Personal Statement Time
Good Morning All,
I thought I would do a quick write up on personal statements since this is the time of year to start really working on/finishing yours… That and I can’t get to the gym because Safelite is replacing my windshield (damn you tractor trailers).
What goes in a personal statement?
Yes, this should be a pretty silly question for those of you applying this year, but for those of you who are still very early on in the process, the personal statement is an essay about yourself and why you want to go into medicine. There are hundreds of other careers out there, many of which are far less stressful and generate far more income, so you had better come up with a good reason why you would like to become a doctor.
What if I can’t really put my finger on it? What if I just know I want to help people?
Well, I wish I could say thats fine… but its not. When I started the process, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I couldn’t quite say why. Truth was, I had a lot of experiences contributing to my decision, and without ever really sitting down to think about it, none jumped out at me. In reality 99.9 percent of human beings want to help other people. Its why you hear your friends in their late 20’s who are not in medicine saying things like “I just really want to find a job where I can make a difference”. People naturally feel good when they make someone else feel good and as a result, you can’t exactly write a personal statement about your general feelings. The question that got my mind thinking was this “If you want to help people, why don’t you be a ____? insert "cop” “firemen” “guidance counselor” etc.
So what do I write about?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. What I can offer, are some suggestions of where I looked to find the answer. The first being personal health issues. This is a great reason to be interested in medicine. If you have been unfortunate enough to have a recurring or serious health issue, and were inspired by the amazing nurses and doctors you worked with, then talk about it. If that doesn’t quite fit your bill, the next place I would look is shadowing. Pay attention here, if you think about your shadowing and can’t come up with at least one influential experience, you probably need to do more shadowing before further considering medical school. Remember that the admission committees want to make sure your really really certain that medicine is the life for you. That means shadowing a lot to see what it’s like first hand. This category will apply to many of you looking to write your statements(its ultimately what I used). Remember to keep reading though because if you just write about shadowing, I promise you will not get in. Lastly, there is caring for a family member. I urge you to use caution on this one. I am passing no judgement on this but it would seem that everyone has had an ill grandmother or grandfather that they assisted, and I get the vibe that the ADCOM’s get lots of statements about this. Thats NOT to say that if this is really why you want to be a doctor, you shouldn’t write it, I’m just merely warning you that it had better be pretty damn convincing with the popularity of that topic. OHHH, the real last I suppose would be writing about an underserved medical experience. If you are lucky enough to have a meaningful one of these… god bless you. I still don’t fully understand the absurd overemphasis on underserved medicine, but it appears to be the golden ticket. Excuse my bitterness on the topic but it is beyond frustrating to live in an area that has few if any underserved populations, acquire numerous great healthcare experiences that are in “well served” populations, and then be penalized on your applications for not having “meaningful underserved experience”. If this was made quite clear to me as a freshman that I needed to seek out underserved opportunities, and that all of my “well served” experiences would be cast aside, I wouldn’t be complaining, but anyway… I digress.
So I have an idea of my topic now, what do I need to put in this statement?
Your personal statement should be exciting but not corny, and above all, honest. This is your chance to show the ADCOM that you can capture their attention by being unique and genuine. Include info about your discovery of medicine and your interests, then incorporate your topic from above. It should ideally flow chronologically while being clear and concise. Generally, you want to shoot for a page or two, but NO MORE than two (single spaced, word count is on AAMC’s site). Remember, these committees read thousands of these, so yours should be memorable, but most of all, it should be you. Yes, what I’m saying write this yourself. Under no circumstances should you be considering hiring someone to write your essay. Proofreading and editing, yes, thats a great thing to have someone else do, but writing, absolutely not.
What did I personally write about?
While I would love to post my personal statement for you all to read, it would put too much of a connection between me and this blog. That and I’m not sure the legality of doing so, and then having someone inevitably steal it and use it (none of you…but googlers). So I will have to describe what I did: I started with the portrayal of myself, the attending, and the patients family standing in a room, all of us surrounding a horribly ill neonate. I conveyed my desire to be there for not only the patient, but also the family. This was essentially my hook into medicine as the attending “gave me this patient” to research and present on all week. It was the first time anyone had allowed me to “participate” in healthcare and I loved it.
Next I jumped back a bit and explained my curiosity for medicine from a young age, and my abnormally early start into pre-hospital medicine at just 16 years old, followed by my quick progression into an EMT.
I then jumped back to the neonate and further illustrated my experience helping to care for him and describing all that I had learned in the week, but clinically, but also socially. I learned that I had the ability to connect with people in their time of need and I really enjoyed speaking with the family, despite the difficult nature of many conversations. Most of all, I knew I wanted to “be there” for the many other sick patients and scared families in the future.
A simple statement, yes! But did it get the job done, absolutely! These statements aren’t about coming up with the most elaborate, memorable, perfect essay the ADCOM has ever read, but more about making you a human being rather than a small stack of papers on their desk. There is a lyric that I really like, and I think it applies a lot to personal statements in its own way “Cuts on paper hearts can be awful deep”. What I mean is, if you can tug at a string of the ADCOM’s heart and make them believe in you and your desires, then you have succeeded.
But wait ?!?!
You didn’t include the topic I wanted to write about, or the story I’m using, or the experience I value most etc… Sorry I just had to add this to help address some of the inevitable questions I will receive. Anyway, your right, I have by no means addressed EVERYTHING about writing a personal statement, but what I do feel comfortable saying is that I have covered the general basis of the statement and what should be in it, and what some safe topics are to write about. If you have further questions, or more personal questions, as always, I will be glad to answer them, just shoot me a question on here. Other than that, remember, you want this and its one of your life goals… a silly little essay surly won’t stand in your way :)
Until next time,