The Personal Statement

The AMCAS or ACOMAS application requires that you write a personal statement if your initial screening is acceptable to the admissions committee.

First, let s start with what NOT to write, since in more than one doctor s opinion, for every one student the personal statement helps there are 10 students who are rejected due, in part, by their personal statement. Your statement should NOT emphasize that you (1) want to go to medical school, (2) have always wanted to go to medical school, (3) have trained very hard and are exceptionally qualified to go to medical school, (4) will make an exceptional physician after attending medical school, or (5) have always liked working with people and want to help them. As a medical school applicant, such sentiments are expected. The statement should not be a rehash of your grades, MCAT performance, volunteer work, or any of the other information that is elsewhere provided in your application. Further, the statement should not be purely autobiographical. Instead, every attempt should be made to give the reader insight into who you are as a person. In a sense, you are being given an opportunity to sell yourself.

Be careful how much you use the word "I" in your personal statement. Too many (i.e., more than 20-22), and readers may get the impression that you are focused more on yourself and are not "other directed". Be assertive about your accomplishments without stepping over the line into arrogance.

Absolutely avoid gimmicks and "creative writing". Don t get cute. You want to come off as sober, serious, and "normal".

Though some autobiographical information about past experiences is expected, it should be accompanied by a recollection of how it affected you at the time, how such experiences have affected your beliefs, shaped your opinions, and contribute to your perspective of the world. While it is important to write of experiences that have shaped your opinion toward the medical profession (patients, physicians, and topics within medicine), other experiences may be of equal or greater importance and should also be discussed.

In one opinion of a dean of admissions, the personal statement should cover four topics:

  • Explain why medicine is the "best fit" for you. What is the basis of your passion? Why do you feel medicine is your calling?
  • How have you prepared yourself? Good grades and a strong MCAT score these days are not enough to guarantee you a seat in medical school. What evidence can you write about that shows that you are committed to a life of service and commitment to others? What evidence in your life story points to a commitment to excellence?
  • What challenges have you overcome? Can you explain how your life struggles have made you stronger, more resilient?
  • Be specific as possible about what you would like to accomplish in medicine. Would you work in under-served areas? Would you focus on medical research? Is there a medical specialty that appeals to you, and why? What are your past experiences and and work history that support your interests. Was excellence achieved in volunteerism, published research, clinical research, etc.?

Start writing your personal statement about six months before you apply. Write a rough draft, put it away, and look at it at a later time. Gradually hone it to the right length. Have friends, faculty, read your statement. Dr. Don Romsa, who can be reached through the HCOP office at 278-4150, has been helping students for years with their personal statements.