How to Write Your Personal Statement


Writing a personal statement is one of the less fun things to do with a computer. I mean, who likes this stuff?! I will give you tips, then I will guide you, paragraph by paragraph, on how the personal statement should look like. I have written 2 high stakes personal statements: residency and fellowship. I have also read numerous personal statements as I was on the admissions committee for the last 8 years of my career. So you can say I have some experience with this. The examples will be real life examples related to medicine, but you can use these tips no matter what you are using your PS for.


Show your personality

We all know that you love this field, because your are making it you life's work. What aspect of personality or interests jives with this field. Let me give you an example. I am artistic, this is why I wanted to be a surgeon and work with my hands.


Don't recite your CV

They have your CV, they don't need it regurgitated into your PS, too.


Highlight your experiences

If there is something that is very big or important in your CV, then it may deserve space in your PS. I was one of the founding members of International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) in my university. That is a big deal. I talked about it in my residency PS.


How will the field change you and How will you change the field?

We know you will be an amazing star if you became X (insert: surgeon, internist, nurse, etc). How will the field benefit you? It's ok to talk about that! If you are not fulfilled by a career, you are more likely to leave it. And no one wants to hire a quitter. Get it?


Be honest: No BS in your PS.

If you are lying, it will be obvious. Don't say you did something you did not do, or are interested in something that doesn't interest you. You will get asked about it, trust me. Don't stretch the truth either.


Humble-brag: Be humble but self-promote

The whole point of the PS is to promote yourself and talk about how amazing you are and why the program should take you. Humble-brag is a style of writing more than a specific sentence you can insert. I must say, that I learned this term from one of my followers and it is amazing.


And finally, make it interesting

You are interesting, so don't appear boring to the reader and give them a chance to judge you before they meet you.



Putting it together


Your PS should be 1 to 1.5 pages max. I would keep it limited to one page honestly.


First paragraph

Captivate your audience with a story. This has to be interesting, or at least interestingly well-written. Don't lose your audience! It doesn't have to be something insane like how you performed surgery solo during your mission trip to Uganda (but if you did, cool, I'd use it). It could be something like your love for playing the guitar was when you had an epiphany and decided you needed to use your hands to heal people. Or how you played doctor with your dolls. Not everyone has a crazy story of why they chose their field. This is the paragraph where you can be dramatic, but don't be weird. Like if you lived in a war zone, I would include it. If you lost a loved one, or became a single mom at age 16, those are amazing stories that make you seem amazing, because you probably are. Just don't try too hard to make your life seem more exciting than it is. So don't make stuff up to make your upper middle-class suburban life seem tragic when it is not.


The middle: 2-3 paragraphs

Your most important accomplishments, those you hold dearest to you. Talk about them, but make it interesting. Again, do not regurgitate your CV (you can tell I enjoy this word lol).


What you love about your field, and what makes you fit in. Add real life examples. Leadership roles, no matter how small, are important here. And how about a time when you worked as a team: team player. Communication skills. Yes, generic stuff, but make it sparkle.

Also, let's talk about what the field does for you. Why does it fill your soul, gives you peace, or makes your blood pump.


Final paragraph

You need passion in this paragraph. Summarize why you are good for the field and why it is good for you, and why you hope to join this program specifically. You don't have to make a different PS for each program, but there are things that will fit with all programs: research, co-residents, interesting cases, high acuity patients, etc.



Discuss your gap


The PS is the perfect place to discuss why there are time gaps in your CV. I took a year off, but I explained it in my middle paragraphs: I volunteered, I practiced self-care, and I reconnected with family and friends I didn't have time for during medical school. You had a baby, a family emergency, a personal reason, include it. If you don't want to say it in your PS, be prepared to talk about it in real life, but I highly recommend you mention it here.


Final words


A personal statement has to be personal. Do not have anyone else write it for you.

Make sure you spell and grammar check.

Have a couple people read it. Someone in your field and someone who isn't ideally. They may have good ideas. But don't feel obligated to use their suggestions.




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