Don’t underestimate the power of the medical school personal statement to make a strong, positive impression on an admissions committee. Combined with your interview performance, your personal statement can account for 60% (or more) of your total admissions score!
Medical schools want to enroll bright, empathetic, communicative people. Here's how to write a compelling med school personal statement that shows schools who you are and what you're capable of.
Personal Statement Topics
Your medical school personal statement is a component of your primary application submitted via AMCAS, TMDSAS (for Texas applications), or AACOMAS (NB: If you are applying to medical school in Canada, confirm the application process with your school, as not all application components may be submitted through AMCAS).
These applications offer broad topics to consider, and many essay approaches are acceptable. For example, you could write about:
- an experience that challenged or changed your perspective about medicine
- a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual
- a challenging personal experience
- unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
- your motivation to seek a career in medicine
You'll write an additional essay (or two) when you submit secondary applications to individual schools. These essays require you to respond to a specific question. Admissions committees will review your entire application, so choose subject matter that complements your original essay .
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Follow these personal statement tips to help the admissions committee better understand you as a candidate.
1. Write, re-write, let it sit, and write again!
Allow yourself 6 months of writing and revision to get your essay in submission-ready shape. This gives you the time to take your first pass, set your draft aside (for a minimum of 24 hours), review what you’ve written, and re-work your draft.
2. Stay focused.
Your personal statement should highlight interesting aspects of your journey—not tell your entire life story. Choose a theme, stick to it, and support it with specific examples.
3. Back off the cliches.
Loving science and wanting to help people might be your sincere passions, but they are also what everyone else is writing about. Instead, be personal and specific.
4. Find your unique angle.
What can you say about yourself that no one else can? Remember, everyone has trials, successes and failures. What's important and unique is how you reacted to those incidents. Bring your own voice and perspective to your personal statement to give it a truly memorable flavor.
5. Be interesting.
Start with a “catch” that will create intrigue before launching into the story of who you are. Make the admissions committee want to read on!
6. Show don't tell.
Instead of telling the admissions committee about your unique qualities (like compassion, empathy, and organization), show them through the stories you tell about yourself. Don’t just say it—actually prove it.
7. Embrace the 5-point essay format.
Here's a trusty format that you can make your own:
- 1st paragraph: These four or five sentences should "catch" the reader's attention.
- 3-4 body paragraphs: Use these paragraphs to reveal who you are. Ideally, one of these paragraphs will reflect clinical understanding and one will reflect service.
- Concluding paragraph: The strongest conclusion reflects the beginning of your essay, gives a brief summary of you are, and ends with a challenge for the future.
8. Good writing is simple writing.
Good medical students—and good doctors—use clear, direct language. Your essays should not be a struggle to comprehend.
9. Be thoughtful about transitions.
Be sure to vary your sentence structure. You don’t want your essay to be boring! Pay attention to how your paragraphs connect to each other.
Good medical students—and good doctors—use clear, direct language.
10. Stick to the rules.
Watch your word count. That’s 5,300 characters (including spaces) for AMCAS applications, 5,000 characters for TMDSAS, and 4,500 characters for AACOMAS.
11. Stay on topic.
Rambling not only uses up your precious character limit, but it also causes confusion! Think about the three to five “sound bytes” you want admissions committee to know and remember you by.
12. Don't overdo it.
Beware of being too self-congratulatory or too self-deprecating.
13. Seek multiple opinions.
Before you hit “submit,” ask several people you trust for feedback on your personal statement. The more time you have spent writing your statement, the less likely you are to spot any errors. A professor or friend whose judgment and writing skills you trust is invaluable.
14. Double-check the details.
Always check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This goes for the rest of your application (like your activities list), too. A common oversight is referencing the wrong school in your statement! Give yourself (and your proofreaders) the time this task truly requires.
15. Consult the experts about your personal statement strategy.
Our med school admissions counselors can diagnose the “health” of your overall application, including your personal statement. Get expert help and guidance to write an effective personal statement that showcases not only your accomplishments, but your passion and your journey.
Want to get an edge over the crowd?
Our admissions experts know what it takes it get into med school. Get the customized strategy and guidance you need to help achieve your goals.
Med School Admission Counseling
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How to write a personal statement for a university application
How to stand out
The personal statement is an important part of the Higher Education application process. Admissions tutors use the statement to help them identify the applicants most suited for each course.
Your son or daughter will need to demonstrate a genuine interest and passion for the chosen subject and skills that will benefit them while at university. The personal statement is a chance to make an impression and to stand out from the crowd.
Where to start
Download a personal statement template
Before drafting, writing and rewriting the statement, your son or daughter is advised to:
- research their course and university choices.
- think which of their interests, abilities, transferable and extra-curricular skills best match the entry requirements of their chosen course. They should explain when, where and how they have put these traits into practice.
- think of their future career aspirations.
Please note, the same statement will be submitted to all the universities that your son or daughter apply to so avoid specific university names, staff details and course references.
What to include
A personal statement should be:
- full of enthusiasm for the course/subject.
- focused on skills, achievements, work experience, ambitions and personal interests.
- written in plain English without jargon.
- free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- max 4,000 characters long.
- max 47 lines of text when you paste it in UCAS Apply (including blank lines).
- submitted by pasting the text into the Apply section on UCAS website.
The statement must not:
- include any text that has been copied from another source as UCAS use software to identify plagiarism.
How to support your son or daughter
- Next step
- Understanding university offers
Getting started is the hardest part. Suggest that your son or daughter make lists of all the things they like, know and aspire to with regard to their chosen course subject. With the list at hand, it will be easier to start drafting the personal statement text.
Offer to review the draft at regular intervals and provide constructive feedback on how to improve the text. Suggest they show it to a teacher who knows them well, to get additional feedback.
Your son or daughter may need to refer to the personal statement if they are invited to an interview at their chosen university, so, remind them to save a copy of the final version before it is submitted.