Quick words of advice on personal statements

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I've read a few dozen of these from you all so far, and there's a common aspect - that I view as a mistake - in a number of them. I don't feel like writing a book about this, so I'll make it short:

Pay attention to tone.

If your angle is inherently depressing (troubling time in your childhood/college/life/afterlife), how you represent it becomes very important. Read through your personal statement - how many times do you use the passive "to be" verb? (am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being)? If it's every sentence, chances are your personal statement is going to come off as a series of things that just so happened to occur to you, without you as an active participant in any of it. Sounding like you're along for the journey with life, instead of in command of it, isn't going to do you any favors. (Edit: this is difficult to do when your essay delves into a hard childhood, but focusing on the specific lessons learned and how they made you who you are today - and inspire you to work for a better whatever, will in my opinion take you farther than "I was dealt a crap hand and it sucked, now I want to be a doctor because helping people")

In addition: your first paragraph is my first impression of you. If you're buying a prostitute, even if you reveal later you're an undercover officer on a sting, you'll forever to me be that guy who bought a hooker. Don't assume I feel like cross-referencing every line of your personal statement with your activity list, either.

Finally: think about these questions:
- Why do I (or the adcom) want to meet you?
- How have you demonstrated in your life through your actions these things you're saying?
- Why medicine - as in, other than it being cool, fabulous, fascinating, invigorating. Sans adjectives, why medicine? Why is this a logical, rational, well thought out goal for you? If medicine is a puzzle piece, your personal statement shows me where it fits in your life, the puzzle. Saying it's a cool puzzle piece, or you're excited about the puzzle piece, doesn't help me do my job: get a picture of the puzzle.

Just my two cents. Others can chime in, especially if they disagree or have differing opinions :)
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7+ Year Member
Mar 5, 2012
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Very good points my friend. I am just having trouble relating your points into a non-narrative CV. Any advice? Trying to find those 2 or 3 key central themes, but I feel like I've had so many experiences its difficult to just pick those limited few so I want to mention a little of everything and why it preps me for med school/doctor life.