How to Write the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

Including TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay Samples

Updated: July 1, 2020

Students applying to medical schools in Texas will have to apply through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Similar to AMCAS, TMDSAS is a centralized system used to streamline applications to medical, dental, and veterinary schools. In addition to the TMDSAS personal statement, students will also have to complete two additional essays, the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay, and an optional essay. This blog will focus on the former and will dive into the meaning behind the essay prompt, show you how to write an effective essay, and go over successful TMDSAS personal characteristics essay examples.

You will learn:


How hard is it to get into Texas medical schools?

What is the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay?

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

What to include in the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay

TMDSAS personal characteristics essay samples

Would you like our help with your TMDSAS application?


Students often wonder why they have to apply through TMDSAS instead of AMCAS and what the differences are between the two systems. 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. Check out our ultimate guide to TMDSAS applications to find a list of all participating schools. While TMDSAS and AMCAS are similar systems, it's important to note their differences:


Students applying through TMDSAS have the benefit of saving some money, and with the expense of medical school, 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. Seven out of the ten TMDSAS participating medical schools require secondary applications and these vary from being free to costing up to $60. AMCAS, on the other hand, is much more expensive. The first AMCAS application costs $160, with a charge of $38 for each additional school. As most students apply to 16 schools, that can set you back over $700 from the get-go. Some secondary applications are free, but others can cost up to $150.


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. 

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.

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. confusing. 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. The best way to think of this essay is to think of it 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. So in this essay, it's your responsibility to demonstrate how you are unique as a candidate and how you can help 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, 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 figure out 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.

1. Who are you?

  • Where did you grow up?
  • What was the town/city like?
  • What was your family like?
  • How do you identify yourself?

2. What have you done or experienced?

  • Have you traveled abroad?
  • Were you born one place but grew up in another place?
  • Did you serve in the military?
  • Are you part of any teams or groups?
  • Have you volunteered in your community?
  • Have you participated in shadowing a doctor, or tutoring someone?
  • Did you have to learn a new language?

3. What has challenged you and what have you had to overcome?

  • Have you experienced illness?
  • Have you been injured?
  • Have you cared for a sick family member?
  • Have you taught or cared for someone with a disability or injury?
  • Have you been bullied?
  • Have you had to face rejection?

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 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 you changed your mindset, and how it made you stronger. You have to use concrete examples and need to 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: #1

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.

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