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Personal Statement For Non-Trads

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by mrmandrake, May 7, 2008.

  1. mrmandrake

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    Hey guys,

    Did you guys mostly use your personal statement as an explanation of why you went into what you did and then why you changed to medicine? I'm guessing most of you did. I am writing mine right now and its pretty long and I'm hoping to cut it down a bit. Thanks!
     
  2. drimpossible

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    I'm curious about this too. Some of us have a lot of explaining to do... :)
     
  3. gman33

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    The older you are, the harder it is to fit your life into a page and a half.
    I think my first draft was like 10-12 pages.

    I feel the important things to address are:
    Why medicine? Why now?
    Why you will make a good doctor?
    Demonstrate that you will be able to succeed in med school.

    If there are any glaring weaknesses in your application, address them.
    Don't put in minor things, like doing poor in a class, but if you have major things, like a semester of all F's, then put in an explanation.

    You can also talk about how your unique experiences as a non-trad will be a positive addition to the med school class. You may have special skills which could be a resource for others.
     
  4. MLT2MT2DO

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    I'm curious about this as well. I thought the general consensus was to not mention the negatives in your PS
     
  5. nu2004

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    yeah, i had something i had written and tried to take it down from 11,000 words to 5300 characters. it ended up not working, so i just started from scratch. i talked about my post-college experience and what was lacking, transitioned to an experience that demonstrated my desire to enter medicine, and finished with an analysis of how medicine will fulfill my personal and professional needs in a way nothing else can.

    gman's advice is good, although i'm not sure that you can "demonstrate that you will succeed in med school" in your PS - that's what your grades and MCAT are for. not picking, just my $0.02

    gl :luck:
     
  6. nu2004

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    that's not quite correct. if you have significant negatives, the PS is the only chance pre-interview that you have to address them... and it can be done in a thoughtful, measured fashion.

    it's sort of like life - little mistakes (a C here or there) can be swept under the rug. a DUI or a semester of F's needs to be addressed.
     
  7. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    Thanks for comments & starting this thread, I was just thinking about this same topic. I'm a reapp this year due to low bio MCAT section/lack of clinical ECs; latter has been beefed up, hopefully the former won't be an issue after July 10.

    I think I stressed the wrong things on my PS last year after speaking with a number of admissions officers -- I stressed management/leadership experience (started & ran a company for years) and academic (non-medical grad degree at top school) and personal reason for looking at medicine (largely a terminal illness in my immediate family).

    Feedback I rec'd from various offices-- 1) we are "retraining" you, will you be a good fit for medicine/why should we "retrain" you? 2) non-medical research/testing ability (on-site corporate/university research project in Buenos Aires using my fluency in spanish, research under a nobel prize winner in grad school) may not translate into success with medicine, and 3) seeing medicine as a patient's family does not give you a good perspective for becoming a practitioner. Several offices said that they did not feel qualified to judge the quality of my non-medical background/accomplishments because they were not familiar with the areas in which I have experience.

    Anyone with substantial non-medical experience get positive med-school feedback on a different approach? My company was a service firm, am trying to weave in that I managed customer service for years, an essential skill based on the clinical exposures I've had. I am planning to focus more on clinical volunteer, medical research volunteer, + advanced science coursework, with a much smaller emphasis on non-medical experience but am struggling with how to give some weight to the past 10+ yrs of professional experience.

    I definitely agree with the point above about making this a POSITIVE statement, and stressing the good reasons for the application and great things about medicine. It makes sense that one stress familiarity with the medical profession and how one can "fit in" based on one's experiences.
     
  8. nu2004

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    i started and ran my own company as well, for ~5 years, at the end and then after college. i was asked about it in every single interview (i accepted 4 of the 7 offered).

    i really stressed my analytical and problem-solving skills in my PS. i talked about how even though my work had developed them, it wasn't a satisfying application of them.

    my business was in technology, so it's obviously very problem-solving-oriented. however, as you know, just about any business owner encounters numerous problems every day. i'd recommend highlighting your experience with responding and adapting to new information and situations on the fly, and then make the case that you want to apply these abilities in a more consequential context: medicine.

    something i DIDN'T mention (that you might) is that having run my own business will help me run my own practice (i plan to be in group actually). the reason i brought it up is because several of my interviewers mentioned it to me.

    mentioning a terminal illness in your family is actually not a bad idea. you don't want it to sound like "hey i had a relative that died so i am qualified to be a physician." ideally, you should say something along the lines of "my work and life experiences will make me a capable and compassionate physician."

    it's incredible, really, how little true compassion exists in medicine nowadays. non-trads are a real bastion of idealism (not like those blood-sucking undergrads :) ) and if you write well or at least have a great editor, you can make a really compelling case.
     
  9. primadonna22274

    primadonna22274 Senior Member
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    I really appreciate you sharing these insights because for me I'm trying to focus on the switch from PA to MD/DO. The "retraining" aspect is a very good point. This gives me a launching point.
    Thanks.
    L.

     
  10. fireflygirl

    fireflygirl The Ultimate Blindian
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    I did as well but I took a moment that I experienced at my job when I knew I didn't belong there and used that. I didn't approach writing the PS as my life story but looked at it as finding a time when I realised that what I was doing before (i-banking) wasn't for me. That helped me focus more on the need to tell my story from that point onwards instead of thinking about it in a larger scale.
     
  11. MLT2MT2DO

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    Alright, this is good to know. I do have exactly the latter with a semester of F's (due to my first semester in college 10 years ago and just not showing up to class or bothering to withdraw), I have retaken all the classes and passed with stellar grades which is a good thing to do as far as applying D.O. I wasn't sure if I should address this, but will do.

    Also it makes me a cringe a little that you put a D.U.I. and a semester of F's in the same category.
     
  12. MiketheAnimal

    MiketheAnimal Matriculating in '09
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    Well I talked about my reason for the change of careers (engineering to medicine), why I want to be a physician specifically, and why I am qualified to become a medical student. I have gone through about 6 or 7 drafts, ranging from minor grammar issues to semi-overhauls. All-in-all I am very happy with the results...it's just a pain in the @$$ formulating what you want to say and how you will say it.
     
  13. nu2004

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    haha, sorry, not implying anything. but honestly, one is a really, really bad decision that takes place in a single night, and one is a bad decision (or rather, a series of bad decisions) that takes place over 10-18 weeks. it happens and i try not to villanize either.

    if your F's were 10 years ago, you're probably right not to spent too much time addressing it (i still think you should, but not at any great length). i forgot for a second that this was the non-trad forum -- your other life experiences will help to show your maturity and fitness for med school.
     
  14. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills
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    Hmm, good question. I am still in the early outline/draft phase, but when this semester is over it's a top priority so I'm thinking about it a lot. I plan to have it done for amcas submission june 1.

    I am currently not focusing on my employment at all. I've been in software for 10 years partially because I enjoy the creativity and problem solving aspects, but more because it helps me support myself and my mother. It's taught me professional skills like task organization, people management and general personal qualities like diligence, judgement etc. but honestly has not meant much to me overall. The only reason I stayed was the security. I will probably mention in brief what I learned from it, but I have always wanted to go into medicine but wasn't ready, so it's not like I had a post-bacc epiphany.

    I'm talking much more about how my exposure to medicine, both as a clinician (ER crisis counselor, shadowing) and as a patient, has shaped my perspective on medicine. Also, how I've grown throughout the years (and thus finally feel ready to tackle med school). I do have a very weak undergrad GPA to explain, but it will only be mentioned as supporting evidence in demonstrating my growth. I got the same advice that negatives should only be brought up if you can work them to enhance your story.

    Anyone have feedback on this plan?
     
  15. MeowMix

    MeowMix Explaining "Post-Call"
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    Most PS fall into one of two epiphanies:
    - there I was on top of Mount A with a dying climbing partner, and I had to save her life using only a paper bag and a razor blade - at this moment I knew I was destined to be a doctor
    - I/my family member had X disease and the brave Dr Y saved my/their life and now I want to be a Z_ologist like Dr Y (I have heard some callous readers refer to these as the "boohoo" stories)

    The PS is one area of your application where it is nearly impossible to gain major points, although you can certainly lose them. You have to be an astonishing writer, or have an exceptionally amazing story, to make your PS stand out. And believe me, most of us do not have any story amazing enough, or the writing skills, to really stand out. Just do a decent job. However, also be aware that at some schools, your interviewer will go in to the interview having read ONLY your PS, so give them something to talk about.

    The best most of us can hope for is to not be too predictable or arrogant in our PS, to make ourselves sound like reasonable and humble human beings with a genuine desire to help others, and to reassure the adcom that whatever academic mistakes we have made, we will have an unblemished and stellar record in med school.
     
  16. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills
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    Am I missing something? Don't they review your secondary app including letters of recc etc before you interview?! My committee letter is going to talk about my struggles as an undergrad, and I also have a letter from a dean at my undergrad talking about that in depth - so I'm assuming those will be reviewed prior to interview decisions.
     
  17. MeowMix

    MeowMix Explaining "Post-Call"
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    Prior to decision, yes; but your interviewers may read all or some or none of that prior to the interview. Like it or not, they usually go in with a set of assumptions about who you are. They may hear what you say or they may not. (I found this out when I was accidentally sent an interviewer's evaluation of me after a residency interview this year - full of misunderstandings!) You need to be sure that everything in your package conveys stable, reliable, hardworking and academically competent.
     
  18. nu2004

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    this sounds like it might cover your bases, but i don't think this is the norm. my school did not have a committee letter so it was not even an option, and non of my rec letter writers were qualified to really convey the changes in me that made me a better student as an adult. however, you're right in that I think rec letters can support what your PS asserts - the physics prof who wrote my rec letter taught my post-bacc physics classes and also happened to have me as an undergrad when i slacked off, didn't come to class, and had a B-. that was something for him to talk about. also, one of the physicians i knew well that wrote me a letter mentioned briefly that she was impressed with how much i had accomplished despite some health problems.

    so yes, while i think rec letters and possibly a committee letter (can't really address that because i didn't have one) can go to bat for you, it may still be worthwhile to make a case for yourself. also, i think it's unlikely that non-academic "significant negatives" would be covered by any of those things, like that time you got busted for dealing pot... ;)

    $0.02
     
  19. nu2004

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    geez, that must have been frustrating
     
  20. gman33

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    Talk about the F's if you have a positive way to spin it (you were sick, etc).
    If not, I wouldn't address it.
    You could say something about being young and learning from this mistake.
     
  21. primadonna22274

    primadonna22274 Senior Member
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    Honestly, I'm approaching it from the perspective of a practicing clinician who wants to learn more and do more than I can do now as a PA. I'm not telling any fascinating stories of near-death saves although I have a few interesting stories to tell of the more boring variety (found a few melanomas, four breast cancers in my first year of practice, yada yada). I feel it would take up too much space to tell these stories and I have very little space in which to explain WHY I'm switching, and I think most adcoms will be most interested in THAT story.
    Thoughts?
     
  22. nu2004

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    i agree. just have to find a way to make it fit. when i started it seemed impossible (and honestly in the end too much of my PS was taken up with this narrative of why to switch), but i think you're right - they want to hear why you want to switch.

    mine ended up being 906 words. felt cramped but ultimately i think i told them what they needed to hear.
     
  23. MLT2MT2DO

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    I was planning on touching "lightly" about this, though I think my newly acquired grades will hopefully speak for themselves. I just didn't know how much to actually bother with this...
     
  24. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills
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    Haha, damn, so I HAVE to talk about my murder rap? :D

    MM, thanks for the advice, it makes sense, and is concise. Poifect.

    Nu...sigh, if they don't read my explanations I'm afraid I won't have a chance at any of my reach schools. My undergrad GPA has a very good explanation, but I have enough positive things to cover in the PS that I don't want to spend much space on the subject, especially since it's not something summed up by "I was young and stupid." I was touched almost to the point of tears when I spoke with my letter writer from undergrad and she not only remembered me but gave me a big huge and said she couldn't wait to write the letter. I was kind of afraid she'd just remember me as a giant PIA. It means so much when people believe in and support you.

    I have also heard that if you have to break out a sob story, it's best to let someone else do it. Telling it yourself tends to come off as just that, a sob story. On the other hand a story of triumph over adversity doesn't suck, and that's certainly a theme in mine. I'll have to see how the space works out.

    Prima - I agree with you, it seems like motivations should be at the forefront, using specific examples to support them, but setting the stage with the examples concisely.

    Anyone have any info on whether some particular schools are more likely to have just read the PS pre-interview?
     
  25. 4paw

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    hey breeak -

    as for reach schools, if they are the top ones, they are the ones that are most likely to give your app a throrough review. i got interviewed by a couple schools with a lot of resources to put into app review, and it shows. those schools are well-prepared interviewers. so don't worry bout that part. and reach!

    p.s. i didn't get into either of those really fancy ones, but then again i'm a bit of a rebel - more the che guavara, norman bethune, elizabeth blackwell end of medicine :) i.e. mouthy.
     
  26. MeowMix

    MeowMix Explaining "Post-Call"
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    Interviewers at Colorado never see your transcripts and LORs etc before interviews, just your PS and I think your list of experiences.

    My ONE interviewer at Nebraska had not looked at anything in my file. Interviewers like this usually say something like, I wanted to not have any preconceived ideas about you as an applicant. So they know absolutely nothing about you. This is particularly difficult if you see only one interviewer, and then afterwards they look at your file and see your semester of Fs.

    UCSF does not read your detailed descriptions of your activities, just the titles. I am not sure how much the interviewers see before the interview; they may be another school where they see only PS and not transcripts, LORs, etc.
     
  27. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills
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    Hmm, ok. So that's interesting. I guess I knew that the state schools tend to be more numbers driven, and it makes sense that the schools with the most resources will do a more thorough review. I guess it's a bridge to cross when it comes anyway, one thing at a time., right? ;)
     
  28. bioteach

    bioteach MSIV
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    I wrote about how everything I have done thus far has lead me to medicine. I detailed how I liked different aspects of my current career, past research experience and current volunteering all led me to a career that encompasses all those aspects - medicine.
     
  29. Captain Fantastic

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    Pick one story that demonstrates qualities about you that you want the adcom to know. Use that to frame your essay. In the middle explain how you came to believe you wanted to be a physician and you you've tested that belief so that you come to them with an understanding of what you're saying when you tell them, "I want to be a physician."

    For me the hardest part was picking the one story. That meant other experiences and qualities would not make it into the PS.
     

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