How to Write an Awesome Medical School Personal Statement
I'm going to show you how to write an awesome medical school personal statement so that you get an interview and actually get accepted to medical school.
This is very important for you to understand before I go any farther with your personal statement for medical school.
You must know the reason behind writing a medical school essay in the first place.
What I am about to share with you must be taken extremely seriously because you only have one chance with your personal statement for medical school so you need to make it count.
The only reason you're writing a medical school personal statement is to be invited to a medical school interview.
Never take a detour from this mentality while working on your medical school personal statement.
Keep this in mind at every stage of the writing process it's to get an interview invite.
You are writing to show medical school admissions officers (a.k.a. AdComs) why you should be admitted over everyone else who wants to become a physician.
If you keep this in mind you can’t go wrong while putting together your medical school application essay.
Do This While Writing Your Personal Statement for Medical School
The rules for writing your medical school personal statement for are pretty open-ended.
The biggest constraint you’ll face is the length of your medical school essay.
You only have 5,300 characters to write your “Personal Comments” essay as the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) officially calls your personal statements for medical school.
Remember that spaces are counted against your character limit.
All you have is 5,300 characters which is approximately one-page in case you were wondering how your medical school personal statement length.
And yes, every applicant applying to medical school is required to write a Personal Comments essay.
You are given a lot of freedom when it comes to the writing of your personal statement for medical school. But I want to share with you two questions you absolutely must address in your personal statement.
- Why Medicine?
- Why You?
These two questions come from a top 20 medical school who presented at our “Annual Medical School Day” a medical school college fair that I was responsible for putting together while president of the premed society at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL).
Those who have strong medical school essays will answer these two questions.
Why Medicine and Why You?
How you answer these two important questions matters a lot.
Never just come out and answer them directly. Instead these answers should be carefully woven throughout your personal statement for medical school so by the time your reader is finished with your essay they have a concrete understanding of why you desire to become a doctor.
The first question, “Why Medicine?,” is your chance to inform the admissions committee of why do you want to become a doctor.
Use this opportunity to talk about your motivations and goals for a career in medicine.
Some applicants will convey personal stories of an illness affecting them or a close family member and this was became their motivation to pursue medicine.
Here's the background information on how I came to the conclusion to pursue becoming a doctor.
“One call would forever change my family….
I remember the day clearly.
Grandpa was calling to inform us Grandma was being rushed to the hospital with a brain aneurysm and our family dynamics would never be the same.”
The above is how I actually opened my medical school personal statement and later I will share some of the nuanced details that you may have missed when reading those words.
However, I will show you how powerful words can be and how you can do the same for yourself.
Basically, it all boils down to answering why do you want to pursue a career in medicine?
Obviously, I went into a lot more detail but do not focus on me because my job is to help you write an awesome personal statement for medical school that gets you lots of medical school interview invites.
There’s a second question you need to address in your medical school essay, “Why You?”
This question wants to know what makes you so special that you deserve the privilege of studying to be a future doctor.
Your job is to present a solid argument of why you should be admitted to medical school as opposed to the other 53,000 applicants.
If you’re able to pull this off then you're on your way to your white coat ceremony in no time.
Please remember medical schools are looking for diversity.
Diversity is not like what you’re used to.
Don’t think diversity is all about race/ethnicity because this on scratches the surface. Think about it, if that’s all diversity meant then why would AdComs waste time having medical school applicants complete such a rigorous application process?
Here’s what you need to do when it comes to diversity.
Talk about your extracurricular activities, your life experiences and what sets you apart from other applicants.
If you’re a college athlete this may be the diversity you bring to the incoming medical school class. Or maybe you did advocacy work for a marginalized population, that would be considered diverse.
Perhaps, your upbringing has been very non-traditional and you stand out because of events from your past.
As you can see there’s a lot that falls under the umbrella of diversity.
Overall, your job with your medical school personal statement is to make a convincing argument of why you deserve to be admitted to medical school over everyone else applying.
How you go about this matters.
Show Don't Tell
Your personal statement for medical school is not a resume in prose.
You are not writing your activities and extracurriculars in paragraph form.
Avoid rehashing details that can be found elsewhere in your medical school application.
Use every opportunity you have to make the strongest case for getting into medical school. In particular with your personal statement for medical school your goal is to impress your reader to the point where they want to meet you in person by granting you a medical school interview invite.
A lot of students get this part of writing wrong and I’m going to make sure you approach it correctly.
As a reader, I want you to show me what makes you unique and special.
Please don’t tell me.
This means active writing, use the presence tense and engaging your reader.
The 12:37 AM Test
Here’s the litmus test to determine how well you're doing with writing your personal statement for medical school.
Imagine it’s 12:37 am and your reader has been seeing patients all day, then attends an evening meeting, finally getting home and settling all to begin reading a stack or medical school personal statements.
Your reader is very tired but will get through a good chunk of the medical school personal statements in the next 2.5 hours.
Here's the question you should be asking yourself, “Will yours be the personal statement your reader remembers the next day?”
Despite a busy day your reader remembers your personal statement for medical school and is prepared to go to the admissions committee meeting to make the case for your medical school interview invite.
If your medical school essay does not evoke emotion, feelings and a connection with your reader then you need to scrap your personal statement and start over.
Do what you must to put together a compelling medical school personal statement.
Only One Chance to Make a First Impression
Did you know you only write one personal statement for all the medical schools you'll be applying to?
This means one mistake is actually multiplied to every medical school you're applying to.
Another point that students fail to realize… once you hit submit on your Personal Comments you cannot make any changes or edits. Meaning if you catch an error immediately upon submission you are stuck with that mistake throughout the application cycle.
Even if you decide to apply to more medical schools in the same application cycle you will not have the chance to go back and make changes to your personal statement for medical school.
Make sure your medical school application is error free before you submit.
Otherwise, AdComs will think you are not taking your application seriously and you are not fully committed to medicine.
This may come across as harsh and overbearing but it's the truth.
Remember medical schools receive over 10,000 applications for only 150 spots. This means AdComs are actively looking for reasons to reject your medical school application.
Your Personal Statement Can Make or Break Your Chances of Acceptance
“All things being equal between two equally qualified applicants, your personal statement becomes the deciding factor.”
What this means is that if there are two applicants with similar MCAT score and GPA, AdComs will use your personal statement for medical school to determine who they will accept and who will be rejected.
This is one of the reasons why applicants with similar “stats” can have entirely different outcomes when applying to medical school.
Plus, your personal statement for medical school is one part of the application that you have complete control over.
Unlike grades and the MCAT, you have to study and even then you do not know exactly what you will be tested on, you only know the topics you are required to master.
However, with your personal statement for medical school you are not guessing and your essay is not written under a time constraint.
AdComs expect you to put together a compelling personal statement for medical school that makes the strongest case of why you deserve to be admitted to medical school based on what you bring to the field of medicine.
If you are able to do this then you will get a lot of medical school interview invites.
Spend as much time as you like in crafting your medical school essay to have an awesome medical school personal statement.
Don’t get lazy or think your medical school personal statement is good enough.
Writing is a process and you want to give your medical school essay the attention and time it deserves.
Besides, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have spent so much time in organic chemistry lab, sacrificing personal time to volunteer and shadow all to blow your chances of getting into medical school because you got lazy with your medical school personal statement.
You don’t want to do that.
If you are reading this I think you may be a serious applicant who is looking for ways to ensure you get into medical school because you know the importance of your medical school essay.
Three Medical School Personal Statement Topics You Must Avoid
Everyone thinks they are special when it comes to writing their medical school essays but let me tell you that you're not. With over 50,000 applicants to medical school you're not going to re-invent the well and write about something AdComs have never head before.
However, you want to be able to stand out from the crowd and one way is to avoid the three most common medical school personal statement topics that your reader encounters every year.
Avoid these three topics and you will separate yourself from everyone other applicant who is competing for one of the very limited medical school school seats.
I Want to Be Like Dr. Jones
As a premed student you need to shadow to get a glimpse of what actual “doctoring” entails and to make sure you’re making an informed decision about entering the profession.
However, AdComs see this taken in the wrong direction on many personal statements for medical school.
Premed students will often write about how they were so impressed with Dr. Jones and they want to be just like her when as a physician.
Dr. Jones, has an excellent bedside manner and makes everyone feel very comfortable. Plus, she takes time to answer all of her patients’ questions and they never feel rushed during their visit.
Lastly, Dr. Jones seems to do it all as she practices direct clinical care, conducts research with many publications attached to her name.
Overall Dr. Jones sounds like an amazing doctor which is terrific.
However, telling AdComs you want to be like Dr. Jones who embodies all the best in medicine is actually detrimental to your chances of getting into medical school.
A reader will look at this type of personal statement, scratch their head and think, “you just did a great job writing a letter of recommendation for Dr. Jones, but didn’t tell me anything about you... next.”
You missed a golden opportunity to make the case of why you should be in medical school.
Do not fall into the trap of writing about a doctor you want to emulate.
Your personal statement for medical school is your chance to “come off the paper” and tell us who you are and what sets you apart.
Besides, this is your chance to write about topics we cannot find anywhere else in your medical school application so use this to your advantage.
Immigrant Family and Education
I come from a family of immigrants and education was always stressed while growing up.
If you’re headed down this road in your essay for medical school this is not helping your chances of getting accepted.
There are plenty of first generation college students applying to medical school and also students whose grandparents were the first ones to come to America.
You are going to need another way to distinguish yourself during the medical school application process.
Plus, you have to realize if you are going into medicine you’re typically a high achiever and understand learning is always going to be at the center of everything.
Therefore, it makes no sense to tell AdComs you want to pursue medicine because of education and being a lifelong learner since this is already expected of doctors.
Anatomy and Biology Opened My Eyes
Here’s another topic that seems to make the rounds every application cycle.
You had your first anatomy class and immediately became fascinated with the human body. Based on what you encountered you cannot imagine yourself doing anything but unraveling the mysteries of the human body.
You want to spend the rest of your life studying the human body and what better way to make this a reality than by becoming a doctor.
Try to avoid taking this approach.
As AdComs we look for ways to tease apart your essay and we’ll certainly catch you on the interview trail.
You don’t want to become so enamored with the human body that we think you’re better suited as an anatomy instructor.
Or even worse your fascination with the human body comes off as immature and lacking in what we would expect out of a medical school applicant.
It is a very fine balancing act when it comes to addressing your passion for anatomy and how that translates into becoming a member of the medical community.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Medical School Personal Statement
I’m going to give you a deep dive on how to actually write your medical school personal statement.
What’s very important is your opening paragraph.
Don’t want to bore your reader.
Your goal is to immediately get their attention and captivate them throughout the essay.
I believe it is best to start with action, drama or mystery.
You saw with my personal statement for medical school how I opened with the line of, “One telephone call would forever change the....”
As a reader you are going to be intrigued and wonder about this mysterious phone call and its implications.
All you need to do is take whatever topic you’re writing from and jazz it up so that it is not boring or mundane.
Now with my topic it would not have been engaging to merely state, “My grandpa was calling because Grandma was rushed to the hospital…”
That sentence isn’t exactly boring but it doesn’t do enough to move you closer to being offered a medical school interview invite.
Be sure to start out strong with your opening sentence and paragraph.
From there you want to focus on the meat of your medical school essay.
Craft an Engaging Story Using Only Two to Three Topics
Your personal statement for medical school is not where you try to tell your entire life story.
It’s better to stick to two to three topics that you can go into detail about rather than trying to cover everything under the sun.
You want less so that you can draw your reader in, evoke emotion and provide details to really set the tone of your medical school personal statement.
Otherwise your writing comes off as a smorgasbord of ideas where you have not engaged your reader enough.
Your writing needs to allow the reader to get a true sense of who you are as a person and the next logical step would be to grant you a medical school interview.
Use the active voice when writing and do everything in your power to connect, and come alive.
The Biggest Gripe of AdComs
Do you know the biggest gripe of AdComs?
It’s that you are not personal enough in your medical school personal statement.
AdComs want the raw and real you.
This is your chance to tell your story, hook your reader and have them totally engrossed in your essay.
Students get the wrong impression when I say become more personable.
In the context of your medical school essay it means to be more emotional, talk about your feelings, how you were affected by things and show your human side.
The best essays are the ones where you feel as though you are right there with the applicant and get a sense of who they truly are as a person. You do not want to come off as standoffish, unemotional or just going through the motions with your writing.
Remember, all things being equal between two equally qualified applicants that your personal statement will be the deciding factor.
Trust me, if you feel as though you are being too personable in your medical school essay I can almost guarantee you are not.
You want to be personable but keep in mind who your audience is and the goal of your essay is to get into medical school. Just use common sense when it comes to being personable.
No New Information
As you prepare to close your medical school essay do not bring up new information which you haven't discussed already.
Although you want to have a captivating and engaging opening to your medical school personal statement don’t have a cliffhanger ending.
Any topic you mention in your essay needs to be fully covered.
AdComs don’t want to be left scratching their heads or wondering how a detail fits into your overall application.
Wrapping Up Your Personal Statement
This is a very important part of your medical school personal statement.
You want to concisely recap what you mentioned in your essay and then put into your reader’s head the next logical step would be to invite you to a medical school interview.
You do not outright say you want to be invited to an interview.
Instead wrap up and in your last line write something to the effect of, “For reasons X, Y, and Z I believe I have what it takes to become a successful physician and I look forward to the next steps in the admissions process where I can showcase how I will be an asset to next year’s incoming medical school class.”
This is positive and forward thinking so at a subconscious level your reader will give you your most wanted response which is a medical school interview.
At the same time you are projecting confidence when you close your essay in this manner.
This is not a cocky closing. It demonstrates you are serious about getting into medical school and are looking forward to moving ahead in the application process.
Plus, getting into medical school is super competitive.
You have to push to stand out among everyone else who is applying.
Get Help In Writing Your Medical School Personal Statement
I hope my writing has helped you get started in the writing of your personal statement for medical school and you gained confidence in what and how to write for AdComs.
Do you have additional questions about your “unique” situation and what will help you get into medical school?
If so, then I strongly encourage you to look into my personal statement editing services.
This will allow us to work together one-on-one to ensure you have the perfect medical school essay.
Honestly, personal statement editing is my “superpower” where students are amazed at the transformation they get in their essays. I will take you from a mediocre essay to one you are excited about but more importantly will get you a ton of interviews.
I'm very good at what I do and last year 100% of the students I worked with got into their top choice programs.
Let’s work together to ensure your medical school dreams become a reality!