Powerful Personal Statements: Part 4 - The Decor

The next step for your medical school personal statement is to decide what stories you want to tell and where.  You may want to start by writing out some of your stories or at least make a quick sketch of your most memorable moments.  What are the best stories for your Personal Statement?  What would be good for your "Most Meaningfuls?"  To me, this process is like purchasing furniture for an empty room.  You know the types of chairs and lamps that you like and that represent your own style, but sometimes you don’t know exactly where you’re going to put them.

Once you purchase your furniture and décor (i.e. choose which stories you want to use for your Personal Statement), it’s time to start writing.  Some students prefer to write an outline first; others prefer to dive right in and just start writing.  Just remember that you will NOT have your final draft (or probably even close to it) the first time you write, so don’t be afraid to throw words down on that cavernously empty page.  And remember, it’s okay to suck.  The first words you put on paper will probably not make it to the final draft, so turn off that editorial voice in your brain (the one that tells you you’re not good enough) and start writing.

The most important part of your personal statement is your introduction (as with pretty much any piece of writing) so definitely spend a lot of time getting this paragraph just right.  In your introduction, you should have a hook, set your tone, put a bit of your personality out there so that the readers WANT to read the rest of your essay.  Remember that medical school admissions committees read thousands of essays with exactly the same prompt, so the ones that stand out from the beginning, stand out period.

Your tone throughout your essay should be reflective of your personality (albeit properly appropriate for a medical school admissions essay).  If you have a good sense of humor, use it.  If you don’t, don’t.  If you tend to use SAT words in your daily speech, use them in your writing.  If you don’t, don’t.

Most importantly, when you’re telling your stories and writing your personal statement, remember that the personal statement is about YOU, not about your ill grandmother, the brave patients you interacted with or the amazing doctor you shadowed.  Yes, you need those details to give the reader background info and so that your examples make sense, but always remember that you are the main character and the one who is trying to get into medical school.