Residency & Medical School Admissions: Show, Don’t Tell

This well known mantra will help you throughout your medical education.

Residency & Medical School Admissions: Show, don't tell

Something my clients hear me say throughout the application process, and a common mantra for anyone who works in admissions, is to “show” rather than “tell.”

What does this mean, exactly?

It means that whether you are writing a personal statement or interviewing, you should show evidence for what you are trying to communicate.

For example,

In a personal statement, never say that you are compassionate and empathetic.

So what should you say?

Demonstrate that you possess these qualities by offering concrete examples.


Your interview responses should evoke all the qualities and characteristics that your interviewer is seeking.

Here’s another great example.

Consider the following medical school interview question, “Tell me about your most valuable shadowing experience and why it was important to you.”

Let’s get started:

This would be a first-rate answer:

“My most valuable experience was shadowing Dr. Brit. I really learned so much about oncology, which I found fascinating. I would go home every night and read about what I had heard and learned. But I also enjoyed watching him talk to patients. I noticed that he held each patient’s hand, listened to them attentively and made clear to each person that he really cared.”

So what’s the strategy?

By talking about his mentor, this applicant shows his understanding of the importance of compassionate care.


In expressing this, further he suggests that these ideals are important to him, too.

Again here comes the mantra.

The mantra “show, don’t tell” cannot be said enough.

Remember this throughout every stage of the medical admissions process.

This information is based on content in The Medical School Interview, The Residency Interview, and The MedEdits Guide to Medical School Admissions, books that help applicants prepare for the interview processes. If you want help preparing for interviews, contact MedEdits.