Personal statment opener

Right now the first sentence of my personal statement is

“I haven’t always wanted to be a doctor.”

I then immediately go on to talk about how, in hindsight, having made the decision TO be a physician I can see how the elements of my life so far are in alignment with that goal.

I think it’s an impactful opening statement that will grab someones attention. One of my proof readers made the point that maybe I don’t want to start out with a negative…that it might be impactful in an off-putting way to a Ad Com member. Any thoughts from the group on that one?

If it tells a good story, it is my opinion that it can work. But the rest of it following that first sentence must tell an interesting story. Most PSes I’ve seen have a gimmicky opening, and that can work too, if it’s not laid on too thick. Some examples I’ve seen online (a lot of them are based on the EMT angle):

There was a train wreck! I grabbed my trauma kit and scrambled out of the ambulance with the rest of my emergency medical technician crew.

I waited for radio silence, and then keyed the microphone on my ski patrol vest. "Dispatch, we have an eighteen year old male, complaining of difficulty breathing, vitals are heart rate 72…

Death was no stranger to me. But this one was different–I knew her.




Here are some that are more similar to yours:

I have had the valuable experience of growing up in different cultures. I was born in…

Becoming a doctor was an option after graduation, now it is my resolution.

Doctors are not healers. They do not help people, and they certainly are not admirable. That is how I genuinely felt when I was younger. [the PS then goes on to describe a personal story of many misdiagnoses before finally a proper diagnosis made resulted in great relief to the writer].

I’ve seen examples of your opener, it works well if the rest of the application makes sense. We’ve all had some sort of career before medicine, so it’s essential we explain the transition.

If people have seen examples of your opener then it is old hat and needs to be re-done. What you should keep in mind is that the adcoms have a lot, and I mean a ton, of personal statements to go through before deciding on sending out interview invitations. They will generally read the first few words or sentences and if it has not caught their attention, then chances are that you will not be granted an interview.

You have to grasp the reader into wanting to not only read the rest of the statement but that statement should be a cliffhanger where they want to learn more and bring you in for an interview. Frankly, I am not impressed with your opening line. If you have every spoken with Old Man Dave, he would tell you that his opening line was that he worked as a bouncer before starting college. It caught the ready by surprise and it made them want to know more about him and it certainly made him stand out from the rest of the applicant pool.

Look back at what it was that made you want to go into medicine and jot some ideas down. You are not looking to win a Pulitzer or be on the NY Times Best Seller List, you are looking to capture the reader’s attention and peak their curiosity enough that they want to know more about you and bring you in for that interview.