Lead Author and Editor
My name is Ryan Kelly, and I've taught thousands of students to write better, first as an English professor and now as a medical school editor at Passport Admissions. I’m the son of a family physician, but I’ve always felt more comfortable fixing people’s words than their bodies. I like to think of myself as a rhetorical guru--someone who can help pre-meds isolate the heart of a story and make it compelling to an audience. But in order to write a good personal statement, you must have a story that’s worth telling in the first place. Trust me, I know. In fact, I bet my story as a writer isn’t that much different than yours as a pre-med. Don’t believe me?
How am I like a pre-med? Ha! At first glance, I am the complete opposite: artsy, whimsical, a Type Z personality (yeah I made that up; deal with it, Type A’s). But early on as a writer (and a person), I shared a problem familiar to many pre-meds: I tried to please everybody. I experimented with any story or style imaginable--realism, magical realism, surrealism, every kind of -ism--anything that people told me readers would like. I started viewing writing like a game; maybe if I emulate such-and-such aesthetic or showcase the right hot-button topic, then I’ll finally get my big break and be able to write about whatever I want.
I was seeing my work as a means to an end, rather than its own rewarding process. Like pre-meds who grasp at any volunteering, research, or shadowing they can find, I thought I could become a writer just by pleasing the right people and following some prescribed method. The truth is, I had no voice of my own. There was nothing to distinguish me from the millions of other novice writers. I needed to discover the kind of writing that made me feel alive, that gave me purpose, that let me most authentically express my ideas to the world. I also needed a dedicated focus, as opposed to constantly shifting my objectives. When I directed my writing towards my strengths and passions, I found my voice, and the publications slowly began to accumulate.
I would urge pre-meds to do the same. Don’t be afraid to take risks and deviate from the typical pre-med path. Don’t do something just to fill your resume or because you think it will sound impressive. Don’t let the mob mentality of others scare you into conforming, or you’ll never figure out your identity. Feel free to experiment, but at some point, you’ll need to focus. Depth beats breadth every time, whether in writing, life, or medicine. Find what makes you you, and dive into it wholeheartedly. Then you’ll have a story that’s worth telling.