Your AMCAS personal statement is one of the most important components of your AMCAS application. This is your best chance to share information about yourself with the admissions committee that they might not learn from reading the other sections of your application. It’s one of your first opportunities to set yourself apart from the competition, which you’ll need to do if you want to hear back from medical schools for interviews. But your AMCAS personal statement won’t write itself, and synthesizing all your ideas, experience, and background into about 5,300 characters is no easy feat.
Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you and collected some of the best tips for writing an outstanding AMCAS personal statement, along with excellent AMCAS medical school personal statement examples that will inspire you to write your own.
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Although you may later need to further clarify your motivations and school interests in medical school secondary essays, the first major admissions essay you are likely to encounter is the AMCAS personal statement if you are applying to allopathic medical schools in the US. If you are applying to DO schools (osteopathic medical schools), then you will need to submit an AACOMAS personal statement.
Consider the following AMCAS personal statement example to get a good idea of what's expected. Then, read over our 6 Expert Tips and solid suggestions to prepare to write your own essay.
AMCAS Personal Statement Example #1
916 words (5,181 of the maximum 5,300 characters with spaces)
My mother grew up as one of 14 children in a very poor home in rural Ontario, where both parents, while loving and warm, suffered from alcoholism. She and her siblings experienced significant childhood adversity, the legacy of which still looms large. Later, as the matriarch of her own family, she ran a small business, supported my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and provided stability for all of us. She modelled, and I internalized, compassion for my loved ones as they lived through uncertainty, conflict, illness, and loss.
You might wonder why I tell my mother’s story, rather than my own. I could say that my mother inspired me to go into medicine and leave it at that. However, to call it inspiration would be a discredit to the profound influence my mother has had on my life and the lives of everyone around us.
They say, “it takes a village,” but my family basically made up half the village where I lived. I’m exaggerating, but it’s almost true. In such an isolated place, the few families that existed formed a close, interdependent community. When someone fell ill, it was often the family who stepped in, since the nearest clinic was 40 minutes away.
That is not to say we were completely helpless. We had a doctor who actually did house calls for many years. It wasn’t always the same doctor, but the service was set up to come to us. These doctors in my family’s story buffered the effects of poverty and social exclusion. For example, when my uncle Elvin was dying of liver cancer, our family doctor regularly stopped by our house to manage his palliative care, even as he continued to drink alcohol. I still recall how the doctor treated him with such humanity and with full recognition of his life arc.
You will have noticed that I said, “our house,” which is where my mother comes in again. Indeed, when her brother got sick, there was no question of where he would stay or who would look after him. He was not alone; my mother was already looking after her ailing father and several young children. Moreover, before my uncle Elvin arrived, she had offered our neighbor’s son, who was studying to be a nurse, a job. She didn’t stop there. Those of us siblings who were old enough to take on greater responsibility were assigned new tasks: more cleaning, more cooking, more laundry.
With dozens of relatives who could potentially drop in at any moment, our home had never been empty or quiet, so at first, I didn’t notice the change. Gradually, however, the house was transformed. As my uncle’s condition and that of my grandfather grew more serious, we had more visiting physicians and twice the number of nurses. Someone was always knocking into someone else with a basket of laundry, and everything smelled like disinfectant.
This state of affairs eventually prompted the oncologist to suggest a more private arrangement for our two patients, but my mother had insisted that they would stay in their rooms, on the first floor, where they were comfortable and where no one was ever too far away. There was something about the matter of fact approach my mother took to the reality of having sick people in her home that impressed me. In her mind, it felt perfectly normal, and even to be expected, that they would remain with us, as part of the family, until the end. And although I wasn’t given a choice about it – and maybe even because I was given no choice – my mother’s decision made perfect sense to me and even reassured me. As she argued for the security of her “patients,” she made us feel more secure ourselves as kids.
I won’t lie, there were many difficult moments after that, and we couldn’t have done it without the visiting health care team, but the year my mother ventured into hospice care changed the course of my life, as I am sure you have gathered by now. As I embarked on my undergrad in social sciences, I was certain I wanted to follow my mother’s example of community care, but all my extracurricular interests have centered around health care. I have volunteered in other nursing homes – not my own – and served as an intake worker at a local rehabilitation day center, registering clients for their medication. These and other similar positions have only confirmed my attraction to the field of medicine.
I’m seriously considering family medicine because I appreciate that patients’ social, economic, and biological narratives are critical to their primary care experiences. Family medicine is where the lives of patients are wholly expressed. However, I’m equally interested in oncology because I witnessed first-hand how these specialists work to improve treatment, alleviate suffering, prolong life, and enhance quality of life.
What I am certain of is that I want to be of direct, longitudinal service to my community through innovative and solutions-oriented work that helps people live well – in other words, I want to be just like my mother. At the core of my service vision is health equity, or the elimination of avoidable, unfair differences in health status experienced by different groups. My dedication to health equity is clearly reflected in my academic and work life, but it is rooted in the lived experiences of my family.
Do you need inspiration for your AMCAS personal statement? Check out this video with examples:
Tip #1: The Essay Is a Story, not a Resume
Your AMCAS personal statement should NOT be a recitation of your medical student CV. Your CV is just data: it does not tell the story of why you want to become a doctor, or why you are particularly suited to medicine. As the above sample shows, structuring your personal statement around a narrative can be an effective approach.
5 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Your AMCAS Personal Statement
What Makes Example #1 an Effective AMCAS Personal Statement?
- It articulates the applicant’s own point of view about their background influences, the traits they value, their core sense of empathy, and what they will bring to medicine.
- It is clearly their story. This is their voice. Their family, friends, and colleagues will likely recognize them in this statement, and that needs to be true of what you write as well. Finding your own voice will become easier if you allow yourself sufficient time to work on your AMCAS personal statement.
- You don’t need particularly fancy language to craft a compelling story about what brought you here, to medicine. But each sentence must serve a purpose and have a role in the statement. You need to make each sentence count. That’s how you work with 5,300 characters.
Tip #2: Writing Without a Prompt
It’s always easier to write an essay if someone assigns you the topic. For instance, maybe you had to research diversity and inclusion in medical education at some point and think you know the “secret” to writing an excellent diversity secondary essay. But what do you do when there is no prompt – or the topic is you? Where do you start? How do you choose? What do medical schools want to hear? How do you come across as unique when the purpose of the essay is so generic?
The fact is, there is no one like you, and if you are applying to medical school, chances are you’re already pretty fantastic. All you need to do is reach back into your experiences and identify a moment that really defined your view of medicine and your potential place in the profession.
As mentioned, building your narrative on your personal background can produce an eloquent AMCAS personal statement that evokes who you are as a person and why medicine resonates with you. However, you can also drill down on experiences that are directly connected to your academic and professional journey, as follows.
Focus on an actual event that stuck with you and that you recall in great detail. For example, think back to one of the first times you interacted with a patient and ask yourself the following questions:
- In which department were you volunteering?
- Do you remember a patient vividly?
- Did you assist that patient, through conversation or just by helping her find her glasses?
- What does this experience mean in the larger picture of why you want to become a doctor?
Do you want to know how to make your medical application stand out… without perfect stats? Check out this video:
Tip #3: Get an Early Start!
While American medical schools usually have a rolling admissions process, applicants who make it into the pool early have a better chance at both interviewing and acceptance. When the AMCAS application service opens in May, your brain will be overloaded with lists upon lists of requirements and data to collect, such as medical school recommendation letters, verifiers, contact information, and transcripts. Depending on when you decide to start studying for the MCAT, you’ll likely also be thinking about the ideal MCAT study schedule in the months leading up to your application to medical school while completing all the medical school requirements for your chosen schools.
It’s a lot, which is why it’s an effective strategy to start early on as many components of your application as possible. This will allow you to put the proper thought into building documents, such as your medical school resume, and engaging in the best extracurriculars for medical school. Students who plan to go from high school to medical school have an advantage here because they will have already started to prepare and may be comfortable with their medical school application timeline, but the beauty of the AMCAS personal statement is that anyone can use it to stand out and make a great impression on admissions committees. Non-traditional medical school applicants, in particular, will be able to use their personal statement to shed light on their unconventional path to medicine. There’s bound to be something wonderful in your background that makes you a unique and worthy candidate to be a doctor.
So, get to work soon on your essay draft and have it ready for upload when application season opens. You should allow yourself about eight weeks to reflect on and write your AMCAS personal statement. It’s not a task that should be rushed, and you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare it properly, to effectively convey why you want to go into medicine.
Tip #4: Address Setbacks; Don’t Dwell on Them
According to AMCAS, “distance traveled is how admissions officers and prehealth advisors refer to those life challenges you’ve faced and conquered,” so let this metaphor inspire how you contextualize any setbacks you’ve experienced.
Basically, your essay is meant to be an authentic expression of you as a person – and as the saying goes, bad things happen to good people. One student might lose their parents in their second year of university. Another might get injured in varsity sports. Still others might see their grades fall drastically after they migrate during high school to escape war and famine.
If you experienced any event that negatively impacted your GPA, AMCAS expects you to mention it before it is raised as a red flag or becomes one of the 5 mistakes to avoid while writing your medical school personal statement. And this may seem like a huge challenge. You want admissions committees to know that you are strong, capable, and resilient. You want them to consider all that you have come through when they note that your GPA is less than 3.8. But you don’t want them to take pity on you or think you’re asking for favors.
Take heart, because adequately addressing setbacks in your AMCAS personal statement may well be the path to how to get into medical school with a low GPA. By making it an integral part of your Personal Comments, AMCAS is, in a sense, ensuring that less than stellar academics will not take over your application and drag you down – because each admissions officer will be made aware of your situation in your personal statement.
Do you want to know how to avoid the most common med school personal statement mistakes? Watch this video:
What’s the Best Way to Address Setbacks in the AMCAS Personal Statement?
- First, remember what the instructions say: “you may wish to include information such as….” Unless your challenges have had a tangible effect on your past academic performance, you are not obliged to mention them.
- Next, “including” the information does not mean making the whole essay about your problems. Recall that most of the AMCAS personal statement should center on: Why have you selected the field of medicine? What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- How you tell the story matters. When talking about your family, for example, no matter how complicated, you would not discuss how it may have disadvantaged you to come from the middle of nowhere and be among the first in your family to attend university. Don’t beg for special consideration because of all the hard things. Rather, talk about how your family experience lent you traits that are in great demand in medicine today. Someone interested in public health might mention, for instance, that they are equity-focused, conscious of how poverty affects health, nuanced when it comes to addiction, and so on. Concentrate on what you bring to the table and why.
- Show discretion in your disclosure. If your experience is something like sexual assault, remember that discussion of these kinds of crimes remains quite conservative, despite their very real consequences, including those faced by your GPA. It can even be re-traumatizing to have to think about and write on such an experience. Further, if you have been named publicly in a criminal proceeding, this isn’t something you want to lead with when trying to get into medical school.
Suffice to say, if you believe the only way to understand why your GPA is low is to share that you had an adverse, traumatic experience, do so with a frame of resilience and seek feedback from your trusted inner circle around how to do this. Often, the safest route is to take advantage of academic advising in higher education and sit down with a professional at your school who has your best interests in mind. Your university has some limited power to alter how your course status reflects on your GPA if you provide them with a medical explanation of your situation. They might also recommend that you change from a GPA score to a pass/fail system for the affected courses; however, you MUST arrange this before you graduate.
Note: Simply taking these steps in advance of your medical school application is a sign of maturity and dedication to your goals. Moreover, having done so, you can now write about how you faced and dealt with this moment of adversity, rather than writing about the trauma itself.
Tip #5: Writing Is a Craft
There’s no way around it; how effective your AMCAS personal statement is comes down to writing skills. In fact, you could have almost any background and a good writer would find ways to convey the perfect combination of hook, narrative, detail, emotion, context, and motivation to convince an admissions committee of your competence. Knowing how to write a compelling introduction & opening sentence for a medical school personal statement is a skill that can be learned. It’s really as simple as that. Become a good – even great – writer in the process of applying to medical school, and you can rest easy that you’ve given this particular part of your application your best shot.
Getting behind the idea of creative writing may not appeal to science majors, but believe us, it’s a skill that will serve you in medicine in more ways than you can imagine. However, at this stage, right before applying, it may seem like just another chore to get out of the way. If that’s your mindset, you should change it – because your AMCAS personal statement is a real opportunity to reflect on and distill your passion for medicine. Whatever else we say or advice we give, if you know how to answer the medical school personal statement and interview question: “Why do you want to become a doctor?” with clarity, conviction, and confidence, that’s half the task of applying to medical school.
Great resources on writer’s craft include Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay and To Show and To Tell, as well as Stephen King’s On Writing. For a fulfilling experience and a break from reading, listen to the latter on audiobook.
And why not take advantage of our free offer to acquire BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to Medical School Personal Statements & Secondary Essays? This 300-page guide with tips, strategies, and sample successful personal statements promises to “help you learn to write captivating essays, even if you are not a natural writer.”
Be ready to go through at least three or four drafts to come up with your best AMCAS personal statement. Don’t ignore this advice, thinking about how you always did well enough in English class without writing needless drafts. Those essays did not have the potential to be life-changing (if they did, you would likely be studying journalism or writing a novel instead of applying to medical school). By contrast, your medical school and residency personal statements must be just about perfect, and ten or more drafts would not be unreasonable. Give yourself the time to figure out exactly what you mean and exactly how to say it. Again, eight weeks is a good amount of time to devote to crafting your AMCAS personal statement.
Tip #6: Get Expert Feedback
Get an expert second set of eyes to look at your AMCAS personal statement draft and provide you with objective feedback. That means your mom is probably not the best person to ask (even if she’s an accomplished writer) because your family and friends cannot remain objective and will be afraid of hurting your feelings.
The reality is that every great writer has an editor, and you will need one. Given the importance of the AMCAS personal statement, there’s really no reason not to consider medical school personal statement editing services to help you out. In addition, these editing services offer far more than simply proofreading and language enhancement. Because our specialists who edit medical school personal statements are admissions experts who are intimately familiar with the application procedure for medical schools, they can also advise you on content, structure, and what schools look for in your AMCAS personal statement. There’s no question that a medical school application tutor is worth it to radically improve your personal statement and other components that can highly influence your admission chances.
Still have questions about writing your AMCAS personal statement? Read on for more information.
Purpose, Content, Structure, and Time Required
What Is the Purpose of the AMCAS Personal Statement?
The AMCAS personal statement is referred to as the Personal Comments Essay and constitutes Section 8 of the AMCAS form, which is part of the “primary” application to many medical schools in the US. It has a limit of 5,300 characters (including spaces) with the following instructions from AMCAS:
“Use the Personal Comments essay as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Consider and write your Personal Comments carefully; many admission committees place significant weight on this section.”
Pay special attention to this prompt. Note that it’s not a prompt that helps you understand the topic of the essay – it’s a reminder that your AMCAS personal statement is your chance to make your medical school application stand out. Before the committee reads your statement, they only know you as a collection of numbers, and maybe experiences, but they do not know why you chose to pursue medicine. What they truly want to know is why you want to be a doctor. What motivated you, shaped you, and made you suitable to pursue this career. So, as you prepare to write your AMCAS personal statement, be sure to keep this one question in mind: “why do you want to be a doctor?” Let this question guide you in choosing what experiences and events you will cover in your essay.
What Do I Write in My AMCAS Personal Statement?
The AMCAS Applicant Guide suggests that the Personal Comments Essay include the following (*note that if AMCAS is saying it, you should find a way to cover most or all these elements):
- Why have you selected the field of medicine?
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?
In addition, you may wish to include information such as:
- Special hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits.
- Commentary on significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application.
This is a tall order, and it isn’t enough to just fill the space you have for your essay with 5,300 characters, which is the limit for this part of your application. You can think of your personal statement in different ways – as your voice on paper or as a way for you to step off the page and let the admissions committee see who you really are.
AMCAS Personal Statement Structure
Make sure to follow the academic essay format, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. You may remember from writing your college essay introductions that this is really what makes or breaks your essay, so spend some time brainstorming a way to capture the reader’s attention. It would be ideal if your conclusion resonates with your introduction, or somehow gives closure to the opening of your personal statement. This way, the essay will seem complete and satisfying. However, keep in mind that your personal statement should leave the reader wanting more. Your intro and conclusion are really important, so while you should definitely spend time choosing the experiences you will include and detail in the body paragraphs, do not dismiss the intro and conclusion.
How Long Does It Take to Write the AMCAS Personal Statement?
A huge advantage of the AMCAS personal statement is that you have unlimited time to brainstorm, draft, and complete it. Once you are sent the medical school secondary essay prompts, you may have as little as two weeks to consult medical school secondary essay examples and write your own, but you can start working on your AMCAS personal statement as soon as you decide you want to attend medical school. Ideally, you might spend a few months reflecting on what you want to include, and how you want to say it. We suggest giving yourself at least 8 weeks to work on your personal statement.
A note on MD vs MD-PhD: if you’re only applying to MD programs, you have a single personal statement to write, but if you’re applying to MD-PhD programs, you also have to write an MD-PhD Essay and a Significant Research Experience Essay. The MD-PhD Essay is a 3,000-character essay on your reasons for pursuing the combined program. The Significant Research Experience Essay is a 10,000-character essay on your previous research experience, which must include a lot of detail about the project(s) and your contributions to the work.
Do you want to learn more about medical secondary essays with examples? Watch this video:
The Last Word
Note: You must enter all information directly into the various sections of the AMCAS form. You cannot make any changes to your personal statement after submitting your application to the AMCAS program. You can’t run a spell check either, so proofread all your texts carefully before entering them into the forms.
The following are some reminders from AMCAS:
- Use US English characters; others may not be recognized.
- Use normal writing practices: avoid using all uppercase or all lowercase letters.
- Don’t repeat information added elsewhere on your application.
- Your personal statement will be sent to all the medical schools you apply to.
- Plagiarism or misrepresentations will result in an investigation.
Remember: You are allotted 5,300 characters, or about one page, for your AMCAS personal statement. It’s not necessary to use every word you are allowed but do show that you have enough to say to fill a few paragraphs (about 1 page).
Is there an ultimate guide to AMCAS? Look no further:
Check out two more great samples here:
AMCAS Personal Statement Example #2
AMCAS Personal Statement Example #3
1. What is AMCAS?
AMCAS stands for American Medical College Application Service. Most medical schools in the US use this centralized application service.
2. How long does my AMCAS personal statement need to be?
You have 5,300 characters, including spaces, to work with.
3. Should I talk about my MCAT score in my personal statement?
Generally speaking, you would not discuss your MCAT score or academics in your personal statement, but if you have used an MCAT score calculator and found that you fall short or have had to retake the MCAT, you may want to address the issue in your personal statement to explain how your grades and/or other achievements offset your lower score and why you remain an excellent candidate for medical school.
4. How long should I spend writing my AMCAS personal statement?
We recommend giving yourself about 8 weeks to brainstorm, draft, polish, and revise. Don’t hesitate to get medical school application help if you are struggling with any aspect of admissions.
5. If I have to go through another application service, can I re-use my AMCAS personal statement?
If you’re applying to medical schools in Texas, you will use TDMSAS, and if you are applying to medical schools in Canada, you might use OMSAS. Moreover, certain medical schools may have their own distinct application procedures, so be sure to research the specific requirements for the schools to which you are applying. Basically, while you can certainly re-use some content from your AMCAS personal statement in other applications, you will prepare it differently to meet these specific requirements.
6. Do I use a standard academic essay structure for my AMCAS personal statement?
Yes, we recommend a standard academic essay structure with an eye-catching introduction, three body paragraphs, and compelling conclusion.
7. I did really well in English classes and composition. Will I need help with my AMCAS personal statement?
With medical school acceptance rates being so competitive, learning how to prepare for your medical school application will certainly be beneficial. Writing skills are a big part of producing any application essay, but what you include and why are just as important. Admissions advisors can guide you with their advanced knowledge of medical school application processes.
8. Should I explain why I want to go to a certain school in my AMCAS personal statement?
No, your AMCAS personal statement will be sent to all the schools you apply to, so it should focus on you and your interest in pursuing medicine, not the specific schools that interest you.
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