- Medical School Application
Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances
Including one that got six acceptances.
These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow the strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .
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Article Contents 29 min read
30 stellar medical school personal statement examples, example #1/30.
I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.
Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.
Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.
My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.
Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.
Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.
This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.
We are here to help you articulate your own vision, passion, and skills in a way that is equally captivating and compelling!
Would you like to learn why "show, don’t tell" is the most important rule of any personal statement? Watch this:
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.
I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.
I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.
In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.
Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.
My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.
28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples
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As one of the most important medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!
So let's help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. Check out AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples for more excellent essays.
#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement
Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .
As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.
A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!
You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
- Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
- What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
- Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
- What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
- What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
- Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
- What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
- What are your favorite activities?
- What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
- What was your "Aha!" moment?
- When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
- How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?
As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. They will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.
Review AAMC Core Competencies : The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into four general categories:
Science Competencies : living systems and human behavior. ","label":"Science","title":"Science"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>
You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.
Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.
Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.
- The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
- The events that led you toward this path
- Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
- Challenges that helped shape your worldview
- Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
- Demonstrate your commitment to others
- Your dependability
- Your leadership skills
- Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict
These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else.
Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay.
Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.
Medical School Personal Statement Structure
When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.
Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:
The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.
The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.
That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.
I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]' code='tab3' template='BlogArticle'>
In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.
Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.
The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles.
A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.
While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.
Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.
Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.
One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.
They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."
There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.
One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.
How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid
Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools.
Emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.
Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:
Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!
Step 3: Writing Your First Draft
As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.
As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.
You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).
#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?
Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.
#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?
Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.
Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.
#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?
If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.
#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?
The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity. Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.
Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.
Would you like 8 medical school personal statement tips? Check out our video below:
FAQs and Final Notes
Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.
Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.
All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.
Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through OMSAS , the University of Toronto medical school requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.
Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.
To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.
Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.
While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.
Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.
In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.
If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.
Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?
The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.
Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.
Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.
So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.
The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or MCAT scores are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.
The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.
This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.
5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:
- Content and Theme
- Multiple Drafts
- Revision With Attention to Grammar
While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!
Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
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I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!
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Medical school personal statement examples.
Get accepted to your top choice medical school with your compelling essay.
THE TOP 10 MEDICAL SCHOOLS
HAVE AN AVERAGE ACCEPTANCE RATE OF 5.3%
A GREAT MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT IS KEY IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
If you want to get into the best school, you need to stand out from other applicants.
U.S. News reports the average medical school acceptance rate at the top 100 med schools at 6.35% , but our med school clients enjoy an 85% ACCEPTANCE RATE .
How can you separate yourself from the competition successfully? By creating a great personal statement.
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Here we present medical school personal statement examples to give you ideas for your own essay.
Pay close attention to the consistent format of these effective personal statements:
ENGAGING INTRODUCTION / UNIFYING THEME / COMPELLING CONCLUSION
Give the admissions committee readers a clear picture of you as an individual, a student, and a future medical professional. Make them want to meet you after they finish reading your essay.
Here's what you'll find on this page:
- How Sample Med School Essays Can Help You
- Before you Start Writing
- Writing Your Opening Paragraph
- Writing Your Body Paragraphs
- Writing Transitions
- Writing Your Conclusion
- Common Elements Between Personal Statements
Five Don'ts for Your Medical School Personal Statement
- Personal Statement Examples & Analysis
- Frequently Asked Questions
How can these sample med school essays help you?
You plan to become a physician, a highly respected professional who will have great responsibility over the health and well being of your future patients. How can you prove to the admissions committee that you have the intelligence, the maturity, the compassion, and the dedication needed to succeed in your goal?
The medical school personal statement examples below are all arguments in favor of top med schools accepting these applicants. And they worked. The applicants who wrote these essays were all accepted to top medical schools - most to multiple schools. They show a variety of experiences and thought processes that all led to the same outcome. However, while the paths to this decision point vary widely, these winning essays share several things in common.
As you read them, take note of how the stories are built sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, adding to the evidence that the writer is worthy of acceptance. This evidence includes showing a sustained focus, mature self-reflection, and professional and educational experiences that have helped prepare the applicant to succeed.
As you write your medical school personal statement , include your most compelling, memorable and meaningful experiences that are relevant to your decision to become a doctor. Each sentence should add to the reader’s understanding of who you are, what your strengths are, and why you will make an outstanding physician. Your resulting essay will help the adcom appreciate your intellectual and psychological strengths as well as your motivations, and conclude that you are worthy of acceptance into a top medical school.
Techniques for creating successful medical school personal statements
Before you start writing your med school personal statement.
Before you start writing your medical school personal statement you will need to choose a topic that will reflect who you are and engage the reader. There are a few strong ways to proceed. Try freewriting with a few of the following topic ideas.
Why medicine? Do you have a personal experience that made you certain about being a physician? How, when, did you know this was the right career for you? Is there a doctor you know (or knew) who emulates an altruistic moral character, someone who won your deepest respect? Can you show this person in action or describe them as they model inherent qualities, those for which you will strive as a physician?
How has a clinical experience been a real growth moment for you? Can you tell that story? Sometimes a clinical experience is deeply personal, something experienced by you or by someone in your family. Sometimes a clinical experience is about a patient whose situation taught you something deeply valuable, something honestly insightful about what good care means, about humanity, about empathy, about compassion, about community, about advantage and disadvantage, about equity and inclusion.
Choose an experience outside the comfort of your own community, an experience where you were the outsider (uncertain, facing ambiguity) and this experience brought about a fresh, resonant understanding of yourself and others, an understanding that made you grow as a person, and perhaps brought about humility or joy in light of this geographical or cultural dislocation. Often this prompt includes traveling to other countries. Yet, it could work just as beautifully discovering people in close places that were previously unfamiliar to you – the shelter in the next town over, a foster home for medically unstable children, the day you witnessed food insecurity firsthand at a local church and decided to do something about disparity.
Read other successful personal statements in guides and publications. You can read sample personal statements that work here: medical school personal statement examples
The prompts above have great possibilities to be successful because they locate experiences that require better than average human understanding and insight. When we re-convey a moving human experience well, we tell a story that aims to bring us together, unite us in our common humanity. Telling powerful stories about humanity, in the end, presents your deeper attributes to others and demonstrates your capacity to feel deeply about the human condition.
Be careful how often you use the first person pronoun, though you may use it. Revise for clarity many more times than you might do in other writing moments. Choose precise vocabulary that sounds like you, and, of course, revise so that you present to your readers the most pristinely grammatical you.
Once you’ve looked at the sample medical school personal statements in the link above, try freewriting again according to one of the themes listed that applies to you. For instance, perhaps your prior freewriting aimed to describe a moment in your life that seeded your interest in medicine. Great. Save that file. Now, start again with a different topic, perhaps one from the linked page of sample personal statements. For instance, let your freewriting explore the time you traveled to another country to participate in a public health mission. What person immediately comes to mind? Hopefully this person is quite different from you in identity and culture. Make sure this comes across. Describe the scene when you first encountered this person. What happened? Tell that story. Why do you think you remember this person so vividly? Did the experience challenge you? Did you learn something deeper and perhaps more complex about humanity, about culture, about your own assumptions about humanity? Hopefully, you grew from this experience. How did you grow? What do you now understand that you did not understand before having had this experience? Hindsight may very well bring about perspective that demonstrates that you now understand the value of that human encounter.
Here is a cautionary bit of advice about writing about childhood. Yes, it is relatively common to have had a formidable experience in childhood about illness, health, healthcare, medicine or doctors. Right? Most of us have had at least one critical health issue in our own family when still a child. Sometimes it is absolutely true that a moment in childhood began your interest in healthcare.
One may have had a diagnosis as a child that turned one’s life path toward being health-aware. For instance, are you a juvenile-onset, Type I diabetic? Do you have a cognitive or physical disability? Were you raised in a home with someone who had a critical illness or disability? Did a sibling, parent or grandparent get gravely sick when you were young?
Upon writing-up any of these situations for your personal statement, there is a catch-22. For medical school application activities, the rule of thumb is “nothing from high school.” So why then is it sometimes a good idea to write about a childhood situation in a personal statement? The answer has to do with the uniqueness of your story and the quality of hindsight through which you narrate it.
Let us slow down for a moment on the issue of writing about childhood. Typically, traditional applicants to medical school are steadfastly dedicated to their academic and pre-professional aims. Science curriculum, especially pre-med curriculum, is demanding and rigorous, and it trains science students to excel in empirical thinking and assessment.
Sometimes, when asked to write a personal essay, hard core science students feel the rug pulled out from under them. Are you more confident and meticulous about action steps and future plans than you are confident about being a sage looking back on your life? Chances are your answer is “yes.”
Of course you can write; you’re a smart person and a very good student. Yet, writing a heartfelt, perceptive essay about yourself or an aspect of your life for an application to medical school is unnerving even as you understand why your application might benefit from story-telling. Yes, your application should benefit from your engaging, authorial presence in the essay. An application that lacks this is wholly at a disadvantage.
Perhaps you are gravitating to the choice to share a story about your childhood.
For instance, what if you sat down to free-write the following prompt:
Draft an essay about a childhood experience that ingrained medicine as one of your inherent interests. Do so in a manner that demonstrates the value of hindsight while telling it.
Is it hard to stay calm about this prompt right now even though this prompt is precisely what could make your personal statement successful? The idea of this prompt is what many successful applicants have written well, and you can too. Why not seek professional guidance for your personal essay? Accepted has consultants who advise applicants through this process. We advise you on the whole process of developing a successful idea for an essay, help you mine your experiences, outline your strongest ideas, and after you’ve written them up, edit your drafts. You can view these personal statement services here: Essay Package
Back to tips. The key to writing a personal statement that frames a moment in childhood well is to stand firmly in the present and stay descriptive and perceptive. Write up that experience trusting you have insight. Quite a bit of time has passed since then, and that distance has given you the opportunity to see things a little differently now.
Let’s presume you want to write about how as a child you had an older sibling with a cognitive impairment. You and your family witnessed time and again doors being shut, so to speak, on his ability to be included in school events or community events.
Free writing A: My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. He was never given field time in soccer games. When this happened, G cried. When this happened, I cried and felt hurt by how much time my parents spent trying to calm him down, eventually leaving the field, holding him close and bringing us back home, another Saturday wrecked.
Example A has no benefit of hindsight.
Free writing B (with some hindsight): My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. Most of the time, kids were kind to him. “Hey G, how are you, man?,” they would say and high-five him. Most kids greeted him, offered him snacks and a seat on the sideline blanket. It was touching to see him included and seen at soccer games.
Further hindsight: G was rarely played in the game.
Reflective comment: No harm would have been done in letting him play. It’s clear to me now how much more work we each need to do about inclusion. Community-based team sports are pretty good about extending kindness at the sidelines, but that is not the same thing as letting all kids play in the game. I am still grateful for every kindness extended to my brother, but perhaps letting him play in the game would have demonstrated to kids and parents alike a deeper message about the importance of inclusion over winning. The coaches meant no harm, but that is precisely how unconscious bias plays. Afterall, community by its very definition is about inclusion.
Standing tall on this matter brings out a maturity and vocabulary to master this kind of personal writing that Free Writing A lacks. You don’t want to go back in time and join your younger self and narrate from that perspective. The “return” to your former child typically results in replicating a childlike emotional capacity – and chances are, that’s not you anymore. You’ve seen more. You’ve grown more. You’re now formally educated. You’re more skilled at making connections between ideas and experiences. You can narrate a scene or circumstance and attach awareness of what you realize now it means – like the over-narratives of documentaries where the author sheds true insight about the meaning of past events.
Most traditional applicants to medical school are just a few years older than teenagers.
When hindsight brings great clarity and insight to the significance of an experience, we demonstrate a keener maturity and an understanding that in authoring an experience we have a responsibility to demonstrate how a personal experience becomes a valuable portal to understanding the situation of others. Hindsight done well can be a stunningly beautiful and engaging narrative skill.
Perhaps you would rather write about a clinical experience? If you write about patients, change names, change gender, change some context to assure anonymity. Nearly all healthcare workers are concerned about telling patient stories because we worry about appropriating someone else’s experience, or feel we may not have the right, literally since HIPAA set rules on patients’ privacy rights in 1996. We should be concerned about telling patients’ stories; however, how we tell them is key in honoring them. When we honor patients and convey their stories to others we demonstrate the reciprocity of the professional relationship. Physicians no longer have a prescriptive, patrician role. Physicians are no longer sole authorities. Physicians and patients establish a reciprocal relationship, a two way street wherein a physician steps into a space of illness with the patient and walks with them, with the goal of healing, curing and advocating for them. When doctors tell stories, they establish that patients matter, that these encounters matter, that doctors think about patients and often learn from them.
How we write patient stories is best done humbly, of course. We can narrate a story that becomes exemplary for its insight and empathy – after all, insight and empathy are desirable traits of a physician. Be sure to show rather than tell, most of the time. Be sure to capture the sensory detail of people and place. For instance, is the patient sitting on a blue plastic chair under ultraviolet lights in the waiting room of a free clinic? Is a woman with her gray hair twisted in a bun wearing a cotton hospital gown, waiting against a concrete wall in a tiny examination room with the door open? (Setting makes a character more real.)
Finally, your story perspective, what you see and understand, becomes another way of revealing who you are.
How to write your opening paragraph:
A strong opening paragraph for a story begins “several pages in.” A strong story begins with you, the narrator, already standing in the ocean with water splashing at your knees. This is called a hook: “D began to bleed after the second attempt to start an intravenous line.”
Then, get the basic narrative facts down, the 5 W’s, the who, what, where, when and why, so your readers will not be confused: “She was a patient in the infusion clinic in the cancer pavilion of a major Boston hospital. She came to the clinic for her first round of chemotherapy.”
What else about this moment engaged you? Did D come to her appointment alone via an Uber ride? Why wasn’t anyone with her? How did that make you feel? Did the two of you hold a conversation while you were trying to start an IV? Why do you think she started to bleed? How did she respond when she saw you were having trouble starting this IV? Why didn’t she have a Medi-port yet? Here, you are building fuller context for her story. Don’t race through the scene; rather, build it, slowing down time, using images and sensory details to “paint” with your words. Smaller details, necessary ones, help you portray D as an individual.
“Semper Fidelis was tattooed on her forearm. ‘Thank you for your service,’ I said.”
“‘This cancer thing,’ she said, ‘this is nothing.’”
“D’s comment set me back. She had triple-negative breast cancer. She had blood running down her arm to her hand, between her fingers and onto a stiff, white pillow case on which she rested her arm. Triple-negative breast cancer was much more than nothing. In fact, it was very serious.”
What questions came to mind that provide several ways of reading this moment? Write them down. For instance,
- Did D not know about the gravity of her diagnosis?
- Was she steely and tough yet informed?
- Did she live through something much worse while enlisted as a Marine?
The questions themselves may wander too much to serve your personal statement as a succinct essay, which it needs to be. However, the answers to those questions may be exactly the additional content you need to develop this story’s acumen and perception as you demonstrate how getting to know the patient is a critical skill in order to help her. And now a theme is starting to come through: a doctor treats a patient, not a diagnosis. Voilà!
Moving forward: How does a doctor reframe clinical assumptions in this instance? What does a future doctor learn from a circumstance like this?
Notice in the example above that the writing is active, uses details, and vivid language.
This writer has a palpable connection to the moment. One key to choosing one experience over another for your personal statement is how visual and vivid your recollection is. Often, moments worth mining for meaning are easy to recollect because they still have unresolved messages that need to be understood. Writing experiences helps us find their meaning, their sense.
Notice as well, the scene above captures a moment of ambiguity, a concept particularly difficult for many health science professionals to embrace because there are multiple ways of looking at and understanding something. Stories send empiricism into the wind. People are not solely empirical. There is the self that is the body, which can be understood empirically, but there’s also the self that inhabits the body, the thinking/feeling/being and perceiving self. Stories are not about right answers. Stories attend to sentience and explore humanity. Patients’ lives are rife with uncertain moments, uncertain decisions, uncertain treatments, uncertain consequences, and uncertain outcomes. How does a physician engage with health uncertainty, understand it, and navigate it through pathways of humanity rather than pathways of diagnosis?
How does health care challenge you to grow in humanistic ways?
How to write your body paragraphs:
Once you have written a compelling scene, it might be a good idea to reflect upon why you were drawn to write about this experience in particular before your proceed. How does this scene illustrate meaningfully something worth explaining about becoming a physician? For instance, D’s scene was illustrative of an unexpected shift in perception that mattered when treating a patient with a serious cancer diagnosis. This unexpected shift happened to you, not to her. D’s been living with herself aplenty. Her point of view surprised you, not her, and reveals an incongruence between her perspective on her illness and yours.
Brief moments of ambiguity like this one can make us talk to each other, make us want to do something, can bring us to explore some further niche, specialty or research. Perhaps D brought you to peruse PubMed to research “Issues in Clinical Practice when Caring for Veterans” to see if you could find articles to help you help D and other veterans. Perhaps D’s comment was so truthful that you now volunteer with a veterans’ organization to scribe their stories for a war history museum? This “call to action” is a worthy story in a personal statement. Tell D’s story and conclude it with empathy and action. (Taking action to help is a demonstration of empathy.) Mindfully showing the experience with D as a catalyst to a path of action to help those under duress -- in distress, in crisis, or adrift in inequity -- matters.
Perhaps, follow this conclusion with a brief explanation of what principles now guide your humanistic path to medical school as long as they are principles that matter to your choice schools.
Here are a few things to avoid in writing your medical school personal statement. Avoid talking about your scholastic path in preparation for medical school in your essay. The essay is not a place to reiterate scholastic achievements, for instance, a high GPA, academic honors, academic awards, publications, or MCAT scores because they’re front and center in other areas of your application.
Instead, frame your medical school personal statement around a formidable experience that directly or indirectly led you to pursue medicine. This could be a struggle that you’ve overcome that demonstrates your fortitude (the story of a sociocultural disadvantage or disability), the first time you deeply understood the ramifications of health care disparities you will not forget. Likely, this would be a personal story about yourself or a family member, a clinical story or a mission trip, or a story about a patient from some other volunteer work that you’ve done.
Additional topic ideas for your personal statement: What is a successful doctor? What does a successful life as a doctor look like? What happens to your understanding of best practices when a patient’s situation makes a best practice unrealistic, and what is the remedy? What epiphany, small or large, resides in you now since having mined a critical, clinical experience? Do you see a difference in the way you respond to patients since having had this experience? How has clinical experience matured you, deepened your awareness of living? If a patient experience became a catalyst for you to branch out or deepen your healthcare exposure opportunities, talk about that too. What opportunities? Why?
Writing effective transitions:
You are now ready to proceed to a conclusion that leaves your readers, the admissions committee, with a lasting impression of you – your life, your mind, your character -- as a 21 st century physician.
Chances are, you’ll need to transition from the previous discussion of a time in the past to squarely speak about yourself here and now or in a comment toward the future.
Can you sum up your main idea for the past experience? Consider the benefit of using a word or phrase -- thus, just as, hence, accordingly, in the same way, correspondingly -- and present your central idea again but only in a few repetitive words (called parallelism) or with synonymous words, creating internal unity in the essay.
Be careful how you do this. The phrasing should feel necessary and fluid rather than reductive or even worse, phrasing that sounds like filler.
The shift you’re making is from then to now, or from then to now and to the future as in “all this is to say.” Would you benefit from a fact, a quote, a statistic, or an informed prediction on the state of medicine, public health, or the future of medicine?
Transitional words can indicate:
- a process: first, second, next, finally…
- time: by lunch time, that evening, two weeks later…
- spatial sequences: down the block, two miles west, one bed over…
- logic sequences: likewise, however, evidently, in other words…
- meta-thought: as I say this, looking back, I have nothing left to say…
If grammar and idea flow are a concern, have a look at Accepted’s editing services: Med School Essay Package
A consultant will walk you through the inception of an essay, an outline, and editing from first through final drafts, including suggestions for idea development and transitions from one idea to another.
How to write your conclusion:
A strong conclusion for your medical school personal statement can highlight the relevance of a timely issue (for instance, the physician shortage in the U.S.), make broader inferences about something you’ve already discussed (for instance, the broader implications of a particular health care disparity), or a call to action that you now embrace (for instance, community-based work that you did during the pandemic that now has become a central interest). Altruism, or understanding another’s disadvantaged situation, should not be represented in your conclusion as “ideas alone.” Commitment to serve others is not solely aspirational (“As physicians, we must do everything we can about inequity"), but a strong conclusion puts ideals into action (“I have joined Dr. T’s research team to conduct qualitative research about how social strata paradigms impact health care inequity”). Action in the conclusion should be associated with an experience shown earlier in the essay and culminate as a demonstration that you have already begun shaping your path in medicine. You are not waiting to begin but have already begun facing the challenges and responsibilities of future physicians. This kind of conclusion shows vision, maturity, commitment and character.
If the story in the body of your personal statement is about an experience, the conclusion should show your growth since then and keep in alignment how you’ve grown with the medical school values and missions of the majority of schools on your list. So, if you’re applying to top-tier allopathic schools, your growth may be in the depth and orientation of your recent research, or in having established a tighter link between your clinical experience and research.
If you’re applying to osteopathic schools, your growth should be in keeping with the osteopathic schools’ values and missions on your list and include recent hands-on experience, something with specific tasks and responsibilities, rather than shadowing, since shadowing is often seen as passive experience. It may be that you’ve become a licensed EMT and will work as an EMT in a relevant region or state during the gap year. It may be that you’ve been certified and now work as a harm reduction specialist for a particular organization in a particular city or county.
If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, each personal statement should align with the academic orientation of each pathway. Using the same personal statement for both AMCAS and AACOMAS applications is rarely a good idea.
Accepted offers help with the whole application process: Primary Application Package
Other elements that each essay below have in common:
Accepted provides sample medical school personal statements with titles classifying types of narratives that have potential for success. Applicants do have some freedom of choice in what topic will serve their essay best. Why only “some” freedom in topic for this personal essay? Because this essay is one tool you will use to reach a professional goal.
Not all essays help us reach professional goals. Writers of effective essays must take into account who will read them. Think about who your audience is. In this case, it’s a medical school admissions committee – not a friend, not a parent, not a peer. How will you write an essay on the same topic, let’s say a lab experience that went from bad to revelatory? You’d tell this story quite differently to your lab mates than you would to your professor, than you would to the president of your university, than you would in a grant application.
Here’s what can happen when the “audience” isn’t considered sufficiently when writing about a passion. Let’s say you love playing soccer, and played on a Division 3 team as an undergraduate. Let’s say it didn’t matter to you that the team was Division 3 as long as it meant you could get on the field and play through your undergraduate years. It’s quite possible that one can write well about playing soccer, but one must do so in such a way that the reader really believes and understands the parallel between doing what you love and a future in medicine. Otherwise, the writer may very well convey that they love soccer. However, when written without the focus that medical school admissions committees will be readers, the essay could end up conveying that the narrator really wants to be a soccer coach, not a doctor.
So, there’s only some freedom in topic and some freedom in writing approach - and the two must make sense together in order to facilitate accomplishing your goal.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” to writing a successful medical school personal statement. There are, however, aspects to the sample essays on this site that stand out.
First, each personal statement example is authored by someone who knows exactly what story they’re telling. No matter what their first draft looked like, by the time the final draft is ready to go, all fuzzy draft moments have been made lucid and engaging. All sections of the essay should have the polish and the same goals.
- Why am I telling this in this way?
- To what ends does each scene or moment speak?
- Have I revised enough to make every sentence demonstrate strong writing skills?
Each sample personal statement emphasizes narrative control, engages with a direct voice, has conclusive things to show and say, demonstrates logical steps in idea development, and presents effective framing of the composition as a well-written form that displays strong writing skills.
Even when an essay includes a “bookend” structure (a narrative structure that begins and ends with X, with middle content about Y), the story of Y (i.e. a mission trip in Mexico) is the primary story framed by the X bookend story (i.e. the love of running) to give ballast to the context in which this writer wants us to understand the mission trip as well, as a parallel story of challenge, commitment, exhilaration, exhaustion and necessity.
The same is true for stories that contain contrasts. If you’ve traveled ten mile or ten thousand miles, it is quite possible you’ve encountered different assumptions than your own about health care, health care access, trust, understanding of middle-class or first-world beliefs about health, understanding beliefs from poor and disadvantaged communities, illness, health care in contrast with a different cultural standard than what you’re used to, different beliefs about health care access, and a lack of or cautious trust in deference to doctors. (See the “Nontraditional Applicant” and “The Traveler.”) The key to this kind of essay is first demonstrating the contrasts between the two realities (yours and the patient’s reality) and their relative assumptions. Second, demonstrate an understanding of beliefs amid the two experiences and aim to reconcile their adverse assumptions.
However you proceed with the paragraph by paragraph progression of your medical school personal statement, be sure to see how there’s deeper intuition or knowledge associated with how the ideas progress. Do not repeat yourself, or reiterate a statement or idea unless you are clearly doing so for rhetorical emphasis.
Then, kiss your draft goodnight. Let it sit for two or three days, and return to it time and again with fresh eyes – to trim, tighten, clarify, improve tone and intention, and importantly, to make sure you have direct regard for your audience, who it is, what they’re looking for, and how you are the person whom they seek, as you maintain a tone and direction consistent with your goals and what you’re seeking from an admissions committee.
Many students focus on their own or family members’ medical conditions in their personal statements. The essay sometimes reads like a medical history. Taking this approach can hurt your application for several reasons: It may alert them to conditions that could impact your ability to perform in medical school, indicate that you lack boundaries by oversharing , or suggest a lack of maturity in focusing only on yourself and family – rather than on helping others or serving the community.
Anything you share in your personal statement can be brought up in your interview. If you share details of painful events, losses, or failures that you have not yet processed or come to terms with, that disclosure could come across as an invitation for the reader to pity you. Accepting long-term changes in our lives transforms us; we are constantly evolving through our experiences. Until you have integrated this information into your identity, depending on how impactful it was, you may not be able to use the experience to shed insight on yourself quite yet. Use negative experiences that are at least a year or older depending on how long it takes you to process and reflect. Most importantly, use them to show growth and resilience , not to create pity.
- DON’T demonstrate a lack of compassion or empathy. One of the creepiest essays I’ve ever read – it still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it – was a student’s description of how much she enjoyed anesthetizing and removing the brains of mice. Her intention was to share her love of science, research, and learning but the feverish glee with which she described these procedures lacked compassion for the creatures that lost their lives for her research project. This lack of respect for the sacredness of life made it an easy decision to reject her application. Research was probably a better path for her, especially since she wasn’t able to gauge the reaction her statements would have on her audience.
- DON’T bargain. The least fun essays to read are those that contain more promises than a politician’s speech. They include statements like, “If accepted into this program, I will….” The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you really want to demonstrate what you are capable of achieving during your medical education, give examples of what you have already accomplished . This approach is far stronger than making hollow promises.
- DON’T complain. Criticizing or pointing out the failures of healthcare professionals who have treated you or whom you have observed in the past will only reflect negatively on you. Since your application will be reviewed by doctors, as well as admissions professionals, it’s critical that you do not insult those from whom you are seeking acceptance. While it is true that medical mistakes and lack of access to care have devastating consequences for patients, their families and communities, identifying ways to improve in these areas without pointing any fingers would be more effective. By demonstrating your realistic knowledge of patient needs and sharing potential solutions, you can present yourself as an asset to their team.
Be careful what you write. Create a personal statement that is honest (not bitter), reveals your personality (not your medical history), and delivers a compelling explanation for your motivations for entering medicine (not empty promises).
Do you want our expert advice on your medical school personal statement?
Med School Personal Statement Consultant Dr. Mary Mahoney
Med School Personal Statement Examples and Analysis
Now let’s explore what you can learn from some of these outstanding sample med school essays.
Medical school personal statement example #1: Emergency 911
“Call 911!” I shouted to my friend as I sprinted down the street. The young Caucasian male had been thrown fifteen yards from the site of impact and surprisingly was still conscious upon my arrival. “My name is Michael. Can you tell me your name?” In his late twenties, he gasped in response as his eyes searched desperately in every direction for help, for comfort, for assurance, for loved ones, for death, until his eyes met mine. “Flail chest,” I thought to myself as I unbuttoned his shirt and placed my backpack upon his right side. “Pulse 98, respiration 28 short and quick. Help is on the way. Hang in there, buddy,” I urged.
After assessing the patient, the gravity of the situation struck me into sobriety. The adrenaline was no longer running through my veins — this was real. His right leg was mangled with a compound fracture; his left leg was also obviously broken. The tow-truck that had hit him looked as though it had run into a telephone pole. Traffic had ceased on the six-lane road, and a large crowd had gathered. However, no one was by my side to help. “Get me some blankets from that motel!” I yelled to a bystander and three people immediately fled. I was in charge.
But my patient was no longer conscious; his pulse was faint and respiration was low. “Stay with me, man!” I yelled. “15 to 1, 15 to 1,” I thought as I rehearsed CPR in my mind. Suddenly he stopped breathing. Without hesitation, I removed my T-shirt and created a makeshift barrier between his mouth and mine through which I proceeded to administer two breaths. No response. And furthermore, there was no pulse. I began CPR. I continued for approximately five minutes until the paramedics arrived, but it was too late. I had lost my first patient.
Medicine. I had always imagined it as saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, overall making life better for everyone. However, as I watched the paramedics pull the sheets over the victim’s head, I began to tremble. I had learned my first lesson of medicine: for all its power, medicine cannot always prevail. I had experienced one of the most disheartening and demoralizing aspects of medicine and faced it. I also demonstrated then that I know how to cope with a life-and-death emergency with confidence, a confidence instilled in me by my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician, a confidence that I had the ability to take charge of a desperate situation and help someone in critical need. This pivotal incident confirmed my decision to pursue medicine as a career.
Of course healing, curing, and saving is much more rewarding than trying and failing. As an EMT I was exposed to these satisfying aspects of medicine in a setting very new to me — urban medicine. I spent most of a summer doing ride-alongs with the Ambulance Company in Houston. Every call we received dealt with Latino patients either speaking only Spanish or very little broken English. I suddenly realized the importance of understanding a foreign culture and language in the practice of medicine, particularly when serving an underserved majority. In transporting patients from the field to the hospitals I saw the community’s reduced access to medical care due to a lack of physicians able to communicate with and understand their patients. I decided to minor in Spanish. Having almost completed my minor, I have not only expanded my academic horizons, I have gained a cultural awareness I feel is indispensable in today’s diverse society.
Throughout my undergraduate years at Berkeley I have combined my scientific interests with my passion for the Hispanic culture and language. I have even blended the two with my interests in medicine. During my sophomore year I volunteered at a medical clinic in the rural town of Chacala, Mexico. In Mexico for one month, I shadowed a doctor in the clinic and was concurrently enrolled in classes for medical Spanish. It was in Chacala, hundreds of miles away from home, that I witnessed medicine practiced as I imagined it should be. Seeing the doctor treat his patients with skill and compassion as fellow human beings rather than simply diseases to be outsmarted, I realized he was truly helping the people of Chacala in a manner unique to medicine. Fascinated by this exposure to clinical medicine, I saw medicine’s ability to make a difference in people’s lives. For me the disciplines of Spanish and science have become inseparable, and I plan to pursue a career in urban medicine that allows me to integrate them.
Having seen medicine’s different sides, I view this as a multifaceted profession. I have witnessed its power as a healing agent in rural Chacala, and I have seen its weakness when I met death face-to-face as an EMT. Inspired by the Latino community of Houston, I realize the benefits of viewing it from a holistic, culturally aware perspective. And whatever the outcome of the cry "Call 911!" I look forward as a physician to experiencing the satisfaction of saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, and overall making life better for my patients.
Lessons From Med School Sample Essay #1: Emergency 911
This essay is one of our favorites. The applicant tells a story and weaves a lot of information into it about his background and interests. Note how the lead grabs one’s attention and the conclusion ties everything together.
What makes this essay work?
- A dramatic opening paragraph
This essay has an unusually long opener, but not only is it dramatic, it also lays out the high-stakes situation of the writer desperately trying to save the life of a young man. As an EMT, the writer is safe in sharing so much detail, because they establish their bona fides as medically knowledgeable. With the urgent opening sentence (“Call 911!”) and the sad final sentence (“I had lost my first patient.”), the writer bookends a particularly transformative experience, one that confirmed their goal of becoming a doctor.
- A consistent theme
The theme of a med school essay in which the applicant first deals with the inevitable reality of seeing a patient die can become hackneyed through overuse. This essay is saved from that fate because after acknowledging the pain of this reality check, the writer reports that they immediately committed to expanding his knowledge and skills to better serve the local Hispanic community. While not an extraordinary story for an EMT, the substance, self-awareness, and focus the writer brings to the topic makes it a compelling read.
- Evidence supporting the stated goal
This applicant is already a certified EMT, which serves as evidence of their serious interest in a medical career. In going on ambulance ride-alongs, the writer realized the barrier in communication between many doctors and their Spanish-speaking patients, which inspired the writer to take steps to both learn medical Spanish and shadow a doctor in a Mexican clinic. These concrete steps affirm that the applicant has serious intent.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #2: The Traveler
"On the first day that I walked into the Church Nursing Home, I was unsure of what to expect. A jumble of questions ran through my mind simultaneously: Is this the right job for me? Will I be capable of aiding the elderly residents? Will I enjoy what I do? A couple of hours later, these questions were largely forgotten as I slowly cut chicken pieces and fed them to Frau Meyer. Soon afterwards, I was strolling through the garden with Herr Schmidt, listening to him tell of his tour of duty in World War II. By the end of the day, I realized how much I enjoyed the whole experience and at the same time smiled at the irony of it all. I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany, to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.
Experiences like my volunteer work in the German nursing home illustrate the decisive role travel has played in my life. For instance, I had volunteered at a local hospital in New York but was not satisfied. Dreams of watching doctors in the ER or obstetricians in the maternity ward were soon replaced with the reality of carrying urine and feces samples to the lab. With virtually no patient contact, my exposure to clinical medicine in this setting was unenlightening and uninspiring. However, in Heidelberg, despite the fact that I frequently change diapers for the incontinent and deal with occasionally cantankerous elderly, I love my twice-weekly visits to the nursing home. Here, I feel that I am needed and wanted. That rewarding feeling of fulfillment attracts me to the practice of medicine.
My year abroad in Germany also enriched and diversified my experience with research. Although I had a tremendously valuable exposure to research as a summer intern investigating chemotherapeutic resistance in human carcinomas, I found disconcerting the constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research. In contrast, my work at the University of Heidelberg gave me a broader view of basic research and demonstrated how it can expand knowledge – even without the promise of immediate profit. I am currently attempting to characterize the role of an enzyme during neural development. Even though the benefit of such research is not yet apparent, it will ultimately contribute to a vast body of information which will further medical science.
My different reactions to research and medicine just exemplify the intrinsically broadening impact of travel. For example, on a recent trip to Egypt, I visited a small village on the banks of the Nile. This impoverished hamlet boasted a large textile factory in its center where many children worked in clean, bright, and cheerful conditions weaving carpets and rugs. After a discussion with the foreman of the plant, I discovered that the children of the village learned trades at a young age to prepare them to enter the job market and to support their families. If I had just heard about this factory, I would have recoiled in horror with visions of sweatshops running through my head. However, watching the skill and precision each child displayed, in addition to his or her endless creativity, soon made me realize that it is impossible to judge this country’s attempts to deal with its poverty using American standards and experience.
Travel has not only had a formative and decisive impact on my decision to pursue a career in medicine, it has also broadened my horizons – whether in a prosperous city on the Rhine or an impoverished village on the Nile. In dealing with patients or addressing research puzzles, I intend to bring the inquiring mind fostered in school, lab, and volunteer experiences. But above all, I intend to bring the open mind formed through travel.
Lessons From Medical School Sample Essay #2: The Traveler
No boring repetition of itinerary from this seasoned traveler! This student ties their travels to their medical ambitions through the effective use of short anecdotes and vivid images. Can you sense the writer’s youthful disappointment during early clinical experiences and mature satisfaction working in the retirement home?
This applicant effectively links the expansive benefits of travel to their medical ambitions. By sharing vivid anecdotes from and reflections on these experiences, the writer enables the reader to easily imagine them as a talented physician in the future.
- An engaging opening that frames the storyline Many fine application essays open with imagery so vibrant that the writing could be mistaken for fiction. This essay is no different. We meet the writer in the setting of a nursing home overseas, where they question whether their volunteer experiences there will help them determine their career path. Notice how the first sentence reflects a worry, “I was unsure of what to expect,” but by the final sentence, the writer concludes with satisfaction, “I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany, to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.” With this framing, we appreciate the essay’s theme.
- Reflections on and contrasts about varied experiences in medicine The writer’s reactions to various encounters reveal a maturing mind-set: the “unenlightening and uninspiring” experience volunteering in a New York hospital versus the feeling of being “needed and wanted” in the nursing home in Heidelberg; the “disconcerting . . . constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research” versus the “broader view of basic research and . . . how it can expand knowledge – even without the promise of immediate profit” at the University of Heidelberg. These reflections demonstrate a thoughtfulness born of experience.
- How traveling has expanded his potential as a physician Of the five tightly constructed paragraphs in this substantial essay, the final two paragraphs home in on how travel has had an “intrinsically broadening impact” and stimulated an “open mind” to people and situations. This kind of sophisticated view is a desirable trait to adcoms.
- Out-of-the-box theme Although this essay’s foundation is built on the writer’s sincere and dedicated aspirations for a medical career, they allowed themselves the space to write about the broadening intellectual benefits of travel, linking those benefits to professional potential. Even when writing about children working in a factory in Egypt, this applicant brings an expanded mind-set and greater cross-cultural understanding that will no doubt benefit them in their career.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #3: The Non-Traditional Applicant
"Modest one-room houses lay scattered across the desert landscape, their rooftops a seemingly helpless shield against the intense heat generated by the mid-July sun. The steel security bars that guarded the windows and doors of every house seemed to belie the large welcome sign at the entrance to the ABC Indian Reservation. As a young civil engineer employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was far removed from my cubicle in downtown Los Angeles.
However, I felt I was well-prepared to conduct my first project proposal. The project involved a $500,000 repair of an earthen levee surrounding an active Native American burial site. A fairly inexpensive and straightforward job by federal standards, but nonetheless, I could hardly contain my excitement. Strict federal construction guidelines laden with a generous portion of technical jargon danced through my head as I stepped up to the podium to greet the twelve tribal council members. My premature confidence quickly disappeared as they confronted me with a troubled ancient gaze. Their faces revealed centuries of distrust and broken government promises.
Suddenly, from a design based solely upon abstract engineering principles, an additional human dimension emerged – one for which I had not prepared. The calculations I had crunched over the past several months and the abstract engineering principles simply no longer applied. Their potential impact on this community was clearly evident in the faces before me. With perspiration forming on my brow, I decided I would need to take a new approach to salvage this meeting. So I discarded my rehearsed speech, stepped out from behind the safety of the podium, and began to solicit the council members’ questions and concerns. By the end of the afternoon, our efforts to establish a cooperative working relationship had resulted in a distinct shift in the mood of the meeting. Although I am not saying we erased centuries of mistrust in a single day, I feel certain our steps towards improved relations and trust produced a successful project.
I found this opportunity to humanize my engineering project both personally and professionally rewarding. Unfortunately, experiences like it were not common. I realized early in my career that I needed a profession where I could more frequently incorporate human interaction and my interests in science. After two years of working as a civil engineer, I enrolled in night school to explore a medical career and test my aptitude for pre-medical classes. I found my classes fascinating and became a more effective student. Today, I am proud of the 3.7 GPA I have achieved in competitive post-baccalaureate courses such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics.
Confident of my ability to succeed in the classroom, I proceeded to volunteer in the Preceptorship Program at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. I acquired an understanding of the emotional demands and time commitment required of physicians by watching them schedule their personal lives around the needs of their patients. I also soon observed that the rewards of medicine stem from serving the needs of these same patients. I too found it personally gratifying to provide individuals with emotional support by holding an elderly woman’s hand as a physician drew a blood sample or befriending frightened patients with a smile and conversation.
To test my aptitude for a medical career further, I began a research project under the supervision of Dr. John Doe from the Orthopedic Department at Big University. The focus of my study was to determine the fate of abstracts presented at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand annual meeting. As primary author, I reported the results in an article for the Journal of Hand Surgery, a peer-reviewed publication. My contribution to medicine, albeit small, gave me much satisfaction. In the future, I would like to pursue an active role in scientific research.
My preparation for a career as a medical doctor started with my work as a professional engineer. From my experiences at the ABC Indian Reservation, I realized I need more direct personal interaction than engineering offers. The rewarding experiences I have had in my research, my volunteer work at the Los Angeles County Hospital, and my post-bac studies have focused my energies and prepared me for the new challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead in medicine."
Lessons From Med School Sample Essay #3: The Non-Traditional Applicant
Here, an older applicant takes advantage of their experience and maturity. Note how this engineer demonstrates their sensitivity and addresses possible stereotypes about engineers’ lack of communications skills.
What works well in this essay?
- A compelling lead This story begins in a hot desert landscape, an unexpected and dramatic starting point. Can’t you just feel the heat and sense the loneliness of the remote Indian reservation? Equally powerful in this first paragraph is when the writer faces the need to suddenly and completely rethink their carefully planned approach to address the tribal leaders. Their excitement is dashed. Their confidence has plummeted. They are totally unprepared for the mistrust facing them and their plan, and they need to improvise –quickly. Who wouldn’t want to read on to see how they resolve this dramatic turn of events?
- Solid storytelling that leads to a satisfying conclusion This nontraditional med school applicant reinvents themself in this essay. After realizing that they want more human involvement and interaction in their work, they take this self-knowledge and show us the steps they took to achieve their new goal. The steps are logical and well thought out, so the writer’s conclusion that they are well prepared in every way for med school makes perfect sense.
- Evidence to support their theme Through taking prerequisite courses in medicine (and achieving high grades) to bedside hospital volunteering (which provides emotional satisfaction) to helping write a medical research paper (which provides a feeling that they are making a meaningful contribution), the writer offers evidence that they are well suited for their new goal of a career in medicine. Each experience shared is relevant to the writer’s story. Any reader will agree that the applicant’s future as a physician is promising.
- A thoughtful perspective From the opening paragraph, the writer shows their ability to adapt to new situations and realities with quick thinking and psychological openness. They assess each stage of their journey, testing it for intellectual value and emotional satisfaction. Journeys of reflective self-discovery are something adcoms value.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #4: The Anthropology Student
"Crayfish tails in tarragon butter, galantine of rabbit with foie gras, oxtail in red wine, and apple tartelettes. The patient had this rich meal and complained of “liver upset” (crise de foie). Why a liver ache? I always associate indigestion with a stomach ache. In studying French culture in my Evolutionary Psychology class, I learned that when experiencing discomfort after a rich meal, the French assume their liver is the culprit. Understanding and dealing with the minor – sometimes major – cultural differences is a necessity in our shrinking world and diverse American society. Anthropology has prepared me to effectively communicate with an ethnically diverse population. My science classes, research, and clinical experience have prepared me to meet the demands of medical school.
I first became aware of the valuable service that physicians provide when I observed my father, a surgeon, working in his office. I gained practical experience assisting him and his staff perform various procedures in his outpatient center. This exposure increased my admiration for the restorative, technological, and artistic aspects of surgery. I also saw that the application of medical knowledge was most effective when combined with compassion and empathy from the health care provider.
While admiring my father’s role as a head and neck surgeon helping people after severe accidents, I also found a way to help those suffering from debilitating ailments. Working as a certified physical trainer, I became aware of the powerful recuperative effects of exercise. I was able to apply this knowledge in the case of Sharon, a 43-year-old client suffering from lupus. She reported a 200% increase in her strength tests after I trained her. This meant she could once again perform simple tasks like carrying groceries into her house. Unfortunately, this glimpse of improvement was followed by a further deterioration in her condition. On one occasion, she broke down and cried about her declining health and growing fears. It was then that I learned no physical prowess or application of kinesiology would alleviate her pain. I helped reduce her anxiety with a comforting embrace. Compassion and understanding were the only remedies available, temporary though they were.
To confirm that medicine is the best way for me to help others, I assisted a research team in the Emergency Room at University Medical Center (UMC). This experience brought me in direct contact with clinical care and provided me with the opportunity to witness and participate in the “behind-the-scenes” hospital operations. Specifically, we analyzed the therapeutic effects of two new drugs – Drug A and Drug B – in patients suffering from acute ischemic stroke. The purpose of this trial was to determine the efficacy and safety of these agents in improving functional outcome in patients who had sustained an acute cerebral infarction. My duties centered around the role of patient-physician liaison, determining patients’ eligibility, monitoring their conditions, and conducting patient histories.
I continued to advance my research experience at the VA Non-Human Primate Center. During the past year, I have been conducting independent research in endocrinology and biological aspects of anthropology. For this project, I am examining the correlation between captive vervet monkeys’ adrenal and androgen levels with age, gender, and various behavioral measures across different stress-level environments. I enjoy the discipline and responsibility which research requires, and I hope to incorporate it into my career.
Anthropology is the study of humans; medicine is the science and art of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease in humans. From my work at UMC and my observation of my father’s practice, I know medicine will allow me to pursue an art and science that is tremendously gratifying and contributes to the welfare of those around me. My anthropology classes have taught me to appreciate cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology. Firsthand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition has taught me the invaluable role of prevention. Medical school will now provide me with the technical knowledge to alleviate a crise de foie."
[ Click here to view an excerpt from the original draft of this essay. ]
Lessons From Medical School Sample Essay #4: The Anthropology Student
With a diverse background that includes anthropology studies, work as a certified physical trainer, and experience in clinical medical research, this applicant builds a strong case for their logical and dedicated choice of a medical career.
- An engaging opening that frames the storyline This writer cleverly uses an example from anthropology class, linking the description of a heavy, gourmet French meal to an appreciation for cross-cultural understanding that will be an asset during their medical career. Notice that the writer is not describing their own personal experience here but piggybacked on a class lesson to create a colorful, engaging opening.
- A solid variety of relevant experiences In this six-paragraph essay, the writer links their lessons from anthropology studies to a firsthand understanding based on observing how their surgeon-father related to patients, to becoming a physical trainer directly helping others, and then to two different kinds of medical research. Each experience builds logically and chronologically on what came before, adding to the substance of the applicant’s preparation for medical school.
- A powerful personal experience with a client In the third paragraph, the writer’s experience working with a patient with lupus is particularly strong and memorable. Their initial success with Sharon is followed by an almost immediate and radical decline in her condition. This is a moving anecdote that shows the applicant’s understanding of the limitations of medicine – and the power of compassion.
- An excellent summary paragraph that ties everything together The final paragraph isn’t the place to offer new information, and this one doesn’t. Instead, it reminds the reader about the strong foundation the writer built from academics to career and medical research. Readers will be persuaded that after these experiences and reflections, the applicant truly appreciates “cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology,” as well as the “firsthand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition teaching the invaluable role of prevention.”
Don’t Write Like This!
As the time approached for me to set my personal and professional goals, I made a conscientious decision to enter a field which would provide me with a sense of achievement and, at the same time, produce a positive impact on mankind. It became apparent to me that the practice of medicine would fulfill these objectives. In retrospect, my ever-growing commitment to medicine has been crystallizing for years. My intense interest in social issues, education, and athletics seems particularly appropriate to this field and has prepared me well for such a critical choice...
I’ve been asked many times why I wish to become a physician. Upon considerable reflection, the thought of possessing the ability to help others provides me with tremendous internal gratification and offers the feeling that my life’s efforts have been focused in a positive direction. Becoming a physician is the culmination of a lifelong dream, and I am prepared to dedicate myself, as I have in the past, to achieving this goal.
Lessons from Don’t Write Like This
This is an excerpt from the original draft of the Anthropology Student’s AMCAS essay. We are not including the whole thing because you can get the idea all too rapidly from just this brief portion. Note the abundant use of generalities that apply to the overwhelming majority of medical school applicants. Observe how the colorless platitudes and pomposity hide any personality. Can you imagine reading essays like this all day long? If so, then imagine your reaction to a good essay.
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Med school personal statement FAQs
1. when should i start writing my personal statement for medical school.
Typically, traditional applicants who have a goal of submitting their AMCAS or AACOMAS application in June write their personal statement after they take the MCAT in March. Starting the prewriting for the personal statement earlier than that is fine too; however, if an applicant plans to sit for the MCAT in the early spring, writing a compelling personal narrative while preparing for the MCAT can often be too much. Both require very different kinds of thinking. The intensity of studying for the MCAT, and the empirical thinking it requires, can interfere with the imaginative brainstorming needed to find your topic and develop it.
Before focusing on the personal statement, look at all the elements of the primary application. As a whole, the personal statement, activities, MMEs, MCAT, transcript, biographical information and letters, will portray you. One element alone is not enough to bring out the whole you. It might help to strategize about how (and where) to highlight different elements of your background, experience, and character in the different parts of the primary application. Then work on the personal statement knowing what aspects of you are already represented in the other sections of the application. This way, each element adds value to the application and contributes to a more complete picture of you.
It makes sense to compartmentalize completing different parts of the application. Many applicants take the time they need to focus on one application component at a time, which seems to help them be thorough.
Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to write well. Exploring ideas in writing, developing those ideas, showing rather than telling a story, staying clear, writing fluidly, surmising maturely and insightfully, takes much more time than most people anticipate. So, don’t wait until Memorial Day to write your essay and intend to submit on June 1. Give yourself the churn time writing well needs. Also, give yourself time to put a draft down for a day or two and return to it when you’re able to read it afresh. Sometimes, we revise over and over again in one sitting to the point that we can no longer hear the story or its sense because we have been rehearsing and revising a draft to beat the clock. Doing this is a risky way to go about the personal statement. Remember, this essay should be a very impressive part of your application, not merely one more part of the application to finish. At the end of the day, the medical school personal statement is a window that allows others to see you, know you as a person, know you better and beyond your achievements.
2. How do I find the perfect personal statement topic? Does one exist?
Certainly, some ideas are better than others, and one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. However, there is no “perfect” topic. In fact, writing an essay with the approach of trying to out-psych this important application requirement is likely not the strongest way to find your best topic, nor is it the best way to engage your readers.
Instead, consider the following approach. What is an experience you’ve had that matters greatly in helping others understand who you are as a future physician? Why medicine, not in general, but for you, demonstrated by way of a story about an experience that directly ties to being a physician or indirectly demonstrates your sound character as it corresponds with human qualities medical schools desire. When we read what kinds of people medical schools seek, it’s easy enough to identify quite a few character traits that appeal to many schools: compassion, resiliency, adaptability, selflessness, inclusivity, and altruism among them. What experience, when written with key details and description, reveals who you really are?
3. How do you choose the right amount of personal qualities to list?
A strong medical school personal statement should not replicate other parts of the application, with the exception of it being a specific story that stems from a particular experience associated with one of your activities. Otherwise, there’s no listing in this essay. Unfortunately, some applicants do treat the personal statement as an opportunity to list awards, accolades, and experiences, paragraph by paragraph. Meanwhile, medical school admissions officers can see these awards and experiences in the Experiences section of the application. Rarely, if ever, does this kind of writing bring out voice, vision and identity. Instead, tell a true story, revised with care and precision, that shines with voice, vision and identity.
4. Are there any topics I should avoid for my medical school personal statement?
Certainly, one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. So, there’s a subjectivity in what to write and what not to write. Generally, however, there are some topics to avoid. Don’t write about a time you felt cheated, inconvenienced, frustrated or angry. Sometimes, secondary essay prompts will ask you about a struggle or a mistake, and for these answers, it’s best to show how you turned the situation around or keenly learned from it. Don’t get too caught in childhood. Many applicants do write about a time when they were not yet grown; however, don’t get swallowed by it. Write the scene and then stay in the present to demonstrate your maturity and worthwhile hindsight.
Remember -- no matter what the topic, tone matters.
5. What kind of experience should I include in my personal statement?
6. can the experience i use on my med school personal statement be from outside of college.
Absolutely. It is relatively common for applicants to only portray themselves as students, and this can be a problem. Sometimes, when applicants write about themselves as excellent students the tone of such a personal statement can sound boastful or pleading. Neither quality is advantageous.
Seeing oneself in any other light can result in a stronger “snapshot” of who you are, as long as the theme or topic of your personal statement still suits the intention of the application in the first place – demonstrating who you are as an appealing candidate for medical school. When we consider the writing task for the personal statement to be much more story-driven, readers go on a descriptive journey. What journey would you like to share?
7. Should I talk about challenges I’ve faced?
If other parts of your medical school application suggest a struggle – whether a lower MCAT score or a notable weak semester on a transcript – it might be advantageous to explain what happened and how you turned that situation around. Whether writing about a challenge in the personal statement or secondaries, the key is to demonstrate resilience. Applicants with physical or cognitive disabilities may choose to write about seeking assistance -- whether a doctor, therapist or a tutor -- and how learning alternative strategies helped them figure out how to attain higher academic achievement.
Sometimes challenges are circumstantial. Sometimes families face financial hardship (did the family breadwinner become unemployed and therefore everyone else had to work more hours, including you?), emotional stress (due to an ongoing illness, Covid-19, or a divorce?) or trauma (a death of a loved one, a house fire, a veteran/sibling returning home with PTSD). Sometimes an applicant has been a caregiver for someone in the family. Sometimes an applicant has taken a leave from school because of someone else’s struggles, or the emotional fallout on the applicant from someone else’s struggle – the loss of a childhood friend, for instance. Self-care is reasonable. We might need to share a life moment in order to frame the context of a life struggle, showing it in the context of responsibility rather than recklessness or immaturity. Showing how you stepped up in a challenging time can show that you are accountable and caring, as long as the story is told to these ends, rather than suggesting resentment or self-pity. Again, neither of these tones is advantageous, nor is blame.
Occasionally applicants have been challenged by a course or by a professor, a classmate or teammate and feel unduly subjected to bias. If there’s discrimination involved, that might be a story to tell. If there’s a personality clash, that might not be a good story to tell.
Finally, as any story of challenge moves along, it’s important to demonstrate what you did, what you learned, how you adapted, or what you now value from having had this life experience that you did not understand before.
Being a doctor is rife with challenges. In the end, your readers may come to understand how you are an insightful leader with great resilience or a compassionate, problem-solver.
8. How do I focus my personal statement to show that I want to go into medicine and not another field in healthcare?
Great question. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to demonstrate your compassion for others and empathy for people suffering from illness. On the other hand, these are favorable attributes for nearly all healthcare workers -- not only doctors -- but for physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers and psychologists too. Since most applicants have done some shadowing of physicians, it’s not unusual for these experiences to contain moments of learning about being a physician through shadowing or through work in a clinic. However, the more clinical the story, the better especially if you’re applying to osteopathic schools of medicine. If you’re applying to allopathic schools of medicine, it’s possible you have some interest in being a researcher, so telling a story about working in a physician’s lab might demonstrate your insights into the value of research in light of disease or patient care. If you already have an affinity for a specialty, telling how you came to know this could be the way to go.
9. Do I introduce my desired field of healthcare in my personal statement?
Maybe. If you’re very committed and have demonstrated a trend in your activities from general volunteer work (older listings) to more specialized experience in a field of medicine (more recent listings), it may be a good idea to write up how you came to know one field of medicine was really your passion.
Bear in mind that announcing a deep interest in a particular field of medicine may make you “a good fit” or “not a good fit” for some schools. So, if you do write up a story about your desired field of medicine for your personal statement, be sure your list of schools corresponds with this. For instance, if you want to be an obstetrician and you convey this in your personal statement, be certain your schools have clinical exposure or better yet offer specializations in obstetrics, or a required rotation through a hospital for women, for instance.
Lastly, by no means must you announce a desired field of healthcare in your personal statement. You may be asked about your specialized interests in medicine in a secondary or in an interview, so it’s a good idea to think this through, but no, you don’t have to tackle this in the personal statement.
10. What should my character limit be?
The AMCAS and AACOMAS character limit for the personal statement is 5,300 characters with spaces. The TMDSAS character limit for the personal statement is 5,000 characters with spaces. It’s a good idea to use most if not all of this space for your personal statement. Also, try to avoid the temptation to use the same personal statement for AMCAS and AACOMAS. The osteopathic schools seek applicants who know and prefer an osteopathic orientation to medicine, so the AACOMAS personal statement should demonstrate your fit with osteopathic medicine, based on what story you choose to tell and how you tell it, or at the very least, in the conclusion.
11. How do I know when I’m ready to submit my med school personal statement?
I highly recommend getting feedback about this from a strong mentor, advisor or consultant. Accepted offers comprehensive consultation for every part of the writing process, from brainstorming, to outlining, to mentoring on ideas, and editing until a client has a solid final draft in hand, ready for submission. You can review these services here: Initial Essay Package
Generally speaking, when you’ve accomplished FAQ #2 and #3, avoided the pitfalls in #4, revised for clarity and quality of ideas, developed ideas engagingly, and meticulously revised for quality of writing, then, you may be done.
12. What if I don’t have enough space to discuss everything?
Then your topic is too large or unfocused, in which case you need to focus and narrow the scope of your essays. Or you have a bit of editing to do to eliminate wordiness, digressions, or overstatement Ultimately, you want your essay to be focused, clear, and engaging.
13. Should I personalize my personal statement to the med school I am applying to?
Only if you’re applying to one medical school. Otherwise, your personal statement will reach all schools listed in your AMCAS application or AACOMAS application. It is okay, however, to speak toward the ideals of your first choice, aspirational schools on your list. Other times, applicants choose to write toward the schools that are their safest bets.
Your secondary/supplemental essays will give you plenty of opportunity to show you belong at an individual school.
14. Can I talk about mental or physical health in my statement?
15. should i address any bad grades that i got in school.
Generally yes, as long as bad grades are truly bad grades. It’s likely that you do not need to address a rogue grade of B on a transcript. If you had a bad semester or two, the question becomes how and where to address them. The answer is an individual one dependent on the context. The one certainty: You definitely don’t want your entire application to be a rationalization of those bad grades.
See FAQ #7.
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2023 Medical School Personal Statement Ultimate Guide (25 Examples Included)
25 medical school personal statement examples, plus a step-by-step guide to writing a unique essay.
Part 1: Introduction to the medical school personal statement
Part 2: a step-by-step approach to writing an amazing medical school personal statement, part 3: in-depth analysis of a top-5 medical school personal statement, part 4: unique vs. clichéd medical school personal statements: 10 key differences, appendix: medical school personal statement examples.
You probably know someone who achieved a solid GPA and MCAT score , conducted research, shadowed physicians, engaged in meaningful volunteer work, and met all the other medical school requirements , yet still got rejected by every school they applied to.
You may have even heard of someone who was rejected by over 30 medical schools or who was shut out by every program two years in a row, despite doing “all the right things.”
It’s also common to come across people who have incredibly high stats (e.g., a 3.8 GPA and a 518 MCAT score) but didn’t get into a top-10 or top-20 medical school.
With stories like these and the scary statistic that over 60% of medical school applicants do not matriculate into medical school in any given year , it’s hard not to be anxious about the admissions process and wonder how you’ll ever get into medical school .
We bet you’ve puzzled over why so many qualified applicants are rejected beyond the fact that there are too few spots. After all, you’ve noticed how some applicants receive many interview invitations and acceptances, whereas others receive few or none.
The main reason why many qualified applicants are rejected from every med school—or significantly underperform expectations based on their admissions profile—is that they do not stand out on their application essays.
While the need to stand out holds true for every piece of written material on your applications, your personal statement is the single most important essay you will have to write during your admissions process. It’s especially important to get right because it allows you to show admissions committees how your story sets you apart among other qualified candidates (i.e., your competition). Moreover, the quality of your personal statement has a significant influence on your admissions success.
Of course, this means that writing a great medical school personal statement comes with a lot of pressure.
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Medical school personal statement challenges and opportunities
As you prepare to write, you’re probably concerned about:
Choosing the “right” topic
Making sure your essay is unique and not clichéd
Your essay clearly highlighting why you want to go into medicine
Whether it’s what admissions committees are looking for
The good news is that the AMCAS personal statement prompt—“Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school”—is intentionally vague and gives you the opportunity to write about anything you want in up to 5,300 characters (including spaces), which roughly corresponds to 500 words or 1.5 single-spaced pages.
In other words, you have complete control over how you show admissions committees the following:
Who you are beyond your numbers and your resume (i.e., why you? )
The reasons you want to go into medicine (i.e., why medicine? )
Medical school personal statement character limits
Remember that admissions committees want to accept people , not just a collection of GPAs, MCAT scores, and premed extracurricular activities. Your personal statement and other written materials must therefore clearly highlight the specific qualities and experiences that would make you an excellent physician.
If your essay does this, you’ll have a leg up on other applicants. On the other hand, a clichéd personal statement will bore admissions readers and consequently make them less interested in admitting you.
Put another way, your personal statement is your best opportunity to stand out—or to look like everyone else who reads tons of sample essays, tries to “play it safe” with boring anecdotes, and ends up in the rejection pile.
What this personal statement guide covers
As you begin drafting your essay, you might find yourself perusing countless medical school personal statement examples online, at your college’s premed counseling office, or from friends who applied to med school a year or two ago. But remember that the sample personal statements you find on Student Doctor Network, Reddit , premed blogs, or at your college’s pre-health advising center are the same ones that everyone else is looking at and attempting to imitate!
To help you avoid common pitfalls and write a memorable personal statement, we wrote a comprehensive guide to help you get one step closer to earning your white coat rather than having to reapply to med school .
At a high level, this guide covers the following:
A step-by-step approach to producing a standout personal statement (Part 2)
A paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a top-5 personal statement (Part 3)
Key differences that separate unique vs. clichéd personal statements (Part 4)
Medical school personal statement examples (Appendix)
Upon reviewing this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to go from having no topic ideas to producing a personal, meaningful, and polished essay. Throughout the guide, you’ll also come across various “special sections” that address common questions and concerns we’ve received from applicants over the years.
And if you’re left with lingering questions about how to write a personal statement for medical school, just submit them in the comments section at the end of the guide so we can answer them, usually within 24 hours.
Without further ado, it’s time to begin the writing process.
When should I begin to write my med school personal statement?
The earliest we recommend you begin working on your personal statement is fall of your junior year. That way, even if you decide to go to med school straight through (i.e., without taking a gap year or two), you will have completed a bulk of the extracurriculars that you will cover on your application and will also have an essay that describes your current thoughts and feelings about medicine. But regardless of whether you apply straight through or apply post-undergrad, it’s a good idea to begin working on your personal statement during the fall or winter preceding your application cycle (e.g., start writing your essay between September 2023 and January 2024 if you intend to apply during the 2024-2025 application cycle) so that you have plenty of time to write a great essay and can take full advantage of rolling admissions by submitting your primary application early.
Before writing, the typical applicant does two things:
Pulls up their resume and attempts to identify the experience that is “most unique” or “most authentic”
Searches for essay sample after essay sample, hoping to be inspired by someone else’s writing
Eventually, students begin to read every sample essay they can get their hands on, hoping that consuming countless examples will give them the “aha moment” they need to produce their own personal statement.
Here’s the problem: Without understanding why an essay is strong, you risk producing a cliche essay based on some “template” you came across.
With this “template approach,” you’ll risk making your essay sound like someone else’s, which is a sure-fire way of producing a clunky or clichéd essay. This is precisely why we included the numerous sample personal statements at the end of this guide.
We also don’t believe that reviewing your CV or thinking through your personal experiences to identify the “most unique” topic ideas is a valuable approach to brainstorming your personal statement. This “resume-first” approach tends to lead to writing an introduction that may not communicate your intended message, especially because it might not flow with the remainder of your experiences.
So, what should your personal statement include? Over the years, our students have found the most success by taking our “qualities-first” approach—thinking through the impression they want to leave on adcoms and then selecting the experiences that best highlight those qualities.
How to write a great personal statement introduction (Goal: Engage the reader)
Before you begin to write, we recommend that you:
Develop a list of qualities you want to demonstrate; and
Think of events or situations that highlight these qualities.
Then , you should write about one of these events or situations in a way that demonstrates these qualities and captures the reader’s attention.
The myth of the "perfect topic"
Every topic can lead to a standout or average personal statement, depending on how compellingly you write it. In other words, there's no such thing as a "good" or "bad" essay topic, only strong or weak execution. Many students delay working on their personal statement until they discover the “perfect topic,” but no such topic exists. We’ve read incredible essays and weak essays on pretty much every topic. What mattered was how the writer linked the topic with their personal path to medicine. We should reinforce a point mentioned in passing in the previous paragraph: pretty much every medical school personal statement topic has been used at this point. You can stand out by sharing your personal stories, unique insights, and eye-opening experiences, not by writing about a brand-new topic, as so few exist.
Step 1: List your greatest qualities.
To answer the personal statement prompt more easily, focus again on the question of what you want admissions committees to know about you beyond your numbers and achievements.
We’re not talking about your hobbies (e.g., “I followed Taylor Swift to every concert she performed in the U.S. during this past year”), although you could certainly point to aspects of your lifestyle in your essay to make your point.
Instead, we’re talking about which of your qualities –character, personality traits, attitudes–you want to demonstrate. Examples include:
Willingness to learn
Great listening skills
And so on. If you have difficulty thinking of your great qualities (many students do), ask family members or close friends what you’re good at and why they like you. It might be awkward, but this exercise really helps because others tend to view us very differently from how we view ourselves.
Finally, choose the two or three qualities that you want to focus on in your personal statement. Let’s use compassion and knowledge-seeking as the foundational qualities of an original example for this guide.
We cannot overstate how important it is to think of the qualities you want to demonstrate in your personal statement before choosing a situation or event to write about. Students who decide on an event or situation first usually struggle to fit in their qualities within the confines of their story. This is one of the biggest medical school personal statement mistakes we see students make.
On the other hand, students who choose the qualities they want to convey first are easily able to demonstrate them because the event or situation they settle on naturally highlights these qualities.
I listed several qualities I can demonstrate, but I'm not sure which to choose. Can you say more?
Your personal statement represents just one part of your much larger application. You'll have opportunities to demonstrate several of your great qualities through your AMCAS Work and Activities section, your secondary essays, and even your interviews. Therefore, any two or three qualities you want to convey through your personal statement will work; don't stress about figuring out the "perfect" ones, as no such thing exists. And when in doubt, ask family members and friends.
Step 2: When or where have you demonstrated these qualities?
Now that we’re off our soapbox and you’ve chosen qualities to highlight, it’s time to list any event(s) or setting(s) where you’ve demonstrated them.
We should explicitly mention that this event or setting doesn't need to come from a clinical experience (e.g., shadowing a physician , interacting with a young adult patient at a cancer center, working with children in an international clinic) or a research experience (e.g., making a major finding in cancer research during your gap year ), although it’s okay if it involves an extracurricular activity directly related to medicine.
In fact, since most students start their essays by describing clinical or research experiences, starting off with something else–travel (e.g., a camping trip in Yellowstone), volunteering (e.g., building homes in New Orleans), family (e.g., spending time with and learning from your elderly and ill grandmother back home in New Hampshire), work (e.g., helping out at your parents’ donut shop)–can help you immediately stand out.
Let’s start with the example of building homes in New Orleans. Why? Because we could easily demonstrate compassion and knowledge-seeking through this experience. Notice how the qualities we select can choose the story for us?
Step 3: Describe your event as a story.
Here’s where the art of writing a great personal statement really comes in.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays, most of which are very clichéd or dry. Therefore, it’s critical that you stand out by engaging the reader from the very beginning. The best way by far to capture admissions officers early is by developing a story about the event or situation you chose in Step 2 at the start of your essay.
Keep in mind, however, that the same event can be written about in a boring or engaging way. Therefore, the story or topic you choose is less important than how you pull it off.
Let’s look at an actual example of how the same event can be described in a routine vs. compelling manner:
One of my most eye-opening experiences came when I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans during the summer months of 2014. Up to that point, I had only heard about the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina nine years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to volunteer, it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.
New Orleans was hot and humid during the summer months of 2014–no surprise there. However, for a native Oregonian like me, waking up to 90-degree and 85%-humidity days initially seemed like too much to bear. That was until I reflected on the fact that my temporary discomfort was minute in contrast to the destruction of communities and emotional pounding experienced by the people of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina nine years earlier. Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like nine-year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people was as much about lifting spirits as making physical improvements.
Many people may feel the routine example is pretty good. Upon closer look, however, it seems that:
The focus is as much on New Orleanians as the applicant
The story is not particularly relatable (unless the reader had also volunteered there)
There isn’t much support for the writer actually being touched by the people there
On the other hand, the compelling example:
Keeps the spotlight on the applicant throughout (e.g., references being from Oregon, discusses her reflections, interacting with Jermaine)
Has a relatable plot (e.g., temporary discomfort, changing perspectives)
Is authentic (e.g., provides an example of how she lifted spirits)
Does my essay need to have an “aha moment,” that is, the moment when I decided to become a doctor? I’ve noticed that so many medical school personal statement examples include one.
Your essay does not need to include an “aha moment.” In fact, many of the best med school personal statements we’ve read do not include such a moment. Students who believe they need to mention an “aha moment” in their personal statement are typically falling into the trap of writing what they believe the reader wants. But frankly, the reader simply wants to learn about your personal and professional path to medicine. We’ve polled many students over the years about whether they had an experience that immediately switched them on to medicine. Our findings indicate that only 10 percent of students have experienced a moment where they knew they wanted to become a doctor and never looked back. The other 90 percent either knew they wanted to become a physician since childhood, had a growing interest in medicine over years, or came to the realization during or after college.
Step 4: Demonstrate your qualities.
(Note: This section applies to all aspects of your essay.)
“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most common pieces of advice given for writing personal statements, but further guidance or examples are rarely provided to demonstrate what it looks like when done well.
This is unfortunate because the best way to understand how standout personal statements demonstrate qualities through an engaging story is by reading two examples of the same situation: one that “tells” about a quality, and another that “shows” a quality.
Let’s revisit the last sentence of each story example we provided in the previous section to better understand this distinction.
Telling (from the routine story):
…it was not until I observed the emotional pounding the people of New Orleans had experienced that I developed a greater sense of compassion for their plight.
Showing (from the compelling story):
…actually building homes and interacting with the locals, like 9 year-old Jermaine, who cried as I held his hand while we unveiled his rebuilt home, taught me that caring for people…
Notice how the second example demonstrates compassion without ever mentioning the word “compassion” (hence no bolded words)? Moreover, the same sentence demonstrates knowledge-seeking:
Although pictures and stories of the aftermath compelled me to understand its effects on the community and volunteer, actually building homes and interacting with the locals ...
That’s what you’re going for.
Think about it. Whom do you consider to be more kind:
A person who says, “I’m really nice!”; or
A person who you've observed doing nice things for others?
Clearly, the second person will be viewed as more kind, even if there's no real-world difference between their levels of kindness. Therefore, by demonstrating your qualities, you will come across as more impressive and authentic to admissions committees.
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How to write strong personal statement body paragraphs (Goal: Describe your path to medicine)
After writing your opening paragraph to engage the reader, it’s time to write the meat and potatoes of your personal statement. Specifically, it’s time to discuss experiences that helped you grow and led to you to pursue medicine.
What personal statement topics should I avoid?
Put differently, "What should I not write about in my personal statement?" There are no specific topics that you should definitely avoid in your essay. Unfortunately, you will hear many people tell you not to bring up certain things—a parent who is a physician, a physical health or mental health condition, sports participation, volunteering abroad, etc. However, all of these anecdotes or topics can be the foundation for strong personal statements, but also weak ones; what matters is your writing approach.
Step 5: Discuss your most formative experiences that led you to medicine.
Return to your list from Step 2 (When or where have you demonstrated these qualities?) and choose one to three more experiences/areas (e.g., research, clinical work) that led you to medicine.
Why choose no more than four experiences total?
Because you should be aiming for depth over breadth (remember, you’re working with a 5,300-character limit for both AMCAS (MD application) and AACOMAS (DO application). Rather than discuss everything you’ve done, apply the following five-step formula to expand on key experiences in the body paragraphs of your personal statement:
Discuss why you pursued the experience
Mention how you felt during the experience
Describe what you accomplished and learned
Discuss how your experience affected you and the world around you
Describe how the experience influenced your decision to pursue medicine
Does the guidance in this resource apply to DO personal statements as well?
Yes, for the most part. We cover similarities and differences between AMCAS and AACOMAS personal statements in detail in our MD vs. DO guide .
Below are two examples–one routine and one compelling–to demonstrate how to achieve this:
Shadowing the neurosurgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital and witnessing their unwavering dedication to their patients and patients’ families helped me realize that I wanted to make a similar impact on people's lives.
This sentence doesn't answer the “Why medicine?” question (for example, you could greatly impact people's lives through law or teaching), nor does it demonstrate your qualities (although it makes the neurosurgeons look really good).
I was initially frustrated while shadowing neurosurgeons and caring for patients (e.g., conversing with them during downtime and providing anything in my power to make them comfortable, such as extra pillows, water, or snacks) at Massachusetts General Hospital because many patients recovered very slowly–and sometimes not at all. I wondered whether these experiences would deter me from pursuing medicine. Therefore, I was surprised when the opposite occurred. The physicians’ unwavering dedication to their patients and families' expressed gratitude–even in their saddest days–provided more than enough confirmation that medicine was the path I should pursue to make a similar physical and emotional impact on people's lives.
By going deeper about an experience, this example allowed the student to convey:
How they felt (“I was initially frustrated while shadowing…”)
How they were affected (“…the opposite [of determent] occurred”)
How they were influenced to pursue medicine specifically
Collectively, the student demonstrated their compassion, personal growth, and desire to pursue medicine.
(Note: Discuss your formative experiences in the body paragraphs in chronological order, as long as it doesn’t disrupt your essay’s flow. For example, if you choose to write about one experience in 2014 and another in 2013, write about your 2013 experience first, even if you wrote about the 2014 experience in your introductory paragraph. Having a clear timeline makes it easier for the reader to follow along.)
How many experiences should I cover in my personal statement?
If you’re like most students, you should cover somewhere between three and four personal or professional experiences in your personal statement. Beyond four, and you risk covering too much and not achieving sufficient depth; your essay might read like a narrative. Fewer than three, and your experience descriptions might get too wordy. That said, every essay is different, so you might be able to write a fantastic personal statement with fewer than three experiences or more than four. In fact, one of the best personal statements we’ve ever helped a student produce focused on a single 24-hour time period that spanned two separate experiences.
How to write a memorable personal statement conclusion (Goal: Tie it all together)
It’s (almost) time to end your personal statement and move on!
The concluding paragraph should highlight three things:
Your positive qualities (you can mention them explicitly here rather than “show” them)
Perspectives gained from your formative experiences
Your passion for medicine
Additionally, the best essays somehow refer to their introductory paragraph’s story to “close the loop.”
Step 6: Reemphasize your qualities, perspectives, and passions.
Focusing on experiences in your introduction and body paragraphs that convey your greatest qualities helps you develop a consistent theme throughout your essay. It also makes closing your essay much easier.
To demonstrate this, we’ll show you how New Orleans volunteering and neurosurgery shadowing can be tied together to reemphasize compassion and knowledge-seeking, highlight perspectives gained, and communicate a strong desire to pursue medicine.
The consistent theme throughout my extracurricular work is that, whereas I initially pursue experiences–clinical, volunteer, or otherwise–to learn, what sticks with me even more than newfound knowledge is the compassion I develop for the people I serve. Furthermore, I have realized that there is a multitude of ways to serve, such as treating people’s physical ailments, offering empathy for anxious family members, or leaving my comfort zone to help a struggling community. These perspectives, coupled with my lifelong fascination with the human body’s complexities, leave no doubt that medicine is the path through which I want to use my abilities to make a positive holistic impact on people’s lives. I hope 9-year-old Jermaine knows that I was equally touched by his gratitude for a rebuilt home, and how his reaction was partly responsible for me devoting my career to help others feel the way he did on that hot and muggy summer day.
Let’s see whether this concluding paragraph checks all three boxes:
Positive qualities (“knowledge-seeking” and “compassion,”): check
Perspectives gained from formative experiences (“…realized that there is a multitude of ways to serve”): check
Passion for medicine (“medicine is the path through which I want to use my abilities to make a positive holistic impact on people’s lives”): check
This paragraph also gets bonus points for looping Jermaine in one final time.
Does the guidance in this resource apply to TMDSAS personal statements as well?
Yes, though the TMDSAS personal statement offers a 5000-character limit vs. 5300 characters for AMCAS and AACOMAS. You can learn more about the Texas medical school application by reading our TMDSAS guide , which includes examples of a successful personal statement, personal characteristics essay, and optional essay.
Your medical school personal statement offers a unique opportunity to share your story and describe your path to medicine–however you want to.
Rather than dive right in and list the extracurricular experiences that you think will most impress admissions committees, consider what impression you want to leave them with. In other words, which of your qualities do you want to be remembered for?
Once you've identified your defining qualities, the task of communicating why you are specifically fit for medicine becomes much easier. Through engaging stories, you can leave no doubt in readers' minds that you're not only qualified for this field, but also the right person for the job.
If you've ever read an article or forum post offering “tips” on how to write a great medical school personal statement, you've probably been given clichéd advice with very little supporting information, like:
“Offer a unique angle”
“Show, don’t tell”
“Don’t use clichés”
“Check for grammar and spelling errors”
And so on. Here’s what usually happens when you read tips like these: You understand the information, but you’re still stuck in the same place you were before reading the article. You continue to stare at the blank document on your computer, hoping you’ll have an “aha moment.”
Unfortunately, “aha moments” rarely, if ever, come. Much more typically, students procrastinate and/or end up writing about extracurricular and personal experiences that they think admissions committees (adcoms) will be impressed by.
The problem is that if you don’t get your personal statement right, you can compromise your entire application.
If you’re a high-achieving applicant with a strong GPA, MCAT score , and rich extracurricular activities , you may get into less desirable schools than you’d hoped. If you’re an applicant on the borderline, you may not get in at all.
On the other hand, writing a powerful medical school personal statement provides adcoms insights into who you are as a person and as a budding physician. More importantly, it helps maximize your odds of admission in an increasingly competitive process.
We want you to be part of this latter group so that you can get into the best schools possible. Therefore, we figured it would be valuable to share a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a medical school personal statement that helped one of our students get into their dream school, which also happens to be ranked in the top 5 of the U.S. News & World Report Best Medical Schools rankings.
Throughout the analysis, we apply our internal essay evaluation framework, QPUD , which stands for the following:
You can apply the QPUD framework to analyze your own writing. You’ll soon learn that the best personal statements aren’t produced by accident, but rather through multiple thoughtful iterations.
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Full-length medical school personal statement with analysis
Before we get into the weeds with our analysis, we encourage you to read the personal statement example in its entirety. As you go through it, you should keep the following questions in mind:
Does the applicant demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a physician? If so, which ones?
Is the personal statement mostly about the applicant, or other people?
Could anyone else have written this personal statement, or is it unique to the applicant?
Does the personal statement cover too much, or is there real depth ?
Here’s the personal statement sample:
Sure, it was a little more crowded, cluttered, and low-tech, but Mr. Jackson’s biology classroom at David Starr Jordan High School in South Los Angeles seemed a lot like the one in which I first learned about intermolecular forces and equilibrium constants. Subconsciously, I just assumed teaching the 11th graders about the workings of the cardiovascular system would go smoothly. Therefore, I was shocked when in my four-student group, I could only get Nate’s attention; Cameron kept texting, Mercedes wouldn’t end her FaceTime call, and Juanita was repeatedly distracted by her friends. After unsuccessfully pleading for the group’s attention a few times, I realized the students weren’t wholly responsible for the disconnect. Perhaps the problem was one of engagement rather than a lack of interest since their focus waned when I started using terminology—like vena cava—that was probably gibberish to them. So, I drew a basic square diagram broken into quarters for the heart and a smiley face for the body’s cells that needed oxygen and nutrients. I left out structure names to focus on how four distinct chambers kept the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood separate, prompting my students with questions like, “What happens after the smiley face takes the oxygen?” This approach enabled my students to draw conclusions themselves. We spent much of class time going through the figure-8 loop, but their leaning over the table to see the diagram more clearly and blurting out answers demonstrated their engagement and fundamental understanding of the heart as a machine. My elation was obvious when they remembered it the following week.
Ever since my middle school robotics days when a surgeon invited us to LAC+USC Medical Center to unwrap Tootsie rolls with the da Vinci surgical system, I’ve felt that a physician’s role goes beyond serving patients and families. I feel an additional responsibility to serve as a role model to younger students—especially teenagers—who may be intrigued by STEM fields and medicine. Furthermore, my experience in Mr. Jackson’s classroom demonstrated the substantial benefits of assessing specific individuals’ needs even when it requires diverging slightly from the structured plan. Being flexible to discover how to best engage my students, in some ways, parallels the problem-solving aspect I love about medicine.
Clinical experiences go even further by beautifully merging this curiosity-satisfying side of medicine with what I feel is most fulfilling: the human side of care provision. My experience with a tiny three-year-old boy and his mother in genetics clinic confirmed the importance of the latter. Not only was I excited to meet him because he presented with a rare condition, but also because he and his chromosomal deletion had been the focus of my recent clinical case report, published in Genetics in Medicine. While researching his dysmorphic features and disabilities, other patients with similar deletions, and the possible genes contributing to his symptoms, I stayed up until 4 AM for several weeks, too engrossed to sleep. What was more exciting than learning about the underlying science, however, was learning about the opportunity to meet the boy and his mother in person and share my findings with them.
As soon as I walked into the examination room, I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report. So despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc. Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties. As the appointment progressed, I observed her gradually relaxing. Rather than feel weighed down by the research findings I was eager to get off my chest, I felt light as well.
At the end of the appointment, the mom offered to let me hold her son, who gazed back at me with his bright blue eyes. While cradling the little boy humanized the medical details, the mother’s gesture displayed profound trust. Above all, this experience allowed me to recognize that interactions between a patient plus family and their doctor are more than intermediary vehicles to treatment; they are critical and beneficial in their own right. Learning this affirmed my longstanding desire and eagerness to become a physician. While research is essential and will surely always trigger my curiosity, I want my work to transcend the lab bench. Specifically, I want to continue engaging with patients and helping them through life’s difficult moments—with physical treatment and genuine support. And since working with each patient constitutes an entirely different experience, I know my medical career will never cease to be fulfilling.
(Word count: 835; Character count: 5,223)
What if some of the experiences I choose to write about in my essay aren't directly related to medicine?
No worries. Medical school admissions committees look to admit individuals with qualities befitting good doctors. These qualities can be demonstrated through experiences directly related to medicine, as well as through experiences that seemingly have little to do with medicine but cast a very positive light on you. That said, your personal statement should include at least one experience directly related to medicine. In your essay, you'll want to briefly describe how your interest in medicine developed, followed by how you consistently pursued that interest.
Now, let’s analyze the entire personal statement paragraph by paragraph and answer the questions posed above.
The applicant does a great job of engaging the reader. While reading the paragraph, it’s easy to get transported to the classroom setting they describe due to the level of detail provided. (e.g., “crowded, cluttered, and low-tech,” “Cameron kept texting, Mercedes wouldn’t end her FaceTime call…,” “leaning over the table”) The applicant also highlights their service work in the community, and hints that the school may be in an underserved part of town.
The applicant contrasts the chaotic, distracted classroom with the attention and enthusiasm students exhibit after their educational intervention. This “transformation” reflects positively on the applicant because it demonstrates that they can get creative in addressing a difficult situation.
At this point, we don’t yet know about the applicant’s passion for medicine, but we learn about their interest in biology, teaching, serving, and working directly with people. All of these activities can be pursued through medicine, so the transition to medicine later in their personal statement can be seamless.
Q: Does the applicant demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a physician? If so, which ones?
Patient, assumes responsibility, flexible (e.g., “I realized the students weren’t wholly responsible for the disconnect. Perhaps the problem was one of engagement rather than a lack of interest since their focus waned when I started using terminology—like vena cava—that was probably gibberish to them. So, I drew a basic square diagram…”)
Commitment to helping students/people learn and understand (e.g., “prompting my students with questions…,” “My elation was obvious when they remembered it the following week.”)
P: Is the paragraph mostly about the applicant, or other people?
While the applicant discusses others in the introduction (e.g., the 11th graders, Nate, Juanita), there’s no question that they are the primary and most interesting character in the paragraph.
U: Could anyone else have written this paragraph, or is it unique to the applicant?
Although all competitive applicants participate in service work—many within schools—the writer makes this paragraph their own by doing the following:
Including highly specific details about the setting, environment, and students
Describing their thoughts, insights, and emotions whenever possible
D: Does the paragraph cover too much, or is there real depth?
This paragraph is a model of depth. The applicant describes how they taught a single biology lesson during a single class period at a single school. It doesn’t get much more focused than that.
Does my personal statement's introduction paragraph story have to be about an experience during college or beyond?
Not necessarily. That said, if you write your introduction about an earlier-than-college experience, you'll want to quickly transition to your college and post-college years. While medical schools want to learn about your most formative experiences, they really want to know about who you are today.
The applicant effectively uses the second paragraph to provide context, about their early interest in medicine and in mentoring youth. It becomes clear, therefore, why the applicant started off their essay writing about a teaching experience in an 11th-grade classroom.
In addition, the applicant quickly transitions from a non-medical service experience to introduce reasons behind their interest in medicine. For example, the applicant describes how they intend to serve patients and families through the field, as well as scratch their own problem-solving itch to help people.
Another important piece to highlight is how the applicant uses showing vs. telling differently across the first two paragraphs. Whereas the introductory paragraph primarily shows qualities (e.g., “So, I drew a basic square diagram…”), the second paragraph primarily tells (e.g., “Being flexible to discover how to best engage my students…”).
Because the applicant proved their flexibility in the introduction (i.e., by showing it), they can claim to be flexible here (i.e., by telling it). On the other hand, if the applicant called themselves flexible from the outset without providing evidence, they may have come across as arrogant or unobservant.
Beyond describing their early interest in medicine (i.e., “Ever since my middle school robotics days when a surgeon invited us to LAC+USC Medical Center…” there is little demonstration of qualities here. Nevertheless, the goals for this paragraph—transition to medicine, describe at a high level what draws them to medicine, set up later stories about problem solving—are clearly achieved.
The second paragraph highlights hypothetical individuals (e.g., patients and families, specific individuals) to describe the applicant’s medical interests.
Between the early experience observing the da Vinci surgical system and continuing the discussion of Mr. Jackson’s classroom, it would be very difficult for another applicant to convincingly replicate this paragraph.
The applicant certainly covers more experiences here than in the intro, but they do so to bridge the service discussion with the upcoming discussion of medical experiences. Notice also how this paragraph is intentionally kept short. The goal isn’t to get too deep into their middle school experiences, or to do more telling than necessary. Make the transition and move on so you can achieve more depth later.
Does my med school personal statement need to discuss a challenge I experienced?
It’s a common misconception to think that you have to highlight some major adversity to sound impressive. It’s true that some students have experienced greater challenges than others and their process of overcoming those challenges has led them to develop qualities befitting a great doctor. But what matters is your ability to discuss your commitment to becoming a physician and the insights you developed about your place in the medical field via personal and extracurricular experiences.
The third paragraph immediately builds off of the preceding one by letting the reader know that even more fulfilling than satisfying their own curiosity (and problem solving) is providing care to real people. This is a very important disclosure because the reader may be wondering what the applicant’s primary motivation is. As a medical school applicant, you must convey a “people first” attitude.
The applicant then dives right into what sounds like a fascinating research experience that not only results in a publication (to be discussed further in their AMCAS Work and Activities section ), but also leads to actually meeting the patient with the rare genetic condition. The applicant’s approach clearly integrates their passion for research and clinical work.
The paragraph also ends with a strong “hook.” The admissions reader is left wondering how the meeting with the boy and his mother went, so they will continue to read attentively.
Curious and hard-working (e.g., “While researching his dysmorphic features and disabilities, other patients with similar deletions, and the possible genes contributing to his symptoms, I stayed up until 4 AM for several weeks, too engrossed to sleep”)
Accomplished (e.g., “my recent clinical case report, published in Genetics in Medicine .”)
Once again, the applicant does a masterful job of incorporating storytelling and other characters (i.e., the boy and his mother) to convey the qualities that will make them a great doctor. In other words, this paragraph isn’t really about the boy and his mother, but rather how the applicant prepped for their meeting with them.
Between the upcoming meeting with the three-year-old boy and his mother, researching the boy’s genetic condition, and getting published in a specific journal, it’s basically impossible to replicate this paragraph.
The applicant maintains focus on how their interest in service and research can be applied to help real people. They take it one step further by highlighting a specific time when they did just that. There is no additional fluff, tangential information, or competing storylines.
Does my personal statement need to have a "hook"?
The short answer: Yes. But as with most things related to medical school admissions, the answer is more complicated. A "hook" is a sentence or story, typically presented in the opening paragraph, intended to grab the reader's attention. Because adcoms read tons of applications each year, it's important that they're engaged from the start. Otherwise, it's very likely that they will discount the remainder of your personal statement and your odds of getting into their school will drop precipitously. Unfortunately, many medical school applicants go overboard and force a dramatic story in hopes of presenting a hook—a trauma they observed in the ER, an emotional moment with a patient, and so on. The story might be marginally associated with the rest of their essay but will largely be viewed as a cheap way to capture attention. To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with discussing a difficult medical counter, personal difficulty, or any other particular type of story. However, your selection must be associated with the qualities you want to demonstrate across your entire essay and serve as its foundation. In addition, your hook need not be your opening sentence. It could be the entire first paragraph, a cliffhanger at the end of your opening paragraph, or even a second paragraph that was set up by the first. The goal is simply to ensure that you're engaging your reader early and setting the tone for the remainder of your essay.
As soon as I walked into the examination room, I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report. So, despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc. Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties. As the appointment progressed, I observed her gradually relaxing. Rather than feel weighed down by the research findings I was eager to get off my chest, I felt light as well.
The applicant right away begins to describe their meeting with the boy and his mother. We understand that while the applicant was ready to share their research with the family, the mother appears anxious and is more interested in understanding how she can help her son.
It should also be noted that the applicant does not judge the mother in any way and offers supporting evidence for their conclusions about what the mother must’ve been thinking and feeling. For example, rather than just call the mother “anxious,” the applicant first describes how she avoided eye contact and clutched her son tightly.
The applicant once again demonstrates their flexibility by showing how they modified their talking points to fit the family’s needs rather than satisfy their own curiosity and self-interest. Moreover, they highlight not only the approach they took with this family, but also the impact on their care. For example, after discussing how they validated the mother’s care efforts, the applicant mentions how the mother relaxed.
Socially aware (e.g., “I noticed the mother avoiding eye contact with the genetic counselor while clutching her son to her chest. I sensed her anxiety and disinterest in hearing about my research conclusions. The impact of her son’s condition on their daily lives probably transcended the scientific details in my report.”)
Flexible (e.g., “So despite my desire to get into the science, I restrained myself from overwhelming her. Instead, I asked her to share details about the wonderful interventions she had procured for her son—speech and physical therapy, sign language lessons, special feeds, etc.”)
Socially skilled and validating (e.g., “Through our conversations, I realized that she was really looking for reassurance—for doing a great job caring for her son. I validated her efforts and offered relief that there were other families navigating similar difficulties.”)
At first glance, it may appear that this paragraph is as much about the mother as it is about the applicant. After all, the mother procured various services for her son and has done a marvelous job of caring for him.
Nevertheless, the applicant is not competing in any way with the mother. By demonstrating their flexibility and social skills, the applicant reinforces great qualities they’ve demonstrated elsewhere and remains at the top of our minds.
In isolation, perhaps. However, at this point in the personal statement, along with the loads of insights, thoughts, and feelings, there’s no question that this story is unique to the applicant.
This paragraph is another model of depth. The applicant goes into highly specific details about a memorable experience with a specific family. There’s significant showing vs. telling, which continues to maintain the reader’s engagement.
How many people should i ask to review my personal statement.
Typically, we recommend that no matter than two people—people who have experience evaluating med school personal statements—review your essay. Everyone you show your essay to will have an opinion and suggest changes, but trying to appease everyone usually leads to diluting your own voice. And even if your personal statement is great, someone will eventually identify something they perceive to be an issue, which will only exacerbate your anxiety. Two people is a good number because you can receive more than one opinion but avoid the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen.
The final paragraph accomplishes three key goals:
Concluding the story about meeting the boy and his mother;
Bringing the applicant’s insights full circle; and
Restating their interest in medicine while offering a preview of what type of physician they intend to be.
By describing how they built a trusting relationship with the patient and his mother, the applicant deliberately continues the theme of patient-centered care ultimately being more important to them—and to medicine—than underlying pathologies and interestingness of various medical scenarios.
Although the applicant does not circle back to the classroom story in the introduction, they close the loop with the personal statement’s central and most important story. In addition, they end on a high note by mentioning how enthusiastic they are about their medical career.
Trustworthy (e.g., “At the end of the appointment, the mom offered to let me hold her son, who gazed back at me with his bright blue eyes.”)
Insightful (e.g., “Above all, this experience allowed me to recognize that interactions between a patient plus family and their doctor are more than intermediary vehicles to treatment; they are critical and beneficial in their own right.”)
Patient-centered and caring (e.g., “While research is essential and will surely always trigger my curiosity, I want my work to transcend the lab bench. Specifically, I want to continue engaging with patients and helping them through life’s difficult moments—with physical treatment and genuine support.”)
This paragraph is all about the applicant. Even the detail about cradling the boy highlights their earlier efforts in building trust with the family. After this brief conclusion to the story, the applicant explores their own developing insights about the field and how they intend to practice medicine in the future.
In combination with the insights shared in this paragraph, the story and details up to this point round out the personal statement uniquely.
Conclusion paragraphs should summarize insights and information presented earlier in the personal statement. The applicant does a fine job of solidifying their longstanding interest in medicine without adding significant new details, knowing they can cover additional stories throughout their secondary applications and during interviews .
Can you say a little more about how I can write my essay so that it's clear I want to go into medicine and not another health care field?
- A long-term commitment to medically-relevant experiences
- A clear understanding of what medicine entails that other fields don't
At various points while writing your personal statement, you may wonder whether your essay is “good enough.”
The goal of this guide isn’t to allow you to compare your personal statement to the sample we’ve provided. Rather, we want you to have a framework for evaluating your work to ensure that it conveys your outstanding qualities, engages the reader, and describes your authentic journey to medicine.
If you’re like most applicants, you’re worried about choosing a clichéd medical school personal statement topic . You fear that your application may be thrown into the rejection pile if you fail to present yourself in a unique way.
To help you avoid common pitfalls and write a memorable personal statement, we’ve highlighted eight different ways that unique personal statements differ from clichéd ones.
We’ll first describe the clichéd approach and describe why it’s problematic. Then we’ll provide specific writing techniques you can use to make your essay truly stand out.
Clichéd Approach 1: Only discussing experiences that you think make you seem the most impressive.
Most applicants begin writing their essays by choosing the experience(s) that they think will help them stand out to admissions committees. By focusing on specific experiences that applicants think will impress the admissions committee (e.g. clinical shadowing, research, and volunteering), students often forget to demonstrate their unique qualities.
Let’s see how this becomes a problem.
In your AMCAS Work and Activities section, you may have included your experience conducting chemistry research for three years, shadowing in a clinic for two years, volunteering as an English tutor for underserved youth in Chicago for six years, volunteering with a medical mission trip to Haiti for two summers, and serving as president of a premed organization for one year.
Given these choices, most students would choose to write about clinical volunteering in Chicago or their medical mission trip to Haiti because they think these experiences were most impressive. If you take one of these two approaches, you would probably start the essay by describing an interaction with a very ill patient or one with whom you experienced a language barrier.
An essay about clinical shadowing could start something like this:
I used to eat lunch with Felipa on Wednesdays. She was always very nervous when she came in to get her blood drawn, and she liked to speak with me beforehand. Although she was suffering from breast cancer, she had a positive attitude that made the doctors and the nurses feel like one big family. Her positive attitude helped lift the spirits of other patients in the room. Throughout my lunches with Felipa, she would tell me how she still cooked dinner every day for her husband and two young kids. She brought that same compassion to the hospital, always with a contagious smile. I endeavored to give her the best care by offering her water and chatting with her on her chemo days. However, I was always bothered that I could not treat Felipa’s cancer myself. This powerlessness I felt inspired me to pursue medicine to help future patients battle this horrible illness by discovering new treatments.
While we gain some information about the applicant’s motivations to study medicine (e.g., to help future patients…by discovering new treatments ), it explores a common topic (i.e., a realization that came during clinical shadowing) with a typical delivery (i.e., written broadly about interactions with a specific patient).
The paragraph does not do a good job of painting a picture of the applicant, as we don’t learn about her standout qualities or other aspects of her identity.
Moreover, if we replace “Felipa” with another name, it becomes clear that any applicant who engaged in a similar shadowing experience could have written this paragraph. This is not to say that an essay that includes shadowing will always be clichéd. After all, the topic is only one aspect of your personal statement.
Remember, there are no good or bad topics. Rather, there are strong ways—and poor ways—to write about these topics.
Instead of asking if your topic is “good” or “bad,” you should be asking yourself whether your essay has a “typical” or “standout” delivery.
You want your personal statement to be written so engagingly that it serves as a pleasant interruption to the admissions committee member’s routine. Surprise them when they rarely expect to be surprised.
Unique Alternative 1: Demonstrating the qualities that make you distinct by choosing experiences that highlight your best characteristics.
The best personal statement writers decide which qualities they want to emphasize to admissions committees before choosing a certain experience. Then, they focus on a specific event or situation that captures the admissions committees’ attention by telling a detailed story—oftentimes a story that does not overtly involve medicine.
By deciding on your qualities beforehand, you will choose a story that authentically delivers your intended message.
Don’t be afraid to select an experience or story that strays from the typical, “impressive” premed extracurricular activity. After all, med schools want to accept applicants because of their wonderful qualities and unique attributes, not because of a specific experience or extracurricular activity.
Let’s imagine that the same applicant from the previous example chose to write about her community involvement outside of medicine.
From her list of extracurricular activities, she could choose to write about volunteering as an English tutor or being the lead saxophone player in a campus jazz ensemble. By picking one of these options, this student could write an entirely unique personal statement introduction.
Let’s see how an effective essay might begin with her volunteer work as an English tutor:
I could feel the sweat rolling down my back as twenty first graders stared at me. It was July in Chicago, and the building where I volunteered as an English teacher twice a week did not have air conditioning. I had volunteered as a one-on-one tutor for the past six years, but this was my first time teaching a large group. The students, largely from working-class, Spanish-speaking households, reminded me of myself, as I grew up as the daughter of two Mexican emigrants. I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success.
This introduction would likely stand out to an admissions committee member not only because it discusses something other than clinical shadowing but also because it demonstrates the writer’s commitment to her community, and it reveals something about the applicant’s personal background.
Should I mention bad grades in my personal statement?
In most cases, no. With limited characters, your primary goal for your personal statement should be to tell medical school admissions committees why you will be an excellent doctor. Admissions committees will already see your grades. If you use too much space discussing your poor grades during freshman year or some other time, you'll draw even more attention to the red flags on your application and lose a golden opportunity to demonstrate your impressive qualities. One exception is if you received poor grades due to some extraordinary circumstance, such as recovering from a significant accident or illness. Even then, you might want to discuss your poor grades in another section of your application, such as a secondary essay.
Clichéd Approach 2: Listing your qualities and accomplishments like you are explaining your resume.
When many students begin writing their personal statements, they “tell” and don’t “show”.
Even though the advice to “show, don’t tell” is commonly given, students rarely know what it actually means to demonstrate or “show” their qualities rather than simply listing them.
We’ll provide an overly simple example to highlight why “telling” your qualities is such a problem:
Ever since I was a kid, I have received excellent grades and have excelled at all things related to science. My success in conducting chemistry research and my numerous presentations at biochemistry conferences is testament to my ability to succeed as a doctor. In fact, my family and friends have encouraged me to pursue this route because of my academic success.
While we learn that the applicant thinks that he is a great student who is excellent at science, and we learn that his family believes that he should pursue medicine because of his academic success, we do not actually see any evidence of these qualities. Sure, he tells us that his family thinks that he is brilliant, but we do not know why they think he is brilliant.
Unique Alternative 2: Showing, and not telling, the applicant’s qualities.
When you demonstrate your best qualities through examples, you provide a more authentic glimpse about the type of person you really are.
For instance, if you read the following sentences from two different applicants, who would you think was more caring?
Applicant 1: I am very empathic.
Applicant 2: Volunteering with elderly Japanese women has taught me how aging immigrants face cultural barriers while also navigating health problems, from diabetes to cancer.
Even though Applicant 1 says that they are empathic, you probably picked Applicant 2, even though she never uses the word “empathic” (or a synonym) in her sentence. As the reader, you were able to extrapolate how empathic that applicant is by seeing what they do.
Returning to the introductory paragraph with Felipa from example 1, we can see that the typical introduction “tells” about the applicant’s qualities, whereas the standout paragraph “shows” the applicant’s qualities. Let’s look at some examples to clarify:
I endeavored to give her the best care… (giving)
This powerlessness I felt inspired me to pursue medicine to help future patients… (inspired)
I had volunteered as one-on-one tutor for the past six years, but this was my first time teaching a large group. (dedicated, risk-taking)
I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success (giving, empowering, empathetic)
Is it OK to discuss a mental health condition in my med school personal statement?
You might have heard that, given the stigma surrounding many mental health conditions, that you should avoid discussing them in your personal statement, no matter what. However, as with many things related to med school essays, the answer depends on the specific condition, severity, and reason behind sharing it. Certain conditions have more stigma associated with them than others and are therefore more difficult to sensitively incorporate in your personal statement. But regardless of your specific mental health condition or its severity, it’s important to ask yourself why you would share it. For instance, if the primary reason for sharing your mental health condition is to show adcoms how much adversity you have overcome, then you should probably leave out your condition or reconsider why you would share it. However, if your reason is to describe the insights you developed about people and about medicine, or how your condition served as a springboard for you to pursue certain activities, then it might be worthwhile to share. Writing about mental health conditions in your personal statement should be approached delicately, so make sure to work with someone who has experience doing so.
Clichéd Approach 3: Stating that you want to be a physician to help people or talking about how being a doctor is such an honor.
When you ask medical school applicants why they want to be a doctor, they usually say that they want to help people. While you should include this fact in your personal statement, it can be difficult to articulate why you want to help people or how you will help them in a way that is not clichéd.
Most applicants will probably write some version of the following in their personal statement:
I want to be a physician because I want to help people who are sick. It would be an honor to serve people in need.
The problem with these statements is that any applicant could have written them. Every doctor wants to help patients who are sick or in need.
Failing to offer a specific reason for your motivation to become a doctor or a specific way in which you plan to help your patients will make it hard for the admissions committee to see what unique approaches and insights you will bring to medicine.
Unique Alternative 3: Explaining specific ways that you intend to help patients or specific reasons why you want to help patients.
To make your statement more convincing, you could add a specific method that you will use to help patients. Consider the following example:
I want to become a physician to provide reassurance to a patient awaiting their lab results, and laughter to a patient who needs an uplift after a week of chemotherapy.
Whereas any medical school applicant could have written the statement in the clichéd example, the statement in the unique example demonstrates specific qualities about the applicant. By explaining that certain patients might need reassurance while others might want laughter, the applicant shows us that they are empathic and sensitive to the needs of individual patients.
To make your statement more authentic, you can also explain why you are drawn to a specific aspect of medicine or a certain demographic of patients. Let’s look at another example:
As a woman with PCOS, I want to improve the field of women’s health so that I can provide other young women comfort and reassurance as they come to terms with their bodies.
This applicant shows that she is passionate about women’s health by connecting her desire to enter medicine to her own health condition. This statement suggests that she will use her own experience to empathize with patients when she becomes a physician.
Should I mention my desired specialty in my med school personal statement?
Probably not. Admissions committees want to recruit students who are incredibly curious and open to different training opportunities. Highlighting a desire to enter a specific specialty might make you seem closed off. That said, it's perfectly fine to express a commitment to serving certain communities or a desire to address specific issues so long as you don't inadvertently box yourself in.
Clichéd Approach 4: Focusing too much on characters who are not you.
The previous two approaches focus on how your personal statement introduction should tell a story. And what do we need for a great story? A character!
Applicants often make another character (e.g. a family member, patient, a physician they shadowed or worked under) the most compelling and interesting character. But when you give or share the limelight with another character, you make it easy for the admissions committee to forget the most important person in the story: YOU. You should be the star of your own personal statement.
We are not saying that you should avoid including another character in your personal statement. In fact, including other characters in your statement reminds the admission committee that you have had a positive impact on other people.
However, these other characters must be used to demonstrate your qualities. These qualities can come from an insight you had while interacting or observing them.
We see how this becomes a problem in the clichéd paragraph from example 1. Felipa and the applicant are both main characters. Indeed, we don’t even read about the applicant or their insights until the seventh sentence. Who knows? Admissions committees might even offer Felipa an interview instead of you.
Unique Alternative 4: Maintaining the focus on the main character—you!
In contrast, the unique paragraph from example 1 about the English tutor in Chicago tells us about the applicant’s passions, commitments, and initiative. Let’s revisit the example:
I personally understood the challenges the students faced, and I wanted to use my own experience and knowledge to help set them on the path to academic success.
Even though she writes about tutoring first-grade students in Chicago, their role in the story is to highlight how she is dedicated to helping her community and empowering students from backgrounds like hers. The students never get in the way of us learning about the applicant.
Now, you may be worried that focusing on you and your qualities will make you come off as arrogant or cocky to the admissions committee. By letting the stories do the talking for you, your personal statement will avoid making you appear egoistical. On the other hand, saying that you are a “good person” or “brilliant” without telling a story can make you seem arrogant.
With only 5,300 characters, you should aim to keep the emphasis almost entirely on you.
Clichéd Approach 5: Focusing too much on describing the activity itself.
Many applicants will write about clinical shadowing, volunteering, or research at some point in their personal statements. Sometimes, however, applicants are so excited by the activity that they forget to include themselves in the experience.
For instance, an applicant looking to highlight their work in a prestigious lab might write:
Working in Dr. Carpenter’s lab, an endowed professor at Harvard Medical School, was exhilarating. The main research project was an experiment that explored how rats responded to various stimulant medications. Our results demonstrated that one of the drugs we tested on the rats may have significant promise for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
While this paragraph demonstrates the student’s familiarity with and excitement about original research, it does not tell us much about the applicant’s specific characteristics or contributions. We learn about the research project in Dr. Carpenter’s lab, but we don’t know what qualities or insights the applicant has gained from conducting the research.
Unique Alternative 5: Unique statements explain how you made an impact through an activity and how the activity impacted you.
While you may think that highlighting a research experience with a famous doctor or in a prestigious lab will bolster your application, writing about it in your personal statement may actually harm you if you do not highlight your own accomplishments and traits.
Focus on activities where you had an impact, even if the activity itself does not seem impressive. Consider the following examples:
Applicant 1: While working in Dr. Smith’s lab, I managed five interns. To make the lab a more congenial environment, I started a weekly lunch hour where we could all discuss our different research projects. This opportunity gave the interns more confidence to talk about their individual lab work, which made it easier for the entire research staff to collaborate on different experiments.
Applicant 2: Working in Dr. Martin’s lab with five other interns taught me the importance of serving on a team. When one of our experiments failed, I made sure that the group met to discuss the results. I offered advice to my lab mates on how they could obtain better results on the next trial. This experience taught me the importance of learning new research methods from my peers to achieve the best results possible.
We do not know whether Applicant 1 or Applicant 2 are working in prestigious labs or with prestigious PIs. However, we do learn that Applicant 1 has shown leadership skills and initiative by working to make the lab a more collaborative space.
Similarly, even though Applicant 2 highlights her lab’s failures, we nevertheless discover that she is a team player, eager to learn from her fellow researchers, and does not let failure stop her. She sounds like someone you might want to have in your medical school study group.
I feel like I don’t have enough space to write everything I want. What should I do?
You shouldn't try to fit everything into your personal statement. In fact, if you try to cover everything within the 5,300-character limit, you'll end up covering nothing well. Remember that your complete application includes multiple written sections: your personal statement, Work and Activities section, and secondary application essays. You should aim to provide admissions committees with a holistic view of who you are across your entire application, not solely through your personal statement. Your personal statement should be used to offer a bird's eye view of who you are and your path to medicine, whereas your AMCAS Work and Activities section and secondary essays should cover the finer details.
Clichéd Approach 6: Articulating an idea without explaining how it relates to your qualities or insights.
Even when some applicants pick unusual topics, they forget to relate those experiences to why they want to be a doctor. Consider the following applicant who has a passion for running.
Applicant 1: I am passionate about running and encouraging others to run because it is good for everyone’s health. That is why I have spent years running marathons and coaching cross country in my free time.
While the applicant says that he is excited about running because it is “good for everyone’s health,” we do not exactly see what the applicant means. Most people believe that exercise is good for your health already, so this applicant would need to explain why he believes running is important, and how his passion for running relates to medicine.
Unique Alternative 6: Explaining your thought process, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities.
When you make an obvious claim (e.g., exercise is good for your health), you should explain why you personally believe this. By drawing on specific evidence and observations, you can show the admissions committee what unique and specific insights you have about a so-called obvious idea.
Applicant 2: After my sister started to run, she began to lose weight. I also noticed that her depression waned and that she regained energy, which manifested in her eagerness to socialize with family and friends. While I always knew that exercise was important, I never believed that it could entirely change a person. This experience led me to believe that exercising can serve as a form of medicine.
Whereas Applicant 1 makes a general claim about running, Applicant 2 draws on a specific, personal example by connecting his sister’s running habit to her holistic health. He mentions her weight loss, improvements in mental health, and increase in energy. In other words, we see why the applicant believes that running provides a health benefit.
Clichéd Approach 7: Writing an overly dramatic first sentence.
Recalling writing courses from high school and college, applicants often try to “hook” the reader’s attention by beginning with a dramatic first sentence. Because of this, applicants sometimes begin their essays with a dramatic moment that fails to offer insight into the applicant’s motivations for studying medicine.
Let’s look at the following first sentence by an applicant who worked in the ER.
It felt as if the world was going to end on that faithful day in the ER when I first witnessed someone die.
This introduction is typical of students writing about clinical shadowing. Rather than showing how he is unique, this statement simply demonstrates that the applicant has had a challenging experience during clinical shadowing.
Unique Alternative 7: Introducing your personal statement with a unique observation or idea that you will further develop in subsequent paragraphs.
Instead of dramatizing or hyperbolizing an experience, you can make your introduction truly unique by making a claim about an idea, insight, or observation that tells the admissions committee why you are excited by medicine. Let’s see how the applicant who wrote about running in example 6 might begin their statement in this way:
For my sister and me, running is a form of medicine.
Even though this example is not as dramatic as the previous one, it catches the reader’s attention by making a unique claim that the reader will want to know more about. The reader will see that the applicant is thinking critically and creatively about what medicine means to him.
Clichéd Approach 8: Writing about various experiences without showing how they are connected.
Even when applicants have thoughtfully selected a few experiences that demonstrate their personal qualities, they sometimes fail to create a “bigger picture” in their personal statement and, consequently, in their entire medical school application. In other words, the experiences described in their essay do not connect or cohere around a central theme.
A personal statement without a theme will come across as unfocused and, most likely, unmemorable. Even if each section of your essay is well-written, if they don’t together add up to highlight something larger, admissions officers will be left without a clear takeaway of who you are and what your goals and motivations are for entering medicine.
Unique Alternative 8: Connecting the experiences in your essay through a common theme.
A theme will serve as the connective tissue that holds everything in your personal statement together. What’s more, it provides a lens through which adcoms will remember you.
For example, if your personal statement discusses playing jazz saxophone, volunteering with children at a community garden, and scribing in an emergency room, you might begin by writing about how studying jazz taught you the value of improvisation, a quality you then brought to the fore while volunteering with children and working as an ER scribe. With a central theme of improvisation, your essay will provide a clear takeaway of you as flexible, adaptable, and creative (i.e., the qualities you decided to highlight).
Alternatively, some applicants choose more concrete themes that focus their essays around a central interest. For instance, perhaps your personal statement describes growing up in a rural community without access to adequate primary care, which led you to eventually volunteer with a mobile clinic for agricultural workers and intern in the public health department of your state. You’ll likely be remembered as “the applicant who’s passionate about improving rural health.”
Just as your personal statement is the foundation of your medical school application, your theme is the foundation of your personal statement. Therefore, it’s important that your personal statement’s theme is reflected throughout your medical school application, including in your Work and Activities section and secondary essays.
Clichéd Approach 9: Moving abruptly from one section of your personal statement to the next.
A theme isn’t the only tool that’s important for connecting the different components of your personal statement; you also want to ensure that you’re using effective transition sentences when moving from one idea to the next.
You can think of theme as the macro glue and transitions as the micro glue that make your personal statement cohere. Without smooth transitions, your personal statement will come across as choppy and your ideas may appear unlinked, making your theme seem illogical or unclear.
Unique Alternative 9: Using effective transitions to smoothly link different experiences and ideas.
There are a number of ways to transition from one experience or idea to the next. Here are a few, along with examples of transitional phrases that can help you build bridges between different parts of your personal statement:
You can show logical consequence or how one event led to another (e.g., “As a result,” “For this reason,” “Therefore”)
You can describe experiences in chronological order (e.g., “Next,” “Since then,” “After”)
You can point out the similarity between two things (e.g., “Similarly,” “Additionally,” “Furthermore”)
You can highlight the contrast between two things (e.g., “Even though,” “Despite,” “However”)
You can give an example (“For instance,” “By doing X,” “When I embarked on Y”)
However (no pun intended!), it isn’t strictly necessary to use transitional phrases or sentences between every section of your personal statement. Sometimes, the logic between ideas will be obvious through simple description, and excessive transitions may get in the way of smoothness and flow.
To learn more, we recommend this resource on transitions from the University of Wisconsin.
When should I aim to have my personal statement finalized by?
We recommend having a final version of your personal statement completed by May 15 of your application year so you can take full advantage of the rolling admissions process. To learn more about writing and submission deadlines, you’re encouraged you to review the ideal medical school application timeline .
Clichéd Approach 10: Writing in a way that can be replicated by other applicants.
Admissions committees are eager to learn about what makes you distinct from your peers, why you want to pursue a career as a physician, and what you will contribute to their school and the larger medical community.
If your personal statement reads like a completely different applicant could have written it, admissions committees will struggle to differentiate you from your competition.
Our earlier example of the applicant who describes her shadowing experience with Felipa does not offer any information specific to her. We do not learn about her physical appearance, town of origin, culture, country of origin, hometown, etc. There simply are not enough details or unique insights that paint a portrait of the applicant.
Unique Alternative 10: Writing a personal statement that could have only been written by you.
At any point while writing the draft of your personal statement, asks yourself whether another applicant could have written it. If the answer is “yes,” you have two options:
You can return to the first few paragraphs of your essay and add distinct details about yourself, such as your town of origin, physical appearance, etc., to help the reader visualize who you are better.
Start over. If you find that it is too difficult to add details about your life story and standout qualities in your original essay, then you may need to start over by including different stories and experiences that show how you are unique.
Let’s look at how you might revise a clichéd sentence to come across as more unique:
Applicant 1: I developed a passion for helping people by volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
Applicant 2: Growing up in rural Idaho, I had no idea how many people in my community lived in poverty until I started to volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
Whereas any applicant who has volunteered at a soup kitchen could have written the first sentence, only someone who grew up in rural Idaho could have written the second sentence.
As a bonus, the second statement also shows us a realization that the applicant has about her hometown, which suggests that she is thinking critically about her environment.
In your essay, you can include several unique details, including state of origin, country of origin, religion, hobbies, studies and research outside of medicine, creative pursuits, family’s culture, physical appearance, health history, special talents, language abilities, etc. Admissions committees look for candidates that can bring unique insights and different perspectives to their programs.
While certain details can help paint a meaningful portrait of you, it is important to remember that the personal statement is not a work of creative writing.
For example, including details about the color of your shirt and the type of shoe you were wearing may help make the story in your personal statement more vivid, but these details fail to offer insights about your unique qualities or your life experiences. Admissions committees will be interested by your unique traits, not the look of your clothes.
How can I know when my personal statement is ready to submit?
- It highlights your great qualities;
- It clearly describes your path to medicine—or discusses experiences that led you to develop key insights about the field;
- It tells the actually story of your desire to become a physician and not what you believe someone wants to hear;
- It is highly personal and could have only been written by you; and
- It is devoid of spelling or grammatical errors.
By following these instructions on how to avoid clichés, you can write a memorable personal statement that stands out to admissions committees.
Whereas writing a clichéd personal statement will likely cause your application to end up in the rejection pile, crafting an authentic, unique personal statement will help lead you to your white coat ceremony.
About the Author
Dr. Shirag Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's foremost experts on medical school admissions. For nearly 20 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into medical school using his exclusive approach.
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I partly grew up in Bangkok, a city in which there are more shopping malls than there are psychiatrists. I did this math as soon as I found out that my older sister had attempted suicide outside of a shopping mall. The stigmatization of mental illness is still widespread in Thailand and as a result, the hospital and my family treated her case as anything but an attempt on her own life. At the time, I was reading “The Yellow Wall Paper” in school, a story about inadequately treated postpartum depression in the 1890s. I saw parallels, as my sister had begun to look gray after the birth of her daughter. I repeatedly voiced my concerns, but no one listened to me. No one was addressing her health from a broader perspective, and as a result, she was left to fend for her own mental health. She was powerless, and I felt powerless too.
This blindness for mental wellbeing in my society confounded me, so I chose to study it further at UT Austin. When I began working at the Dell Seton Medical Center, however, my idealism about patient-centered care was quickly put to the test when I was regarded with cynicism due to my own identity. One afternoon, a diabetic patient approached me for assistance in applying for food stamps. Although he was visibly in discomfort, he refused the chair I pulled out for him. While we gathered information, he gruffly asked me where I was from. “America,” I answered. Unsatisfied with my answer, he repeated his question eight more times until I caved and answered with my ethnicity. Following this, he grew impatient and kept insisting he could complete the process with another shift. But I knew arranging transport would be difficult and costly. Determined to turn the interaction around, I soldiered on with the application process. I discovered that he had a daughter, and I asked about her interests. He grew animated as he talked lovingly about her, and I completed my work. Commuting home in the dark, I beamed; I was able to build rapport and assist someone who did not initially believe in me.
I strove to supplement my education with parallel experiences in research and volunteer work. In a course about stigma and prejudice, I discovered that minority status was a marker for increased IL-6 inflammation, and that individuals primed with stereotypes about race, sex, or disease suffer greatly, but often invisibly. Walking out of lecture, I planned out how I could implement these findings in my own work. During data collection for a community sleep study, I applied my renewed perspective on the phone with a participant. I sensed exasperation in her voice, so I sincerely thanked her for her time. Suddenly, she began to wail into the phone. As her personal story unraveled, I found out that experiences of racial discrimination had breached every area of her life, including her healthcare—as a result, she felt alienated and left with inadequate treatment. When she expressed thoughts of suicide, I began to panic. But I kept my voice composed, reinforced her resilience, and gained a verbal confirmation that we would speak the next day. The disempowering marginalization she felt mirrored my sister’s situation years ago. But this time, I was equipped with my education.
The more I learned about the social determinants of health, the clearer it became that healthcare was inherently social. This solidified my interest in medicine and motivated me to pursue research in social psychology. As I trained on how to code facial expressions for my honors thesis, I shadowed Dr. Sekhon, a geriatric psychiatrist, at an assisted living facility. One of his patients was an injured former athlete who was having trouble standing. His wife held back tears as he grimaced and repeatedly referred to “passing on.” Dr. Sekhon studied his patients’ face intently, and then, instead of altering medications or suggesting tests, he encouraged his patient to stand for 10 seconds longer each day. There was a shift in the room, and I could measure it by the expressions on their faces. The man’s eyes wrinkled in a genuine smile and his wife’s enthusiastic agreement reflected Dr. Sekhon’s success. The way a physician could read facial expressions to address what the patient did not verbalize was incredibly powerful—I was awestruck.
Inspired by this observation, I wrote my honors thesis on the relationship between power and health outcomes. Experiences of disempowerment and of illness magnify one another, but a doctor can empower someone in their most vulnerable moments by connecting with them. Much like my sister, many patients need clinicians that address both physical and invisible hardships. I am eager to be part of a new generation of healthcare providers with sensitivity to the diverse ways that people communicate distress and wellbeing. One patient at a time, we can shift archaic mindsets deeply rooted in our communities, and ensure that every life we touch receives socially and culturally competent care. For me, studying medicine means being part of something bigger by empowering others—and myself—along the way.
Paragraph 1 Analysis
The applicant begins their essay by immediately (and effectively) putting their unique upbringing in conversation with their family-inspired interest in medicine. Even though they do not say anything directly about an interest in medicine in this paragraph, we can see that the applicant is clearly passionate about doing the right thing, and about helping people in general. We can also see that they are aware of a gap that needs filling and a stigma that needs addressing.
Thoughtful/empathetic/high moral principles - Despite cultural resistance to mental healthcare, the applicant understands the value of protecting one’s mental wellbeing, and that it is an essential aspect of a healthy life. They take the initiative to listen to their sister, to carefully watch for signs of illness, and to advocate for her even in the face of a society pushing against them.
The paragraph is about how much the applicant cares for their sister, and that makes it personal. Even though the sister is a huge part of this paragraph, and even though Bangkok itself almost reads like a character on its own, the applicant’s careful reflections connect all of these outside sources to who they are and what they value.
The geographical, cultural, and familial details make this paragraph unique. Also notice how the applicant is able to discuss their sister’s suicide attempt without it feeling appropriative or self-serving, since they connect the trauma to a larger cultural issue that the applicant wants to address.
Even in the first paragraph, there is depth that will be fleshed out in the rest of the essay: The applicant sees something wrong in their culture, and is determined to fix it. The applicant is also showing an awareness of just how complicated and imperfect the healthcare system can be, demonstrating a perspective that is nuanced, mature, and compelling.
Paragraph 2 Analysis
Notice how the applicant takes the essay in a different direction than we expected after reading the first paragraph. We move from an anecdote about their sister nearly committing suicide to a seemingly unrelated anecdote about a prejudiced patient. The connecting thread between these two stories, of course, is the applicant. Their reflections on and reactions to both situations highlight their character, which is what the personal statement is all about. We also see another take on how it feels to encounter someone’s resistance to your own voice and perspective, just as the applicant encountered resistance in the face of their efforts to advocate for their sister.
Gumptious/perseverant - Most people would have a hard time helping the patient described in the above paragraph. Prejudiced, unkind, and ungrateful, he seems like a nightmare to work with. And yet the applicant shows us that, despite his rude, racist behavior, they remained strong, patient, and helpful, turning the situation into something more positive for both of them. This ability to face adversity and overcome it is a very desirable quality for any physician to possess. It also shows that the applicant knows how to adapt and problem solve in a high stress situation, putting the needs of the patient before their own, albeit justified, frustration.
As always, although the paragraph tells us the story of a particular patient, it is truly about the applicant’s interaction with that patient.
The specificity of this story makes it utterly unique to the applicant. Also, the applicant is demonstrating a nuanced and unique ability to transition between seemingly disparate experiences in paragraph one versus two.
The depth of this paragraph is rooted in the qualities it highlights in the applicant, as outlined above. As such, the strategy here is doubly effective: Not only are we reading an engaging moment of narrative, we’re also gaining some insight into why this was particularly meaningful for the patient.
Paragraph 3 Analysis
The process of personal growth. This essay does a fantastic job of highlighting the applicant’s personal growth through potent anecdotes and life experiences. This allows the applicant to show how they've changed and brings the personal statement to life. Notice how they set this up in the first paragraph when writing about their sister’s mental health. “She was powerless, and I felt powerless, too.” Later, when the applicant speaks to a patient over the phone and realizes the “disempowering marginalization” she felt, they remark, “But this time, I was equipped with my education.” Adcoms realize that the path to an MD doesn’t start and end at clearly defined points. The process of “becoming” a doctor is a road you will travel even after you’ve earned your white coat. Learning will continue as you grow in your career. You may not have a story of discrimination to tell, but we’ve all experienced moments of personal growth. Positively highlighting your growth is a great way to show your resilience and determination to succeed in medicine.
After detouring from the first paragraph’s anecdote to share with us the prejudice they’ve experienced directly, the applicant returns to the story of their sister’s attempted suicide, but this time the story has a comparative function. By juxtaposing the helplessness they felt in regards to their sister with the empowering experience on the phone, we can see that the applicant has not only grown, they’ve also shown real initiative in taking on a societal problem head on.
Determined/collected/resilient - Despite the emotional impact of being reminded of their sister’s near-death, the applicant pushes forward, collecting themselves and utilizing their education to make a real impact.
Empathetic - The applicant is able to stay calm in a high stakes situation because they are unconditionally empathetic towards the caller.
The paragraph is about the applicant’s genuine desire to help other people. We see a real passion in their desire to make an impact in regards to high-stakes issues, which allows us to get to know who they are not only as a potential physician, but as an advocate as well.
The connection to the first paragraph makes this paragraph unique both narratively and structurally.
The depth of this paragraph can be seen in its comparison to the first paragraph. Where the applicant initially felt powerless in the face of suicide, now they have matured and become better equipped to tackle such a high-stakes situation.
Paragraph 4 Analysis
The applicant provides us with three important details in this paragraph: First, that they trained to code facial expressions, second, that they shadowed Dr. Sekhon, and third, that they were inspired by the shadowing experience. Notice how their education immediately comes into play in discussing the expressions on the patients, and how the interest in the depth of facial complexity speaks both to their interest in mental health and their empathy.
Observant - Although an important aspect of your pre-med career, shadowing is sometimes a difficult experience to write about, for obvious reasons. What about the experience is interesting, if you were merely a shadow? How do you personalize work that nearly every applicant is going to have done? This applicant makes themselves stand out by telling the story of Dr. Sekhon and the retired athlete in such detail that they are indirectly showing us how careful and observant they are.
Although the narrative in this paragraph is entirely focused on other people, the thematic core belongs to the applicant, because the paragraph is about their observation of and reaction to this incident, more so than the incident itself.
The details of this office visit, combined with the hard skills the applicant is displaying and the awareness of a physician whose values they will want to embrace in their own way, make this paragraph unique.
This paragraph has depth in an indirect sense—the way the applicant was inspired is the most important point that the writing gets across.
Paragraph 5 Analysis
To conclude their essay, the applicant employs a tried and true formula: connecting the introduction to the conclusion. By reintroducing their sister into the narrative, we as readers come full circle. We remember where the applicant began, what influenced them, and how they have evolved over the course of their life, an evolution mirrored in the way the essay itself has developed.
Ambitious - This applicant has big dreams. They want to make an authentic change in the healthcare system, and since we’ve seen them mature throughout the essay, we believe that they’re capable of enacting such changes. Since they outlined this desire to make change from the very beginning, we also get a sense of how enduring and consistent it truly is, furthering our respect for the applicant’s goals.
Humble/social - Despite their ambition, the applicant is clearly aware that in order to make a real change, they will have to team up with others.
This concluding paragraph is quite clearly all about the applicant—their goals, ambitions, and values.
Although some of the sentences are broad, the paragraph remains unique due to the references to the sister, as well as the details about the applicant’s honors thesis. Connecting broad goals with specific details helps this conclusion feel more concrete, and less generalized and abstract.
The depth here is in what the applicant tells us directly, speaking to their desire as reiterated throughout the essay: “We can shift archaic mindsets deeply rooted in our communities, and ensure that every life we touch receives socially and culturally competent care.”
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The Only 3 Medical School Personal Statement Examples You Need to Read
Posted in: Applying to Medical School
The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the med school application process . Why? This mini-essay provides a critical opportunity for you to stand out from other prospective medical students by demonstrating your passion and personality, not just your grades.
Admissions committees receive numerous AMCAS medical school applications , so yours should be unique and captivating. Your medical school personal statement shows admissions officers who you are beyond your high school or pre-med GPA , extracurriculars , and MCAT score .
The best personal statements are… well, personal . This is your chance to share what life experiences have compelled you toward a career in healthcare or the medical field , and how those experiences shape the picture of your ideal future.
MedSchoolCoach has crucial advice for writing your personal statement .
Read these examples of personal statements for prospective med students.
Writing a great medical school personal statement is a lot easier with the right support. We’ve helped numerous med school applicants craft top-notch personal statements and can do the same for you.
But First: 7 Steps to Writing an Engaging Personal Statement
Before you read these excellent examples, you need to understand the process of writing a personal statement.
Include these in your medical school personal statement:
- Why you’re passionate about becoming a doctor
- Your qualities that will make you a great physician
- Personal stories that demonstrate those qualities
- Specific examples of the communities you want to serve as a member of the medical field
What are the most important things to remember when writing a medical school personal statement ?
- Begin the writing process early: Give yourself plenty of time for brainstorming and to revisit your first draft, revising it based on input from family members and undergrad professors. Consult the application timeline for your target enrollment season.
- Choose a central theme: An unfocused essay will leave readers confused and uninterested. Give your statement a clear thesis in the first paragraph that guides its formation.
- Start with a hook: Grab the reader’s attention immediately with your statement’s first sentence. Instead of opening with a conventional introduction, be creative! Begin with something unexpected.
- Be the you of today, not the you of the future: Forecasting your future as a physician can come across as empty promises. Don’t get caught up in your ambitions; instead, be honest about your current situation and interest in the field of medicine.
- Demonstrate your passion: It’s not enough to simply state your interest in becoming a doctor; you have to prove it through personal stories. Show how your perspectives have been shaped by formative experiences and how those will make you an effective physician.
- Show, don’t tell : Avoid cliches that admissions committees have heard hundreds of times, like “I want to help people.” Make your writing come alive with dynamic, persuasive storytelling that recounts your personal experiences.
- Tie everything together: Conclude by wrapping up your main points. Reiterate your passion for the medical profession, your defining personal qualities, and why you’ll make a good doctor.
You can read more about our recommended method in our step-by-step guide , but those are the major points.
Example 1 — From the Stretcher to the Spotlight: My Journey to Becoming an Emergency Medicine Physician
Another siren shrieks as the emergency room doors slide open and a team of EMTs pushes a blood-soaked stretcher through the entrance. It’s the fifth ambulance to arrive tonight — and only my first clinical shadowing experience in an emergency medicine department since my premed education began.
But it wasn’t my first time in an emergency room, and I knew I was meant to be here again.
In those crucial moments on the ER floor, many of my peers learned that they stumble in high-pressure environments. A few weeks of gunshot wounds, drug overdoses, broken bones, and deep lacerations in the busiest trauma bay in the region were enough to alter their career path.
They will be better practitioners somewhere predictable, like a pediatrician in a private practice where they choose their schedules, clients, and staff.
Every healthcare provider has their specialties, and mine are on full display in those crucial moments of lifesaving care. Why am I pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine? Because I’ve seen firsthand the miracles that Emergency Medicine physicians perform.
12 years ago, I was in an emergency room… but I was the one on the stretcher.
A forest-green Saturn coupe rolled into my parent’s driveway. The driver, my best friend Kevin, had just passed his driving test and was itching to take a late-night run to the other side of town. I had ridden with Kevin and his father many times before when he held his learner’s permit. But this time, we didn’t have an adult with us, and the joyride ended differently: with a 40-mph passenger-side collision, T-boned by a drunk driver.
I distinctly recall the sensation of being lifted out of the crumpled car by a paramedic and laid onto a stretcher. A quick drive later, I was in the care of Dr. Smith, the ER resident on call that night. Without missing a beat, he assessed my condition and provided the care I needed. When my mom thanked him for saving my life, he simply responded, “It’s what he needed.”
Now I’m watching other doctors and nurses provide this life-saving care as I observe as a premed student. I see the way the staff works together like a well-oiled machine, and it reminds me of my time in high-school theater.
Everyone has a role to play, however big or small, to make the show a success. All contributions are essential to a winning performance — even the technicians working behind the scenes. That’s what true teamwork is, and I see that same dynamic in the emergency department.
Some actors freeze during performances, overcome by stage fright. Other students are too anxious to even set foot in front of an audience; they remain backstage assisting with split-second costume changes.
Not me. I felt energized under the spotlight, deftly improvising to help my co-stars when they would forget their lines. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best actor or singer in the cast, but I provided something essential: assurance under pressure. Everyone knew me as dependable, always in their corner when something went awry. I had a reputation for remaining calm and thinking on my feet.
My ability to stay unruffled under pressure was first discovered on stage, but I can use it on a very different platform providing patient care. Now, when other people freeze under the intensity of serving public health on the front lines, I can step in and provide my calm, collected guidance to see them through.
As an ER doctor, I will have to provide that stability when a nurse gets flustered by a quarrelsome patient or shaken from an irreparably injured infant. When you’re an Emergency Medicine physician, you’re not following a script. It takes an aptitude of thinking on your toes to face the fast pace and unpredictable challenges of an emergency center.
During my time shadowing, I saw experienced physicians put those assured, gentle communication skills to use. A 13-year-old boy was admitted for a knife wound he’d received on the streets. He only spoke Spanish, but it was clear he mistrusted doctors and was alarmed by the situation. In mere minutes, one of the doctors calmed the patient so he could receive care he needed.
Let me be clear: I haven’t simply gravitated toward Emergency Medicine because I liked it most. It’s not the adrenaline or the pride that compel me. I owe Emergency Medicine my life, and I want to use my life to extend the lives of other people. Every person brought into the trauma bay could be another me , no matter what they look like.
People are more than their injury, health record, or circumstances. They are not just a task to complete or a challenge to conquer.
My childhood injury gave me an appreciation for the work of ER doctors and a compassion for patients, to foster well-being when people are most broken and vulnerable. I already have the dedication to the work and the heart for patients; I just need the medical knowledge and procedural skills to perform life-saving interventions. My ability to remain calm, think on my toes, be part of a team, and work decisively without making mistakes or overlooking critical issues will serve me well as an Emergency Medicine physician.
Some ER physicians I spoke with liked to think that they’re “a different breed” than other medical professionals — but I don’t see it that way. We’re just performing a different role than the rest of the cast.
Breaking It Down
Let’s look at what qualities make this a great personal statement for med school.
- Engaging opening: The writer painted a vivid scene that immediately puts the reader in their shoes and leaves them wanting more.
- Personal examples: The writer demonstrated his ability to stay calm, work as a team, and problem-solve through theater experience, which he also uses as a comparison. And, he explained his passion for Emergency Medical care from his childhood accident.
- Organized: The writer transitions fluidly between body paragraphs, connecting stories and ideas by emphasizing parallels and hopping back and forth between time.
- Ample length: Makes full use of the AACOMAS and AMCAS application personal statement’s character limit of 5,300 characters (including spaces), which is about 850-950 words.
Unsure what traits and clinical or research experience your preferred medical school values ? You can research their admissions requirements and mission statement using the MSAR .
Example 2 — Early Clinical Work For Empathetic Patient Care
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine.
As I walked briskly down the hall to keep up during our daily rounds in the ICU, I heard the steady beeping of Michelle’s cardiac monitor and saw a ruby ornament twinkling on the small Christmas tree beside her. She was always alone, but someone had decorated her room for the holidays.
It warmed my heart that I wasn’t the only one who saw her as more than a patient in a coma. I continually felt guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with her; her usual companions were ventilators, IV bags, and catheters, not to mention the golf ball-sized tumors along her spine. Every day, I thought about running to Michelle’s bedside to do anything I could for her.
Thus, I was taken aback when my advisor, who was visiting me that day, asked me if I was okay. It never crossed my mind that at age 17, my peers might not be able to handle the tragedies that healthcare workers consistently face. These situations were difficult, but they invoked humanity and compassion from me. I knew I wanted to pursue medicine. And I knew I could do it.
From my senior year of high school to my senior year of college, I continued to explore my passion for patient interaction.
At the Stepp Lab, I was charged with contacting potential study participants for a study focusing on speech symptoms in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. The study would help future patients, but I couldn’t help but think: “What are we doing for these patients in return?” I worried that the heart and soul behind the research would get lost in the mix of acoustic data and participant ID numbers.
But my fears were put to rest by Richard, the self-proclaimed “Parkinson’s Song & Dance Man,” who recorded himself singing show tunes as part of his therapy. Knowing that he was legally blind and unable to read caller ID, I was always thrilled when he recognized my voice. The spirit in his voice indicated that my interest in him and his journey with Parkinson’s was meaningful. Talking with him inspired me to dive deeper, which led to an appreciative understanding of his time as a sergeant in the U.S. military.
It was an important reminder: my interest and care are just as important as an effective prescribed treatment plan.
Following graduation, I began my work as a medical assistant for a dermatologist. My experience with a patient, Joann, validated my ability to provide excellent hands-on patient care. Other physicians prescribed her painkillers to relieve the excruciating pain from the shingles rash, which presented as a fiery trail of blisters wrapped around her torso. But these painkillers offered no relief and made her so drowsy that she fell one night on the way to the bathroom.
Joann was tired, suffering, and beaten down. The lidocaine patches we initially prescribed would be a much safer option, but I refused for her to pay $250, as she was on the brink of losing her job. When she returned to the office a week later, she held my hand and cried tears of joy because I found her affordable patches, which helped her pain without the systemic effects.
The joy that pierced through the weariness in her eyes immediately confirmed that direct patient care like this was what I was meant to do. As I passed her a tissue, I felt ecstatic that I could make such a difference, and I sought to do more.
Since graduation, I have been volunteering at Open Door, a small pantry that serves a primarily Hispanic community of lower socioeconomic families. It is gut-wrenching to explain that we cannot give them certain items when our stock is low. After all, the fresh fruits and vegetables I serve are fundamental to their culturally-inspired meals.
For the first time, I found myself serving anguish rather than a helping hand. Usually, uplifting moments strengthen one’s desire to become a physician, but in this case, it was my ability to handle the low points that reignited my passion for aiding others.
After running out of produce one day, I was confused as to why a woman thanked me. Through translation by a fellow volunteer, I learned it was because of my positivity. She taught me that the way I approach unfavorable situations affects another’s perception and that my spirited attitude breaks through language barriers.
This volunteer work served as a wake-up call to the unacceptable fact that U.S. citizens’ health suffers due to lack of access to healthy foods. If someone cannot afford healthy foods, they may not have access to healthcare. In the future, I want to partner with other food banks to offer free services like blood pressure readings. I have always wanted to help people, but I now have a particular interest in bringing help to people who cannot afford it.
While the foundation of medicine is scientific knowledge, the foundation of healthcare is the word “care” itself. I never found out what happened to Michelle and her Christmas tree, but I still wonder about her to this day, and she has strengthened my passion to serve others. A sense of excitement and comfort stems from knowing that I will be there for people on their worst days, since I have already seen the impact my support has had.
In my mind, becoming a physician is not a choice but a natural next step to continue bringing humanity and compassion to those around me.
How did this personal statement grab and sustain attention so well?
- Personalization: Everything about this statement helps you to understand the writer, from their personal experiences to their hope for how their future career will look.
- Showing, not telling: From the first sentence, the reader is hooked. This prospective medical student has plenty of great “on paper” experience (early shadowing, clinical experience, etc.), but they showed this with storytelling, not by repeating their CV.
- Empathy: An admissions committee reading this personal statement would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this student cares deeply about their patients. They remember first names, individual details, and the emotions that each patient made them feel.
- A clear path forward: The writer doesn’t just want to work in the medical field — they have a passion for exactly how they want to impact the communities they serve. Outside of strictly medical work, they care about the way finances can limit access to healthcare and the struggle to find healthy food in food deserts around the US .
Read Next: How Hard Is It to Get Into Medical School?
Example 3 — Beyond the Diagnosis: The Importance of Individualized Care in Medicine
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nova Southeastern University College Of Osteopathic Medicine.
Dr. Haywood sighs and shakes her head upon opening the chart. “I was worried about her A1C. It’s up again. Hypertension, too. Alright, let’s go.”
As we enter the patient’s room, I’m expecting the news about her blood sugar and pressure to fill the room. Instead, Dr. Haywood says, “Roseline! How are you doing? How’s your girl, doing well?”
Dr. Haywood continues to ask questions, genuinely interested in Roseline’s experience as a new mother. If not for the parchment-lined examination chair and anatomy posters plastered to the wall, this exchange could be happening in a grocery store. What about her A1C? Her blood pressure? Potential Type II diabetes?
As I continue to listen, Dr. Haywood discovers that Roseline’s mother moved in with her, cooking Haitian meals I recognize as high on the glycemic index. Dr. Haywood effortlessly evolves their conversation to focus on these. Being Haitian herself, she knows some traditional dishes are healthier than others and advises Roseline to avoid those that might exacerbate her high blood sugar and blood pressure. Dr. Haywood also suggests Roseline incorporate exercise by bringing her baby on a walk through her neighborhood.
During my shadowing experience, I observed one of the core components of being a physician through several encounters like this one. By establishing a relationship with her patient where Roseline was comfortable sharing the details of new motherhood, Dr. Haywood was able to individualize her approach to lowering the patient’s A1C and hypertension. Inspired by her ability to treat the whole person , I began to adopt a similar practice as a tutor for elementary kids in underserved areas of D.C.
Shaniyah did not like Zoom, or math for that matter. When I first met her as a prospective tutee online, she preferred to keep her microphone muted and would claim she was finished with her math homework after barely attempting the first problem. Realizing that basing our sessions solely on math would be fruitless, I adapted my tutoring style to incorporate some of the things for which she had a natural affinity.
The first step was acknowledging the difficulties a virtual environment posed to effective communication, particularly the ease at which distractions might take over. After sharing this with Shaniyah, she immediately disclosed her struggles to share her work with me. With this information, I found an online platform that allowed us to visualize each other’s work.
This obstacle in communication overcome, Shaniyah felt more comfortable sharing details about herself that I utilized as her tutor. Her love of soccer gave me the idea to use the concept of goal scoring to help with addition, and soon Shaniyah’s math skills and enthusiasm began to improve. As our relationship grew, so did her successes, and I suspect the feelings I experienced as her tutor are the same as a physician’s when their patient responds well to prescribed treatment.
I believe this skill, caring for someone as a whole person , that I have learned and practiced through shadowing and tutoring is the central tenet of medicine that allows a doctor to successfully treat their patients.
Inspired by talking with patients who had received life-altering organ transplants during my shadowing experience, I created a club called D.C. Donors for Georgetown University students to encourage their peers to register as organ donors or donate blood. This experience taught me that to truly serve a person, you must involve your whole person, too.
In starting this club to help those in need of transplants, I had to dedicate my time and effort beyond just my physical interactions with these patients. For instance, this involved reaching out to D.C.’s organ procurement organization to inquire about a potential partnership with my club, to which they agreed. In addition, I organized tabling events on campus, which required significant planning and communication with both club members and my university.
Though exciting, starting a club was also a difficult process, especially given the limitations the pandemic imposed on in-person meetings and events. To adapt, I had to plan more engaging meetings, designing virtual activities to make members more comfortable contributing their ideas. In addition, planning a blood drive required extensive communication with my university to ensure the safety of the staff and participants during the pandemic.
Ultimately, I believe these behind-the-scenes actions were instrumental in addressing the need for organ and blood donors in the D.C. area.
From these experiences, I have grown to believe that good medicine not only necessitates the physician cares for her patient as a whole, but also that she fully commits her whole person to the care of the patient. Tutoring and starting D.C. Donors not only allowed me to develop these skills but also to experience such fulfilling emotions: the pride I had in Shaniyah when her math improved, the gratefulness I felt when she confided in me, the steadfast commitment I expressed to transplant patients, and the joy I had in collaborating with other passionate club members.
I envision a career as a physician to demand these skills of me and more, and I have confirmed my desire to become one after feeling so enriched by practicing them.
Here’s what makes this personal statement such a good example of what works:
- Desirable qualities: The student clearly demonstrates qualities any school would want in an applicant: teachability, adaptability, leadership, organization, and empathy, to name a few. This again uses the “show, don’t tell” method, allowing the readers to understand the student without hand-holding.
- Personalized storytelling: Many in the healthcare profession will connect with experiences like the ones expressed here, such as addressing patient concerns relationally or the lack of blood donors during the recent pandemic. The writer automatically makes a personal link between themselves and the admissions committees reading this statement.
- Extensive (but not too long): Without feeling too wordy, this personal statement uses nearly all of the 5,300 characters allowed on the AMCAS application. There’s no fluff left in the final draft, only what matters.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
You can learn a lot from those personal statements. They avoid the most common mistakes that med school applicants make when writing the medical school personal statement.
What makes a bad med school personal statement? Here are some things you should avoid in your personal statement if you want to be a doctor:
- Don’t name-drop: Admissions counselors won’t be impressed when you brag about your highly regarded family members, associates, or mentors. You need to stand on your own feet — not someone else’s.
- Don’t be dishonest: Lies and exaggerations can torpedo your application. And they’re bad habits for anyone entering the medical field. Don’t do it.
- Don’t use AI to write your personal statement: Artificial intelligence can help you edit and improve your writing, but don’t let it do the work for you. Your statement needs to be authentic, which means in your voice! A chatbot can’t feel or adequately convey your own empathy, compassion, trauma, drive, or personality.
- Don’t make mistakes: Have someone reliable proofread your essay and scour it for typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors. Even free grammar-checking apps can catch mistakes!
- Don’t explain without demonstrating: I’ll reiterate how important it is to prove your self-descriptive statements with real-life examples. Telling without showing won’t persuade readers.
- Don’t include too many examples: Have 3-4 solid personal stories at most; only include a few that are crucial for providing your points. The more experiences you share, the less impact they’ll make.
- Don’t waste words: Cut all fluff, filler, and irrelevant points. There are many other places you can include information in your application, such as secondary essays on your clinical experience, volunteer work, and research projects .
You can find more valuable do’s and don’ts in our in-depth guide to writing your best personal statement .
Need extra help? We’ve got you covered.
Schedule a meeting with MedSchoolCoach for expert support on writing and editing your personal statement. We’re here to help you impress medical school admissions committees !
Renee Marinelli MD
Dr. Marinelli is an advisor at MedSchoolCoach and former admissions committee member at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Her insight into the application process is second to none!
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Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Your Personal Statement for Medical School will arguably be the most important essay you’ll ever write…So no pressure, right?
Our team has the honor of helping applicants craft their story in an impactful way. Below are a few of those effective personal statement essays from recently accepted medical students.
Please note that these are final drafts. It took multiple rounds of revisions to reach the draft you are about to read.
Read Courtney’s Personal Statement
Read Matt’s Personal Statement
Read Alex’s Personal Statement
Read Suzy’s Personal Statement
Medical school personal statement Sample #1
I stood shoulder to shoulder with choir members, hundreds of eyes in our direction, each seated in the great hall known as the Dallas Myerson Symphony Center. The countless rehearsals, rhythms, and lyrics danced through my mind as I watched the conductor raise his arms, and eagerly awaited his signal. His baton came crashing down and within seconds, the room was filled with the sound of musicians whose every note, melody, and harmony were married together to form an exquisite synchrony. We sang the words of the great poet William Ernest Henley who emphasized resilience in the face of suffering as well as bravery in the face of adversity. I could physically see the impact of our voices on those in the room, particularly evident when beginning an ascent to an emotionally salient crescendo. It was through this experience that I recognized the unifying and healing power of music as well as the importance of holistic healing. This was a theme that has been at the forefront of my growth and empowerment as I faced some of the hardest years of my life in search of my own emotional healing. In a manner similar to music’s impact, I am motivated to become a physician to heal those around me through a holistic approach, advocacy, and continual evolvement along a journey of lifelong learning and growth.
I still remember my mother frantically waking my brother and I to tell us that our, then, dad was in the hospital, which left us searching for holistic healing ourselves. It was not until later that I learned he had suffered an aortic dissection. I was seven years old and struck with worry though simultaneously grateful for the miracle performed by the cardiothoracic surgeons. This was the initial spark that led me to uncover my passion for science as well as interest in medicine. Three years later, he carefully told me that for most of his life he felt as if he has been living in the wrong body. I remember the confusion, lack of comprehension, and most importantly, the newly surfaced and seemingly infinite compassion I felt towards both my mom and my now transgender father. This was a situation far from simple and many times, I was left amongst familial dissension, shadows of lost friends, and fear. Regardless, I remained resilient and found solace in my faith and music. Each provided an outlet to transform sadness and fear into something beautiful and face my emotions head-on with the help of those who loyally surrounded me. In stumbling upon this emotional healing, I saw correlations between the emotional and spiritual healing that our bodies demand to be physically well and later recognized that this was a significant aspect of what drew me to medicine. In the future, I long to bring comfort and peace to patients who trust in me during their most vulnerable times and when they are most afraid, as so many have done for me.
In the words of William Ernest Henley, having been through the trials of my circumstances, I continue to “find myself unafraid” and able to overcome challenges. I think I ultimately learned this perseverance and endurance from my mother, who never gave up even when she had to start over to provide for my brother and I. Simultaneously, I felt the pain my dad faced and saw my mother defy all odds to overcome our situation. My experiences are what pushes me to want to make a difference in a world that can be so cruel to so many. I remember the judgement and lack of compassion I faced when I was with my dad as well as the deliberate marginalization my dad faced as a transgender woman. This incited a sense of advocacy in me and prompted me to become part of a non-profit organization dedicated to serving a similarly marginalized community, the homeless. I have been able to work alongside college students to cultivate change and provide supplies to those in need. I see the ability to reiterate and continue this spirit through a career in medicine. For physicians are the listeners, the branches that extend across communities and through diverse populations, ultimately the advocates for their patients and deliverers of holistic care. I long to begin this journey, even if just as a budding twig among hundreds of branches, on the path to making a difference.
Much as a choir performance is dependent upon each component, pursuing a standard of holistic healing is also far from an individual endeavor. It takes a comprehensive team to meet the needs of a patient and their family, a reoccurring theme that I have been exposed to countless times. For this is a career that requires traversing a path that is no easy feat, but one that will procure undoubtable fulfillment and beauty. This is a place in my life I might never have expected I would be, but one that I welcome with open arms. I have found myself ready to face my journey of endless growth and possibility as I am certain I want to become a physician and certain that I am capable because I have faced adversity and have only grown stronger as a result.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #2
Reading through mission statements of various medical schools, I have discovered an enthralling question: Is medicine science or art? I find this discourse of disparate viewpoints interesting because of a similar battle that has played out in my own mind between the head and the heart. Medicine is where I belong as it provides an avenue between these two raging forces unique to any other field I have found. A career as a clinician is precisely the symphony of problem solving I crave and the opportunity to love humanity I long for, making it the perfect life for me.
My initial attraction to medicine during high school came from my inquisitive nature, a desire to solve puzzles. I enjoy the thrill of mastering a topic, and then either revealing how the pieces fit to others, or using my newfound expertise in the application of solving new problems. Thus, it’s no wonder that I found medicine invigorating. It provides an endless depth of knowledge to plunder, and the opportunity to utilize that material in new situations.
Previously, I saw the human machine as something I could solve and repair if I knew enough. This has driven me to seek out opportunities to understand the deep mechanistic nature of the body. I wanted, and still want, to understand medicine at its most basic level, and then apply that knowledge to fixing diseases. Because of this desire, I have continued to seek out medical knowledge in my own time, through reading and research at school.
Admittedly, this first attraction to medicine was misguided and born of selfishness. I saw my future self as a medical Sherlock Holmes-the smartest person in the room disseminating my own cleverness from on high to solve a medical problem. I had only a mild interest in the artful, human, side of medicine. This intense passion to solve problems I now see is not itself inherently wrong and will indeed serve me well in medical school, but such a desire must be tempered by the heart.
When I arrived at college, my concept of the world, and with it medicine, was completely rearranged. Living in close community, I soon realized a simple, but important Truth: Life is not about you. It isn’t even about each other on an individual level. It’s about how people connect and intersect on the whole and effect change for their fellow man. This perspective shift drastically changed how I lived at school. Now I had a desire to serve others and participate in my activities precisely to do so.
I also shifted how I understood medicine. Medicine, it seemed, was not the cold calculation of Holmesian deduction to fix diseases as I once believed, but the art of understanding, navigating, and mitigating human pain in whatever form-physical, emotional, psychological- via the conduit of scientific understanding. While the science of medicine first attracted me to the field, it is the desire to practice the art of medicine that has continued to propel me towards a career as a physician.
My understanding of medicine as an art and a science and my desire to pursue both have only grown stronger as I have become a patient myself. Last summer, I became very ill, and spent most of my summer asleep, in the bathroom, or at the clinic, only being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the end of July. In such a vulnerable position, I experienced first-hand that importance and impact of medicine as art and science. Dr. Hallak, my gastroenterologist, treated not just my illness, but the fear and pain I possessed, and for that I am forever grateful (and fortunately, also healthy).
Likewise, Dr. Hallak graciously taught me about my disease on a mechanistic level, demonstrating that he understood the science of medicine as deeply as I had hoped a clinician would. Thus, I was assured that a career as a clinician could sate my scientific hunger as well. In Dr. Hallak I clearly saw that I did not have to compromise between my desire to understand the human body as a machine, and my need to serve others and effect change in their lives. When I think of the type of physician I want to be, I know that I want to follow Dr. Hallak’s example and live a life using science to not simply fix disease, but to heal human pain.
Because of these experiences, I believe that medicine is precisely this: the application of knowledge of both humankind- our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies- and human disease towards the eradication of human pain. In this definition, I have found a means to navigate the tricky space between medicine as science and art, between my inquisitiveness and the earnest longing to benefit others, between the head and the heart. I am confident that in my future career as a physician I will be able to fulfill these two desires.
Furthermore, I believe that my perspective on medicine, one that unifies art and science, is necessary for the evolving landscape of medicine. With the advent of new technologies, future physicians will be called to new roles. It is only by understanding and synthesizing the disparate halves of medicine that we as future physicians can fulfill these new, unknown roles. It is my hope that I might bring a fresh perspective to the field of medicine, and bring a positive impact not simply for my own sake, but for all the patients I will have in the future.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #3
I gripped the kitchen phone and listened to a voice utter words that even at six years old, I could never forget: “your father is cured.” A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I realized that the invisible monsters that plagued my father’s body, ones much scarier than the Boogeyman hidden under my bed, were finally gone. My resilient father was no longer infected with hepatitis B and C. During his fight against those invisible monsters, I was far too young to understand the etiology of his ailments, much less the pharmacodynamics of his medications. However, there was one thing that at six years old I undisputedly understood; these monsters were making my father weak despite costly treatments. Seeing the physical and emotional pain my father bore and the constant havoc it wreaked on my family, I desperately scrambled to educate myself, naively using the computer as leverage to find a remedy. Each search was met with medical jargon my juvenile mind could not decode. However, after years of searching, “Dr. S,” my father’s gastroenterologist, accomplished what I had been naively trying to do: find a cure. Dr. S’s holistic understanding of my father and his heroic ability to help planted a seed of motivation inside me to become a physician, like him. One that is dedicated to curing others of the monsters that plague their bodies.
Growing up, various questions flooded my mind regarding my father’s illness. Why did he have hepatitis? Why did it take so long to find a cure? Slowly, answers emerged as I educated myself on healthcare in underdeveloped countries. My father, who was from a village outside X, was unknowingly infected with hepatitis. His life back home was simple, but the unsanitary health practices, lack of infrastructure, smoke-polluted air, contaminated water, and minimal health education or preventative medicine produced a suboptimal environment for sustaining a healthy lifestyle. As a result of these conditions and the insufficiency of available physicians, many individuals were beset by disease and mortality. This predisposition is, unfortunately, a reality that my father and millions of others living in underdeveloped countries or marginalized communities in the United States unjustly face. Learning about these roadblocks to healthcare subsequently made my passion to become a physician even more deeply rooted. My mission has now evolved into becoming a physician dedicated to implementing preventative medicine for underserved individuals.
While immersing myself in clinical experiences as an emergency medical technician (EMT), I became aware of prevailing healthcare inequalities, similar to what my father endured. While sitting on the edge of a blue seat in the ambulance, I watched my patient, “Max,” clutch his abdomen as he sat on the stretcher. “Max, do you have stomach pain?” though was not met with a response. “Max, ¿tiene dolor?” As the words left my mouth, all eyes turned to me. Max sluggishly nodded. “¿Max, dónde le duele?” He slowly pointed to his stomach. I continued to speak to Max in Spanish, which allowed me to further my assessment and obtain vitals. The time I spent caring for Max during transport underscored the importance of being adaptable to linguistic and cultural differences, as equitable patient care is dependent on the ability to acknowledge and cater to these differences. Being an EMT has allowed me to mitigate barriers to healthcare within my community, though I am left with the urge to do more. As a physician, I will be able to provide longitudinal care and make seeking primary care more accessible for marginalized individuals, such as my father and Max.
While becoming a physician for marginalized communities is part of my goal, it was not until my health promotion class that I realized how these populations can benefit from both preventative and osteopathic medicine. For these individuals, imbalances in internal and external stressors, whether they be environmental, social, emotional, or biological, may result in illness, such as my father’s. Rather than advocating for costly or invasive symptomatic treatment, A.T. Still’s philosophy on the mind, body, and spirit has demonstrated that as an osteopathic physician, I can holistically treat or even prevent disease by restoring these imbalances. Moreover, the second tenant of osteopathic medicine surrounding self-regulation and self-healing would allow me to help marginalized individuals realize that they have the innate tools necessary to maintain optimal health and overcome disease. Altogether, this outlook would enable these individuals, who often cannot afford costly treatment, to feel empowered and capable of controlling their own health narratives. Although my introduction to osteopathic medicine was brief, the impact it has made on my journey to medicine is long-lasting.
Never would I have thought that four simple words would lead me down a path towards becoming an osteopathic physician. Yet, the story behind them inadvertently ignited a fire within me. Regardless of cultural differences or even language barriers, I now know that with an osteopathic outlook, I can be the hope in medicine for underserved communities and deliver the life-changing words that I once received.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #4
One 40-minute bus ride and three wrong turns later, I arrived at Dr. C’s cardiology clinic in X. After climbing the stairs to the clinic doors, a volunteer coordinator welcomed me and gestured to a waiting room brimming with restless patients. “We’re behind schedule today. Here’s the first patient’s chart. You’ll learn on the go.” He ushered me quickly into the nearest patient room, where I found myself standing in front of a confused elderly woman. I took a deep breath and introduced myself. Then, listening carefully, I began to update her medical chart as she described her sharp chest pain. As I reviewed her family and social history, she inhaled shallowly: her only daughter had passed away a few weeks earlier. She crumpled the medication list in her lap, her gaze downcast. I acknowledged her pain, handed her a box of tissues as well as a glass of water and listened to her as she shared fond memories of her daughter. Once we finished our session, I brought her over to Dr. C, who warmly squeezed her hand. I observed as he listened and patiently attended to each of her concerns while he simultaneously interpreted her electrocardiogram results and prescribed a regimen of beta-blockers. As I watched her leave the office with a renewed sense of calm, I immediately recognized the significance of a patient-physician relationship defined by curiosity, compassion, and communication.
My interest in medicine began as a child living with X, my exuberant autistic brother with a fierce sweet tooth. As I watched childhood friends take part in friendly sibling rivalries, I could not help but wonder if I would ever be able to do the same. With his speech limited to a handful of utterances and with his aversion to physical touch, I had to learn how to connect with X in other ways. Despite my short stature as a child, I remember tenaciously balancing myself upon a kitchen stool, foraging through the top cupboards, and sneaking away with a box of cookies so that my brother and I could eat together in contented silence. Yet this shared silence led me to so many questions: Would I ever know what X was thinking? How did this happen? My love for my brother grew alongside the puzzling nature of his diagnosis. This acted as the initial push into an education in the sciences and into a desire to uncover the intricacies of the human body.
Armed with a background in biochemistry, my pursuit of knowledge propelled me through an undergraduate senior thesis in Dr. K’s lab. Enlightened by the scientific method and curious about the molecular processes underlying complex illnesses, I decided to examine the regulation of transcription factors involved in renal fibrosis, a pathological marker of chronic kidney disease. This laborious but rewarding process allowed me to correlate the presence of the cav-1 gene to the lowered expression of the SP1 transcription factor and the decreased production of follistatin, a protein that neutralizes pro-inflammatory pathways and protects against renal fibrosis. Though I was thrilled by my findings, I was still left unsatisfied. I had originally set out to seek answers, but I realized that what I wanted even more was to be reassured in the face of the unknown. More than that, I wanted to offer assurance to those in similarly ambiguous situations through experiences in clinical and community settings.
For the better part of a decade, I offered assurance in the emergency department (ED) at X. There, I formed strong relationships and gained experience working alongside accomplished and dedicated physicians. However, the ED, for most patients, is often a place of distress. I remember one particular patient crying relentlessly while her mother spoke to me about a research study that we were conducting at the hospital. She mentioned that her daughter loved to draw, but in their haste to the hospital, she had forgotten to bring drawing supplies. As her mother read over the consent form that I presented to her, I excused myself to find paper and crayons. When I returned, I sat next to the child as she drew her favorite cartoons. I complimented her artistic skills. She laughed relentlessly, engrossing herself further in her evolving artwork. This scene continues to replay in my mind – the reprieve that art offered, the child’s pure joy, and her mother mouthing “Thank You” from her seat. While not a technical part of my role as a clinical research project assistant, this small act brought tranquility to a stressful environment. Being willing to exceed beyond expectations for others in a compassion-led approach is essential for connecting with and advocating for patients.
While the silence between my brother and me prompted questions, it equally taught me lessons that no one else could. From him, I learned about the individuality in human connection and the power of kindness. My experiences combined with a penchant for scientific inquiry have both established and continuously reaffirmed my desire to become a physician. Whether it is following up with a distressed cardiology patient or connecting with distraught families in the ED, I want to improve the lives of others and provide a place of solace for all that I meet.
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Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine
Does the perfect medical school personal statement exist? What do good personal statements for medical school look like? All of these questions and more will be answered below!
When you’re writing your personal statement for medical school, you’ll want to keep the three E’s in mind: engagement, enthusiasm, and explanation.
You want your personal statement to be engaging throughout, to clearly illustrate your enthusiasm to join the medical school, and to explain your motivation for pursuing this field.
But this is easier said than done! Including all of these elements in your personal statement while simultaneously ensuring it stands out and showcases your individuality can be challenging.
Luckily, this guide will ease these difficulties! In it, we’ll not only provide you with a step-by-step of how to write your own personal statement, but we’ll also go over 15 medical school personal statement examples!
Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement
15 Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Before we give you a run down of how to write a winning personal statement for medical school, it will be beneficial to read some samples and explain why they’re successful! Here are 15 excellent personal statement for medical school examples you can draw inspiration from!
Please note, the names and identifying details in these personal statements have been removed to ensure anonymity.
Sarah was the second victim they brought to the hospital that night. Pellets from the shotgun covered the entire right side of her body. The shooter had hit multiple individuals at the birthday party, and Sarah was transported to our emergency department soon after. She was the first patient I ever treated as an EMT.
After evaluating and stabilizing her condition, I used saline and gauze to clean the blood off her exposed skin, making a special effort to gently wash the contours of her face. Jeff, the ER technician I was shadowing that evening, diligently watched my every move. "He's got you looking good as new!" he said, breaking the heavy silence. At that moment, I saw a delicate smile emerge from her shocked, shell-like demeanor. I had treated her physical injuries, and he had addressed her mental well-being. Together, we had cared for the patient. At that moment, I began to understand the charge and function of the modern physician. My journey to that emergency room began in an unexpected place: the rolling foothills of Kentucky in the small town I call home, surrounded by cow farms and fields of soybeans. My parents had immigrated from Nigeria and taught English and Philosophy at our local university. My childhood was a perpetual humanities classroom. Seneca's "Letters from a Stoic" better characterized my understanding of human suffering than the halls of a hospital emergency department.
However, by my freshman year of high school, I knew that my academic interest lay not within ancient literature but rather within the living cell. In my mind, the cell is a metropolis waiting to be explored. I began to carve a professional path to pursue my fascination with the cell and study the mechanisms that create and sustain life. However, during my sophomore year, my diabetic father’s cognitive impairments developed into severe early-onset dementia. As much as I hoped to pursue my interests as a molecular biologist, my perspectives began to shift. My upbringing in the humanities and the challenge of caring for my father deepened my understanding of how our shared human experiences give meaning to our existence. I could spend my life studying the functions and pathologies of the cell. But, beyond the boundaries of its membrane, remains a human being with tangible, immediate needs, just like my father.
To understand this duality between biology and the human experience, I have spent my college career immersed in both research and clinical activities. My passion for molecular biology is manifested in my undergraduate research. My scientific exploration of the cell reinforced my fascination with its mechanisms and cultivated my desire to discover new molecular phenomena. Beyond research, I worked to build a new program in partnership with an internationally renowned medical center that trained undergraduate students to provide social support to geriatric inpatients. As co-president and avid volunteer, I have spent over a hundred hours listening to patients and their life stories as they sat in isolation in their hospital rooms.
Hand in hand, I comforted Mr. Stevens in the face of imminent mortality as he simultaneously mourned his terminal kidney failure and the death of his wife just weeks earlier. Listening to Mrs. Williams jokingly talk about her "adventures" completing word search puzzles during the pandemic always made me laugh. I witnessed a spectrum of human experience as defined by the heritage and identity of these patients, leaving each interaction filled with purpose and meaning. In the quiet rooms of the geriatric ward and the tense hallways of the emergency department, I confronted the vulnerability within the patient experience. I began to understand the individual in the context of disease.
As a researcher, my curiosity with the cell led to a fascination with its hallmark pathology: cancer. In my sophomore year, I worked to redesign a novel inhibitor of HSP90, a molecular chaperone implicated in over 600 types of cancer. Later, as a radiation immunology intern, I genetically modified cancer cell lines, studied their pathology in mice, and worked to find correlations between tumor RNA expression and therapeutic outcomes in human pancreatic cancer. The spectrum between basic and clinical cancer research inspires me with its potential to revolutionize the lives of patients. As a future oncologist, I endeavor to harness the power within biomedical discovery and our shared human experience to push back the boundaries of cancerous dysfunction in favor of the patients I serve.
As I closed the door to Sarah's room and followed Jeff to our next patient, I carried the realization that biomedical science and humanities are not only entwined but entirely interdependent. To serve a patient effectively is to address the disease in the context of the human. I embrace the charge to work at this complex interface. I want to lead patients through their most vulnerable moments with the competency and empathy demanded of the profession as I expand my knowledge of our molecular profile through attentive study and avid research.
Why It Works
This is a powerful personal statement for numerous reasons:
- Opening hook : The essay starts with a gripping and dramatic scene of the applicant treating a gunshot victim, immediately capturing the reader's attention.
- Personal narrative : The essay weaves a personal narrative throughout, sharing the applicant's journey from their upbringing in a small town to their experiences as an EMT, their father's illness, and their involvement in research and clinical activities, adding personality and authenticity to the story.
- Passion and motivation : The applicant’s passion for medicine and their strong desire to make a difference in the lives of patients is clear through their dedication to research, their engagement with geriatric inpatients, and their focus on oncology.
- Reflection and growth : The applicant reflects on their experiences and how they have shaped their understanding of medicine. They show personal growth and a shift in perspective, emphasizing the importance of the human experience in healthcare.
- Connection between science and humanities : The essay effectively highlights the interdependence between biomedical science and the humanities, showing the applicant's ability to bridge the gap and approach patient care from a holistic perspective.
- Clear future goals : The essay concludes by outlining the applicant's future aspirations as an oncologist and their commitment to combining biomedical discovery with compassionate patient care. Having defined goals is essential to portray your commitment to medicine.
- Engaging writing style : The essay is well-written and engaging, uses descriptive language, vivid anecdotes, and thoughtful reflections to captivate the reader and convey the applicant's message effectively.
This is the type of statement that leaves a lasting impression on the admissions committee!
My family immigrated from Cuba to the United States roughly 27 years ago. My father fled to the U.S. on a wooden makeshift raft and my mother came as a political refugee—making me a first generation American. After moving to the U.S., my family faced significant adversity—financial, language, and community barriers. As a result of these difficulties, I noticed that my family adopted a “avoid doctors unless you absolutely cannot,” mentality.
The first time my family looked into healthcare resources was during the arrival of my maternal great grandmother to the United States, a previous political prisoner in Cuba. While in solitary confinement for 12 years, she developed thrombosis in her legs, with doctors in Cuba only offering amputation. No one in the family spoke English, and there was a disconnect between providers and my grandmother—both sides could only comprehend about half of what was happening. The physicians were limited on time given the line of patients waiting. However, my family was not only fluent in another language, but they were also from a culture that avoided healthcare professionals. These factors were not able to be conveyed in a 20-minute conversation involving translation issues with an interpreter. Eventually, through other immigrants, they found Dr. Alvarez, an Argentinean physician. He was Spanish speaking and offered her surgical vein reconstruction—most importantly, he was able to build rapport with her quickly, and my grandmother went ahead with his suggested care. After that experience with Dr. Alvarez, my mother would cross state lines to take me to a Spanish-speaking pediatrician, Dr. Arias.
Observing my family’s determination in finding physicians like Dr. Alvarez and Dr. Arias made me realize the importance of Hispanic, Spanish-speaking, culturally competent physicians in the U.S. I spent time learning about healthcare inequities between Hispanic populations and other ethnicities, inside and outside the classroom. I was driven to pursue a career in medicine to be an advocate and manage care for patients from vulnerable communities—bridging the divide in comprehension and quality of care between Hispanic and other underrepresented minorities in the United States.
During my first week at college, I became a volunteer at [Hospital]. My first job was to be an admissions ambassador, a liaison helping patients navigate the hospital. Hispanic patients frequently approached me for guidance. “Olivia,” an Ecuadorian mother with her 3-year-old daughter in a stroller approached me one day. She was lost trying to find a physician’s office. I could see her daughter recently had a surgical procedure done on her little hand. After a few detours, I located the physician’s office. He happened to be there and was eager to have me translate. Olivia asked several questions regarding accrued treatment costs. She was running out of money. After assessing the situation and helping express her concerns to the physician, we reached out to the appropriate personnel and helped her navigate the system—she was relieved by the end of the conversation. I couldn’t help but think back to my own family and struggles they faced as refugees navigating the U.S. healthcare system. Being a resource in this manner brought me a new sense of fulfillment, further inspiring me to pursue medicine.
The comfort my interpreting skills brought to Hispanic patients at [Hospital] sparked my desire to seek more formal interpreting positions. I located a free clinic treating uninsured adults, the [Local Clinic]. As a medical interpreter and patient advocate, I helped Hispanic patients through their check-ups and physical exams. I also worked in the OB-GYN clinic, guiding Hispanic women through intimate conversations with their providers. Many of these patients were a bit hesitant to open up, but after I spoke to them in Spanish, they became more comfortable and told their stories. I remember one story in particular about “Catalina,” a woman from Mexico that immigrated to the U.S. less than a year before visiting the clinic. While waiting for the medical student to return from presenting her case to the attending, she asked me what my future plans were. I told Catalina I wanted to become a physician, and her eyes lit up—she was incredibly supportive, telling me there needed to be more Hispanic physicians and encouraged me to stay on the path. While healthcare is not an easy road, interactions like these continue to drive me—I want to be able to ease concerns, allowing patients to open up.
My family background and personal experiences as an interpreter have ignited my desire to become a physician that provides culturally competent care to patients from vulnerable communities and increase minority representation in the healthcare space. Discovering the positive impact I had as a bridge between patients and the U.S. healthcare system alone, made me imagine the impact I could have as their physician in the future. A career in medicine with public service at the center will allow me to provide direct medical care without the need for this bridge. This would enable me to address health inequities vulnerable communities are burdened by while being a role model for future first generation Americans.
What stands out the most in this essay is the student’s passion! It’s clear they’re determined to make healthcare more accessible and inclusive, which is an excellent goal to have as a future physician. The student also hits the mark in the following ways:
- Offers a unique, diverse perspective : The applicant’s background as a first-generation American brings a unique perspective to their personal statement. This diversity adds value to the medical school community and showcases the applicant's ability to bring a different cultural lens to patient care.
- Involves cultural competence and advocacy : The applicant demonstrates a clear understanding of the healthcare disparities faced by Hispanic populations and other vulnerable communities. This type of awareness is crucial to have in the medical field.
- Shares relevant experiences : The essay highlights the applicant's involvement in volunteer work at a hospital and a free clinic, where they served as a translator and patient advocate. These experiences demonstrate they understand the challenges of healthcare and are still determined to pursue a career in it.
- Aligns with the values of medicine : The applicant's desire to provide culturally competent care and increase minority representation in the healthcare field aligns with the core values of medicine, such as social justice and advocacy, making them a more attractive med school candidate.
- Is well-balanced : The student maintains a balance between their personal anecdotes and professional aspirations, ensuring the reader gains a comprehensive understanding of their motivations and qualifications.
Overall, this statement is focused and clear. It illustrates this student’s past, present, and potential future as a healthcare provider.
There are sounds, throughout the course of a day, that demand our attention and those that blend, seamlessly, into the static noise of detail that our brain chooses to filter. There is an immediacy to the social demand of a friend calling our name, the ping of an incoming text, and the incessant honking of a car as we attempt to merge lanes. On the other hand, we tend to ignore, even mute, the soft bubbling of a kettle on the stove, the footsteps of someone walking by, and the ticking of a clock.
In a society characterized by a constant influx of information, I believe the mere act of listening can be easily overlooked. Furthermore, listening is the foundation for empathy: the ability to not only understand what another is going through but also to take part in their journey is the bedrock of human relationships. I have come to realize that listening to others – not simply hearing them – is a necessary component to any relationship: the former being intentional and the latter unintentional.
For me, a fulfilling career combines my fascination with the sciences, my desire to serve the community and provides the chance to grow from a variety of relationships through listening. The field of medicine uniquely brings together my diverse interests and experiences while fulfilling my desire to help my fellow man.
Through the study of biology, I have gained a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of the biotic and abiotic environment. Combined with the exploration of the “instructions” for life, encoded within molecules no wider than strands of hair, I have cultivated a child-like fascination for the human body. The study of economics has provided insight into decision-making and how that is manifested in a world with finite resources. Additionally, my research experiences working with the genetic diversity of Sporisorium ellisii and traumatic brain injuries have given me an appreciation for not only the reliability of the scientific method but also the bridge between creativity and impact. I want to continue to foster my curiosity through a field that explores the challenges facing human life both on a microscopic and macroscopic level.
Although I found my courses interesting, I also found them lacking - I desired to have a more hands-on role within the field. In part to ameliorate this void, I took an active role in leading the committee for a health clinic that my service fraternity hosted at a major hospital in the greater [Local] community. After months of soliciting and coordinating the assistance of various student organizations as well as local professionals, there were fewer than ten attendees during the entire five-hour clinic. Rather than simply admitting failure, I, along with other committee members, went out into the community for an explanation. After listening to locals, we discovered that there was mistrust in the healthcare system. The following year, we addressed the issue by choosing a location where the community frequently gathered: a local church. We were then met with much greater success, as locals interacted with both students and professionals to express concerns regarding healthcare. Actively listening to the individuals’ concerns was the catalyst that ultimately allowed for a greater impact on the community as a whole.
After discovering the impact that could be made from listening to the community, I endeavored to make a difference on a more personal level. I found that my yearning was sated by my experience teaching others leading me to work in an urban high school through City Year following graduation. My goal for the year was to challenge myself and strive to find commonalities that transcend physical differences. Working with these students gave me invaluable experience in understanding the impact backgrounds have on perspectives and helped me develop patience while adhering to time-dependent goals. The patient-doctor relationship is similar to that of the student- teacher: both parties must be willing to learn from one another. I want to not only use my skills to help those in need but also grow from serving my patients. Medicine provides a unique challenge requiring knowledge about the background of physical ailments and an understanding of the relevant social factors that comes about through deep personal relationships.
Through my interests and extracurricular involvement I have learned to remain inquisitive but not overzealous, patient but not complacent and supportive but not overbearing. Coupled with my time volunteering in hospitals and shadowing, I know that practicing medicine provides this harmony I am striving for. In my mind, there can be no greater fulfillment than having the opportunity to enter a dynamic profession that seeks to understand the nuances of the human body, to adapt to healthcare in the 21st century and to serve the community at-large not only as a source of knowledge but also as a student of the human condition. As I embark upon this journey, I hope to gain the skills necessary to champion for the betterment of my patients. I would cherish the opportunity to critically think about the human body, to build meaningful inter-personal relationships, to be a teacher and most importantly, to listen, rather than simply hear.
This personal statement is captivating from beginning to end, and here’s why:
- Has a distinct hook : It’s always impressive when students open with seemingly unrelated hooks and tactfully connect them to their interest in medicine, which this student has done perfectly.
- It integrates diverse interests and experiences : The applicant effectively integrates their passion for the sciences, community service, and human relationships. They demonstrate how the field of medicine provides a platform to combine these interests, showing their strong critical thinking skills.
- Shows a commitment to growth and learning : The student expresses their desire to actively seek out opportunities to challenge themselves and broaden their perspectives. This commitment aligns with the values of medicine as a lifelong learning profession, showcasing their preparedness for med school.
- Has a strong conclusion : The conclusion effectively summarizes the applicant's motivations and aspirations, highlighting their desire to critically think about the human body, build meaningful relationships, and listen actively, leaving a lasting impression on the judges.
All of these elements combined create a compelling narrative that showcases the applicant's suitability and passion for a career in medicine!
The shed behind the [Hospital] in Uganda was full of broken wheelchairs. I took one apart, and began to build the framework for a standing wheel that Jeremy, an eight-year-old with cerebral palsy, could spin in circles to strengthen his spastic rotator cuff. As I baked in the midday heat, I tried to ignore my own festering doubts about the integrity of my design project. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to help Jeremy overcome his condition just using discarded parts, but I couldn’t let that stop me from trying.
My path here had not been straightforward. What had started as a project focused on repairing old medical equipment had quickly become a firsthand exploration into patient care. In the United States, healthcare providers and engineers typically work separately from one another, but in Uganda, medical equipment maintenance is performed directly in hospital wards, often bringing me face-to-face with patients. In [Town], for example, I only happened to meet Jeremy, beaming at me from his bright-red walking frame, because I was fixing his hospital bed. I smiled back, assuming our interactions would end there. But he stayed, and as he laughed at my attempts to speak L’Uganda, I started to realize how refreshing it was to have the chance to talk with a patient being impacted by my work. Noticing the pain from his shaking left shoulder, I also grasped the limits on helping patients without face-to-face interaction; I would have never thought to build Jeremy a physical therapy device had I never met him in person. Over time, I grew increasingly interested in acting in a role that bridged the gap between patient and medical technology through direct contact.
Even with my newfound interest in patient care, my exposure to the realities of healthcare disparities proved equally profound. Most strikingly, I recall my time in [Hospital’s] neonatal ICU, where I witnessed multiple premature newborns being placed into incubators only meant to fit one infant. The incubators regulated body temperature, but overcrowding compromised their functionality. One day, this overcrowding resulted in the death of a newborn girl who succumbed to the cold. As the child’s mother grieved, I sat a few feet away, filled with guilt that my inability to fix every piece of equipment made me partly responsible for her loss. Noticing my frustration, my mentor, Dr. Carlos, told me, “three years ago, only a few of these incubators were working. Now only a few are left to fix.” A life had been lost, but by our equipment maintenance, many other lives had been saved. His words encouraged me to stay resolute in my belief that the gradual efforts of the composite healthcare team can - and will - bridge disparities in healthcare. This experience reaffirmed my desire to stay invested in the development of strong medical infrastructure, specifically in a role where I can directly work with patients to avoid the outcome I witnessed at [Hospital].
Returning to [Location], I discovered that inequities in medical care, so plainly visible in the developing world, were hidden right under my nose at home. Volunteering at the [Nursing Home], a Medicaid-funded nursing home for the disadvantaged, I found that another crucial component to addressing these inequities is to connect with those who feel neglected. Here, I came across obstacles to medical care I had grown to expect, such as understaffing, older equipment, and an inability to finance high-cost treatments. However, most residents’ frustrations with their medical care were secondary to their struggles with social isolation. Olivia, one of my favorite residents, has COPD and end-stage renal failure, and cannot sit up in her bed.
Despite all her ailments, nothing hurt her more than the fact that no one came to visit her. Week by week, as we discussed everything from Latin etymology to the merits of broccoli as a side to chicken wings, I watched Olivia’s smile grow with every visit I paid her. The ability I had to brighten her day just by giving her an hour of my time every week helped me appreciate the unique privilege physicians must have to set patients at ease by letting them know that someone is continually invested in their well-being. After a few months at the [Nursing Home], Olivia surprised me with the comment that she didn’t feel alone anymore. I marveled at how just by being present in a patient’s life, I had made my own small contribution to overcome her emotional pain. I was inspired to pursue a role where I could expand upon my ability to heal patients by providing not only emotional support, but also clinical care.
My medical journey has been wayward. It has taken me to Uganda, where a boy taught me to value the patients I encounter even more than the machines I fix. It has led me back to America, where a nursing home resident made me realize the simple but powerful gesture of healing by forming connections. It has been demanding, but extremely fulfilling. As a physician, I hope to merge the lessons from all my experiences to work at the interface of science, society, and person, contributing to advancements in medical infrastructure while never losing sight of the individual patients who make medicine so meaningful.
As you read through this medical school personal statement example, pay particular attention to the way the author implements the following techniques into their personal statement:
- Opening with a compelling anecdote : The essay begins with a great description of the applicant's experience building a standing wheel for a child with cerebral palsy in Uganda. This engaging opening captures the reader's attention and creates a sense of curiosity.
- Showing personal growth and transformation : The essay demonstrates how the applicant's experiences in Uganda and at a nursing home have shaped their perspective on patient care. This portrayal of personal growth and transformation adds depth to the narrative.
- Effectively uses descriptive language and storytelling : The essay utilizes descriptive language to paint a picture of the environments and individuals they’ve encountered. The use of specific details helps the reader visualize the scenes and empathize with the experiences described.
- Linking personal experiences to broader themes : The applicant connects their experiences in Uganda and at the nursing home to broader themes of healthcare disparities, patient care, and the importance of human connection, showing their analytic skills and level of perspective.
Consider using some of these techniques to elevate your own personal statement!
As two surgical residents rushed into my room at 10:30 pm with a cart of equipment, a few nightmare scenarios raced through my mind. Where are they going to stick that tube? Why the scissors?
It turned out that my team of doctors had decided that a nasogastric (NG) tube needed to be placed immediately. By that point I had already been through a lot: years of immunosuppressant drugs and steroids that made my face moon-shaped, a series of surgeries to rearrange my digestive tract, and a few bowel obstructions that led me to the emergency room. For some reason, none of those experiences haunt me more than recalling that NG tube on that night. Five painful attempts to force the tube down my nose and into my throat were all unsuccessful. I was in tears, one of the residents was in tears, and blood and mucus covered my hospital gown; the night had gone downhill fast.
Enduring grueling medical interventions was nothing out of the ordinary for me, but the lack of conversation or connection with my team left me emotionally unprepared and in shock. Alone and recovering from surgery, I was vulnerable at that moment and suddenly felt like the doctors were not on my team. I began to feel like the residents were disappointed in me and that I had caused the procedure to fail. I still remember being unable to process what had happened and staring out the window all that night. I knew that residents had already undergone years of training, yet seeing one resident cry made me wonder if she was just as scared as I was. In the same way that nothing could have prepared me for that night, countless hours of training as a medical student does not necessarily prepare one to gain the trust of a vulnerable, anxious patient.
In the days following this experience, I developed a new appreciation for my primary care physician at the time, colorectal surgeon Dr. [NAME]. It is frightening to be surgically sliced into, but Dr. [NAME] had a way about him of making every decision and action seem perfectly natural and safe. He greeted me the same way every morning: “kak dila, Aaronchik,” asking me how I was doing and calling me by the Russian name only my mom used. We would speak in English, but when he dropped in a Russian word at the beginning or end it reminded me that he recognized me not just as a patient, but as a person. His constant efforts to connect with me and reassure me were the basis of my confidence in Dr. [NAME]. I knew that he had gone through extensive training and was technically qualified, but his emotional appeals were the overwhelming factor in the state of my morale. The atmosphere of security Dr. [NAME] brought into the room was the most memorable part of my interactions with him and separated him from all the other physicians I had seen.
In the years prior to the NG tube incident unfolding, through countless conversations with attendings, residents, and medical students who took care of me throughout my adolescence, I cultivated a deep-rooted interest in pursuing a medical career. I learned a great deal about the intellectual and physical challenges of medical school and residency. However, my challenging experience with the NG tube provided me with a new understanding of patient care: I realized that it is not necessarily about what you know but about how you integrate that knowledge to make a meaningful connection with a human being under your care.
Dr. [NAME] exemplified how critical it is as a physician to instill palpable trust, not through pedigree and authority but through humanity. Thinking about Dr. [NAME] crystallized the feelings I had for years as a patient, that the field of medicine could be better, not only through technical advances but through the human touch and word, and that I could directly make this happen. Attending medical school will provide me with the tools and education I need to return to the wards, not as a patient but as a provider. In the back of my mind, I will always retain the inspiration of Dr. [NAME], who helped me recognize that my perspective from hardship will one day benefit those under my care.
As another one of the excellent medical school personal statement examples shared in this guide, let’s breakdown what makes this essay so effective:
- Uses personal anecdotes to convey emotional impact : The essay describes the applicant's emotional state during the NG tube placement, highlighting their vulnerability, shock, and feelings of disappointment and isolation. The use of specific details adds depth and evokes empathy from the reader.
- Maintains a consistent theme : Throughout the essay, the theme of the importance of empathy, connection, and the human touch in patient care is consistently emphasized, creating a cohesive narrative that reinforces the applicant's passion and commitment to medicine.
- It defines what good medicine means to them : The student explains the lack of empathy they faced as a patient and how it informed their own philosophy on medicine and the type of doctor they’d like to become, giving the committee concrete future goals and demonstrating their intent and ambition.
- Reflections on the broader implications of their experiences : The applicant reflects on their experiences as a patient and draws broader conclusions about the field of medicine as a whole, which demonstrates their ability to think critically about the healthcare system and how they can contribute to it.
All of these features work together to ensure this personal statement follows the three E’s!
“[NAME] is a seventeen-year-old female with suicidal ideations.” The emergency room nurse continued her report as I nervously riffled through [NAME]’s transfer of care paperwork. Looking toward the room where [NAME] and her parents were waiting to speak with me, I could not shake the overwhelming feeling that I was unprepared.
As a new EMT, I was filled with excitement and anticipation to gain experience in the medical field. After months of training, I was finally using my skills to help real patients. As I saw it, this would affirm my desire to become a doctor, a goal I have had since my aunt was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer when I was eight years old. I witnessed firsthand the comfort that my aunt’s medical team brought to my family during such a daunting time in our lives, and I knew then that I wanted to one day be that source of knowledge and support for others.
My aunt’s illness also illuminated my interest in the science of medicine. I spent a lot of time learning from my uncle, a medical research scientist, who answered my countless questions about astrocytomas, innovative surgeries, and chemotherapies. I carried my fascination for the medical field with me throughout my undergraduate education, where my coursework, research, and my EMT training prepared me to care for patients biologically. And while I knew how to assess vitals, manage an airway, deliver medications, and even the physiologic processes of those actions, I now found myself face-to-face with a much more personal facet of medicine. I felt utterly underqualified to care for [NAME] psychologically.
I knocked apprehensively on the glass sliding door to the emergency department exam room. “Hi [NAME], my name is [NAME]. I’m an EMT with the ambulance service here to transport you to the mental health facility. How are you feeling?” [NAME]’s solemn expression and her parents’ frightened eyes heightened my nerves. Had I already asked the wrong thing? Was I equipped to handle this situation?
After helping [NAME] into the ambulance and taking my seat, I searched for something to say. The nurse had explained that social pressures including moving away for college were exacerbating [NAME]’s struggles with anxiety and depression. I was afraid that approaching topics such as friends and school, as I normally would with patients her age, would make her more upset. Reaching for the blood pressure cuff near her stack of belongings, I spotted a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
“Are you reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? I love that book!” I exclaimed, nervously hoping for a connection.
As it turned out, like me, [NAME] loved to read. I smiled as she looked up and began talking excitedly about her favorite books. [NAME] continued to open up, but an uneasiness returned to her voice when she asked me about the facility and how long her treatment would take. I knew my answer was not one she wanted to hear.
Preparing to deliver the difficult news, I was reminded of talking to my sisters. Growing up, uncertain times were the norm for me and my sisters because of our aunt’s diagnosis. Like me, my sisters were afraid and confused as we watched one of our favorite people slowly succumb to her illness. As the oldest, I often took on the responsibility of explaining my aunt’s condition to my sisters in a way I knew they would understand. When it came time for my aunt to go into hospice care, I wanted to be the one to tell my sisters, knowing I could string the words together delicately for them. It was through caring for my younger sisters that I developed the communication skills needed to discuss difficult subjects.
Holding [NAME]’s hand as I would my own sister’s, I explained that she would likely miss out on time with friends and family during her treatment. I consoled her and gave reassurance that her wellbeing was the main priority of both her medical team and her loved ones.
Offering [NAME] some solace during that uncertain time in her life exemplifies why I want to go into medicine. Through my aunt’s physicians and the ones I have shadowed, I have always been inspired by the role each played in ensuring that patients felt comfortable, informed, and cared for. As an EMT, comforting words were the most I had to offer [NAME], and I learned that these are sometimes the most important medicine we have to offer. I want to be a physician so I can gain the knowledge and skills necessary to care for patients both medically and emotionally through hard times.
While not every patient opens up as [NAME] did, I always do my best to ensure each patient feels safe and heard. I often think of my aunt and my sisters during these encounters and how I would want them to be treated. Studying medicine will be a way for me to honor my family’s story and to use the way it has shaped me to care for others. While I still at times doubt myself when caring for patients, these situations drive my motivation to become a physician. I have learned that I enjoy working in an ever-advancing field where each day brings unique challenges. A career in medicine will always be fulfilling, as every patient interaction is an opportunity for me to become better. I am excited to continue to face challenging situations throughout my career which will push me to be an empathetic physician.
As you read through these medical school personal statement examples, you’ll notice many of them focus on patient care that goes beyond simply diagnosing and treating illness. Instead, they focus on empathetic care and comfort.
This is because so many personal statements tend to focus solely on the former, and approaching patient care from a different angle can make your statement more distinct.
This essay also focuses on being an empathetic physician, which helps it stand out. Here are some other parts of the essay that also stand out:
- It shows vulnerability : As an aspiring med student, you’ll have much to learn about healthcare. This student demonstrates their awareness of this by stating they felt unprepared to handle the psychological aspects of patient care, proving they are self-aware and willing to improve their skill set.
- It integrates the past, present, and future : The applicant effectively weaves together their past experiences, current interactions with patients, and future aspirations in medicine. They draw connections between their personal experiences, their growth as an EMT, and their vision for their future.
- It takes an interdisciplinary approach : The applicant brings a unique perspective by sharing how their background as an EMT prepared them for patient care, but also emphasizes the importance of addressing psychological aspects of medicine, adding depth to their understanding of healthcare.
Overall, the student is able to demonstrate their passion, limitations, and skills while also proving their dedication to patient-centered care and knowledge that comprehensive patient care involves treating the mind and body.
The radio went off, and we burst into action. My crew and I grabbed our medical equipment, taking off in the direction of the dispatch, a student overdose in a nearby freshman dorm room.
I had joined the [COLLEGE]’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) as a freshman because I wanted to be a doctor. I’ve had this dream since I was four, when I began going on rounds with my father at the hospital. I loved seeing the positive impact my father’s job had on people. It made me proud of my father to know that his care helped all of those patients, struggling with fear and anxiety over their ailments, feel safe and comforted. I knew that one day I wanted to have the same impact on people. That excitement about medicine led to my study of pre-medicine and health care economics in college. But my studies, my health care research, and shadowing doctors were not enough to satisfy my medical aspirations. I wanted to participate firsthand. MERT was an opportunity to gain hands-on medical experience.
That night, on the short way over to the dorm, my mind raced. I was just a freshman, with barely more than an untested skill set and a few months of response experience. Not surprisingly, I was second-guessing myself. An overdose? Can I even treat that? And then suddenly there I was, on scene, unbelievably scared. I looked around the room, put on my gloves, took a deep breath, and forgot my fears.
“Hello, my name is [NAME]. I’m an EMT. What’s going on today?”
A freshman, stressed about school and family issues, had overdosed on antidepressants mixed with a few Tylenol and chased with some vodka. She was having trouble breathing, so we started to set up an oxygen mask to help her. But she fought us. She kept trying to take the mask off, repeatedly telling us that she did not want it, then yelling at us that she didn’t need it.
I began to plead with her, my voice nearly breaking. As I slowly attempted to wrestle the mask back into place over her mouth and nose, I told her that we were just trying to help. Her response will never leave me. In a sudden fit of calm, she grabbed my hand, kissed it, looked me in the eyes and said, “I know.”
We continued to care for our patient. Soon enough, the paramedics arrived on scene and they strapped her into a stair chair to be taken to the ambulance and then to the hospital.
My team and I sat in the squad room immediately after the call shaking and wired. As we debriefed and enjoyed a post-call pizza, I began to realize the importance of our interventions. I had seen my fair share of drunken patients, minor injuries, and flu patients—ailments that, while dangerous, allow the care provider time to think, ask questions, and assess. But here, the intervention required had been more immediate. The more experienced EMTs around me walked me through the debrief. They aided me in overcoming my panic and apprehension that we could have done more and that this could have happened to someone I knew.
I thought back to what the patient had said to me, that she knew I wanted to help. Her words made me think about why I wanted to help. On one level, the answer was simple: I wanted to help because I knew I could. But on a deeper level, I helped because I want to have the same positive impact on people as my father. I want to make people feel safe and cared for. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than using my knowledge and skills to assist someone who really needs me.
This event was a turning point for me. I began to dedicate as much time as possible to MERT, eventually rising through the ranks to become a clinical crew chief and then captain.
More recently, toward the end of junior year, I had another overdose call. Another stressed college student, but this time he was completely unresponsive from a heroin overdose. Through proper airway management, I assisted in saving his life. This time there was no second-guessing or anxiety, just a determination to help the patient. I led my crew through the call and, after the call, the debrief. As a leader in MERT, I was able to walk them through overcoming their own feelings of doubt and anxiety, so they could be proud of the work they had done.
Being a college EMT offers a unique set of difficulties. We treat our friends and colleagues, seeing them at their worst. And when it’s all over, we have to sit down, write up what we saw in a patient care report, and then try to go back to just being college students who eat pizza with their friends on weeknights. But I love the work I do with MERT and the determination, stress-management, and compassion I get to practice through it.
MERT has become an integral part of my life. It challenges me every day to learn more and apply my knowledge in critical situations. This has been a hugely influential step for me on my path to becoming a doctor. I know that as I continue learning and striving as an EMT, I will encounter many more high-stress, high-stakes situations. These experiences will shape me as I grow into a more proficient, emotionally adept care provider. I look forward to the challenges I will encounter as an EMT, and later as a doctor.
Sharing a tale where you’re the hero who saves a patient is always a great way to spruce up your personal statement, as this student has! However, that’s not the only aspect that makes this a winning personal statement:
- It demonstrates their personal motivation : The writer shares a childhood dream of becoming a doctor that was inspired by their father's impact on patients. This demonstrates a long-standing passion for medicine.
- It shows they have hands-on experience : Having experience in the field tells the admissions committee you’re already honing the skills required to thrive in the field. The writer discusses their involvement in MERT,which shows their proactive approach to pursuing opportunities beyond classroom learning.
- It's realistic : The writer acknowledges the difficulties of being a college EMT, treating friends and colleagues, and dealing with the emotional aftermath of intense situations. This shows their understanding of the complexities and demands of the medical profession.
- It includes their future outlook : The essay concludes by expressing enthusiasm for the continued challenges and growth opportunities that lie ahead as an EMT and future doctor. This demonstrates a resilient and forward-thinking mindset that the admissions committee will surely appreciate.
While this type of experience can certainly add intrigue to your personal statement, remember that you don’t need to share such a heroic tale to write a captivating essay! Any experience you share in your personal statement, if explained descriptively and connected to your desire to pursue medicine, can be powerful!
“We only use around 10% of our brains.” Ms. [LAST NAME]’s voice permeated through the silent 4th grade classroom. All of us intently took notes while she read off of the day’s lesson plan. My brow furrowed - was this correct?
At the dinner table, I asked my parents. They smiled, and told me to use my resources to find out. I used the family computer to ask Google, and as I suspected, website after website labeled the statement as a myth. Many sources echoed a similar rationale, stating that “FDG-PET, relying on the high quantities of glucose absorbed by Neurons and Glia, shows large amounts of brain activity even when we’re asleep.” I read the statement again. And again. We’d learned about glucose in our science class, but what in the world were Neurons and Glia?
My curiosity pushed me down a rabbit hole. The more I read, the more questions I had. What’s an action potential? What’s a synapse? I kept searching until I heard my mother say “Tulog na, [NAME]” It was time to go to bed.
Progressing through school, I never fully understood the answers to my questions. This changed when I took psychology, where we focused on the brain. Although this knowledge answered my 4th grade self’s inquiries, tens more replaced them, all culminating in one large question: how does our brain, and body as a whole, even work?
Looking for answers, I turned to AI. Believing it to be the closest estimate to how the brain worked, I learned Python and other languages. The deeper I went, the more enamored I became - fixing bugs was extremely gratifying, creating a positive feedback loop. Eventually, I wrote and trained my own AI, my first triumph in a sea of errors. By 10th grade, I was set on entering the world of Computer Science (CS). At the time, however, I didn’t realize that something was missing from this profession.
My perspective changed in 11th grade because of one word: Hyperaldosteronism. Battling with hypertension and hypokalemia throughout the majority of his life, my dad finally had a diagnosis. The culprit was a peanut sized tumor in his adrenal glands. The surgeon was confident in its removal. I was amazed - she, in her early 30s, had devised a minimally invasive procedure to resect the tumor. In the same way us coders wrote, debugged, and endlessly tested code, this surgeon studied, tested, and applied her knowledge of human anatomy to craft a less invasive but equally successful procedure. This experience helped me understand exactly what CS was missing: the element of serving others.
Upon diving into what it meant to be a healthcare professional, I realized medicine held the same allure as CS; both were mentally stimulating, and learning the etiology of diseases gave that same feeling of gratification that pushed me in CS. However, instead of a screen displaying lines of code, it was a smiling face that evidenced a job well done. This contrast became apparent when shadowing a neurosurgeon. Our first case was a veteran presenting for a post-op checkup. Previously rendered unable to walk because of an IED, I watched in awe as he took his first steps in 5 years. “It still hurts like hell,” he muttered jokingly. His wife replied, “but you’re walking ain’tcha?” The joy that emanated from deep patient-provider relationships recapitulated itself as I observed how other physicians went the extra mile to guide their patients through tough moments in their lives. Sure, it would take an extra 10 minutes to fully explain a treatment plan, but every one of those seconds was a brick in the shared path to healing.
At [PROGRAM], I’ve explored the intersection of computer science and patient care. Working in a Digital Pathology lab, I am able to apply the concepts of computer vision to aid pathologists in their meticulous investigation of patient slides. My PI believes in using the creative process to solve problems, which provides the independence for us to experience the beauty of the scientific method. Despite the steep learning curve of such an approach, each “eureka!” moment became easier and easier to achieve. This culminated in [TOOL NAME], a tool developed by our lab to expedite the process of validating uncountably many slide annotations. Although I felt a great sense of accomplishment seeing my 3 years of work elegantly manifest in a simple yet powerful tool, the same sense of longing that irked me in high school once again reared its ugly head. I missed the patient-provider interactions of clinical work that completed the field for me.
To that end, I have continued to pursue the provider perspective of medicine. From Cardiology and Endocrinology to Gastroenterology and Neurology, each opportunity showcased the importance of compassionate care. Through these amazing physicians, I was able to see the difference the extra mile makes as patient after patient thanked their provider for explaining their condition and the rationale for their treatment.
With these experiences, my love for medicine has grown immensely. While I am immersed in these clinical settings, it’s apparent that there’s no way humans only use 10% of their brains; rather, seeing and modeling the compassionate work of my physician role models has made it clear I use 100% of my brain when serving those facing paralytic questions of health.
Here’s what works well in this medical school personal statement example:
- It starts with a quote : Starting your statement off with a quote can make it cliche unless you do what this student has and use a personal quote that a teacher, friend, or family member—and not an influential leader—said.
- It’s coherent and shows progression : The essay flows logically, connecting the writer's childhood curiosity to their exploration of computer science and medicine, and arriving at their current passion for patient care. This allows the reader to follow the writer's journey of self-discovery.
- It’s passionate and authentic : Throughout the essay, the writer's genuine passion for both computer science and medicine shines through. While many students solely focus on medicine, including these additional passions helps set this statement apart and add authenticity.
- It shares relevant and desirable experiences : The writer mentions their experiences shadowing physicians in various specialties, which provided them with insight into the medical field and reinforced their love for medicine. These experiences demonstrate their commitment to and readiness for medicine.
In summary, this personal statement effectively combines the writer's intellectual pursuits, personal experiences, and reflections to showcase their commitment to medicine. It also portrays their understanding of the importance of compassionate care and their unique perspective as someone with a background in computer science.
If you have a passion other than medicine, use it to your advantage to make your statement memorable! The committee knows you aren’t just interested in medicine, so give them deeper insight into your background and what makes you, you!
“I don’t know.” Those were the words of my infectious disease specialist, who saw me after I lost 20 pounds and was suffering from a temperature of 100-102˚F nearly 24 hours a day. What followed in the next eight months was a battery of tests; everything from Lupus to cancer was ruled out, and upon coming to a diagnostic dead end, I confronted those three devastating words. How could they come out of a physician’s mouth? My disease was labeled as a fever of unknown origin, or FUO. Unlike the other times I had been sick, there was no pill to take or treatment plan to follow.
This experience not only fueled my desire to pursue medicine, but also helped me overcome what was the toughest year of my life. I emerged from the FUO with a new sense of resilience that I attribute to the myriad of interactions with my doctor. Furthermore, I always carried the implicit lesson I learned from him: that it is vital to recognize you will not know everything, but it is equally as important to keep searching for answers.
Ultimately, this poignant realization transformed my deeply ingrained fear of the unknown into a passion to seek, confront, and solve challenging problems. More importantly, it provided a path to pursue that passion; I knew that guiding people through harrowing times, regardless of whether I had all the answers, would give me the same satisfaction that exuded from my doctor when the FUO finally faded away a year later. Specifically, I recognized the courage and commitment that drove my doctor to never surrender were also virtues of my own character. This was made apparent in many experiences, such as rescuing a brother and sister from the deep end as a lifeguard or consoling a decompensating man in the back of an ambulance as an EMT.
My experiences during my FUO and the shadowing of others in healthcare revealed the importance of being comfortable with uncertainty. I have realized that success does not come from “faking it until you make it;” instead, it stems from reaching out to others with the purpose of expanding your own knowledge so that you may in turn guide those who are lost. Early on, I was afraid to do this, as I thought physicians, and therefore me as well, should always have an answer. However, after observing what I believed was an omniscient hospitalist ask the nurses about what they thought of each patient before even walking into the patients’ rooms, that fear subsided.
This realization affected my attitude in the lab as well. To me, research is an archetypal form of the unknown; it is impossible to predict whether a single transformation, let alone an entire experiment, will succeed. My new mentality caused the failed iterations of my antibody cloning projects to become valuable information rather than red X’s in my notebook, and instead of hesitating to tell my PI that “It didn’t work, again,” I strode into his office, determined to brainstorm a new strategy. While this uncertainty was unnerving at first, my lesson on confronting such situations anchored my resolve to be both relentless in effort and unafraid to approach others for guidance.
Despite the drive that emanates from having a passion constantly being reinforced by experiences inside and outside of a healthcare setting, I knew that without certain principles such as resiliency, I would be unable to help others like my specialist helped me. His tenacity inspired me to seek a volunteer experience abroad that challenged me to develop a critical consciousness in an unfamiliar culture. While the societal ills plaguing low-income Scottish communities were similar to those in the U.S., it was difficult to persuade the community members that I was an advocate rather than a critical outsider. The service-users were initially skeptical of my intentions, but I was able to break free from the “voluntourism” stereotype by adapting my dialogue to fit the nuances I encountered.
Attacking this problem required reaching out to [NAME], my supervisor. Whether it was how to respond to someone who tried to warn me about the “dangers of the neighborhood” or brainstorming a more appropriate phrase in the workout guide I was creating, I treated the uncertainty and problems I encountered as temporary roadblocks that could be overcome with enough effort. Ultimately, drawing upon my resiliency resulted in a community gym guide that the organization later printed en masse to hand out to new members. In light of my previous problems in acclimating to the culture, I was ecstatic to hear that I had made a lasting impact on people in what otherwise would have been a transient experience.
Ironically, hearing “I don’t know” from a physician ultimately led me to realizing that I want to become one. I believe the principles and lessons derived from that event and the experiences that followed have set me on the path to medical school with the wind at my back. While I dread the day I utter those three words to my patient, I know that admitting so will never dampen my desire to change lives. It is my values and passion in conjunction with the knowledge gained from facing challenges riddled with uncertainty that I will confidently guide others through their toughest times so they too can pursue their passions unencumbered by sickness or fear.
- It tells a unique story : This story is told in a creative way in which ambiguity is turned into inspiration and effectively describes how this student decided to pursue medicine.
- It shows awareness : It can be easy to paint doctors as all-knowing individuals who have all the answers. But this isn’t realistic! This student brings attention to this and shows their self-awareness by stating they may not always know the answer as a physician, but it won’t stop them from trying to change lives.
- It immerses the reader : The detailed imagery and inclusion of dialogue adds a sense of immediacy and authenticity to the narrative. It brings the reader into the scene and makes the experiences more relatable.
- There’s emotional appeal : The author effectively appeals to the reader's emotions by sharing personal struggles and triumphs. By expressing vulnerability and reflecting on the impact of their experiences, the author carefully creates an emotional connection with the reader.
By employing these writing techniques, the author creates a personal statement that is both compelling and impactful–two traits you’ll notice all of the medical school personal statement examples in this guide have!
When I first learned how to whistle as a child, I couldn’t stop. My whistling was endless, from morning to night, until my exasperated parents told me an old Korean superstition that whistling at night brings out snakes and evil spirits. The fact that they were saying this to tame my newfound talents flew past my head. To keep the snakes and spirits safely at bay, I dutifully stopped whistling after sundown.
Because my parents are both doctors who worked long hours during my childhood, they often could not pick me up after school. As the shadows grew longer and darker in the empty school hallways, I would often avoid bad omens out of fear of what could be lurking, such as steering clear of the 13th classroom. At my violin recitals, I would cross my fingers and knock on wood hoping my parents would be able to get out of work and attend. A lot of the time, I was unable to see my parents’ faces among the audience as I got up on the stage. My superstitious beliefs consumed my mind, and I found myself relentlessly performing these habits without a second thought as to their effectiveness.
All throughout high school, I felt pressured to follow in my parents’ footsteps and become a physician. From my childhood experiences, my understanding of medicine was limited to the sacrifices my parents made as they were both hard workers and dedicated physicians. My dad had to stay in South Korea to support us, while my mom lived the life of a single mom in America, without actually being a single mom. I had and still have deep respect for their sacrifices, but I also saw the toll it took on our family. As I entered [COLLEGE], I started taking pre-med courses, but by then, I had a complicated relationship with medicine and had internal conflicts about what it meant to be a doctor.
Just as my childhood superstitious tendencies had been engraved in me without taking a critical look at them, I saw my parents’ lives as doctors as examples of what I should be without questioning it. I didn’t have my own true passion at that point to support this goal. I took some time to reflect within and considered other avenues for my future. Instead of pursuing medicine, I decided to major in Psychology and Public Health.
When my friend was in a bus accident, I spent a great deal of time in the ICU. When I wasn’t by her bedside, I looked around the ICU, curious about the doctors’ discussing their patients’ progress and their ability to heal others, the spotless, white equipment everywhere, and the quiet, contemplative environment filled with people dedicated to helping their fellow human being in pain. This profound experience inspired me to shadow an ICU physician at [HOSPITAL NAME] Hospital to gain real firsthand experience and to decide if this was truly the right path for me.
My experiences there transformed my thoughts about what it meant to be a doctor, when the mother of a coma patient clutched at the coat of the attending physician, begging for answers as to why her previously healthy, happy daughter was now fighting for her life. Suddenly, being a doctor was not just science classes and doctor parents missing my recitals as a child. Being a doctor meant having the education and abilities to give comfort to patients’ families, just as much as it meant treating illness and saving lives. The way that the attending calmly communicated methods of recourse and explanations for the coma struck something within me. No one else in the world could have given that mother the relief and counsel that she needed at a time when she was at her most vulnerable. I wanted nothing more than to take on that role and finally knew, after all this experience, that medicine was my calling.
As a senior student teetering on graduation and going out into the world, and with all the new insight I had gained through shadowing, I decided that becoming a physician was one of my ultimate life goals. With the renewed sense of direction I garnered, along with the firm conviction that a career in medicine is the right path for me, I am confident that I will be able to take on a rigorous pre-med curriculum and succeed. During the time that I was not pre-med, I was able to discover my passion for medicine. As such, this time in my life was instrumental in getting me to where I am today. It would be the privilege of a lifetime to be accepted into [COLLEGE NAME]’s post-baccalaureate program, and I know that it would provide an extraordinary foundation to become a great physician.
Here are some key points to consider as you reflect on this personal statement:
- It uses engaging storytelling : The personal statement begins with a descriptive and unique childhood anecdote about whistling and superstition, immediately capturing the reader's attention and immersing the reader.
- It has a clear purpose : The personal statement conveys the author's newfound passion and commitment to medicine. It demonstrates a clear understanding of the challenges and responsibilities of being a physician and the desire to make a difference in people's lives.
- It flows well : The essay transitions smoothly from discussing childhood experiences to exploring the author's realization and passion for medicine. The transition is logical and allows the reader to understand the development of the author's aspirations.
- It’s specific : The personal statement mentions shadowing experiences and highlights the author's desire to pursue a rigorous pre-med curriculum. It shows that the author has gained practical exposure to the field and is dedicated to acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in it.
- It’s tailored to the institution : The personal statement mentions the student’s desire to be accepted into a specific post-baccalaureate program, indicating research and knowledge about the institution. This demonstrates a genuine interest in the program and a willingness to contribute to its community.
The author's ability to convey their personal experiences and evoke emotion makes this statement stand out. It is a testament to their growth, resilience, and unwavering determination to pursue medicine.
Warm covers slide off my body as I come to my senses. In the corner of my eyes, dust dances in the amber rays that shine through the blinds. As my fingers tap away at my phone, astray text catches my eye. My childhood friend, [NAME], took his own life at a park in our hometown.
Caught in a moment I could never prepare for, my mind races. I inhale, then exhale. “This changes nothing,” I assure myself. Tears soak my eyes and my vision blurs.
As the days passed, I found it difficult to look at life and school the same way. I grappled with the question of how I could become a doctor knowing that I would witness death again. Cycling through the stages of grief, I became irate on certain days and felt hopeless on others.
To cope, I went to great lengths to watch my diet, manage my sleep hygiene and ensure that my health came first. Through countless nights, I would flip through pages on various philosophies and religions; of note to me were Buddhism, Christianity and Stoicism. No amount of self care and enlightenment could bring [NAME] back. Instead, it helped me come to terms with the difficult truth that I had been denying: [NAME]’s passing changed everything.
As I came to accept [NAME]’s passing, I developed the belief that we are responsible for ascribing meaning to the sacrifices of those who have passed. Since [NAME] had struggled with addiction, I began reading to better understand the functions of addiction and observe the many ways it manifested, seeking to spread mental health awareness on campus.
With this knowledge, I would aim to help patients find value in their own lives, in spite of the physical and mental ailments they may face. My responsibility as a doctor would be two-fold - just as I would be responsible for diagnosing and treating patients on a physical level, I must also ensure that their emotional needs are met and they feel comfortable working with me as their doctor.
With time, I saw the impact of my approach pay off. I enlisted to become co-director of the advocacy branch of [COLLEGE NAME]s Active Minds chapter, spreading my story in hopes it would inspire others. I reached out to students who were struggling with their own mental health and provided them with aid and support using the iCBT tools I learned through [COLLEGE NAME]’s STAND program.
By taking into account the lives of the patients and their own mental wellbeing, their path to recovery can be much smoother - their quality of life will improve and they will realize that the doctor is working for the betterment of the patient’s life.
It was through these connections that I began to discover my innate passion and talent for guiding others. By ensuring fellow students and friends felt heard and understood, I could ease their worries and alleviate their tensions in life.
I find this property of the human condition charming; all it takes is a touch of connection to realize that the strife and tiredness that so often arises in life does not control us. I wish to give my future patients hope that even if they are suffering from a physical or mental condition, there will always be a blissful part of our soul that we can find ourselves comfortable in during the healing process.
Though many clinicians are involved in this healing process and can provide this necessary ‘calming presence,’ great doctors effectively shoulder an immense amount of trust and responsibility from both their patients and their colleagues. They often decide how to treat patients while balancing their wealth of knowledge with empathy and compassion.
As a doctor, I would work to use this influence in order to ensure that the needs of people of color, women, LGBTQ+ communities and individuals facing mental illness are properly addressed. My time at [COLLEGE] allowed me to interact and work with members of these communities - opportunities that I did not have in the more culturally homogenous state of [STATE].
My care for patients would extend beyond empathy and compassion. Whether I was looking to elevate my experience in research by administering psychological tests to patients taking initiative to elevate my involvement in Active Minds, [COLLEGE]s mental health organization, I have always sought for ways to pursue new and enriching experiences beyond what was expected of me.
Rather than taking a top-down approach to medicine, it would be my job to facilitate a connection that allows both the patient and myself to grow and understand more about one another.
Just as I would learn more about each patient and case that I review, I know that I would constantly have to research and incorporate new developments in medicine. I hope to embrace these changes in an effort to understand how the body and mind continue to evolve. By approaching each day as a learning experience, rather than a set mission with a set end, I hope to continue expanding my knowledge by understanding patients better, staying informed on the latest treatments and navigating public policy well beyond medical school and residency.
[NAME]’s passing brought me much heartache and grief. Through time, this grief has become a transformative experience. Rather than lamenting on his passing, I hope to do well on his legacy. Just as his deep laughter once brought joy to my life, perhaps my work will afford a future patient many more days of laughter and life.
There are multiple aspects of this medical school personal statement example that work well:
- It uses an engaging narrative : The personal statement follows a narrative structure, starting with the initial event and progressing through the author's emotional and intellectual development. This structure helps engage the reader and creates a cohesive flow to the story.
- Its integration of personal experience and academic interest : The author effectively connects their personal experience of loss with their academic interest in medicine. They demonstrate how their personal journey led them to develop a strong commitment to mental health advocacy and patient care.
- It uses concrete anecdotes : The author includes specific anecdotes and experiences to illustrate their growth and passion for helping others. These anecdotes provide concrete examples of their commitment to medicine.
- It ends strong : The author mentions their friend’s legacy and their desire to continue it through their work as a physician, which leaves an impression on the readers and adds depth to their motivation to join the field.
This personal statement is emotional and captivating. It provides the committee with a glimpse of who this student is, what they have been through, and how they resiliently used adversity as inspiration to become a better physician and person overall.
While many students focus on proving their ability to be great physicians, few also prove their ability and desire to be great people overall, but the two go hand in hand! Demonstrating both can make you a more attractive and well-rounded candidate.
The doctor’s voice faded as I stared blankly at the wall behind her. Tears welled in my eyes, and the staccato sips of the oxygen regulator quickened with my pulse. The words “We can’t do anything for you,” echoed and stung.
Just a couple of years before, I identified as a healthy, active young woman, but now I felt like a prisoner in my own body. Bound to 24-hour oxygen, I was nearing end-stage pulmonary hypertension from multiple blood clots that turned to scar tissue in my lungs, and the doctor was telling me the disease would only progress.
Just as vividly as I remember the doctor saying nothing could be done, I also remember the day the care team came into my hospital room after my pulmonary thromboendarterectomy to discuss the Results of my most recent pulmonary diffusion scan. My heart pounded. I wanted nothing more than to hear that I would be okay and that I could return to activities like running and backpacking that previously brought me so much joy.
As my physician pointed out the differences between my pre- and post-op scans, smiles and tears emerged on every face in the room. After two years of severely limited lung capacity, my lungs had nearly normalized, the hypertension was gone, and my heart would heal over the next few months.
I am often at a loss for words when trying to convey the impact my doctors and care team had on the trajectory of my life, and I would not be who I am today without their empathy and dedication to improving my health. Although I always had a strong interest in medicine, this transformative experience inspired me to pursue a career as a physician so I may help others as my physicians have helped me.
One month after my surgery, I went back to school motivated and eager to advance in my prerequisites and achieve my goal of attending medical school and becoming a physician. I earned As in every class I took, often setting the curve on exams and accepting requests by professors to tutor my peers.
Outside of school, I sought out non-profit organizations that aligned with my values and fueled my passion for service, health equity, and education. I dedicated my time to Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) where I helped organize fundraisers to repeal [STATE]s Three Strikes sentencing law.
I also volunteer at the [CLINIC NAME] where I am conducting a client-based study that will impact clinic policy, procedures, and recruitment to better serve marginalized communities.
Along the way, I discovered a love and gift for human connection. Through these human connections, I learned that being a physician does not always mean “fixing” people’s ailments, but making sure people feel heard and validated as they receive the care every human deserves.
While working as a medical assistant, I helped take care of a young, female patient who suffered from a worsening and debilitating eye condition. She came to us desperate, scared, and discouraged after being referred out of six clinics.
When she arrived, I gathered a thorough medical history, taking note of the details leading up to and following the start of her symptoms. As she described her significant decline in vision, she broke down and shared how terrified she was. Drawing from my own experience, I gave her time and space to express her fears and concerns, reassuring her that we were there to take care of her.
Given her recent travel history, we identified a parasitic infection as a likely diagnosis, and we urgently referred her to the top infectious disease clinic in our area. Following this appointment, the patient emailed our clinic to thank us for listening to her and making her feel like she mattered.
During times of uncertainty, the most reassuring gift my physicians gave me was their time, allowing me to feel understood and supported. Knowing I have the capacity and tools to do the same for others is one of the many motivations that will carry me through medical school and beyond.
Reflecting on these experiences, I now understand medicine to be as much of a social practice as it is a scientific one, and, as a physician, I will prioritize patient advocacy, empathetic listening, cultural competency, and holistic approaches to care.
Additionally, after seeing medicine through the lens of a patient, I am fortunate to know what is at stake when someone’s health is stripped from them and am not afraid to be vulnerable or express humility when faced with challenges that do not have a clear resolution. I believe uncovering patient-specific variables is not only key to avoiding generalizations and potential misdiagnoses, but also to fostering the meaningful doctor-patient relationships essential for successful, equitable treatment.
I have been a runner since I was twelve years old but thought I would never run again after I got sick. When running now, my mind sometimes wanders back to that day in the doctor’s office when I sat tethered to an oxygen tank and struggled to accept that life as I knew it was over. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, listen to the rhythmic taps of my shoes on the pavement, and take inventory of the immense gratitude I feel for life and the physicians who gave me mine back.
I smile, open my eyes, and run into that feeling of lightness, knowing I can provide that for others.
If out of all the medical school personal statement examples, this one catches your eye, here are its most noteworthy features that you can implement in your own essay:
- It has an emotional impact : The writer effectively conveys the emotional turmoil they experienced when receiving the diagnosis and hearing the words "We can't do anything for you." The details evoke a sense of empathy, putting the reader right in the writer’s shoes.
- It demonstrates excellence and passion : The writer showcases their academic achievements, earning top grades and setting the curve in their classes. They also describe their involvement in non-profit organizations which demonstrate their dedication, leadership, and commitment to making a positive impact.
- They reflect on medicine : The writer reflects on their understanding of medicine as a social practice in addition to a scientific one. Their acknowledgment of the complexity and uncertainties of medicine shows their willingness to express humility-–an important and often overlooked trait for physicians to have.
- It demonstrates resilience : The passage ends on a hopeful note, as the writer reflects on their ability to run again and the immense gratitude they feel for life and their physicians. They express their determination to provide that sense of lightness and hope to others, proving they have clear direction and intent.
This personal statement is highly reflective, shows the writer’s vulnerability and humility, and proves they have clear goals that they are highly motivated to achieve!
The gravity of a phone call was something I had not fully understood until May 7, 2022. Mere weeks after her wedding, my cousin reached out to our family and delivered news none of us were prepared for. My aunt, affectionately called [AUNT’S NAME] in our native language Telugu, had fallen down the stairs and vomited. My cousin explained that [AUNT’S NAME]'s speech was impaired after the fall, but we did not expect to hear the unimaginable - she was diagnosed with glioblastoma. I felt my cousin's words on a visceral level, trying to put together the pieces she relayed over the phone. [AUNT’S NAME] was the light of every room she walked into, and as a nurse she was able to share her benevolence with patients.
Hearing she was no longer her full-of life self reflected how quickly things would never be the same. Within weeks, she was at [HOSPITAL] undergoing a craniotomy to extract her frontal lobe tumors. The uncertainty my family felt on the ride to visit her post-operation was palpable. Upon arriving, we were assured by the neurosurgeons that the surgery was successful and her tumors were removed. The thorough explanations with which they answered our endless inquiries were immediately noticeable, and I appreciated their patience and compassion in ensuring we were updated on her condition even after a lengthy operation. [AUNT’S NAME] underwent chemotherapy and radiation shortly after. We visited her in August, and the toll these procedures took on her was evident. She could not speak how she once did and her memory and mobility declined: it was painful to see her like this. On Christmas Eve, we visited her as she lay on the hospice bed, opening her eyes every few seconds. She could not experience the new year.
What startled me the most about [AUNT’S NAME]'s death was how sudden everything happened. How could someone who was happy and dancing in April be no longer here with us by December? Glioblastoma had the staggering ability to transform someone who brought warmth and light to everyone into a shell of her former self. As someone fascinated with healthcare since middle school, I had been confident in the ability of medicine to cure any patient's condition. But the doctors did their best, and it still was not enough to save [AUNT’S NAME]'s life. All of their education, training, and work could not fix her affliction.
Arriving at that realization, I candidly reflected on the true societal value of physicians. The advocacy and support they gave our family during our darkest moments together was nothing short of meritorious. The neurosurgeons and oncologists used their medical knowledge to form a treatment plan around my aunt, and their contributions made all the difference despite her tumors' aggressiveness. More importantly, they prioritized explaining their work to our family in a comprehensible and empathetic way very few others can and ensured she was comfortable during her final days. After recognizing their impact, I felt a calling to also provide care and empathy for patients and their families during moments of need, knowing how much that meant to our family. Much like [AUNT’S NAME] was a shining light in our lives, her doctors provided light for us in the form of knowledge and empathy in our darkest hours. Invigorated to experience what it was like to be an advocate for patients like [AUNT’S NAME], I sought to witness firsthand the work physicians do.
My experience shadowing Dr. [NAME] enabled me to connect with patients from all walks of life. I gained clinical experience working at his clinic and, during my time there, was able to interact with patients like [NAME], who had such severe peripheral neuropathy that he was unable to even pick up a cup of water. Realizing [NAME] was once vibrant and healthy like [AUNT’S NAME] was, I knew [NAME] had the ability and privilege to guide him through this condition beyond merely prescribing medications. I saw my aunt in [NAME], and I knew having the assistance of [NAME] meant the world to him as he navigated living with his condition.
The ephemerality of life I understood following [AUNT’S NAME]s death compelled me to further dedicate my efforts towards serving disadvantaged people through volunteer work. From helping coordinate food drives to serving the homeless at soup kitchens, I was able to connect with local communities by offering hope to the underserved. These experiences developed in me a desire and commitment to apply my medical knowledge in treating patients of various backgrounds with the end goal of improving my community's health. My experiences fostering relationships with patients perpetually remind me of how gratifying it is hearing people from different walks of life and being their advocate throughout their journey of overcoming the illnesses they have.
My desire to complete graduate-level coursework is attributed to my eagerness to pursue a career in medicine. I believe this will hone my study skills and enhance my work ethic so I can excel in medical school and beyond. In addition to developing my study skills, I hope to actively engage in the community and continue shadowing to strengthen my competence to serve patients as their resolute advocate by offering hope in their lowest times.
It’s not unusual for students to write about their own or a loved one’s experience being ill in their medical school personal statement. While the topic may be common, there are ways to still ensure you stand out! Here’s how this student does so:
- It’s clear and concise : Despite the emotional nature of the subject matter, the writing remains clear and concise. The writer effectively conveys their thoughts and experiences using precise language and impactful imagery.
- It adds personal touches : Rather than just focusing on their aunt’s experience with her illness, they give the readers a glimpse into their own thought process, what they felt and saw during this challenging time.
- It’s highly reflective : The writer candidly reflects on their initial confidence in medicine's ability to cure any condition and their subsequent realization that even the doctors' best efforts were not enough to save their aunt's life. This introspection adds depth, maturity, and authenticity to the narrative.
- There’s a lesson learned : Using their aunt’s story, the writer acknowledges and appreciates the advocacy, support, and empathy provided by their aunt's doctors and explains the importance of physicians that extends beyond just treating sickness, showcasing their well-rounded perspective of a physician’s role.
Overall, these aspects contribute to the effectiveness of the writing by creating an emotionally resonant narrative, highlighting personal growth and reflection, and emphasizing the writer's commitment to compassionate care!
They may take a similar direction as other students, but their anecdote is highly personal which ensures their personal statement is distinct nonetheless!
I woke up suddenly in agony, unable to move my leg. I shouted over to my mom feeling confused and helpless. I was only 11 years old and had never felt this type of pain. The pain endured, simply getting out of bed was a daily struggle. I met with dozens of specialists looking for answers. However, no one was able to diagnose me, deferring the disability as something musculoskeletal with no real solution. I felt demoralized that I was unable to run around with my friends anymore. The hospital became a revolving door. This pain was consuming my life. No one seemed to understand my urgency. After six long months of little progress, I began to lose hope that I would ever be the same. That was when I met Dr. [NAME].
His attention towards my ailment was different. His demeanor of a warm smile and pure enthusiasm made me feel immediately at ease. He was the only doctor that spoke directly to me, instead of to my parents. For the first time, I felt like I mattered. Although I was not sure he would find the solution to my problem, I knew I found someone who would do everything in his power to try. Fortunately, Dr. [NAME]s investment in my well-being helped determine I was suffering from a psoas impingement. Shortly after surgery, I was able to move my leg again, pain-free. Within a few months, to my surprise, I was able to walk without pain. From that moment on, I wanted to be just like Dr. [NAME]. I wanted to be a vector of hope. I wanted to be a doctor.
In college, I wanted to test my own volition for medicine. After volunteering in the ER, I became a [CITY] EMT. While I cherished the responsibility of knowing my patients entrusted me with their health, I experienced first hand that my role was far more than having medical knowledge as a first responder. I recall [NAME], a veteran whom I met transporting from dialysis every week. As I helped him onto bed, I heard him ask an aide for water. When I returned for the nurse’s signature, I noticed he still had not gotten his water and so got it for him instead. [NAME] was a bilateral amputee and due to his limited mobility, was completely dependent on his caregivers.
Although I could not understand [NAME]’s struggles, I knew how it felt to be in a vulnerable state from my own experience as a patient. I could not change [NAME]’s situation; however, I had the opportunity to give [NAME] the same sense of relevance that Dr. [NAME] gave me. I tried to make [NAME] feel at ease – listening and validating his concerns. I connected with him as a person and not just a patient, enabling him to regain a sense of autonomy despite his disabling circumstances. I began to visit him outside of work and helped him find a prosthetist. Seeing the impact I was able to have on [NAME] and so many others as an EMT, further solidified my desire to become a doctor.
Following graduation, I embarked on a unique opportunity to work for Count Me In (CMI), a research organization at the [INSTITUTE NAME]. CMI applies a patient-centered approach to cancer research, partnering directly with patients and empowering them as experts of their own disease. I analyze patient medical records for all metastatic and rare cancers. Initially, it was challenging because most patients were terminally-ill. Each new record was like starting a book that I knew was going to have an unfortunate ending. I found myself subconsciously reconstructing the patient’s narrative. It was difficult to recount their years of trauma only as a bystander without any ability to change their outcome.
Fortunately, I was able to meet several patients including [NAME], a patient diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I will always remember the enthusiasm she spoke with as she described how grateful she was for being a part of CMI. She emphasized how it helped her regain a sense of control over her disease and provided purpose to her suffering. It was empowering to see her excitement for the potential of her data helping others and sense of fulfillment from being involved in her own cancer’s research. I realized the reward of assisting patients attain a sense of autonomy superseded any emotional struggle I may experience studying their hardships.
I applied to medical school in 2018 following graduation and again in 2020. Since my last application, I have continued to work for CMI, allowing me countless meaningful patient interactions through advisory council meetings and virtual conferences. Each encounter has been a reminder to stay on course, reinforcing my desire to become a physician dedicated to helping patients. CMI has given me the tools and skills needed to be a strong and effective champion of patient advocacy. As a doctor, I will leverage this experience to push for patient autonomy and prioritize patients at the forefront of their care.
My decision to reapply reflects my conviction that I will be an impactful physician attuned to my patients’ needs. It reflects my endurance as an applicant, which will pay dividends in the long and difficult journey that is medical school and residency. Furthermore, I believe this endurance will allow me to serve as a source of strength for my patients in their disease pathologies, never giving up on finding a solution. I want nothing more than to be a physician. I want to be like Dr. [NAME]. I want to be Dr. [WRITER’S NAME]
Here’s what makes this personal statement effective:
- It demonstrates persistence and resilience : The personal statement underscores the writer's persistence and resilience in the face of challenges. They mention reapplying to medical school and continuing to work for CMI, despite previous application setbacks.
- It showcases clear communication skills : The writer effectively communicates their thoughts, experiences, and motivations using precise language and impactful storytelling. This demonstrates their ability to articulate their ideas and experiences effectively, a valuable skill for a future physician.
- It remains positive : Despite the challenges described, the writer maintains an overall positive and hopeful tone. The writer focuses on the lessons learned and the impact they can make as a future physician. They do not aim to evoke pity, which is a smart move because it never goes well with admissions committees!
- It’s authentic : The writing feels genuine and authentic, reflecting the writer's personal experiences, emotions, and motivations. This authenticity makes the personal statement more relatable and compelling to read.
While this personal statement certainly tugs at the heartstrings, it goes beyond simply telling a sad story. Using their difficult experience, they share their inspiration to become a physician, demonstrate their perseverance, and prove they’re dedicated to medicine.
“Who is Wilson and can you tell him that I have basketball practice tonight?” I joked to an assembly of doctors and nurses surrounding my hospital bed. Rather than starting my senior year of high school, I was admitted to the hospital and subjected to several days of relentless testing and consultations. Ultimately, it was confirmed that I was one of 30,000 people in the world diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, a rare copper metabolism disorder that can cause fulminant liver failure. This reserved me a status 1A spot on the national transplant list, a status generally reserved for those who have a prognosis of only a few days of survival. Over the next nine days, I was encephalopathic – dozing in and out of consciousness. Due to the compassionate and selfless act of a twenty--year--old named [NAME], I overcame the inevitable. When no cadaveric donors were available, [NAME] chose to donate a portion of her liver to give me a fighting chance to live. The seventeen-hour surgery and subsequent procedures over the following weeks kick-started an arduous road to recovery and gave me a newfound appreciation for what it means to live. My journey, although daunting, instilled in me a high regard for the fragility of life and has inspired me to want to help others preserve it.
Prior to my own four-month hospital stay, I was no stranger to the weight of a patient’s room. At ten years old, a time when most kids rely on their mom, I instead fulfilled a very different role as mine battled breast cancer. Attending every chemotherapy appointment, emergency room visit, and trip to pick out a new wig, I served as a part of my mom’s care team. I could always be found by her side, painting her nails or watching marathons of I Love Lucy on days when she did not have the strength to get out of bed. Despite all efforts, I lost her. However, I found solace with a newfound appreciation for the impact of death. While she may have physically departed from my presence, her lessons and memories continue to have a hold. My mom’s diagnosis revealed her zest for perseverance. She taught me the immeasurable value of emotional support, which empowered me to provide that to others. I decided to run for the position of Philanthropy Chairman of my sorority at [COLLEGE] and was elected. With this appointment, I strengthened our chapter’s ties with Breastcancer.org — an online forum that supports patients and their families as they are battling breast cancer. I was responsible for raising money and awareness and organized a basketball tournament with the entire student body to support the cause. Just as I sat by my mom’s side throughout every part of her journey, I know she is guiding me wherever my journey leads. And it is because of her that I found resilience when I fought my own battles 7 years later.
Through my personal struggles as a liver transplant recipient, I was invested in understanding more about my disease process. This desire further sparked my interest in the field of medicine and catalyzed my scientific curiosity to be involved in research. I was given the fortuitous opportunity to study organ rejection patterns and the efficacy of two immunosuppressants - Tacrolimus and Sirolimus. Working alongside Dr. [NAME], my former physician while I was a patient at [HOSPITAL], I gained experience on the power of research. My project entailed retrospectively reviewing the Nemours transplant database and collecting data on all liver transplant recipients. Additionally, I had the opportunity to speak and relate directly to patients and their families. Through my firsthand experiences as both a patient and a research assistant, I know that research is an integral component of medical education and advancement. I hope to continue my involvement in investigative and clinical outcomes research in medical school and as a future physician.
Furthermore, I have quickly realized the sense of satisfaction and purpose I gain from sharing my story with others. I solidified my commitment to medicine by enrolling in the [COLLEGE]’s Pre-Health Post-Baccalaureate program. To further bolster my education, I became a medical scribe and inserted myself at the center of the patient-provider interaction. I empower my patients to ask questions and provide them with a say in their own care. With this experience, I have learned that bedside manner is just as important as having the medical knowledge to diagnose and treat illness. As someone who has spent time both in hospital beds and preparing beds for medical procedures, I understand the anxiety and complications that come with human health and take pride in sharing my emotional support with my patients each day.
Rather than allowing my diagnosis to define me, I named my puppy Wilson to remind myself of my journey and perseverance. As I put on my scrubs each morning and take Wilson for a walk, my motivation to become a physician grows stronger. My past has enabled me to appreciate the importance of compassion, value of human life, and the kind of person I want to become. I have fully immersed myself in the field and am ready to embark on the next chapter of my life as a future physician—Wilson always at my side.
The following elements make this a winning personal statement:
- It tells a unique personal story : The writer shares a personal journey that is intimate and impactful. From being diagnosed with a rare disease to experiencing the loss of their mother to cancer, the writer's personal experiences add depth and emotional resonance to their narrative.
- It demonstrates a commitment to patient advocacy: The writer's philanthropic activities and role as a medical scribe reflect their dedication to advocating for patients. They recognize the importance of empowering patients and involving them in their own care, which are all green flags for the admission committee!
- The little details matter : Naming their puppy Wilson as a reminder of their journey and perseverance adds a nice personal touch and symbolizes the writer's unwavering motivation to become a physician. It conveys their deep connection to their experiences and their drive to make a difference.
In case these 15 personal statement examples aren’t enough, you can access a dozen more samples to spark your creativity and help you write a stellar statement!
Steps to Write Your Personal Statement for Medical School
After reviewing the above medical school personal statement examples, you likely noticed some patterns and have a rough idea of how to structure your statement. But, if you’re still feeling a bit unsure about diving into the writing process, here’s a simple roadmap to get you started :
- Step one : Spend considerable time on the brainstorming process and reflect on the experiences that have shaped your desire to pursue medicine. Consider your personal growth, the challenges you’ve overcome, your meaningful encounters, and your career aspirations.
- Step two : Narrow your choices down and choose one significant story that you can connect your other meaningful experiences to.
- Step three : Use effective storytelling throughout your essay. Show, don’t tell, be descriptive, and immerse your readers! Make sure your story is authentic and reflects your unique perspective.
- Step four : Prove you’ve done your research and carefully considered your medical school choice. Show how your career goals and interests align with your school’s values.
- Step five : Revise and edit your work multiple times until you’re satisfied with it, even if it means rewriting your entire essay or changing your central narrative!
- Step six : Get feedback from a trusted friend, family member, or mentor to catch any lingering errors or typos.
- Step seven : Be authentic in your personal statement. Don’t try to impress the admissions committee by using overly embellished or exaggerated stories! Admissions committees appreciate honesty and genuine passion, and they can typically see right through insincerity!
Although writing your personal statement may seem overwhelming at first, following these steps and reflecting on the effective elements of the medical school personal statement examples above should help you complete this application requirement with more confidence!
FAQs: Med School Personal Statements
We’ve gone over several medical school personal statement examples, provided you with a run-down of how to approach your statement, and hopefully instilled some hope and motivation in you to begin your writing journey.
In case you have any remaining concerns about this application component, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about personal statements for med school!
1. What Should a Medical School Personal Statement Say?
Your medical school personal statement should clearly articulate your genuine interest in the field and explain what drives you to become a doctor. This could be a personal story, an influential experience, or a deep-rooted desire to make a positive impact on people's lives through healthcare.
You should also share relevant personal experiences that have shaped your decision to pursue medicine and discuss your proudest accomplishments, whether it be extracurriculars , academic achievements, or volunteer endeavors.
Ensure your narrative is unique and that you highlight the qualities that make you a strong candidate for medical school.
2. How Should I Start My Personal Statement for Medical School?
Start your statements as all of the medical school personal statement examples in this guide have—with a unique and intriguing hook. Share an experience that influenced you to become a physician and fully immerse your reader by being descriptive and focusing on several senses.
Try to involve your reader in your writing by painting a vivid picture for them!
3. What Should Be Avoided In a Personal Statement for Medical School?
While there are endless topics you can choose to write about in your personal statement, you should avoid doing the following :
- Being generic : Have specific goals, intentions, and concrete examples to demonstrate your commitment to medicine.
- Being cliche : Don’t use overused quotes or claim you pursued medicine to change the world. The committee has seen it a million times and wants deeper insight into what medicine means to you and what kind of physician you hope to become.
- The Debbie downer : Remain positive in your personal statement, even if you’re mentioning hardship you experienced!
- Risky humor : while adding some humor into your statement can elevate it and add personality to it, you want to be very careful with the types of jokes you use and err on the side of caution by avoiding any potentially offensive or niche jokes.
- Neglecting to edit your work : Typos, spelling errors, or grammatical mistakes will reduce the efficacy of your statement. Do not skip the final step of proofreading your work!
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be one step closer to writing an excellent med school personal statement!
Remember, your personal statement is your opportunity to make a lasting impression on the admissions committee. It’s your time to highlight your achievements and share those transformative experiences that made you realize your calling and the impact you want to make in the world!
Be genuine, think outside of the box, tell your story, and let your passion for medicine shine through. Good luck!
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2 Med School Essays That Admissions Officers Loved
Here are tips on writing a medical school personal statement and examples of essays that stood out.
2 Great Med School Personal Statements
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality. (Getty Images)
A personal statement is often a pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions.
"The essay really can cause me to look more deeply at the entire application," Dr. Stephen Nicholas, former senior associate dean of admissions with the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons , told U.S. News in 2017. "So I do think it's pretty important."
A compelling medical school admissions essay can address nearly any topic the applicant is interested in, as long as it conveys the applicant's personality, according to Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak, director of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program and a professor of medicine and microbial pathogenesis with the Yale School of Medicine.
“The passion that the writer is bringing to this topic tells us about the individual rather than the topic that they’re describing, and the essay is the place for us to learn about the applicant – who they are and what experiences have brought them to this point of applying to medical school,” she told U.S. News in 2017.
Rachel Rudeen, former admissions coordinator for the University of Minnesota Medical School , says personal statements help medical schools determine whether applicants have the character necessary to excel as a doctor. "Grit is something we really look for," she says.
Evidence of humility and empathy , Rudeen adds, are also pluses.
Why Medical Schools Care About Personal Statements
The purpose of a personal statement is to report the events that inspired and prepared a premed to apply to medical school, admissions experts say. This personal essay helps admissions officers figure out whether a premed is ready for med school, and it also clarifies whether a premed has a compelling rationale for attending med school, these experts explain.
When written well, a medical school personal statement conveys a student's commitment to medicine and injects humanity into an admissions process that might otherwise feel cold and impersonal, according to admissions experts.
Glen Fogerty, associate dean of admissions and recruitment with the medical school at the University of Arizona—Phoenix , put it this way in an email: "To me, the strongest personal statements are the ones that share a personal connection. One where a candidate shares a specific moment, the spark that ignited their passion to become a physician or reaffirmed why they chose medicine as a career."
Dr. Viveta Lobo, an emergency medicine physician with the Stanford University School of Medicine in California who often mentors premeds, says the key thing to know about a personal statement is that it must indeed be personal, so it needs to reveal something meaningful. The essay should not be a dry piece of writing; it should make the reader feel for the author, says Lobo, director of academic conferences and continuing medical education with the emergency medicine department at Stanford.
A great personal statement has an emotional impact and "will 'do' something, not just 'say' something," Lobo wrote in an email. Admissions officers "read hundreds of essays – so before you begin, think of how yours will stand out, be unique and different," Lobo suggests.
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Lobo notes that an outstanding personal statement typically includes all of the following ingredients:
- An intriguing introduction that gets admissions officers' attention.
- Anecdotes that illustrate what kind of person the applicant is.
- Reflections about the meaning and impact of various life experiences .
- A convincing narrative about why medical school is the logical next step.
- A satisfying and optimistic conclusion.
"You should sound excited, and that passion should come through in your writing," Lobo explains.
A personal statement should tie together an applicant's past, present and future by explaining how previous experiences have led to this point and outlining long-term plans to contribute to the medical profession, Lobo said during a phone interview. Medical school admissions officers want to understand not only where an applicant has been but also the direction he or she is going, Lobo added.
When premeds articulate a vision of how they might assist others and improve society through the practice of medicine, it suggests that they aren't self-serving or simply interested in the field because of its prestige, Lobo says. It's ideal when premeds can eloquently describe a noble mission, she explains.
Elisabeth Fassas, author of "Making Pre-Med Count: Everything I Wish I'd Known Before Applying (Successfully) to Medical School," says premeds should think about the doctors they admire and reflect on why they admire them. Fassas, a first-year medical student at the University of Maryland , suggests pondering the following questions:
- "Why can you really only see yourself being a physician?"
- "What is it about being a doctor that has turned you on to this field?"
- "What kind of doctor do you imagine yourself being?"
- "Who do you want to be for your patients?"
- "What are you going to do specifically for your patients that only you can do?"
Fassas notes that many of the possible essay topics a med school hopeful can choose are subjects that other premeds can also discuss, such as a love of science. However, aspiring doctors can make their personal statements unique by articulating the lessons they learned from their life experiences, she suggests.
Prospective medical students need to clarify why medicine is a more suitable calling for them than other caring professions, health care fields and science careers, Fassas notes. They should demonstrate awareness of the challenges inherent in medicine and explain why they want to become doctors despite those difficulties, she says.
Tips on Crafting an Excellent Medical School Personal Statement
The first step toward creating an outstanding personal statement, Fassas says, is to create a list of significant memories. Premeds should think about which moments in their lives mattered the most and then identify the two or three stories that are definitely worth sharing.
Dr. Demicha Rankin, associate dean for admissions at the Ohio State University College of Medicine , notes that a personal statement should offer a compelling portrait of a person and should not be "a regurgitation of their CV."
The most outstanding personal statements are the ones that present a multifaceted perspective of the applicant by presenting various aspects of his or her identity, says Rankin, an associate professor of anesthesiology.
For example, a premed who was a swimmer might explain how the discipline necessary for swimming is analogous to the work ethic required to become a physician, Rankin says. Likewise, a pianist or another type of musician applying to medical school could convey how the listening skills and instrument-tuning techniques cultivated in music could be applicable in medicine, she adds.
Rankin notes that it's apparent when a premed has taken a meticulous approach to his or her personal statement to ensure that it flows nicely, and she says a fine essay is akin to a "well-woven fabric." One sign that a personal statement has been polished is when a theme that was explored at the beginning of the essay is also mentioned at the end, Rankin says, explaining that symmetry between an essay's introduction and conclusion makes the essay seem complete.
Rankin notes that the author of an essay might not see flaws in his or her writing that are obvious to others, so it's important for premeds to show their personal statement to trusted advisers and get honest feedback. That's one reason it's important to begin the writing process early enough to give yourself sufficient time to organize your thoughts, Rankin says, adding that a minimum of four weeks is typically necessary.
Mistakes to Avoid in a Medical School Personal Statement
One thing premeds should never do in an admissions essay is beg, experts say. Rankin says requests of any type – including a plea for an admissions interview – do not belong in a personal statement. Another pitfall to avoid, Rankin says, is ranting about controversial political subjects such as the death penalty or abortion.
If premeds fail to closely proofread their personal statement, the essay could end up being submitted with careless errors such as misspellings and grammar mistakes that could easily have been fixed, according to experts. Crafting a compelling personal statement typically necessitates multiple revisions, so premeds who skimp on revising might wind up with sloppy essays, some experts say.
However, when fine-tuning their personal statements, premeds should not automatically change their essays based on what others say, Fogerty warns.
"A common mistake on personal statements is having too many people review your statement, they make recommendations, you accept all of the changes and then – in the end – the statement is no longer your voice," Fogerty wrote in an email. It's essential that a personal statement sound like the applicant and represent who he or she is as a person, Fogerty says.
Dr. Nicholas Jones, a Georgia-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says the worst error that someone can make in the personal statement is to be inauthentic or deceptive.
"Do not lie. Do not fabricate," he warns.
Jones adds that premeds should not include a story in their personal statement that they are not comfortable discussing in-depth during a med school admissions interview . "If it's something too personal or you're very emotional and you don't want to talk about that, then don't put it in a statement."
Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Here are two medical school admissions essays that made a strong, positive impression on admissions officers. The first is from Columbia and the second is from the University of Minnesota. These personal statements are annotated with comments from admissions officers explaining what made these essays stand out.
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4 Medical School Personal Statement Examples
The personal statement can be one of the most challenging parts of your medical school application process. You want to show admissions committees the qualities that make you stand out while avoiding cliches. After all, a lot is riding on this essay. Don’t panic. We’ve done our homework, talked to insiders, and gathered firsthand personal statements to help you get started.
Before diving into the personal statement examples, here are some tips on framing your experiences to wow admissions officers.
1. Stick to your real-life experiences. While it’s great to express what you want to do in healthcare in the future, that doesn’t really set you apart. All premed students have goals for what they’ll do in the medical profession, but this often changes after time in medical school. Telling a personal story instead gives admission committee members a look at who you already are and if you have the qualities they deem desirable for med school .
Feel free to mention specialties you’re passionate about and touch on your clinical experience, but make sure the experiences you discuss are unique.
2. Build an in-depth narrative. Nobody wants to read a blanket summary of your research experience. This is your chance to get passionate and demonstrate some communication skills. Explain the driving force behind your desire to work in the medical field.
The old writing rule comes into play here: “show, don’t tell.” You will always capture your reader’s attention more by telling a story than by explaining a circumstance. Medical school admissions committees are no different. Showing them your strong work ethic — or dedication, or whatever personal quality you want — without just saying, “I have a strong work ethic” will have a greater impact.
3. Don’t include metrics. Admissions officers already have access to your GPA and MCAT scores. If they want to know how you did in biochemistry, they can find out. Don’t waste space here. If you’re concerned about those numbers, it’s much more important to nail the personal statement and secure a secondary application and eventual medical school interview.
4. Know the character limits — and try to meet them. Both AACOMAS and AMCAS applications have a character limit of 5,300. You do not necessarily need to use all 5,300 characters, but you also don’t want it to be under 3,000. You want to use as many as possible while staying on topic and being relevant. A too-short essay can look careless.
5. Get comfortable with revising . You’ll do it a lot. Expect your first draft to be just that – a first draft. This writing process will take several weeks, if not months. Once you’re confident in your essay, ask for feedback. Avoid asking family members (unless they’re experts in the field of medicine). Instead, have professors, mentors, and peers read it and offer notes.
|| Read more about capturing readers from the first paragraph with our Medical School Personal Statement Storytelling Guide . ||
6. Use coaching to craft the perfect essay. Personal statements like the ones below only come after countless hours of brainstorming and writing drafts. However, with MedSchoolCoach , you’ll work with professional writing advisors step-by-step to develop an impactful medical school personal statement.
|| Check out more Tips for Writing a Personal Statement ||
Personal Statement Example #1
Our second essay contest winner was a medical student who made their submission an AMCAS personal statement . It serves as a great and effective medical school personal statement example . We also thought it was a good read overall!
A four-letter word for “dignitary.” The combinations surge through my mind: emir? agha? tsar? or perhaps the lesser-used variant, czar? I know it’s also too early to rule out specific names – there were plenty of rulers named Omar – although the clue is suspiciously unspecific. Quickly my eyes jump two columns to the intersecting clue, 53-Across, completely ignoring the blur outside the window that indicates my train has left the Times Square station. “Nooks’ counterparts.” I am certain the answer is “crannies.” This means 49-Down must end in r, so I eliminate “agha” in my mind. Slowly, the pieces come together, the wordplay sending my brain into mental gymnastics. At the end of two hours, I find myself staring at a completed crossword puzzle, and as trivial as it is, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
As an avid cruciverbalist, I have a knack for problem-solving. I fell in love with another kind of puzzle in college: organic chemistry. While some of my peers struggled with its complexity, the notion of analyzing mass spectroscopy, IR spectrums, and H-NMR to identify a specific molecule invigorated me. The human body was a fantastic mystery to me in my biology classes. Intricacies such as hormonal up- and down-regulation pulled at the riddler in me; I was not satisfied until I understood the enigma of how the body worked. Graduate school at Columbia was an extension of this craving, and I chose a thesis topic to attempt to elucidate the sophisticated workings of neuro-hormonal balance peri-bariatric surgery.
In non-academic settings, I also pursued activities that would sharpen my intellect. The act of teaching is a form of problem-solving; a good teacher finds the most effective way to convey information to students. So I accepted the challenge and taught in both international and domestic settings. I assumed leadership positions in church because it forced me to think critically to resolve conflicts. In the lab, I volunteered to help write a review on the biological mechanisms of weight regain. It was precisely what I loved: isolating a specific human phenomenon and investigating how it worked.
I believe medicine and puzzles are in the same vein. After participating in health fairs, working at a clinic, and observing physicians, I understand that pinpointing a patient’s exact needs is difficult at times. In a way, disease itself can be a puzzle, and doctors sometimes detect it only one piece at a time – a cough here, lanugo there. Signs and symptoms act as clues that whittle down the possibilities until only a few remain. Then all that is left is to fill in the word and complete the puzzle. Voila!
Actually, it is more complicated than that, and inevitably the imperfect comparison falls through.
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a psychiatric patient at Aftercare. He had just revealed his identity as Batman — but it turns out he was also Jesus. During downtime between tests, he decided to confide in me some of his dreams and aspirations. He swiftly pulled out a sketchpad and said confidently, “When I get better, I’m going back to art school.” Any doubts stemming from his earlier ramblings vanished at the sight of his charcoal-laden sheets filled with lifelike characters. “They’re… really good,” I stammered. I was looking for the right words to say, but there are times when emotions are so overwhelming that words fail. I nodded in approval and motioned that we should get back to testing.
Those next few hours of testing flew by as I ruminated on what I had experienced. After working 3 years at the clinic, I got so caught up in the routine of “figuring out” brain function that I missed the most important aspect of the job: the people. And so, just as the crossword puzzle is a 15×15 symbol of the cold New York streets, a person is the polar opposite. Our patients are breathing, fluid, and multi-dimensional. I’ve come to love both, but there is nothing I want more in the world than to see a broken person restored, a dream reignited, to see Mr. Batman regain sanity and take up art school again. The prospect of healing others brings me joy, surpassing even the most challenging crosswords in the Sunday paper.
This is why I feel called to a life in medicine. It is the one profession that allows me to restore others while thinking critically and appreciating human biology. I am passionate about people, and medicine allows me to participate in their lives in a tangible way, aligned with my interest in biology and problem-solving skill.
The New York Times prints a new puzzle daily, and so does the Washington Post, USA Today, and the list continues. The unlimited supply of puzzles mirrors the abundance of human disease and the physician’s ongoing duty to unravel the mystery, to resolve the pain. A great cruciverbalist begins with the basics of learning “crosswordese,” a nuanced language; I am prepared to do the same with health, starting with my education in medical school. Even so, I am always humbled by what little I know and am prepared to make mistakes and learn along the way. After all, I would never do a crossword puzzle in pen.
||Read Our First Essay Contest Winner: Considerations Before Applying to Medical School ||
||Read The Formula For A Good Personal Statement | |
Personal Statement Example #2
Student Accepted to Case Western SOM, Washington University SOM, University of Utah SOM, Northwestern University Feinberg SOM
With a flick and a flourish, the tongue depressor vanished, and a coin suddenly appeared behind my ear. Growing up, my pediatrician often performed magic tricks, making going to the doctor feel like literal magic. I believed all healthcare facilities were equally mystifying, especially after experiencing a different type of magic in the organized chaos of the Emergency Department. Although it was no place for a six-year-old, childcare was often a challenge, and while my dad worked extra shifts in nursing school to provide for our family, I would find myself awed by the diligence and warmth of the healthcare providers.
Though I associated the hospital with feelings of comfort and care, it sometimes became a place of fear and uncertainty. One night, my two-year-old brother, Sean, began vomiting and coughing non-stop. My dad was deployed overseas, so my mother and I had no choice but to spend the night at the hospital, watching my brother slowly recover with the help of the healthcare providers. Little did I know, it would not be long before I was in the same place. Months later, I became hospitalized with pneumonia with pleural effusions, and as I struggled to breathe, I was terrified of having fluid sucked out of my chest. But each day, physicians comforted me, asking how I was, reassuring me that I was being taken care of, and explaining any questions related to my illness and treatment. Soon, I became excited to speak with the infectious disease doctor and residents, absorbing as much as possible about different conditions.
I also came to view the magic of healing through other lenses. Growing up, Native American traditions were an important aspect of my life as my father was actively involved with native spirituality, connecting back to his Algonquin heritage. We often attended Wi-wanyang-wa-c’i-pi ceremonies or Sun Dances for healing through prayer and individuals making personal sacrifices for their community. Although I never sun danced, I spent hours in inipis chewing on osha root, finding my healing through songs.
In addition to my father’s heritage, healing came from the curanderismo traditions of Peru, my mother’s home. She came from a long line of healers using herbal remedies and ceremonies for healing the mind, body, energy, and soul. I can still see my mother preparing oils, herbs, and incense mixtures while performing healing rituals. Her compassion and care in healing paralleled the Emergency Department healthcare providers.
Through the influence of these early life experiences, I decided to pursue a career in the health sciences. Shortly after starting college, I entered a difficult time in my life as I struggled with health and personal challenges. I suddenly felt weak and tired most days, with aches all over my body. Soon, depression set in. I eventually visited a doctor, and through a series of tests, we discovered I had hypothyroidism. During this time, I also began dealing with unprocessed childhood trauma. I decided to take time off school, and with thyroid replacement hormones and therapy, I slowly began to recover. But I still had ways to go, and due to financial challenges, I decided to continue delaying my education and found work managing a donut shop. Unbeknownst to me, this experience would lead to significant personal growth by working with people from all walks of life and allowing me time for self-reflection. I continuously reflected on the hospital experiences that defined my childhood and the unmatched admiration I had for healthcare workers. With my renewed interest in medicine, I enrolled in classes to get my AEMT license and gain more medical experience.
As my health improved, I excelled in my classes, and after craving the connections of working with others, I became a medical assistant. In this position, I met “Marco,” a patient traveling from Mexico for treatment. Though I spoke Spanish while growing up, I had little experience as a medical interpreter. However, I took the opportunity to talk with him to learn his story. Afterward, he became more comfortable, and I walked him through the consultation process, interpreting the physician’s words and Marco’s questions. This moment showed me the power of connecting with others in their native language. As a result, I began volunteering at a homeless clinic to continue bridging the language barrier for patients and to help advocate for the Latinx community and those who struggle to find their voice.
My journey to becoming a doctor has been less direct than planned; however, my personal trials and tribulations have allowed me to meet and work with incredible people who have been invaluable to my recovery and personal development. Most importantly, I have seen the value of compassionate and empathetic care. Though I have not recently witnessed any sleight of hand or vanishing acts, what healthcare providers do for patients can only be described as magic.
I look forward to bringing my diverse background as a physician and expanding my abilities to help patients in their path to healing.
||Read: But I Don’t Have 15 Activities ! | Apply to Med School After 3rd or 4th Year? ||
Personal Statement Example #3
Student accepted to Weill Cornell
My path to medicine was first influenced by early adolescent experiences trying to understand my place in society. Though I was not conscious of it then, I held a delicate balance between my identity as an Indian-American and an “American-American.”
In a single day, I could be shooting hoops and eating hotdogs at school while spending the evening playing Carrom and enjoying tandoori chicken at a family get-together. When our family moved from New York to California, I had the opportunity to attend a middle school with greater diversity, so I learned Spanish to salve the loss of moving away and assimilate into my new surroundings.
As I partook in related events and cuisine, I built a mixed friend group and began understanding how culture influences our perception of those around us. While volunteering at senior centers in high school, I noticed a similar pattern to what I sometimes saw: seniors socializing in groups of shared ethnicity and culture. Moving from table to table and language to language, I also observed how each group shared different life experiences and perspectives on what constitutes health and wellness. Many seniors talked about barriers to receiving care or how their care differed from what they had envisioned. Listening to their stories on cultural experiences, healthcare disparities, and care expectations sparked my interest in becoming a physician and providing care for the whole community.
Intrigued by the science behind perception and health, I took electives during my undergraduate years to build a foundation in these domains. In particular, I was amazed by how computational approaches could help model the complexity of the human mind, so I pursued research at Cornell’s Laboratory of Rational Decision-Making. Our team used fMRI analysis to show how the framing of information affects cognitive processing and perception. Thinking back to my discussions with seniors, I often wondered if more personalized health-related messaging could positively influence their opinions. Through shadowing, I witnessed physicians engaging in honest and empathetic conversations to deliver medical information and manage patients’ expectations, but how did they navigate delicate conflicts where the patients’ perspectives diverged from their own?
My question was answered when I became a community representative for the Ethics Committee for On Lok PACE, an elderly care program. One memorable case was that of Mr. A.G, a blind 86-year-old man with radiation-induced frontal lobe injury who wanted to return home and cook despite his doctor’s expressed safety concerns. Estranged from his family, Mr. A.G. relied on cooking to find fulfillment. Recognizing the conflict between autonomy and beneficence, I joined the physicians in brainstorming and recommending ways he could cook while being supervised.
I realized that the role of a physician was to mediate between the medical care plan and the patient’s wishes to make a decision that preserves their dignity. As we considered possibilities, the physicians’ genuine concern for the patient’s emotional well-being exemplified the compassion I want to emulate as a future doctor. Our discussions emphasized the rigor of medicine — the challenge of ambiguity and the importance of working with the individual to serve their needs.
With COVID-19 ravaging our underserved communities, my desire to help others drove me towards community-based health as a contact tracer for my county’s Department of Public Health. My conversations uncovered dozens of heartbreaking stories that revealed how socioeconomic status and job security inequities left poorer families facing significantly harsher quarantines than their wealthier counterparts.
Moreover, many residents expressed fear or mistrust, such as a 7-person family who could not safely isolate in their one-bedroom and one-bath apartment. I offered to arrange free hotel accommodations but was met with a guarded response from the father: “We’ll be fine. We can maintain the 6 feet.” While initially surprised, I recognized how my government affiliation could lead to a power dynamic that made the family feel uneasy. Thinking about how to make myself more approachable, I employed motivational interviewing skills and small talk to build rapport.
When we returned to discussing the hotel, he trusted my intentions and accepted the offer. Our bond of mutual trust grew over two weeks of follow-ups, leaving me humbled yet gratified to see his family transition to a safer living situation. As a future physician, I realize I may encounter many first-time or wary patients; and I feel prepared to create a responsive environment that helps them feel comfortable about integrating into our health system.
Through my clinical and non-clinical experiences, I have witnessed the far-reaching impact of physicians, from building lasting connections with patients to being a rock of support during uncertain times. I cannot imagine a career without these dynamics—of improving the health and wellness of patients, families, and society and reducing healthcare disparities. While I know the path ahead is challenging, I am confident I want to dedicate my life to this profession.
Personal Statement Example #4
Student Accepted to UCSF SOM, Harvard Medical School
Countless visits to specialists in hope of relief left me with a slew of inconclusive test results and uncertain diagnoses. “We cannot do anything else for you.” After twelve months of waging a war against my burning back, aching neck and tingling limbs, hearing these words at first felt like a death sentence, but I continued to advocate for myself with medical professionals.
A year of combatting pain and dismissal led me to a group of compassionate and innovative physicians at the Stanford Pain Management Center (SPMC). Working alongside a diverse team including pain management specialists and my PCP, I began the long, non-linear process of uncovering the girl that had been buried in the devastating rubble of her body’s pain.
From struggling with day-to-day activities like washing my hair and sitting in class to thriving as an avid weightlifter and zealous student over the span of a year, I realized I am passionate about preventing, managing and eliminating chronic illnesses through patient-centered incremental care and medical innovation.
A few days after my pain started, I was relieved to hear that I had most likely just strained some muscles, but after an empty bottle of muscle relaxers, the stings and aches had only intensified. I went on to see 15 specialists throughout California, including neurologists, physiatrists, and rheumatologists. Neurological exams. MRIs. Blood tests. All inconclusive.
Time and time again, specialists dismissed my experience due to ambiguous test results and limited time. I spent months trying to convince doctors that I was losing my body; they thought I was losing my mind. Despite these letdowns, I did not stop fighting to regain control of my life. Armed with my medical records and a detailed journal of my symptoms, I continued scheduling appointments with the intention of finding a doctor who would dig deeper in the face of the unknown.
Between visits, I researched my symptoms and searched for others with similar experiences. One story on Stanford Medicine’s blog, “Young Woman Overcomes Multiple Misdiagnoses and Gets Her Life Back”, particularly stood out to me and was the catalyst that led me to the SPMC. After bouncing from doctor to doctor, I had finally found a team of physicians who would take the profound toll of my pain on my physical and mental well-being seriously.
Throughout my year-long journey with my care team at the SPMC, I showed up for myself even when it felt like I would lose the war against my body. I confronted daily challenges with fortitude. When lifting my arms to tie my hair into a ponytail felt agonizing, YouTube tutorials trained me to become a braiding expert. Instead of lying in bed all day when my medication to relieve nerve pain left me struggling to stay awake, I explored innovative alternative therapies with my physicians; after I was fed up with the frustration of not knowing the source of my symptoms, I became a research subject in a clinical trial aimed at identifying and characterizing pain generators in patients suffering from “mysterious” chronic pain.
At times, it felt like my efforts were only resulting in lost time. However, seeing how patient my care team was with me, offering long-term coordinated support and continually steering me towards a pain-free future, motivated me to grow stronger with every step of the process. Success was not an immediate victory, but rather a long journey of incremental steps that produced steady, life-saving progress over time.
My journey brought me relief as well as clarity with regard to how I will care for my future patients. I will advocate for them even when complex conditions, inconclusive results and stereotypes discourage them from seeking continued care; work with them to continually adapt and improve an individualized plan tailored to their needs and goals, and engage in pioneering research and medical innovations that can directly benefit them.
Reflecting on the support system that enabled me to overcome the challenges of rehabilitation, I was inspired to help others navigate life with chronic pain in a more equitable and accessible way. Not everyone has the means to work indefinitely with a comprehensive care team, but most do have a smartphone. As a result, I partnered with a team of physicians and physical therapists at the University of California San Francisco to develop a free mobile application that guides individuals dealing with chronic pain through recovery. Based on my own journey, I was able to design the app with an understanding of the mental and physical toll that pain, fear, and loss of motivation take on patients struggling with chronic pain. Having features like an exercise bank with a real-time form checker and an AI-based chatbot to motivate users, address their concerns and connect them to specific health care resources, our application helped 65 of the 100 pilot users experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in mental health in three months.
My journey has fostered my passion for patient-centered incremental medicine and medical innovation. From barely living to thriving, I have become a trailblazing warrior with the perseverance and resilience needed to pursue these passions and help both the patients I engage with and those around the world.
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-- Accepted to: Harvard Medical School GPA: 4.0 MCAT: 522
Sponsored by A ccepted.com : Great stats don’t assure acceptance to elite medical schools. The personal statement, most meaningful activities, activity descriptions, secondaries and interviews can determine acceptance or rejection. Since 1994, Accepted.com has guided medical applicants just like you to present compelling medical school applications. Get Accepted !
I started writing in 8th grade when a friend showed me her poetry about self-discovery and finding a voice. I was captivated by the way she used language to bring her experiences to life. We began writing together in our free time, trying to better understand ourselves by putting a pen to paper and attempting to paint a picture with words. I felt my style shift over time as I grappled with challenges that seemed to defy language. My poems became unstructured narratives, where I would use stories of events happening around me to convey my thoughts and emotions. In one of my earliest pieces, I wrote about a local boy’s suicide to try to better understand my visceral response. I discussed my frustration with the teenage social hierarchy, reflecting upon my social interactions while exploring the harms of peer pressure.
In college, as I continued to experiment with this narrative form, I discovered medical narratives. I have read everything from Manheimer’s Bellevue to Gawande’s Checklist and from Nuland’s observations about the way we die, to Kalanithi’s struggle with his own decline. I even experimented with this approach recently, writing a piece about my grandfather’s emphysema. Writing allowed me to move beyond the content of our relationship and attempt to investigate the ways time and youth distort our memories of the ones we love. I have augmented these narrative excursions with a clinical bioethics internship. In working with an interdisciplinary team of ethics consultants, I have learned by doing by participating in care team meetings, synthesizing discussions and paths forward in patient charts, and contributing to an ongoing legislative debate addressing the challenges of end of life care. I have also seen the ways ineffective intra-team communication and inter-personal conflicts of beliefs can compromise patient care.
Writing allowed me to move beyond the content of our relationship and attempt to investigate the ways time and youth distort our memories of the ones we love.
By assessing these difficult situations from all relevant perspectives and working to integrate the knowledge I’ve gained from exploring narratives, I have begun to reflect upon the impact the humanities can have on medical care. In a world that has become increasingly data driven, where patients can so easily devolve into lists of numbers and be forced into algorithmic boxes in search of an exact diagnosis, my synergistic narrative and bioethical backgrounds have taught me the importance of considering the many dimensions of the human condition. I am driven to become a physician who deeply considers a patient’s goal of care and goals of life. I want to learn to build and lead patient care teams that are oriented toward fulfilling these goals, creating an environment where family and clinician conflict can be addressed efficiently and respectfully. Above all, I look forward to using these approaches to keep the person beneath my patients in focus at each stage of my medical training, as I begin the task of translating complex basic science into excellent clinical care.
In her essay for medical school, Morgan pitches herself as a future physician with an interdisciplinary approach, given her appreciation of how the humanities can enable her to better understand her patients. Her narrative takes the form of an origin story, showing how a childhood interest in poetry grew into a larger mindset to keep a patient’s humanity at the center of her approach to clinical care.
This narrative distinguishes Morgan as a candidate for medical school effectively, as she provides specific examples of how her passions intersect with medicine. She first discusses how she used poetry to process her emotional response to a local boy’s suicide and ties in concern about teenage mental health. Then, she discusses more philosophical questions she encountered through reading medical narratives, which demonstrates her direct interest in applying writing and the humanities to medicine. By making the connection from this larger theme to her own reflections on her grandfather, Morgan provides a personal insight that will give an admissions officer a window into her character. This demonstrates her empathy for her future patients and commitment to their care.
Her narrative takes the form of an origin story, showing how a childhood interest in poetry grew into a larger mindset to keep a patient's humanity at the center of her approach to clinical care.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Morgan’s essay does not repeat anything in-depth that would otherwise be on her resume. She makes a reference to her work in care team meetings through a clinical bioethics internship, but does not focus on this because there are other places on her application where this internship can be discussed. Instead, she offers a more reflection-based perspective on the internship that goes more in-depth than a resume or CV could. This enables her to explain the reasons for interdisciplinary approach to medicine with tangible examples that range from personal to professional experiences — an approach that presents her as a well-rounded candidate for medical school.
Disclaimer: With exception of the removal of identifying details, essays are reproduced as originally submitted in applications; any errors in submissions are maintained to preserve the integrity of the piece. The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this article.
-- Accepted To: A medical school in New Jersey with a 3% acceptance rate. GPA: 3.80 MCAT: 502 and 504
Sponsored by E fiie Consulting Group : “ EFIIE ” boasts 100% match rate for all premedical and predental registered students. Not all students are accepted unto their pre-health student roster. Considered the most elite in the industry and assists from start to end – premed to residency. EFIIE is a one-stop-full-service education firm.
"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The tribulations I've overcome in my life have manifested in the compassion, curiosity, and courage that is embedded in my personality. Even a horrific mishap in my life has not changed my core beliefs and has only added fuel to my intense desire to become a doctor. My extensive service at an animal hospital, a harrowing personal experience, and volunteering as an EMT have increased my appreciation and admiration for the medical field.
At thirteen, I accompanied my father to the Park Home Animal Hospital with our eleven-year-old dog, Brendan. He was experiencing severe pain due to an osteosarcoma, which ultimately led to the difficult decision to put him to sleep. That experience brought to light many questions regarding the idea of what constitutes a "quality of life" for an animal and what importance "dignity" plays to an animal and how that differs from owner to owner and pet to pet. Noting my curiosity and my relative maturity in the matter, the owner of the animal hospital invited me to shadow the professional staff. Ten years later, I am still part of the team, having made the transition from volunteer to veterinarian technician. Saving a life, relieving pain, sharing in the euphoria of animal and owner reuniting after a procedure, to understanding the emotions of losing a loved one – my life was forever altered from the moment I stepped into that animal hospital.
As my appreciation for medical professionals continued to grow, a horrible accident created an indelible moment in my life. It was a warm summer day as I jumped onto a small boat captained by my grandfather. He was on his way to refill the boat's gas tank at the local marina, and as he pulled into the dock, I proceeded to make a dire mistake. As the line was thrown from the dock, I attempted to cleat the bowline prematurely, and some of the most intense pain I've ever felt in my life ensued.
Saving a life, relieving pain, sharing in the euphoria of animal and owner reuniting after a procedure, to understanding the emotions of losing a loved one – my life was forever altered from the moment I stepped into that animal hospital.
"Call 911!" I screamed, half-dazed as I witnessed blood gushing out of my open wounds, splashing onto the white fiberglass deck of the boat, forming a small puddle beneath my feet. I was instructed to raise my hand to reduce the bleeding, while someone wrapped an icy towel around the wound. The EMTs arrived shortly after and quickly drove me to an open field a short distance away, where a helicopter seemed to instantaneously appear.
The medevac landed on the roof of Stony Brook Hospital before I was expeditiously wheeled into the operating room for a seven-hour surgery to reattach my severed fingers. The distal phalanges of my 3rd and 4th fingers on my left hand had been torn off by the rope tightening on the cleat. I distinctly remember the chill from the cold metal table, the bright lights of the OR, and multiple doctors and nurses scurrying around. The skill and knowledge required to execute multiple skin graft surgeries were impressive and eye-opening. My shortened fingers often raise questions by others; however, they do not impair my self-confidence or physical abilities. The positive outcome of this trial was the realization of my intense desire to become a medical professional.
Despite being the patient, I was extremely impressed with the dedication, competence, and cohesiveness of the medical team. I felt proud to be a critical member of such a skilled group. To this day, I still cannot explain the dichotomy of experiencing being the patient, and concurrently one on the professional team, committed to saving the patient. Certainly, this experience was a defining part of my life and one of the key contributors to why I became an EMT and a volunteer member of the Sample Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The startling ring of the pager, whether it is to respond to an inebriated alcoholic who is emotionally distraught or to help bring breath to a pulseless person who has been pulled from the family swimming pool, I am committed to EMS. All of these events engender the same call to action and must be reacted to with the same seriousness, intensity, and magnanimity. It may be some routine matter or a dire emergency; this is a role filled with uncertainty and ambiguity, but that is how I choose to spend my days. My motives to become a physician are deeply seeded. They permeate my personality and emanate from my desire to respond to the needs of others. Through a traumatic personal event and my experiences as both a professional and volunteer, I have witnessed firsthand the power to heal the wounded and offer hope. Each person defines success in different ways. To know even one life has been improved by my actions affords me immense gratification and meaning. That is success to me and why I want to be a doctor.
This review is provided by EFIIE Consulting Group’s Pre-Health Senior Consultant Jude Chan
This student was a joy to work with — she was also the lowest MCAT profile I ever accepted onto my roster. At 504 on the second attempt (502 on her first) it would seem impossible and unlikely to most that she would be accepted into an allopathic medical school. Even for an osteopathic medical school this score could be too low. Additionally, the student’s GPA was considered competitive at 3.80, but it was from a lower ranked, less known college, so naturally most advisors would tell this student to go on and complete a master’s or postbaccalaureate program to show that she could manage upper level science classes. Further, she needed to retake the MCAT a third time.
However, I saw many other facets to this student’s history and life that spoke volumes about the type of student she was, and this was the positioning strategy I used for her file. Students who read her personal statement should know that acceptance is contingent on so much more than just an essay and MCAT score or GPA. Although many students have greater MCAT scores than 504 and higher GPAs than 3.80, I have helped students with lower scores and still maintained our 100% match rate. You are competing with thousands of candidates. Not every student out there requires our services and we are actually grateful that we can focus on a limited amount out of the tens of thousands that do. We are also here for the students who wish to focus on learning well the organic chemistry courses and physics courses and who want to focus on their research and shadowing opportunities rather than waste time deciphering the next step in this complex process. We tailor a pathway for each student dependent on their health care career goals, and our partnerships with non-profit organizations, hospitals, physicians and research labs allow our students to focus on what matters most — the building up of their basic science knowledge and their exposure to patients and patient care.
Students who read her personal statement should know that acceptance is contingent on so much more than just an essay and MCAT score or GPA.
Even students who believe that their struggle somehow disqualifies them from their dream career in health care can be redeemed if they are willing to work for it, just like this student with 502 and 504 MCAT scores. After our first consult, I saw a way to position her to still be accepted into an MD school in the US — I would not have recommended she register to our roster if I did not believe we could make a difference. Our rosters have a waitlist each semester, and it is in our best interest to be transparent with our students and protect our 100% record — something I consider a win-win. It is unethical to ever guarantee acceptance in admissions as we simply do not control these decisions. However, we respect it, play by the rules, and help our students stay one step ahead by creating an applicant profile that would be hard for the schools to ignore.
This may be the doctor I go to one day. Or the nurse or dentist my children or my grandchildren goes to one day. That is why it is much more than gaining acceptance — it is about properly matching the student to the best options for their education. Gaining an acceptance and being incapable of getting through the next 4 or 8 years (for my MD/PhD-MSTP students) is nonsensical.
-- Accepted To: Imperial College London UCAT Score: 2740 BMAT Score: 3.9, 5.4, 3.5A
My motivation to study Medicine stems from wishing to be a cog in the remarkable machine that is universal healthcare: a system which I saw first-hand when observing surgery in both the UK and Sri Lanka. Despite the differences in sanitation and technology, the universality of compassion became evident. When volunteering at OSCE training days, I spoke to many medical students, who emphasised the importance of a genuine interest in the sciences when studying Medicine. As such, I have kept myself informed of promising developments, such as the use of monoclonal antibodies in cancer therapy. After learning about the role of HeLa cells in the development of the polio vaccine in Biology, I read 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' to find out more. Furthermore, I read that surface protein CD4 can be added to HeLa cells, allowing them to be infected with HIV, opening the possibility of these cells being used in HIV research to produce more life-changing drugs, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP). Following my BioGrad laboratory experience in HIV testing, and time collating data for research into inflammatory markers in lung cancer, I am also interested in pursuing a career in medical research. However, during a consultation between an ENT surgeon and a thyroid cancer patient, I learnt that practising medicine needs more than a scientific aptitude. As the surgeon explained that the cancer had metastasised to her liver, I watched him empathetically tailor his language for the patient - he avoided medical jargon and instead gave her time to come to terms with this. I have been developing my communication skills by volunteering weekly at care homes for 3 years, which has improved my ability to read body language and structure conversations to engage with the residents, most of whom have dementia.
However, during a consultation between an ENT surgeon and a thyroid cancer patient, I learnt that practising medicine needs more than a scientific aptitude.
Jude’s essay provides a very matter-of-fact account of their experience as a pre-medical student. However, they deepen this narrative by merging two distinct cultures through some common ground: a universality of compassion. Using clear, concise language and a logical succession of events — much like a doctor must follow when speaking to patients — Jude shows their motivation to go into the medical field.
From their OSCE training days to their school’s Science society, Jude connects their analytical perspective — learning about HeLa cells — to something that is relatable and human, such as a poor farmer’s notable contribution to science. This approach provides a gateway into their moral compass without having to explicitly state it, highlighting their fervent desire to learn how to interact and communicate with others when in a position of authority.
Using clear, concise language and a logical succession of events — much like a doctor must follow when speaking to patients — Jude shows their motivation to go into the medical field.
Jude’s closing paragraph reminds the reader of the similarities between two countries like the UK and Sri Lanka, and the importance of having a universal healthcare system that centers around the just and “world-class” treatment of patients. Overall, this essay showcases Jude’s personal initiative to continue to learn more and do better for the people they serve.
While the essay could have benefited from better transitions to weave Jude’s experiences into a personal story, its strong grounding in Jude’s motivation makes for a compelling application essay.
-- Accepted to: Weill Cornell Medical College GPA: 3.98 MCAT: 521
Sponsored by E fie Consulting Group : “ EFIIE ” boasts 100% match rate for all premedical and predental registered students. Not all students are accepted unto their pre-health student roster. Considered the most elite in the industry and assists from start to end – premed to residency. EFIIE is a one-stop-full-service education firm.
Following the physician’s unexpected request, we waited outside, anxiously waiting to hear the latest update on my father’s condition. It was early on in my father’s cancer progression – a change that had shaken our entire way of life overnight. During those 18 months, while my mother spent countless nights at the hospital, I took on the responsibility of caring for my brother. My social life became of minimal concern, and the majority of my studying for upcoming 12th- grade exams was done at the hospital. We were allowed back into the room as the physician walked out, and my parents updated us on the situation. Though we were a tight-knit family and my father wanted us to be present throughout his treatment, what this physician did was give my father a choice. Without making assumptions about who my father wanted in the room, he empowered him to make that choice independently in private. It was this respect directed towards my father, the subsequent efforts at caring for him, and the personal relationship of understanding they formed, that made the largest impact on him. Though my decision to pursue medicine came more than a year later, I deeply valued what these physicians were doing for my father, and I aspired to make a similar impact on people in the future.
It was during this period that I became curious about the human body, as we began to learn physiology in more depth at school. In previous years, the problem-based approach I could take while learning math and chemistry were primarily what sparked my interest. However, I became intrigued by how molecular interactions translated into large-scale organ function, and how these organ systems integrated together to generate the extraordinary physiological functions we tend to under-appreciate. I began my undergraduate studies with the goal of pursuing these interests, whilst leaning towards a career in medicine. While I was surprised to find that there were upwards of 40 programs within the life sciences that I could pursue, it broadened my perspective and challenged me to explore my options within science and healthcare. I chose to study pathobiology and explore my interests through hospital volunteering and research at the end of my first year.
Though my decision to pursue medicine came more than a year later, I deeply valued what these physicians were doing for my father, and I aspired to make a similar impact on people in the future.
While conducting research at St. Michael’s Hospital, I began to understand methods of data collection and analysis, and the thought process of scientific inquiry. I became acquainted with the scientific literature, and the experience transformed how I thought about the concepts I was learning in lecture. However, what stood out to me that summer was the time spent shadowing my supervisor in the neurosurgery clinic. It was where I began to fully understand what life would be like as a physician, and where the career began to truly appeal to me. What appealed to me most was the patient-oriented collaboration and discussions between my supervisor and his fellow; the physician-patient relationship that went far beyond diagnoses and treatments; and the problem solving that I experienced first-hand while being questioned on disease cases.
The day spent shadowing in the clinic was also the first time I developed a relationship with a patient. We were instructed to administer the Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA) test to patients as they awaited the neurosurgeon. My task was to convey the instructions as clearly as possible and score each section. I did this as best I could, adapting my explanation to each patient, and paying close attention to their responses to ensure I was understood. The last patient was a challenging case, given a language barrier combined with his severe hydrocephalus. It was an emotional time for his family, seeing their father/husband struggle to complete simple tasks and subsequently give up. I encouraged him to continue trying. But I also knew my words would not remedy the condition underlying his struggles. All I could do was make attempts at lightening the atmosphere as I got to know him and his family better. Hours later, as I saw his remarkable improvement following a lumbar puncture, and the joy on his and his family’s faces at his renewed ability to walk independently, I got a glimpse of how rewarding it would be to have the ability and privilege to care for such patients. By this point, I knew I wanted to commit to a life in medicine. Two years of weekly hospital volunteering have allowed me to make a small difference in patients’ lives by keeping them company through difficult times, and listening to their concerns while striving to help in the limited way that I could. I want to have the ability to provide care and treatment on a daily basis as a physician. Moreover, my hope is that the breadth of medicine will provide me with the opportunity to make an impact on a larger scale. Whilst attending conferences on neuroscience and surgical technology, I became aware of the potential to make a difference through healthcare, and I look forward to developing the skills necessary to do so through a Master’s in Global Health. Whether through research, health innovation, or public health, I hope not only to care for patients with the same compassion with which physicians cared for my father, but to add to the daily impact I can have by tackling large-scale issues in health.
Taylor’s essay offers both a straightforward, in-depth narrative and a deep analysis of his experiences, which effectively reveals his passion and willingness to learn in the medical field. The anecdote of Taylor’s father gives the reader insight into an original instance of learning through experience and clearly articulates Taylor’s motivations for becoming a compassionate and respectful physician.
Taylor strikes an impeccable balance between discussing his accomplishments and his character. All of his life experiences — and the difficult challenges he overcame — introduce the reader to an important aspect of Taylor’s personality: his compassion, care for his family, and power of observation in reflecting on the decisions his father’s doctor makes. His description of his time volunteering at St. Michael’s Hospital is indicative of Taylor’s curiosity about medical research, but also of his recognition of the importance of the patient-physician relationship. Moreover, he shows how his volunteer work enabled him to see how medicine goes “beyond diagnoses and treatments” — an observation that also speaks to his compassion.
His description of his time volunteering at St. Michael's Hospital is indicative of Taylor's curiosity about medical research, but also of his recognition of the importance of the patient-physician relationship.
Finally, Taylor also tells the reader about his ambition and purpose, which is important when thinking about applying to medical school. He discusses his hope of tackling larger scale problems through any means possible in medicine. This notion of using self interest to better the world is imperative to a successful college essay, and it is nicely done here.
-- Accepted to: Washington University
Sponsored by A dmitRx : We are a group of Chicago-based medical students who realize how challenging medical school admissions can be, so we want to provide our future classmates with resources we wish we had. Our mission at AdmitRx is to provide pre-medical students with affordable, personalized, high-quality guidance towards becoming an admitted medical student.
Running has always been one of my greatest passions whether it be with friends or alone with my thoughts. My dad has always been my biggest role model and was the first to introduce me to the world of running. We entered races around the country, and one day he invited me on a run that changed my life forever. The St. Jude Run is an annual event that raises millions of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My dad has led or our local team for as long as I can remember, and I had the privilege to join when I was 16. From the first step I knew this was the environment for me – people from all walks of life united with one goal of ending childhood cancer. I had an interest in medicine before the run, and with these experiences I began to consider oncology as a career. When this came up in conversations, I would invariably be faced with the question “Do you really think you could get used to working with dying kids?” My 16-year-old self responded with something noble but naïve like “It’s important work, so I’ll have to handle it”. I was 16 years young with my plan to become an oncologist at St. Jude.
As I transitioned into college my plans for oncology were alive and well. I began working in a biochemistry lab researching new anti-cancer drugs. It was a small start, but I was overjoyed to be a part of the process. I applied to work at a number of places for the summer, but the Pediatric Oncology Education program (POE) at St. Jude was my goal. One afternoon, I had just returned from class and there it was: an email listed as ‘POE Offer’. I was ecstatic and accepted the offer immediately. Finally, I could get a glimpse at what my future holds. My future PI, Dr. Q, specialized in solid tumor translational research and I couldn’t wait to get started.
I was 16 years young with my plan to become an oncologist at St. Jude.
Summer finally came, I moved to Memphis, and I was welcomed by the X lab. I loved translational research because the results are just around the corner from helping patients. We began a pre-clinical trial of a new chemotherapy regimen and the results were looking terrific. I was also able to accompany Dr. Q whenever she saw patients in the solid tumor division. Things started simple with rounds each morning before focusing on the higher risk cases. I was fortunate enough to get to know some of the patients quite well, and I could sometimes help them pass the time with a game or two on a slow afternoon between treatments. These experiences shined a very human light on a field I had previously seen only through a microscope in a lab.
I arrived one morning as usual, but Dr. Q pulled me aside before rounds. She said one of the patients we had been seeing passed away in the night. I held my composure in the moment, but I felt as though an anvil was crushing down on me. It was tragic but I knew loss was part of the job, so I told myself to push forward. A few days later, I had mostly come to terms with what happened, but then the anvil came crashing back down with the passing of another patient. I could scarcely hold back the tears this time. That moment, it didn’t matter how many miraculous successes were happening a few doors down. Nothing overshadowed the loss, and there was no way I could ‘get used to it’ as my younger self had hoped.
I was still carrying the weight of what had happened and it was showing, so I asked Dr. Q for help. How do you keep smiling each day? How do you get used to it? The questions in my head went on. What I heard next changed my perspective forever. She said you keep smiling because no matter what happened, you’re still hope for the next patient. It’s not about getting used to it. You never get used to it and you shouldn’t. Beating cancer takes lifetimes, and you can’t look passed a life’s worth of hardships. I realized that moving passed the loss of patients would never suffice, but I need to move forward with them. Through the successes and shortcomings, we constantly make progress. I like to imagine that in all our future endeavors, it is the hands of those who have gone before us that guide the way. That is why I want to attend medical school and become a physician. We may never end the sting of loss, but physicians are the bridge between the past and the future. No where else is there the chance to learn from tragedy and use that to shape a better future. If I can learn something from one loss, keep moving forward, and use that knowledge to help even a single person – save one life, bring a moment of joy, avoid a moment of pain—then that is how I want to spend my life.
The change wasn’t overnight. The next loss still brought pain, but I took solace in moving forward so that we might learn something to give hope to a future patient. I returned to campus in a new lab doing cancer research, and my passion for medicine continues to flourish. I still think about all the people I encountered at St. Jude, especially those we lost. It might be a stretch, but during the long hours at the lab bench I still picture their hands moving through mine each step of the way. I could never have foreseen where the first steps of the St. Jude Run would bring me. I’m not sure where the road to becoming a physician may lead, but with helping hands guiding the way, I won’t be running it alone.
This essay, a description of the applicant’s intellectual challenges, displays the hardships of tending to cancer patients as a milestone of experience and realization of what it takes to be a physician. The writer explores deeper ideas beyond medicine, such as dealing with patient deaths in a way to progress and improve as a professional. In this way, the applicant gives the reader some insight into the applicant’s mindset, and their ability to think beyond the surface for ways to become better at what they do.
However, the essay fails to zero in on the applicant’s character, instead elaborating on life events that weakly illustrate the applicant’s growth as a physician. The writer’s mantra (“keep moving forward”) is feebly projected, and seems unoriginal due to the lack of a personalized connection between the experience at St. Jude and how that led to the applicant’s growth and mindset changes.
The writer explores deeper ideas beyond medicine, such as dealing with patient deaths in a way to progress and improve as a professional.
The writer, by only focusing on grief brought from patient deaths at St. Jude, misses out on the opportunity to further describe his or her experience at the hospital and portray an original, well-rounded image of his or her strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic.
The applicant ends the essay by attempting to highlight the things they learned at St. Jude, but fails to organize the ideas into a cohesive, comprehensible section. These ideas are also too abstract, and are vague indicators of the applicant’s character that are difficult to grasp.
-- Accepted to: New York University School of Medicine
Sponsored by MedEdits : MedEdits Medical Admissions has been helping applicants get into medical schools like Harvard for more than ten years. Structured like an academic medical department, MedEdits has experts in admissions, writing, editing, medicine, and interview prep working with you collaboratively so you can earn the best admissions results possible.
“Is this the movie you were talking about Alice?” I said as I showed her the movie poster on my iPhone. “Oh my God, I haven’t seen that poster in over 70 years,” she said with her arms trembling in front of her. Immediately, I sat up straight and started to question further. We were talking for about 40 minutes, and the most exciting thing she brought up in that time was the new flavor of pudding she had for lunch. All of sudden, she’s back in 1940 talking about what it was like to see this movie after school for only 5¢ a ticket! After an engaging discussion about life in the 40’s, I knew I had to indulge her. Armed with a plethora of movie streaming sights, I went to work scouring the web. No luck. The movie, “My Son My Son,” was apparently not in high demand amongst torrenting teens. I had to entreat my older brother for his Amazon Prime account to get a working stream. However, breaking up the monotony and isolation felt at the nursing home with a simple movie was worth the pandering.
While I was glad to help a resident have some fun, I was partly motivated by how much Alice reminded me of my own grandfather. In accordance with custom, my grandfather was to stay in our house once my grandmother passed away. More specifically, he stayed in my room and my bed. Just like grandma’s passing, my sudden roommate was a rough transition. In 8th grade at the time, I considered myself to be a generally good guy. Maybe even good enough to be a doctor one day. I volunteered at the hospital, shadowed regularly, and had a genuine interest for science. However, my interest in medicine was mostly restricted to academia. To be honest, I never had a sustained exposure to the palliative side of medicine until the arrival of my new roommate.
The two years I slept on that creaky wooden bed with him was the first time my metal was tested. Sharing that room, I was the one to take care of him. I was the one to rub ointment on his back, to feed him when I came back from school, and to empty out his spittoon when it got full. It was far from glamorous, and frustrating most of the time. With 75 years separating us, and senile dementia setting in, he would often forget who I was or where he was. Having to remind him that I was his grandson threatened to erode at my resolve. Assured by my Syrian Orthodox faith, I even prayed about it; asking God for comfort and firmness on my end. Over time, I grew slow to speak and eager to listen as he started to ramble more and more about bits and pieces of the past. If I was lucky, I would be able to stich together a narrative that may or may have not been true. In any case, my patience started to bud beyond my age group.
Having to remind him that I was his grandson threatened to erode at my resolve.
Although I grew more patient with his disease, my curiosity never really quelled. Conversely, it developed further alongside my rapidly growing interest in the clinical side of medicine. Naturally, I became drawn to a neurology lab in college where I got to study pathologies ranging from atrophy associated with schizophrenia, and necrotic lesions post stroke. However, unlike my intro biology courses, my work at the neurology lab was rooted beyond the academics. Instead, I found myself driven by real people who could potentially benefit from our research. In particular, my shadowing experience with Dr. Dominger in the Veteran’s home made the patient more relevant in our research as I got to encounter geriatric patients with age related diseases, such as Alzhimer’s and Parkinson’s. Furthermore, I had the privilege of of talking to the families of a few of these patients to get an idea of the impact that these diseases had on the family structure. For me, the scut work in the lab meant a lot more with these families in mind than the tritium tracer we were using in the lab.
Despite my achievements in the lab and the classroom, my time with my grandfather still holds a special place in my life story. The more I think about him, the more confident I am in my decision to pursue a career where caring for people is just as important, if not more important, than excelling at academics. Although it was a lot of work, the years spent with him was critical in expanding my horizons both in my personal life and in the context of medicine. While I grew to be more patient around others, I also grew to appreciate medicine beyond the science. This more holistic understanding of medicine had a synergistic effect in my work as I gained a purpose behind the extra hours in the lab, sleepless nights in the library, and longer hours volunteering. I had a reason for what I was doing that may one day help me have long conversations with my own grandchildren about the price of popcorn in the 2000’s.
The most important thing to highlight in Avery’s essay is how he is able to create a duality between his interest in not only the clinical, more academic-based side of medicine, but also the field’s personal side.
He draws personal connections between working with Alice — a patient in a hospital or nursing home — and caring intensely for his grandfather. These two experiences build up the “synergistic” relationship between caring for people and studying the science behind medicine. In this way, he is able to clearly state his passions for medicine and explain his exact motives for entering the field. Furthermore, in his discussion of her grandfather, he effectively employs imagery (“rub ointment on his back,” “feed him when I came back from school,” etc.) to describe the actual work that he does, calling it initially as “far from glamorous, and frustrating most of the time.” By first mentioning his initial impression, then transitioning into how he grew to appreciate the experience, Avery is able to demonstrate a strength of character, sense of enormous responsibility and capability, and open-minded attitude.
He draws personal connections between working with Alice — a patient in a hospital or nursing home — and caring intensely for his grandfather.
Later in the essay, Avery is also able to relate his time caring for his grandfather to his work with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, showcasing the social impact of his work, as the reader is likely already familiar with the biological impact of the work. This takes Avery’s essay full circle, bringing it back to how a discussion with an elderly patient about the movies reminds him of why he chose to pursue medicine.
That said, the essay does feel rushed near the end, as the writer was likely trying to remain within the word count. There could be a more developed transition before Avery introduces the last sentence about “conversations with my own grandchildren,” especially as a strong essay ending is always recommended.
-- Accepted To: Saint Louis University Medical School Direct Admission Medical Program
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The tension in the office was tangible. The entire team sat silently sifting through papers as Dr. L introduced Adam, a 60-year-old morbidly obese man recently admitted for a large open wound along his chest. As Dr. L reviewed the details of the case, his prognosis became even bleaker: hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cardiomyopathy, hyperlipidemia; the list went on and on. As the humdrum of the side-conversations came to a halt, and the shuffle of papers softened, the reality of Adam’s situation became apparent. Adam had a few months to live at best, a few days at worst. To make matters worse, Adam’s insurance would not cover his treatment costs. With no job, family, or friends, he was dying poor and alone.
I followed Dr. L out of the conference room, unsure what would happen next. “Well,” she muttered hesitantly, “We need to make sure that Adam is on the same page as us.” It’s one thing to hear bad news, and another to hear it utterly alone. Dr. L frantically reviewed all of Adam’s paperwork desperately looking for someone to console him, someone to be at his side. As she began to make calls, I saw that being a physician calls for more than good grades and an aptitude for science: it requires maturity, sacrifice, and most of all, empathy. That empathy is exactly what I saw in Dr. L as she went out of her way to comfort a patient she met hardly 20 minutes prior.
Since high school, I’ve been fascinated by technology’s potential to improve healthcare. As a volunteer in [the] Student Ambassador program, I was fortunate enough to watch an open-heart surgery. Intrigued by the confluence of technology and medicine, I chose to study biomedical engineering. At [school], I wanted to help expand this interface, so I became involved with research through Dr. P’s lab by studying the applications of electrospun scaffolds for dermal wound healing. While still in the preliminary stages of research, I learned about the Disability Service Club (DSC) and decided to try something new by volunteering at a bowling outing.
As she began to make calls, I saw that being a physician calls for more than good grades and an aptitude for science: it requires maturity, sacrifice, and most of all, empathy.
The DSC promotes awareness of cognitive disabilities in the community and seeks to alleviate difficulties for the disabled. During one outing, I collaborated with Arc, a local organization with a similar mission. Walking in, I was told that my role was to support the participants by providing encouragement. I decided to help a relatively quiet group of individuals assisted by only one volunteer, Mary. Mary informed me that many individuals with whom I was working were diagnosed with ASD. Suddenly, she started cheering, as one of the members of the group bowled a strike. The group went wild. Everyone was dancing, singing, and rejoicing. Then I noticed one gentleman sitting at our table, solemn-faced. I tried to start a conversation with him, but he remained unresponsive. I sat with him for the rest of the game, trying my hardest to think of questions that would elicit more than a monosyllabic response, but to no avail. As the game ended, I stood up to say bye when he mumbled, “Thanks for talking.” Then he quickly turned his head away. I walked away beaming. Although I was unable to draw out a smile or even sustain a conversation, at the end of the day, the fact that this gentleman appreciated my mere effort completely overshadowed the awkwardness of our time together. Later that day, I realized that as much as I enjoyed the thrill of research and its applications, helping other people was what I was most passionate about.
When it finally came time to tell Adam about his deteriorating condition, I was not sure how he would react. Dr. L gently greeted him and slowly let reality take its toll. He stoically turned towards Dr. L and groaned, “I don’t really care. Just leave me alone.” Dr. L gave him a concerned nod and gradually left the room. We walked to the next room where we met with a pastor from Adam’s church.
“Adam’s always been like that,” remarked the pastor, “he’s never been one to express emotion.” We sat with his pastor for over an hour discussing how we could console Adam. It turned out that Adam was part of a motorcycle club, but recently quit because of his health. So, Dr. L arranged for motorcycle pictures and other small bike trinkets to be brought to his room as a reminder of better times.
Dr. L’s simple gesture reminded me of why I want to pursue medicine. There is something sacred, empowering, about providing support when people need it the most; whether it be simple as starting a conversation, or providing support during the most trying of times. My time spent conducting research kindled my interest in the science of medicine, and my service as a volunteer allowed me to realize how much I valued human interaction. Science and technology form the foundation of medicine, but to me, empathy is the essence. It is my combined interest in science and service that inspires me to pursue medicine. It is that combined interest that makes me aspire to be a physician.
Parker’s essay focuses on one central narrative with a governing theme of compassionate and attentive care for patients, which is the key motivator for her application to medical school. Parker’s story focuses on her volunteer experience shadowing of Dr. L who went the extra mile for Adam, which sets Dr. L up as a role model for Parker as she enters the medical field. This effectively demonstrates to the reader what kind of doctor Parker wants to be in the future.
Parker’s narrative has a clear beginning, middle, and end, making it easy for the reader to follow. She intersperses the main narrative about Adam with experiences she has with other patients and reflects upon her values as she contemplates pursuing medicine as a career. Her anecdote about bowling with the patients diagnosed with ASD is another instance where she uses a story to tell the reader why she values helping people through medicine and attentive patient care, especially as she focuses on the impact her work made on one man at the event.
Parker's story focuses on her volunteer experience shadowing of Dr. L who went the extra mile for Adam, which sets Dr. L up as a role model for Parker as she enters the medical field.
All throughout the essay, the writing is engaging and Parker incorporates excellent imagery, which goes well with her varied sentence structure. The essay is also strong because it comes back full circle at its conclusion, tying the overall narrative back to the story of Dr. L and Adam, which speaks to Parker’s motives for going to medical school.
-- Accepted To: Emory School of Medicine
Growing up, I enjoyed visiting my grandparents. My grandfather was an established doctor, helping the sick and elderly in rural Taiwan until two weeks before he died at 91 years old. His clinic was located on the first floor of the residency with an exam room, treatment room, X-ray room, and small pharmacy. Curious about his work, I would follow him to see his patients. Grandpa often asked me if I want to be a doctor just like him. I always smiled, but was more interested in how to beat the latest Pokémon game. I was in 8th grade when my grandfather passed away. I flew back to Taiwan to attend his funeral. It was a gloomy day and the only street in the small village became a mourning place for the villagers. Flowers filled the streets and people came to pay their respects. An old man told me a story: 60 years ago, a village woman was in a difficult labor. My grandfather rushed into the house and delivered a baby boy. That boy was the old man and he was forever grateful. Stories of grandpa saving lives and bringing happiness to families were told during the ceremony. At that moment, I realized why my grandfather worked so tirelessly up until his death as a physician. He did it for the reward of knowing that he kept a family together and saved a life. The ability for a doctor to heal and bring happiness is the reason why I want to study medicine. Medical school is the first step on a lifelong journey of learning, but I feel that my journey leading up to now has taught me some things of what it means to be an effective physician.
With a newfound purpose, I began volunteering and shadowing at my local hospital. One situation stood out when I was a volunteer in the cardiac stress lab. As I attached EKG leads onto a patient, suddenly the patient collapsed and started gasping for air. His face turned pale, then slightly blue. The charge nurse triggered “Code Blue” and started CPR. A team of doctors and nurses came, rushing in with a defibrillator to treat and stabilize the patient. What I noticed was that medicine was not only about one individual acting as a superhero to save a life, but that it takes a team of individuals with an effective leader, working together to deliver the best care. I want to be a leader as well as part of a team that can make a difference in a person’s life. I have refined these lessons about teamwork and leadership to my activities. In high school I was an 8 time varsity letter winner for swimming and tennis and captain of both of those teams. In college I have participated in many activities, but notably serving as assistant principle cellist in my school symphony as well as being a co-founding member of a quartet. From both my athletic experiences and my music experiences I learned what it was like to not only assert my position as a leader and to effectively communicate my views, but equally as important I learned how to compromise and listen to the opinions of others. Many physicians that I have observed show a unique blend of confidence and humility.
What I noticed was that medicine was not only about one individual acting as a superhero to save a life, but that it takes a team of individuals with an effective leader, working together to deliver the best care.
College opened me up to new perspectives on what makes a complete physician. A concept that was preached in the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions in Medicine (GPPA) was that medicine is both an art and a science. The art of medicine deals with a variety of aspects including patient relationships as well as ethics. Besides my strong affinity for the sciences and mathematics, I always have had interest in history. I took courses in both German literature and history, which influenced me to take a class focusing on Nazi neuroscientists. It was the ideology of seeing the disabled and different races as test subjects rather than people that led to devastating lapses in medical ethics. The most surprising fact for me was that doctors who were respected and leaders in their field disregarded the humanity of patient and rather focused on getting results from their research. Speaking with Dr. Zeidman, the professor for this course, influenced me to start my research which deals with the ethical qualms of using data derived from unethical Nazi experimentation such as the brains derived from the adult and child euthanasia programs. Today, science is so result driven, it is important to keep in mind the ethics behind research and clinical practice. Also the development of personalized genomic medicine brings into question about potential privacy violations and on the extreme end discrimination. The study of ethics no matter the time period is paramount in the medical field. The end goal should always be to put the patient first.
Teaching experiences in college inspired me to become a physician educator if I become a doctor. Post-MCAT, I was offered a job by Next Step Test Prep as a tutor to help students one on one for the MCAT. I had a student who stated he was doing well during practice, but couldn’t get the correct answer during practice tests. Working with the student, I pointed out his lack of understanding concepts and this realization helped him and improves his MCAT score. Having the ability to educate the next generation of doctors is not only necessary, but also a rewarding experience.
My experiences volunteering and shadowing doctors in the hospital as well as my understanding of what it means to be a complete physician will make me a good candidate as a medical school student. It is my goal to provide the best care to patients and to put a smile on a family’s face just as my grandfather once had. Achieving this goal does not take a special miracle, but rather hard work, dedication, and an understanding of what it means to be an effective physician.
Through reflecting on various stages of life, Quinn expresses how they found purpose in pursuing medicine. Starting as a child more interested in Pokemon than their grandfather’s patients, Quinn exhibits personal growth through recognizing the importance of their grandfather’s work saving lives and eventually gaining the maturity to work towards this goal as part of a team.
This essay opens with abundant imagery — of the grandfather’s clinic, flowers filling the streets, and the village woman’s difficult labor — which grounds Quinn’s story in their family roots. Yet, the transition from shadowing in hospitals to pursuing leadership positions in high schools is jarring, and the list of athletic and musical accomplishments reads like a laundry list of accomplishments until Quinn neatly wraps them up as evidence of leadership and teamwork skills. Similarly, the section about tutoring, while intended to demonstrate Quinn’s desire to educate future physicians, lacks the emotional resonance necessary to elevate it from another line lifted from their resume.
This essay opens with abundant imagery — of the grandfather's clinic, flowers filling the streets, and the village woman's difficult labor — which grounds Quinn's story in their family roots.
The strongest point of Quinn’s essay is the focus on their unique arts and humanities background. This equips them with a unique perspective necessary to consider issues in medicine in a new light. Through detailing how history and literature coursework informed their unique research, Quinn sets their application apart from the multitude of STEM-focused narratives. Closing the essay with the desire to help others just as their grandfather had, Quinn ties the narrative back to their personal roots.
-- Accepted To: Edinburgh University UCAT Score: 2810 BMAT Score: 4.6, 4.2, 3.5A
Exposure to the medical career from an early age by my father, who would explain diseases of the human body, sparked my interest for Medicine and drove me to seek out work experience. I witnessed the contrast between use of bone saws and drills to gain access to the brain, with subsequent use of delicate instruments and microscopes in neurosurgery. The surgeon's care to remove the tumour, ensuring minimal damage to surrounding healthy brain and his commitment to achieve the best outcome for the patient was inspiring. The chance to have such a positive impact on a patient has motivated me to seek out a career in Medicine.
Whilst shadowing a surgical team in Texas, carrying out laparoscopic bariatric procedures, I appreciated the surgeon's dedication to continual professional development and research. I was inspired to carry out an Extended Project Qualification on whether bariatric surgery should be funded by the NHS. By researching current literature beyond my school curriculum, I learnt to assess papers for bias and use reliable sources to make a conclusion on a difficult ethical situation. I know that doctors are required to carry out research and make ethical decisions and so, I want to continue developing these skills during my time at medical school.
The chance to have such a positive impact on a patient has motivated me to seek out a career in Medicine.
Attending an Oncology multi-disciplinary team meeting showed me the importance of teamwork in medicine. I saw each team member, with specific areas of expertise, contributing to the discussion and actively listening, and together they formed a holistic plan of action for patients. During my Young Enterprise Award, I facilitated a brainstorm where everyone pitched a product idea. Each member offered a different perspective on the idea and then voted on a product to carry forward in the competition. As a result, we came runners up in the Regional Finals. Furthermore, I started developing my leadership skills, which I improved by doing Duke of Edinburgh Silver and attending a St. John Ambulance Leadership course. In one workshop, similar to the bariatric surgeon I shadowed, I communicated instructions and delegated roles to my team to successfully solve a puzzle. These experiences highlighted the crucial need for teamwork and leadership as a doctor.
Observing a GP, I identified the importance of compassion and empathy. During a consultation with a severely depressed patient, the GP came to the patient's eye level and used a calm, non-judgmental tone of voice, easing her anxieties and allowing her to disclose more information. While volunteering at a care home weekly for two years, I adapted my communication for a resident suffering with dementia who was disconnected from others. I would take her to a quiet environment, speak slowly and in a non-threatening manner, as such, she became talkative, engaged and happier. I recognised that communication and compassion allows doctors to build rapport, gain patients' trust and improve compliance. For two weeks, I shadowed a surgeon performing multiple craniotomies a day. I appreciated the challenges facing doctors including time and stress management needed to deliver high quality care. Organisation, by prioritising patients based on urgency and creating a timetable on the ward round, was key to running the theatre effectively. Similarly, I create to-do-lists and prioritise my academics and extra-curricular activities to maintain a good work-life balance: I am currently preparing for my Grade 8 in Singing, alongside my A-level exams. I also play tennis for the 1st team to relax and enable me to refocus. I wish to continue my hobbies at university, as ways to manage stress.
Through my work experiences and voluntary work, I have gained a realistic understanding of Medicine and its challenges. I have begun to display the necessary skills that I witnessed, such as empathy, leadership and teamwork. The combination of these skills with my fascination for the human body drives me to pursue a place at medical school and a career as a doctor.
This essay traces Alex's personal exploration of medicine through different stages of life, taking a fairly traditional path to the medical school application essay. From witnessing medical procedures to eventually pursuing leadership positions, this tale of personal progress argues that Alex's life has prepared him to become a doctor.
Alex details how experiences conducting research and working with medical teams have confirmed his interest in medicine. Although the breadth of experiences speaks to the applicant’s interest in medicine, the essay verges on being a regurgitation of the Alex's resume, which does not provide the admissions officer with any new insights or information and ultimately takes away from the essay as a whole. As such, the writing’s lack of voice or unique perspective puts the applicant at risk of sounding middle-of-the-road.
From witnessing medical procedures to eventually pursuing leadership positions, this tale of personal progress argues that Alex's life has prepared him to become a doctor.
The essay’s organization, however, is one of its strengths — each paragraph provides an example of personal growth through a new experience in medicine. Further, Alex demonstrates his compassion and diligence through detailed stories, which give a reader a glimpse into his values. Through recognizing important skills necessary to be a doctor, Alex demonstrates that he has the mature perspective necessary to embark upon this journey.
What this essay lacks in a unique voice, it makes up for in professionalism and organization. Alex's earnest desire to attend medical school is what makes this essay shine.
-- Accepted To: University of Toronto MCAT Scores: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems - 128, Critical Analysis and Reading Skills - 127, Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems - 127, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior - 130, Total - 512
Moment of brilliance.
These are all words one would use to describe their motivation by a higher calling to achieve something great. Such an experience is often cited as the reason for students to become physicians; I was not one of these students. Instead of waiting for an event like this, I chose to get involved in the activities that I found most invigorating. Slowly but surely, my interests, hobbies, and experiences inspired me to pursue medicine.
As a medical student, one must possess a solid academic foundation to facilitate an understanding of physical health and illness. Since high school, I found science courses the most appealing and tended to devote most of my time to their exploration. I also enjoyed learning about the music, food, literature, and language of other cultures through Latin and French class. I chose the Medical Sciences program because it allowed for flexibility in course selection. I have studied several scientific disciplines in depth like physiology and pathology while taking classes in sociology, psychology, and classical studies. Such a diverse academic portfolio has strengthened my ability to consider multiple viewpoints and attack problems from several angles. I hope to relate to patients from all walks of life as a physician and offer them personalized treatment.
I was motivated to travel as much as possible by learning about other cultures in school. Exposing myself to different environments offered me perspective on universal traits that render us human. I want to pursue medicine because I believe that this principle of commonality relates to medical practice in providing objective and compassionate care for all. Combined with my love for travel, this realization took me to Nepal with Volunteer Abroad (VA) to build a school for a local orphanage (4). The project’s demands required a group of us to work closely as a team to accomplish the task. Rooted in different backgrounds, we often had conflicting perspectives; even a simple task such as bricklaying could stir up an argument because each person had their own approach. However, we discussed why we came to Nepal and reached the conclusion that all we wanted was to build a place of education for the children. Our unifying goal allowed us to reach compromises and truly appreciate the value of teamwork. These skills are vital in a clinical setting, where physicians and other health care professionals need to collaborate as a multidisciplinary team to tackle patients’ physical, emotional, social, and psychological problems.
I hope to relate to patients from all walks of life as a physician and offer them personalized treatment.
The insight I gained from my Nepal excursion encouraged me to undertake and develop the role of VA campus representative (4). Unfortunately, many students are not equipped with the resources to volunteer abroad; I raised awareness about local initiatives so everyone had a chance to do their part. I tried to avoid pushing solely for international volunteerism for this reason and also because it can undermine the work of local skilled workers and foster dependency. Nevertheless, I took on this position with VA because I felt that the potential benefits were more significant than the disadvantages. Likewise, doctors must constantly weigh out the pros and cons of a situation to help a patient make the best choice. I tried to dispel fears of traveling abroad by sharing first-hand experiences so that students could make an informed decision. When people approached me regarding unfamiliar placements, I researched their questions and provided them with both answers and a sense of security. I found great fulfillment in addressing the concerns of individuals, and I believe that similar processes could prove invaluable in the practice of medicine.
As part of the Sickkids Summer Research Program, I began to appreciate the value of experimental investigation and evidence-based medicine (23). Responsible for initiating an infant nutrition study at a downtown clinic, I was required to explain the project’s implications and daily protocol to physicians, nurses and phlebotomists. I took anthropometric measurements and blood pressure of children aged 1-10 and asked parents about their and their child’s diet, television habits, physical exercise regimen, and sunlight exposure. On a few occasions, I analyzed and presented a small set of data to my superiors through oral presentations and written documents.
With continuous medical developments, physicians must participate in lifelong learning. More importantly, they can engage in research to further improve the lives of their patients. I encountered a young mother one day at the clinic struggling to complete the study’s questionnaires. After I asked her some questions, she began to open up to me as her anxiety subsided; she then told me that her child suffered from low iron. By talking with the physician and reading a few articles, I recommended a few supplements and iron-rich foods to help her child. This experience in particular helped me realize that I enjoy clinical research and strive to address the concerns of people with whom I interact.
Research is often impeded by a lack of government and private funding. My clinical placement motivated me to become more adept in budgeting, culminating in my role as founding Co-President of the UWO Commerce Club (ICCC) (9). Together, fellow club executives and I worked diligently to get the club ratified, a process that made me aware of the bureaucratic challenges facing new organizations. Although we had a small budget, we found ways of minimizing expenditure on advertising so that we were able to host more speakers who lectured about entrepreneurship and overcoming challenges. Considering the limited space available in hospitals and the rising cost of health care, physicians, too, are often forced to prioritize and manage the needs of their patients.
No one needs a grand revelation to pursue medicine. Although passion is vital, it is irrelevant whether this comes suddenly from a life-altering event or builds up progressively through experience. I enjoyed working in Nepal, managing resources, and being a part of clinical and research teams; medicine will allow me to combine all of these aspects into one wholesome career.
I know with certainty that this is the profession for me.
Jimmy opens this essay hinting that his essay will follow a well-worn path, describing the “big moment” that made him realize why he needed to become a physician. But Jimmy quickly turns the reader’s expectation on its head by stating that he did not have one of those moments. By doing this, Jimmy commands attention and has the reader waiting for an explanation. He soon provides the explanation that doubles as the “thesis” of his essay: Jimmy thinks passion can be built progressively, and Jimmy’s life progression has led him to the medical field.
Jimmy did not make the decision to pursue a career in medicine lightly. Instead he displays through anecdotes that his separate passions — helping others, exploring different walks of life, personal responsibility, and learning constantly, among others — helped Jimmy realize that being a physician was the career for him. By talking readers through his thought process, it is made clear that Jimmy is a critical thinker who can balance multiple different perspectives simultaneously. The ability to evaluate multiple options and make an informed, well-reasoned decision is one that bodes well for Jimmy’s medical career.
While in some cases this essay does a lot of “telling,” the comprehensive and decisive walkthrough indicates what Jimmy’s idea of a doctor is. To him, a doctor is someone who is genuinely interested in his work, someone who can empathize and related to his patients, someone who can make important decisions with a clear head, and someone who is always trying to learn more. Just like his decision to work at the VA, Jimmy has broken down the “problem” (what his career should be) and reached a sound conclusion.
By talking readers through his thought process, it is made clear that Jimmy is a critical thinker who can balance multiple different perspectives simultaneously.
Additionally, this essay communicates Jimmy’s care for others. While it is not always advisable to list one’s volunteer efforts, each activity Jimmy lists has a direct application to his essay. Further, the sheer amount of philanthropic work that Jimmy does speaks for itself: Jimmy would not have worked at VA, spent a summer with Sickkids, or founded the UWO finance club if he were not passionate about helping others through medicine. Like the VA story, the details of Jimmy’s participation in Sickkids and the UWO continue to show how he has thought about and embodied the principles that a physician needs to be successful.
Jimmy’s essay both breaks common tropes and lives up to them. By framing his “list” of activities with his passion-happens-slowly mindset, Jimmy injects purpose and interest into what could have been a boring and braggadocious essay if it were written differently. Overall, this essay lets the reader know that Jimmy is seriously dedicated to becoming a physician, and both his thoughts and his actions inspire confidence that he will give medical school his all.
The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this content.
Medical School Sample Personal Statements
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Disclaimer: While these essays ultimately proved effective and led to medical school acceptances, there are multiple components that contribute to being an effective medical school applicant. These essays are not perfect, and the strengths and weaknesses have been listed where relevant.
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“I love Scriabin!” exclaimed Logan, a 19-year-old patient at the hospital, as we found a common interest in the obscure Russian composer. I knew Logan’s story because it was so similar to my own: a classically-trained pianist, he was ready to head off to college in a month, just as I had the year before. Yet it was Logan who was heading into surgery to remove a recently-discovered brain tumor. Hoping to assuage his fears of the daunting operation, I lent him my iPod full of Scriabin’s music. Though the surgery began normally, a few hours later, Logan’s blood pressure started dropping, and he became unresponsive to monitoring provided by the surgical neurophysiologist. As the nurses scrambled to stabilize him, I finally heard the neurosurgeon ask, “Did we lose him?” These four terse words immediately unnerved me. Logan was in the most critical and uncertain situation I could imagine, while the iPod I had lent him, a reminder of the conversation we had just a few hours earlier, was eerily visible on the other side of the room. While Logan, fortunately, went on to make a full recovery after a successful surgery, I was not ready to hear those four frightening words.
Perhaps I was so unnerved by those words because of my experiences with my mother’s sicknesses. My father and I try to be mentally prepared to lose her any day. With a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, my mother has struggled with suicidal tendencies for most of my life. Her other illnesses, including several autoimmune disorders and severe gastrointestinal problems, certainly hinder her from experiencing the joys of life. But what is most difficult for me and my father is her anger and violence when she is in pain. My father would remind me that I had to consider the sources of her feelings, however irrational, in order to communicate with her. Though my relationship with my mother has proved challenging, I am thankful for these experiences.
In medicine, I will be able to use these experiences to understand psychological barriers to wellness and to better empathize with the patients I see in the clinic. Unique life experiences like these helped when I met Enrique, a patient presenting with an unusually painful fungal infection on one of his toenails. Though he was aware that his condition posed no lasting threat to his health, the extreme pain of the infection made him apprehensive of treatment, a soak in Povidone-iodine solution. “How can I help this man?” I asked myself, “He is about to refuse a simple treatment for a painful ailment.” Hoping to calm him, I struck up a conversation in Spanish, which I learned while living for some months in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This was not enough. As he became increasingly uneasy about the impending treatment, I remembered a line from Federico García Lorca’s “Romance de la Pena Negra”: “…wash your body with the water of the lark / and leave your heart in peace.” As Enrique calmly placed his foot into the “lark’s water,” I was relieved to see that this was the encouragement he needed. I believe that my travels have helped me appreciate the cultural backgrounds of many patients and have prepared me to be an empathetic clinician.
While I have been prepared to address patients psychologically and culturally, my training in the lab has prepared me to address patients biologically as well. Having worked extensively in two different labs studying vaccine development and microbial pathogenesis, I have developed a desire to use bench research to improve clinical care. One particularly striking manifestation of this concept came at the beginning of my day at an internist’s clinic. Walking into the office, I heard a most unsettling sound—a distinctive, screeching, painful yelp audible throughout the clinic. I instantly knew what case I would be seeing next: Whooping cough. When I saw Brody, a toddler, I was arrested by a unique commiseration, one of both pity and curiosity. I knew exactly what was happening to Brody. I had spent the last two years performing research on the bacteria that caused the disease, Bordetella pertussis . Describing elements of the microbe’s pathogenesis and explaining how our research could improve vaccine efficacy was comforting to the family, and their response was encouraging to me as I continue my work. My research experiences have engendered a passion to be at the cutting edge of medicine, seeking always to improve patient care, so that in the future, I can come to a family like Brody’s with a better prognosis.
Though I may not have been prepared to hear those frightening words during Logan’s surgery, what I can say with confidence is that I am ready to begin the journey of a physician—the journey of a lifelong learner and a committed healer. I am ready to be challenged by difficult situations in the clinic, like Logan’s, because it is through those circumstances that I will learn and grow. I want to become a physician so that I can use my liberal arts education with my personal and professional experiences to meet medicine’s unique requirement of understanding patients psychologically, culturally, and biologically. I am ready to provide the most excellent patient care, empathetically and holistically appreciating my patients’ stories in order to serve them best.
The author masterfully weaves together multiple elements of his unique experiences in medicine to tell a compelling story. This an excellent example of “show, don’t tell”, whereby the author tells stories and takes the reader on a journey rather than simply listing what he did in the past.
For example, rather than explicitly stating that he did research on Bordetella pertussis, the author tells a story of a patient with Whooping cough and interweaves his research experience there, tying together a message of the future doctor’s interest in translational (from bench to bedside) research. Similarly, rather than explicitly stating he did experience A, and learned important lesson B and C, these themes are implied more indirectly. As a result, the essay reads smoothly as a story, and grips the reader.
The author’s voice comes through, transitions are smooth, the introduction engages the reader, and the story arc neatly comes full circle. The character limit was pushed to the limit (5,299) and the author made every word count. Fantastic essay.
The main reason why I want to go into medicine is because of a promise I made to my sister when I was eight years old. My sister, who was only a few months old, was aware I had been taking care of her while our parents were working late. Caring for her gave me a feeling of responsibility I had never experienced before. When my sister woke up with a fever, I felt helpless. Her doctor was able to take care of the most important person in my life by systematically ruling out possible causes for the fever while still helping my sister feel safe, allowing me to see the beauty of medicine. I made a promise to my sister to become a medical doctor, so I can take care of her and other people who cannot take care of themselves. Later, my mother explained to me that medicine had made my life possible because I had been conceived through in vitro fertilization. This reinforced my motivation to become a physician and encourages me to this day to come full circle and give back to the field that made my life possible by helping others in need.
I continued to pursue my dream of practicing medicine by volunteering in the Intensive Care Unit at the UC San Diego Thornton Medical Center, where I gained first-hand experience interacting with patients. While collecting laboratory samples from nurses, I talked to a patient who only spoke Spanish. As the interpreter had not arrived yet, I was the only Spanish speaker in the unit, and my Spanish was basic at best. I asked the patient about her day and family, which really lifted her spirits. This interaction taught me the importance of personal connections with patients.
Shadowing allowed me to learn the characteristics of a good physician. Before surgeries, I obtained the patient’s consent to let me observe the procedure while the surgeon went over the patient’s last minute concerns. One patient needed an Aortic Valve Replacement, and when I was getting his consent he told me he was a famous Italian singer. The surgeon asked him to sing his hit song, and I was amazed. The patient’s face lit up and all his worries faded before the surgery. Even though the patient was going to be heavily sedated, the surgeon still cared about the patient’s stress about the procedure and that really drew me to the profession and showed me that there is more to being a good doctor than just the technicalities or knowledge from textbooks.
Volunteering at a veterans’ hospital exposed me to a side of medicine I have only read about in the news. People who are underserved and undereducated who refuse medical care. I would call patients who could not go to any other hospital and try to convince them to have their eyes checked for diabetes symptoms in the Teleretinal Imaging department. One veteran answered my call with a groan asking why he needs to go to the hospital when he knows he does not have diabetes. I realized I had to explain to him that symptoms can develop well before the actual disease. This inspired me to help patients in underprivileged communities because some are not educated enough to know when something is wrong with their bodies.
I know if I am given the chance to practice medicine and serve as a leader in the African American community, I can deliver the same inspiration and become a role model for those who are disadvantaged. At UC San Diego I joined the Black Student Union where I was able to reach out to those who were unsure about pursuing a higher education. Speaking to high school students about my college experiences has improved my communication skills and ability to relate to diverse populations. I spoke about how college can open many more opportunities for these students and that there are countless resources and scholarships that can help them. I will use simple and direct communication to help patients understand their disease. Through this experience, I knew I wanted to practice medicine that is personal through interaction with minority communities. After these events, it is clear to me that I cannot give up on my dreams of becoming a doctor because when I rise I will also lift those around me with the same struggle.
In elementary school, I realized there was a lack of famous African-American physicians, so I asked my parents if they knew of anyone. My father told me about my uncle, Roy Harris, who grew up in the inner city, surrounded by drugs and gangs. In order to avoid these hardships, he joined the high school track team and continued running through college while pursuing his medical degree. I began running to remind myself of his inspiring story and, like him, encourage a change in the world so one day students will have more African-American doctors to emulate. I am currently one of the top athletes in the nation, an Academic All-American, and I hope to compete at NCAA Division II nationals next year. Running has given me the discipline to maintain a balanced life, provided me the focus to succeed in medical school, and given me the drive to work toward fulfilling my dreams. Most importantly, I made a promise to my sister, creating an unshakeable foundation of endless motivation that will encourage me even through the most distressing moments of my journey to become a physician. I will never give up nor surrender because I always keep my promises.
The author uses an anecdote to start and finish the essay, which is a common and effective way to create a story arc. He calls back to multiple experiences throughout his life, from childhood to adolescence to young adulthood to bolster his resolve for pursuing medicine. His interesting background and stories, such as the promise he made to his sister, and his inspiration for picking up track, make for unique elements in this personal statement.
While the author does reflect back to multiple experiences, this comes across more as “telling” than “showing”. Compare this to the essay above to see the difference. The author has a common and repeating paragraph structure of 1) explain what the extracurricular or experience is, 2) recount a story related to said experience, and 3) draw lessons learned. While this structure gets the point across, it does not come across as engaging or compelling to the reader.
The author’s desire to give back to the African American community as well as his high aspirations are admirable.
At the beginning of the first Alternative Spring Break (ASB) meeting that I was leading in front of a group of nervous volunteers, I used an icebreaker, Two Truths and a Lie. Being a common face at my campus’s student activities, I have played this game perhaps one too many times. Unlike everyone else who had to take time to think about their interesting truths, I would say the same thing every time. “I want to be a pediatrician, I have alpacas, and I have llamas.”
I do not have llamas.
Growing up on a farm has given me great pride throughout the years and has driven my passion for service to my community, leading me to the goal of a career as a pediatrician. The farm is where I was first introduced to medicine. I would assist my father give shots to our animals, help our alpacas give birth to their crías, and talk with our family veterinarian about his treatment methods. The farm spawned in me a love for science which has shaped my career path, and my knowledge acquired through the farm has been a pleasure to share with people. My mother and I would visit the special education classrooms of different schools to show the kids presentations of the farm. We would lead demonstrations of us cleaning, spinning and crocheting the fiber to an involved and excited crowd of individuals. I have had numerous positive interactions with kids which has made me realize that there is no group I would rather work with more.
Our family farm became close with the few farms that were around us. We would help the alpaca farm 20 minutes from us shear their alpacas, and we once helped a small farm repair its fence that had been ravaged by a tornado. It felt good to be able to help people with things that not everybody has the knowledge to do. The farm helped shape my view of community into one of empathy which encompasses the spirit of being a physician. The joy I received from helping other farms led me to pursue community service opportunities at my university which I found first with ASB, a community service organization in which students dedicate their spring breaks to participate in meaningful service activities, and later as an AmeriCorps volunteer. When I signed up for my first ASB trip in my freshman year, I looked for a trip that involved helping kids. I knew I loved working with the younger population by assisting my mom at her home daycare and those presentations we gave to special education classes. The trip that caught my attention was to Pulaski, VA, which worked with a service organization called Beans and Rice. We would do fulfilling tornado recovery work in the morning, but I most looked forward to afternoons where we got to sit down and chat with kids about their days while helping them with their homework. I heard many stories from the kids about going to bed hungry or their parents being out of work. We were able to sit with whomever we wished during the kids’ lunch which I primarily spent with Chase, a boy who the other kids saw as an outcast due to his sexual orientation. My time with these kids made me realize how some people did not grow up with the strong sense of community that I knew at their age and inspired me to continue my work with their age group.
During my time in Pulaski, the director of the organization recognized my passion for working with kids and encouraged me to apply to AmeriCorps. I found a program in Lincoln, NE which allowed me to work with impoverished kids and share my passion of science with them under my given alias of T-Roy the Science Boy (not to be confused with my rival, Bill Nye the Science Guy). My relationships with the children I was working with grew fast, but one student made a significant impact on me. The second-grader was incapable of paying attention to academics yet had an amazing sense of humor. On the surface, his apparent developmental issues brought on by fetal alcohol syndrome resulted in hyperactivity and an inclination for angry outbursts. I spent time with him every day but came to the realization that, no matter how many times I was able to help him understand something, it did little to help his underlying health problems. Going to medical school will allow me to obtain the knowledge and skills I need to offer the ultimate service to people like my second-grade student—access to a healthy life.
With a strong desire to continue giving back to my community, I signed up to be a patient advocate in Baystate Medical Center’s emergency room. Here I was exposed to different health issues and many upset family members. It was my job to ensure the patients and their families were as comfortable as possible, but my job often morphed into one of a storyteller conversing with the families to get their minds off their difficult situations. Of course, the alpacas were a common topic of discussion since kids always love seeing the goofy haircuts we give them. My mother made this an easy task by uploading a video of us shearing the alpacas onto YouTube titled “Spit Happens”. A fitting name, no doubt. I have been blessed to share my farm-inspired sense of community with a broad range of different cultures from Nebraska to Virginia. I look forward to travelling to new communities as a physician while keeping my community-driven morals close, so alpaca my bags now.
This author is unique in his excellent command of humor. Note that this is a riskier approach and most applicants should avoid humor. In this setting, the humor certainly adds value to the essay, although this may be more off-putting to more traditional and conservative medical school admissions committee members. Overall, a high risk and high reward strategy, because when it lands, it makes for a compelling, unique, and entertaining read. Remember, admissions committees are reading through thousands of essays, and this comes as a breath of fresh air.
The introduction is brilliantly engaging and humorous, and entices the reader for what is to come. Clearly, this author has an interesting story to share and isn’t afraid to make you laugh.
While the essay is overall good, it could be improved in a few notable ways. First, the sentence structure and word choice can be tightened up in areas. The reader may find themself having to reread more than one sentence to understand what the writer is hoping to convey. Secondly, while the author does a great job highlighting a very unique and wide ranging background, showing more than telling would increase the effectiveness of this essay. Additionally, more emphasis and attention on “why medicine” and “why you would make a good doctor” would make this medical school personal statement more universally appealing (and less risky).
It’s not every day you help a kid become Iron Man. It happened for me during an internship at the NIH. I was responsible for designing the electronics and software for a portable robotic exoskeleton to help children expressing crouch gait due to cerebral palsy to improve their gait by retraining their muscles and neuron pathways. I saw the project as a fascinating technical problem and immersed myself in solving it.
Then I met Isaiah. Isaiah is a child with cerebral palsy expressing crouch gait with limited mobility. When Isaiah first began training on the robot, he became frustrated. As I watched him become exasperated using the device, it really hit me that I was creating a device for a real person, and the way we delivered his care was every bit as important to what we were doing as delivering an effective technical solution. As his confidence grew, I witnessed Isaiah, who could barely walk without the device, try to run. We even had to tell him to slow down! He asked if he could bring home the device because it made him feel like Iron Man. This experience crystalized for me my calling, to solve the challenging medical problems children face with love and a deep appreciation for their humanity.
I have firsthand knowledge of what it means to a child with serious medical problems to have loving physicians and nurses. When I was four, I received a heart transplant. Five years later, I fell ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Throughout these difficult and uncertain times, I was fortunate to have a clinical team whose positivity and humor made me feel like a normal kid despite the fact that I was facing grave medical problems. While these experiences were difficult, they gave me a perspective that I treasure because it gives meaning to every day of my life. This perspective is where my calling originates – to become a physician-engineer completely committed to the emotional well-being of each of my patients.
The engineering problems many children face are substantial, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to develop my skills in this area. As a part of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design’s design team program I worked on two projects that taught me different aspects of the process of developing medical devices. The first project, NeoVate, gave me an overview of the design process of bringing medical devices to market. We developed a neonatal monitoring system for the developing world. We began with a needs assessment and then prototyped our solution to satisfy the specifications we developed. While I focused on the technical development, it was valuable to see other members create a sustainable distribution model because it helped me understand the step by step process by which an idea goes from concept to adoption in the medical field.
For the second project, TacPac, I was the team leader. On past teams I had a narrow focus on the technical development, but on TacPac I had to be knowledgeable about all aspects of the project and see the big picture in order to develop strategies to move the team forward. I learned how to create contingency plans by reaching out to our numerous advisors in many different specialties to build decision trees.
This project had an extra layer of meaning for me since we were developing an at-home monitoring system for tacrolimus, an immunosuppressant drug I have been taking for over twelve years. Currently, monitoring of this drug’s levels can only be done in a clinical setting. Our device allows patients to monitor their levels in the home, allowing for less inconvenience to patients and more data to make more informed clinical decisions.
While my engineering training developed my technical skills, the foundation of my heart and why I will pour myself into my vocation is derived from the love and care I received from my own clinical team as a child. I feel called to be of service to children with serious medical issues, just as my physicians and nurses were to me. One of my favorite volunteer experiences was when I was a camp counselor for Heart Camp, where I had previously been a camper. Heart Camp is a week-long camp for children with congenital heart defects designed to create an environment of fun, hope, and normalcy. This is one way in which I can use the difficult experiences of my childhood for good because it is easy for me to bring normalcy to these children’s lives since for me, it is normal.
Another volunteer opportunity that has had a tremendous amount of meaning for me is working with the Washington Regional Transplant Community to spread organ donation awareness by telling my story. Since I never received the chance to know my donor family, I use this volunteering as my way to say thank you.
I have enjoyed my engineering studies and my volunteering experiences have been of tremendous value to me, but I cannot wait to go to medical school. It is my desire to be a bridge between the technical engineering world and the direct delivery of care that only physicians can give. I feel it is my mission to use all of my experiences, both good and bad, to find innovative solutions to help the next Wonder Woman and Captain America thrive both physically and in every other part of their lives.
The superhero theme is unique, timely, and highly relevant to the author’s interest in pursuing a pediatric specialty. The author has a strong research background and ultimately was accepted to a highly ranked and research heavy institution, which is no surprise. While a significant portion of the body of the essay reads as “tell” more than “show”, some aspects of the personal statement use more effective story telling.
Deep interest in research, a unique background of being a lymphoma patient, and a palpable passion to help other kids who are suffering makes this applicant come across as a valuable asset to any research oriented medical school.
To further improve the impact of this essay, the author could remove one or two experiences listed in a more descriptive way and incorporate immersive stories to convey the significance and impact they had on him.
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