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 talk about Gwen’s personal statement in part two of a three-part series.
Part II — Gwen’s Core Themes
When looking at a pre-med’s file, I always try to tie it together using core themes. It allows for the student’s entire work to be captured in a few key points that explain everything very concisely. Firstly, Gwen must stress her multidimensional interests and her love of science. Her many experiences demonstrate that she has long-reaching passions beyond just medicine and this definitely works to her benefit. Gwen also has a love of challenges and demands an environment that pushes her along with a strong teaching ability. All of these themes demonstrate her ability to be an excellent doctor. Some tangential themes she can also discuss include her realistic expectations of herself, her aspirations to be an OB/GYN doctor, and her experiences as a performer.
The Personal Statement
Gwen’s style sounded more like a reporting than a personal account of her experiences. I wanted her to go into more detail. Most of her first draft was very intellectual and lacked emotion — Gwen needed to give her passion some depth, instead of simply explaining her experiences as they happened. She focused too much on her formative childhood experiences and only gave an overview of her accomplishments in the past few years. This needed to be cut and by the final draft we had reached an agreement.
(Author’s note: You can read Gwen’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
By her final draft, we had cut out her childhood stories and made the personal statement focus exclusively on her post-college accomplishments. We gave her anecdotes context, and described how they fit into her greater story. I also told her to stop viewing the reader as a jury instead of an audience; Rather than proving why she would be a “good doctor,” Gwen changed her narrative to focus on qualities she had observed in other physicians and how it related to her own experiences. This prevented her from being too frank about her experiences, and gave Gwen some more depth by comparing herself to others and what she admired in them. It was a very good rhetorical tool and it worked well.
In part III, I will be finishing up this three-part series and we’ll find out how Gwen did.