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 (except for this one!) — 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 continue with part five on a client of mine named Louise.
Part V — Core Themes
Now that I had content to work with, my previous core themes for Louise were outdated. She was now a completely different candidate. After speaking with Louise about her newfound love of forensic pathology, I devised some new core themes for her to focus on.
She needed to write about her graduate studies in Criminalistics and her aspirations to study forensic pathology. Since Louise was motivated by the practicality of science and its social influences, she should mention this in her explanation. Louise should also discuss her internship at the coroner’s office, where she photographed and observed autopsies. Given that she is interested in social justice, Louise can also speak of women in medicine and the gender disparity present. Finally, she should also touch on her experiences as a student-teacher at Science Outreach to Next Generation and elsewhere.
Although these are the core themes Louise should hone in on, there are a few tangential themes she can mention throughout her application: namely, her maturity and time-management skills working part-time jobs, volunteer work at Riverside County Hospital, and her academic success as a full-time student.
The Personal Statement
Louise’s first draft was a marked improvement from the drafts she did three years ago, however we still had plenty of work to do. Louise did not write as well as she spoke. For one, she used too many quantitative measures of her success which lost me as a reader (and I told her they would be better suited on her Post-Secondary Experiences section of the AMCAS app).
I told Louise that her personal statement was straying from its only goal: to give the admissions committee a vivid illustration of how she thinks and feels. Her first draft read as if Louise was talking to herself instead of writing a story about her personal journey. She was focused on reasoning and arguing her points about why she was a better candidate than others and how she was more mature than she was three years ago, but this did not strengthen her case. Instead of comparing, I told Louise to just write about her strengths by themselves.
Louise needed more anecdotes, especially from the three years since I’ve seen her. I asked her to recount her most memorable experiences at the coroner, including all the specific details — she needed to showcase her knowledge while also being personally relatable through her story.
(Author’s note: You can read Louise’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
After several drafts, I managed to get a detailed patient contact story out of Louise. She bolstered it with her passion and intelligence — showing her knowledgeability on medicine while also humanizing herself as a caretaker. We replaced some of the language of “I did/ I have” to “I wonder/I aspire” to make the reader witness the process of her discovery. By making these changes, the admissions committee would see Louise as an enriching student who would be suited in no field better than medicine.
Want to read more about Louise’s Story? Interested in where she got accepted? Keep reading in the final part of this six-part series.