There is no doubt that the medical school application is complex. As a pre-med, regardless of where you are in your education – just starting out as a freshman or sophomore, completing pre-med courses as a junior or senior, or studying for the MCAT – it’s never too early to start thinking about your personal statement. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes pre-meds make is to not start thinking about their personal statement early enough. In fact, whether you realize it or not, you have already begun to write your personal statement, or at least gathering the experiences that will shape your story.
So as you take a step back from the hustle and bustle of school during the holiday season, I invite you to start taking some inventory of what makes you you! After all, the personal statement needs to be personal, and too often pre-meds take about everything but themselves in the statement.
First and foremost, it’s important to have a clear reason for your desire to study medicine – the inevitable, “why do you want to be a doctor” question. Rule number one, it is not good enough, nor will it help you at all, to say you want to help people and that’s why you want to become a doctor. There are a lot of ways to help people, after all. Rather, think about why you need to become a doctor so you can accomplish the goals you want to achieve.
Second, in the statement, you want to address the lessons you have learned from your experiences, and how they have shaped you as a person. The stories and experiences matter less than your explanation of their impact on your growth as an individual. Your personal statement is actually your first interview; it’s where an admissions officer gets to know you; the person beyond grades and MCAT scores. So make the statement impactful by telling your story. Now, it’s impossible to tell your entire story in the 5,300 characters that you are given in the statement, so you need to choose the highlights that convey the complete picture of who you are.
Your statement should have a theme that is developed throughout, that ties together the stories and the lessons learned, but each lesson should not be the same, they should each be different branches of unifying trunk that paints the picture of you.
As you journey down your path as a pre-med, you should be taking stock of the experiences that you have had. But you want to be certain to involve yourself in activities that are of interest to you. Never join a club or volunteer somewhere just because it will look good on the personal statement. One of the best personal statements I have read shared the story and lessons learned of a student who volunteered in a third world country, building irrigation systems. But from that non medical experience, the values of leadership, creativity, and commitment were all conveyed. Much better than saying you spent a summer wheeling patients from one wing of a hospital to another!
So reflect on who you are, and what makes your own brand so you can write a personal statement that makes an admissions officer say “I need to meet this person, and I need them sitting in next year’s first year class!”
To wrap things up, here are some tips on getting started writing your personal statement – remember, it is never too early to start!