way of putting it, use it.” 

2. Poor Writing Mechanics

Avoid informal, casual writing and poor sentence structure. Be professional and ensure your writing is free of grammatical and spelling errors. You don’t want programs to be distracted by errors while they read your story! 

3. Controversial Topics 

Avoid controversial topics like ethical issues, religion, and politics. You don’t want to make polarizing or offensive statements, so don’t cross the line. Even if the statements you make aren’t offensive, there’s no guarantee the person reviewing your application will agree with you. 

4. Rehashing Why You Want to Be a Doctor 

Avoid going into the origin story of why you wanted to become a doctor. You are not applying to medical school, so your personal statement should reflect deeper insights that support your professional and personal experiences. UCSF’s Office of Career & Professional Development offers this advice : 

“Presumably, new things have happened in the past four years that inform your decision to choose your specialty or career path, or that illustrate your dedication, leadership, and teaching skills, ability for empathy, etc.” Use these new experiences in your statement! 

5. Using Vague/Generic Language

Avoid vague and generic language. The most seasoned writers draw readers in with rich detail and nuance. Using descriptive language makes your statement easier to read and is much more likely to keep the reader’s attention. 

With these tips, you should be able to write your personal statement with ease.

Mistakes to avoid in a residency personal statement graphic

Get Professional Help Writing Your Residency Personal Statement

residents talking

Contrary to popular belief, writers don’t need to hole up in a dark room, slouch over a messy desk, hit a wall with writer’s block, and suffer in solitude. Ask for help! Even the world’s bestselling authors need editors. 

Your storytelling ability and writing skills will only improve when you receive editorial feedback from trusted professionals. Getting professional help on writing your narrative will get you closer to being accepted at your first-choice program.

Inspira Advantage is here for you. We are an admissions consulting firm with extensive experience helping candidates get accepted to their dream programs. An expert residency application consultant can ensure you get the support you need at every step while you write and edit your personal statement.

Residency Personal Statement Examples

​​Reading examples of residency personal essays that program directors consider effective is advantageous. Not only will you gain insight into how to structure your writing, but you will also learn why program directors and career advisors find certain personal statements more successful than others. 

We’ll review two good personal statement examples below. Please note that both have been anonymized to protect the authors’ privacy. 

Residency Personal Statement Example 1

Here is an ERAS sample personal statement: 

One of my most formative memories of medical school was a patient high-fiving me. A seemingly minute detail, that moment came as a culmination of spending hours with a neurologically devastated patient. At the young age of 40, he was unable to speak or even interact with any of the dozens of healthcare workers at his bedside every day. I felt helpless, yet compelled to spend my time talking and reading to him, and urging him to do simple things like turning his head. He suddenly dramatically improved, and it peaked when he gave me a high-five during rounds, after I had playfully asked for one every day for three weeks. In that moment, I felt elation that he was able to lift his arms and regain some ability and autonomy. Pride, in the healthcare system that I had chosen to be a part of. And surprise, that he had been hearing and processing my words all this time when he had given no indication of doing so. On that last day before transfer to a rehabilitation facility, he hung onto my arm and sobbed “thank you” while refusing to let go. I was so impacted by this patient because for such a long time, he was unable to communicate his wants and needs to the outside world. 

I believe medicine is the most fundamental form of equity and equality – ensuring someone’s health is the most elemental way to ensure justice for their being. As physicians, we are inherent agents of change, on both an individual and community level. I want to bring this to people all around the world – those desperately fighting just to survive and whose voices are not being heard. Global health is my calling – a consummation between my interest in humanity and my desire to heal historical traumas. This came as a lifelong dream after growing up on both the East Coast and Midwest, having been surrounded by large immigrant and refugee populations. My vested interest in global health has been reaffirmed through my experiences rotating at a children’s hospital in [city], Ghana, and taking trainings and courses aimed at decolonizing global health. Both in and out of my passion for global health came a natural attraction to med-peds. Both medicine and pediatrics have always drawn me in as they both afford me the opportunity to provide holistic care – fitting the puzzle pieces between physical, mental, and social health. Med-peds will also help me become the best trained and most adaptable physician for anyone, womb-to-tomb, in local and global medicine due to the vast fund of knowledge I will develop. 

One reason I best fit with med-peds is my adaptability and persistence. I have faced setbacks in my academic career, the biggest of which was after I failed a course during my second year and had to retake the semester. During a hiatus, I pursued independent sociology courses to expand my knowledge base. In the new semester, I developed new study techniques to truly learn medicine instead of just memorizing it. This experience helped me form a cycle of analyzing, changing, and re-examining the way I learn in different scenarios; I built on that methodology repeatedly as modes of learning changed, as evidenced by my step exam scores. I learned the value of reaching out, and I strived to become that person to lean on for my peers going through similar hardships. I am also proud that despite flaws in my test-taking acumen that I have worked on during my later years of medical school, I have always been able to readily apply my medical knowledge in the wards and clinics in a way that is reflected by my patient care. 

Furthermore, I see multiple sentiments of the med-peds community reflected in myself. Med-peds folk are mobilizers of change, always creating life-changing and systemic reforms – ideals to which I fiercely relate. I have done my best to embody the amplification of voices that I have seen so vigorously amongst my med-peds mentors both on an individual and community level. To that end, I have always prided myself on being a strong advocate for patients and acting as a loudspeaker for their voices. On a broad level, I started an organization early in my medical training called [organization name] which aims to alleviate food insecurity in [city], which has a complex racial history causing countless food deserts. I have been excited and proud to help [organization] partner up with local organizations and the student-run free clinic to expand access to nutritious foods. I learned to engage with religious and community leaders in [city] to build strong community relationships to sustain change. To address upstream causes, I am starting a voter registration drive for patients in my institution’s safety net med-peds clinic. These experiences taught me the strategy and logistics of organizing systemic changes and enlightened me to people’s powerful stories. 

I picture myself practicing a mix of both hospitalist medicine and primary care to adapt to any low-resource community. I want to establish continuity of care amongst those who need it most while also managing higher acuity situations. After rotating in Ghana, I hope to pursue a fellowship in global health after completing my residency. My first-hand experience exposed me to the unique conditions of disenfranchised nations that are not readily discussed in the US. I hope to utilize fellowship training to gain the critical knowledge and translational skills required to establish the greatest benefit. All in all, I am excited to use my experiences and skills to provide care to every type of patient, especially in low-resource settings. I am committed to amplifying the voices of the disenfranchised and helping navigate the difficult road towards better, more equitable healthcare. If, in the process, those voices come in the form of more high-fives, I would not complain.

Residency Personal Statement Example 2

Here is another example: 

It was not even the end of the first week of medical school, and I was fighting for my life — and the life of others. On September 19th 2017, Hurricane Maria hit and battered the Island of Dominica. I woke up the next day from a concussion after being thrown 20 feet in the air during the storm. This once lush island was reduced to brown sticks, live wires, and broken glass. I survived the storm, but the destructive aftermath was our new reality. 

During the evacuations and rescue missions, I solidified my purpose to become an Emergency Medicine physician. I joined the [EMS name], which was the only organized medical personnel available. One of my most inspiring experiences was the emergency medical evacuation of a six-month-old girl. This patient was an infant with untreated pneumonia. She came in with respiratory distress to our pop-up clinic at 1am. The child was assessed by the only physician on the island and her prognosis was poor, she was unlikely to survive the night. As a student, I realized that in these critical moments I want to be the first responder to aid and to make the best decisions for the patient. She needed to be on a ventilator, and we did not have the facilities or equipment to help the child, only the capacity to provide supplemental oxygen. With limited resources, we had to secure the airway if needed, and I was given the role to disinfect plastic tubing left on the ground. As we provided supportive care, we also organized the logistics of the medical evacuation – from security to cleaning a landing zone for the helicopter. As the helicopter finally arrived at 3am, the sign of relief was clouded by the debris inadvertently thrown towards us during the landing. Despite the difficulties, all team members were safe, and we were finally able to get the patient to a definitive center of care.  

To work in medicine, one must be able to function in a team. This event gave me first-hand experience of coordination of care. I was a part of this team for the little girl and learned the importance of delegating tasks, cooperation among members, and having defined goals. Moreover, I was tested to perform under pressure and think clearly. I have been able to translate these skills as I have moved forward with my education, always considering my responsibilities within a team in order to provide the best care. We found out that the little girl survived, and I could not help but feel relieved that our efforts were successful. At times, there is not always the end result that is hoped for however, it is important to persevere and act for the benefit of the patient. These challenges faced during the hurricane also reaffirmed my desire to address the needs of the population during emergency situations. I was exposed to making quick, yet thoughtful decisions in order to produce the best plan of action. These attributes are integral for patient care in the emergency room and I hope to continue to develop these skills as an emergency medicine physician.  

As my medical school journey continued, I experienced another challenge – completing my studies on a boat. We had no internet and there was limited space. I learned to cohabitate with four students in a 20 square foot living arrangement. We were docked at [country] during the night, but the school was at sea for four months during the days and we as a school were then displaced to various locations to complete our preclinical studies including [multiple cities]. The difficulties unfortunately continued, with the pandemic occurring at the start of my clinical rotations. The adversities of my limited learning environment did affect my academic performance and impeded me from participating in research opportunities. I struggled with trying to reset my foundational knowledge and had to repeat my third semester. Unfortunately, I shared similar setbacks in my USMLE step 1. I knew that my results did not reflect my abilities to become a clinician. I adapted and made appropriate changes in order to better my scores. I worked on expanding my medical knowledge by attending workshops, study groups, and taking extra time after class to talk to my professors in order to better understand the more complicated concepts. As a result, my clinical acumen improved. I strengthened my time management skills allowing me to study more efficiently, which proved successful as I bettered my Step 2 scores. I have learned how to study well despite distractions and this will be of benefit to me as a future physician.  

I did not have the conventional education as others, however the experiences that I encountered molded me into the individual I am today. My desire to help others brought me to the Ukrainian refugee camps as they faced a desperate humanitarian crisis during the war. I was drawn to volunteer this summer in [city] and joined the [organization name] to provide medical services to displaced civilians I wanted to improve people’s well-being through community healthcare services, medical care, and mental support. Having had my own experiences with disaster and crisis, I provided much needed empathy for those people who sensed that they have lost control of their livelihood. Being able to provide support and healthcare to this disenfranchised group of people was extremely gratifying. I continue to expand on my medical knowledge through my involvement in relief efforts and through my clinical education. I have learned to manage the external stressors of my environment, along with my academic deficiencies, by refocusing my efforts into robust translational skills. It is an important facet in my practice to take care of the welfare of the individual. Emergency Medicine would enable me to do so, providing a solid foundation to continue involvement in public health affairs and ability to impactfully respond to relief efforts. 

Medicine is a universal language that transcends borders, cultures, and languages. To know that someone is there to help you in your time of need, you do not have to understand the language they are speaking to feel that impact. Emergency medicine truly has no borders. The “ER” is a centralized area of care. However, as an emergency medicine physician, I will be able to apply my knowledge outside the walls of the hospital to the rest of the world. I want to be that healing hand, to help as many lives as I can – whether it be in global health or in my surrounding community. With Emergency Medicine, I can achieve that and protect those who need help the most. I hope to continue to pursue opportunities for community aid and patient advocacy as an effective first line of care. I want to not only be able to identify life-threatening conditions, but have the capacity to treat patients and provide access to the appropriate avenues for their continued care. I will always strive to be someone who runs towards people in need, never away. 

More Sample Residency Statements

Looking for more personal statement samples that worked? These medical schools also have examples: 

  • University of California – San Francisco 
  • University of Alabama School of Medicine 
  • University of Nevada School of Medicine 

You can view these statements to better understand the tone and format programs look for.

If you still have questions about writing your personal statement, check out these frequently asked questions. 

1. Is It Better to Cover All My Relevant Experiences, or Should I Discuss a Few in Particular?

When in doubt, quality over quantity. You should always aim to focus on one or two themes and include a few experiences in particular. Never sacrifice depth and detail just to accommodate quantity. If you write about all your relevant experiences, their significance will get lost in trying to compete for attention in a limited space. 

It looks better to hone in on key experiences and provide depth, self-reflection, and nuance. Your CV should list all your relevant experiences, not your essay.

2. Do I Have to Write a Personal Statement for Every Residency Program I Apply to?

No, you should not write a different personal statement for every program you apply to, but you should write one for every specialty. For example, prepare one for family medicine and one for emergency medicine. 

You do not have to completely rewrite personal statements for each specialty—you can use elements that will work across the board, like introductory or concluding sentences. Use your best judgment of what will work as a template, then tailor your personal statement for every specialty. 

3. I’m Applying to Multiple Specialties. Is There a Limit on the Number of Personal Statements I Can Upload?

No, there is no limit to the number of personal statements you can upload. Your writing should be tailored for the specific specialty.

4. How Long Should a Residency Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement can vary depending on the specific requirements of the program or institution to which you are applying. However, as a general guideline, most programs recommend that essays be approximately one page long.

Typically, a one-page personal statement consists of around 750 to 850 words. Your writing should be concise, focused, and well-structured to effectively communicate your experiences, motivations, and qualifications.

Final Thoughts

Writing a residency application personal statement is stressful, but our step-by-step guide will make the process much easier as you navigate your application timeline . Now go forth and match into the residency program of your dreams. We believe in you.

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Writing a Personal Statement for Residency Application

Personal statements are an essential, required part of applying to residency. Residency programs screen thousands of applications every cycle and read many hundreds of these statements in the process. You should aim to write an interesting statement that showcases your personality as well as your achievements. Perhaps most importantly, you will need to skillfully articulate the reasons for your interest in family medicine and the particular program you're applying to.

How to Write a Great Personal Statement

A great personal statement sets itself apart from a good personal statement in several ways.

  • First, it includes a level of specificity that shows your motivations and interests are authentic. For example, when conveying why you want to match into family medicine, show awareness of the exciting developments in the specialty, or describe your experience with or knowledge of topics like population health management, care coordination, and the social determinants of health.
  • Feel free to highlight items in your CV if they help remind your reader of the experiences you’ve had that prepared you for the position. This is your opportunity to expand upon activities that are just listed in the CV but deserve to be described so your reader can appreciate the breadth and depth of your involvement in them. It should not be another comprehensive list of your activities, but rather should refer to activities that are listed in detail on the CV.
  • The personal statement is also an appropriate place to address anything that may be ambiguous on your CV. In particular, you should address any nontraditional path you’ve taken through medical school, such as time off or an altered curricular journey. It is better to address these than to leave a program wondering. If you write about academic or personal challenges that you faced during medical school, make a positive impression by focusing on what you've learned from those experiences and how they brought you to where you are now. 

You may choose to relate significant personal experiences, but do so only if they are relevant to your candidacy for the position.

Sharpen Your Writing Skills 

The importance of good writing in a personal statement cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately, not only are good writing skills allowed to deteriorate during medical school, but in some sense, they also are deliberately undermined in the interest of learning to write concise histories and physicals. For the moment, forget everything you know about writing histories and physicals. While preparing your personal statement:

  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Avoid repetitive sentence structure.
  • Avoid using jargon. If there is a shorter, simpler, less pretentious way of putting it, use it.
  • Don't assume your reader knows the acronyms you use. As a courtesy, spell everything out.
  • Use a dictionary and spell check. 
  • Use a thesaurus. Variety in the written language can add interest, but don't get carried away.
  • Write in complete sentences.

If you need a crash course in good writing, read  The Elements of Style ,  Fourth Edition  by Strunk and White. If you have friends or relatives with writing or editing skills, enlist their help. Student organizations at your school may host personal statement clinics, or your school may offer review services. Many student, medical, and specialty societies, local and national, may offer personal statement reviews or workshops.

Even if you're a great writer and feel confident about your application, you should ask trusted advisors, mentors, and friends to critique your personal statement (and your CV! ). They can help you make your statement as flawless as possible by giving you feedback about areas that might have been unclear or things that should be added.

Don't cross the line

Your personal statement should remain an original composition, even as you seek input and advice. Retain your voice as you refine your writing and don't ever plagiarize. Be aware of other ethical lines you shouldn't cross as well, for example, don't use vague references that would allow for the reader to misinterpret the nature of your experience, and don't take full credit for a project if others worked on it with you.

Copyright © 2024 American Academy of Family Physicians. All Rights Reserved.

How to write the perfect residency personal statement

You already wrote a personal statement that got you into medical school. Here's how to write the perfect personal statement to land your dream residency!

David Flick, MD

Writing a personal statement for your residency application can be difficult. Not only is it a long process, but it also requires a good deal of introspection and thoughtfulness. You already know that you can write a great personal statement because you had to write one to get accepted into medical school. The question is, can you create a fresh narrative that is just as compelling as your previous one? My recommendation is to focus on the basics and build your story from there. In this article, we will review how to achieve an appropriate length, cohesive structure, and dynamic style in a personal statement.

Know the length of your residency personal statement

ERAS has a limit of 28,000 characters for the personal statement, which is about five pages! Considering that admissions officers have to read the demographics, transcripts, Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) , experiences section, personal statement, and letters of recommendation for every ERAS residency application, it is highly recommended that your essay comes nowhere near that 28,000-character limit. The goal of your personal statement is to convey your message concisely. With that in mind as you're writing your personal statement, one-and-a-quarter pages is the sweet spot.

Determine your personal statement structure

Now that you know how long the personal statement for your residency application should be, we need to discuss how to develop your essay. First, create an outline with a standard 4–5 paragraph structure. Within that outline, logically organize your content. There are many methods of organization to choose from, such as thematically or chronologically. However, it is important that your entire essay connects to a major theme. While it may seem daunting, breaking the essay into bite-sized, manageable pieces will make the process easier.

Each personal statement has three main components: the introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. While creating your outline, consider the purpose of each section below.

Get started with an introduction

The introduction serves as a way to engage a reader while stating the main message of your essay. Hook the reader with a story or anecdote that directly relates to what you will discuss. A long story is not needed here, and you certainly do not want to become lost in it, so provide just enough context to interest the reader and maintain the message. Have that hook lead into your introduction of a theme.

Build your body paragraphs

The body paragraphs enable you to explore and expand on the theme of your essay. You can talk about personal traits, professional skills, and life experiences. Be sure to include detailed examples. Also, this section is about proving that you will be a good doctor in your chosen field, so tailor your content accordingly.

Write a conclusion to wrap it up

The conclusion should summarize all of your information and create a strong finish. This does not mean that you can simply state, “For the reasons above, I believe I will make an excellent internist.” Show the reader that you are passionate, idealistic, and enthusiastic. Consider this revision of the preceding concluding sentence: “The practice of internal medicine is centered on improving the lives of adult patients, while also orchestrating and managing their complex care. In this field, the true challenge is to tailor these needs to the individual’s unique life story in order to maximize health. To me, this is the art of internal medicine.” With a statement like this, your conclusion is more personal and demonstrates passion for your future career.

By following a structure, your personal statement becomes a little more manageable. If you still find the process difficult, start by developing one component at a time. After you define your structure and create a working draft, you can focus on your voice and writing style.

Find your voice and rhythm with dynamic writing

Dynamic writing is all about finding your voice and rhythm. Here are some ways to evaluate and improve your writing:

● Read your writing out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over certain areas, or are confused, then those are the areas that most likely need editing. You can also have a friend or family member read your essay out loud to you. It may help you to catch more areas to edit.

● Look out for repetitive patterns in your writing. This can be easily fixed by varying your sentence structure and the length of your sentences.

● Avoid hyphens, semicolons, and ellipses. They are rarely appropriate in formal writing and can indicate that a change in sentence structure is needed.

● Avoid quotations if you can. Using other people’s words in your essay takes away from your own voice.

Use precise language and vocabulary

The goal of writing is to communicate. Whether it’s for a casual, academic, or professional audience, your vocabulary should be clear and simple. Avoid “flowery” language entirely. This is not the time to practice your use of a thesaurus. Nor does this mean that your language should be bland or redundant. In fact, you should vary your language. If you find yourself overusing certain words, then rephrase the sentence or change the structure. Additionally, be sure to use a formal style when writing your personal statement. Formal prose includes avoiding the use of contractions as well as using direct communication and an active voice, among other attributes. Following these recommendations will make the reading experience better.

Start writing your personal statement!

Hopefully, this article has pointed you in the right direction and given you the tools you need to start writing your personal statement. If you still need help writing your personal statement for your ERAS application , preparing for your residency interview, or you do not know how to get started on your application, MedSchoolCoach can help.

Med School Insiders

Residency Application Personal Statement Guide

  • By Med School Insiders
  • July 4, 2022
  • Medical Student
  • Personal Statement , Residency Application

The residency application personal statement is an opportunity to detail your professional development over the course of medical school. Why do you want to join your chosen specialty? Why are you qualified to do so? What will you contribute to the program?

Continue reading our residency application personal statement guide for detailed advice on how to craft your personal statement. We’ll also share residency personal statement examples and common mistakes to avoid.

The ERAS Personal Statement

The majority of your residency application focuses on your scores and grades, and this doesn’t shed much light on who you are as a person. If there is anything you feel is underrepresented in the rest of your residency application, your personal statement is the place to highlight it. This is your chance to tell your story the way you see it.

Do not enter this process believing all you need to do is rewrite your medical school personal statement from a few years ago. While they are both technically personal statements, they are very different. When you wrote your medical school personal statement, you were a wide-eyed premed. But residency programs aren’t looking for medical students—they’re looking for young professionals who have earned their doctorate, deepened their dedication to medicine, and immensely improved their medical knowledge.

The success of your personal statement depends on your ability to effectively communicate these changes. Keep the focus of your residency personal statement on your professional development and how your experiences in medical school have crystalized your desire to pursue your chosen specialty.

Why is that specialty the one for you? What unique experiences, skills, and qualities can you contribute to the program? Speak passionately about what you hope to accomplish. Be confident yet humble about what you have achieved so far.

Remember, outside of residency interviews, this is your only chance to share your perspective and provide context to your accomplishments. Why you ? What’s your story?

ERAS Personal Statement Length

The residency personal statement length technically allows for 28,000 characters, but you do not need to utilize this entire space. We recommend keeping your residency personal statement to one typed page, which is anywhere from 500-800 words, depending on your writing.

Don’t try to fill the space to create a longer essay if you’re not actually adding anything relevant or new to your personal statement. Remember, you want to keep your audience’s attention and engage each member of the admissions committee. Being overly long-winded or repeating what they already know is a surefire way to bore committee members.

One page is the standard length for residency personal statements. Be clear and concise with your language.

How to Craft a Personal Statement for Residency

Hand writing journal Personal Statement prompts

1 | Illustrate Your Growth And Maturity

While residencies are educational, they’re quite a bit different from medical school. Residencies provide on-the-job training for people to acquire their medical license so that they can become a practicing physician. In order to be accepted into residency, your application needs to demonstrate that you are qualified.

Your residency personal statement must reflect your vastly deepened knowledge of and dedication to medicine. You are not the same innocuous premed you were when you wrote your medical school personal statement all those years ago. You are now a young professional with a doctorate, and this must be made abundantly clear to the residency program.

How have you developed professionally? Which aspects of your medical education have meant the most to you? Where have you made the greatest impact, where do you most want to make an impact in the future, and what about your experiences have made it clear to you why you belong in your chosen specialty?

Back up your ambitions with concrete, anecdotal examples of your accomplishments. Residency programs don’t care what you say you can do—they want the proof. Stay humble, but be confident about all you have achieved so far.

2 | Develop a Narrative Across Your Application

Your residency personal statement does not exist in isolation. It’s one aspect of your entire residency application, and that means it must work alongside all of the other components.

Do not simply regurgitate or rehash aspects of your CV or extracurriculars. The personal statement is an opportunity to expand and elaborate on aspects of your life, experience, skills, and assets that are not otherwise noted in your application. Don’t look at the personal statement as one more task to complete, but rather an opportunity to help decision makers see who you really are and why you would make an ideal residency candidate.

Use the personal statement to continue unraveling your personal narrative. This aspect of your application should work hand-in-hand with everything else to establish a clear and cohesive narrative of who you are and why you’re qualified.

Learn more: How to Develop a Cohesive Narrative Across Applications .

3 | Keep Your Word Count Down

You may technically have 28,000 characters, but that is far, far from what you should aim for. The standard length of a residency personal statement is one page in ERAS, which equals anywhere from 500-800 words.

Challenge yourself to be as clear and concise as possible. Show restraint and get your points across clearly and effectively in a short amount of space. Remember, you’re trying to engage your reader and entice admissions committee members. You don’t in any way want to bore them or risk that they don’t finish your personal statement due to its length.

If the first draft of your personal statement is longer than one page, continue editing and revising it until you’ve pared it down.

What aspects are superfluous? What words are not serving a clear purpose? How can you convey the same message in a shorter amount of space? Are there any areas (besides the conclusion) where you repeat yourself?

Utilize clear and direct language. Long sentences written with flowery language you got out of a thesaurus will not impress residency admissions committees.

4 | Start Early And Give Yourself Time

Starting early will give you the time you need to brainstorm, outline, write, revise, and edit your personal statement. Even though you’ve written a personal statement before, the residency personal statement is a different beast entirely, and it will require plenty of your time and attention.

Start thinking about your personal statement at the beginning of the year, many months before application season begins. Start by brainstorming ideas and reflecting on your time in medical school. What have you learned? How have you changed? What values do you continue to hold? Why were you drawn to a specific specialty?

Keep a journal or online document where you can continue to add your ideas and thoughts for your residency personal statement. By late spring or early summer, you should be outlining and writing a first draft of your personal statement.

This timeline will give you a few months to continue to revise and edit your personal statement.

View our breakdown of what you should prepare and work on each month leading up to residency: Residency Application Timeline and Month-by-Month Schedule .

5 | Take Time Revising and Invest in Professional Editing

Remember to allocate adequate time to the feedback and editing process. Spell checking tools are okay to start with, but remember these tools are only bots, and they will not be able to catch all mistakes or contextual issues.

Review your essay many times over yourself and gather feedback from qualified friends, family, acquaintances, or by hiring a reputable editing service. Whether or not you need to hire a service depends on if you know editors with adcom experience or who are intimately familiar with the residency admission process. For best results, look for an editing service that utilizes doctors with real admissions committee experience.

Learn more: How to Choose the Best Medical School Admissions Consultant .

Example of Residency Personal Statements

Utilize examples of successful residency personal statements to get a better idea of what admissions committees are looking for. It’s important that you use these examples to strengthen your knowledge of what’s expected, not to guide your own topic. Your own personal statement will be completely unique to your medical school journey, your specialty preferences, and what makes you an ideal candidate.

View our database of Residency Personal Statement Samples from real students who successfully matched into residency.

These sample personal statements are for reference purposes only and should absolutely not be used to copy or plagiarize in any capacity. Remember that plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements.

If you still feel stuck after reading residency personal statement examples, try completing a variety of prompts to get your ideas flowing. For example:

  • What is your greatest strength, and how can that strength be applied to your residency?
  • What major failures or setbacks did you encounter during medical school, and what did you learn from those experiences?
  • When did you first know you wanted to become a doctor?
  • What values are the most important to you?
  • What do you believe is the most important trait to have as a doctor?

Utilize our 25 Medical School Personal Statement Prompts to Spark Ideas .

Residency Application Personal Statement Mistakes to Avoid

Woman unhappy reading a paper Bad Personal Statement Examples

Common pitfalls are common for a reason. Admissions committees see these mistakes time and time again, no matter how many times medical students are warned. These common mistakes come into play when students rush their personal statement and don’t put adequate time into receiving feedback and acting on that feedback.

Avoid the following common residency personal statement mistakes.

  • Don’t treat your residency personal statement like your medical school application.
  • Don’t miss spelling or grammar errors in your essay. Ensure you have plenty of time for revisions and editing.
  • Don’t list your accomplishments or rehash your CV and extracurriculars.
  • Don’t use a thesaurus to come up with larger, more complicated words.
  • Don’t overuse the word I. Doing so makes you more likely to state your accomplishments instead of telling a story.
  • Don’t state the obvious or use clichés, such as your passion for science or wanting to help people.
  • Don’t ignore the feedback you receive from experienced editors or editing services.
  • Don’t speak negatively about another student, physician, or healthcare professional.
  • Don’t lie or make up stories. You may be asked about anything in your personal statement during interviews.
  • Don’t discuss anything in your personal statement that you won’t feel comfortable speaking about during residency interviews.
  • Don’t plead for an interview or opportunity.
  • Don’t procrastinate on your personal statement. You should be thinking about it months before your application is due.
  • Don’t submit your personal statement before gathering feedback from multiple, reliable sources.
  • Don’t use a personal statement editing service that does not utilize real doctors with admissions committee experience.

Residency Application Personal Statement Editing

Med School Insiders can help you prepare a stand out residency application that will help you match into your ideal program. We offer a number of Residency Admissions Consulting Services tailored to your needs, including comprehensive personal statement editing .

Our residency personal statement editing services include careful analysis of content and tone in addition to insights on how to improve your essay to impress residency program admissions committees. Your essay will be edited by a real doctor with admissions committee experience who knows the residency program admissions process inside and out.

For more strategies as well as the latest medical school and industry news, follow the Med School Insiders blog , which has hundreds of resources, guides, and personal stories, including a detailed guide on the residency application process. Read our ERAS Residency Application Guide , which is updated each application cycle.

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Residency personal statement samples and feedback.

Residency Personal Statement Samples and Feedback

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Residency Application, click here.

Sample 1: The Role Model | General Surgery

“Medicine is not a job, it is a way of life.” As the son of a cardiothoracic surgeon, my father’s mantra constantly echoed in my mind. I was raised in an environment where sacrifice and duty were familiar concepts from a young age. While my father did his best to balance work and family life, there were countless occasions when he had to prioritize his patients and commitments over personal events. Seeing his dedication and the impact he had on the lives of his patients, residents, and staff left an indelible impression on me.

After four challenging years studying biomedical engineering in undergrad, I was fortunate to be accepted to the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. While I was genuinely fascinated with almost every discipline of medicine, I had a particular interest in surgery. To give myself time to mature and explore this path further, I elected to take a research year after my second year of medical school and was able to secure a position in the laboratory of Dr. Seth Reigns, director of the Miami Transplant Institute. In the lab, I was tasked with characterizing Regulatory CAR-T cell populations in nonhuman primates. Excitingly, we found that two infusions of Regulatory CAR-T cells are able to prolong renal allograft survival in the absence of traditional immunosuppression. From a clinical perspective, witnessing the transformative impact of liver transplantation on critically ill patients was awe-inspiring. The chance to participate in donor procurements and witness the miraculous recoveries of patients postoperatively further solidified my resolve. Dr. Reigns, a true life-giver, provided me with a profound appreciation for the field of transplant surgery.

During my research year, I had the opportunity to hone my research skills and make significant contributions. However, it was my immersive experience as a third-year clerk on the trauma service that solidified my desire to pursue a career in surgery. Witnessing the remarkable expertise of the chief residents and attending surgeons in swiftly assessing and diagnosing patients amidst the chaos of the trauma bay, where vital information was often scarce, left me mesmerized. The urgency with which they inserted chest tubes and promptly performed emergent exploratory laparotomies was nothing short of exhilarating and profoundly inspiring. Equally fulfilling was the privilege of accompanying these patients throughout their hospitalization, observing their remarkable recovery from being intubated in the intensive care unit to the triumphant moment of their eventual discharge. This comprehensive experience further affirmed my passion for surgical intervention and reinforced my unwavering commitment to becoming a surgeon.

In addition to my research endeavors, I also became involved with Operation SECURE, a nonprofit crisis center in Miami that offers crisis counseling services free of charge. This experience has been humbling and rewarding, particularly as I counsel individuals struggling with alcohol and substance use disorders. Drawing from my background in transplant surgery, I am able to provide a unique perspective on the long-term consequences of addiction. While surgical intervention can address these issues this experience demonstrated the importance of preventative medicine as well.

Looking ahead, my goal is to pursue a residency in general surgery, with the ultimate aim of specializing in abdominal transplant surgery through a fellowship program. I am well aware that the challenges I will face in my training are formidable, but I am constantly reminded of my father’s voice, urging me to approach this as more than just a job—a true lifestyle that demands my unwavering commitment. As I embark on this journey, I am eager to give everything I have to the field of surgery. It is my steadfast dedication to making a profound difference in the lives of patients, the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, and the opportunity to live my dream that fuels my passion for general surgery and the transformative field of transplantation.

Commentary on Sample 1

The first paragraph is what will set the tone for the entire personal statement. Ideally, you can open up with an engaging first sentence that will “grab” the reader. In this case, the applicant is providing a quote from her father describing the sacrifices that one must make as a physician. The applicant then sets up her father as a role model and the role this played in her decision to pursue medicine.

Note that often applicants feel the need to be “too creative” in the opening paragraph. A quote from a mentor or influential person or patient is ok, but you don’t have to always include quotes or extremely unusual stories. Further, recognize that some applicants will have more unique or interesting personal experiences than others. Not every applicant is a cancer survivor or has donated an organ to a family member or is the product of a war-torn country. The overall goal of the personal statement is to provide a concise, polished essay demonstrating your motivations for residency. Along the way, you tell your story while highlighting key aspects of your personality and CV.

These next two paragraphs are perhaps the most important. Here the applicant dives into what made her want to become a general surgeon. She talks about her research  experiences in a surgical lab and her clinical experiences with her mentor Dr. Reigns. Note that while she is not simply rehashing her CV, she does mention her academic accomplishments and drives key points home. Note that while the applicant elected to open the first paragraph with a quote from her father, she could have also chosen to open with an internal thought or reflection from these clinical experiences with Dr. Reigns (i.e., “I’ll never forget the moment we completed the venous anastomosis and ended ischemia time. Blood began perfusing the pale liver as it pinked up.”)

This paragraph draws on another crucial experience that the applicant had outside of the lab/OR. Remember, you are presenting yourself as a whole person so it is important to mention any other influential experiences (volunteering, service, etc.) that you are particularly proud of. Also, note that while the applicant is serving as a crisis volunteer, she circles back and relates it to her prior experiences above.

The final paragraph is also very critical. Here you should mention your long-term goals. It is ok to be vague and specific at the same time. Finally, you should try to tie things up and if possible, connect them to any comments made in the first paragraph. Here the applicant paraphrases her father’s quote that opens the personal statement. Finally, the applicant affirms their choice for applying to general surgery and provides an optimistic look on their future training.

As a final note remember that the personal statement is just one piece of an entire application. While it is important most applicants do not get an interview based on a personal statement, however, rest assured some applicants do not get an interview based on a poor personal statement. The vast majority of personal statements (~85%) are simply acceptable documents that tell your personal journey while mentioning key aspects of your application. They are well-written, logical, and polished with no grammatical errors. A small portion (less than 5%) are truly incredible literary documents that are beautifully written and tell an incredible story. Still, these personal statements will likely do little in the way of getting you an interview. Finally, the remaining 10% of personal statements are the ones that can have your application dismissed. These personal statements are unpolished, contain grammatical errors, or are trying too hard to fall in the top 5% and come across poorly.

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Sample 2: The Firefighter | Emergency Medicine

For as long as I can recall, it seemed my destiny was always to become a firefighter. Growing up as the son and grandson of two generations of City of Toledo Firefighters, I witnessed firsthand the selflessness and bravery displayed by these everyday heroes. They were the first responders who fearlessly confronted emergencies, rushing into flaming buildings and establishing deep connections with the community. It was their dedication that inspired me to follow in their footsteps. However, my path took an unexpected turn after high school when I decided to take a position working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) prior to college.

During that transformative year, as I immersed myself in the world of emergency medical services, I had the privilege of interacting with emergency physicians both in the field and in the trauma bay. During these experiences, I was immediately captivated by their ability to think critically, remain calm in the face of chaos, and save lives. It was in those moments that I realized my true calling lay in the field of emergency medicine.

Coming from a blue-collar family, I understood the importance of hard work and determination. As the first person in my family to pursue a college degree, I enrolled in Owens Community College to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Pre-medicine. During this time, I continued to work as an EMT on weekends and during summers, financing my education through steadfast commitment and sheer determination. After two demanding years at the community college, my efforts were rewarded when I earned a full scholarship to the University of Toledo to complete my bachelor’s degree before gaining admission to the Toledo School of Medicine. From the moment I stepped into medical school, my decision to pursue emergency medicine remained resolute. However, I recognized the value of acquiring a comprehensive understanding of various medical disciplines, as emergency medicine demands proficiency in almost every aspect of medicine. I approached every clinical rotation with enthusiasm, eager to develop the diverse skill set required to excel in the dynamic environment of the emergency department.

As a testament to my passion for the field, I took the initiative to establish the University of Toledo’s Emergency Medicine Interest Group, creating a platform where like-minded individuals could come together. Through this group, I organized lunch talks by members of the department and facilitated shadowing opportunities for first and second-year medical students. Furthermore, I dedicated two months of elective time to work alongside emergency medicine residents and physicians during prehospital care rotations across Toledo, solidifying my passion for the specialty.

Looking ahead, I envision a future where I split my practice between a large teaching academic center and an underserved, rural community. In the academic center, I aim to contribute to the education of residents and students, sharing my experiences and expertise to shape the next generation of emergency physicians. Simultaneously, I am deeply committed to serving in a rural or underserved setting, where I can make a meaningful impact on the lives of those in need. I believe that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, deserves access to high-quality emergency care, and I am eager to provide comprehensive and compassionate medical services to underserved populations. With the unwavering motivation and dedication inherited from two generations of first responders, I am ready to embark on the next phase of my training in emergency medicine.

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Sample 3: the impoverished| primary care/im.

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” These powerful words, spoken by my mother, have echoed in my mind since childhood. Growing up in a single-parent home on the south side of Chicago, my mother worked tirelessly as a nurse in Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital’s emergency department. Every night my brother and I would wait for her to arrive after her shift ended at 7 pm. As she shared stories of dedicated physicians and life-saving interventions, I began to view these doctors in the same manner my friends viewed superheroes or sports stars, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine.

As an African American in a neighborhood lacking professional role models, the path to becoming a physician seemed distant if not impossible. However, my mother’s belief in the power of dreams instilled in me the courage to strive for the extraordinary. With determination, I worked diligently throughout grade school and middle school, propelled by the aspiration to transcend the limitations of my circumstances. Eventually, I was admitted to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, a magnet school named after a civil rights activist and one of my personal heroes.

Continuing to embrace every opportunity, I was able to attend Northwestern University on a full academic scholarship, where I immersed myself in neuroscience studies. Additionally, I dedicated my time as a tutor, providing support to underserved children in my former neighborhood. Witnessing the impact of education and healthcare disparities further ignited my passion for addressing these inequities.

Entering the University of Chicago Medical School, I embarked on a transformative journey. During my third-year clerkships, I discovered my calling in primary care and internal medicine. Although initially drawn to the fast-paced environment of the emergency department, I found the thoughtful, cerebral approach of internal medicine captivating. Each day, I eagerly embraced the challenge of unraveling complex medical puzzles, weaving together a patient’s diverse comorbidities to form a comprehensive list of differential diagnoses.

Following my third year, I took a gap year dedicated to serving underserved populations in Chicago. This experience provided a profound understanding of social determinants of health and the importance of preventive medicine. It solidified my commitment to bridging the gaps in healthcare access and outcomes, particularly within urban communities like my own. Looking forward, my vision encompasses practicing as a primary care physician in an urban academic center, where I can not only provide compassionate patient care but also mentor and inspire medical students and residents. Furthermore, I aspire to conduct research that addresses social determinants of health, striving to make tangible improvements in my community.

Reflecting on my journey, I realize that my mother’s quote encapsulates the essence of my pursuit. With each step I’ve taken, from the dinner table conversations with my mother to my experiences in medical school, I have seen firsthand that dreams can indeed be transformed into reality. By embracing the challenges, dedicating myself to lifelong learning, and advocating for equitable healthcare, I am ready to embark on a fulfilling career in internal medicine—a path that resonates with my values, aspirations, and the indomitable spirit instilled in me by my remarkable mother. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” These words, once whispered to me at the beginning of my journey, now reverberate with even greater significance as I stand at the threshold of a future where I can make a lasting difference in the lives of others.

Sample 4: The War Survivor| Internal Medicine

The Afghan Civil War erupted when I was in elementary school. Soon after, the Taliban occupied Afghanistan, and, as a girl, I was barred from my school. I had always dreamed of becoming the first female doctor in my family, and this was a goal that required extensive education, let alone elementary school. My family uprooted everything to migrate to Pakistan so that I would be able to continue my education. Living in a country where we were not welcomed, bearing financial burdens, and worrying about safety issues, especially for girls, were the least of the challenges we faced, but that did not hold me back.

Still, that was not the last challenge I faced. When I graduated high school, I could not afford to attend medical school in Pakistan. Instead, I accepted the offer to serve as a teacher at our community school. Teaching at such a young age, tutoring those similar in age to me, and managing a class of thirty students taught me a great deal of discipline and leadership, skills which I have since carried with me throughout my career.

A decade later, the Taliban regime was finally over. We returned to Afghanistan, and I attended the entrance exam for Kabul Medical University. Among thousands of other participants, I was part of the lucky 25% who passed the exam. My endurance had paid off. Finally in medical school, I found myself fascinated by the detailed knowledge and interdisciplinary approach of my internist attendings. Their synchronized orchestration of patient care resonated with my experiences managing diverse students, while their instructive whiteboard sessions on pathophysiology echoed my own tenure at the front of a classroom. These encounters served as enlightening examples, aiding me in sculpting my identity as a burgeoning physician.

On my internal medicine rotation, I was responsible for the care of a patient with multiple myeloma. His low hemoglobin level led to significant limitations in his daily activity. His symptoms were initially attributed solely to his condition, but I was not satisfied with this explanation. When I ordered his iron studies, we were able to diagnose him with concomitant iron deficiency anemia. An iron infusion quickly helped improve his quality of life, which was precious to my patient, as I knew from the time I had spent with him. That ability to help my patient made me finally feel like the doctor I aspired to be. I had found my home in internal medicine. The convergence of laboratory tests, imaging studies, and critical analysis to reach a diagnosis fuels my desire to become an internist.

Despite my passion for internal medicine, women in Afghanistan faced scant opportunities in this field. This was due to a lack of female mentors and sociocultural constraints against females being on night shifts in predominantly male hospitals. Undeterred, I embarked on another journey away from home, this time to the United States. Here, I secured a position as a medical scribe, working in tandem with various healthcare providers. This experience allowed me to absorb their expertise, familiarize myself with the U.S. healthcare system, and diligently prepare for and ultimately pass the USMLE exams.

I have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. My accomplishment of becoming my family’s first female doctor fills me with pride. Yet, I aspire to achieve more – to become a distinguished internist and an empowering role model for the women of Afghanistan. I intend to personify the belief: if you dare to dream, you are destined to achieve.

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Sample 5: Changing Specialties| Internal Medicine

When I was a senior in high school, my girl scout troop would organize weekly medical trips to rural parts of our community, working with local physicians to provide basic medical services to underserved patient populations. I was particularly struck by the excellent care and bedside manner of one of the physicians who used his bilingualism to connect with a non-English speaking patient who had faced significant challenges in accessing care. The doctor’s small gesture left a lasting impression on me, and, for the first time, I realized not only the curative but also the humanistic power of medicine to connect with patients across cultural barriers and in some of their most vulnerable moments. Though I had always had a proclivity for science, it was not until that moment that I had ever seriously considered a career in medicine.

In medical school, I was captivated by pre-clinical coursework in pathology and lectures on disease pathophysiology. I was torn between pathology and internal medicine during my clinical rotations, as I enjoyed the cerebral, deductive nature of each field and the fact that neither was limited to a single organ system or patient population. The opportunity to be the frontline diagnostician and to utilize advanced equipment and laboratory methods eventually won me over to pathology.

However, during my pathology residency, the pendulum started to swing back toward internal medicine. I vividly remember the turning point in my decision making. I was staring down the barrel of my microscope at dozens of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes on a peripheral blood smear. I paged the internal medicine team to help confirm the diagnosis of cerebral malaria. Hearing the excitement and celebration of the medical team on the other end, who had been struggling to identify the etiology of the patient’s undulant fevers and fatigue, I felt a pang of envy, a distinct feeling that I was missing out on the human factor of medicine.

Similarly, in my research on the utility of galectin-3 immunohistochemistry staining in papillary carcinoma of the thyroid, I found myself increasingly drawn to the human impacts of scientific investigation. For example, after my successful completion of several experiments, our department was able to secure funding to examine a wider range of malignancies. I was particularly excited when my research enabled our hospital to offer estrogen and progesterone receptor testing and hormonal therapy for breast cancer patients. I quickly realized that I did not just want to diagnose but to directly treat patients, and with each passing day, I yearned more for the ability to heal through empathic listening and the formation of meaningful rapport with patients.

Eventually, I decided to undertake the goal of retraining in internal medicine. To this end, I elected to travel to the United States to undertake hands-on clinical experiences. My time in the U.S. gave me firsthand exposure to a complex healthcare system and a deeper appreciation for the impact of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting-edge treatment modalities, and patient-centered, evidence-based care. I also gained confidence in my abilities to function as a member of a large, interdisciplinary care team, drawing on a skillset I had cultivated from many years of leading my girl scout troop and performing in church choirs.

I aspire to enter a residency program with an emphasis on strong clinical skills training, excellent research opportunities, and a dedication to clinical mentorship. Moreover, I want to be part of a program with strong camaraderie among residents and faculty and a spirit of collegiality and tireless dedication to patient care. Ultimately, I believe that my background in and extensive knowledge of pathology, my compassionate disposition, and my penchant for diligence and collaboration will make me a strong applicant to your residency program. Thank you for your consideration of my application.

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Sample Residency Interview Questions & Answers

How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Your Residency Application

A medical student’s personal statement is a critical component of their residency application. It offers a unique opportunity to showcase their personality, experiences, and aspirations. While strong grades and exam scores are important, it’s likely your competition will also have a solid academic history. Your residency application’s personal statement is where you can really stand out and explain exactly why you deserve a spot.

What to Include in Your Personal Statement

Starting with a blank white page can be overwhelming. So before you start to actually write it out, create an outline and bullet key points you want to make in each section. 

1. Introduction

Start with a compelling opening that grabs the reader’s attention. This could be a personal anecdote, a relevant quote, or a thought-provoking statement. Then clearly state your intention to pursue a residency program in your chosen specialty.

2. Why Medicine

Reflect on what initially drew you to medicine. Share a personal story or experience that ignited your passion for healthcare. Discuss your long-term commitment to the field and your desire to make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives.

3. Clinical Experiences

Describe your clinical experiences and how they have shaped your understanding of your chosen specialty. Highlight specific patient encounters, while maintaining patient anonymity, that left a lasting impression on you and reinforced your commitment to your specialty.

4. Research and Academic Achievements

Especially if research aligns with your long-term career goals, it’s essential to highlight this commitment in your personal statement (and during interviews). Mention any research projects you’ve been involved in and the impact they’ve had on your academic and professional growth. Explain how your research experience has shaped your career aspirations and how it can benefit the program and the field in the long run. Discuss any academic achievements, awards, or honors that demonstrate your dedication to learning and excellence.

5. Extracurricular Activities

Share relevant extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, leadership roles, or community service, that have enriched your medical journey. Explain how these experiences have contributed to your personal and professional development.

6. Why This Specialty

Explain why you are drawn to your chosen specialty. Discuss the aspects of the specialty that align with your interests, skills, and values. Share any pivotal moments or mentors who influenced your decision to pursue this path.

7. Program Fit

Discuss why you are interested in the specific residency program to which you are applying. Mention any unique features of the program that appeal to you. Show that you’ve done your research and understand how the program aligns with your career goals.

8. Personal Qualities

Highlight personal qualities and characteristics that make you a strong candidate for the specialty and the program. Use anecdotes or examples to illustrate these qualities, such as empathy, teamwork, adaptability, or resilience.

9. Long-Term Goals

Share your long-term career goals and how completing the residency program will help you achieve them. Express your commitment to ongoing learning and professional growth.

10. Conclusion

Summarize your main points and reiterate your enthusiasm for the specialty and the program. End with a memorable closing statement that leaves a positive impression on the reader.

More Personal Statement Tips

  • Proofread and Edit : Carefully proofread your personal statement to ensure it is free of grammatical errors and typos. Seek feedback from mentors, advisors, or peers to refine your statement and make it as compelling as possible.
  • Be authentic . Your personal statement is a chance to convey your passion, commitment, and unique qualities to the residency program directors. It should paint a vivid picture of who you are as a future physician and why you are an excellent fit for both the specialty and the specific program to which you are applying.
  • Make it unique to each program. Your residency application personal statement should explain why you are interested in this particular program. Therefore you’re going to want to customize it for each application. You can definitely reuse sections, but when you talk about program fit, research, clinical experiences, etc, be sure to tailor your statement as needed.
  • Plan out what you’re going to write, before you start writing. Don’t leave writing your personal statement to the last minute. Before you even sit down in front of a keyboard, take time to reflect on your achievements and experiences so you have an idea of what to write about. Think about it while you’re in the car, in the shower, or eating dinner (you get the idea). Then write those ideas down in your outline. That way when you start to actually write out your statement, all you need to concentrate on is how well your statement is written.
  • Be concise. Communicate exactly what you need to. No grandiose statements. The people reviewing your application, and therefore your personal statement, will be reading a lot of these.

How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be

Personal statements should be 600-850 words. This is roughly 4-5 paragraphs or 1 page of single spaced type. While that might sound like a lot, it will go quickly once you start writing. So make sure you communicate efficiently and with brevity, without leaving out important information about you.

Addressing Red Flags in a Personal Statement

If you have any red flags in your application, you can use your personal statement to explain these. Start by acknowledging the red flag honestly and directly. Avoid trying to hide or downplay the issue, as this may erode trust.

Provide a clear and concise explanation of the circumstances surrounding the red flag. Be specific and avoid vague or evasive language.

Lastly, demonstrate how you’ve learned from the experience and grown as a result. Highlight any steps you’ve taken to address and rectify the issue.

Crafting a standout medical residency application personal statement requires careful planning, dedication, and attention to detail. By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the competitive application process and increase your chances of securing a spot in the program of your dreams. Good luck on your journey to becoming a medical resident!

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How to Craft an Excellent MD Residency Personal Statement

Residency Statement Banner

Your residency is a critical step on the road to becoming a board-certified physician, and the residency matching process is unsurprisingly competitive. Program directors look for candidates who have demonstrated excellent academic performance, boast a strong academic record as well as great USMLE scores, and are supported by impressive letters of recommendation.

In a pool of well-qualified applicants, practicing physicians point to the personal statement as the perfect opportunity to catch a residency program director’s eye. Read on to learn some of their tips for how to craft a strong residency personal statement.

Physician-approved tips for writing a great residency personal statement

The National Resident Matching Program’s (NRMP) 2021 Program Director Survey indicates that a candidate’s personal statement for residency is among the top five most important criteria program directors consider when reviewing applications.

Many programs begin filtering candidates by USMLE scores, which essentially leaves everyone on a level playing field at that point. You’ll want to craft an eye-catching personal statement to help you stand out in the crowd. Follow these tips for doing just that:

1. Express your individuality

You can demonstrate your academic excellence pretty clearly by offering evidence of a strong medical school performance and a solid USMLE score. But your residency personal statement will offer you the opportunity to give program directors a more complete picture of who you are as an individual.

This essay is a chance to highlight what sets you apart from other applicants, so it’s important to go beyond simply listing your achievements. These items will already be included in your curriculum vitae (CV), so it won’t help admissions committees learn anything new about you.

Medical student working to create a residency personal statement.

It’s also smart to ensure that any of the experiences or extracurricular activities you do write about in your personal statement are true interests of yours. Dr. Natasha Sriraman , pediatrician and St. George’s University (SGU) graduate, notes that review committees can tell when you’re not being genuine.

“Don’t do things because you think it’s going to look good,” she advises. “Do things that you’re passionate about.”

2. Demonstrate your interest in the specialty

By the time you reach residency, you should have a solid idea of the medical specialty you’re looking to pursue. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to write about why you’re drawn to that particular specialty when you’re crafting your residency personal statement.

Be sure to do this in a way that is true to your personal passions rather than providing generic, surface-level motivations. For example, Dr. Sriraman says she’s come across too many candidates applying to pediatrics programs who cite their love of working with children. “We all like kids,” she jokes. “That’s not a reason to go into this field of medicine.”

Instead, she suggests sharing an anecdote from an experience you had that influenced your decision to pursue that area of practice. This could be a recent encounter during clinical rotations, a string of interactions with a particular instructor, or even something that happened prior to your time in medical school. As long as you’re able to make a logical connection, review committees are looking to learn how your experiences thus far will contribute to your success as a physician.

3.Address any potential concerns head-on

It can be uncomfortable to feel like you have any sort of blemish on your CV. But rather than shying away from a bad semester or a mysterious gap in your education, you can use your personal statement as an opportunity to elaborate on what was going on in your life at that time.

Putting academic issues or delays into context can make a big difference. It demonstrates that you possess levels of self-awareness and personal responsibility that can actually be pretty crucial when practicing medicine.

A medical student discusses charts with a doctor

>Furthermore, omitting issues in your personal statement doesn’t mean you can avoid addressing them—if you make it to the next phase of the application process, you can expect these topics to come up in your residency interviews . “While it is important to address this gap within your personal statement, I also advise medical students to practice what they’re going to verbally say when asked about the gap during the interview,” Dr. Sriraman says.

4. Be thoughtful about the structure

The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) helps streamline the process of applying to residency programs , but the user guide is pretty vague about formatting when it comes to the personal statement for residency. As long as you structure your essay with an introduction, a middle section, and a conclusion, how you choose to arrange your personal statement is really up to you. What’s most important is that you’re able to keep your readers interested.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, apply the same approach you would with a paper in high school or college. Create an outline to help organize your thoughts, building a logical progression of ideas and experiences. While the parameters around the structure of your residency personal statement are loose, it is a common best practice to limit it to one page in length.

5. Don’t forget to edit and proofread

It’s often helpful to employ an iterative process when drafting this essay. Start by getting everything out on paper. Then go back and begin whittling your story down to include only the most important pieces.

Once you’re happy with how you’ve articulated your experiences and aspirations, it’s smart to enlist some outside opinions. Having a trusted mentor, instructor, or classmate read through your personal statement can be helpful, as they’re familiar with the inner workings of the medical field.

A college student discusses their personal statement letter with a mentor

Seek out feedback from people who know you well but also from some who you aren’t as close with. This can help you collect objective opinions based solely on your writing. And be sure to have any strong writers or editors you know proofread your essay because even the smallest errors could make a big statement about your focus or attention to detail. Students at SGU have the advantage of submitting their personal statements to be edited by physicians who are residency mentors.

6. Give yourself enough time

Given how many elements you need to complete for residency applications, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by starting your personal statement with plenty of time to spare. Even if you consider yourself a fast writer, it’s smart to be proactive. In fact, it’s often recommended to spend at least two months working on this essay.

“Between taking exams, finishing your applications, and regular life, you want to give yourself two to three months,” Dr. Sriraman specifies. Giving yourself extra time allows you to progress through the multiple phases of writing and editing without feeling rushed.

Start writing your residency success story

You don’t have to be a seasoned creative writer to pen an effective residency personal statement. With some careful planning, thoughtful phrasing, and a thorough review process, you can write an essay that will make program directors take notice.

Your personal statement for residency could end up being the factor that helps you secure a coveted interview invitation. These face-to-face meetings will be the final stage that allows program directors to determine if you’d be a good fit for their residency positions.

Get ready to put your best foot forward in those conversations by reviewing the advice in our article “ Residency Interview Preparation Tips for Medical Students .” 

Ready to start your medical school journey?

Are you considering St. George’s University Medical School? If you need any more convincing, just reach out to some graduates or current students . They’re happy to tell you what their experiences were like.

If you feel like SGU could be the right medical school for you, take the next step. Continue your research by visiting our request information page.

*This article was originally published in 2019. It has since been updated to reflect new information.

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2 As the medical school graduating the largest number of students per year, SGU places the largest number of graduates into residency programs each year, based on internal SGU graduate/expected graduate and residency placement data as of June 2023.

3 Average of 2019, 2020, 2021 scores. First-time pass rate is defined as the number of students passing USMLE Step 1 on their first attempt divided by the total number of students taking USMLE Step 1 for the first time. In order to be certified to take USMLE Step 1, students are required to pass all basic sciences courses.

4 Average of academic years 2019, 2020, 2021 scores. First-time pass rate is defined as the number of students passing USMLE Step 2 CK on their first attempt divided by the total number of students taking USMLE Step 2 CK for the first time. USMLE Step 2 CK is typically taken upon completion of third-year core clinical rotations.

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How to Write Residency Personal Statement to Impress

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How to Write a Residency Personal Statement: The Basics

After your hard work in med school, it’s time to secure residency to take your career a notch higher. Residency slots are competitive, and a contender has to dig deep to earn a spot in their preferred program.

As you may already know, a personal statement is crucial in any application, and a good one can make a difference. You might have questions like how long should a medical residency personal statement be. But since you’ve probably already written a personal statement to get into med school, let’s refresh your memory.

Is there a perfect formula to write this application document? There isn’t one, so take some of the pressure off. However, you can write an impactful one by understanding the basics and applying amazing tips for residency personal statement we’ve prepared for you.

What Is Residency Personal Statement

A residency personal statement is an essay where you write about your skills, attainments, and personality to potential residency programs. It serves as a platform to express your interest in a particular vocation, justify why you should join it, and highlight your career aims.

Why is it imperative to master how to write residency personal statement? Most other application documents provide basic information such as grades and proof of basic qualifications. Most students share similar qualifications, so the screening committees often have difficulty determining who’ll be an excellent addition to the course.

It’s where a personal statement comes in; it gives them more information, such as your personality, motivations, values, and experiences. It is basically an in-depth preview of the individual you are, something they cannot determine from a resume.

So, before wondering how long should a residency personal statement be and how to write it, here’s a checklist of what you should incorporate into the paper.

  • Notable moments from your med school journey.
  • Your significant qualities and abilities and how they make you a better medical practitioner.
  • Any work experience or volunteering.
  • Your future aims.
  • People who inspired you, e.g., mentors, family, and professors.
  • Reasons that drew you to this occupational line.
  • Major accomplishments or accolades in your life.
  • Reason for the desire to join that specific training.

Before learning how to write a residency personal statement, you’ll have to take some time to deliberate about all the above and things that have contributed to your wanting to take your chosen career path.

How to Write Personal Statement for Residency: Structure & Outline

An effective way to approach a residency statement is to treat it like you write an essay. It ensures a good structure to make your document easily readable. While diverse approaches exist in this regard, here’s how you can keep it simple and still produce one they’ll enjoy reading.

Open with a Captivating Intro

Your main aim is to draw in the reviewers early on, and you can achieve it with an anecdote. Get them engrossed early on so that they anticipate reading the rest of the piece. You can also make it about your chosen field or present some background info.

Create a Compelling Body

The body segment is where you write all the things we highlighted in the previous checklist. It’s the most comprehensive section, so plan the number of paragraphs you’ll have depending on the required length of residency personal statement. Describe why you joined the specialty and the involvements and aspects which contributed to choosing the field. Also, write about the previous field contribution, internships, volunteer involvements, electives, rotations, and research you participated in.

Close Crisply

As the final section of the personal statement, the conclusion should tie it all together. Highlight what you aim to achieve with the training and what you’ll contribute if selected. Summarize your strengths and future goals or aspirations as a resident.

The Right Length of Residency Personal Statement

Length is often problematic because many residency applicants often want to include everything when write their statements. But there’s no need to make it so lengthy that you lose the reviewers’ attention or too brief that it does not provide adequate information.

So how long should a personal statement be for residency? We recommend aiming between 700 to 900 words. This volume gives you enough room to include the important things and still make it readable. However, read the application requirements before you’ll write and stick to the specified word count if provided.

Special Tips on How to Write a Personal Statement for Residency

You need to be willing to do more to achieve a marvelous residency statement. So, here’re effective ways to go the extra mile and obtain the desired effect.

Make It About You

Keep the main focus on yourself. While others might have contributed to getting where you are, the reviewers are only interested in you. Write with a focus on what you’ve achieved, your interests, and your involvements, and don’t be afraid to go into detail within reason.

Make It Flow

While learning how to write a personal statement for residency is important, crafting a good one will involve some skill. Organize your ideas to achieve a logical flow that makes the document easy to read. Make your paragraphs transition seamlessly.

Be Yourself

Don’t try to impress the reviewers using jargon and fancy terms. Write, expressing your genuine passion and interest in joining that particular program. Also, don’t copy other people’s styles or experiences. It might make it difficult to fulfill the specified word count.

Proofread and Acquire Feedback

After completing the personal statement, proofread it to identify any errors or nonsensical phrases and fix them. Then, solicit feedback from people you trust and who understand how to write personal statement for residency from experience.

Dealing With Red Flags Residency Personal Statement

Every student is different; while some have spotless education records, others might have some red flags. They include things like abandoning a program previously or maybe some gaps in time when one took a break in med school. The admission panel will see these things in your request to join the training and may have some questions. And the personal statement is the place to explain these gaps.

You can roll the dice and hope it won’t affect it much, but it’s better to learn how to create a red flags residency personal statement. Use a few statements to address the red flags, especially for an ERAS application. Don’t make excuses; address them and explain how you’ve matured. Note that red flags don’t mean minor things like getting a poor grade or having poor attendance at some point.

Need Extra Help With Residency Statements? We Are Here 24/7!

Creating a residency statement might not be easy, even if you read dozens of tips on how to write a residency personal statement. Maybe you don’t have enough time to craft a good one, feel it’s too challenging, or don’t believe in your writing skills. And this is where our seasoned admission experts may help! We provide quality and reliable writing assistance, preparing standout personal statements regardless of the program you will apply to.

Contact us today to get an expert to write an impactful residency application document that will make a lasting impression!

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personal statement outline residency

personal statement outline residency

How to Write a Great Residency Personal Statement – 4 Easy Steps

  • July 2, 2020

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Applying for residency  can be challenging. Besides scoring an impressive GPA and performing well in your clinical rotations, you need to write a great personal statement for your residency application. Whether you are a third-year medical student or about to finish your medical school journey, many students find personal statement one of the most challenging components of their residency application.

If done right, your residency personal statement can increase your chances of getting a perfect residency match. Your residency personal statement provides you with an opportunity to show the residency director why you have chosen this medical specialty. You can make the most of your personal statement by showing your skills, qualities, and experience which will make you the best candidate for the job.

Here are some important things that you should keep in mind while preparing your personal statement that will surely help you match your dream residency program.

Reason for Choosing the Specialty

It is no surprise that the personal statement is your big opportunity to articulate who you are and why you want to pursue a career in this specific  medical specialty . You can set yourself apart from hundreds of other residency applicants by highlighting your accomplishments, interesting life experiences, and motivations for pursuing this medical specialty. It will help decide program directors whether you are a good fit for their hospital and do you have an in-depth understanding of the specialty of your interest.

Whether you want to become a surgeon, radiologist, pathologist, hematologist, or want to devote your life to any other branch of medicine. Clearly explain you have chosen the specific field based on something you find very interesting  during your medical school journey . Mention the relevant experience you had during clinical rotations and how you became interested in this specialty. Make sure your personal statement helps the residency program director understand what has led you to this medical specialty.

Highlight Your Personal Qualities

When it comes to writing your residency personal statement, it is important to focus on your personal qualities and skills. Show the selectors that you have the skills and qualities to succeed in this residency program you are aiming to enroll in. Explain to them what qualities you have and which skills you honed during clinical rotations, which make this specialty a perfect fit for your personality and career goals.

You may choose to relate your skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, communication skills that are relevant to your candidacy for the position. For instance, a meticulous candidate can become a perfect fit for a pathology residency program. Students with outstanding manual ability can be the right fit for the general surgery residency program. A student with excellent problem-solving skills can ensure success as a pathologist. By relating your talents and expertise to your chosen specialty, you can prove to the selection committee that you can succeed in this residency.

Your Goals and Future Plans

You will most likely send this personal statement to a large number of facilities. So, it is important to write about your future goals and career plans. Give the program director an idea of what you are planning to do after completing your residency. Show the committee how you will use the medical knowledge and clinical skills that you will gain during the residency for the benefit of patients. Whether you are planning to contribute your efforts in research, thinking of joining a medical school or working as a faculty member, or working as a volunteer in underserved regions. Tell your future plans in your residency personal statement and explain your vision for your career as a doctor.

Highlight any Gaps in Your Medical Education

Many applicants believe that highlighting their weaknesses, educational gaps, or evaluations that were less than satisfactory can break their chances of getting the desired residency program. However, it is not exactly the case. You should address your weaknesses in your personal statement. For example, if you failed an exam, tell the director what has happened and why didn’t you get satisfactory marks in the particular course. What you have learned by repeating the course, and now you know the best learning strategies and can better prepare for exams. Explain to them which skills you polished and what you have learned from your mistakes.

Final Thoughts

The residency program director is interested in the candidate behind the grades. You can communicate your motivations, career goals, ambitions, and personality through your residency personal statement. Invest your time, effort, and energy in crafting a stellar personal statement for your residency application. It can give you a leg up in the pool of applicants a residency program receives. So, keep these important steps in mind while preparing your residency personal statement and show the committee that you have the real potential to become a competent resident and an excellent physician.

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Personal Statement Guidelines

Guidelines for writing personal statements.

The Personal Statement should be personal and specific to you and your experience/s. The goal of the personal statement is so that reviewers can get to know you as unique applicant and what you will bring to the program and the field. Consider the following when putting together your personal statement.      

  • Never use another person or program to write your personal statement.
  • Never copy another individual’s personal statement. This is a violation of professional conduct and the Match.

Before you get started:

  • Some specialties may require that you have a separate personal statement for each program.
  • Some students will choose to make a common personal statement but modify a paragraph that is program or location specific.
  • Be sure to check with specialty and program requirements when drafting your personal statement.

General Tips :

  • Grammarly® is an example of a free online resource.
  • Stick to 1 page
  • Save these highlights for your interview or your noteworthy characteristics.
  • We recommend that you create your personal statements in a text file.
  • The way you create a text file is Click on 'Start' menu on the desktop, under 'All Programs' Click 'Accessories', Click 'Notepad'. Change the Font to Courier New 10 which is used by ERAS. Keep it to less than one-page single spaced with one-inch margins all around and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Do not use any special characters such as Bold, Italics, Underlines, &, ñ, µ, @,#,% etc.
  • You don’t want it to look too cluttered.

When you may need more than ONE personal statement :

  • If you are dual applying, you likely will need separate personal statements
  • For a preliminary program personal statement, you may consider a separate personal statement or modify the personal statement to include what you are looking for in a preliminary program.
  • You may consider personalizing a personal statement due to location, family, other circumstances. We recommend that you do this either early or at the end of the personal statement.
  • If you are deciding between two or more specialties, it is sometimes helpful to write a personal statement for each. If you cannot see the real differences among them, others who read your statements may be able to discover your true passion.
  • Label your personal statement files well so that you know which personal statement is being used for which specialty or program

Before drafting your personal statement, please use the information below to help you organize your thoughts :  

  • 2-3 paragraphs with a theme (see prompts below)
  • Final thoughts/projections forward

Suggested prompts for your personal statement might be : 

  • Why you chose this field? 
  • Personality traits
  • Experiences such as education, leadership, service, research, or volunteerism
  • Related hobbies, etc. 
  • A brief explanation of gap time particularly for research, dual-degree or certification and how you see this time as beneficial to your residency goals.
  • Some things of that nature might be best explained in your MSPE, if you wish.  Discuss this with the OSA dean writing your MSPE. 
  • Applicants can describe any challenges or hardships that influenced their journey to residency. This could include experiences related to family background, financial background, community setting, educational experiences, and/or general life experiences. This question is intended for applicants who have overcome major challenges or obstacles.
  • Some projection into your future, of both a professional and personal nature, if you wish. You may not want to be too specific about sub-specialty aspirations, though. People like to see an open mind. 
  • What you see as the next exciting things happening in your field of interest? How do you see yourself as part of them?

Common Pitfalls:

  • Avoid being a just list of reasons that you like the specialty
  • Balance being personal without overly revealing in these cases
  • If you don’t want to talk about a situation in your interview, it shouldn’t be in your personal statement
  • If you can’t talk about a situation without becoming overly emotional, you may want to brainstorm if that should be in your personal statement (remember this is a job interview)
  • If the description of your story is 1/3 of your personal statement, you are missing an opportunity to talk more about yourself.
  • AVOID: I disliked all other specialties till I rotated on XXX.
  • AVOID: I noticed that I didn’t really like the way XXX interacted with patients
  • AVOID: The patient was angry and non-compliant.
  • Run the risk of losing the reader’s attention

Final Thoughts :

  • Be specific in what you ask them to review (I.e. grammar, content, voice)
  • Faculty members in the type of program to which you are applying.
  • People who know you well, on whom you can count for honest feedback, and who can make any necessary corrections in syntax and grammar. 
  • Read your personal statement out loud to yourself- this is the best way to hear/find things that do not make sense grammatically or in syntax.

Additional Resources:

  • Personal Statement Worksheet
  • Personal Growth Program

Personal Statement

Personal statements may be used to customize the application to a specific program or to different specialties. 

In This Section:

Creating the personal statement, formatting the personal statement, previewing the personal statement, reviewing/editing the personal statement, assigning the personal statement.

You create your own personal statements in the MyERAS portal from the Personal Statements section listed under Documents. 

  • Each personal statement must contain a Personal Statement Title and the Personal Statement Content. The title will be visible only to you to help you correctly assign it to programs, and the content will be visible to both you and the programs it is assigned to. 
  • The personal statement is limited to 28,000 characters, which include letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation marks. 
  • There is not a limit to how many personal statements applicants can create. 
  • Personal statements created outside the MyERAS application should be done in a plain text word processing application such as Notepad (for Windows users) or SimpleText (for Mac users). The statement should reflect your personal perspective and experiences accurately and must be your own work and not the work of another author or the product of artificial intelligence. 
  • Personal statements created in word processing applications not using plain text may contain hidden and invalid formatting. 
  • Note: A number of websites provide examples of personal statements. Do not copy any information from these sites and use it in your personal statements without giving credit to the author. Such use is considered plagiarism. 
  • The ERAS program will investigate any suspected acts of plagiarism. 
  • Any substantiated findings of plagiarism may result in the reporting of such findings to the programs to which you apply now and in subsequent ERAS seasons. 

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When creating a personal statement in the MyERAS application, the following formatting options will be available: 

  • Bold. 
  • Italic. 
  • Underline. 
  • Strikethrough. 
  • Bullets. 
  • Numbering. 
  • Align left. 
  • Center. 
  • Align right. 
  • Increase indent. 
  • Decrease indent. 
  • Insert hyperlink. 

After entering the personal statement title and content, you will have the opportunity to preview your personal statement before saving it. This preview allows you to view your personal statement just as the programs will view it, including the number of pages.  

You are responsible for reviewing your personal statements before assigning them to programs. 

The Preview/Print option under the Actions column will allow you to view and/or print your personal statement. 

Personal statements can be edited at any point during the application season — even when assigned to programs that have been applied to. 

Personal statements that have been edited will be reflected on the programs’ side by an updated status containing the date of the updated version, but programs are not guaranteed to view or review updated versions of personal statements. 

You may designate the assignment of one personal statement for each program. 

  • Personal statements can be assigned to any saved or applied to programs from the Personal Statements page by selecting “Assign” under the Actions column of the intended personal statement. 
  • When assigning by personal statement, programs listed with a disabled checkbox already have the selected personal statement currently assigned. 
  • When assigning by personal statement, you should review any personal statements that are listed under the Assigned Personal Statement column before making selections or changes. 
  • Personal statements can be assigned by program using the Assign option under the Actions column on both the Saved Programs and Programs Applied To pages. 
  • Changes to personal statement assignments can be made throughout the application season, but programs are not guaranteed to view or review newly assigned personal statements. 
  • A personal statement cannot be assigned to programs that are closed. 
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  • Residency Application

IMG Personal Statement Examples

IMG Personal Statement Examples

IMG personal statement examples outline a variety of important structural and content requirements for this component of your application. Reading residency personal statement examples can help you construct an essay that resonates with similar quality and assembly. The personal statement is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are and what appeals to you about their program. Because international medical graduate (IMG) status can make the match more difficult for some schools and residency programs, having a strong personal statement can significantly increase your chances of getting invited for an interview. In this article, we provide some examples of personal statements for IMGs to inspire your own.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 9 min read

Img personal statement example 1.

Since I was young, I’ve had a keen interest in wanting to become a doctor due to my mother’s influence; she’s a cardiologist who works at a hospital in my hometown in Georgia. She always encouraged me to make my own choices irrespective of hers, and she never tried to deliberately push me into medicine’s outstretched arms. Medicine, at least early on in my life, was never on my radar. I was too invested in my creative endeavors, which led to a burgeoning career as a commercial actress starting in elementary school. However, in my senior year of high school, I felt weighed down by the yawning void of my intellectual cravings. I was, as my mother would say, a scientist at heart, which I began to accept when I volunteered at the research institute at a local hospital studying new genomic technology.

I had my doubts about whether I would be able to pursue a career in medicine due to my conflicting creative interests; however, when I took a trip to Delhi, India, in my first year of undergraduate studies, I volunteered at a slum hospital, and it was the inspiration that aroused my already established interest in public health. I mostly observed the health care workers, but I assisted with routine medical tasks and fulfilled a supportive role during routine checkups. On rare occasions, I would provide advice about nutrition or general health to some patients, which invigorated my passion for helping others and illuminating health disparities; I hadn’t realized how pervasive the lack of health awareness was in this community; it both disheartened and mobilized my eagerness to explore medical school abroad.

Check out this video to know about residency application tips that will ensure your success and help you stand out from the crowd:

Growing up, I was not encouraged to get good grades or work hard in school. In fact, it was much the opposite: my father worked on a farm and my mother as a hairdresser. In school, I couldn’t rely on the support of my parents, who were both against academic pursuits. In their words, school was a meaningless, debt-accruing venture that accomplished nothing more than having a fancy piece of paper to hang on the wall. The start of my medical school journey began when I made the brave choice to apply to undergraduate programs instead of working on my father’s farm, which is what he always wanted me to do. We had lots of disagreements and negotiations; I ended up promising to work for him on weekends when I wasn’t studying, and the university was within reasonable commuting distance so I could still commit to the compromise.

However, as I finished my undergraduate studies, I knew I needed a change of scenery. I wanted to live in another part of the world where education and academic excellence were encouraged, not undermined. I decided I was going to complete my MD degree in Mexico, in a city that I knew was scourged by a lack of health care resources. I was intrigued by the prospect of learning a new health care system in a less developed geographical area because I saw the parallels with my own hometown, where people tend to ignore their ailments because they’re suspicious of the health care system – again, a consequence of the lack of educational resources. I was convinced that medical school was the only way to make a real collective difference in this attitude emblemized in some rural areas. And, when I volunteered at a clinic specializing in sexual health, I became aware of how some obstinate traditionalist views impair good-faith attempts to educate and protect reproductive rights for women.

The Philippines is known for its commitment to health care excellence. My family is no different. My parents own a clinic in Manila; my mother is a family doctor, and my father is a nurse. My two older brothers work at the clinic fulfilling administrative roles while they complete their undergraduate degrees. They intend to become doctors to help my parents run their clinic and, eventually, inherit it. As high expectations abound, I always felt that I was set up to become a doctor by proximity to such high-achieving family members dedicated to health care. Of course, I was nudged gently in that direction, but my autonomy was never compromised. My first exposure to working in a clinical environment was as a teen, when I assisted in recreational therapy at my parents’ clinic. As expected, I found the interactions I had, particularly with elderly patients, to be interesting and rewarding. I had a knack for humor, which seemed to be remedial for many of the patients who were palliative or undergoing life-changing surgery that would require extensive physical rehabilitation.

Yes, internal medicine is one of the many IMG friendly residency programs .

According to the results of the program director survey published by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), the second most important listing in the section for personal characteristics and other knowledge of applicants considered in deciding whom to interview was the personal statement.

You need to demonstrate your skillset and inclination toward the specialty you’re interested in using clinical experiences and research. With that said, getting into too much detail about your research can be distracting and redundant, especially if you include this information in other application components.

You should discuss what you hope to gain from a residency program in the US, and why it’s important for you to pursue further education in this country as opposed to the one you completed your medical degree in.

You might decide to complete your fourth year of medical school in the US to gain exposure to US clinics and health care systems. Gaining references can also be a beneficial aspect of completing at least part of your education in the US.

Because you’re an international applicant, programs are more competitive and usually present more challenges for this type of applicant, which can reduce your chances of getting matched.

You should talk about any clinical experiences that contributed to your decision to pursue residency in the US, in addition to any other activities that activated your scientific interests and developed your clinical skills.

IMG residency consultants can help you navigate many of the challenges you will face as an international applicant. They can help you organize and write your materials and develop a strategy for applying to programs that suit your applicant status and background.

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