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Too personal for personal statement?

Fr500c

New Member
5+ Year Member
Feb 2, 2013
2
0
1
I am currently composing my personal statement and wanted advice on content. I apologize if this is not the correct place.

I have a deep rooted passion and drive to help others, but I have trouble conveying where this actually stems from. When I was 15 I came home to my sister having cut her wrists and attempting to kill herself. We had a hard childhood and it was an awful time. My quick action helped save her life and get her the help she needed. While I have never shared this story with anyone outside of my immediate family, it is one of the defining moments in my life of knowing life is short and solidified my want to dedicate my life to helping others in awful times. While this is obviously not my only reason, it is very personal and made a huge impact on my life.

Is a story like this too personal? I am terrified to share it but I feel like if there was a ever a time for honesty this statement may be it.

Any advice appreciated.
 

cinamin

Full Member
Mar 29, 2011
853
2
0
in a happy place
  1. Pre-Medical
I am currently composing my personal statement and wanted advice on content. I apologize if this is not the correct place.

I have a deep rooted passion and drive to help others, but I have trouble conveying where this actually stems from. When I was 15 I came home to my sister having cut her wrists and attempting to kill herself. We had a hard childhood and it was an awful time. My quick action helped save her life and get her the help she needed. While I have never shared this story with anyone outside of my immediate family, it is one of the defining moments in my life of knowing life is short and solidified my want to dedicate my life to helping others in awful times. While this is obviously not my only reason, it is very personal and made a huge impact on my life.

Is a story like this too personal? I am terrified to share it but I feel like if there was a ever a time for honesty this statement may be it.

Any advice appreciated.

Personally I think it is a great story and I think you could make a great PS out of it. It shows a lot about you, your relationship with your family/values, and also like you said, you can tie it into your drive to study medicine.
 

GSPhamily

Full Member
Jan 13, 2013
44
16
11
  1. Pre-Medical
I don't think that the story is too personal for a personal statement, but I do think that it's a bit too graphic. Rather than saying, "When I was 15 I came home to my sister having cut her wrists and attempting to kill herself," try saying something along the lines of "When I was 15 I was forced to intervene when my sister attempted to take her own life" or something to that effect.

I feel like rewording it in this way still gives it deep emotional value while making it more readable and less abrasive. However, this is just my opinion, and I'm a prospective applicant as well.

Moreover, the language and grammar could use some work overall. I understand that this is a rough, rough, rough draft, so no big deal, just a minor issue at this point.
 
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BigBear123

Full Member
10+ Year Member
Feb 5, 2011
243
8
236
  1. Medical Student
I don't think that the story is too personal for a personal statement, but I do think that it's a bit too graphic. Rather than saying, "When I was 15 I came home to my sister having cut her wrists and attempting to kill herself," try saying something along the lines of "When I was 15 I was forced to intervene when my sister attempted to take her own life" or something to that effect.

I feel like rewording it in this way still gives it deep emotional value while making it more readable and less abrasive. However, this is just my opinion, and I'm a prospective applicant as well.

Moreover, the language and grammar could use some work overall. I understand that this is a rough, rough, rough draft, so no big deal, just a minor issue at this point.

Yep. Totally agree.
 

Cambino

Full Member
Aug 4, 2011
310
4
51
Oregon
  1. Pre-Medical
I am currently composing my personal statement and wanted advice on content. I apologize if this is not the correct place.

I have a deep rooted passion and drive to help others, but I have trouble conveying where this actually stems from. When I was 15 I came home to my sister having cut her wrists and attempting to kill herself. We had a hard childhood and it was an awful time. My quick action helped save her life and get her the help she needed. While I have never shared this story with anyone outside of my immediate family, it is one of the defining moments in my life of knowing life is short and solidified my want to dedicate my life to helping others in awful times. While this is obviously not my only reason, it is very personal and made a huge impact on my life.

Is a story like this too personal? I am terrified to share it but I feel like if there was a ever a time for honesty this statement may be it.

Any advice appreciated.

Not too personal imo.
 

hmockingbird

Full Member
10+ Year Member
Jan 31, 2011
561
284
266
  1. Resident [Any Field]
Yeah I think it is fine, especially if you made it less graphic like GSPhamily suggested. I don't think it would be too much to say she had cut herself but I wouldn't get too much more into detail than that since you want to keep the focus on how it affected you anyway, not so much the details of the story.

If you feel comfortable, maybe ask your sister if it's ok to write about that though? Since it's her story... I highly doubt any adcom member would remember if they ever met her or anything like that, but I just think that would be the polite thing to do if you have a good relationship with her.
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
25,698
44,100
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  1. Academic Administration
Your sister's suicide attempt should be kept private, IMHO. That said, it would be possible to say that you came home to find that your sister had a life threatening injury and was at risk of bleeding out. You could then go on to say that it took time for her to heal physically and mentally.

What you witnessed in your own home is not covered by HIPAA but your sister deserves the same protection.
 

wholeheartedly

Epi Geek
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Aug 8, 2009
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.

What you witnessed in your own home is not covered by HIPAA but your sister deserves the same protection.

Good point, especially if she might show up to med school events like the white coat ceremony or family days or graduation or something.

LizzyM, would you be willing to expand on what the dos and don'ts for discussing personal and potentially sensitive information in a PS? Obviously it should be relevant to the why medicine question. For example people around here have mentioned things like being homeless for awhile, or being kicked out of their parents house after coming out, or having a mentally ill family member, or being abused and having those experiences start an interest in medicine and wanting to help people. Is it useful to tie in these experiences or does it come off as looking for sympathy more than anything?
 

MilMD01

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7+ Year Member
Jul 26, 2012
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I agree with Lizzy. At the very least.. you should ask your sister before writing about such a tragic period of her life. She has a right to her privacy IMO.

As some previous posters have stated, I think that you should word it in a careful way. Lizzy's suggestion seems decent to me, and then during your interviews I'm sure you'll be asked to provide more information about the experience. During the interview you can go into detail, but for the PS I would keep it less graphic/descriptive.
 

TangoDown

Full Member
Jan 9, 2013
332
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1
Foggy Frisco
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Stemming off what other people are saying, why don't you try asking her for permission, letting it be known that if she shows up to the white coat ceremony or some other family event, it might be known by some faculty. If she says yes, then why not? I think it's a very powerful circumstance that shaped who you are, so omitting such a heavy detail without at least seeing if your sister would be agreeable as to its use would be a travesty.

But yeah, if she says "no," then don't do it. You can always bring up the "gravely injured" spin to her as an alternative.

As per the "details," (i.e. she cut herself) I'd keep that private unless your interviewer asks you to expand on the situation.
 
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