Admission to medical school is a complicated process, and there are multiple steps along the way that can make or break the process. The personal statement is one of these. This essay gives you a chance to shine as a candidate, showing the admissions team why they should take a chance on you as a candidate for their program. Since over half of all medical school hopefuls do not get accepted, you want to make sure this essay really stands out.
The personal statement essay is the primary factor that can help a pre-med student stand out from other applicants. When all other factors are equal, and sometimes even when they are not, a quality personal statement is the deciding factor. Here’s a closer look at how you can write a medical school personal statement that will grab attention and increase your likelihood of success.
What Topic Should a Compelling Med School Personal Statement Cover?
The topic of your personal statement is personal to you. This is where many students get hung up, as they focus more on the topic than the content. Here are some things that admissions teams are looking for:
- Explanation of an experience
- Personal qualities that translate well into medicine
As you consider your topic, consider focusing on an experience that highlights these qualities rather than getting stuck on any one topic.
How to Start Writing a Personal Statement for Medical School
Considering those topics above, you should realize that the statement is more about your character qualities than it is about the setting of your statement or the topic. So, to start writing, list the character qualities you have that translate well into your chosen career field. Here are some ideas:
- Being teachable
- Interpersonal skills
- Being a good listener
After you’ve made this list, hone in on a topic or experience that highlights them. While it might be helpful to tie your essay into a medical setting, you don’t have to. In fact, it may grab attention if you start with a different experience and then weave in your passion for medicine later.
Write a Story, Not an Essay
When you study effective medical school personal statement examples, you will see a trend. Rather than simply writing an essay about what makes them a good candidate, these applicants write a story. Using storytelling hooks the reader, makes them take a second look, and moves your essay from feeling dull and routine to being effective.
Here is an opening paragraph that could work quite well in a medical school personal statement:
- Dr. Jamison’s eyes looked heavy as he surveyed the chart. Behind the door was a patient with more red flags on her chart than I could count. I knew this would be a heavy visit and resolved myself to see the patient’s face fall at the bad news. But to my surprise, when we walked in, the doctor had a bright smile on his face and started asking questions about her family, showing genuine interest in how her kids were doing, what her son was studying at university, and how old her brand-new grandchild was. “My shadowing experience is going to be far different than I imagined,” I thought as I watched him.
In this opening paragraph, the writer sets the stage. They explain where they are and even give insight into their teachable nature and resilience. It hooks the reader, too, by showcasing that they’ll be telling a story, not just listing their accomplishments.
Start with a Surprising Hook
Don’t start your essay simply stating why you want to go to medical school. Remember, admissions teams read hundreds of essays each week, so you need to make them stop and take a closer look at yours. You need a hook. Be creative and expressive in the first statement so the reader knows they are reading an unexpected submission. Here are some examples:
- The sun beat down on us as we grabbed a hammer and set to work, and the heat was almost too much for someone raised in northern Wisconsin.
- I always pictured myself as a teacher, but that all changed when I got the phone call that my grandmother had fallen and broken her hip.
- It was just supposed to be a camping trip; I didn’t expect that weekend in Yellowstone to change the trajectory of the life I’d already perfectly planned out.
None of these actually says anything about medical school, but they all work and make the reader want to keep reading.
Now, when you sit down to write, don’t start with your hook. You can get hung up here, which can keep you from writing a compelling essay. Write the hook after the rest of the essay so you can hone it in and make it specific and effective.
Show, Don’t Tell
Your medical school personal statement should eventually move the reader from an engaging story to knowing why you want to pursue medicine, but don’t just tell them. Show them. Demonstrate your qualities in every part of your essay rather than simply stating them. Give examples that show the reader your compassion, grit, and resilience. Here is an example:
- As Dr. Jamison skillfully guided the conversation to the patient’s many health concerns, my eyes welled with tears. Seeing the strong emotion on the patient’s face, I knew it would have been so much worse had he started with the information about her health rather than some personal conversation. “It’s about more than just diagnosing her,” I realized with a start. As we continued throughout the day, my heartstrings were pulled again and again with compassion as I observed how Dr. Jamison clearly viewed his patients as people first and patients second.
Medical School Personal Statement Examples:
Discover what makes a standout medical school application with the following real-life examples. These samples provide a window into the storytelling and personal reflection that can turn a good application into a great one.
- Real Essays From Stanford Medical Students
- Personal Statements From The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
- 10 Successful Medical School Essays From Harvard Medical School
- Sample Personal Statements From The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
Avoid Common Mistakes
Creating a personal essay with a good hook that shows your character qualities and ties them back to medicine is great, but it will fail if you make errors in the essay. Some common mistakes to avoid include:
- Asking to be interviewed
- Ranting about controversial or polarizing topics
- Submitting an essay with grammar and spelling errors
- Having too many people who aren’t trained to read and review your essay
- Lying or representing something you aren’t in your essay
- Being inauthentic
These mistakes will prevent your essay from standing out, even if all other aspects are excellent.
Get the Right Help
Writing a med school personal statement is not easy, especially if you’re trying to get into a top-tier school. Getting professional help on your medical school journey could be a game-changer. At ACT, our Pre-Med Student Advisors are dedicated to guiding you step-by-step through the application process, significantly boosting your chances of gaining admission. Receive tailored mentorship and advice from experienced Physician Advisors who can assist with your personal statement and other critical aspects of your application.
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