THE PERSONAL STATEMENT
From the American Medical Association
Why is the personal statement so important? It is important because it is the
only part of your application that is not based on test scores or other people’s
perceptions of you. For this reason committees place a heavy emphasis on the
personal statement. It is the one part of your application that you have
complete control of and allows you to make a personal case for yourself.
Because of these reasons, however, it is so very difficult to write.
There are some basic questions that you need to address in your personal
statement. These are usually divided into three paragraphs that address: 1) what
got you interested in the field that you have chosen; 2) what are you looking
for in a residency program; and 3) what are your expected goals in the field you
have chosen. You are always free to add other commentary that is relevant to the
above topics. But, make sure you discuss these 3 topics in your essay.
Your personal statement should fit onto one page when it is printed from the
ERAS system. You can test this prior to submitting your statement to residency
Some helpful suggestions in getting started:
Go back to your medical school application
essay. Some students find it useful to look at that as a basis for their
residency statement. Specifically the introductory and final paragraphs.
Find out if your school has a writing office,
which can help you with your statement.
Use a theme to structure your essay. This helps
unite all aspects of your statement.
Provide concrete examples that pertain to your
life, goals and experiences.
Be concise. Refrain from using a lot of
Begin your essay with an attention grabber: a
quote, a story, an anecdote, or a riddle.
Finish your essay with a conclusion that refers
back to the beginning of your statement and restates the theme.
Have your departmental program director
evaluate/critique your statement. Remember they have probably seen thousands of
essays and is most likely the best authority at your institution to evaluate
Don’t be afraid to start from scratch if your
essay is not working.
Do write about what interests you, excites
you. Your reader wants to hear a positive essay not a negative one about the
Mistakes to avoid in a personal statement:
Underestimating the importance of the personal
Underestimating the time and difficulty involved
in developing the personal statement.
Lack of “flow”. You read the essay and have no
idea what the applicant is trying to say. They jump from one tangent to
another. When reading a statement like this I would rather not read the essay at
all. To prevent this error you need not one, not two, but at least three people
to read your essay and give you feedback. You need to revise your essay several
times. Therefore, you cannot start working on the essay one week before it is
due. I recommend starting to work on your personal statement in July. Remember
that most attendings will ask for a copy of your personal statement in order to
write a letter of recommendation. You therefore need to start early.
Spelling and Grammar mistakes. These can kill
you. It says a lot about an applicant if they have not taken the time to
carefully proof read their essay. Is this someone who pays attention to detail
and will spend time taking care of patients in my hospital? No!
Making the writing process a group effort. This
does not work.
Being too cute. This is not an essay for college
admissions where originality/strangeness is applauded. Keep it simple to
the point and address the issues I have brought up before.
Procrastinating until the very end to begin your
statement. You need to start months in advance.
Failing to let yourself come through. This goes
back to trying to make your statement too cute. You do not want to show up
to an interview and have the interviewer thinking: Am I speaking to the same
person that wrote this statement?
Including topics in the statement that if asked to
discuss you would not be able to answer, such as particular research points,
volunteer activities, etc…