“You have to toot your own horn, no one else is going to do it for you.”
A fantastic - and honest - talk by a Mount Sinai Admissions Officer at the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference in October aimed squarely at the personal statement and how to write it. Using an in-depth approach of looking at a successful applicant over all of the phases of the application process, the Mount Sinai admissions officer analyzed what applicants must do to get in.
The applicant profiled had one of those incredible stories that many applicants just can’t match: grew up with a single mother in the Dominican Republic, put herself through college as the first in her family to attend, and took on leadership roles in mentoring under-privileged students. It’s an amazing story, and you can see why she got in.
But there were generalizable take-aways that you can use in your own personal statement, which I have boiled down to the following two quotes, jotted down as faithfully as I could. Picture each of the quotes in a thick New York accent.
1. “Be an authentic representation of yourself, because the right school will appreciate that and invite you for an interview.”
Your personal statement is your chance to explain to the admissions committee what perspective you can add to the incoming class. The admissions officer gave several examples of possible perspectives, including:
And if none of those things - all of which are outside of the field of medicine, for what it’s worth - apply to you, try to think about how your experience with medicine has been different from other pre-meds. What stories do you have to tell where you are at the center of the action? Where you are the one who makes an impact on the life of a patient? What stories can you tell where we get to know the real you, whoever that may be? Those are the qualities to focus on in your personal statement.
2. “No fluff. Don’t make me work, don’t make me interpret, don’t make me do any of that. Your application should be jam-packed with information.”
This advice applies to other parts of the application (work/activities, in particular) as much as it does to the personal statement. Admissions people are human, and they get tired of reading fluff. The fluff that I often see in a personal statement is: