Your medical school personal statement is a crucial opportunity to show medical schools who you are as an individual, the major influences and background that have shaped your interests and values, what inspired you to pursue medicine, and what kind of a physician you envision yourself becoming. But with tight limits on space, it can be tough trying to decide what to include. So think strategically about how you want to present your personal “big picture.”
When a medical school admissions reviewer finishes reading your personal statement, what are the most important things you want that person to remember about you? Does it sum up your personality, interests, and talents? Does it sound as if it’s written from the heart? It’s pretty obvious to most admissions reviewers when applicants are trying too hard to impress them. Being authentic and upfront about who you are is the best way to be a memorable applicant.
What Is The Medical School Personal Statement?
The medical school personal statement is the major essay portion of your primary application. In it, you should describe yourself and your background, as well as any important early exposures to medicine, how and why medicine first piqued your interest, and how you became increasingly fascinated with it. It’s also key to explain why medicine is the right career for you, in terms of both personal and intellectual fulfillment, and to show your commitment has continued to deepen as you learned more about the field.
The personal statement also offers you the opportunity to express who you are outside of medicine. What are your other interests? Where did you grow up? What did you enjoy about college? Figuring out what aspects of your background to highlight is important since this is one of your only chances to express to the admissions committee before your interview what is important to you and why.
AMCAS Personal Statement
The AMCAS personal statement, at 5,300 characters with spaces, offers you the most room in which to flex your writing muscles. But you should still have a plan for how to get the most out of every word. So map out or outline the big highlights in your journey to medicine so far. After your introduction (more on that in the section of personal statement writing tips), describe your background and a little about your family, where you grew up, and what was important to you in your early years. The next paragraph might cover your high school years – and your middle school ones, if your interest in science or medicine started then – and any involvement in science-related activities, health-care volunteering or shadowing.
After that, you might devote a paragraph or two to your college years. Don’t forget to write a couple of sentences about your coursework. Although it may sound mundane to talk about your favorite classes, college represents four years of your life, and that’s a big chunk of time. Medical schools want to see what you enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) about your coursework, and what captivated you about science and medicine in particular.
And don’t feel limited to discussing your science courses. We’ve had many clients write convincingly about their interest in other disciplines and how it informed and enhanced their passion for medicine. Medical schools are looking for diverse, out-of-the-box thinkers who can contribute fresh perspectives. So whether you enjoy women’s studies, anthropology, engineering, music, or folk stories, write a couple of sentences about it! And describe how your interest has contributed to your ideas about how you want to practice medicine and relate to your patients.
The next paragraph should be reserved for describing any post-college activities, including employment, research, volunteer work, internships, etc. Make sure you leave room for a strong, upbeat conclusion that sums up all the highlights of your pursuit of medicine, and that clearly conveys your passion for and dedication to the field.
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AACOMAS Personal Statement
The AACOMAS personal statement is for osteopathic medical schools specifically. As with the AMCAS statement, you need to lay out your journey to medicine as chronologically as possible. So you essentially have the same story map as for an AMCAS statement. But because you have less space – 4,500 characters with spaces, rather than the 5,300 AMCAS gives you – you will need to be even more disciplined about what you include and what you don’t. Most important, you must show you are interested in osteopathy specifically. Therefore, when trying to decide what to include or leave out, prioritize any osteopathy experiences you have had, or those that are in line with the osteopathic philosophy of the mind-body connection, the body as self-healing, and other tenets.
If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, do NOT make the mistake of thinking your osteopathy essay is simply a shortened version of your AMCAS essay, with one osteopathy paragraph thrown in for good measure. They are really entirely different animals, and it’s very easy to spot an allopathic statement in osteopathic clothing. A top-notch AACOMAS personal statement will focus on osteopathy from start to finish. In writing your essay, it’s crucial to show you have a solid grasp of what osteopathic medicine is and how it differs from allopathic medicine, in its approach to treatment and patients. And carry those ideas all the way through the statement.
Personal Statement Writing Tips & Help
If possible, start your statement off with an anecdote that ties into your interest in medicine. This could be a medical event that happened to you or a family member, or a patient with whom you had a special bond. Other topics include an experience that challenged or changed your perspective about medicine; a mentor or another inspiring individual; a difficult personal experience; or obstacles that you’ve had to overcome. Whatever it is, turn it into a mini story, and make it personal and exciting, pulling the reader into your journey immediately.
As we discussed in the AMCAS section of this article, the rest of the statement should lay out your journey to medicine as clearly as possible. Explain the major milestones along your personal path, and be specific about why you want to be a physician, using examples from your experience whenever possible.
In your writing, try to balance your intellectual curiosity about the clinical and scientific side of medicine – the “hard” side of medicine – with the “soft” side, the human element. Even if your main goal is to be a physician scientist, it’s absolutely critical to establish your compassion and empathy for patients, and to make it clear you can establish a connection with many different types of people. Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to offer some examples of your cultural competence – your openness to the different perspectives, cultures and backgrounds your patients will undoubtedly have.
Write honestly and directly about any obstacles, setbacks, or medical/personal issues that you’ve had to overcome. That said, keep your audience in mind. Medical schools want to be certain you’re emotionally and mentally up for the rigors of a four-year medical education. Therefore, although you shouldn’t gloss over difficult or painful subjects, keep the focus on how you’ve grown and become a stronger, more resilient, person as a result of those trials – someone who will handle the challenges of medical school with grit, perseverance and aplomb.
Personal Statement Consulting Services
If all this information has you staring at your screen like a deer in the headlights, you’re not alone. Writing a superb medical school personal statement can be a daunting task, and many applicants find it difficult to get started, or to express everything they want to say succinctly. That’s where MedEdits can help. From personal-statement editing alone to comprehensive packages for all your medical school application needs, we offer extensive support and expertise developed from working with thousands of successful medical school applicants. We can’t promise applying to medical school will be stress-free, but most clients tell us it’s a huge relief not to have to go it alone.
MedEdits offers personal statement consulting and editing. Our goal when working with students is to draw out what makes each student distinctive. How do we do this? We will explore your background and upbringing, interests and ideals as well as your accomplishments and activities. By helping you identify the most distinguishing aspects of who you are, you will then be able to compose an authentic and genuine personal statement in your own voice to capture the admissions committee’s attention so you are invited for a medical school interview. Our unique brainstorming methodology has helped hundreds of aspiring premeds gain acceptance to medical school. Click here to learn more