With an ever increasing number of students applying for medical school, it is getting harder and harder for universities to differentiate between students on just grades and academic references.
Enter the importance of the personal statement. This can really be the difference between an “accept” or a “reject” at your favorite school.
The personal statement is your opportunity to show the admissions department that you are the student that they should extend an offer to. It shouldn’t be something that is just rushed last minute, I’m looking at you procrastinators.
Because of the importance of the personal statement, I will go through a few things that you should include in it, as well as some do’s and don’ts.
Start with Academics
Once you get your introduction paragraph out of the way, it is time to dig into the nitty gritty. Because your personal statement is first and foremost an application to study, you will want to dedicate most of it to your academic motivation and interests. Here are a few questions that you will want to ask yourself before outlining how you will approach this section:
- What research have you done in your subject that will prepare you for what the course will involve? (It isn’t necessarily essential that you have studied the course material in school before, but it is essential that if you haven’t studied it, you put in the research necessary to write about it in an educated way. Think reading articles, attending lectures, watching presentations or videos online, etc.)
- Is there something that you found in your research that you can highlight that shows you have a genuine interest in the subject?
- Why is it important to you to study this topic? Is there anything personally that has personally affected you that is making you try to get into this field?
- What study skills have you adopted in your previous studies that will help you as you continue your studies in medical school?
Now that you have spent about 2/3 of your personal statement talking about your academic achievements, it is time to shift focus to your career interests.
Make sure not to focus on what you did leading up to this point. Don’t talk about who you shadowed or where you worked at. Instead, talk about what you learned while shadowing or where you worked that will help you as you continue your studies.
Don’t worry about not being able to pinpoint exactly where you want your career to be at this point, this is not a job interview, it is an application. The time to worry about that will come a few years down the line.
As you wrap up your main portion of you personal statement, you will want to touch on what makes you such a well-rounded applicant. This is where you can talk about what experiences you have had so far that have turned you into the person that you are today. Here are a few examples:
- Part-Time Work – Like I talked about in the career section, you will want to focus on what transferable skills you learned from work, not so much where you worked.
- Awards and Achievements
Do’s and Don’ts
- This is a first impression, don’t forget that. Be original and be yourself.
- Be positive. Even if it feels awkward selling yourself, you need to in this instance.
- Know that it will take several drafts before you feel ready. Proofread it, have others proofread it, take your time and know that it won’t be perfect first draft.
- Try to force humor into your statement. Humor is risky, only use it if you are certain it flows nicely.
- Use quotes. This tactic has been overplayed.
- Copy someone else’s work. Universities will use software to make sure no one is plagiarizing material.
Take a look at a few examples of personal statements here.
Image taken from CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr.