Personal Statement

12 Steps to a Perfect Medical School Personal Statement (with before and after example)

12 Steps to a Perfect Medical School Personal Statement (with before and after example)

Have you ever read an example med school personal statement and thought, Wow... I could never write something that good?

That’s because you’re only seeing the finished product. Take it from me, an editor, someone who sees the essays first thing in the morning without their makeup on. 


artist Stephan Schmitz -  https://www.theispot.com/artist/schmitz


See all those broken plates? Those are all the personal statement rough drafts, the discarded sentences, the gutted paragraphs, all the sweat and tears of the revision process. No one sees that. They see a guy miraculously juggling five plates at once.

You’re like that juggler - trying to balance multiple things at once in your personal statement, all within certain strict limitations. And guess what? You’ll have to break a few plates before you get it right.

So… let’s break some plates (maybe some hearts and spirits too).

I invite you along to play the role of editor with me. You’ll choose your own path as we go through 12 steps of revision to perfect the personal statement.

I’ll give a “before” version of each section of an example personal statement, and you’ll have to call the 12 shots about how we make it better. Ready? 


Default Outline for Personal Statement

Section 1 - Hook

Hook (BEFORE)

Step 1: Cut down on length

Step 2: Remove the negativity

Step 3: Grab More Attention

Hook (AFTER)

Section 2 - When/Why Medicine

When/Why Medicine (BEFORE)

Step 4: Remove red flags

Step 5: Connect to personal narrative

Step 6: Add more definitive “Why Medicine”

When/Why Medicine (AFTER)

Section 3 - Exposure

Exposure (BEFORE):

Step 7: Remove informal language

Step 8: Show more personal value as a candidate

Exposure (AFTER)

Optional - Explain Issues with Conduct/Grades

Section 4 - Meaningful Contributions

Meaningful Contributions (BEFORE)

Step 9: Include above-and-beyond contributions

Step 10: Emphasize impact on others

Meaningful Contributions (AFTER)

Section 5 - Why You/Conclusion

Why You/Conclusion (BEFORE)

Step 11: Balance your voice with professionalism

Step 12: Add more style, cut down on summary

Why You/Conclusion (AFTER)

COMPLETE “Before” Draft

COMPLETE “After” Draft

Don’t have the time or energy for this Do-It-Yourself project?

Then BOOK A FREE MEETING with our expert medical school advisors for more guidance. We’ve helped hundreds of students write their personal statements (including the sample below), and we’d love to help you on your writing journey! 

Default Outline for Personal Statement

Obviously this can vary, but let’s keep it simple:

Section 1 - Hook

Section 2 - When/Why Medicine

Section 3 - Exposure

Optional: Explain Issues with Grades/Conduct

Section 4 - Meaningful Contributions

Section 5 - Why You/Conclusion

Section 1 - Hook

The goal here is to grab the readers’ attention and compel them to keep reading. Ideally, the hook will pose a problem, share an unexpected challenge, or reverse the readers’ expectations about a situation.

Characteristics of a Good Hook:

* Not too long

* Grabs attention

* Initiates the plot

DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.

Hook (BEFORE):

Throughout high school and college, I have been supporting my family in more ways than one. My mother needed a lot of support due to her bad arthritis and physical limitations. It was not the most ideal situation, and it felt like I was living a double life. I went to a pretty good high school since my parents wanted me to have a decent education, but the kids there were protected and shielded from most inconveniences in life. Someone from my background was not very welcome. It was jarring, as vapid girls my age talked about going to equestrian classes and how they knew someone on the Yale admissions committee, while I came to school from my two-bedroom non-air-conditioned home that my family of four shared. I was a nanny at the age of 12 and would juggle taking care of 3-4 kids every week. My dad unfortunately got pretty ill during this time (brain aneurysm and subsequent recovery), so it was definitely a weird time. I got brutally harassed by a girl at school after she found out about my living situation, so I learned to form two identities. In school, I was someone who fake-laughed with people and sympathized with the horrors of a girl’s parents buying a pony she didn’t like. I pretended to act excited for another girl’s European vacation (in reality I was jealous).

Pick an aspect to fix:

Step 1: Cut down on length

Step 2: Remove the negativity

Step 3: Grab more attention

Jump to the After version.


Step 1: Cut down on length

Indeed. Currently this opener is ~1300 characters, which is disproportionate for our total space (5300 characters). Hooks should probably be around 700-800 characters instead, so that the remaining sections can have 1000+ each.

What to cut? We want it to be ~10 lines of text, so take a shot at cutting ~5-6 lines.

Your answer:



_____________________________________________________________________


My approach:

Without compromising the necessary context, you should cut anything that could go in the Disadvantaged Essay instead, especially the “facts” of the situation that don’t require much editorialization. Admissions committees read the disadvantaged essay before any of the other writing in the application.

Jump to the After version.

Step 2: Remove the negativity

This is a far more common problem than you’d think. For one, it’s hard for us to know how our tone and voice are coming across. Secondly, we sometimes write about things while they’re still “fresh wounds,” leaving room for resentment to creep in.

What’s too negative? Make a list below of the words/phrases/sentences from our sample hook that seem too negative:

Your list:


_____________________________________________________________________


My list: 


vapid

fake-laughed

pretended to act excited

jealous

the horrors of a girl’s parents buying a pony she didn’t like

I can sympathize with the writer, but there’s no point in having a negative spin when you can achieve the same impact with a positive spin. 

Simply mentioning one or two details like the equestrian classes will go a long way.  

Jump to the After version.

Step 3: Grab More Attention

Turn the whole hook into a contrast between life at home and life at school. Give it a metaphor that makes it accessible and memorable. Break it up into shorter paragraphs to make it more digestible.   

Jump to the After version.

Hook (AFTER):

Throughout high school, my life felt like a less glamorous version of Hannah Montana. While Hannah transformed into a pop star after school, I transformed into a nanny. And it wasn’t any regular babysitting job either; at my peak, I managed a gaggle of 14 kids. In one way, school was a sanctuary; there was order, cleanliness, and a schedule. After school, it was all diaper-and-tantrum-filled chaos.

The juxtaposition between home and school was also pronounced due to money. I didn’t understand my classmates’ wealth until they started talking about equestrian classes and Maseratis. Although my life was by no means fun, I chose to stay home for college since my family needed my presence. My father had a brain aneurysm when I was 14, and my family was still facing the remnants of that event.

Section 2 - When/Why Medicine

What we’re looking for here:

* Motivations that build directly off what makes the candidate unique

* A good combination of selflessness (helping others) and self-interest (how the career will fulfill/stimulate you unlike any other)

* A nice balance of idealism and realism - neither naive nor overblown

DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.

When/Why Medicine (BEFORE):

My decision to become a doctor was a culmination of events and experiences that led to an eventual realization, rather than one single revelation. When I first started at my university, I was an 18-year-old who had no clue what to do in life. For one year, I explored pharmacy and finance, but the drudgery of the work made me turn away from these professions. At the start of my second year, I decided to volunteer at the ER to see what the hospital environment was like. Looking back, this mundane decision was a godsend of exposure and clarification. I went into ER expecting to give out glasses of water and wheel patients around. But it was a lot more. I saw patients who were experiencing the worst moments of their lives, and I was beyond my comfort zone. However, I loved interacting with patients, enjoyed being in the hospital, and had a knack for talking and making people feel better.

I started the Pathfinder Internship to determine whether I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. The first three months of the internship were at the Oncology/General Care Unit, where it was incredibly depressing. I felt so helpless seeing people die. Nurses and doctors  were mainly just keeping people alive, as most patients were already permanent victims of cancer or chronic unregulated conditions. I did the rest of my rotations at an urgent care clinic and birth center, which were way less depressing, and many times patients left feeling better. During this time, I realized the doctor’s role matched me better than a nurse; I liked how doctors had creative control to create optimal treatment plans for patients. I had already shadowed two interventional cardiologists and an orthopedic surgeon, and I knew I wanted to have a connection with patients and create medical care that suited their needs. Also, by this time, I had started my global health minor, and was learning all about preventative care, women’s health, and disparities in healthcare. The combined clinical care experiences, my interest in science, and the global health minor all came together in a beautiful way to point me into medicine.


Pick an aspect to fix:

Step 4: Remove red flags

Step 5: Connect to personal narrative

Step 6: Add more definitive “Why Medicine”

Jump to the After version.

Step 4: Remove red flags

What’s too negative? Make a list below of the words/phrases/sentences from our sample hook that seem too negative:

Your list:

_____________________________________________________________________


My list

drudgery 

mundane decision

incredibly depressing

permanent victims

It’s good to be honest and to show that you’ve experienced medicine’s challenges, but these choices in diction will do more harm than good. Let’s nix them. 

Jump to the After version.

Step 5: Connect to personal narrative

Right now, section two seems to exist in isolation from our hook, so we’ll want to bring back aspects of the family situation, namely the father’s medical issues, so that we can see the narrative building cohesively. 

Jump to the After version.



Step 6: Add more definitive “Why Medicine”

Right now, the “came together in a beautiful way” line is too vague and impressionistic. The writer would benefit from creating a more specific set of criteria that medicine can offer in a career.

Your “Why Medicine” response should not leave any holes or gaps that would tempt the reader to ask, “Why not social work?” or “Why not research?” 

Jump to the After version.

When/Why Medicine (AFTER):

After earning my way into a UC college, I dabbled in finance, pharmacy, and psychology, feeling somewhat clueless about what I wanted. Earlier, I had tentatively chosen a biochemistry major, and over time the pre-med path grew more intriguing. I decided to volunteer in the ER during my second year, a weekly commitment that allowed enough time to assist my family again when my dad lost his job. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, especially since the entire ER team went out of its way to expose me to the field. I grew to love each shift as I interacted with people, observed action-packed procedures, and worked in tandem with staff to smooth out workflow. Around this time, I shadowed cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons, and loved the atmosphere of teamwork and patient care. Medicine drew me in, but I was still unsure about what particular role I would fill.

I received the direction I needed during my Pathfinder Internship, where I first rotated in a hospice ward to help terminally ill patients. As I tried to make their passing more dignified, it reminded me of my dad’s recovery, when my family was given no clear prognosis. I knew that patience and presence of mind were key. Even if death was certain, these patients needed help maintaining normalcy. I continued to Expresscare, a small clinic which diagnosed a wide variety of underserved patients. Later on in the Birth Center, I observed OB/GYNs creating long-term and short-term solutions that fundamentally shaped patients’ lives. I wanted to be in a similar position, confidently resolving health issues while providing comfort through both knowledge and bedside manner. Whether it was ER doctors turning off a defibrillator gone awry, OB/GYNs working through unanticipated surgical challenges, or cardiologists providing long-term care, these physicians embodied the roles I wanted to play: decision maker, advocate, and trusted healer. 

Section 3 - Exposure

What we’re looking for here:

* A sense of your growing passions within medicine 

* Some niche involvement that builds on “Why Medicine” motivations

DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.

Exposure (BEFORE):

During this same time, I started my Global Health minor, and my vision became clearer. Global health involves helping those who are often ignored by medicine. I knew that medicine was not like Grey’s Anatomy or Dr. House. There are people who are left behind. I knew what it felt like to be an outsider, as I would transition from a nanny to “one of the girls” in high school and college. I knew how lonely it felt when my dad didn’t have the proper insurance during his job loss, and we didn’t know what to do. My vision in medicine is to level the playing field for all people seeking medical care by doing what fulfills me the most. In the end, it all came together. Volunteering in the ER, interning through Pathfinder, and shadowing doctors helped me discover my calling.


Pick an aspect to fix:

Step 7: Remove informal language

Step 8: Show more personal value as a candidate

Jump to the After version.


Step 7: Remove informal language

Make a short list of words/phrases that don’t seem appropriate:

Your list:

_____________________________________________________________________


My list: 

Grey’s Anatomy

Dr. House

Even though the student is specifically saying medicine is NOT like these TV shows, it still seems like the wrong context or reference point, especially in relation to global health.

Mentioning pop culture versions of medicine is usually ill-advised, and this candidate can make her point just as effectively without them. 

Jump to the After version.


Step 8: Show more personal value as a candidate

At this point in the essay, the candidate has already explained her motivations towards medicine, so the final few lines of this paragraph feel redundant.

We don’t have a lot of characters to spare, so she’d be better off showcasing the value of her global health minor (the skills, insights, lessons, etc.) 

Jump to the After version.

Exposure (AFTER):

My rotations at Pathfinder and ER volunteering exposed me to diverse, underserved patients, and these interactions inspired me to pursue a Global Health minor to help those marginalized by medicine. On a smaller scale, I knew what it was like to be an outsider, as I transitioned from a messy-haired, sweaty-faced nanny to “one of the girls” at school. I knew how lonely and unsettling it felt when my dad didn’t have insurance during his job loss. Global health offered avenues for putting this empathy into action and showed me the importance of solidarity, in which physicians work WITH patients, not just FOR them. The minor taught me about large-scale entities that govern and dictate the health of the masses, and the tools needed to make healthcare more attainable. The minor also instilled cultural competence, responsibility, and social justice. 

Optional - Explain Issues with Conduct/Grades

This did not apply for this student, but it might for YOU(?). 

Want to know the most tactful way to explain that bad semester, your MCAT struggles, or other such snafus? 

Section 4 - Meaningful Contributions

What we’re looking for here:

* Tangible value of your insights and experiences within medicine

* Your ability to leave things better than you found them

 

DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.

Meaningful Contributions (BEFORE):

My interest in providing culturally competent care and helping marginalized people in medicine helped me during an Expresscare shift when I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he might have HIV after one of his several partners was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, all in order to help the NP determine a course of action. I loved advocating for patients who didn’t have proper insurance, and felt gratified when the NP and I found another clinic where patients could receive affordable care.

Pick an aspect to fix:

Step 9: Include above-and-beyond contributions

Step 10: Emphasize impact on others


Jump to the After version.

Step 9: Include above-and-beyond contributions

There are two aspects that stand out as being underdeveloped: the candidate’s scope of responsibility and her above-and-beyond efforts. After some brainstorming, she was able to add meaningful details in these areas.

NOTE: this does not mean that you should create a laundry-list of all your tasks and responsibilities. It means focusing on the actions and efforts that exceeded expectations.


Jump to the After version.

Step 10: Emphasize impact on others

Sometimes a paragraph needs more examples so that the one story or patient case doesn’t seem anomalous, but rather the norm for you. Giving 2-3 examples of your impact on different types of patients will show your range and ability to advocate for diverse populations. 

Jump to the After version.

Meaningful Contributions (AFTER):

This background helped me during an Expresscare shift, as I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he had HIV after his partner was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, making the patient feel more in control. In this role, I often contacted clinics that admit uninsured patients to help others access care during vulnerable times. My global health training also helped me coach a black woman through a difficult delivery alongside nurses. Through my numerous Maternal Health classes, I knew that black women have double the maternal mortality rates in America, and case studies suggest that valid concerns are often not taken seriously. Therefore, I made sure to follow through on requests, such as taking temperature and BP when she felt feverish. I remained at her side for the last couple hours of delivery, and she said she felt safe knowing someone was there for her. As a physician, I will implement these valuable lessons in my future practice to make every patient feel as safe and cared for as possible.

Section 5 - Why You/Conclusion


What we’re looking for here:

* Stylistic callback to the intro and themes

* Reiteration of biggest reasons admissions committees should choose you


DIRECTIONS: Read the excerpt below and consider what changes you’d make, both big-picture and small-picture.

Why You/Conclusion (BEFORE):

In the end, my path in deciding to pursue medicine, especially a medical career that focuses on the medically underserved, was a culmination of years of life experience and exploration into the field. It started as a love of basic science, which led to choosing biochemistry and cell biology as a major. The ER volunteering gig introduced me to clinical medicine, and the Palomar internship confirmed that becoming a physician was my calling. My experiences as an outsider, and a person who had to juggle multiple lifes challenges, made me especially sensitive to those who are marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on bringing care to marginalized folks.

Pick an aspect to fix:

Step 11: Balance your voice with professionalism

Step 12: Add more style, cut down on summary

Jump to the After version.

Step 11: Balance your voice with professionalism

Make a short list of words/phrases that don’t seem appropriate:

Your list:



_____________________________________________________________________

My list: 

volunteering gig

marginalized folks

*my calling



Normally, there’s nothing wrong with ‘gig’ and ‘folks,’ but they seem a bit colloquial for a personal statement. Again, the candidate could communicate the same message without these words, so it’s not worth using diction that could be misconstrued. 

*Although ‘my calling’ isn’t too informal, it’s a rather cliche phrase that might make the admissions committees recoil in disgust. 

Jump to the After version.


Step 12: Add more style, cut down on summary

This is a common problem for conclusions. In school, we’re taught that the conclusion should merely summarize the main points of the essay. But that’s short-sighted and ultimately pretty boring. Yes, you need to reiterate certain aspects, but you should use stylistic callbacks when doing so.

Another common problem is candidates spending too much time restating “Why Medicine” reasons, rather than emphasizing what THEY can bring to the table. The key is to sell yourself without sounding full of yourself

Jump to the After version.

Why You/Conclusion (AFTER):

Although my Nanny Montana days are behind me, this experience has helped me empathize with patients who are forced to manage multiple obligations and move between differing realities. I have experiences from across the healthcare spectrum, as both a loved one of an uninsured patient and a scholar looking to improve conditions for all in the long-term. My background as an outsider, who had to juggle multiple life challenges, made me especially sensitive to the marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on empowering others and protecting their well-being.


So, at this point, we’ve changed the essay in 12 different ways - 12 broken plates, if you will. And really, each of these changes required a few iterations, so you can multiply those plates by two or three. 

Yes, it’s a messy process, but it results in a beautiful presentation - an essay that successfully juggles all of its primary goals.

Remember: we can help. BOOK A FREE MEETING with our expert medical school advisors for more guidance. 

Feel free to leave questions in the comments section below, and we’ll respond to you personally! Best of luck with your personal statement drafts!





COMPLETE “Before” Draft

Throughout high school and college, I have been supporting my family in more ways than one. My mother needed a lot of support due to her bad arthritis and physical limitations. It was not the most ideal situation, and it felt like I was living a double life. I went to a pretty good high school since my parents wanted me to have a decent education, but the kids there were protected and shielded from most inconveniences in life. Someone from my background was not very welcome. It was jarring, as vapid girls my age talked about going to equestrian classes and how they knew someone on the Yale admissions committee, while I came to school from my two-bedroom non-air-conditioned home that my family of four shared. I was a nanny at the age of 12 and would juggle taking care of 3-4 kids every week. My dad unfortunately got pretty ill during this time (brain aneurysm and subsequent recovery), so it was definitely a weird time. I got brutally harassed by a girl at school after she found out about my living situation, so I learned to form two identities. In school, I was someone who fake-laughed with people and sympathized with the horrors of a girl’s parents buying a pony she didn’t like. I pretended to act excited for another girl’s European vacation (in reality I was jealous).


My decision to become a doctor was a culmination of events and experiences that led to an eventual realization, rather than one single revelation. When I first started at my university, I was an 18-year-old who had no clue what to do in life. For one year, I explored pharmacy and finance, but the drudgery of the work made me turn away from these professions. At the start of my second year, I decided to volunteer at the ER to see what the hospital environment was like. Looking back, this mundane decision was a godsend of exposure and clarification. I went into ER expecting to give out glasses of water and wheel patients around. But it was a lot more. I saw patients who were experiencing the worst moments of their lives, and I was beyond my comfort zone. However, I loved interacting with patients, enjoyed being in the hospital, and had a knack for talking and making people feel better.

I started the Pathfinder Internship to determine whether I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. The first three months of the internship were at the Oncology/General Care Unit, where it was incredibly depressing. I felt so helpless seeing people die. Nurses and doctors  were mainly just keeping people alive, as most patients were already permanent victims of cancer or chronic unregulated conditions. I did the rest of my rotations at an urgent care clinic and birth center, which were way less depressing, and many times patients left feeling better. During this time, I realized the doctor’s role matched me better than a nurse; I liked how doctors had creative control to create optimal treatment plans for patients. I had already shadowed two interventional cardiologists and an orthopedic surgeon, and I knew I wanted to have a connection with patients and create medical care that suited their needs. Also, by this time, I had started my global health minor, and was learning all about preventative care, women’s health, and disparities in healthcare. The combined clinical care experiences, my interest in science, and the global health minor all came together in a beautiful way to point me into medicine.

During this same time, I started my Global Health minor, and my vision became clearer. Global health involves helping those who are often ignored by medicine. I knew that medicine was not like Grey’s Anatomy or Dr. House. There are people who are left behind. I knew what it felt like to be an outsider, as I would transition from a nanny to “one of the girls” in high school and college. I knew how lonely it felt when my dad didn’t have the proper insurance during his job loss, and we didn’t know what to do. My vision in medicine is to level the playing field for all people seeking medical care by doing what fulfills me the most. In the end, it all came together. Volunteering in the ER, interning through Pathfinder, and shadowing doctors helped me discover my calling.

My interest in providing culturally competent care and helping marginalized people in medicine helped me during an Expresscare shift when I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he might have HIV after one of his several partners was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, all in order to help the NP determine a course of action. I loved advocating for patients who didn’t have proper insurance, and felt gratified when the NP and I found another clinic where patients could receive affordable care.



In the end, my path in deciding to pursue medicine, especially a medical career that focuses on the medically underserved, was a culmination of years of life experience and exploration into the field. It started as a love of basic science, which led to choosing biochemistry and cell biology as a major. The ER volunteering gig introduced me to clinical medicine, and the Palomar internship confirmed that becoming a physician was my calling. My experiences as an outsider, and a person who had to juggle multiple lifes challenges, made me especially sensitive to those who are marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on bringing care to marginalized folks.

COMPLETE “After” Draft

Throughout high school, my life felt like a less glamorous version of Hannah Montana. While Hannah transformed into a pop star after school, I transformed into a nanny. And it wasn’t any regular babysitting job either; at my peak, I managed a gaggle of 14 kids. In one way, school was a sanctuary; there was order, cleanliness, and a schedule. After school, it was all diaper-and-tantrum-filled chaos.

The juxtaposition between home and school was also pronounced due to money. I didn’t understand my classmates’ wealth until they started talking about equestrian classes and Maseratis. Although my life was by no means fun, I chose to stay home for college since my family needed my presence. My father had a brain aneurysm when I was 14, and my family was still facing the remnants of that event.

After earning my way into a UC college, I dabbled in finance, pharmacy, and psychology, feeling somewhat clueless about what I wanted. Earlier, I had tentatively chosen a biochemistry major, and over time the pre-med path grew more intriguing. I decided to volunteer in the ER during my second year, a weekly commitment that allowed enough time to assist my family again when my dad lost his job. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, especially since the entire ER team went out of its way to expose me to the field. I grew to love each shift as I interacted with people, observed action-packed procedures, and worked in tandem with staff to smooth out workflow. Around this time, I shadowed cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons, and loved the atmosphere of teamwork and patient care. Medicine drew me in, but I was still unsure about what particular role I would fill.

I received the direction I needed during my Pathfinder Internship, where I first rotated in a hospice ward to help terminally ill patients. As I tried to make their passing more dignified, it reminded me of my dad’s recovery, when my family was given no clear prognosis. I knew that patience and presence of mind were key. Even if death was certain, these patients needed help maintaining normalcy. I continued to Expresscare, a small clinic which diagnosed a wide variety of underserved patients. Later on in the Birth Center, I observed OB/GYNs creating long-term and short-term solutions that fundamentally shaped patients’ lives. I wanted to be in a similar position, confidently resolving health issues while providing comfort through both knowledge and bedside manner. Whether it was ER doctors turning off a defibrillator gone awry, OB/GYNs working through unanticipated surgical challenges, or cardiologists providing long-term care, these physicians embodied the roles I wanted to play: decision maker, advocate, and trusted healer.


My rotations at Pathfinder and ER volunteering exposed me to diverse, underserved patients, and these interactions inspired me to pursue a Global Health minor to help those marginalized by medicine. On a smaller scale, I knew what it was like to be an outsider, as I transitioned from a messy-haired, sweaty-faced nanny to “one of the girls” at school. I knew how lonely and unsettling it felt when my dad didn’t have insurance during his job loss. Global health offered avenues for putting this empathy into action and showed me the importance of solidarity, in which physicians work WITH patients, not just FOR them. The minor taught me about large-scale entities that govern and dictate the health of the masses, and the tools needed to make healthcare more attainable. The minor also instilled cultural competence, responsibility, and social justice.

This background helped me during an Expresscare shift, as I eased the fears of an undocumented teenager who thought he had HIV after his partner was infected. It felt empowering to explain STDs, safe sex, HIV, and PreP/Truvada, making the patient feel more in control. In this role, I often contacted clinics that admit uninsured patients to help others access care during vulnerable times. My global health training also helped me coach a black woman through a difficult delivery alongside nurses. Through my numerous Maternal Health classes, I knew that black women have double the maternal mortality rates in America, and case studies suggest that valid concerns are often not taken seriously. Therefore, I made sure to follow through on requests, such as taking temperature and BP when she felt feverish. I remained at her side for the last couple hours of delivery, and she said she felt safe knowing someone was there for her. As a physician, I will implement these valuable lessons in my future practice to make every patient feel as safe and cared for as possible.

Although my Nanny Montana days are behind me, this experience has helped me empathize with patients who are forced to manage multiple obligations and move between differing realities. I have experiences from across the healthcare spectrum, as both a loved one of an uninsured patient and a scholar looking to improve conditions for all in the long-term. My background as an outsider, who had to juggle multiple life challenges, made me especially sensitive to the marginalized and overwhelmed, inspiring me to pursue a career in medicine that focuses on empowering others and protecting their well-being.



Add-On: Explaining Issues with Grades/Conduct

Need to explain some elephant in the room to the admissions committees? Follow this sentence-by-sentence outline, and you’ll be just fine (or as fine as you can be!). 

1-2 sentences to explain the factors that led to the issue

It's wise to let the facts speak for themselves. If there were extenuating circumstances that led to this anomalous blip in your record, make sure to include those as evidence, BUT DON'T editorialize or try to make excuses for what happened. The goal in the beginning is to just acknowledge and own up to the failure/mistake. 

1-2 sentences to explain how you've rectified the issue

This will depend a lot on your situation, but typically, it will involve some kind of additional tutoring, office hours, retaken classes, better time-management, etc. It might involve probation. Beyond explaining the requirements you fulfilled and your upward trend in grades, discuss the ways you've sought to improve overall as a person. 

1-2 sentences to explain the growth, personal qualities, and lessons you’ve gained 

Again, this will depend a lot on your situation. Perhaps there's some activity or endeavor that you can use as "proof" of your growth as a person (i.e. tutoring other struggling students or serving on the student judiciary board). If not, just explain what you learned from the experience and how it's turned you into a better person moving forward. 

I Applied to 151 Medical Schools and Lived to Tell the Tale

I Applied to 151 Medical Schools and Lived to Tell the Tale

By: Ryan Kelly

If you wanted to apply to 151 medical schools, what would you need to accomplish that?

In theory, it seems downright impossible to pull off 151 applications in one cycle, at least not without going completely bonkers. We’ve already told you that we think 68 is too many.

The Best (and Worst) Hobbies to Include in Your Medical School Application

The Best (and Worst) Hobbies to Include in Your Medical School Application

Running in charity 5Ks. Traveling around the globe. Playing the piano.

These might sound like great hobbies to include in your medical school application, but the truth is that every pre-med does them. They’re fine. Average. They won’t hurt you, but they’ll do little to help you stand out.

These hobbies have become cliche, leaving admissions committees feeling underwhelmed.


“Cool Story, Bro”: How to Tell A Worthwhile Story in Your Personal Statement

“Cool Story, Bro”: How to Tell A Worthwhile Story in Your Personal Statement

By Ryan Kelly

“Cool story, bro.”

Hang out with young people long enough, and you might just hear this phrase. As Urban Dictionary notes, it’s a sarcastic expression “used to indicate one's disgust or indifference towards a tl;dr story.” In case you’re wondering, “tl;dr” stands for “too long; didn’t read.”

Top 6 Reasons Reapplicants Didn't Get In And What to Do About It

Top 6 Reasons Reapplicants Didn't Get In And What to Do About It

By: Ryan Kelly

Join the club. If you’ve been rejected from medical school, that makes you normal. 60% of applicants DON’T get in. The people who get in are the unusual ones.

Okay, so maybe that’s not that comforting, but if you’ve been rejected from medical school, you have a choice: you can take this extra year to become a better person and a better applicant.  You can learn from the mistakes of last cycle, really consider whether this is the right career for you, and re-apply with even more confidence that you’ve made the right choice.

What Separates the Typical from Stand-out Pre-Meds

What Separates the Typical from Stand-out Pre-Meds

By: Rob Humbracht

One of our core philosophies is based on a question that most pre-meds aren’t asking before they apply to medical school.

“Why should medical schools accept you? What makes you stand out?”

If you’re scratching your head right now, you’ll want to take some time to answer this question for yourself.

Every Question You Have About the AMCAS

Every Question You Have About the AMCAS

Filling out the AMCAS can be a bit cryptic, leaving pre-meds with many pressing questions. Whether it’s basic info like deadlines, or nuanced questions about specific parts of the application, we’ve got you covered!  

Welcome to our AMCAS FAQ!