Writing your Personal Statement



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Writing your Personal Statement

Purpose of the Statement

  • Provide a personal (but not informal) “picture” of you. Demonstrate qualifications for and commitment to medicine
  • Present yourself beyond the MCAT & GPA numbers
  • Convey passion for and understanding of what you are getting into; that you have gone through a process of careful reflection and self-examination

Suggestions and Tips

  • Be heartfelt, genuine, and mature.
  • Know about the schools to which you are applying.
  • Don’t use unusual or shock-value information.
  • Consider your readers.
  • Read before you write. Answer the question.
  • Follow guidelines (5300 character MD, 4500 DENT, OPT, POD and DO.)
  • Organize by first doing self-reflection.
  • If you have nothing to say, take this as important information.
  • Talk about you. More importantly, highlight your view of the world, patients and their experience, medicine.
  • Convey empathy and a sense of other-directedness. It’s not all about YOU.
  • Don’t pretend you know what it is like to be a doctor, dentist, etc

Possible Topics (Pick and choose. Don’t use them all!)

  • Motivation for Medicine:
  • Life changing experience, medically or non-medically related
  • Experiences that have given you insight into medical practice, who you wish to serve, how you will contribute
  • Family Background/Influential mentor:
  • What individuals or incidents shaped your life? How so?
  • Extracurricular Activities and Work or Volunteer Experience:
  • What did you learn? How have you matured as a result?
  • How did you contribute to getting the job done?
  • Future Plans (long and/or short term):
  • Goals in medicine - especially if you are committed to working in underserved communities or primary care
  • Explain and Clarify any outstanding issues:
  • But only if they are really issues, but only if they relate to your reasons for pursuing this profession-otherwise leave this to the secondary process

Confirming Your Topics: The “So What Test?”

  • What do I care about the most as it relates to my future?
  • What experiences have shaped me the most and how?
  • Why is it important for me to tell about this topic?
  • How does my choice of this topic reflect on me?
  • How is this topic relevant to my pursuit of the health professions and to my application to health professions school?

Keys to Success

  • Focus on a few illustrative incidents.
  • Unite with a theme or thesis.
  • Outline first, write second.
  • BE SPECIFIC! Use examples that distinguish you.
  • Be interesting. Be someone you’d want to meet.
  • End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates the thesis.

Side Note: The Secondary Essays

  • Explain what makes you uniquely suitable for this professional school.
  • Answer the specific questions that are asked
  • Complement the personal statement
  • Do not copy and paste from your personal statement
  • Do in 2-3 weeks after receipt. Don’t procrastinate!

Side Note: Sample Secondary Prompts

  • What does it mean to you to enter into a profession?
  • If selected for an interview, what one life experience would you most like to talk about?
  • At XXSOM, we are committed to building a superb educational community with students of diverse talents, experiences, opinions, and backgrounds. What would you as an individual bring to our medical school community?
  • Please feel free to use this space to convey any additional information that you might wish the Committee to know.

MD/PhD Essays

  • MD/PhD Essay: 3000 characters-describe why you want the dual degree, what specific research interest you have and questions you want to explore
  • Significant Research Experience Essay: 10,000 characters –describe big picture of the work of the lab(s) and 1) what is known 2) holes in the current research 3)hypothesis 4) your specific work on the project

Writing Help and Resources

  • Writing Center
  • HPAO will review once with pre-health packet
  • Good editors (friends, family) who will not be afraid of hurting your feelings
  • Writing guides such as:
    • Write for success (Jackson and Bordot but do not copy!)
    • Strunk and White – Elements of Style
    • Princeton Review Med School Essays
  • Reed-Yorke Health Professions Advising Office
  • 1210 H.J. Patterson Hall
  • 301.405.7805
  • prehealth@umd.edu
  • www.prehealth.umd.edu


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