This guest post by Lauren Bailey describes some key ways you can spruce up your personal statement as you apply for medical school, residency, fellowship, and beyond. As your stare at that blank Word document, or even as you are about to hit 'Submit' on ERAS, keep these points in mind.
3 Story Telling Elements that Can Instantly Improve Your Personal Statement
Every year medical school admission officers get hundreds of the same type of "formulaic" personal statements from their applicants—the statements typically lead with a mere, "I want to become a doctor because of x,y,z" and are usually dry throughout the entire piece. While yes it's true that admission officers favor clean and simple writing and usually pass on applicants that sound too pompous (or those that already write in "doctor-speak"), that doesn’t mean that they want personal statements that are boring. If your statement sounds like the rest, it will get thrown in the rejection pile. But by simply incorporating some traditional story telling elements to create a narrative, you can help your statement stand out. To learn how to do this effectively, continue reading below.
Start with a Personal Anecdote
Your introduction is the make it or break it point. From the very beginning you need to draw-in your reader. Otherwise, he or she may toss out your application almost instantly. One of the easiest ways to captivate your audience is to lead with an anecdote—a personal story that describes why you want to be a doctor or what brought forth your passion for medicine. There has to be some "aha!" moment or epiphany you experienced that made you think, "This is the profession for me, this is my true calling." Paint a narrative that helps re-enact that epiphany moment and then carefully tie it into a strong thesis. For example, maybe you wanted to become a doctor after someone in your family got severely ill. You could start it off like this:
I was 8-years-old and cancer was a term I'd never heard of before. As my grandmother rested in the hospital bed, frail and hairless, I wanted nothing more than to have the power to heal her. How desperately I wanted the power to be able to heal everyone around world. At that moment, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to become a doctor. I feel attending [blank] medical school will not only help me accomplish my childhood dreams, but will also help me become the best possible healthcare provider possible.
Focus on Character Development
Your main objective when writing your statement is to come off as likable—admission officers must like you, otherwise you will get denied. Like in any story, there is always a main character. In this case, it's you. You want to make sure that when describing your strengths and weaknesses for example, you don't come off as arrogant, a know-it-all, or have any traits that some people might be turned-off by. For example, a popular "weakness" that applicants like to state is the fact that they're a perfectionist which can be both a blessing and a curse. While it's extremely generic, it's still a valid point. However, if you try to demonstrate that this by saying, "One semester I got a B and I was really hard on myself for a whole week" you might rub admission officers the wrong way. They already get plenty of applicants with pristine grade point averages. And who's to say that someone who makes 100's on written exams can translate those skills to real world scenarios? Instead, if perfectionism is truly a weakness then at least explain a scenario where it affected something that directly relates to healthcare—perhaps when volunteering at the local hospital or health care facility for example.
Be Careful with Language Choice
Last but not least, you need to use your power of language. That's not to say that you need to take out a thesaurus and use "fancy" words to help you sound intelligent. The admission officers already have your transcripts and records, they know you're intelligent. Instead, use this opportunity to sound like a "real" person—someone they'd like to meet in real life and interview. Your best way to accomplish this is to write using your natural voice; steer away from sounding too formal.
Personal statements don't have to be so cut and dry. But figuring out a way to incorporate the story telling elements mentioned above, you should give your statement that added spice that will persuade admission officers you deserve an interview.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com.