Shadowing a DoctorJune 17, 2014
Non-Academic Preparation For Medical School: Personal Statement And Letters of Recommendation
Putting together your personal statement and getting the requisite letters of recommendation are important parts of the non-academic preparation for medical school. You will have to spend some time and put some thought and consideration into getting both of these documents not just ready to submit, but impressive enough to wow the school authorities.
A personal statement is like an autobiography. It gives you the opportunity to tell the reader some things about yourself. Almost all medical schools ask for a personal statement, an essay or a questionnaire as mandatory components of the application process.
These few tips will help you create an outstanding personal statement:
– Start thinking about what to write long in advance of the deadline.
– Make written notes of your thoughts, accomplishments and momentous experiences that were instrumental in pushing you towards a career in medicine.
– It doesn’t matter if the list at this point looks overly long – when you are working on the draft, you can use only those few achievements or thoughts that are the most impressive.
– Write rough drafts of the personal statement.
– Read and re-read your drafts and keep improving on your old ideas. As you read through the drafts, you will find that new ideas keep forming.
– Look for and correct spelling and grammatical errors.
– If the medical school has stipulated a maximum word count, try to keep to that limit.
– Make sure the document is properly formatted and organised. If you choose to write the personal statement in chronological format, all events should follow the proper chronological progression.
– Have a qualified individual proofread your finalised document.
Letters of Reference
Letters of reference provide an opportunity for the admissions committee to see what other people think of you – not just anybody. Most medical schools will specify who they would like you to get the letter from. If the school asks for a letter from a teaching faculty member, choose a professor who knows you best and who you are sure will give you a glowing reference.
If the referee is not specified, use your discretion about who to approach. Start by making a list of possible referees. Your shortlist should only include people who meet the following criteria:
– Are reliable and trustworthy
– Understand the importance of your application
– Are capable of wording the letter of recommendation in such a way that shows you in good light without exaggerating your qualities or capabilities
– Are recognised authorities in their own specialties
Remember, nobody gets paid to write you a letter of reference. Make it easy on them by giving them your CV, resume and any other autobiographical material you may have so they can add that information to what they already know about you when writing the letter. Give your referees sufficient time before the deadline so they are not put under pressure to get it done immediately and finally, don’t forget to send them a thank you note after the letter has been sent off.