Health Professions Advising

Leslie Bell
Interim Health Professions Advisor

The Health Professions Advising Office is located on the third floor of Bristol Center.

Personal Statement

Writing Your Essay (Part 2)

Creating an Outline

When creating your outline, you will need to briefly summarize the information you wish to include in each paragraph. While the level of detail you use for each paragraph summary is up to you, here are some things you should consider including in each of your paragraph outlines:

  • Introduction: What is your lead-in?
  • Body Paragraphs: How are you going to move from the previous paragraph to this one? What is the main point of this paragraph? What evidence will you use to support this point? How does this point tie back to your overall themes?
  • Conclusion: How are you going to move from the previous paragraph to this one? How will you re-iterate the main points from your previous paragraphs? How will you take these points one step further? What will you leave your reader with?     

Here are several different types of organizational strategies you may wish to explore with your outline:

Standard structure: This type of organization is one you are probably very familiar with from your academic writing. It is a very versatile structure and is inherently logical in its presentation; however, if you're not careful, you may run the risk of sounding too formal and perhaps too derivative with your writing. As with all your essays, make sure you make your essay personal so your voice comes through. 

In your first paragraph, you introduce the main points of your essay. In the following paragraphs, you provide evidence to support each of your main points (usually defending one point per paragraph). In your final paragraph, you reiterate your main points in the context of the evidence you presented, possibly leaving the reader with some "big idea" that takes your message one step further.

Comparison: This organizational structure attempts to draw a comparison or analogy between two seemingly unrelated things. In the case of medical school applicants, these essays usually compare a non-medical life experience/talent/interest/famous quote with the field of medicine or the applicant's desire to pursue medicine. It is common for applicants to begin with a story, personal anecdote, quote as a lead and then spend the rest of the essay describing how the lead relates to or sheds light on medicine or their goal of becoming a physician. 

If you use this structure, make sure that you provide adequate reflection on how your two disparate ideas connect (or don't connect) to each other. Make your arguments explicit; don't leave it up to the audience to figure out your points. Also, don't get too abstract or philosophical in your comparisons. You don't need to say something profound; rather, just be yourself. Remember, your discussion should always lead back to you and your motivations to enter medical school.     

Chronology: In this type of outline, the writer takes the reader through the various steps in his/her life that led him/her to medicine. The introduction is usually the initial event that started the writer on his/her journey toward becoming a doctor. The writer then generally recounts the subsequent events in which he/she further explored and/or was further drawn into the medical profession before concluding with how all these events brought him/her to where he/she is today. 

The advantage of this approach is that it allows for a more personal approach and helps the admissions committee to know you by turning the focus of the essay to you throughout the various stages of your life. The drawback is that the points you are trying to make can get lost in the narration of your life. To avoid this potential danger, make sure you clearly state how each of these events shaped you and your decision to pursue medicine as well as the important lessons you learned along the way.


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