To Premeds: General Advice on Personal Statements

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Alejandro

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Okay, so I’m exhausted as heck but had a chance to go through about 10 personal statements recently, and I can say that here are some common issues that we see in essays (as I’ve talked to peers, other admissions members, and the like):

1) Numero Uno: On SDN: If a reader says they are UNABLE to read your PS, DON’T SEND THEM A MESSAGE!
Thus, if you’re curious on why I haven’t responded to you, think about it: I keep the thread updated saying, I cannot read it. But you still send it. What does that mean? 1) You don’t keep good attention to detail. I have checked that thread multiple times to confirm i’m on the unavailable side. 2) You’re just plain rude. If I had known this about you if I interviewed you at my school, I’d immediately cut the interview. Simple as that. Please be professional and respect the time of us readers. Please. (I’m taking time out of my board study time to read essays…and I wish there would be a baseline level of respect here.) If i'm wrong here, please let me know. I've seen the thread over 3 times with my update and i seriously thought i was delusional when people kept sending me stuff when i saw myself as unavailable.

2) Please stop saying, it has been a dream of mine to go to medical school, or I’ve always wanted to be a doctor when I was little. It is unbelievably tacky because: Every. Single. Person. Writes. This. I’m going to barf. (when I’ve talked to people who sit on admissions committees complain about this, I thought they were lying. OMG NO THEY WEREN’T)

3) Show, not tell. HOLY COW this is so important. When you talk anything about yourself, like “you learned to be empathetic,” or “learned to be compassionate,” don’t say that and instead, SHOW how you became empathetic and or compassionate. Talk about a patient encounter you had where you interacted with him/her and you two connected well. Or how you helped someone in their time of need. Reflect on that experience. If you are too concerned that ‘omg I can’t put everything in then,’ chill out. Your personal statement is not supposed to be a resume dump. (Per @Avocado8 : Show your experiences without reciting your resume (no need to give the 15-word-long name of your research internship and hospital...), and REFLECT on experiences: what did you take away from them? Unless there's a significant answer to that question, the experience doesn't belong in your PS. Lots of PS's bring in random research or hospital volunteering and become VERY obvious that the writer did them only to check off boxes.)

4) Going from the last point—do not resume dump. What do I mean by this? I don’t want you to just write that you volunteered at a hospital, gave people blankets and the like. And then you volunteered at a clinic and helped with paperwork. And then you received this award. THAT IS WHAT AMCAS IS FOR. YOU LIST YOUR ACTIVITES AND DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DID. YOU HAVE LIMITED REAL ESTATE FOR YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT, AND ITS YOUR CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS PERSONAL OR REFLECTIONS ABOUT A FEW EXPERIENCES THAT CONVERGE ON A COMMON THEME/THESIS FOR WHY YOU WANT TO GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. WHY WOULD YOU WASTE THAT ON BEING REDUNDANT?

5) Please do not write literally a life story. So I'm going to clarify here (per @Australopithekus ): having chronology of what you wrote, is good. However, writing a play-by-play of everything you did that is not relevant to a theme, is bad. I've read essays where a person will be writing about working with the underserved, etc etc...and then on a last sentence, it'llbe like, and then i got involved in a research lab. And then they'll write that their grandfather died. Yes, it's chronological and sensible because one happened after the other. BUT IT HAS NO RELEVANCE AND ITS COMPLETELY LEFT FIELD! Focus on a theme and run from it there. Without any meaningful reflection, its worthless. However, how does one have space to write a meaningful reflection? Choose a few parts and write more deeply about them, instead of just writing every single life event possible in chronological fashion. The moral of the story, is I'm sure many of you have lots to write about...you did more than say...8 significant things or something as a premed. But you don't need to write about all of them. Write about like, 3 of them, that all share a common theme or principle and leave it as that. We'll learn more about you in your secondary essays TOO! Don't forget to save some thoughts for those!!! (@Australopithekus ) I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a chronological story, so long as it focuses on significant experiences that demonstrate a progression of personal growth and a maturation of one's interest in medicine. I tell my research students that their personal statements should tell a story, communicate a theme, or both. Of course, one's story alone isn't enough, but it can provide an excellent scaffold for highlighting important personal qualities. It is also a very good format for non-traditional students and applicants with unique backgrounds.

6) Please write professionally. Use the word physician, probably more frequently than doctor (although its fine). But more importantly, refer to people as individuals, people, persons, but never write ‘guy’. Its just too casual for this purpose.

7) PLEASE ADDRESS WHY MEDICINE. (@tick_tock400 )

I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. SOOOOO many of the personal statements I've been receiving do NOT ADDRESS THIS. Why medicine? When did your interest start? How did it cultivate? Why medicine as opposed to any other field? For instance, you may say you have an interest in healthcare disparities, but then why not become a healthcare advocate or study public policy? You may say you like helping people-- but then why not become a teacher or a nurse?
PLEASE ALSO DO THIS FROM THE START. Too many PS's don't even address this until midway through or (gasp) NOT AT ALL!

8) PLEASE BE CONSISTENT. (@tick_tock400 )A lot of people are starting off saying they wanted to go into medicine for such and such reason, but then NOTHING in their personal statement ever hints back to that idea again. Have a theme (or several themes-- i.e. compassion, service, leadership, etc) and follow through on those ideas THROUGHOUT your PS.

9) TALK ABOUT YOU. (@tick_tock400 )In many of the PS's I keep reading, the author just talks about someone they admire or something-- I've read ENTIRE PS's where the author does not address himself/herself EVEN ONCE! This WHOLE PS is supposed to be about you. Don't tell me what a doctor does. Don't tell me what you admire in someone else. Don't tell me how you hated a doctor for doing this. TELL ME ABOUT YOU. WHY SHOULD I WANT YOU. WHY ARE YOU SPECIAL.

10) NO AMCAS ACTIVITY SECTION REPEATS!!!! (@tick_tock400 )I'm saying what Alejandro already said, BUT I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. You already have space in your activities to talk for TWO paragraphs about why a certain activity was significant to you or special! If you don't have two paras, you at least have one! Most of the writers I've read have wasted soooo much space on their PS writing this-- and when I cross this off-- it's like their entire PS is gone!

11) MAKE ME WANT YOU. (@tick_tock400 )PLEASE MAKE ME WANT YOU. Please show me that I want YOU-- not your mom, your teacher, a doctor you shadowed, a patient you had, etc. Please show me what makes you special. Please don't tell me a sob story, unless you are a vital player in that story and how you overcame something. I want to see YOU. You as RELIABLE, CARING, INTELLIGENT, REFLECTIVE, ADMIRABLE. Remember, adcom members only interview up to ~10% of all applicants max out of thousands of applications-- make yourself be in that special percentage! (@Australopithekus) Define yourself by what makes you unique. I don't care that you did well in pre-med coursework; we all did. I don't care that you love science; we all do. You want to help people? That's fantastic, but so does every other pre-med. Write about something that sets your statement apart from the other 15 sitting in my inbox. I should want to meet you after reading your statement.


12) Please no bad analogies, or some wild hyperboles! (@CaliforniaDreamer) I would also recommend not trying to shoehorn in some torturous analogy, like about how the time you got sunburned on vacation made you realize how much pain the people of the world are in and thus motivated you to become a doctor.

13) Have a nice introduction! (@TheRhymenocerous) people should spend more time on their introductions. I read a lot of statements that start off with a jumble of thoughts or anecdotes that don't give the reader any sense of where the piece is going. The first few lines set the tone for the whole statement, so they should be as strong and as clear as possible. Don't try to cram your family history, your research experience, and a memorable interaction with a patient into one paragraph. Choose the strongest one, or whichever leads into the rest of your essay best, and flesh it out.

14) The poor man's spell check (@TheRhymenocerous): Read your statement to yourself out loud! You'll catch a lot of grammatical errors that way and should be wary of writing anything you feel uncomfortable saying out loud. It's much better to sound like yourself (albeit the best version of yourself) than to use impressive words and it's usually pretty obvious when someone is using words they aren't used to using. That can also help you identify issues with flow and continuity – if it feels jumpy to you, it's going to be even jumpier to your reader who doesn't have any of the context. (And its better for us readers since we'll have less to correct! :D )

To my fellow peers, any other pieces of wisdom that you would generalize to share? or any opposing opinions? Feel free to add to this!
@benmarker , @PlaqueBuster , @onceawolverine , @eatingcake , @MPB , @TheRhymenocerous , @moonjelly , @Australopithekus , @Avocado8 , @hellanutella , @canuckinusa , @tick_tock400 , @slippytoad , @Gsb653 , @soccerusa , @Hippogriff , @CaliforniaDreamer , @Relax!

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Great post! I especially agree with point #3.

-Bill
 
These are wonderful suggestions! I would also recommend not trying to shoehorn in some torturous analogy, like about how the time you got sunburned on vacation made you realize how much pain the people of the world are in and thus motivated you to become a doctor.
 
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Alejandro, according to the last post, you're listed as available. Is this incorrect?
 
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I second every one of these suggestions! I would add that people should spend more time on their introductions. I read a lot of statements that start off with a jumble of thoughts or anecdotes that don't give the reader any sense of where the piece is going. The first few lines set the tone for the whole statement, so they should be as strong and as clear as possible. Don't try to cram your family history, your research experience, and a memorable interaction with a patient into one paragraph. Choose the strongest one, or whichever leads into the rest of your essay best, and flesh it out.

Oh, and read your statement to yourself out loud! You'll catch a lot of grammatical errors that way and should be wary of writing anything you feel uncomfortable saying out loud. It's much better to sound like yourself (albeit the best version of yourself) than to use impressive words and it's usually pretty obvious when someone is using words they aren't used to using. That can also help you identify issues with flow and continuity – if it feels jumpy to you, it's going to be even jumpier to your reader who doesn't have any of the context.
 
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I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING. More points:

7) PLEASE ADDRESS WHY MEDICINE.

I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. SOOOOO many of the personal statements I've been receiving do NOT ADDRESS THIS. Why medicine? When did your interest start? How did it cultivate? Why medicine as opposed to any other field? For instance, you may say you have an interest in healthcare disparities, but then why not become a healthcare advocate or study public policy? You may say you like helping people-- but then why not become a teacher or a nurse?
PLEASE ALSO DO THIS FROM THE START. Too many PS's don't even address this until midway through or (gasp) NOT AT ALL!

8) PLEASE BE CONSISTENT. A lot of people are starting off saying they wanted to go into medicine for such and such reason, but then NOTHING in their personal statement ever hints back to that idea again. Have a theme (or several themes-- i.e. compassion, service, leadership, etc) and follow through on those ideas THROUGHOUT your PS.

9) TALK ABOUT YOU. In many of the PS's I keep reading, the author just talks about someone they admire or something-- I've read ENTIRE PS's where the author does not address himself/herself EVEN ONCE! This WHOLE PS is supposed to be about you. Don't tell me what a doctor does. Don't tell me what you admire in someone else. Don't tell me how you hated a doctor for doing this. TELL ME ABOUT YOU. WHY SHOULD I WANT YOU. WHY ARE YOU SPECIAL.

10) NO AMCAS ACTIVITY SECTION REPEATS!!!! I'm saying what Alejandro already said, BUT I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. You already have space in your activities to talk for TWO paragraphs about why a certain activity was significant to you or special! If you don't have two paras, you at least have one! Most of the writers I've read have wasted soooo much space on their PS writing this-- and when I cross this off-- it's like their entire PS is gone!

11) MAKE ME WANT YOU. PLEASE MAKE ME WANT YOU. Please show me that I want YOU-- not your mom, your teacher, a doctor you shadowed, a patient you had, etc. Please show me what makes you special. Please don't tell me a sob story, unless you are a vital player in that story and how you overcame something. I want to see YOU. You as RELIABLE, CARING, INTELLIGENT, REFLECTIVE, ADMIRABLE. Remember, adcom members only interview up to ~10% of all applicants max out of thousands of applications-- make yourself be in that special percentage!
 
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Alejandro, according to the last post, you're listed as available. Is this incorrect?

That is incorrect. Actually, the copy-paste by the person was done with the oldest thread (when i was available) and so it appeared otherwise. that said, I still received essays while unavailable. sigh. Sorry!
 
Okay, so I’m exhausted as heck but had a chance to go through about 10 personal statements recently, and I can say that here are some common issues that we see in essays (as I’ve talked to peers, other admissions members, and the like):

1) Numero Uno: On SDN: If a reader says they are UNABLE to read your PS, DON’T SEND THEM A MESSAGE!
Thus, if you’re curious on why I haven’t responded to you, think about it: I keep the thread updated saying, I cannot read it. But you still send it. What does that mean? 1) You don’t keep good attention to detail. I have checked that thread multiple times to confirm i’m on the unavailable side. 2) You’re just plain rude. If I had known this about you if I interviewed you at my school, I’d immediately cut the interview. Simple as that. Please be professional and respect the time of us readers. Please. (I’m taking time out of my board study time to read essays…and I wish there would be a baseline level of respect here.) If i'm wrong here, please let me know. I've seen the thread over 3 times with my update and i seriously thought i was delusional when people kept sending me stuff when i saw myself as unavailable.

2) Please stop saying, it has been a dream of mine to go to medical school, or I’ve always wanted to be a doctor when I was little. It is unbelievably tacky because: Every. Single. Person. Writes. This. I’m going to barf. (when I’ve talked to people who sit on admissions committees complain about this, I thought they were lying. OMG NO THEY WEREN’T)

3) Show, not tell. HOLY COW this is so important. When you talk anything about yourself, like “you learned to be empathetic,” or “learned to be compassionate,” don’t say that and instead, SHOW how you became empathetic and or compassionate. Talk about a patient encounter you had where you interacted with him/her and you two connected well. Or how you helped someone in their time of need. Reflect on that experience. If you are too concerned that ‘omg I can’t put everything in then,’ chill out. Your personal statement is not supposed to be a resume dump.

4) Going from the last point—do not resume dump. What do I mean by this? I don’t want you to just write that you volunteered at a hospital, gave people blankets and the like. And then you volunteered at a clinic and helped with paperwork. And then you received this award. THAT IS WHAT AMCAS IS FOR. YOU LIST YOUR ACTIVITES AND DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DID. YOU HAVE LIMITED REAL ESTATE FOR YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT, AND ITS YOUR CHANCE TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS PERSONAL OR REFLECTIONS ABOUT A FEW EXPERIENCES THAT CONVERGE ON A COMMON THEME/THESIS FOR WHY YOU WANT TO GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. WHY WOULD YOU WASTE THAT ON BEING REDUNDANT?

5) Please do not write literally a story. Focus on a theme and run from it there. If you write a story, it becomes very easy to resume dump as said above. Without any meaningful reflection, its worthless. However, how does one have space to write a meaningful reflection? Choose a few parts and write more deeply about them, instead of just writing every single life event possible in chronological fashion. Nobody cares about what happened ‘in between’. Focus on the important, impactful stuff. PEOPLE USE CHRONOLOGY AS A CRUTCH AS A MEANS TO KEEP A STORY FLOWING. WE DON'T WANT TO SEE EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DID EVERY SINGLE MONTH/YEAR/ETC. INCLUDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND RELEVANT TO YOUR THEME.

6) Please write professionally. Use the word physician, probably more frequently than doctor (although its fine). But more importantly, refer to people as individuals, people, persons, but never write ‘guy’. Its just too casual for this purpose.

To my fellow peers, any other pieces of wisdom that you would generalize to share? or any opposing opinions? Feel free to add to this!
@benmarker , @PlaqueBuster , @onceawolverine , @eatingcake , @MPB , @TheRhymenocerous , @moonjelly , @Australopithekus , @Avocado8 , @hellanutella , @canuckinusa , @tick_tock400 , @slippytoad , @Gsb653 , @soccerusa , @Hippogriff , @CaliforniaDreamer , @Relax!

Comment on #5: I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a chronological story, so long as it focuses on significant experiences that demonstrate a progression of personal growth and a maturation of one's interest in medicine. I tell my research students that their personal statements should tell a story, communicate a theme, or both. Of course, one's story alone isn't enough, but it can provide an excellent scaffold for highlighting important personal qualities. It is also a very good format for non-traditional students and applicants with unique backgrounds.

My most important tip: Define yourself by what makes you unique. I don't care that you did well in pre-med coursework; we all did. I don't care that you love science; we all do. You want to help people? That's fantastic, but so does every other pre-med. Write about something that sets your statement apart from the other 15 sitting in my inbox. I should want to meet you after reading your statement.
 
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Great recommendations. My only add to #3 and #4: Show your experiences without reciting your resume (no need to give the 15-word-long name of your research internship and hospital...), and REFLECT on experiences: what did you take away from them? Unless there's a significant answer to that question, the experience doesn't belong in your PS. Lots of PS's bring in random research or hospital volunteering and become VERY obvious that the writer did them only to check off boxes.

Thanks for putting this together, @Alejandro!
 
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Awesome suggestions everyone! THANK YOU SO MUCH! :D If you all don't mind, I added your pieces into the list and cited/credited you all, just so it's all accessible at the top. Lemme know if you have any other suggestions! WOOT.
 
Some priceless gems from William Strunk and E.B. White:

Omit needless words. When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter.
Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Avoid fancy words. Be clear
. (We know you're smart. Don't use a five-syllable word just to show you know it.)
 
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This is the best thing I have ever read regarding PS writing. This should be stickies like times a million.

The way I tried to think of my PS was with a central message. So incorporate both the reasons for your desire for medicine and why you would be an excellent fit. Then use 2-3 examples that illustrate your point.

When it comes to including examples and things less is almost always more in terms of both description and the number of examples. The most important thing is not what you did, but instead what you learned and in turn how this has prepared you to become a physician.

The other big thing is to make sure you come across as having a realistic vision of the field. Saying you "want to save lives" or "change the face of medicine" seems to scream naïveté. Instead, it sounds much more realistic and well thought out to say "I want to help relieve the burden of disease in my patients and alleviate some of their suffering."

I think the other thing which is kind of hard to pin down is the amount to which your PS sounds self centered. I know this seems counter intuitive as the PS is obviously about you, but you want to make that true without making it seem like your life has been all about you. It's important to remember that medicine is about serving the suffering. I think a great PS should emphasize that.
 
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Don't be afraid to just start writing. It's much easier to edit a draft on paper than one in your mind.

Don't use PS to explain your bad grades, IA...etc.

avoid narrating movie scenes - ones with sirens blaring, CPRs in full throttle, and tears of sadness/joy as you fail/succeed in saving a grandma/infant.
 
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Don't be afraid to just start writing. It's much easier to edit a draft on paper than one in your mind.
Don't use PS to explain your bad grades, IA...etc.
avoid narrating movie scenes, ones with sirens blaring, CPRs in full throttle, and tears of sadness/joy as you fail/succeed in saving a grandma/infant.

Completely agree with this. I like to suggest people to start freewriting, and see what pops up. Then elaborate/expand on the things that really come together nicely.

Maybe the word 'should' was too strong. Personally, I was asked a couple of times 'why MD not DO?' during my interviews, and I thought it's a good idea to nail this down to begin with.

But thats for interviews. The goal of the PS is not to 'protect you' from that question in the interview...the point of the PS is why do you want to be a doctor?

I would be fascinated to know (1) what MD schools asked that, (2) if you were asked by DO staff at an MD instotution, and (3) whether you have borderline scores or said something to prompt this question (used the word holistically anlot, talked about manipulation, something like that)?

And to be honest, I'd much rather address that on an interview where you're face to face with the person rather than some weird trite message you'll likely end up writing to some adcom who will say...wtf.
 
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I'm getting some conflicting advise on the general approach to writing my PS. Much of this information is very valuable and I am very appreciative. I am having a hard time finding a balance between these two thought processes.
1.
(From a Medical Student that received multiple acceptances and seems to know what he is talking about) He basically told me that my GPA and MCAT were the most important determining factors for whether or not I receive an interview invitation. Therefore, he said my personal statement should be essentially everything discussed above, but he also said not to try to be all that unique. Obviously I don't want to appear boring, but his point was that the personal statement would be read quickly and should be concise, answer "why medicine?", and not make me sound like "a crazy person". Basically, I should write a professional, concise answer to "why medicine?" and not really worry about standing out from the crowd. The assumption going into this approach is that all the personal statements will advance by default and only the terrible, crazy, immature sounding ones will be pulled aside as red flags.
2.
My most important tip: Define yourself by what makes you unique. I don't care that you did well in pre-med coursework; we all did. I don't care that you love science; we all do. You want to help people? That's fantastic, but so does every other pre-med. Write about something that sets your statement apart from the other 15 sitting in my inbox. I should want to meet you after reading your statement.
 
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@Bermie ==>

1. GPA & MCAT are super important, but they aren't everything. A lot of people have the same stats (and let's face it) a lot of the same EC's too (shadowing, volunteering, tutoring, maybe a publication or two, etc). A lot of PS's sound the same to adcoms, and yours might not be that special PS, but you want to at least look like you've taken effort into writing it (so you've taken the effort to showcase yourself, your talents, the answers to those whys), as a LOT of people who apply put in loads of effort (I ended up at 60+ drafts; my friend at 35+). The PS takes effort, and even if you don't sound unique (and honestly, what's really unique to a person who reads 10,000s of PSs annually), you should at least look like you care enough about medical school to have given it effort.

Also, my stats were pretty average and my EC's were too, yet I got a TON of interview invites, a full merit scholarship to med school, and plan to matriculate to a top 10 med school in the Fall.

So yes, I truly believe putting effort into your PS can go a long way.
 
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Thanks @tick_tock400 . My question isn't really about effort though. I have and I will continue to put a ton of effort into writing it. My point isn't to say that writing a unique PS is too much work but rather that in an attempt to sound unique, I might just come across as "attempting to sound unique" and it be interpreted as cliche, weird, crazy etc. My friend's advice wasn't to say it doesn't really matter but more that sometimes people try so hard to stand out and be unique it might actually end up hurting them. Does this make sense?
 
What is wrong with saying that "you've wanted to be a physician since you were young" or something along those lines?
 
What is wrong with saying that "you've wanted to be a physician since you were young" or something along those lines?

Nobody is saying you can't write it...but you won't stand out from the crowd. if you think mediocrity gets you into medical school...ehm...be prepared for a suprise.

I'm getting some conflicting advise on the general approach to writing my PS. Much of this information is very valuable and I am very appreciative. I am having a hard time finding a balance between these two thought processes.

I think you have to develop a sense of not being too concrete of a thinker. Part of what you'll find is that you need to tread the waters carefully. You can really make yourself stand out on your PS by saying you like to run out in the streeet naked and somehow link it to why you want to be a physician, but that kind of stuff is very risky. For the same reason I usually don't tell people to write too much about politics, religion, or "things you don't discuss at the dinner table", on personal statements. Its supposed to be something where on the outside, everyone looks the same. Its like going on an interview. (have you ever been on a med student interview? maybe grad school?) Everyone wears conservative suits, nothing fancy. That said, doesn't mean when you're being interviewed, you have to speak like a robot and not be yourself. Personal statements are the same thing. You need to show a certain level of 'professionalism' while keeping it personal to you. I think its a hard thing when you think of it in concrete terms because its like...DOES...NOT...COMPUTE...CONTRADICTION...WHAT. lol Kinda have to go with the flow man!
 
Thanks @tick_tock400 . My question isn't really about effort though. I have and I will continue to put a ton of effort into writing it. My point isn't to say that writing a unique PS is too much work but rather that in an attempt to sound unique, I might just come across as "attempting to sound unique" and it be interpreted as cliche, weird, crazy etc. My friend's advice wasn't to say it doesn't really matter but more that sometimes people try so hard to stand out and be unique it might actually end up hurting them. Does this make sense?
I didn't mean 'unique' as an absolute, since with 50,000 other applicants, some will have similar experiences to yours. What I meant is that you should avoid discussing experiences which define you as a pre-med student rather than an individual. For example, I've read many statements which highlight the applicant's success in school and their love for science classes. Those are good things, but they are true of nearly every applicant. They characterize pre-med students categorically, rather than adding to the reader's understanding of the author as a person.
 
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Okay, so I’m exhausted as heck but had a chance to go through about 10 personal statements recently, and I can say that here are some common issues that we see in essays (as I’ve talked to peers, other admissions members, and the like):

All of those reasons are the reasons that I refused to read more personal statements. I read over 300 during one round as a pre-allo reader. That is also the reason I made the blog post in my signature about personal statements.
 
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Because it's cliched and tacky as mentioned in the OP. There should be better, individualized reasons why you are interested in medicine.

I'll add that it's also kind-of a shallow reason. Med schools want to know that you understand the career and that you have mature/adult reasons to go to med school, not just a child's understanding.

If you were to include that in your PS you should also/more so talk about why you are interested in medicine NOW and RECENT experiences that (continued to) lead you to medicine. I don't think it's necessarily bad (just cliche) to mention as what sparked your initial interest in medicine, but your PS should be more about your CURRENT thinking and experiences.
 
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X Addressing "I want to be a doctor since birth" idea
I think saying that one was determined to become a doctor since birth is WEIRD. To me, that just sounds like you found an idea (or your parent pushed you into it), and you stuck to it. If that is true for you, I'd prefer you write something like interest was cultivated at a young age and fortified by etc etc experiences!

X Addressing sounding unique idea @Bermie
Also, in terms of sounding unique, I think you just need to sound like a caring, intelligent, passionate person. "Unique" is way too ambiguous of a term, and I highly doubt most people sound unique considering how many different experiences we all have!
 
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I didn't mean 'unique' as an absolute, since with 50,000 other applicants, some will have similar experiences to yours. What I meant is that you should avoid discussing experiences which define you as a pre-med student rather than an individual. For example, I've read many statements which highlight the applicant's success in school and their love for science classes. Those are good things, but they are true of nearly every applicant. They characterize pre-med students categorically, rather than adding to the reader's understanding of the author as a person.
This actually helps a lot. Thank you!

Part of what you'll find is that you need to tread the waters carefully.
Treading the waters carefully is exactly what I am trying to do. I have some really unique experiences, I just have to figure out which ones are appropriate, contribute meaning, and don't distract.
 
What is wrong with saying that "you've wanted to be a physician since you were young" or something along those lines?

The statement itself is merely common. Not horrible. But not informative either. So WHY did you want to become a doctor when you were very young? So you could make babies cry giving them shots? So you could take the little girl's clothes off and see what was underneath? So you could eat all the lollipops you wanted and hoard the cool band aids? So you could fix boo boos?

Some reasons are much better than others. And yeah, presumably they will have changed over the years...
 
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The statement itself is merely common. Not horrible. But not informative either. So WHY did you want to become a doctor when you were very young? So you could make babies cry giving them shots? So you could take the little girl's clothes off and see what was underneath? So you could eat all the lollipops you wanted and hoard the cool band aids? So you could fix boo boos?

Some reasons are much better than others. And yeah, presumably they will have changed over the years...

I like how your examples range from disturbingly immature to downright criminal who should be locked away forever.
 
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The statement itself is merely common. Not horrible. But not informative either. So WHY did you want to become a doctor when you were very young? So you could make babies cry giving them shots? So you could take the little girl's clothes off and see what was underneath? So you could eat all the lollipops you wanted and hoard the cool band aids? So you could fix boo boos?

Some reasons are much better than others. And yeah, presumably they will have changed over the years...

Quoted because I thought that was amazing!
 
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I have an irreverent and sometimes dark sense of humor o_O
And yeah, some reasons are better than others.
 
The statement itself is merely common. Not horrible. But not informative either. So WHY did you want to become a doctor when you were very young? So you could make babies cry giving them shots? So you could take the little girl's clothes off and see what was underneath? So you could eat all the lollipops you wanted and hoard the cool band aids? So you could fix boo boos?

Some reasons are much better than others. And yeah, presumably they will have changed over the years...
Exactly.
At least I've never seen: "I always wanted to be a gynecologist." That would creep me out.
 
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Going off on the "wanting to be a physician since birth" tangent, what about the opposite: being put off or not interested in pursuing medicine until recently? On the other hand, I've always enjoyed and had talent in drawing and writing. I attended a high school that specialized in visual and performing arts and traditionally prepared its students for a career in such fields. For a long time I thought I was set to be a freelance illustrator or author. Sometime between my senior year of high school and 1st year of undergrad, I did a 180 and decided to take on the prereqs in addition to an English major. Fast forward to now and despite the challenges, I haven't regretted it so far. I'm curious to hear opinions about this. Is this something I could somehow incorporate into the PS?
 
Going off on the "wanting to be a physician since birth" tangent, what about the opposite: being put off or not interested in pursuing medicine until recently? On the other hand, I've always enjoyed and had talent in drawing and writing. I attended a high school that specialized in visual and performing arts and traditionally prepared its students for a career in such fields. For a long time I thought I was set to be a freelance illustrator or author. Sometime between my senior year of high school and 1st year of undergrad, I did a 180 and decided to take on the prereqs in addition to an English major. Fast forward to now and despite the challenges, I haven't regretted it so far. I'm curious to hear opinions about this. Is this something I could somehow incorporate into the PS?

Yes! Potential to be an interesting read about your journey.
 
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@Garurumon a lot of people have decided to go into medicine relatively recently (like within the past at least 1 or 2 years)-- but no one has a "complete 180" they always like interacting with people (for the most part) and have great qualities that they should emphasize. You could talk about your previous experiences helping you mature, but realizing later that your passion is something in the health sciences.

Again, no such thing as a "complete 180"-- just describe the journey and state clearly that you discovered that your passion lies in medicine (phrasing this anyway you want)
 
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@Garurumon a lot of people have decided to go into medicine relatively recently (like within the past at least 1 or 2 years)-- but no one has a "complete 180" they always like interacting with people (for the most part) and have great qualities that they should emphasize. You could talk about your previous experiences helping you mature, but realizing later that your passion is something in the health sciences.

Again, no such thing as a "complete 180"-- just describe the journey and state clearly that you discovered that your passion lies in medicine (phrasing this anyway you want)

She didn't say complete. Going from arts --> science is what I'd call a 180 in terms of career trajectory. I'm sure she wouldn't phrase it like that in a PS though. Too informal.
 
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SO. GOOD! Thank you @Alejandro for taking the time to put this together. I started something similar a while ago, but this is just beautiful. Glad to know I wasn't the only one experiencing #1 haha.

Anyway...to elaborate slightly on #7 and #11... In some cases, you can do these at the SAME TIME by speaking about what you hope to accomplish as a physician/what you envision your future practice looking like. It gives you a chance to express how you hope to contribute as an MD - in terms of addressing the needs of a particular population or incorporating certain values into your practice. You have to be careful to give these claims context and not sound naive, but if done correctly this is a great way to SHOW 1. what inspires you about medicine 2. what you can uniquely contribute/why we should want you and 3. that you have a mature understanding of what medicine entails/how it differs from other professions. I think this can be especially helpful for applicants who are more service oriented and not as strong in research.

Just an idea that served me well in my own PS!

And yes!
Don't be afraid to just start writing. It's much easier to edit a draft on paper than one in your mind.

Drafting, rejecting, and rewriting can be super useful exercises in identifying what works/what doesn't and how to control what's coming across in your piece by how you phrase and frame it. What's even cooler is that this preliminary work in organizing your thoughts can help you later on in secondaries and interviews!

I used this (Amazon product apparently there's a newer version!) and really benefited from reading over PSs of applicants similar to myself. It gives you an idea of what techniques are effective and inspiration for how you might want to organize your piece.
 
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Also...hope I didn't violate some policy about endorsing products haha.
 
Doing this made my writers block go away by making me realize the kind of highlights form my life that med schools wanted to read about and how they should be presented. After doing this it took me two days to write my PS.

Analyze 10+ example PS's from multiple different schools/sources for what made them so great (some school's will even give examples of the best PS's they've ever received). This should be in-depth analysis with special attention to how the writer made you think "this student was made for med school." After this you will have a pretty good idea of what they're looking for. Note: don't plagiarize!!!!

I'm sure you can find better examples but here are a few (some are residency PS's but are just as useful):
MCW
Stanford
CMU
 
Under point 11. Isn't "unique" somewhat of an overemphasized topic in medical school admissions? I have heard Adcoms say that unique is not such a concern as a propensity to be a good physician.

Perhaps an emphasis on uniqueness in writing style rather than use of the term generally would be more productive. After all, adcoms do care that their matriculants do well in their premed coursework, love science and want to help people. What is needed is a more unique way of expressing these ideas, not an avoidance of these topics because they're "cliche." They're oft talked about for a reason!
 
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Under point 11. Isn't "unique" somewhat of an overemphasized topic in medical school admissions? I had heard Adcoms say that unique is not such a concern as a propensity to be a good physician.

Perhaps an emphasis on uniqueness in writing style rather than use of the term generally would be more productive. After all, adcoms do care that their matriculants do well in their premed coursework, love science and want to help people. What is needed is a more unique way of expressing these ideas, not an avoidance of these topics because they're "cliche." They're oft talked about for a reason!

it's probably very hard to be "unique" with 50 thousand applicants. Someone is bound to have the same story as you...
 
it's probably very hard to be "unique" with 50 thousand applicants. Someone is bound to have the same story as you...

Exactly. And I think the OP was actually getting at using compelling examples and being very articulate in your PS in order to stand out, which is reasonable. We just need to differentiate somewhat between "unique" and "convincing."
 
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Could you elaborate on how you would exactly "show, not tell" what you've learned from an experience while also not repeating an AAMCAS activity? I feel like I've done a good job of "showing" in my PS, but I've definitely had to explain or give a little background of an activity that I'm going to mention in my application. I learned a lot from that activity, and I've changed a lot because of it. So I shouldn't put it in my PS? Sorry, just a little confused.
 
Dang, I was left out of this one, eh @Alejandro ?

One of my favorite editing tips is to tell people to read the personal statement out loud. If you're running out of breath while reading a sentence, it's probably a run on or just exhausting to read as well. Reading it out loud also brings out weird syntax issues.

Completely agree with the users that advised writers to avoid big words they don't understand. I refused to read some PS's because it was clear that someone went through with a thesaurus and the language makes absolutely no sense because the writer is attempting to make every other word a buzzword they think they're obligated to use.

Also bears repeating that this is a personal statement for medical school. While there may be many notable things about you that you can talk about to show your character, this statement needs to answer 'why medicine'. If you can't make an explicit connection, then you should save the topic for a secondary essay. There are so many personal statements I've read that were well written, but would miss the target audience because the author didn't bother to make a concrete connection.
 
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Ahhhh! Ooops. Sorry! My bad! If its any consolation, when I found out that I forgot you, I looked like your avatar....

But thanks for your input!

Haha, no worries! I'm done reading, but there was a pretty big spread for me in terms of quality. Some of the PS' were incredible and I had very little to add and some I had to give up on because I couldn't read more than a paragraph without wanting to pull my hair out which is when I usually gave the 'read out loud to yourself' advice.
 
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