The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Best Medical School Personal Statement | MedSchoolCoach

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Best Medical School Personal Statement

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Posted in: Pre-Med: Personal Statement & Essays

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Your personal statement is the single most important part of your medical school application, aside from GPA and MCAT. We’ve compiled our very best advice from MedSchoolCoach advisors, physicians, and students over the years to create a comprehensive guide to writing a standout medical school personal statement. 

Why Your Personal Statement Is So Important

“What sets me apart from every other applicant?” is a question that most medical school applicants obsess about in the months leading up to applying. And before you ever even get an opportunity to interview, your personal statement is where you must answer this question and prove to admissions committees that you deserve a shot.  

Personal statements can either make or break your application for medical school. 

By writing a powerful personal statement, you show the admissions committee that you are the kind of candidate who will make an exceptional physician and be a valuable asset to the school. Additionally, it helps to distinguish your application from the many other students with similar MCAT scores and GPAs.

Similarly, a weak personal statement can tank your chances of getting an interview. When a medical school admissions committee has several hundred applications to review, a poorly written personal statement with typos and lackluster content is irredeemable.

Student using Laptop in Library

Apart from its role in weeding out unqualified candidates, the personal statement also serves as a foundation for many interview discussions and questions. Committee members often only have a few minutes to glance over an application when they sit down to interview them. Personal statements provide them with the right amount of information. They can use it as a springboard for the interview by picking out a few key points to discuss. 

Since it’s possible this is the only part of your application they’ll read, it needs to be perfect.

This guide will take you through every aspect of writing your personal statement – to knowing how it’s presented on your application, to what makes a great (and not so great) essay, the writing process and tips. We’ll also share two examples of traditional and non-traditional personal statements, and include additional resources that you can study as you prepare to apply to medical school.

How the Personal Statement Is Presented on the AMCAS

While applying to medical school can be a grueling process, the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) strives to make it a bit easier with its centralized medical school application processing service. 

This means that most of your information: academic stats (GPA, MCAT, etc), work experience, volunteer activities, extracurriculars, and research opportunities will fit into nice little boxes and form fields on your application. Your application is saved so that you don’t have to reenter information multiple times if you’re applying to lots of schools.

The essay part of the application comes in Section 8. And, this is the one part of the application that you might need to tweak multiple times based on the schools or programs you’re applying to. 

The personal statement prompt is presented on the AMCAS as:

"Use the personal comments essays as an opportunity to distinguish you from other applicants.

Some questions you may want to consider while writing this essay are:
Why have you selected the field of medicine?
What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn't been disclosed in another section of the application?

In addition, you may wish to include information such as: special hardships, challenges or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits. Commentary on significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application.”

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Except knowing how much weight is placed on the personal statement is what makes this deceptively simple prompt the cause of so much anxiety for students. 

Before we get into what makes a great personal statement and offer some advice for writing, here are a few tips for entering the essay on the AMCAS application:

Keep it under 5,300 characters (including spaces) – You will receive an error message if you exceed the character count. 

Do not type directly into the text box – Use a text only word processing tool, or type the essay into Microsoft Word or a Google Doc – but save the file as a *.rtf. This will eliminate formatting issues when you copy and paste the essay into the AMCAS box. 

Proof the PDF the AMCAS generates – This version is exactly what admission committees and interviewers will see. If you see any formatting issues, fix them before submitting your essay. 

Don’t settle for anything less than perfection – There is no spell checker function on the AMCAS application. In addition to checking the PDF for formatting issues, proofread carefully for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Once you submit the application, changes cannot be made.

How to Write a Standout Personal Statement

Even though the majority of medical school applicants have not conducted groundbreaking research to cure cancer, built a new hospital, or supplied water to a village in a third world country through outreach, medical schools still seek specific qualities when reviewing personal statements – specifically: accountability, reliability, and maturity, which are demonstrated through research, volunteer activities, and mentorship experiences. 

If a student can show that they possess these characteristics through their personal statement, they can set themselves apart from other applicants. 

So what, exactly, makes a great personal statement? Of the thousands of personal statements our advisors have read over the years, here’s what you should do to create a standout essay.

Be Authentically YOU

Being authentic in your personal statement is essential. Your goal is to engage the reader, but in a way that is authentic to you and your personality. Resist the temptation to write what you think admissions committees want to hear. What they want to hear is your truth about why you want to be a doctor, and what specifically sets you apart from other applicants. 

It’s even more important to be authentic in your personal essay if you make it to the interview stage. Your interviewers will be comparing you – in the flesh – to the ‘you’ that they first met in your personal statement. If you hype yourself up in your essay then fall flat during the interview, interviewers will know you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. 

As medical school student, Ariel Lee says, “Adcom members are very good at sniffing out hollow and disingenuous essays, so be sure to tell the authentic story of how you came to love medicine.” 

Demonstrate Your Passion for Medicine

You need to demonstrate why being a doctor is important to you.

We talk a lot about avoiding cliches in your personal statement. Saying you want to become a doctor “to help people” is just one of them. Dr. Renee Marinelli, Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach, cautions that some cliches are “extrinsic experiences that now looking back as you apply to medical school, you think would convince an admissions committee that you want to go into medicine but in actuality, they didn’t have as big of an impact on you than you may have thought.”

For example, saying “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 5 because a really nice doctor helped me when I had a broken arm.” While it may indeed be your personal story, it comes off as cliche. 

Your passion for medicine doesn’t have to stem from some grand experience or sudden revelation. Of course you want to help people if you are going into the field of medicine. But maybe it didn’t all click for you until college when you fell in love with psychology and started volunteering in nursing homes. 

You don’t need to have a lifelong dream of becoming a physician to demonstrate your passion and go on to become an amazing doctor.

Stick to a Central Theme 

Your theme is also considered your personal brand or narrative, and it is the essence behind your answer to “Why do you want to be a doctor?”

Emily Singer, a graduate from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and writer at ProspectiveDoctor.com, offers this advice for developing your theme, “Perhaps a better approach to starting the personal statement is not to focus on the question that your essay will ultimately answer, but on the personal aspects of your experiences on earth that shaped who you are – a person whose goals and values align with entering the medical profession.”

Developing a central theme that connects your passions to medicine is a critical component of your personal statement. A consistent narrative keeps your essay focused, aids the flow of content, and keeps the reader engaged and reminded of your unique story throughout the beginning, middle, and end of the piece. 

You can draw on many personal experiences and attributes during the process of developing your theme, including:

• Personal Experiences
• Academic Achievements
• Passions & Interests
• Values & Principles 
• Research Opportunities
• Extra Curricular Activities
• Volunteer Initiatives 
• Leadership & Mentoring 

Include Personal Stories – But Show, Don’t Tell

A memorable personal statement captures the reader’s attention from the first sentence, which is usually accomplished with an interesting personal story or anecdote. It’s absolutely ok – and encouraged – to include some creativity, ingenuity, humor, and character. However, some students tend to go over the top, let their anecdote carry on a bit too long, and ultimately come off as trite or immature. 

Admissions committees care far less about what you did, and more about the reasons why you did them, what you’ve learned, and how you grew as an individual. Your personal statement gives you the opportunity to show, not just tell, how your experiences have impacted your journey to medicine. 

Consider the following examples of statements about a student’s volunteer experience at a food pantry:

“Through my work at the local food pantry, I came to understand the daily battles many individuals face, and it allowed me to develop deeper empathy and compassion.”

“When I saw Mr. Jones, a regular at the kitchen, struggling to maneuver his grocery cart through the door, I hustled over to assist him. My heart sunk when I saw he was wearing a new cast after having been assaulted the night prior.”

Which do you think performed better in terms of conveying personal characteristics?

Share Your Vision of the Future

Yes, admissions committees want to know why you want to become a doctor. But they also want to know how you envision yourself impacting the medical community in the future.

This doesn’t have to be as grand as “curing cancer.” If you grew up in an underserved community, perhaps you saw the inequity in healthcare and want to work toward accessibility and affordability. 

What’s not ok to say here is, “I want to become a plastic surgeon and make a lot of money in the future” (even if there’s some truth to it!). Instead, say something more along the lines of, “I want to become a plastic surgeon to help people regain their self-confidence.”   

Give it Some Personality

In addition to your personal statement being grammatically accurate and error-free, there needs to be a little something-something to it! Admissions committees read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays every year. It can become tedious, especially if the writing is dry and the reader isn’t engaged. Creative writing, a distinct voice, and letting your personality shine are all good things when it comes to your essay. This is the time to ditch the onerous APA formatting and hypothesis-based research papers and dazzle adcoms with your unique story. 

As Dr. Davietta Butty, a Northwestern School of Medicine graduate, avid writer, pediatrician, and MedSchoolCoach advisor puts it, “I think the best personal statements are the ones that showcase the applicant’s personality. Remember that this is your story and not anyone else’s story and you get the opportunity to say it how it makes sense to you.” 

smiling medical students standing with lecturer near university

Carefully Navigate Emotional Topics 

Personal tragedies, like the death of a loved one, can be a powerful motivator for a personal statement. In a field where life and death are constantly at odds, experiences in death can seem like an impressive qualification, but must be treated with caution.

It’s important to focus on the why, and not the how. Don’t get mired in the details of the tragedy, but show how the experience impacted you as it relates to your career in medicine. How did it help you develop skills? Have you changed your perspective as a result? How did you use that new perspective or those new skills? Would it make you a better medical student?

If you’re considering including an emotional experience in your essay, read this article for some more insightful advice.

What NOT to Include in Your Personal Statement

Now that you’re inspired by the prospect of writing an insightful and engaging essay, let’s take a look at what NOT to include. 

Your MCAT Score and GPA

It’s already listed in the data-heavy part of your application and it’s part of a computer algorithm that determines if your personal statement is worth reading. If your personal statement is being read, then you can be assured that adcoms know your scores are worthy. 

Typos & Spelling Mistakes

With today’s word processing solutions and free grammar checking apps, there is absolutely NO excuse for errors. 

Name Dropping

Name dropping is obnoxious in almost any situation. It’s braggadocious and brushed off at best. At worst, it could negatively impact your chances if the adcom reader thinks poorly of the person you’re talking about. If it’s a well-known and well-respected name in the medical field, and you truly worked closely with them, a better route would be to request a letter of recommendation. 

Made-up Stories

See the first point above: Be Authentically YOU. False or embellished stories could backfire and tank your reputation. Honesty and integrity are prized qualities in physicians; don’t start your career off with a lie. 

A Duplicate of Your CV

The personal statement is not the time to rehash your resume. It IS the time to talk about how those experiences impacted you and steered you toward medicine. “I volunteered at nursing homes” is on your CV. “Volunteering at nursing homes and seeing the effect brain exercises had on patient recall and memory made me interested in geriatric psychology and Alzheimer’s research” is an appropriate way to expand on your CV in your personal statement. 

Awards You Won Years Ago

If you’re going to mention any awards in your essay, make sure they’re recent and relevant to your goal of getting into medical school and becoming a doctor. Don’t reach back to high school and talk about your “Future Scientist” award. 

Cliches

Admissions committees know you want to be a doctor because you want to “help others.” Other cliches to avoid include: 

• an innate passion for medicine (“I’ve wanted to be a doctor my entire life”)

• dramatic patient anecdotes (“The patient was wheezing and his lips were rapidly turning blue. I knew something had to be done fast”)

• routine doctor visits (“That doctor helped me overcome my fear of immunizations and inspired me”)

• stories of pre-med students that save a patient’s life (“While on a volunteer shift I noticed the patient’s vitals drop and notified the doctor in time for the patient to get lifesaving treatment”)

Third Person Writing

Bizarre, but it’s happened! Your personal statement is about you. If you wouldn’t have a conversation and refer to yourself as “Ben,” “him,” and “he,” then don’t do it in your writing, either. 

Irrelevant Stories

You’re not going to tug on any heartstrings relaying the story about your second cousin who broke his toe. Personal stories are good, but remember that they need to be relevant, engaging, and close to you to be impactful. 

That One Bad Grade

If your essay is being read, it means that your grades are strong enough to have gotten you here. 

We’ve talked about a lot of big picture dos and don’ts of the personal statement. Now let’s take a look at the actual components of the essay so we can start thinking about organization and writing. 

Components of the Personal Statement

AMCAS’ 5,300 character count works out to be about 500 words, or 1.5 pages. Easy enough, right? But when you’re staring at a blank page, it can be paralyzing.

Breaking the personal statement down into manageable chunks can help some students better conquer it. In general, think about the structure of your essay containing 4-5 components: 

Introduction (1 paragraph)

This is your first impression, and it needs to be memorable. Start your essay with a personal story or anecdote and introduce your narrative/theme by tying it to the story. 

Body (2-3 paragraphs)

Expand on your theme. This is where you’ll highlight pivotal experiences — remember, not just that you conducted research, but how it affected you personally and drove your desire to pursue medicine. You can also use this space to discuss your admirable traits that will make you a good physician. As cringeworthy as it feels to toot your own horn, the personal statement truly is the place where you need to shine and set yourself apart from other applicants. 

Conclusion (1 paragraph)

This is where everything comes together and you leave a lasting impression on the reader. Instead of using the conclusion to rehash the points you already covered (i.e. “For the reasons stated above, I believe…”), use the conclusion to look to the future and share your vision for how you want to impact the field of medicine. Your personal stories, pivotal experiences, and admirable attributes you already shared will all naturally support this vision and your reason for applying to medical school.

And don’t actually say “In conclusion” in your conclusion. Just wrap it up and conclude.

Now it’s time to put pen to paper! 

The Writing Process 

You know what makes a strong personal statement, what missteps to avoid, and have a plan for breaking it into manageable sections. Now let’s dig into the actual writing process. 

Not all of these tips will work for all students. You know whether you’re a meticulous planner, or whether stream of consciousness writing and heavy editing works best for you. But these are some tips from advisors and students that may help you get started.

Brainstorm 

Consider the following brainstorming prompts. You can use these to get the creative juices flowing, or if you’re a more visual planner you can create an idea cloud or outline. 

Significant/formative life experiences: things that have greatly influenced your life, the way you conduct yourself, your outlook on the world, or your decisions:

• Excelling at something, especially if it enables you to teach or impact others (sports, science, foreign languages, special skills)

• Getting a second chance at something

• Connecting with or working with a person that made a significant impact on your life

• Getting out of your comfort zone (traveling, moving, interacting with people from different backgrounds)

• Overcoming an obstacle or challenging life experience that was out of your control

• Reflecting on a mistake you made and how it influenced how you conduct yourself

People that had an impact on you (positive or negative), and how that affected your journey to medical school:

• Parents, siblings, or friends

• Mentors, teachers, or professionals

• Authors, actors, speakers, or personal heroes

Personal characteristics and skills that you have, and how those skills translate into being a good physician:

• Integrity, compassion, diligence, humanity, courage, respect, curiosity, or optimism 

• Communication, organization, collaboration, leadership, or competence

Just Start Writing

Free writing is helpful to some people. Instead of focusing on how good you want your essay to be, just start writing. Even if it’s a stream of consciousness, or your beginning ideas, get it on paper. It’s best to start long and condense. You can always cut/paste, reorganize, and fine-tune later. 

Dr. Butty reminds students that, “You can then decide whether that experience speaks to you or whether you have this other experience that you think might work better; but you can’t actually do that until you are able to let go and start writing. Don’t worry about it being good at first, just worry about getting your thoughts on paper.”

Start Writing Early

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t try to write a perfect personal statement in one sitting. Even for people who can write off the cuff, this is typically a time when procrastination doesn’t pay. Applying to medical school is stressful enough without pulling an all-nighter trying to write something as important as your personal statement. 

Dr. Katzen, MedSchoolCoach Master Advisor and previous admissions committee member at GWU, recommends starting on the personal statement in December/January for students planning to apply in May/June. This gives you plenty of time to have others review it or to get professional personal statement editing services. It also gives you time to write multiple drafts and be 100% satisfied with your final essay. 

Take Breaks Between Drafts

On the topic of multiple drafts, be sure to allocate enough time to take breaks between drafts and really reflect on your essay.

In fact, some advisors (and med school students) recommend perfecting a first draft, then setting it aside and completely starting from scratch on a new draft. Maybe your first draft focused on volunteer or research experience, and your second draft showcases your creative writing more. Is one better than the other? Or is there a way to merge them to create a third and perfect draft? 

Get Opinions from Others

Ask others to read your essay, but be selective of who you ask. Close friends and family may be brutally honest and discourage you, or they may say what you want to hear and avoid any criticism altogether. If you want to involve those closest to you during the process, it’s better to ask them something like, “Why do you think I would make a good doctor?” Ask them this early in the process so that you can see how their perspective and recollection of your life experiences might tie into your personal narrative. 

If you want others to read your personal statement, it’s usually better to ask someone more impartial — like a professor, work or research colleague, or a med school student who’s already been through the application process. 

Proofread to PERFECTION

There is zero room for errors on your personal statement. Spelling and punctuation errors, typos, and grammatical issues WILL reflect poorly on you.

We recommend using a text only editor for the final draft of your essay so that there are no formatting issues when you paste it into the AMCAS editor. But during the writing process, it is absolutely ok to use a more dynamic word processor – like Word or Google Docs – that will alert you to errors while writing. 

Bonus points if you utilize a writing assistant software that can give you feedback on more in-depth issues related to tone and syntax. To go a step further, a professional writing advisor can help you identify repetitive ideas, be more concise, fine-tune your transitions, and help you avoid common mistakes. 

Best of all, the advisors like the ones at MedSchoolCoach have experience serving on medical school admissions committees. They’ve read thousands of personal statements and know exactly how to help you shine. 

Brush Up on Your Technical Writing

David Flick, MD and Associate Director of Advising at MedSchoolCoach offers some technical writing tips for the residency personal statement. While this is a longer and even more challenging essay than you’ll hopefully be writing in the coming years, the advice applies to the medical school personal statement as well!

Dynamic Writing – Dynamic writing refers to the rhythm of your writing. There needs to be a mix of long and short sentences as well as variety of sentence structure. Read your essay out loud. If you have to catch your breath in the middle of a sentence, it’s too long. If there is a repetitive rhythm it’s usually because too many short sentences are strung together.

Language & Vocabulary – It’s important to consider both the reader as well as your reputation when making language and vocabulary choices. While it’s safe to assume members of an admissions committee are intelligent, this is not the time for smarty-pants vocabulary that will distract the reader from the message. At the same time, it’s important to make word choices that elevate your writing by making sentences more descriptive. 

For example, Dr. Flick says to avoid using “really” and “very” as adverbs. There is almost always a better word choice. 

“Really great” can be fantastic/wonderful/amazing

“Very important” can be significant/critical/momentous

In the sentence, “I really enjoyed the research experience” the word “really” can be truly/positively/certainly

He also recommends that you avoid using contractions, as they are for informal and conversational writing, not application writing. 

Punctuation – Dr. Flick argues that simple sentence punctuation is usually best. When you start modifying sentence structure with quotations, semicolons, and ellipses, it can be a distraction for readers. Even if you know how to use punctuation correctly, there’s no guarantee the reader does. They may get hung up on the placement of a semicolon and lose the meaning of the sentence.

Syntax – Syntax refers to the order and arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence. Common syntax issues are related to run-on sentences, subject-verb agreement, matching tenses, and passive voice. Writers with a solid grasp on syntax are able to craft clear, direct sentences.

This resource has some great examples of syntax errors in sentences, why they’re incorrect, and how to fix them.  

Now let’s take a look at some real personal statements from both traditional and non-traditional medical school applicants. 

Sample Personal Statements

Traditional Personal Statement Example 

The following example is from a medical student who made their submission an AMCAS-style personal statement. It serves as a great example for an effective personal statement and we thought it was a good read overall!

"Four-letter word for “dignitary.” The combinations surge through my mind: emir? agha? tsar? or perhaps the lesser-used variant, czar? I know it’s also too early to rule out specific names – there were plenty of rulers named Omar – although the clue is suspiciously unspecific. Quickly my eyes jump two columns to the intersecting clue, 53-Across, completely ignoring the blur outside the window that indicates my train has left the Times Square station. “Nooks’ counterparts.” I am certain the answer is “crannies.” This means 49-Down must end in r, so I eliminate “agha” in my mind. Slowly, the pieces come together, the wordplay sending my brain into mental gymnastics. At the end of two hours, I find myself staring at a completed crossword puzzle, and as trivial as it is, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

As an avid cruciverbalist, I have a knack for problem-solving. In college I had fallen in love with another kind of puzzle: organic chemistry. While some of my peers struggled with its complexity, the notion of analyzing mass spectroscopy, IR spectrums, and H-NMR to identify a specific molecule invigorated me. In my biology classes, the human body was an amazing mystery to me. Intricacies such as hormonal up- and down-regulation really pulled at the riddler in me; I was not satisfied until I understood the enigma of how the body worked. Graduate school at Columbia was an extension of this craving, and I chose a thesis topic that would attempt to elucidate the sophisticated workings of neuro-hormonal balance peri-bariatric surgery.

In non-academic settings, I also pursued activities that would sharpen my intellect. To me, the act of teaching was a form of problem-solving; a good teacher finds the most effective way to convey information to students. So I accepted the challenge and taught in both international and domestic settings. In church, I assumed leadership positions because it forced me to think critically to resolve conflicts; and in lab, I volunteered to help write a review on the biological mechanisms of weight regain. It was exactly what I loved: isolating a specific human phenomenon and investigating how it worked.

I believe medicine and puzzles are in the same vein. After participating in health fairs, working at a clinic, and observing physicians, I understand that pinpointing the exact needs of a patient is difficult at times. In a way, disease itself can be a puzzle, and doctors sometimes detect it only one piece at a time – a cough here, lanugo there. Signs and symptoms act as clues that whittle down the possibilities until only a few remain. Then all that is left is to fill in the word and complete the puzzle. Voila!

Actually, it is not as easy as that, and inevitably the imperfect comparison falls through.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a psychiatric patient at Aftercare. He had just revealed to me his identity as Batman, and he also believed he was Jesus. During downtime in-between tests he decided to confide in me some of his dreams and aspirations. He swiftly pulled out a sketchpad and said confidently, “When I get better, I’m going back to art school.” Any doubts stemming from his earlier ramblings vanished at the sight of his charcoal-laden sheets filled with lifelike characters. “They’re… really good,” I stammered. I was looking for the right words to say, but there are times when emotions are so overwhelming that words fail. I nodded in approval and motioned that we should get back to testing. Those next few hours of testing flew by as I ruminated what I had experienced. After working 3 years at the clinic, I had been so caught up in the routine of “figuring out” brain function that I missed the most important aspect of the job: the people. And so, just as the crossword puzzle is a 15×15 symbol of cold, hard New York streets, a person is the polar opposite; patients are breathing, fluid, and multi-dimensional. I have come to love both, but there is really nothing I want more in the world than to see a broken person restored, a dream reignited, to see Mr. Batman regain sanity and take up art school again. The prospect of healing others brings me joy that surpasses even completing the challenging crosswords in the Sunday paper.

This is why I feel called to a life in medicine. It is the one profession that gives me the opportunity to restore others while thinking critically and appreciating human biology. I am passionate about people, and medicine allows me to participate in their lives in a tangible, physical way that is aligned with my interest in biology and problem-solving skill. The New York Times prints a new puzzle each day, and so does the Washington Post, USA Today, and the list continues. The unlimited supply of puzzles mirrors the abundance of human disease and the physician’s ongoing duty to unravel the mystery, to resolve the pain. A great cruciverbalist begins with the basics of learning “crosswordese,” a nuanced language; I am prepared to do the same with health, starting with my education in medical school. Even so, I am always humbled by what little I know and am prepared to make mistakes and learn along the way. After all, I would never do a crossword puzzle in pen."

Non-Traditional Personal Statement Example 

Because many medical school applicants today are non-traditional students, we wanted to provide a successful non-traditional student personal statement example.

"Twenty-five years ago, I was delivered by C-section at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Despite my breech presentation I was expected to be in perfect health. Yet much to everyone’s shock, I arrived with my left knee hyper-extended by more than 90 degrees and my right foot clubbed inwards. The medical consensus was that I might never walk – a sentiment shared by my mother, herself a physician. As she held me for the first time, she could not imagine that 23 years later we would be running together across the finish line of my first ten-mile race, or that gaining the ability to run would spark my interest in medicine.

My future was transformed by Dr. Lynn Staheli, the pediatric orthopedic surgeon who pioneered the procedure used to reverse my hyperextension. He operated to correct my clubbed foot and knee, with the caveat that I would have only partial flexion in my left leg. I spent the majority of my infancy in a body cast and my childhood in physical therapy. I was able to compensate for my limited range of motion while skiing and learned to ride a bike with only my right leg. However, knee pain during these activities and my leg swinging stiffly sideways while running were constant reminders of my injury, which appeared to be a lifelong impediment. At the time I did not fully understand how my life had been irrevocably impacted by the highly skilled medical intervention of my surgeon.

While Dr. Staheli gave me the ability to walk, my mother inspired me to run. My mother took up running for the first time at age 50, training for the New York Marathon. Watching her transform into an avid runner, I too began to believe that I could overcome my physical impediment. Limited flexion made it difficult to build muscle in my left leg, and I needed extreme focus to change my natural gait. Eventually, countless hours on the elliptical trainer corrected my motion, and weight-lifting strengthened my legs. By college I was running nearly every morning. I entered my first race – San Francisco’s Presidio 10-miler – with my mother for her 58th birthday. This year for her 60th we crossed the finish line hand-in-hand for the third year in a row. As I prepare for my first half-marathon this July, I now fully appreciate the impact that Dr. Staheli made on my life 25 years ago.

Even though I grew up in a physician family, my interest in pursuing medicine as a career was sparked by my appreciation for the profound impact that medical intervention had on my quality of life. As I wanted to make similar improvements in the lives of others, I began exploring health sciences and health care from as many vantage points as possible. I spent time in clinics, first shadowing physicians at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and later as a volunteer on the transplant ward of a children’s hospital in Moscow, Russia during my study-abroad program."

MedSchoolCoach Helps You Write Your BEST Personal Statement

Remember, the time to start working on your personal statement is December/January before the May/June you plan to apply to medical school. Whether you simply need a fresh set of eyes on your essay, or you need guidance throughout the entire medical school application process, MedSchoolCoach is here to help.

We’ve helped thousands of students get accepted into medical school with expert guidance from our Physician Advisors and Writing Advisors. Our Advisors have years of experience serving on admissions committees and more than 500,000 hours of advising under their belts. They’ll work with you one-on-one, get to know the real you, and help you create a compelling and authentic essay that wows. 

More than 90% of students who work with MedSchoolCoach on their personal statement receive at least one interview invitation. Are you ready for yours?

Additional Resources

Do you want to learn even more about personal statements? Dive into these great resources!


Webinars

Preparing Your Personal Statement For Medical Programs
Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Director of Writing & College Advising, Jennifer Speegle 

Creating the First Draft of Your Medical School Personal Statement
Hosted by MedSchoolCoach advising and writing advisors, Ziggy Yoediono MD and James Fleming 

Where to Begin When Writing Your Personal Statement
Hosted by MedSchoolCoach Associate Director of Writing and College Advising, Jennifer Speegle, Associate Director of Advising, Ziggy Yoediono MD, and Writing Advisor, Carrie Coaplen Ph. D 

The Medical School Personal Statement – What Makes a Great Intro and Why It’s Important 
Hosted by Director of Advising, Dr. Renee Marinelli, MD, Master Advisor, Dr. Ziggy Yoediono, MD, and Founder of MedSchoolCoach, Dr. Sahil Mehta, MD

The Prospective Doctor Podcast

Episode 2 – The Personal Statement 

Episode 42 – Writing Your Personal Statement 

Episode 76 – How to Tackle the Medical School Personal Statement 

Weekly Weigh-In

In this Weekly Weigh-In, med school students discuss their own process for writing their personal statements!

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Medical School Personal Statement

How to Write a Great Medical School Personal Statement

Your initial advancement in any application process hinges on writing a strong personal statement, medical school is no different. When[...]

calendar-icon August 20, 2019
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The Personal Statement: How Early Should You Start?

During our recent MedSchoolCoach webinar, “Establishing Your Brand: How to be Unique When Applying to Medical School”, Dr. Mehta, CEO[...]

calendar-icon January 10, 2018
Webinar: Putting Together a Great Application and Personal Statement

Webinar: Putting Together a Great Application and Personal Statement

This webinar already happened, so check out our previous recordings! See Our Webinar Recordings Free Webinar: Putting Together a Great[...]

calendar-icon March 13, 2017

Guidebooks

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The Pre-Med Journey

The Pre-Med Journey: What it Takes to Get into Medical School

Thinking about applying to medical school? Discover what high school students need to know about obtaining a career in medicine.

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Successfully Planning for the USMLE Step 1 and 2 CK

Successfully Planning for the USMLE Step 1 and 2 CK

Get ready for the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 with this free guide to study planning and resource utilization.

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100 MCAT Study Tips

100 MCAT Study Tips

Taking the MCAT? These 100 tips and tricks will help you ace the MCAT.

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Enter your email address to add this customizable packing list to your Google Drive for FREE!