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Personal Statements: How Personal is Too Personal?

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BeticTrifecta

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A few friends and I were recently discussing the general topic of a personal statement and how integral it is to the post graduate application process for further education. As many of you know, not only is it important but it serves as the not-too-formal portion of the application by which one is able to introduce him or herself to the Admissions Board. It often requires one to form a summation of their own life by explaining how they have overcome certain obstacles or hardships. Within the vein of this nature, we began discussing possible adversities by which to write and found that we and for the most part most of those who will apply to medical school, do not have “extreme” cases of hardships. At least none that would be considered original.

That being said, this particular question was raised: “How personal is too personal for a statement”?

The golden consensus among us was that if you would not mention a particular experience in an interview, then it should not written as part of a statement. This means that perhaps discussing a messy divorce might be in bad “taste”. Yet, is not the purpose of the statement to introduce one’s character to their potential school of choice? If a person has been through an unfortunate, extreme circumstance such as rape and it has somehow served as the precedent in inspiring them to become a physician, is it appropriate to write? While extreme circumstances can be considered taboo, it is possible for them to define a person emphatically, especially if it has changed the trajectory of their career path? What if their only adversity is sensitive in topic? Do you agree with the our general consensus? For the sake of debate, I thought this would be interesting to see everyone’s opinions on the matter.

If you maintained a seat on a medical school’s admissions board, “How personal is too personal for a statement”?
 

mehc012

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A few friends and I were recently discussing the general topic of a personal statement and how integral it is to the post graduate application process for further education. As many of you know, not only is it important but it serves as the not-too-formal portion of the application by which one is able to introduce him or herself to the Admissions Board. It often requires one to form a summation of their own life by explaining how they have overcome certain obstacles or hardships. Within the vein of this nature, we began discussing possible adversities by which to write and found that we and for the most part most of those who will apply to medical school, do not have “extreme” cases of hardships. At least none that would be considered original.

That being said, this particular question was raised: “How personal is too personal for a statement”?

The golden consensus among us was that if you would not mention a particular experience in an interview, then it should not written as part of a statement. This means that perhaps discussing a messy divorce might be in bad “taste”. Yet, is not the purpose of the statement to introduce one’s character to their potential school of choice? If a person has been through an unfortunate, extreme circumstance such as rape and it has somehow served as the precedent in inspiring them to become a physician, is it appropriate to write? While extreme circumstances can be considered taboo, it is possible for them to define a person emphatically, especially if it has changed the trajectory of their career path? What if their only adversity is sensitive in topic? Do you agree with the our general consensus? For the sake of debate, I thought this would be interesting to see everyone’s opinions on the matter.

If you maintained a seat on a medical school’s admissions board, “How personal is too personal for a statement”?
ANYTHING in the PS is fair game for an interview. If you are not comfortable discussing it professionally, then it should not be included.
Yes, the PS is an introduction of your character to the school...but it is an introduction of your professional character, and should be reserved for topics which you can discuss in a professional manner. If the sensitive topic is crucial to the application, it may not be out of line to mention it, but it takes a fair amount of skill to tackle these subjects tastefully. For some, it may never be something they can discuss without becoming very emotional, and these people should be very hesitant to introduce the subject, either in a PS or an interview setting.
 

caffeinemia

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You know how Durst essentially confessed to murder on The Jinx? That's too personal.
 
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BeticTrifecta

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You know how Durst essentially confessed to murder on The Jinx? That's too personal.
image.jpg
 

Lucca

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Gyngyn said something about reading a blow by blow description of an "intimate encounter" once. That's probably up there for too personal.

But yah basically anything that u think could be too controversial professionally.
 

anonymouse123

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If a person has been through an unfortunate, extreme circumstance such as rape and it has somehow served as the precedent in inspiring them to become a physician, is it appropriate to write?

This happened to me. Affected me badly for years. And ended up being the precedent that inspired me to become a physician in the end.

I've talked to multiple trusted sources and the unanimous consensus is that it's too personal for the essay. It has the potential to make adcoms uncomfortable and have preconceived notions about me. If I say my grades were down because I was dealing with trauma that can make me look weak to some adcoms.

So yeah. Everyone has agreed on don't mention it and I don't intend to. My first personal statement draft implied the connection too heavily and I worked with an adcom member I know to change it. It's a very political issue and I don't want to get into it on my application.
 
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mehc012

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This happened to me. Affected me badly for years. And ended up being the precedent that inspired me to become a physician in the end.

I've talked to multiple trusted sources and the unanimous consensus is that it's too personal for the essay. It has the potential to make adcoms uncomfortable and have preconceived notions about me. If I say my grades were down because I was dealing with trauma that can make me look weak to some adcoms.

So yeah. Everyone has agreed on don't mention it and I don't intend to. My first personal statement draft implied the connection too heavily and I worked with an adcom member I know to change it. It's a very political issue and I don't want to get into it on my application.
I came to the same conclusion. Is something like that a big impact that can shape who you are and what you do? Absolutely. But even in the best of circumstances where you pull off the telling (rare), you may not feel comfortable having that be the aspect of your app that stands out to adcoms when they're talking about you. :shrug:
 
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