Welcome to Essay Wars!
Essay wars is a new series that I will be writing. I’ll pit two (or more) personal statements against each other in a battle for pre-med essay supremacy. There will only be one army that makes it out alive.
To start off the series let’s take a look at the introductory paragraphs (aka the “front line” in Essay Wars) of two different medical school personal statements. Both Pat and Molly have aspirations of getting accepted to medical school, becoming a doctor and saving many lives. However, only one of them will be strong enough to make it out of this Essay War.
Let’s Take a Look at Pat’s Introduction:
As the time approached for me to set my personal and professional goals, I made a conscientious decision to enter a field which would provide me with a sense of achievement and, at the same time, produce a positive impact on mankind. It became apparent to me that the practice of medicine would fulfill these objectives. In retrospect, my ever-growing commitment to medicine has been crystallizing for years. My intense interest in social issues, education, and athletics seems particularly appropriate to this field and has prepared me well for such a critical choice…
I’ve been asked many times why I wish to become a physician. Upon considerable reflection, the thought of possessing the ability to help others provides me with tremendous internal gratification and offers the feeling that my life’s efforts have been focused in a positive direction. Becoming a physician is the culmination of a lifelong dream; and I am prepared to dedicate myself, as I have in the past, to achieving this goal.
And Now Why Don’t we Give Molly’s Introduction a Shot:
From an early age I have been fascinated by the workings of life. The human body is a remarkable machine with many diverse systems producing an organism that could never be artificially reproduced. My love of science is just one of my reasons for choosing medicine. I enjoy a challenge particularly towards a rewarding objective and although medicine is a tough career it can be enormously gratifying, highlighted by the doctors I have spoken to during my experience and on a personal level.
I’m sure that it didn’t take you a long time to determine which of these two introductions was the better written one. Let’s take this comparison a bit further and talk about what Pat missed on and why Molly has the better introduction.
|Pat’s Example||Molly’s Example|
|The Front Line||In essay wars we consider the first few sentences of your personal statement the front line. The front line needs to be strong and hold form, it is the first thing that the opposing army sees. It can either strike fear into them or make them laugh and feel unintimidated.
Pat’s first sentence is the latter. He is so general with his opening that the opposing army (the reader) looks right past it because they have seen it, or a form of it, so many times before. It does nothing to make them feel that Pat brings something new to the table. You could substitute out “medicine” in his first paragraph and put in any subject and nothing would need to change.
At the end of the first paragraph, Pat mentions his three interests that drew him into a potential career in medicine. His “intense interest in social issues, education, and athletics” are so bland that 90% of applicants share them.
Pat needed to show more relevance to why he wanted to go into medicine in the first place in order to make his front line strong.
|Where Pat failed to grab the enemy’s (the reader’s) attention, Molly succeeds.
To start off her personal statement, Molly mentions what she finds so interesting about the human body. This is important and relevant since she will be studying the body for the next few years if she is accepted into the school.
Molly goes on to talk about what it was that drew her into the field. Molly’s love of science. This allows the reader to know what it is that got her interested in the first place.
Molly’s front line is short, sweet, and to the point. There are no common generalizations, no statements so bland and colorless that it could be anyone making them.
|Cavalry||Now that the enemy has seen what Pat’s front line has to offer it is time for him to send in the cavalry. Here is where you can start to transition into the main bulk of your personal statement.
Pat’s cavalry begin their march to the tune of “possessing the ability to help others provides me with tremendous internal gratification”.
Just as quickly as the cavalry are sent in, they are sent back with their tails between their legs. Of course you love helping people! Everyone who goes into medicine loves helping people.
Pat goes on to mention that he is dedicated to to making his dream a reality. Blah, blah, blah… again his boring, run of the mill statement just fails to deliver the punch necessary.
|Molly then talks about the enjoyment that she get’s from challenges. This is a much stronger statement than Pat’s generalization of wanting to help people.
It shows the reader that the passion is there from the get go and when there is a challenge that comes up Molly won’t be afraid to face it head on.
Molly’s cavalry consists of showing the enemy that she has the mental toughness to handle the challenge and stress that comes with medical school.
Molly goes on to hint at the fact that she has spoken to people in the field already. This shows the enemy that Molly has put time and thought into choosing this field whatever the enemy throws at her she will be able to handle.
Where Pat was sent into retreat, Molly is ready to take on the enemy head on.
|Overall||Pat is now ⅓ of the way through his personal statement and has yet to differentiate him from 95% of the other applicants.||Molly’s introduction paragraph was able to bring in the enemy close enough for her to strike with accuracy.
She succeeding in getting their attention so that she can move in for the kill with her body and conclusion.
Clearly, Molly wins this first essay wars battle — she defeats her opponent as decisively as Patton defeated Rommel. Stay tuned for the next Essay War where we compare a strong body paragraph to a weak one.