While your academic history is a reflection of your potential to successfully negotiate the medical school curriculum, your personal statement is the first step in developing a portrait of who you are as a person and whether or not you have the personality traits and characteristics necessary to be a physician. It is incumbent upon you to provide the evidence the committee requires to make its assessment of these "intangible" qualities. While you should certainly feel free to be creative in the content and presentation of your essay, it is highly recommended that you weave the following information throughout your personal story:
The admissions committee will look at your essay to see that you've answered the question "Why do you want to be a doctor?" You must be able to explain your motivation for attending medical school and, ultimately, pursuing a career in medicine. Use your essay to express your passion to pursue medicine and to show how your life experiences have led you to this decision. Yet, at the same time, the admissions committee also wants to see that you've given sufficient thought to what will be a significant commitment of the next decade or so of your life and know what you are getting into. Thus, you should present a sustained understanding of why you want to enter medicine, how you've tested your interest, and how you've prepared for the rigors of medical school and beyond.
The personal statement will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your social, writing, and communication skills, which are all important qualities in a doctor.
Let the rest of your application speak for your "hard" skills and accomplishments (i.e. grades, MCAT score, awards, etc.) Your essay should show your "soft" skills, such as your sincerity, maturity, empathy, compassion, commitment, honesty, uniqueness, etc. Being a doctor is just as much a humanistic pursuit as it is a scientific one as you will be interacting with people at a very intimate level on a daily basis. The qualities necessary for this humanistic side of medicine are not quantifiable and therefore not easily demonstrated through numbers, so the essay will be your first opportunity to showcase them.
You can use the personal statement to tell admissions committees something about yourself that you haven't disclosed in another section of your application. For example, you may want to discuss some special hardship, challenge, or obstacle that may have influenced your educational pursuits or comment on significant fluctuations or anomalies in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application. If you do decide to include the latter type of information, make sure to explain and not excuse these holes in your academic record. Try not to make apologies for your past, present a road map to your weaknesses, or make a problem bigger than it is. Provide a brief, mature explanation of any lapse and then spend the rest of your essay focusing on your strengths in other areas. Better yet, try to turn these weaknesses into strengths by showing how they have made you grow as a person, if applicable. But, whatever you do, don't whine or blame someone else; always be accountable for your own academic record.
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