I am a strong writer but I need help finding out what med schools want from a personal statement. I don't have a pre-med advisor to help me. Has anyone had a good experience with a book, a consultant, or anything else?
I approached this somewhat differently. I intentionally avoided all books, people, and other resources until I had my first draft. I then sent it to a couple of friends who I knew would give real advice; at the same time, I started to leaf through books like the one above. For me, anyway, this approach let me express myself first, then adhere to the "rules" later.
Have you considered getting in touch with your alma mater? Their pre-med advising office might not be just for current students--they assist those who have been out of school for years. (Mine told me that approximately 25% of their current applicants have been out of school for a few years, and they routinely help people who graduated 10+ years ago. Not all of these people took their pre-reqs at my school.) If you beat the rush, they might be able to help you consolidate your thoughts, read over a draft of your personal statement, and provide comments. Just a thought! Good luck!
there's a whole free essay workshop thing right here on SDN (look at the top toolbar, under Applicants). It is excellent.
I would have been better off doing what blee suggested; I write well enough that I did not need feedback on grammar, spelling, style, etc..
Most of the books I looked at were filled with sucky essays that were trite and uninteresting. Going through the process of workshops with the state school premed advisor, having ppl read it, etc. just resulted in me having a trite, boring essay that sounded like everyone else's. Most young premeds don't have the skill or expertise to give good feedback in a peer-review workshop. The people who run these workshops are used to regular pre-meds too.
I had an expensive premed advisor read it too, and that was so discouraging that I wished I hadn't. She didn't give me any good specific advice, just made it sound like I wouldn't get in anywhere.
In retrospect, I would have been less afraid about trying to fit someone's vision of a good med school applicant. I would have left out much of the justification of why I'm going to be a good med student, and I would have focused much more on my interests and passions. I would have gone more heavy on the first-generation college student, no doctors in the family. And so on. I did get interviews almost everywhere, but I missed UCSF, which I later found out only looks at your essay and the titles of your experiences (not the descriptions).
What adcoms want in PS is really an original story about you and why you want to be a doctor. Everyones story is different. What people have trouble doing is packaging it. I would suggest going through some drafts to figure out what you want to tell about your life. Then use books, people, consultants etc to help you put it all together. I must have gone through 10 or 11 drafts before coming up with one I felt comfortable with. Even the one I chose, I edited with other peoples input ofcourse, almost every day for 2 months before I sent it in. Another thing is to start early. Good luck to you.