Overview of the Series
In this series of articles, I will be sharing excerpts of case studies on several of my former students (with their permission, of course). Names and other identifying information have been changed, but the material facts — MCAT score, GPA, etc. — are unchanged. The full case studies are published in my book, Pre-Med Success Stories.
I’ll present each case study in three parts — an introduction of the student, followed by an in-depth assessment of the student’s profile and chances for admission to medical school, and then finally I’ll explain what happened to the student once s/he applied.
In this article, I will be continue onto part two on a student of mine, Amin.
Part II — Core Themes
Before delving into the personal statement as a premed, I always suggest mapping out your core themes. It helps to place your application in context and provides connecting ideas which tie it all together. In the case of Amin, he has a few core themes he can play with. First is his experience volunteering with children at the Blind Children’s Learning Center. As he told me, this was a formative time for him, full of energy and life-teaching skills, so he should explain them in full. Amin should also talk about his childhood war experience which sparked his passion to become a doctor someday. He should also discuss his experiences with patients at Robert Wood Johnson University and his research on the connection between Down Syndrome and epilepsy.
Related to these core themes, Amin can also touch on his commitment to perfectionism as well as his experiences tutoring. Talking about his Iranian culture would also be useful in connecting his cultural background to his greater aspirations of finishing medical school
How Did Amin’s Personal Statement Turn Out?
For his first draft, Amin wanted to paint himself as a well-rounded individual, but his writing lacked focus. It was much too diversified and he only allotted himself a few sentences for each activity. By only skimming the surface, he failed to explain what these experiences truly meant to him. There was little sense of growth and the language was a bit generic — I wanted him to focus on quality over quantity, and pick one or two specific activities that truly transformed him as an individual. I asked him to redo this first draft and describe one particular experience that was unique to him. Luckily, Amin’s writing is generally clear; he has a knack for describing incidents vividly, and I wanted him to use this talent on a single anecdote.
(Author’s note: You can read Amin’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
Because of my suggestions, Amin decided to further write on his experiences in conducting research interviews. He figured this was most appropriate because most pre-meds had no supervised training in it and, secondly, because the skills involved are similar to patient interactions he would have as a medical student, resident, or doctor. I agreed and by the final draft, Amin added much-needed depth to his personal statement.
In the last part of this three-part series, I will tell you how Amin did. Stay tuned.