fw5tape6kq

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May 28, 2012
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I wrote my personal statement essay almost a year ago for this most recent application cycle. Believe me when I say that I understood the importance of this part of the application, and spent a long time crafting it and honing it. Moreover, I had my family and health advisor at school read it over and share their thoughts when I was finished, as so many people urge you to do. Obviously, proofreading and peer review is important. In retrospect, I wish I had someone more "in the know" about the medical school admissions process read it as well.

What I ended up writing was a somewhat unorthodox statement; I basically negated the idea that there was some singular "epiphany" that made me want to become a doctor, some isolated experience that I could recount or draw upon as an example to the admissions person reading my statement. Instead, I said that my desire to become a physician arose organically over time, and was constituted just as much by seemingly "insignificant" daily interactions with people as it was by more medically grounded events. I did this for two reasons. One - it's what I really believe, and two, I thought it might help distinguish my essay from the rest of the pack who DO usually talk about one or two specific examples... as if those experiences are all there is to wanting to be a doctor.

Although I think the essay was well-written, I believe that I made a mistake in choosing that subject matter. This has been borne out by the retinue of rejections I received since early this fall. I was honest, I took a risk, and I probably ended up hurting myself because of it. I think the essay probably came off as general and uninspiring, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen.

In the instance that I have to re-apply this year, would anyone be willing to share their personal statement with me; ideally, an applicant who has already been accepted to a (good) medical school? At least then I might have a general sense of what a successful essay looks like - one that focuses on something specific, but does not do so disingenuously.

And yes, I am pretty sure that my essay - not my GPA or MCAT - had been primarily responsible for my rejections. The rest of my application is pretty strong.
 
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fw5tape6kq

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May 28, 2012
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Also, I understand that the person essay is just that - personal. As such, I completely understand, and respect, everyone's desire to keep that information private if they wish. Please do not misinterpret my intentions here: I am not "fishing around" for a good essay to lift information from. I am simply trying to get a sense of how someone can refer to a specific experience in their life successfully, in a way that med ad coms respond positively to.
 

ksmi117

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It's certainly possible that your PS played some role in your rejections, but I don't think the overall theme you stated was the problem. I'm sure adcoms don't expect every applicant to have had some life-changing experience to bring them to medicine because for most people it is a gradual thing. Maybe you said something else in the PS that worried them. Have you had anyone with experience with MD personal statements look at it since applying to see if there are indeed red flags in it?

Have you talked to any of the schools that rejected to you to get feedback about why they rejected you? You say you have good stats and ECs but something's gotta give since you've had such bad luck with this year.
 

nemo123

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Jul 22, 2011
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Like ksmi said, it's probably not your PS that got you rejected. Did you have anyone else look at it for you?

Anyways, here are some other examples to add on to what eleveneleven gave: http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=24467
http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=23645
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=16486
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=5579
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=20784

Also, I stumbled upon this while digging through old school-specific threads... It's probably my most favorite of all the ones I've come across. The theme isn't so extreme, but it's written from the heart, and it's genuine: http://stanfordmedstudent.blogspot.com/2009/12/personal-statement-for-medical-school.html
 
Last edited:
Jun 21, 2012
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I wrote my personal statement essay almost a year ago for this most recent application cycle. Believe me when I say that I understood the importance of this part of the application, and spent a long time crafting it and honing it. Moreover, I had my family and health advisor at school read it over and share their thoughts when I was finished, as so many people urge you to do. Obviously, proofreading and peer review is important. In retrospect, I wish I had someone more "in the know" about the medical school admissions process read it as well.

What I ended up writing was a somewhat unorthodox statement; I basically negated the idea that there was some singular "epiphany" that made me want to become a doctor, some isolated experience that I could recount or draw upon as an example to the admissions person reading my statement. Instead, I said that my desire to become a physician arose organically over time, and was constituted just as much by seemingly "insignificant" daily interactions with people as it was by more medically grounded events. I did this for two reasons. One - it's what I really believe, and two, I thought it might help distinguish my essay from the rest of the pack who DO usually talk about one or two specific examples... as if those experiences are all there is to wanting to be a doctor.

Although I think the essay was well-written, I believe that I made a mistake in choosing that subject matter. This has been borne out by the retinue of rejections I received since early this fall. I was honest, I took a risk, and I probably ended up hurting myself because of it. I think the essay probably came off as general and uninspiring, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen.

In the instance that I have to re-apply this year, would anyone be willing to share their personal statement with me; ideally, an applicant who has already been accepted to a (good) medical school? At least then I might have a general sense of what a successful essay looks like - one that focuses on something specific, but does not do so disingenuously.

And yes, I am pretty sure that my essay - not my GPA or MCAT - had been primarily responsible for my rejections. The rest of my application is pretty strong.
Did you have anybody from SDN read your essay? In my experience, people don't get the best feedback from those around them at school/home. Of the dozens of PS's I've reviewed for reapplicants who'd previously been told they were "good" by peers & professors, most were mediocre at best. I think it's pretty hard to improve your own PS based on reading others. Writing a non-traditional essay isn't a deal breaker (that's what I've done for college, med school, & residencies), as long as it's good (honestly I don't think your essay sounds out of the norm like you think it is). If you're so confident about your GPA & MCAT, I'd also find it unlikely that the PS would tank an application that you perceive to be so strong -- you have to consider your LORs as the possible problem. AND you need to realize that there are still interviews being granted even though sdn makes you feel otherwise & misleads you to believe you can only get on the waitlist if you get one.

I would be willing to read your PS and give feedback if you're interested.
 
Apr 22, 2013
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I wrote my personal statement essay almost a year ago for this most recent application cycle. Believe me when I say that I understood the importance of this part of the application, and spent a long time crafting it and honing it. Moreover, I had my family and health advisor at school read it over and share their thoughts when I was finished, as so many people urge you to do. Obviously, proofreading and peer review is important. In retrospect, I wish I had someone more "in the know" about the medical school admissions process read it as well.

What I ended up writing was a somewhat unorthodox statement; I basically negated the idea that there was some singular "epiphany" that made me want to become a doctor, some isolated experience that I could recount or draw upon as an example to the admissions person reading my statement. Instead, I said that my desire to become a physician arose organically over time, and was constituted just as much by seemingly "insignificant" daily interactions with people as it was by more medically grounded events. I did this for two reasons. One - it's what I really believe, and two, I thought it might help distinguish my essay from the rest of the pack who DO usually talk about one or two specific examples... as if those experiences are all there is to wanting to be a doctor.

Although I think the essay was well-written, I believe that I made a mistake in choosing that subject matter. This has been borne out by the retinue of rejections I received since early this fall. I was honest, I took a risk, and I probably ended up hurting myself because of it. I think the essay probably came off as general and uninspiring, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen.

In the instance that I have to re-apply this year, would anyone be willing to share their personal statement with me; ideally, an applicant who has already been accepted to a (good) medical school? At least then I might have a general sense of what a successful essay looks like - one that focuses on something specific, but does not do so disingenuously.

And yes, I am pretty sure that my essay - not my GPA or MCAT - had been primarily responsible for my rejections. The rest of my application is pretty strong.
I was asked at almost every single interview I went to what was the exact moment where lights shone from the heavens and I wanted to do medicine and like you, I don't have one. I do think it did play somewhat of a negative effect on the outcome of a few of my interviews
 
Jun 21, 2012
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I was asked at almost every single interview I went to what was the exact moment where lights shone from the heavens and I wanted to do medicine and like you, I don't have one. I do think it did play somewhat of a negative effect on the outcome of a few of my interviews
I was never asked that on an interview. "Why medicine?" of course was asked, but I never felt like anybody expected an epiphany . . . and I was a non-trad. I think some of this is just really bad luck. That said, w/out having an epiphany, I think you should be able to reference moments that felt really special or comfortable and reassured you that you made the right decision. My PS was actually about how most of the factors (emotional, not financial/opportunities) drove me away from medicine, but that I couldn't ignore the underlying attraction to it that I'd been carrying with me for all that time. Nobody was ever dismissive of it (at least not in front of me). I think that if you're getting questions like this, (1) it's bad luck, (2) they haven't read your PS, and/or (3) you weren't convincing in that PS or with whatever you were communicating in person that you weren't trying to get something from medicine that you could equally satisfy w/ another career path (i.e. it isn't special enough to you).
 
Jul 1, 2013
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I sympathize - I also felt my decision to go to medical school was more of a process than an epiphany. I went through a couple of drafts where I wrote about that, and decided it wasn't a very compelling story. I don't think the subject matter itself is a problem, since I know people use it successfully. However, it might be more difficult to make interesting, or a challenge to talk about in a coherent way, or it just may not show off your best qualities.

Because of this, I took a different tactic in my essays by focusing on something other than "why medicine" (although I did briefly address my reasons). Not sure how common this is. It might have played a role in keeping me from getting interviews at some schools, but didn't prevent me from getting interviews at my top choice schools. (Caveat: I did apply to schools that were very non-traditional friendly, and only two top 20 schools. I may not have been as successful if I applied to a different set of schools.)

I did have to talk about this in interviews, since everyone asks the "why medicine" question. I was pretty upfront about my lack of a single deciding factor, and focused how much time I put into making sure that medicine was a good fit for me. It seemed to be well received.

PM me if you want to see my essay.
 
Feb 26, 2013
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I also did not have a big "epiphany" but more a series of smaller realizations/experiences. I wrote about this on my PS. I used different illustrative examples of experiences that guided me to pursue medicine. On interviews, I talked about this also, and I think it went over well. In fact, some of my interviewers mentioned that they appreciated my honesty and did not really like the "I have wanted to be a neurosurgeon ever since my grandfather died when I was 5"- type narrative. They thought it was disingenuous. Like others have suggested, I don't think that your PS killed your app- especially not the theme as you describe it. I have been honest about my story/motivations in my app/interviews, and I am very thankful for what has come my way this cycle. I wouldn't go so far to say that the topic of my PS propelled my app, but it definitely did not hurt and I would venture to say that my sincerity did help. (Note: I applied to mostly top 20 schools and none of my interviewers seemed dissatisfied, for the most part, with my answer to "why medicine".)
 

nemo123

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I was never asked that on an interview. "Why medicine?" of course was asked, but I never felt like anybody expected an epiphany . . . and I was a non-trad. I think some of this is just really bad luck. That said, w/out having an epiphany, I think you should be able to reference moments that felt really special or comfortable and reassured you that you made the right decision. My PS was actually about how most of the factors (emotional, not financial/opportunities) drove me away from medicine, but that I couldn't ignore the underlying attraction to it that I'd been carrying with me for all that time. Nobody was ever dismissive of it (at least not in front of me). I think that if you're getting questions like this, (1) it's bad luck, (2) they haven't read your PS, and/or (3) you weren't convincing in that PS or with whatever you were communicating in person that you weren't trying to get something from medicine that you could equally satisfy w/ another career path (i.e. it isn't special enough to you).
I wasn't asked directly "why medicine?" in my interviews, but I was asked variations of it and it threw me off guard a little bit, and I gave some really bad/general answers because of it...
 

jetsfan1234

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I was asked at almost every single interview I went to what was the exact moment where lights shone from the heavens and I wanted to do medicine and like you, I don't have one. I do think it did play somewhat of a negative effect on the outcome of a few of my interviews
I'm surprised it would be a negative. I would think it would be a positive. Someone who is basing a major life choice based on 1 or 2 "epiphanies" seems whimsical at best, unstable at worst. What's to say they won't have another "epiphany" somewhere down the road...and end up dropping medicine altogether?

Then again, I don't have acceptances anywhere yet....so I could be totally wrong, lol.
 
Jun 21, 2012
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I wasn't asked directly "why medicine?" in my interviews, but I was asked variations of it and it threw me off guard a little bit, and I gave some really bad/general answers because of it...
Congratulations on your acceptances. My guess is that your answers weren't nearly as bad as you felt they were.
Not sure how that question could throw anybody off guard, as it's sort of fundamental to your application. When you go on residency interviews, don't forget to know why you're applying to field X :)
 

nemo123

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Congratulations on your acceptances. My guess is that your answers weren't nearly as bad as you felt they were.
Not sure how that question could throw anybody off guard, as it's sort of fundamental to your application. When you go on residency interviews, don't forget to know why you're applying to field X :)
Thanks Plecopotamus! Lol, honestly they really were not that good. I don't know why it threw me off guard because I had prepared an answer for it and was expecting it, but I think the way in which it was asked threw me off a little bit (like they would ask me when I wanted to do medicine, and in my first couple interviews, I didn't know whether I should have explained my whole reasoning or just answer the when part). I don't know. Towards the end of my interviews, I just gave my entire answer, and I probably sounded rehearsed lol.
 
Apr 22, 2013
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I was never asked that on an interview. "Why medicine?" of course was asked, but I never felt like anybody expected an epiphany . . . and I was a non-trad. I think some of this is just really bad luck. That said, w/out having an epiphany, I think you should be able to reference moments that felt really special or comfortable and reassured you that you made the right decision. My PS was actually about how most of the factors (emotional, not financial/opportunities) drove me away from medicine, but that I couldn't ignore the underlying attraction to it that I'd been carrying with me for all that time. Nobody was ever dismissive of it (at least not in front of me). I think that if you're getting questions like this, (1) it's bad luck, (2) they haven't read your PS, and/or (3) you weren't convincing in that PS or with whatever you were communicating in person that you weren't trying to get something from medicine that you could equally satisfy w/ another career path (i.e. it isn't special enough to you).
I'm not sure what it is, I've gotten enough interviews to think that it's probably not a bad PS. Maybe you're right, it's just not super clear?
 
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fw5tape6kq

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May 28, 2012
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Like ksmi said, it's probably not your PS that got you rejected. Did you have anyone else look at it for you?

Anyways, here are some other examples to add on to what eleveneleven gave: http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=24467
http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=23645
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=16486
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=5579
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=20784

Also, I stumbled upon this while digging through old school-specific threads... It's probably my most favorite of all the ones I've come across. The theme isn't so extreme, but it's written from the heart, and it's genuine: http://stanfordmedstudent.blogspot.com/2009/12/personal-statement-for-medical-school.html
Thanks. These are some great examples.
 

SnakeOilForSale

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The only mistake you made was having family read it. I've read around 100 PS's on here and really tear them apart to get around all the fluff and to the heart of the content, that's when the truly beautiful essays appear. Your mother or aunt would most likely not do that.
 
Mar 9, 2013
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What I ended up writing was a somewhat unorthodox statement; I basically negated the idea that there was some singular "epiphany" that made me want to become a doctor, some isolated experience that I could recount or draw upon as an example to the admissions person reading my statement.
I don't think a good PS needs an 'epiphany' moment. The question "why do you want to be a doctor" is not the same as "when did you realize you wanted to be a doctor" or even "how did you decide you wanted to be a doctor".

I think I wrote a somewhat unorthodox (a little long, a little political, but all very true) personal statement, based on the feedback I received from interviewers. It certainly wasn't the epiphany style and it seems to have gone over pretty well.

I'm not comfortable sharing my actual PS but the format was something like:

Medicine is amazing.
We artificially limit the care people can receive through political and social means.
Specific example of how this hurts people.
How this inspires my passion to do better.
Specific examples of service delivery that impress me.
What I hope do as a physician.
Why my background and strengths will help.
Conclusion - overall passion for health and justice.
 
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fw5tape6kq

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Did you have anybody from SDN read your essay? In my experience, people don't get the best feedback from those around them at school/home. Of the dozens of PS's I've reviewed for reapplicants who'd previously been told they were "good" by peers & professors, most were mediocre at best. I think it's pretty hard to improve your own PS based on reading others. Writing a non-traditional essay isn't a deal breaker (that's what I've done for college, med school, & residencies), as long as it's good (honestly I don't think your essay sounds out of the norm like you think it is). If you're so confident about your GPA & MCAT, I'd also find it unlikely that the PS would tank an application that you perceive to be so strong -- you have to consider your LORs as the possible problem. AND you need to realize that there are still interviews being granted even though sdn makes you feel otherwise & misleads you to believe you can only get on the waitlist if you get one.

I would be willing to read your PS and give feedback if you're interested.
I've been told by faculty that my LORs were all quite good, so I think I'm ok on that front. And yes, I've had a SDN member read my essay, but only one. He seemed to think it was the weakest part of my application, and that it was the main reason behind my string of rejections. He said it seemed vague and uninspired, thus my concern.
 

1012526fs

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Nov 2, 2012
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I agree that an epiphany moment isn't necessary. As a matter of fact it sounds fake. HOWEVER... even with a life-long story to tell, you really should try to find those moments that are able to colorfully illustrate your journey. What is it about the people around you or experiences in your life that have moved you towards a career in medicine? Now focus those ideas down until you find moments that you can write about to illustrate your life. I wrote about my lifelong journey towards medicine as well, but I was able to pick out and find moments that (while not epiphany-inducing) pushed me towards medicine in their own way. Those are the stories I wrote about.... do not make broad sweeping comments. Adcoms are people, and people want to have their attention captivated... they don't want to be bored to tears and have to fight to finish reading your PS.