November 3, 2014

How to Generate Good Ideas for Your Personal Statement

Rob Humbracht
“You can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.

— Seth Godin

A lot of pre-meds try to outline their personal statement before they write it.  This, in our opinion, is a huge mistake.  It's impossible to know whether your ideas are going to look good or bad on paper until you actually start to write them.  Why waste time composing the perfect outline when you will just have to scrap it and start all over?

So what are the steps? First, break out a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen.  Second, start writing!  I know that seems overly simplistic, but you have to start somewhere.

What do you write?  Anything.  Try:

  • A list of all the reasons you want to be a doctor
  • stories from your medically oriented experiences
  • stories from your childhood or growing up
  • a story or two from other meaningful experiences

Even if you don't use these for your personal statement, you will use them somewhere in your application - whether it be in the most meaningful essays or even secondaries.

So how do you make sure that what you're writing is actually good?  Well, according to a great article from Zapier, the key to generating good ideas is to come up with lots of bad ones first.  Rather than fretting about which story is best, write them all down first and choose the best ones later, once you've had a chance to review everything you have to say.

When you're writing, it's important to make sure that you create a safe place where you're free from criticism:

“One of the pitfalls of traditional brainstorming sessions is that we clam up and don’t contribute because we’re afraid of being criticized. Zapier co-founder Wade Foster wrote an insightful post this time last year about how the writers of the hit show Breaking Bad consistently came up with fresh ideas. One of the secrets to their success was ensuring their writers’ room was a safe place, free from criticism.

”If you feel like you’re going to be criticized for something you say, then you’re not going to say anything. You’re going to shut up,” said Thomas Schnauz, one of the show’s writers, in an interview with Fresh Air. “You’ve got to be free to say any dumb thing, because a lot of times when you say something stupid, a good idea arises from it.”

One of the easiest ways to lose focus on a good idea is to have that little voice in your brain say, "this sucks."  So, create a safe space from peers, family members, and anyone else helping you with the essay.  Be sure to even turn off that monster in your brain, the one who talks smack about your writing, and just get stuff on paper.

So start writing!  You have to start generating the bad ideas before you'll get to the good.

Read the full article here:


Learn to be Savvy! Get creative pre-med strategies delivered right to your inbox.
FREE Medical School Application Timeline when you subscribe.

We follow the email Golden Rule: we will never send you anything without your permission.