These exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students. The first example was accepted into ALL 5 Osteopathic schools to which the student applied! Additionally, they were waitlisted or accepted to ALL 3 Allopathic Medical Schools that were applied to. To top that, the student eventually accepted an offer from their TOP PICK SCHOOL! The second one got accepted to THREE Allopathic Medical Schools. We could not be happier for these students and after reading these amazing personal statements, you'll see why. After giving you a step-by-step guide for composing a statement, you will read 18 MORE outstanding medical school personal statement examples that will get you inspired to write your own!
Whether you are working on your AMCAS personal statement or getting ready to write your AACOMAS personal essay, this blog is your ultimate guide to writing the perfect statement. We'll go over each medical school personal statement example and break down the process so you can compose a winning statement that will get you into the medical school of your dreams!
Here's what we're going to cover:
As one of the most important medical school requirements, the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. To help you craft it, we're going to go over 20 fantastic medical school personal statement examples and teach you how to create your own from scratch. Click on each of the following to go to the appropriate section. For best results, review the sections that follow the examples.
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.
What makes this statement great?
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 us to help you make your med school personal statement stand out?
Let's review another example now before we teach you exactly how to do this on your own:
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.
Applying to Ivy League medical schools? Check out Harvard Medical School personal statement examples:
Personal statements have great influence on medical school acceptance rates. Give yourself plenty of time to strategize, plan, write, and edit your statement. What do you need to know and keep in mind when preparing your medical school personal statement?
Before You Begin Writing:
- Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Essay
- Brainstorming Ideas For the Personal Statement
- Considering Your Audience
- Answering the Prompt, Without a Prompt
As You Prepare to Start Writing:
- Personal Statement Structure
- How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Show, Don't Tell
- Write for Non-Specialists
- Display Professionalism
- Writing Your First Draft
After You Have Written Your Draft, Ask Yourself the Following:
- Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?
- Did My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?
- Did You Check Your Grammar?
- Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?
- Summary and a Final Note
Before You Begin Writing Your Medical School Personal Statement:
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.
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. 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.
Brainstorming Ideas for the Medical School Personal Statement
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?
You shouldn't try to answer all of these in your essay. Try only a few main points that will carry over into the final draft. Use these to brainstorm and gather ideas. Start developing your narrative by prioritizing the most impactful responses to these prompts and the ideas that are most relevant to your own experiences and goals. The perfect personal statement not only shows the admissions committee that you have refined communication skills, but also conveys maturity and professionalism. It should also display your motivation and suitability for medical practice.
After brainstorming, you should be able to clearly see a few key ideas, skills, qualities, and intersections that you want to write about. Once you've isolated the elements you want to explore in your essay (usually 2-4 key ideas), you can begin building your outline. In terms of structure, this should follow the standard academic format, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Check out this medical school personal statement examples video to help you brainstorm ideas for your essay:
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:
- 1. Interpersonal Competencies: service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, and oral communication.
- 2. Intrapersonal Competencies: ethical responsibility to self and others, reliability and dependability, resilience and adaptability, and capacity for improvement.
- 3. Thinking and Reasoning Competencies: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, and written communication.
- 4. Science Competencies: living systems and human behavior.
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.
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). If you're choosing between DO vs MD, consider writing why becoming an osteopathic doctor is important to you. 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.
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.
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.
Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!
Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:
- Re-list your entire CV or activity sketch.
- Be pretentious. Every applicant is extraordinary, and so are you. Use your story to imply your excellence; don't hit people over the head with it.
- Criticize other applicants. This is unprofessional.
- Use very fancy words to make up for insecurities around writing skills. This is confusing.
- Ramble. This shows you submitted it at the last minute.
- Rely on clichés. This shows you don't read widely.
- Describe a time you met a disadvantaged person briefly and use this as a rationale for why you want to be a doctor. This demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and a limited understanding of the social determinants of health.
- Cast yourself as a victim. Even if you've been through terrible things, like escaping persecution or violence, the victim narrative is not one that will convince medical schools of your capacity. Cast yourself as an agent in your own life.
- Submit to the wrong school. Before you submit, triple-check your profile.
- Violate the character count. This is lazy.
Show, Don't Tell
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.
Write for Non-Specialists
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
Medical school personal statement example: #3
Imagine holding a baby wearing doll clothes and a diaper made of gauze because she was too small. When I was 4 years old, my sister was born 4 months prematurely, weighing only 1 pound and 7 ounces. The doctors had no idea if she would survive. She was put in a neonatal intensive care unit for 12 weeks. I remember the numerous long trips to the hospital, wondering if my sister would ever come home. After 12 weeks, she finally arrived home and my dream of becoming a doctor took root. I will never forget the joy the physicians brought to my family; those feelings of hope, alleviated distress, and miraculous awe motivated me to strive to become a doctor. By caring for my sister and observing the sensitivity the physicians had towards my family and I, I have discovered deep resources of calmness and empathy within myself, and an unending dedication for aiding others that will remain with me forever.
Ten years later, I was a freshman in high school and my sister was a healthy 5th grader. Unexpectedly, she had a seizure during school. The doctors were not sure what caused it, but told us what to do if it happened again. While I hoped it would never reoccur, I also hoped that if it did, I would be there this time. One day, at home, she had another seizure. Instead of being scared or sad, I recognized my responsibilities and committed to helping her. I calmed her down and in a few minutes the seizure was over. After, my sister and I held each other crying while she thanked me for being there for her. This experience solidified my desire to become a doctor. When my sister was vulnerable, she found comfort in me and I was able to care for her, just as the doctors did when my family needed them. As I reflect on this moment, I realize that in times of emergency, when most are panicked, I remain unflustered. My calming manner allowed me to approach the situation logically, rather than allowing my emotions to overwhelm me in this extremely frightening and stressful situation. This has shown me the importance of remaining calm and projecting calmness in order to provide a necessary support system for those struggling medically.
In college, I was drawn to extra-curricular activities that aimed to better the lives of children and those who are less fortunate. In my freshman year, I joined “Dance Marathon”, which hosts an annual event benefiting children staying at UF Health Shands in Gainesville. Each year, hundreds of Dance Marathon participants stay awake and on their feet for 26.2 hours to raise awareness and money for children fighting pediatric illnesses. I participated in this event all 4 years, raising over $6k for the Children’s Miracle Network, in the hopes that in the future, every family could be as lucky as mine and have a tiny loved one come home alive and healthy. This experience allowed me to see my own resilience, dedication, and a willingness to put in significant effort to help others. Dance Marathon made me part of something bigger than myself, impacting the lives of sick children around the world.
Dance Marathon sparked my interest in pediatric disorders, so in my sophomore year, I shadowed multiple physicians at the UF Health Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic. I noticed that the first-time patients were less inclined to open up and viewed being there as a punishment. Frequent patients were more comfortable expressing how they felt, because the physician had adjusted her behaviors appropriately once getting to understand them. This taught me the importance of a strong doctor-patient relationship in order to have effective treatment. After interacting with various patients, I wanted to prioritize my work with children, so in my junior year I began neonatal research at the McKnight Brain Institute. I assisted and performed Western blots, ELISA detections, protein assays, and histological experiments. When cutting and mounting tissues for histology, I ran into problems and had to communicate to my supervisor the mistakes that were made, so we could resolve them together. This taught me the importance of working collaboratively with others to achieve desired results. Being in a lab and analyzing findings fueled my love for learning and cultivating a deeper understanding of the medical field, so that I can continue to fight for those who can’t.
What my sister went through pushed me to strengthen my knowledge in medical education, patient care, and research. These events have influenced who I am today and helped me determine my own passions. I aspire to be a doctor because I want to make miracles, like my sister, happen. Life is something to cherish; it would not be the same if I did not have one of my four sisters to spend it with. As all stories have endings, I hope that mine ends with me fulfilling my dream of being a doctor, which has been the sole focus of my life to this point. I would love nothing more than to dedicate myself to such a rewarding career, where I achieve what those doctors did for my family. Their expertise allowed my sister to get all the care she needed for her heart, eyes, lungs, and overall growth. Those physicians gave me more than just my little sister, they gave me the determination and focus needed to succeed in the medical field, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Medical school personal statement example: #4
I was born and raised under a very different education system in Taiwan, which focused on rote memorization and obedience. Starting in middle school, we were taught to be competitive and grades were seen as the key to success. However, I believe social interactions and diligence can be equally important for individual success. Although I did not enjoy memorization without understanding, these practices taught me to be self-disciplined, which benefitted me when I decided to grasp my chance to come to America alone in the ninth grade. Initially, I struggled with the language barrier, but I developed a routine of studying and practicing English with the help of my new friends. With their encouragement, I was able to start thinking critically and seeking help when necessary.
I didn’t consider pursuing medicine until my senior year of high school. I felt powerless seeing my uncle, whom I loved and lived with throughout high school, on his deathbed, diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer. It was excruciating to watch him helplessly ask, “Why does it feel like there is a hard stone in my stomach?” His question echoed in my head. If I’d had an answer at that time, maybe he wouldn’t have been in despair from not knowing. I want to become a doctor because I want to earn the right to give those like my uncle the answers they need, instead of standing by and watching, powerless to ease their suffering.
Although the thought of going into medicine crossed my mind, I also understood that it is a large commitment and there are other ways to ease suffering than becoming a doctor. I decided to pursue a degree in biology to equip myself with the knowledge I sought. The more I learned about the human body, the more interested I became. Being curious about the mechanism of remodeling and development of the musculoskeletal system, I decided to join Dr. Reness’ lab at Purdue in 2016, where I studied the role of perlecan on developmental cartilage. I encountered many obstacles in my research, such as finding contamination in our chemicals for a genotyping procedure or a better way to standardize our qPCR primer test. However, that did not stop me from going to the lab on the weekends to repeat the same experiment over and over again. My curiosity in exploring the unknown connection between behind two seemingly unrelated materials drove me to continue my work in research. Without a better understanding of the communication between different systems, we cannot understand the effectiveness of treatments. I want to understand the mechanisms behind treatments in order to assist patients in choosing the best treatments.
It is not just medical knowledge I seek; I also value human interaction. Around the same time, I decided to try volunteering with SouthernCare Hospice, where I was with many patients with differing needs. I helped my patients through talking to them about their families, by bringing their favorite snacks, or just watching television together. Even if it was for only one minute, I hoped the comfort I brought my patients could help them forget about their physical pain and enjoy the last moments of their life; at least, that was what I wanted for my uncle. Research is important in medical discoveries, and it can alleviate a person’s pain, but it can’t give people comfort when they are on their deathbed.
This experience made me realize my passion for direct patient care, but it also helped me realize that medical school is necessary in order to provide better care for my patients. The variable mental state of my second patient was a significant factor in the quality of our interactions. The first time we met, he told me “You are powerless!” Although I knew he was probably under the influence of medication, I still could not imagine how helpless he must have felt to say this. I tried to help by steering the conversation towards his family, but it didn’t work. Instead, I tried to let him finish what he needed to say first, then I would talk to him about other subjects, like the weather or sports. I hoped my companionship could help lessen his burden, but there were times when my ability to help was limited. This challenge helped me realize that going to medical school is necessary for me to offer more than I currently can, with professional training providing options for dealing with patients in this state.
I decided to become a teaching assistant for two laboratory courses at Purdue in the fall of 2017, realizing that teaching duties would force me to improve my communication skills. I wanted to relate more to my patients’ stories and to be able to steer the conversations in a positive direction. Before I became a teaching assistant, it was hard for me to actively engage in conversations. I was taught not to interrupt and follow elders’ commands since I was young, but I also lacked confidence as a non-native English speaker. Because I was afraid of making grammatical errors, I became a quiet person. I wanted to change that, so I began actively approaching my students instead of waiting for them to ask questions. When I did this, they became less intimidated and more willing to talk. This experience helped me realize that I should always be approachable, so others will be willing to ask for my help when they need it. I want to become the kind of doctor that patients can approach honestly and openly.
I came to America, leaving my parents and friends behind, to grasp my chance at a better future. I believe this chance is now in front of me. Medicine is the only path I truly desire because it satisfies my curiosity about the human body and it allows me to directly interact with patients. I do not want to miss this chance to further hone my skills and knowledge, in order to provide better care for my patients.
Medical school personal statement example: #5
When I was 5 years old I was blessed with a little sister, who was as adorable as I had imagined for those long 9 months. To my utter most sadness, when my sister was 3 months old she was diagnosed with epilepsy, and as she got older we saw deficits in her social interactions, language acquisition, and cognitive abilities. As an 8-year-old, I spent most of my time after school in hospitals or doctors’ offices. These offices became my routine and I became accustomed to them. This is when my affinity for medicine sprouted. I pursued medical extracurriculars in high school and each step reaffirmed my growing interest in medicine. In addition, I joined a liberal arts college to gain a well-rounded education.
My time at Albany Medical Center (AMC) was meant to function as a confirmation of my interest in psychiatry; however, as time passed, I saw mothers come in with bruised arms and bloody lips, who consistently denied being victims of domestic violence, and my focus shifted. I watched as physicians would give up in frustration when a mother would not admit to her child experiencing trauma. Evidently, the mothers did not trust the doctors to admit something so private. For example, one day a 5-year old boy came in with symptoms associated to ADHD. Because the mother denied domestic violence in the household, it was up to me and my team to follow up, infer from context clues, and administer the proper psychological examination to formulate the correct diagnosis; PTSD. It was then, that I confirmed my interest in medicine, to help women like the ones I had seen, the women who had lost their voice, who were scared enough to risk their child’s health, who did not expect anything from their child’s doctor. I want to become a doctor for them. I saw dozens of other children like that young boy, who were at risk of receiving an incorrect diagnosis because of their scared mothers. My time at AMC taught me the vitality of comprehensive care and caused me to modify the way I personally defined “good healthcare”. After seeing mental and physical health intimately intertwine, I plan to incorporate both aspects as a physician for the betterment of my patient’s overall well-being.
My time at AMC would not have been meaningful without my experience in Karapitiya, Sri Lanka, where I was exposed to various medical settings and adjusted my definition of health. The alternative approach to classic medical cases was a learning experience. Doctors conducted themselves more casually around patients and fostered a lax attitude towards the profession as a whole. Even though I assumed medicine was practiced differently around the world, this took on a greater meaning for me when I watched Sri Lankan doctors readily incorporate naturopathy and folk medicine into their treatment plans. A patient came in with a high fever and was first made to drink turmeric milk, which was known to reduce inflammation and fevers, and was only then given medication. Through this experience and many more, I began to understand that medicine can have multiple meanings and changes through context. With this in mind, I aim to be a culturally competent physician and consider cultural background when treating patients.
In order to further my educational experience, I completed my senior thesis, which provided me the opportunity to combine academics with clinical work. The current research is a pilot clinical study exploring the association between body perception and postpartum depression in women with increased gestational weight gain. This year-long research project has not only developed my research skills by becoming familiar with the IRB process, but has also allowed me to implement patient-provider models I had learned from my past experiences. I gathered all the good and bad I had seen over the years and found that effective patient interaction methods include cultural competency, active listening, and sensitivity. With my clinical research, I was able to partner the meta-analysis with a pilot clinical study and create a holistic picture of a medical phenomenon; post-partum depression. This type of research showed me how quintessential patient input is, in addition to a thorough literature review.
The time I have spent in various medical settings has confirmed my love for the field. Regardless of the environment, I am drawn to patients and their stories, like that scared young boy at AMC. I am aware that medicine is a constantly changing landscape; however, one thing that has remained steadfast over the years is putting the patient first, and I plan on doing this as a physician. All of my experiences have taught me a great deal about patient interaction and global health, however, I am left wanting more. I crave more knowledge to help patients and become more useful in the healthcare sector. I am certain medical school is the path that will help me reach my goal. One day, I hope to use my experiences to become an amazing doctor like the doctors that treated my sister, so I can help other children like her.
Medical school personal statement example: #6
Sao Paulo, Brazil. The noisy and bumpy ride as we rode through the pot-hole filled street always jolted me awake, letting me know I was close to my grandparents’ house. The road was symbolic for the neighborhood’s neglected state, preventing buses from reaching not only my grandparents’ street, but that of many elderly neighbors. One day, I woke up to my grandfather carrying a large bag of concrete on his back and watched as he spent the day covering the pot-holes one by one. Through this and many other actions, my grandfather instilled in me the significance of being a “person for others,” and enacting change with a hands-on approach.
I always knew I wanted a profession in which I could apply that same type of compassion to make peoples’ lives better, but it was my curiosity for the fundamental workings of the human body that incited my interest in medicine. In high school, I became fascinated by how small molecules were behind the biophysical interactions that gave way to complex physiology. I soon sought my first shadowing opportunity, with an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Bidin didn’t just look at patients’ symptoms; rather, he considered people as a whole, including their hobbies, to determine a treatment that fit their goals. When it came time for surgery, he soothed their worries by explaining the procedure multiple times, using metaphors and analogies. That summer, my view of doctors changed: I realized they are not only providers of medical knowledge but also of assurance and relief. This dedication to others’ well-being captivated me, as it mirrored much of what I had seen in my grandfather growing up.
Eager to be in contact with patients again, I spent my first college summer volunteering at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I soon met a Brazilian family who had come to the U.S. seeking a life-changing surgery for their daughter Rosa, a six-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Much like when I arrived in America, they spoke little English. Their struggles navigating a foreign system were reminiscent of my own immigration to America at thirteen. My transition to this country had been the biggest challenge I ever faced, and made me particularly sensitive to others peoples’ struggles. During the next few months, I made sure to serve as their guide to American culture, easing interactions with the world around them. I was thrilled to be a small part of the complex team of specialists providing Rosa’s care. Most exciting of all, I got to see Rosa take her first unassisted steps in physical therapy. On my last day, her parents gave me a heart-felt thank you. I will never forget that moment: more than other things I had insofar accomplished, this was what I was most proud of. I knew then that if I became a doctor I’d help families, just like them, in ways beyond just providing comfort.
While spending time with patients was rewarding, my role in research satisfied my intellectual thirst and allowed me to further my current scientific knowledge. First, in Dr. James' lab, I assisted graduate students in advancing the understanding of copper transportation in a cell. Later on, during my internship at Pfizer, I created a platform to systematically decrease monoclonal antibodies’ viscosity, thereby optimizing their formulation for injection into patients. Knowing that my work was contributing to improving others’ lives was an indescribable feeling. Yet, these experiences assured me that medicine was the best fit for me. Doctors, like researchers, also hold the responsibility of solving current health puzzles, but with a more direct role on patient care.
Lastly, my love for teaching consecrated my desire to pursue medicine. With Dr. Biden, I had learned that doctors are, at their core, teachers: be it educating their peers, patients, or the community at large. My four years of experience as a calculus tutor, followed by my time as a Peer Lab Assistant (PLA), showed me the importance of tailoring communication to teach effectively. As a PLA, I found various ways to make complicated topics in biochemistry more digestible. I became captivated by the challenges that teaching science posed on my own understanding of the material, and by the challenge to spark appreciation for the material among students. Working with a student outside of class, I witnessed his excitement after he grasped the role of pH on the conformation of hemoglobin, and how ideal this mechanism was. This brought me back to my shadowing experiences: doctors too must be able to effectively communicate complex concepts to diverse audiences.
The day I saw my grandfather with the concrete bag on his back, he wasn’t just repairing holes: he was providing his community access to public transportation, and helping connect them with the rest of the world. His actions may have been small, but its consequences were far-reaching. Although my grandfather lived in an impoverished neighborhood, he dedicated his life to making that of those around him better. I see medicine as the best catalyst to combine my quest for knowledge with my drive to help others. I look forward to continuously learning, innovating, educating, and -- perhaps most important-- touching other peoples’ lives, just as my grandfather did.
Medical school personal statement example: #7
"Come on Michael! One more...you can do it!” As a volunteer at Thrive, a cancer rehabilitation center, I was eager to work with Michael to help him reach his goals. Michael is a military veteran who used to be able to execute 200 pushups with ease, now he was struggling to reach ten. His body was still recovering from the chemo and I could tell the past two years had been difficult for him, but seeing his resiliency and weekly progression was inspiring. When I think about why I want to pursue a career in medicine, I think of people like Michael. I think of how health and wellness is a malleable concept that must be molded to each individual and circumstance. This realization, which was unearthed by this and other personal experiences, sparked a passion within me to take a personalized approach to maintaining, enhancing, and maximizing others’ overall health and wellness.
I first took an interest in health and wellness through the highs and lows of competitive tennis and rugby. I thrived on the feeling of hitting a forehand winner past my opponent to seal a victory or the surge of adrenaline consuming my body as I scampered past a tackle on the sidelines en route to scoring the go-ahead try (equivalent to a touchdown in football). Besides bringing me an indescribable level of joy, these experiences instilled within me a relentless drive for success, personal accountability and strong decision-making skills. Unfortunately, as my passion for tennis grew stronger, my body was unable to keep up. I began experiencing severe pain in my wrists with every swing of the racquet, and over time it became substantially worse. After months of frustration, I found myself in a room at the University of Calgary’s sports medicine clinic with Dr. Henny, who looked me in the eyes and diagnosed me, “Benny, you have lax ligaments in your wrists. This is a chronic condition with no treatment other than to avoid activities that cause pain. I am sorry, but competitive tennis is no longer an option for you.” To make matters worse, two years later during a rugby game I awkwardly tackled my opponent, shearing the muscle fascia off the inner layer of skin in my lower back resulting in a hematoma. While both my rugby and tennis injuries were very difficult, they brought me greater insight into what I wanted to do with my life. Having to undergo the process of diagnosis and treatment on several occasions allowed me to gain an appreciation for the knowledge and compassion of those who took care of me. It also became evident that in this fast-paced environment, a team-based approach was necessary to achieve the common goal: improving the health and well-being of the patient. Much like on the rugby field, everyone has a specific job to perform using a unique skill set, and team success is only achievable through strong leadership, collaboration, and trust. I began to picture myself in this medical environment, as it had many parallels to sports I played. Combined with my interest in health, fitness, and overall wellness, I began to strongly consider a career in medicine.
Travelling around the world has also helped solidify my desire to become a physician. For example, I participated in a volunteering trip to the remote Amazonian village of Tupana, Brazil. I’ll never forget arriving in Tupana. No bigger than a few city blocks, the village was primitive and badly in need of a health clinic. Building the clinic was a challenge but interacting with the people and seeing their reactions to the completion of the project brought tears to my eyes. I acknowledged how many aspects of life are taken for granted in our society, including access to proper healthcare. I also came to better appreciate how strongly economic circumstances impact education, occupational opportunities and consequently health and well-being. Leaving, I was humbled knowing I had contributed fundamentally in developing a better healthcare platform for a population in need. Although the people of Tupana lacked many opportunities, they had an enthusiastic and positive outlook on life. This resonated strongly with me and further developed my passion for serving others. It also highlighted the importance of a physician's role in promoting health, not just treating illness.
My interest in the field of medicine has developed overtime, with a common theme surrounding the importance of personal health and wellness. Through my journey in sports, travelling, and meeting some incredible individuals such as Michael, I have shifted my focus from thinking solely about the physical well-being, to understanding the importance of mental, spiritual, and social health as well. Being part of a profession that emphasizes continuous education, and application of knowledge to help people is very rewarding, and I will bring compassion, a hard work ethic and an attitude that is always focused on bettering patient outcomes.
Medical school personal statement example: #8
“Just stitch me up and put me back in the game”, I recall thinking from the side bench as I cradled my injured knee and watched my hockey team fall behind in the season opener. The sound of goal horn blared as the opposing team swooped in with another goal. The season’s first game always felt momentous, tantalizing me with life-altering potential, only if I gave every ounce of my focus and determination. However, as the seasons progressed, I came to realize that the sum of experiences over the championship had a far greater impact than that first game’s outcome. This observation has also held true outside of hockey. When I consider the question, “why medicine?” I am unable to provide a single life-altering moment that colored my conviction. Instead, my experiences volunteering at CAREERS, the Mustard Seed, and doing research at the Cumming School of Medicine gave me the opportunity to challenge my preconceived notions about what a commitment to medicine entailed. I believe medicine is a holistic practice that must take into consideration the whole individual, a practice that necessitates that disease pathophysiology be informed by the individual social contexts.
During my last summer of high school, I embarked on the CAREERS: Next Generation medical internship. I spent that summer fascinated by what I learned, going home each night to read up on the disorders I had come across that day. Yet, the most profound knowledge didn’t come from textbooks or Google searches— it came from interactions between the physicians and patients. I still remember the detailed elements of the compassionate care I observed: doctors holding patients’ hands, listening attentively to their stories, and allowing them to engage in their own medical decisions. This is where I learned the true meaning of patient-centered care.
Through this placement I met John, a 28-year-old man admitted to the hospital for an exploratory surgery. In the operating room, his gastric tumor’s shape and metastases prevented a curative surgery, and John was declared terminally ill. Observing the surgeon delivering the sad news, I vividly recall John turning to his wife and then glancing back at us: “Is there any way you made a mistake? Perhaps you mistook my case with another patient’s?” His eyes searched the surgeon’s face for any semblance of an alternative fate. I found myself doing the same. A sense of shared vulnerability and despair filled the room, between the surgeon – who was forced to confront medicine’s limitations; myself – as I succumbed to the feeling of helplessness I sought to mask; and the patient – whose days were now numbered. It was on this day that I committed myself to pursuing medicine. Perhaps as a physician I could minimize the feeling of suffering, despair, and helplessness that was present in that room.
While attending the University of Calgary, I started working at the Mustard Seed Homeless Shelter; an experience I hoped would inform my views on the social determinants of health. I mentored residents in effective job searching techniques as a means of reintegration into society. Working with an at-risk demographic allowed me to appreciate the impact of health inequalities on residents. I specifically recall Aria – a young resident who had resigned to substance abuse due to poor social and family support. After finally getting a job that allowed her to build a supportive social network, Aria felt empowered to recover from her addiction.
To further navigate the multifaceted ethos of medicine, I started research at a Pediatric Neurology lab at the Cumming School of Medicine. I was given the opportunity to spearhead a translational research study on Infantile Spasms. My goal was to re-establish a rodent model of the disease that could help us find a cure. The next year was a period of persistent trial and error as I tweaked and re-tweaked the methodology. To gain a better understanding of the disease, I spent time at my supervisor’s clinic interacting with infants who suffer from Infantile Spasms. I understood then why we did research: because of the possibility that all this failure and hard work could one day alter the course of those babies’ lives.
Medicine embodies a hard science, but it is ultimately a profession that treats people. I have seen firsthand that medicine is not a “one-treatment-fits-all” practice, as an effective physician takes a holistic approach. This is the type of physician I aspire to be: one who refuses to shy away from the humanity of patients and their social context, and one who uses research and innovation to improve the human condition. So, when I rethink “why medicine?”, I know it’s for me – because it is a holistic discipline, because it demands all of me, because I am ready to absorb the fascinating knowledge and science that dictates human life, and engage with humanity in a way no other profession allows for. Until the day that I dawn the coveted white coat, you can find me in inpatient units, comforting the many John’s to come, or perhaps at the back of an operating room observing a mitral valve repair – dreaming of the day the puck is in my zone.
Medical school personal statement example: #9
"Good afternoon, this is DJ Anna, and you're listening to Impact 86.9 FM!" After I silenced the mic and the music began for my listeners to enjoy, I'd think ahead towards the next song and banter. Every Thursday, I would create this private world with my listeners by controlling volume, answering calls, and taking requests. Although I couldn't see their reactions, I could feel them indirectly through their calls and requests. I gained confidence in my choices and learned to effectively communicate with the public. In this way, DJing strengthened both my listening and my leadership abilities, two skills I will need in medicine. As a leader, a physician must develop a relationship with patients so that their knowledge can be trusted and effectively communicated with patients. Developing a radio personality was an unintentional and notable precursor to my understanding of this relationship. Consequently, I sought opportunities to further develop these skills, as well as research and other experiences that reflected critical and empathic thinking.
I never would have imagined that my on-air radio experience prepared me for an oral presentation on the molecular mechanisms of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). For this presentation, I had to condense two years of research into a ten-minute talk for a large audience. Simplifying difficult topics in the same manner that I would for my patients, I explained how the immune system acts as a "security system." I continued by sharing my evidence-based research about how a particular bacteria works in a simplified and relatable manner. I engaged with the experimental and communicative side of medicine by developing my research and then verbally delivering my findings.
Seeking to understand how communication was used clinically in medicine, I was fortunate enough to shadow my father, a psychiatrist, and observe how careful he was with his words and mannerisms when interacting with patients. I became attuned to how he communicated effectively even without words. His use of non-verbal communication appeared just as essential as his verbal communication. For example, when a patient would begin to express their feelings, he smiled reassuringly, which served as his acknowledgment and empathic response. This reminded me that a large part of medicine is effectively listening to the patient, not simply asking questions and developing a diagnosis. In another instance, I witnessed my father supersede a language barrier with a patient (despite the presence of a Spanish translator) by interpreting the patient's facial and hand expressions. I realized that treating patients must transcend cultural boundaries, and a physician must develop cultural competence on both a verbal and a non-verbal level. My time spent shadowing reinforced my desire to pursue medicine. Observing psychiatric patients over time not only shaped my views on doctor-patient interaction and the influence of treatment on a patient's wellbeing but also helped me realize how sociological factors influence the approach a physician will take with a patient. Although psychiatry requires establishing a good rapport in order to deliver an appropriate treatment, it can also be applied in emergency situations.
While communication and research skills are important, they are just pieces of a larger puzzle. A physician must also be decisive and have the confidence to act when it matters most. I experienced this when I was in a situation with a friend who was going into anaphylactic shock. I received a text from her stating she could not breathe and she thought she was having an allergic reaction to a food she ate. I ran to her dorm and found her wheezing. Without hesitation, I called 911, found her EpiPen, and proceeded to guide her use of it. While in the ER, I realized my decisive action and communication skills potentially saved my friend from death. That night, as I waited for her to recover, I reflected on my own instinct, which allowed me to stay calm during an emergency and prioritize someone else’s life. While I had been purposefully building competencies for myself to become a competent physician one day, I felt reassured that I had the ability to stay calm and act decisively in a time of need. Ideally, actions represent a person more than words, and for me, this experience solidified my intention to study medicine. I saw my potential to further hone my skills with time and training and apply them to a diverse range of patients.
When I signed up to be a live DJ, I didn't know that the oral skills I practiced on-air would influence all aspects of my life, let alone lead me to consider a career in the art of healing. I see now, though, the importance of these key events in my life that have allowed me to develop excellent communication skills--whether that be empathic listening, reading and giving non-verbal cues, or verbal communication. I realize I have always been on a path towards medicine. Ultimately, I aim to continue to strengthen my skills as I establish my role as a medical student and leader: trusting my choices, effectively communicating, and taking action for people in need.
Medical school personal statement example: #10
“Why did I agree to do this?” I thought as I made the thirty-mile drive to my destination on the morning of November 8th, 2016. My GPS led me to a run-down house with overgrown grass that hadn’t been cut in months. Standing on the front porch was a frail woman holding a cane in one hand and a cushion in the other. She gingerly walked to my car, smiled, and said “Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this means to me.” Her name was Leila, and she was the first patient I transported to cancer treatment as a volunteer with the Tennessee Road to Recovery Program. The anxiety I had felt from not knowing what to expect from the experience was transformed into the confidence I had been searching for to fully pursue a career as a doctor.
I was never supposed to become a doctor; that title was meant for my older brother, Jake. My parents held Jake to the highest standard when it came to academics. They did not deem me worthy of being held to the same standard, so I grew up believing I would never be able to outdo him in academics. This notion of intellectual inferiority combined with my childhood success in athletics motivated me to focus on developing as an athlete rather than a student. So why am I applying to medical school and not playing professional baseball? Well, science captivated my attention in 11th grade and hasn’t let go. Learning the pivotal role the hydrogen bond plays in human life piqued my curiosity and left me wanting more.
I initially pursued a career in pharmacy due to my interest in chemistry. My pursuit ended shortly after my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2015. His battle with depression and his struggle to control his diabetes steered me toward a career that allowed a more direct involvement in treatment: medicine. I did not yet feel confident in my decision, because even before he was diagnosed with diabetes, Jake gave up on medical school due to poor grades. Nonetheless, I looked for opportunities to get research experience and patient interaction. In May 2016, I began an immunology-based research internship. I was excited by the idea that my experiments could have an impact on the way patients are treated. The more I delved into research, the more seriously I considered it as a career choice. Many doctors conduct research along with seeing patients, making my decision to fully commit to medicine much easier after the ride with Leila.
I applied to be a Road to Recovery driver in April 2016, and I didn’t hear back until I received an email requesting a ride for Leila. It was a pleasant surprise accompanied with some nervousness. On the way to her treatment, Leila shared her experiences with me. My heart broke as she explained how her father had passed away just a week before she was diagnosed with vaginal squamous cell carcinoma. The cancer recently metastasized to her rectum, leading to additional complications. The most troubling aspect of her story was the way she was treated by her doctors. She described them as condescending and uncaring, making her feel unimportant. Her questions about her condition were labeled foolish by one doctor. Another doctor addressed her by her condition instead of her name. Two hours with Leila opened my eyes to a huge, preventable problem in medicine, and I couldn't ignore it.
Craving more patient interactions, I went on a medical mission trip to Guatemala hoping to help individuals with limited access to healthcare. One morning, while out on a mobile trip in a remote village, a middle-aged man came into one of the hot metal shacks where the doctor and I were seeing patients. His clothes were dirty, his feet were penetrating through his worn-out boots and he was clearly in pain. He was suffering from diabetic neuropathy, and the only medicine available for his pain was ibuprofen, which he said didn’t help at all. He didn't have enough money to pay for gabapentin at a pharmacy, so he was forced to live in pain. While his suffering is unfair, the opportunity to receive treatment from a doctor is one that is not afforded to a large portion of the world. I hope to focus on treating inequalities in my career as a physician.
After leaving Guatemala, I worked to alleviate social inequality in Nashville by joining the Diverse Student Coalition. On top of my responsibilities as the research chair, I led a group of students every month to cook dinner at a halfway house for the formerly incarcerated. On rides home, students would discuss how their prejudices against ex-inmates transform into compassion. I have seen that one instance of exposure is sufficient to accept a stigmatized member of society as equal, which is why it is important for me to advocate for underrepresented groups and promote the idea that understanding breeds empathy.
“Why didn’t I pursue medicine sooner?” Is the question that now occupies my mind. Leila made me aware of the unprofessional treatment delivered by some doctors. My subsequent activities confirmed my desire to become a doctor who cares deeply for his patients and provides the highest quality care. My passion for research fuels my scientific curiosity. I will continue to advocate for patient equality and fairness. Combining these qualities will allow me to succeed as a physician.
Medical school personal statement example: #11
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Medical school personal statement example: #12
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Medical school personal statement example: #13
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Medical school personal statement example: #14
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Medical school personal statement example: #15
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Medical school personal statement example: #16
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Medical school personal statement example: #17
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Medical school personal statement example: #18
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Medical school personal statement example: #19
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Medical school personal statement example: #20
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* Please note that all personal statements are the property of the students who wrote them, re-printed with permission. Names and identifying characteristics have been changed. Plagiarism detection software is used when evaluating personal statements. Plagiarism is grounds for disqualification from the application.
1. Should I write about my own medical issues?
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.
2. Do all medical schools require a personal statement?
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 requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.
3. I received a poor grade in a course, should I address this in my personal statement?
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.
4. I don't have an “Aha” moment that brought me to medicine, will this hurt my statement?
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.
5. Which part of my medical school personal statement is the most important?
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.
6. My family and friends have reviewed my statement and think it's great, why should I consider having a professional review my statement?
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.
7. How long will it take me to write this personal statement?
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.
8. What should my conclusion have?
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?
9. How can I show all the core competencies in this essay?
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.
10. Can I repeat experiences in my personal statement and sketch?
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.
11. I have written, edited, and finalized my document but I keep wanting to change things! Should I?
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.
12. Why is the personal statement important at all?
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.
13. Which experiences should I pick specifically to include in my 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.
14. Since there is no clear prompt, can I write about anything?
In a way, yes. A successful statement can be based in any event or experience. Using 2 or 3 talking points, it will be up to you to make the story compelling. There are no "wrong" or "right" topics.
15. Wouldn't it be better if I include more than 2 or 3 experiences in my statement?
No, you should stick to this limit. If you include more experiences, your statement will read like a resume in essay form. Being selective about which experiences you choose will also allow you to talk about them in depth. Remember, you only have 5300 characters to tell you story (or 5000, if you are applying through TMDSAS).
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!
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About the Author:
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.
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