Things To Think About When Writing Your Personal Essay For Medical School

February 5, 2014

What makes writing a medical school personal essay particularly difficult is that there is no standard format that you can use to create this essay. This document is essentially meant for the applicant to tell their story in whatever way they see fit.  However, although there are no laid-down rules about how you should or should not craft your essay, there are certain things that interviewers look for when reading a personal statement. Here are a few things to think about when writing your personal essay for medical school.

Monitoring young patients on the paediatrics ward at Morogoro Hospital, Tanzania What your personal essay should address

Your essay must necessarily address two things – your reason or reasons for wanting to pursue medicine and secondly, what you think is your appeal as an applicant to the medical school. Most personal statements only address the first issue but that answers only part of what the interviewers are looking for. Addressing both issues shows that you have put some thought into why you selected that particular school and puts you in a stronger position.     

Talk about the various things you have done that supports your interest in becoming a doctor. Things to include here would be physician shadowing, medical placement, volunteering or any other stint in any healthcare establishment. Expand a bit on how your life experiences have influenced you.

What to avoid when writing your personal essay

Avoid clichés when writing your personal essay. Statements such as “I want to make a difference” and “I want to help people” have been done to death by thousands of candidates before you and will do nothing to impress any admissions committee. Instead, writing a more personal story that focuses on your learning and growth will pique the interest of the reader and get you called for the interview so they can get to know some more about you.  

Avoid controversial topics, particularly anything to do with religion or politics. Most people have very firm views on these two topics and there’s just no way to know whether the person reading your essay agrees with your viewpoint or not. You want to attract positive attention, not negative attention.

Don’t rehash details from your resume or any other parts of your application. Your essay should not contain details of your awards or accomplishments. Those are already listed elsewhere in the application and there’s no need to repeat it. 

Don’t gloss over potential red flags such as low grades or a gap in your schooling, in the hope that the interview will not notice it. Interviewers look for such inconsistencies and will in fact notice it almost instantly. It’s far better to address the issues in your personal statement.  

Does your personal statement meet these criteria?

When proof reading your personal essay ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is it interesting and engaging?
  • Does it show insight and introspection?
  • Does it have a consistent theme running through it?
  • Does it flow well?
  • Does it give the reader an accurate mental image of who you are?
  • Does it illustrate your passion for medicine?

If your answer to all of the above is yes, you know you’ve written a personal essay that will impress and intrigue the reader and get you called for that all-important interview.