You're doing it wrong, part 1: your personal statement

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I did the math this year and ~1% of the personal statements I read this year were memorable in a positive light. ~7% were memorable in a negative light. The remaining 92% were basically groups of words.

When writing your personal statement, the goal for most of you is not to be in the 1%. It's to avoid the 7%. In other words, shoot for the top 93%.

Here's a useful tip for landing in that coveted middle: don't try and set a mood with the first sentence.

"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."


Look, you probably aren't Hemingway. Or even Faulkner. Unless you have won collegiate-level prizes for your fiction I suggest you stick to the road more traveled.

Next up, let's discuss tired analogies. I do not want to hear about how the marathon you ran is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how the mountain you climbed is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how your intramural water polo victory is a metaphor for your premedical journey. Just describing the actual journey will be fine.

Lastly (although I suspect this thread will invoke more advice), I know it can be challenging to get reliable feedback from others regarding your personal statement. Whatever you produce, some may like it, some may dislike it, and it can naturally be tough deciding who to listen to. Really, you should only be asking three questions of your reviewers:

1. Is my personal statement clear and logical?
2. Are there any typos?
3. Does this piece of writing make me sound crazy?

#3 is the most important. Forays in creative writing often end badly in this realm.

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I did the math this year and ~1% of the personal statements I read this year were memorable in a positive light. ~7% were memorable in a negative light. The remaining 92% were basically groups of words.

When writing your personal statement, the goal for most of you is not to be in the 1%. It's to avoid the 7%. In other words, shoot for the top 93%.

Here's a useful tip for landing in that coveted middle: don't try and set a mood with the first sentence.

"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."


Look, you probably aren't Hemingway. Or even Faulkner. Unless you have won collegiate-level prizes for non-fiction I suggest you stick to the road more traveled.

Next up, let's discuss tired analogies. I do not want to hear about how the marathon you ran is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how the mountain you climbed is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how your intramural water polo victory is a metaphor for your premedical journey. Just describing the actual journey will be fine.

Lastly (although I suspect this thread will invoke more advice), I know it can be challenging to get reliable feedback from others regarding your personal statement. Whatever you produce, some may like it, some may dislike it, and it can naturally be tough deciding who to listen to. Really, you should only be asking three questions of your reviewers:

1. Is my personal statement clear and logical?
2. Are there any typos?
3. Does this piece of writing make me sound crazy?

#3 is the most important. Forays in creative writing often end badly in this realm.
And now for the question you didn't want to get (you knew it had to be coming!):

Were there any common trends that made that 1% stand out?
 
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I did the math this year and ~1% of the personal statements I read this year were memorable in a positive light. ~7% were memorable in a negative light. The remaining 92% were basically groups of words.

When writing your personal statement, the goal for most of you is not to be in the 1%. It's to avoid the 7%. In other words, shoot for the top 93%.

Here's a useful tip for landing in that coveted middle: don't try and set a mood with the first sentence.

"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."


Look, you probably aren't Hemingway. Or even Faulkner. Unless you have won collegiate-level prizes for non-fiction I suggest you stick to the road more traveled.

Next up, let's discuss tired analogies. I do not want to hear about how the marathon you ran is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how the mountain you climbed is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how your intramural water polo victory is a metaphor for your premedical journey. Just describing the actual journey will be fine.

Lastly (although I suspect this thread will invoke more advice), I know it can be challenging to get reliable feedback from others regarding your personal statement. Whatever you produce, some may like it, some may dislike it, and it can naturally be tough deciding who to listen to. Really, you should only be asking three questions of your reviewers:

1. Is my personal statement clear and logical?
2. Are there any typos?
3. Does this piece of writing make me sound crazy?

#3 is the most important. Forays in creative writing often end badly in this realm.

Great advice. Quick question. Are more literary personal statements frowned upon in general, even if the writer has some chops? And I mean like actual writing creds, not just encouragement from mom.
 
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And now for the question you didn't want to get (you knew it had to be coming!):

Were there any common trends that made that 1% stand out?

No. One I can think of was fairly typical thematically, but stood out for being an exceptionally crafted piece of prose. Another was a bit risky but actually worked based on the strength of the writing.
 
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Great advice. Quick question. Are more literary personal statements frowned upon in general, even if the writer has some chops? And I mean like actual writing creds, not just encouragement from mom.

Every approach is a gamble in some way. If you have professional writing experience I'd say the odds are certainly better than most.
 
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Part 2 is going to be activities/experiences. Haven't settled on Part 3 yet, although the disadvantaged essay is on my mind.

Great thanks! Right now I categorized all your threads generally as Med Ed's Insights. Really useful stuff so sincerely appreciate your taking the time to post them
 
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Yes and please your PS should answer the questions by the end:

1. Why medicine? Don't just say I want to help people blah blah because there are many fields where you can help people, whether it's as a teacher, social worker, biomedical engineer, etc. So you need to explain why medicine specifically and remember medicine has several different facets. Why are you interested in devoting your career to alleviating suffering as a physician? Why do you think serving others by improving their health is so important? What's the personal connection? Think about why it's important to you that people have the best possible health. This is a great time to weave in personal hardships if they were a motivating factor for your pursuit of medicine. Make it personal and original!!!!!!!

2. What experiences and qualities make you a good fit for Med school, and by extension, being a physician working in medicine? This is where you should sell yourself. Don't be cocky or arrogant, but you need to convince the reader to think "we want this person as a future doctor at our med school!" Things to think about: what makes you a good team player, capable of working with diverse people, adaptability, interpersonal skills, someone who can connect with other people etc. for example, remember you will have many patients who have entirely different background and life experiences than you did. What have you done to prepare yourself for working with diverse populations? What skill set relevant to medicine did you gain that sets you apart from other applicants? Do not treat this as simple re-hash of your AMCAS activities. You can certainly draw on those activities, but this is not just making a list. Peel away into the deeper layers of the onion. How did a particular experience prepare you to tackle the challenges and realities doctors face? You need to connect the activities you discuss with medicine in some way. This leads into the next one...

3. Showing your reader you know what medicine and being a physician entails, including the potential hardships and complexities but an enthusiasm to continue down the path. You need to show you've done your research about this path. Draw from your clinical experiences or personal experiences to show you are ready to dive into medicine even though it will be tough. Think about ethical dilemmas, failure, limits of medicine...

4. If you are interested in working with vulnerable and disadvantaged communities as a physician, you can also talk about your visions for medicine as a means of reducing disparities and why alleviating the suffering of these communities is so important to you and the greater world. What is possible when people have good health?

Be yourself with your unique writer's voice but don't add superfluous words/sentences. Stick to simple and concise. Show don't tell. Exhibit maturity and depth to your thinking. BE HUMBLE! Be true to yourself because your interviewers will most likely have read your PS and will ask questions.

Please please avoid cliche without deep meaningful context, a dose of realism and introspection: "I want to help people," "the patient was overwhelmed with gratitude for this small thing I did" "I like feeling fulfilled" all these are awful on their own. Avoid assumptions about how people felt and don't come across as full of yourself for having done a small thing,


And finally, your PS will make you stand out more as a unique applicant if you show and don't tell. What do I mean by this? Well don't just say "I'm a great team member and I've worked with diverse people." Please choose examples that illustrate this instead- they don't need to be super detailed and written like a novelist, but please make your reader feel like they know you. That comes from the personal, not just telling in generic terms.
 
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"To exist, to suffer. To suffer, perchance to live - wizzed101 2017

Wizzed101, 2x years old, until x years ago, had lived for 17 hours.
<proceed on describing those 17 hours>

<then medicine>
How's that? I will write everything in 3rd person.
 
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Part 3 yet, although the disadvantaged essay is on my mind.
I just kept mine nice and simple:

I was poor. That **** sucked.
 
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To add to Med Ed's list of things to avoid, please don't use "the patient was terrified as they wheeled him into surgery..."


Here's a useful tip for landing in that coveted middle: don't try and set a mood with the first sentence.

"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."


Agree 100%. Good writing is good writing and there's no magic key, rubric or formula to it. It just happens.
No. One I can think of was fairly typical thematically, but stood out for being an exceptionally crafted piece of prose. Another was a bit risky but actually worked based on the strength of the writing.
 
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Part 2 is going to be activities/experiences. Haven't settled on Part 3 yet, although the disadvantaged essay is on my mind.

Thanks for the tips. My PS is a bit dry and straight forward, but there aren't any cliche metaphors or unnecessary flowery language. It pretty much just describes my journey/interests into why I want to be a doctor. Won't be that 1% you mentioned, but I think I'll land in the 93% haha.

Just wanted to mention that I would be interested in some of the tips/advice you may have for the disadvantaged essay. I haven't been able to find much info about how it should be written and would love to hear what you have to say about it. Thanks!
 
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Glad to see what I've been telling people for years about PS being almost always forgettable and unimportant isn't too far off. People stress way too much about it.

For the memorably good - are they memorably good because the writing is so great? Or is the writing standard quality but the person has had extraordinary life experiences to write about?

I'd also like to request a frank opinion on the essays for D I V E R S I T Y you must also have to read a lot of. Part 4 maybe?
 
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"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."

I don't know, this one makes me want to keep reading. Why is there a clown in the gym?
 
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"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."

One other pet peeve -- Eschew obfuscation! Use ordinary words, avoid hyperbole, and be concise.

An excellent resource: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/concise.htm

Cringe city when people feel the need to insert clumsy words, double when they use them incorrectly.
I think it would behoove pre-meds to tutor/TA English classes. There's no better way of getting an appreciation for how you don't want to sound than identifying it in your peers' work (and respectfully helping them of course).
 
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Haha "hello I am very very bad at writing, so I would like to be your teaching assistant for writing"
 
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Haha "hello I am very very bad at writing, so I would like to be your teaching assistant for writing"

I've had a lot of students that could technically write just fine, but they hadn't grown out of the "excessive use of figurative language" phase, which is something we all have to do after grasping some fundamental writing abilities.
 
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As I struggle to write my PS and the two other TMDSAS essays, knowing that I only have to make it to the 8th percentile makes me feel much better about this. Thanks!
 
Another bump. Thanks for sharing @Med Ed and all the others who chimed in!

Any advice on the character limit/length of the essay? (It's 5300 characters, right?)

As Ad-Com, can you see the character/word count? Do you ever find yourself saying, "That was too short." or "That was too long."

Is there like a magic range of length after which your attention wanes?
 
Not adcom myself, but the usual feeling is that you need all of the full page
 
Another bump. Thanks for sharing @Med Ed and all the others who chimed in!

Any advice on the character limit/length of the essay? (It's 5300 characters, right?)

As Ad-Com, can you see the character/word count? Do you ever find yourself saying, "That was too short." or "That was too long."

Is there like a magic range of length after which your attention wanes?

I notice short PS's. Can't tell you a word cutoff, but I have seen a few and wondered "Is that all you have to say?" The rest all seem about the same length to me. The character limit does its job nicely.
 
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I did the math this year and ~1% of the personal statements I read this year were memorable in a positive light. ~7% were memorable in a negative light. The remaining 92% were basically groups of words.

When writing your personal statement, the goal for most of you is not to be in the 1%. It's to avoid the 7%. In other words, shoot for the top 93%.

Here's a useful tip for landing in that coveted middle: don't try and set a mood with the first sentence.

"The thin, mewling cries echoed down the hallway."
"The moist, stagnant air curdled inside my nostrils."
"The gray old man coughed half-chewed dandelion stems onto my sleeve."
"The clown shoes slid grotesquely across the gym floor."


Look, you probably aren't Hemingway. Or even Faulkner. Unless you have won collegiate-level prizes for your fiction I suggest you stick to the road more traveled.

Next up, let's discuss tired analogies. I do not want to hear about how the marathon you ran is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how the mountain you climbed is a metaphor for your premedical journey. I do not want to hear about how your intramural water polo victory is a metaphor for your premedical journey. Just describing the actual journey will be fine.

Lastly (although I suspect this thread will invoke more advice), I know it can be challenging to get reliable feedback from others regarding your personal statement. Whatever you produce, some may like it, some may dislike it, and it can naturally be tough deciding who to listen to. Really, you should only be asking three questions of your reviewers:

1. Is my personal statement clear and logical?
2. Are there any typos?
3. Does this piece of writing make me sound crazy?

#3 is the most important. Forays in creative writing often end badly in this realm.

#3 made me laugh out loud.
 
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I wonder what kinds of things people did in their personal statements to fall into that 7% category...
 
I looked around but couldn't find an answer to this one...apologies in advance for the repetition if it is already out there.

What is the consensus around medical terminology?

We're applying to medical school, so I'm hoping that some level of medical terminology is just fine, perhaps common. But, as I've had many friends and family read my PS, none of whom have any level of medical knowledge, they have *all* commented that these words might not make sense: phlebotomist, perinatologist, primigravida It's hard to give them up because they capture so many words into one.
 
I looked around but couldn't find an answer to this one...apologies in advance for the repetition if it is already out there.

What is the consensus around medical terminology?

We're applying to medical school, so I'm hoping that some level of medical terminology is just fine, perhaps common. But, as I've had many friends and family read my PS, none of whom have any level of medical knowledge, they have *all* commented that these words might not make sense: phlebotomist, perinatologist, primigravida It's hard to give them up because they capture so many words into one.

I’ve kept my jargon to a minimum, not because the reader won’t know the words, but because I don’t want to come across smug!
 
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Those words are so familiar that they would not register as unusual for medical personnel. In fact “the person who draws blood” would sound weird compared to phlebotomist. A first-time mother and her physician, a high risk pregnancy specialist would be neutral replacements for the others if you wanted to ditch them.
 
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I looked around but couldn't find an answer to this one...apologies in advance for the repetition if it is already out there.

What is the consensus around medical terminology?

We're applying to medical school, so I'm hoping that some level of medical terminology is just fine, perhaps common. But, as I've had many friends and family read my PS, none of whom have any level of medical knowledge, they have *all* commented that these words might not make sense: phlebotomist, perinatologist, primigravida It's hard to give them up because they capture so many words into one.

Phlebotomy and perinatology are jobs, so using them is fine.

Primigravida, however, is different. Unless you are a career changer with significant experience in health care, the overzealous use of medical terms just makes you look naive.
 
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Phlebotomy and perinatology are jobs, so using them is fine.

Primigravida, however, is different. Unless you are a career changer with significant experience in health care, the overzealous use of medical terms just makes you look naive.
Just as an FYI:
The term "gravida" can be used to refer to a pregnant woman. A "nulligravida" is a woman who has never been pregnant. A "primigravida" is a woman who is pregnant for the first time or has been pregnant one time.
 
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I'm going to go against the flow here, and disagree, sort of.

The key is that personal statements are not "essay contests." Almost no one is going to get in on the basis of having written a brilliant personal statement, although some people may have their application hurt by writing a cringeworthy one. (Med Ed's list of three things to ask about is a good checklist!)

But personal statements are an opportunity to make arguments for your admission that may not be clear from the rest of your application. Have you changed career paths multiple times before settling on medicine? If your personal statement doesn't explain why this choice is the one that's going to stick, you may have a problem. Did you have a chronic medical condition that interfered with you schooling early on, but has since been diagnosed and successfully treated? If your academic record shows the change and your personal statement provides the explanation, without making excuses, that can be important. Did you major in Philosophy because you have a passionate interest in medical ethics? The reasons may not be evident from your transcript.

Essentially, if you're a "conventional" applicant (majored in a science, did a few hundred hours of clinical volunteering at a hospital, got pretty good grades throughout, came from an upper middle class background, etc.), then I agree that the important goal for a personal statement is not to harm your chances. But if you have something to say that will advance your chances with many admissions committees and isn't evident from the rest of your application, then it's important to say it, even if it might rub some admissions people the wrong way.

In short, my advice is: don't take chances with form and style. But that doesn't mean you have to be safe and bland in terms of substance.
 
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Hello

Where can I find your part 2 post? Please share the link. Much appreciated.
 
I know in interviews one should always have a Plan B.

Is it fine to say in my personal statement that medicine is my only career interest?
 
I know in interviews one should always have a Plan B.

Is it fine to say in my personal statement that medicine is my only career interest?
That comes as too unrealistic to me. It's also kind of obvious that you're interested in Medicine from your app.

Save it for interviews and ALWAYS have a Plan B.
 
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Every approach is a gamble in some way. If you have professional writing experience I'd say the odds are certainly better than most.
Professional writing? With the caliber of medical students these days, you might've seen a personal statement written by a Pulitzer winner, or at least a NYTimes bestseller author.
 
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Did OP ever make a part 3 based on the disadvantaged statement? Cause I would love to see it. As he so eloquently put it, "fawn in the headlights." Really lost even after seeing a few SDN threads on it.

Back away from the computer, Walt

Lol
 
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Professional writing? With the caliber of medical students these days, you might've seen a personal statement written by a Pulitzer winner, or at least a NYTimes bestseller aouthor.
Back away from the computer, Walt.
When a brother asks if Malala would be a good med school applicant and the conversation devolves in to the pros and cons of Jesus as an applicant, his beliefs may be too far gone. Let him believe.
 
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Thanks! Kinda cleared some doubts I had. I think @LizzyM has done the best, for me, in terms of clarifying what the disadvantaged statement should/shouldn't have or be about.

I've been leaning towards not declaring it because it really makes me feel like I'm trying to paint some sob story. Everyone has hardship. I'd rather just flat out be that solid applicant that got into a decent/good school rather than that "very poor/black/single parent household with xyz problems etc etc" stereotype I fall under. (Though I qualified for FAP, so...)

I believe that there were only two parts

Well, you posted on the part 3 post quite a few times~
 
Thanks! Kinda cleared some doubts I had. I think @LizzyM has done the best, for me, in terms of clarifying what the disadvantaged statement should/shouldn't have or be about.

I've been leaning towards not declaring it because it really makes me feel like I'm trying to paint some sob story. Everyone has hardship. I'd rather just flat out be that solid applicant that got into a decent/good school rather than that "very poor/black/single parent household with xyz problems etc etc" stereotype I fall under. (Though I qualified for FAP, so...)



Well, you posted on the part 3 post quite a few times~
I did?
 
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