3 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

3 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

I’m so excited to announce that I recently launched my new online course on how to write a Standout Personal Statement in 5 days! This is the exact framework I used to write mine when I applied to residency this cycle and I can tell, I got many praises from my interviews!

In this blog post, I will be sharing 3 of the top mistakes I see in personal statements. For reference, I have edited over a hundred personal statements over the last 12 months!

1. Talking too much about a patient or someone other than you.

I have seen this over and over again.

Students will write multiple paragraphs detailing a patient encounter to demonstrate how impactful that was to them. Or, they will describe how a physician was so incredibly that they hope to be like them. This is NOT the point of the personal statement.

Remember, this is YOUR personal statement. The admission committee want to learn about you and your purpose. While it’s important to have some stories in your statement, a good rule of thumb I abide by is that no paragraph should be more than 50% describing someone else.

To do this, briefly describe the patient story or clinical experience, then spend the much of the time describing how it impacted you. What did you take away from the experience? How did it change your view of medicine? Did this motivate you to take specific actions after?

This will be more impactful to the reader as they will be able to understand who you are through your essay, which is the main purpose!

2. Being disorganized

Many students will jump back and forth between experiences and thoughts. This makes it very challenging to read as a reader. In order to prevent this, make sure you outline your PS before you write. This way, you can see exactly what you are trying to write before you write.

The 5-point framework I recommend:

1. Opening paragraph – start with a hook and interesting story
2. Body/supporting paragraph #1 – describe an activity or experience that led you to “why medicine or this specialty.”
3. Body/supporting paragraph #2 – build on your narrative by describing another activity or experience that led you to “why medicine or this specialty.”
4. Body/supporting paragraph #3 – continue to do the same as the previous paragraph. Highlight your strengths and skills if you haven’t already.
5. Conclusion – tie this paragraph to the opening paragraph to bring your essay full circle. Describe your goals for medicine and where you see yourself in the future.

3. Not having a memorable theme

A cohesive and memorable essay is developed around a theme. You should connect the dots with your experiences and find a connecting theme.

For instance, if you come from an immigrant family, are really interesting in health care disparities, and had many leadership roles in organizations that break down access to care – that’s you’re theme! In each of your paragraphs, you will want to remind your reader that THIS is why you got involved your volunteer experience and why want to pursue medicine.

In order to create a memorable theme, you need to do a lot brainstorming. Write down all the activities you’ve done, really think about those pivotal moments in your life, and how can you find a common thread.

Oftentimes, students will struggle with this, so it can be helpful to enlist in a friend, mentor, or advisor to help you with this.

If you’re interested in working with me in crafting your personal statement, be sure to check out my course: Standout Personal Statement in 5 days!

Best of luck!