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What Makes a Good Medical School Personal Statement?

There’s no catchall answer to what makes a medical school personal statement good, but strong personal statements have common themes. An introspective reflection on personal experiences and how that ties into the writer’s commitment to medicine is a major theme in almost all strong personal statements. Many of these statements have a powerful personal narrative that carries through from the first sentence to the last. These narratives allow readers to understand how an experience (or experiences) impacted an applicant and their decision to pursue medicine. Moreover, these reflections serve to highlight qualities the applicant deems important parts of their character.  So what are some common structural components of good essays?

A GREAT INTRODUCTION

A great introduction goes a long way and sets the stage for the rest of your personal statement.  Many of these introductions have a “hook”, or something that draws the reader in. The first sentence should be interesting and not the generic “I’ve always wanted to help people”. The introduction often sets the theme for the rest of the essay so it is important to understand what qualities you want to demonstrate and what stories you can use to tell this story.  Itching to get started?  Check out our previous blog post on how to actually get started writing.

STRONG CONTENT

You should take the time to think about the most formative, meaningful experiences that led you to decide to pursue a career in medicine. Instead of listing these experience, identify tangible moments that affected you: an interaction with a sick patient, a time where you were humbled at what you did not know, a moment of personal struggle. Whatever it may be, these moments “show” a lot more than saying you volunteered in the emergency room.

Strong content is unique to you. The stories should be personal. A good litmus test is to read the story and ask “could any other applicant have written this?”. If the answer is “yes”, the story may not be personal enough. Strong content also demonstrates depth and reflection. It’s more important to highlight your growth from your experiences than to just discuss them outright. Lastly, strong content demonstrates and shows the qualities you deem important.  A reader should be able to see how you embody those qualities after finishing your essay.

A MEMORABLE CONCLUSION

The conclusion will be the glue to your personal statement. While a smattering of stories, qualities, and perspectives may indeed produce a strong personal statement, a conclusion that ties it together will make an excellent one. At this point you have discussed your positive qualities and character traits, identified key moments in your experiences that have made you the person you are today, and demonstrated a passion for medicine. What you need to do now is close the loop: tie all of this together to demonstrate not only why you want to go to medical school, but why you will make an excellent physician (while being humble, of course). To do this, you can re-emphasize what you discussed above in a compelling, thoughtful, and reflective manner. If you can, try to tie your introduction into your conclusion.

These 3 building blocks will help structure your personal statement.  If you find yourself wanting one of our advisors to do a deep-dive with you to make sure your essay stands out, check out our editing services.