to writing your personal statement

Your personal statement is the only part of your application that you are able to express who you are in your own way! It is a place where you can reveal who you are as a person, a place you can be creative and show your uniqueness. With so much freedom aside from the character limitation, writing the personal statement can be overwhelming even for the best of writers. Here is our guide to writing a unique and powerful personal statement that wont bore your readers!

Start to brainstorm

  • Make a list of any important experiences in your lifetime (important memorable patients, memorable or meaningful jobs or volunteer experiences, important accomplishments that you would like to elaborate on, personal motivations for choosing a specialty like being a patient yourself)
  • You may or may not include all of these in your final draft, but it is a brainstorm list to help you start. Here is an example of how our brainstorm list started:
    • Teaching preschool, hurricane Maria, important patient cases that touched me or that I’ll always remember, creating a non-profit organization, blogging
    • Cheerleading, doing CPR the first time, memorable patients, first time intubating, etc.
  • While you are listing these experiences, write a few words or thoughts next to them on what characteristics/skills you gained from this experience that will make you a great resident and overall a great doctor
    • Example: cheerleading- leadership, team work, accountability, working well under pressure, constantly striving to be better, goal-oriented, teaching, camaraderie

Make a list of the following to aid you in connecting all of your experiences:

  • What you want in a residency program
  • Why you are picking your specialty of choice
  • Your best qualities that you think make you a strong applicant
  • Anything you are passionate about that you might pursue in residency that make you a unique applicant (ex: especially passionate about supporting teen parents as a pediatrician or OBGYN)

Write a paragraph or a few sentences about each experience from the list in number 1 in a story teller format.

  • This is a way to show the reader who you are, really telling your story and why you are choosing the specialty of choice. Think about why each of these experiences has made you who you are and made you a good fit for your specialty of choice.
  • Do not worry about the paragraphs or sentences flowing together yet, this is just the beginning!

Decide on what your 4 paragraphs will be about by choosing your most powerful stories, start to think about which of your stories flow together to paint a beautiful picture of who you are

  • Intro paragraph: anecdotal story to draw reader in, personal and meaningful story, an intro to who you are and why, MOST IMPORTANTLY IS SPECIALTY REVEAL IN PARAGRAPH 1
    • Your most powerful, interesting story to pull the reader in from sentence one
      • Ex: for me I picked teaching preschool and Denzel picked cheerleading
    • Why is this story relevant to applying for residency/your specialty of choice
    • Ultimately reveal your specialty in paragraph one
  • Body paragraphs: more clinical/personal/professional stories revealing your strong characteristics and unique attributes that will make a program want to choose you
    • Typically, 2 body paragraphs, but could be 1 or could be 3 smaller paragraphs. There is no “rules” to follow besides it being less than 3500 words (we think) and one page long
  • Concluding paragraph: tie it all together, reiterate why you are a good fit for this specialty, perhaps add a sentence or two on what you are looking for in a residency program
    • Write in a circle: this means connect your conclusion back to what you wrote in your previous paragraphs, restate or reconnect to a story from before

Use all of your pieces to try and bring together your stories. You want a coherent and solid story where the paragraphs flow together. You want to maximize the points you present in the little space you have.

  • Do not waste space, if it isn’t necessary take it out.
    • Remove fluff and extra words
    • Remove points that aren’t clear or powerful
  • Make sure your specialty of choice is clear
    • You don’t want readers to think this is a back up option or parallel plan, even if it is
    • Your specialty of choice should be fairly obvious throughout without having to say it outright
  • Confident, not cocky
    • You want to come across as confident in your accomplishments, but not pompous. Your personal statement is a great way to show your personality, you do not want it to come across as being unlikable. On the flip side, you also don’t want to come across as generic and doubtful or timid

Edit again and again and again

  • Re-read your personal statement every day or two and make changes and edits. Save each as a new draft so you can return to previously edited material if you want. Read your personal statement out loud to yourself. Does it flow? Do you find yourself getting caught up on certain words or paragraphs? Change these.
  • Send your personal statement to everyone you can and ask for their opinions and edits
    • Send to doctors, colleagues, non-medical friends and family and ask for honest feedback and edits
    • Read this feedback and their edits with a grain of salt, everyone reads and writes differently and prefers different styles. There may be some feedback you do not agree with; you do not have to make these changes. If multiple people are telling you the same thing, then this is a good indication to make changes.
    • There is a chance that you may need to throw your personal statement away and start from scratch. As hard as this may be, know that it’ll be worth it in the end to ensure a powerful personal statement
  • Start your personal statement early to give yourself time to cultivate a personal statement you love and feel comfortable with.

Know when to stop. Your personal statement will never be perfect and that is ok!


Personal Statement Checklist

  • I am clear about my specialty of choice
  • My story is unique, it doesn’t sound like anyone could’ve written this
  • My story flows and my conclusion “writes in a circle”
  • I sound confident, not pompous and not timid

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