The TMDSAS application system has several unique essay components, including the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay. While most students understand the meaning behind TMDSAS personal statement, many of them find writing the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay more challenging. We are here to show you how to write an outstanding TMDSAS personal characteristics essay and provide you with examples that can inspire you to write your own!


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TMDSAS vs AMCAS

Students applying to DO vs MD programs in Texas often wonder why they have to apply through TMDSAS instead of AMCAS and what the differences between these two systems are. Texas actually created its central application service before AMCAS, in 1968, and they've been happily using their system ever since. While AMCAS is the preferred system for most medical schools, Texas remained loyal to its system and any applicant who wishes to apply to medical, dental or veterinary school in Texas, for the most part, will have to apply through TMDSAS. While TMDSAS and AMCAS are similar systems, it's important to note their differences:

Cost

Students applying through TMDSAS have the benefit of saving some money, and considering how much medical school costs, saving anything counts as a win.

TMDSAS charges a flat fee for primary applications and allows you to apply to as many schools as you'd like for only $185. The only catch is that you'll only be submitting one application, so you have to make sure that one application is phenomenal. Eleven out of the twelve TMDSAS participating medical schools require secondary applications and these vary from being free to costing up to $75.

AMCAS, on the other hand, is much more expensive. The first AMCAS application costs $170, with a charge of $41 for each additional school. As most students apply to 15 to 20 schools, that can set you back over $700 from the get-go. Some secondary applications are free, but others can cost up to $150.

Essays

Both AMCAS and TMDSAS require the inclusion of a personal statement essay. TMDSAS sets their character limit at 5000, including spaces, while an AMCAS personal statement can be slightly longer at 5300 characters including spaces. As previously mentioned, TMDSAS applications have two additional essays, the personal characteristics essay, and the optional essay. Make sure you check out medical school personal statement examples before you sit down to write your TMDSAS personal statement. If you are applying to MD-PhD programs, you must submit an additional Dual Degree essay.

Letters of Evaluation

TMDSAS requires three individual letters of evaluation, with the option to submit one additional letter for dental and medical school applications. AMCAS however, allows applicants to upload up to 10 letters of evaluation. Depending on a school's program requirements, students may pick and choose from their bank of 10 to send the appropriate amount of letters during application.

Check out our video to learn how to write the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay:

How hard is it to get into Texas medical schools?

It depends. If you are an in-state applicant, your chance of acceptance is far higher than for out of state applicants. Each year, approximately 5800 applicants apply to participating TMDSAS schools for roughly 1600 available spots. Of the 1600 matriculants, 92% are Texas residents, and only 8% are out of state applicants. Over the past few years, the average accepted GPA of accepted students is 3.77 and the average accepted MCAT score is 509. Check out our medical school acceptance rates blog to find out how your statistics compare with US medical school statistics.

The ratio of Texas residents vs non-residents at Texas medical schools:

What is the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay?

The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is a required component of the TMDSAS application. In 2500 characters or less, including spaces, students must respond to the following prompt:

Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.

Many students struggle to understand the meaning behind this prompt. If you find yourself thinking “what does that even mean?”, you're not alone. Decoding the prompt and figuring out how to answer it appropriately can be challenging. It is best to think of this essay as a diversity essay for medical school. The admissions committee wants to know what form of diversity you can bring to your medical class that will benefit your peers. Diversity, in this sense, is a broad term referring to backgrounds, skills, insights, and experiences that you've had, that make you unique as a candidate and allow you to bring forth important and different knowledge, perspectives, and ideas. 

Think about a medical school class, for example, made up of 100 students that are essentially identical. Let's say they are all from the same city, went to the same high school, same university, their parents had identical jobs, they had the same amount and type of siblings and are the same ethnicity. Would this medical school class be diverse and bring forth new thoughts, ideas, perspectives, and skills? Not overly, but to a small degree they would, because no matter how many items you can standardize, you still can't standardize every single aspect and the reality is, each of these individuals would still probably have something different to contribute.

Now think about a class that consists of 100 students from a variety of different backgrounds, ethnicities, childhoods, siblings, parents, teachers, cultures, experiences – the list is endless and amount of diversity would be bursting at the seams. So, this is what the characteristics essay is looking for: an extremely diverse class able to challenge one another, push each other, empathize, think differently, show compassion, change for the better. The more diverse a group of individuals, the richer and more creative the group becomes. In this essay, it's your responsibility to demonstrate how you are unique as a candidate and how you can enrich other students in your class based on your own personal experiences in life.

How can I demonstrate diversity in my TMDSAS personal characteristics essay?

We see this time and time again, students who feel that they don't have anything to contribute. They may think that because they are not from a traditional “category of diversity” such as race, economic class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, culture, language, immigration and disability, that they have nothing worth discussing. This couldn't be further from the truth and has to do with the common misconception around the word diversity.

Diversity doesn't only apply to those who may fall into one of the traditional categories above and have an experience they want to share from it. Every single person has something to share and something that holds value. No person in the entire world has had your own unique experience, which is why no one in the world is exactly like you. Most people can appreciate this truth in their siblings, who even during their time growing up in the same household as you, under the same conditions or rules, are probably still different. That's because with each activity we do, or each interaction we have, we are changing, learning and gaining knowledge. It's impossible for someone to experience your identical life, even identical twins are not identical people, regardless of whether or not they look the same.

The idea of the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is for the admissions committee to learn about what makes you unique, and how you can, in turn, benefit the incoming class. So, let's go over three categories you can consider to help you determine how you can demonstrate diversity in your essay. As with all personal essays, you need to first brainstorm who you are as a person, so you can learn about who you are as a candidate. Go through this exercise below; ask yourself these questions and fill in the answers so you can determine what makes you original. Remember, everyone has a story.

What's your story? Here're some questions for you to consider when you prepare your TMDSAS personal characteristics essay:

What to include in the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay

As previously mentioned, every student has something to contribute, you don't have to have climbed Mount Everest or traveled overseas for your experience to be worthwhile. For example, one student who lives in a rural town can have just as many meaningful experiences as a student from an urban city. Experiences don't have to be exotic or require travel, you just have to connect back to how that experience influenced you in your journey to become a physician.

Although you may have had many experiences throughout your life that pushed you or drove you to medicine, it's important to focus on only 1-3 experiences in your essay. With a limit of 2500 characters including spaces, you have to be direct and streamlined in your essay approach. The last thing you want to do is create an essay that is difficult to follow because it's jumping between too many different experiences.

As you work through the questions above, highlight a few experiences that you feel were paramount in your life and were meaningful in your pursuit of medicine. Most importantly, your essay has to be reflective. This isn't an essay to just list the challenges you faced or the experiences you had without reflecting. Always always always be thinking, what did I learn from that experience? Did I gain an appreciation for a different group of people? What skills have I grasped or improved moving forward? How can this benefit others who may not have had this same experience? How can this benefit others receiving care? How can this be useful in my career as a doctor?

Last but not least, your essay has to show instead of tell. You've likely heard this before but it doesn't make it any less true or important. It doesn't work to simply say, “I was bullied in school which made me more resilient.” The reader wants to be taken on a journey and wants to discover what happened, how you felt, how it changed your mindset, and how it made you stronger. You have to use concrete examples and describe why you are more resilient today. Listing items holds no value and isn't believable. Everyone can list an item, but not everyone can support their discussion through personal examples.

TMDSAS personal characteristics essay sample

Being from Nigeria, a third world country, I have firsthand knowledge of what it means not to have access to health care. Growing up in Nigeria, I saw a lot of people not able to get the health care they needed because they could not afford the cost of health care and had to suffer ill health and serious morbidity. So, I can relate to the experience of underserved and disadvantaged populations in the United States. I had the opportunity to visit the Aboriginal community in Australia and hear from them the challenges they face with access to health care. I was opportune to provide care to underserved populations in Corpus Christi, Laredo, and San Antonio. We provided free health screenings, physical assessments, sports physicals and administered influenza vaccines to these disadvantaged populations.

My African background and nursing career have made me a culturally competent caregiver. Being from a culture that is different from the traditional American culture, I know the essence of being able to understand and appropriately respond to unique health beliefs and practices of diverse groups. As a healthcare worker in the United States, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. This has made me more respectful of the beliefs, values, languages, and traditions of people that are different from mine. I can influence my classmates by teaching them to respectfully interact with people of diverse backgrounds. I had difficulty understanding Americans when they spoke to me during my early years in America. Many Americans had difficulty understanding me as well, because we spoke with different accents. People got frustrated when I did not understand them, and I asked them to repeat what they said. I have gotten better because I conditioned myself to listen carefully and repeat what they said to ensure that I understood what they are trying to convey. I will teach my classmates to listen carefully and patiently to people who speak differently from them and try to repeat what they say to ensure they have an understanding of what is said. This reduces the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively.

When I get into medical school, I hope to share my experiences with these underserved populations with my classmates to broaden their knowledge about the challenges these populations face and to bring to their understanding that healthcare disparities do occur even in developed countries such as Australia and the United States.

FAQs

1. What is the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay?

The personal characteristics essay is one of the required components of your TMDSAS application. Simply put, you can regard this essay’s prompt as a diversity prompt. You must demonstrate what new perspectives, knowledge, or skills you can contribute to the incoming medical class. Note that the term diversity is meant very broadly here. 

While you can write about traditional categories of diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status, you are also encouraged to get creative with what you include in your essay. Every single person on the planet has unique experiences and events that shaped who they are – dig deep and brainstorm distinctive narratives that you can include in your personal characteristics essay.

 2. I do not have a history of diverse experiences or events. What should I write about?

As I already mentioned, you must get creative with your essay. Just because you have lived in the same town or city your entire life or never swam across Lake Ontario does not mean that you do not have a unique story to tell. There is no need to fabricate events or experiences, believe me. Ask yourself the following: 

  • Have you ever faced a challenge? How did it shape your character? What did you do to overcome it? 
  • Have you ever met a person whose worldview was completely different from yours? What did you learn? How did this impact you?
  • What do you do in your free time? Do you have a passion outside of medicine? Do you play music, sports, or create art? 
  • Reflect on your family circumstances and how they shaped you and your desire to become a physician. 

I can go on and on, but the point here is that your story is unique – share it with the admissions committee.

3. Why does TMDSAS require three essays? Isn't a personal statement enough?

While the personal statement asks why you are the right candidate for medical school, the personal characteristics essay asks you to demonstrate your unique experiences and skills that can broaden the perspectives of your future medical school peers, and the optional essay is your chance to discuss any experiences or events that are relevant to your application which you have not previously discussed. I know it may be frustrating to prepare so many primary essays for your application, but all your essays must be of the highest quality – do not think the personal characteristics essay is any less important than the personal essay. 

Remember, the prompts are all different. To succeed, you must answer the prompt of the essay you are writing, whether it’s the personal statement, personal characteristics essay, optional essay, or the medical school secondary essays

4. So how many experiences or events should I include in my essay?

I strongly advise you to stick to 1-3 experiences or events. Remember, you must show rather than tell your story. Include concrete examples, describe your feelings and mental state, explain how certain experiences or events shaped you. Do not simply say, for example, “I served in the military. It was challenging.” – give the reader a vivid image of you in the military and how it shaped your character. What can your peers in medical school learn from you and your experience? Sticking to 1-3 experiences will allow you to speak of them in detail.

5. How long is the personal characteristics essay?

TMDSAS limits your personal characteristics essay to 2500 characters including spaces.

6. Since it’s quite short, how should I structure this essay?

The composition of your personal characteristics essay will follow the academic essay structure: introduction, body, and conclusion. While this essay will be shorter than the personal statement, nevertheless, it must be well organized, clean, and easy to follow. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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