Personal Statements

HI there,

I know this has been talked about in the past but I am so unsavvy at getting myself around in here, I decided to write about it again.

I am a really good writer, but I have been struggling with how to approach my statement. Its so short and there are so many avenues I could take, and I am just not quite sure what to focus on to talk about. I know the main things about not writing “why I want to be a doctor…” but should it be biographical, talk about all the great things I have done in 40++ years, or what? I need some focus on this area…its all I have left before I can submit my application on ACOMAS.

Oh and should I talk about my bad MCAT score? And also would anyone be willing to read what I have got so far?



The personal statement is chance for you to highlight something that is not already on your application. The MCAT score is already on the application so there is no need to put in your PS.

Think of a story that made you decide to go into medicine, it flows from there.

Also, have other people who are not premeds read it to see if it conveys the message of what you want it to say. Just don’t tell the reader that the question is why do you want to become a dr.

Hi there,

You cannot afford to label yourself as “bad” at doing anything. If you were less than satisfied with your writing efforts in the past, you can take steps to improve what you do. Not only are you writing a personal statement for medical school admission, you are going to be writing a personal statment for residency should you get to that point. Again, you can learn to master these types of essays like anything else.

Some people keep a journal of thoughts as they come. Later on, they can flesh out some of these and put them together into a good personal statement.

Some people use the “brainstorming” technique where they sit down and put tons of ideas on a sheet of paper (or blackboard) as they come to mind. After getting the ideas on paper, they are able to arrange them, exposit them and get them into a coherent personal statement.

If nothing else, you can put down pivotal events in your life and link them to how you came to choose medicine as a career. Did you have a specific class or specific event that led you to medicine.

Do not place anything negative in your personal statement. If you believe you have something negative, put a positive “spin” on it such as “While I struggled to master organic chemistry, I learned that could meet and endure strong academic challenges. This endurance carried over into other aspects of my academic work that translated into success in my other coursework” etc.

Do not use your personal statment to apologize for a poor acedemic record when you were younger. Again, you can make reference to how you matured but put NOTHING negative in this document.

You have to sell yourself, make yourself interesting, make the admissions committee members want to meet you and have you as a member of their incoming class.

I have read too many personal statments that “turned me off” to the person regardless of grades and MCAT scores. These statments were poorly written, had typos or spelling mistakes, poor useage, difficult to understand or so boastful that they didn’t match the rest of the application.

Give this portion of your application some careful thought. Use any technique that you can, to draft something and work up your ideas in a logical manner.

Read your final draft into a tape recorder and play it back. Does it flow well? Can you understand your thought processes?

Allow people who know you well, to read your drafts and make comments. Take their comments into consideration.

Some colleges and universities (GWU and UVa for example) have writing centers that can help you. Check these out even if you are no longer a student. You can get free help with grammer, sentence structure etc.

Good luck!


  • njbmd Said:
I have read too many personal statments that "turned me off" to the person regardless of grades and MCAT scores. These statments were poorly written, had typos or spelling mistakes, poor useage, difficult to understand or so boastful that they didn't match the rest of the application.


You can get free help with grammer, sentence structure etc.

Amidst a sea of useful information (with which I strongly agree), I feel obligated to bust Natalie's chops . And you bet your tucchus that I double-checked the spelling on "amidst."

Neat, a javascript spoiler-maker!

usage and grammar!

… uhhhhh the difference being that we’re just spouting off into the keyboard here, vs. knowing that our every punctuation mark is going to be scrutinized.

ONE little spelling or grammatical error is probably not going to hurt you. Typos happen and committee members know that the process of submitting everything on-line has its glitches. But if there are errors throughout the application (poor punctuation, bad grammar, etc.) it definitely leaves the reader uninterested.

For the OP, I used a book by Barron’s called something like “Personal Statements That Will Get YOU Into Medical School.” The whole first part of the book is an exercise for identifying the things you want to talk about. I pride myself on being a good writer with clear goals and yet the PS really flummoxed me - I found the exercises in this book very useful in making my statement cohesive.

I also was advised by an Adcom member, “Tell the story of how you come to be applying to medical school now. What is the story of your journey?” Good food for thought.


I was trying to remember the name of the book (I’ve already passed it on to another OPM). I used it, too, on Mary’s recommendation, and I loved it. The exercises give you a lot of material to work with, material that you can also use later in interviews and subsequent secondary essays. I highly recommend it.


Could you post the name of that book when you remember it? I know you’re busy with starting school - so take your time!!

  • lpressley130 Said:

Could you post the name of that book when you remember it? I know you're busy with starting school - so take your time!!

Lori, it's the same one Mary recommends. Here it is!

I had a glaring typo on the personal statement sent to my first choice school. I still got interviewed and was accepted.

Although the spelling should be minded, the content is the most important aspect of it.

Besides what Nat has said, with which I agree heartily, please do not pontificate nor editorialize. Remember your audience: physicians and med students. You do not have to tell docs what they already know. “A good physician blah blah blah…” Do not write a think piece on world health care. Do not begin with “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since my grandmother died of a [dread] disease when I was four years old.” Do not use Road Less Traveled in any way shape or form. (As I may have posted here in years past, my old boss and I used to giggle when a “less traveled” essay came through that we wanted to find the applicant who was smart enough to take the road that most others were on - it obviously was the right path.)

Do help the reader understand who you are, your values, world view, etc. through the experiences that you have had. “Past performance predicts future behavior.”