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 continue onto part two on a student of mine named Louise.
Part II — Louise’s Core Themes
Judging from her short resume, I had to base many of my initial ideas on my conversation(s) with Louise. I put together some core themes which I found to be parallels in her life and ones she could elaborate on in her application. She needed to explain her experiences as a transfer student and how she was eager to make up for lost time. With this, comes a much-needed explanation on academic success and what it took for Louise to be where she is now. She should also discuss her aspirations to become an OB/GYN, her interests in public health, and her mother’s arthritis which inspired Louise to study medicine. Finally, once Louise gets her research completed, she needs to write commentary on her experiences there. Since her file was so short, these core themes practically cover most of what she can write about for her application.
The Personal Statement
Louise’s first draft was weak. It suffered from one crucial flaw: Louise focused almost exclusively on her own needs and desires. The format of phrasing your personal statement as “I can be a good doctor because I meet [my own] standards” is not at all very convincing to the admissions committee. In order to get Louise thinking differently about the personal statement and its purpose, I broke down the function of sentences in certain contexts. We went over generalization sentences, which should be used to introduce ideas, provide transitions, and give reflections on experiences — she used these too much and I challenged her to pay more attention to detail, especially more descriptors.
(Author’s note: You can read Louise’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
After the first draft, she had story to follow and I could see clearly that Louise’s heart was in the right place. However, her next draft also showed that Louise lacked experience — she talked mostly of hypotheticals, and her telling of her mother’s arthritis was full of medical assumptions. With only five months left until the AMCAS was due, Louise needed to further her medical experience if she hoped to get in.
In the next article, I’ll tell you what happened with Louise and if she got into medical school.