PERSONAL STATEMENT WORKSHOP II So, we all agree that your personal statement should be written and proofread before your Junior year is complete correct? Or for those people that are non-traditional applicants, your personal statement should be written before April of the summer you are submitting your AMCAS application. So…what do you write about? Generally, the personal statement is supposed to answer the question “Why Medicine”, or what experiences in your life have lead you to pursue a career in medicine. You could give your whole life story, in chronological order showing the different experiences you have had in your life that have solidified that medicine is the career you. Or you can focus on one small experience in your life in your PS. Medical schools get THOUSANDS of applications every year with people that have great ECs, amazing grades, and high MCAT scores, so the PS allows them to see what makes you unique. Now, you don’t have to have experience in United Nations refugee camps delivering HIV+ babies with no gloves to show that you are passionate about medicine. Also, not everyone has that “Ah Ha” turning point where they realized that medicine was their destiny. Many people just think that it’s a cool field to go into. But you still have to have interesting experiences that can somehow, by some stretch be associated with medicine. I’ve even heard of premed collegiate athletes who wrote a PS that metaphorically described medicine as they talked about their sport. Generally, my tips for writing a PS is:

1) Always make your first sentence or first paragraph catchy. Make it an attention grabber. It makes them actually want to read through the whole thing.
2) Start your PS with a story, quote, or something to lead into your answer to “why medicine”
3) Make an outline before you actually write your personal statement (a very bare outline), and then when its time to write, just write to your heart’s content. When you are done, you should have many more characters than the 5,300 character limit, which is alright, because they you can whittle it down.
4) You can be creative, but don’t be too creative. Medicine is still a very conservative profession.
6) I know I said this before, but at the most have only 2 people read your personal statement. I would recommend a professor (with a PhD) who is used to either writing essays or writing research grant proposals. If your parents don’t know the difference between a cell wall and a ribosome, they probably won’t be all that knowledgeable about writing a PS for medical school. Pick professionally applicable people to read and edit your personal statement. The only person I had was a very thorough science professor, I didn’t need an English professor. But if having an English professor edit it makes you feel better, then go for it.
7) Avoid the “I want to save the world one hug at a time” theme when writing your personal statement. If that is what you want to do, then fine, but keep your personal statement realistic and not too idealistic.
8) Don’t sound cocky. Consult others to figure out whether your personal statement has a cocky tone.
9) Always make sure that your closing paragraph ties back into your opening paragraph. It brings closure you to personal statement.

I’m sure there is more but that is all I can think up. Also, do not copy your PS straight from Microsoft Word into your online AMCAS application, because the formatting will be jacked up. Copy it first to Notepad (to get to notepad, go to start, then programs, then accessories). When you copy it into notepad, make sure that the word wrap feature it turned off (you will know its turned off if you cant’ see your whole PS on the main screen. Once your PS is saved in this format, then you can copy it to AMCAS without any problems. Remember that the character limit is 5,300 CHARACTERS not words, and that includes spaces; so every space between a paragraph counts as 2 characters (I think). That is pretty much all I have on personal statements. Like I said before, I’m not an expert, but I’m will to help those who need help.

Because the research I did this summer was paid by a grant, I have to attend the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Anaheim, CA. We leave tomorrow, so I’ll be gone for a little while. I’ll post about my experiences when I get back.

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