The Number One Rule
Be yourself! As its name implies, you should make the personal statement personal. Write in your own voice. When you do this, your essay will automatically become more interesting and engaging, helping you stand out. The personal statement is your chance to put a human face on your application, placing all those numbers from your academic profile within the context of a real person. If you make the admissions committee feel that they know and like you, then it will be harder for them to reject you and may make them more likely to overlook some of the weaknesses you may have as a candidate.
To help your writing become personal, don't get hung up on being too formal with your writing. Try to give your essay an informal, conversational tone. Of course, "informal" and "conversational" don't mean that you can throw the standard conventions of writing and the rules of grammar out the window. Similarly, they don't mean that you can write something that you wouldn't say in polite conversation. What these words mean is that your essay shouldn't be a piece of stuffy, rigid academic writing. Rather, you should be speaking from the heart, letting your own voice shine through, and clearly explaining to the admissions committee why you want to be a doctor.
Being yourself and making your essay personal also involves writing about something that is truly meaningful and significant to you, not what you think will impress the admissions committee. If you write about something you are truly passionate about, then writing your essay will not only become easier but the essay itself will instantly become a more compelling read. Remember: if you find your essay boring, then the admissions committee most certainly will, too. Just make sure that whatever you write about relates back to your motivation to attend medical school and/or your ability to succeed once admitted.
Similarly, make sure you are always honest and sincere in what you write. The personal statement is only really helpful if it enables the reader to get a sense of who you are, and it can't do that if you aren't being truthful. Admissions committees have little tolerance for embellishments, and, after reading thousands of essays, they can easily tell when someone is trying to be someone they are not. In the end, the best personal statement is the one that is sincere and demonstrates something about you and your desire to be a doctor. Reflect on your experiences and achievements and on the decision-making process you've experienced to this point. See if you can tease out themes or experiences that were especially formative or unique.
The Inteview Connection
Interviewers often use your personal statement as fodder for questions. They may focus on a couple of key points mentioned in your essay and use these as springboards for discussion. If you have included experiences and ideas that are near and dear to you or that you feel strongly about, you will have no problem speaking with passion and confidence. Nothing is more appealing to admissions folk than a vibrant, intelligent, and articulate candidate.
Tell A Story
Weaving a story into your essay is a good way to make your essay more interesting, enjoyable, and personal. For example, telling the admissions committee about the summer you spent volunteering in an AIDS clinic will be much more interesting and convey information about you in a more intimate manner than a blanket statement like "I want to help people." The safest and most common way of integrating a story into an essay is to tell the story first and then explain why you presented that story and what lessons you learned from it. Additionally, beginning with a story forces you to begin with the action, which is a great way to get the reader's attention and keep them reading.
Personal Doesn't Mean Drama
When telling your story, remember that it need not be a personal epiphany, tragedy, or life-changing event to be compelling. Personal doesn't necessarily mean heavy, emotional, or awe-inspiring. There are few students who have had such an experience to write about, so you should not feel like you need one to get into medical school. In fact, students who rely too heavily on such an experience may do themselves a disservice because they focus too much on trying to impress the committee and not enough time explaining what the event meant to them (i.e. they don't make it personal).
Making your essay personal can be difficult as achieving this level of communication does not come naturally to everyone, especially those in a college environment where formal, academic papers are the norm, and it can be difficult to gauge the impression you are creating through your writing. Perhaps the best way of ensuring that your essay correctly conveys who you are and is written in your voice is have objective people, preferably those who do not know you, read it over and describe how you come across in the essay. This will allow you to see how close their description of who you are is to the image you are trying to present.
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