How to Write a Great Medical School Personal Statement

A Guide to Writing a Stand-Out Personal Statement

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The college essay should tell an original story about you and what matters to you. It can feel like a strange way of writing because students often engage in activities without explicitly expressing why they are motivated to do so. You want to convey your internal motivations and values to the reader.

The first step to writing a genuine personal statement is to start with free-writing and lots of it. Familiarize yourself with Common App questions and any supplemental essays. Then think through many moments and stories that could help you answer the prompts. Be specific, general statements are not as memorable You will have time to refine so focus on expression first

Think about big questions. What are your biggest dreams? What are your values? Why? How will college help you achieve your goals? What are your main academic interests? What appeals to you about those subjects?

Seek out information provided by admissions offices at your top choices. They will likely have clear language about what kind of students they are looking for and what kind of community they are striving to create. For example. Yale looks for “applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves.” Princeton looks for “students with intellectual curiosity, who have pursued and achieved academic excellence.” Find the mission statements for your top choices and practice writing stories that prove you are the kind of student they want to admit.

After free-writing, read through your stories and reflections and select the strongest points for your chosen prompt. Refine this story into a first draft then get feedback. Your Med School Coach mentor is a great resource for this. Revising will usually take longer than putting together the first draft. Don’t settle for your first draft. Go through your work critically. Be prepared to replace repetitive words, be more concise, and fine-tune your transitions. Once you revise, at least twice, get feedback from your recommenders so that they know what you are submitting.

Remember to let your voice shine through and make the statement about you, not other people. You might choose a story that involves your grandmother. Yet, your grandmother is not the one applying to college, you are. If you write about other people make sure their story does not overpower yours. You should be talking about your relationship with the other person and how it molded, shaped, and impacted you.

Your essay will be read alongside the complete application so you should think about how to tell a story that complements your overall narrative. Again, be critical of your writing. Would you be able to remember this statement after reading it once? Admissions officers will only have about 12-15 minutes to read your application so make sure you grab their attention and leave them with a lasting impression.

About the Author: Racquel Bernard

Racquel Bernard, MedSchoolCoach Tutor
Racquel Bernard is a former admissions officer of Dartmouth College. She graduated from Dartmouth with a bachelors in African and African American Studies. She completed her masters in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She is currently a PhD student in Musicology at UCLA.

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