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, continue with part two of a three-part series on a student of mine, Janet.
Part II — Janet’s Core Themes
Core themes are crucial to making your application work. They put everything in context and make the application easily readable for the admissions committee. I outlined a few Janet’s core themes that I thought were crucial in getting her story across. Firstly, and most importantly, she needs to focus on how her PA graduate school experience shaped her desire to pursue an MD. Although she had a comfortable career as a PA, she needs to make it clear why she’s leaving and why she wants go on to be a doctor. Secondly, I also thought working with patients was another core theme she had a lot of experience in. Lastly, she should really talk about her enthusiasm and her obsession with what she is passionate in (i.e. medicine). She has relayed to me stories on how sometimes she can’t keep herself from hitting the books and studying — she needs to make this clear in her application.
A few other themes I noticed that she should also touch on is her experience working with children, her religious work and how it influenced her career decisions, and working on-the-fly with paramedics as a PA. If she focuses and reaffirms these core themes, she should be on the right track.
The Personal Statement
Janet’s first draft was very good — she brought plenty of ideas to the table and her stories were intimate, vivid, and personable. They seemed very relaxed, which was nice. However, despite all the content, I felt that it was too much. During our edits, I gave her a quick lesson in condensing her thoughts. I also helped her to create a story arc which was lacking in her draft. I felt that connecting all of these stories into a theme was crucial and she agreed.
(Author’s note: You can read Janet’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
After a few edits, Janet and I managed to bring her first draft into a more matter-of-fact attitude which I thought better reflected her seriousness. Condensing her personal statement also gave Janet more room to explain her anecdotes which was very important. This gave resolutions to the many epiphanies present throughout her experiences. At my own suggestion, Janet also changed some of the language used in her first draft. I wanted her word-choice to reflect her seeing patients as people rather than as objects which was crucial to her narrative. I also suggested she make it clear that this story had a reason for being told. In the first draft, Janet fell into the trap of simply telling a long, albeit personable, story about her experiences, but it lacked proper purpose. By this last draft, she had clear reflections on her experiences and it demonstrated her mature understanding and ability to succeed.
In part three, we’ll finish this three-part series on Janet and find out how she did!