The Personal Statement—a Lesson in Self-Awareness
This semester, CASA hosted two workshops on how to write a personal statement (PS). If you missed it, that’s ok! Here is a recap:
* Discuss Academics. You are applying to be a STUDENT. Make sure you sell your academic skills. Maybe interject a meaningfull course that led you toward medicine? Or you could write about how a course changed the way you studied and made you a better student! Very few PS mention academics. Sell yourself as a medical student and that you are a safe pick for their program!
* Discuss cool HOBBIES that show you are well rounded. Medical schools want to see that you have a life outside of school. Show them how cool you are! I have seen PS from candidates who have climbed Mt. Everest, built and flew airplanes, developed their own business, and my favorite—personal assistant to Hugh Heffner.
* Discuss your JOB. Most PS are devoid of job experience. One of the best PS I have read this year was from a Waffle House waitress. She used that as her theme to cleverly bring out who she is as a person. And I read it to the end because it was entertaining, well-written, and funny. I learned so much about this candidate just through her letter!
* Make an outline before you start writing.
* Show your self-confidence! Make statements about your capabilities.
* Have a common theme. Some really good PS have an underlying theme (e.g. athletics) to show strengths/attributes. Many PS tend to jump around topics which causes the reader to think you are not focused or perhaps a poor writer.
* Have a friend and an acquaintance (who does not know you very well) read your PS. Revise multiple times!
* Use your PS as a staging for interview questions. What do you hope they ask you on your interview?
* Finish with a sentence that ties the PS together.
* Discuss shadowing. Why not? Well, that will already be discussed extensively in the AMCAS application. Don’t double up! Unless that shadowing experience helps define who you are as a person, it is not of value to your PS.
* Discuss family/personal hardships unless you can follow through with a statement on how it shaped who you are. Most PS start with some lengthy family drama and these can get quite redundant to read. Drama does not define who you are, but your response to it does.
* Avoid discussing family motivations for medicine. It is kind of a red flag. Keep your motives for medicine self-driven.
* Avoid politics and religion. Period.
* Do not dwell on bad grades or discuss your way around them. This suggests that you make excuses and focus on the negative. It also draws attention to them! They will see your transcript.
Hope this was helpful! We hope to have more premed personal statement workshops in the future!