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Writing a Personal Statement
Your personal statement (P.S.) is the first place where you can speak directly to the person reading your application. It is your chance to tell them something about yourself that can't be gleaned from your application. The P.S. is not dependent on grades or other people’s opinions, just on your own words. It should be brief, yet provide the reader with an overview of who you are, where you are headed and what you will bring to the program. Your P.S. should not be a rehash of why you came to medical school or a summary of your CV, but rather a succinct statement of your career goals that reflects your personality and style. This is where a program can get to know you in your own words and determine if you will be a “good fit” for their program. The personal statement can be difficult to write and is a source of much frustration and delay for students; start early and use all available resources.A good personal statement won't necessarily get you the position, but a bad one can torpedo your candidacy!
- To give the program some idea of your background, goals and who you are
- To reveal who you are that is not in your application and transcript
- To show that you know something about and are a good match for the specialty you have chosen
- To show your commitment to the specialty
- To highlight your personal strengths and characteristics
- Introduces you to the interviewer and provides a topic of conversation during the interview
- Why do you want to go into the specialty? Briefly explain what has drawn you to the specialty, i.e. if there was one particular experience/event
- Skills you possess which are valued by the specialty
- Relevant clinical or personal experiences
- What you are looking for in a program.
- Describe personal interest and life experiences which exemplify your values and priorities
- Explain gaps (academic difficulties, personal leaves of absence, independent study for USLME etc.)
- Other interests…family, sports, community activities
- Your future plans and goals within the specialty
- Introduction to who you are and what specialty you are applying to
- An explanation of why you want to go into your chosen specialty and the characteristics or points that attracted you. If there is a particular event that led to your interest, describe it.
- Clinical activities, research, special projects or personal experiences that solidified your interest. (Use these to highlight your strengths)
- Personal characteristics that make you well suited for the specialty and what you will bring to the program
- What you are looking for in a program, clinically and academically.
- Your future plans and goal within the specialty. Summarize your strengths and enthusiasm for the specialty/profession.
You may need more than one personal statement if…
- You are applying to more than one specialty or if are applying to preliminary programs
- Programs may ask you to address certain questions in your personal statement
- You want to personalize your personal statement to focus on a single residency program
If you are applying for a preliminary or transitional year program, you should write a separate P.S. and or revise your original P.S.
Example of sentences from Preliminary Medicine statement...
- I am applying for a preliminary year at your program because I want to have a solid foundation in medicine before starting xxx etc.
- I am looking for a first year program that will give me a broad range of exposures to various disease states and their management and prepare me for this career. etc.
- “Thank you for your time and consideration. It is with great anticipation and enthusiasm that I look ahead to beginning the next phase of my training. “
- “I would like to continue reaching out to my community as a physician, and work with my colleagues to benefit individual and common health. I am looking for a residency program that will not only allow me to achieve these goals, but one that will also present me with a broad range of exposures to help me develop my skills as a doctor and provide possibilities to move on in my training. In turn, I will bring enthusiasm, diligence, and most of all, my endless curiosity. Thank you for your consideration.”
- Some letter writers will want to read your PS before writing your LOR, so be prepared when you start asking.
- Start early! In June or July. Writing your personal statement can be a difficult process and often delays a student’s ERAS submission.
- The first day ERAS applications and personal statements can be submitted is Sept 1. The earlier you submit the better chance you have of getting an interview.
- Don’t procrastinate! The personal statement is very important and you need to give yourself adequate time to write a good one.
- You can submit your application without your personal statement but it is not recommended.
This worksheet was developed by Anita D. Taylor, M.A. Ed., Associate Professor & Director of Career Advising Oregon Health & Science SOM, to aid her students in preparing for and organizing their personal statements. She has shared to document with us. Download your own copy of the worksheet and fill it in yourself before starting your P.S.
- Underestimating the importance of the personal statement
- Rehash of CV
- Poorly written, e.g. lack of flow, structure, spelling and grammatical errors
- Too long
- Using clichés and quotations
- Beginning every sentence with “I”
- Not backing up descriptive comments about yourself
- Trying to be too creative…this is not an exercise in creative writing
- Coming across as arrogant
- Making excuses
- Describe why you did not choose other professions
- Focusing too much on your fellowship interest...you're applying for a residency position
- Being too specific in your career plans. Your program will enjoy the idea that they have developed you.
- Keep it to one page, neatly typed with proper grammar and composition
- Avoid abbreviations
- Avoid repetitive sentence structure
- Don’t plagiarize! You will get caught
- Give yourself adequate time to prepare a well-written statement – start early
- Get help - have someone who knows you read it over
- Have a friend or family member with strong writing and grammar skills proof it
- Have someone within the specialty review it…pathway director, faculty member
- Mistakes are the kiss of death - proof your work for grammar, spelling, and typographical errors
- Career Development Center and Website
- Pathway Directors, Faculty and Advising Deans
- AAMC Careers in Medicine Website
- Specialty Professional Organization
- Lots of samples on the web
- Anesthesiology Personal Statement
- Emergency Medicine Personal Statement
- Family Medicine Personal Statement
- Internal Medicine Personal Statement
- Obstetrics/Gynecology Personal Statement
- Surgery Personal Statement
AAMC Careers in Medicine Website
Anita D. Taylor, M.A. Ed., Associate Professor & Director of Career Advising,
Oregon Health & Science SOM