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Health Professions Advising

Medicine

Personal Statement

 

Crafting Your Message (Part 1)

Identify Your Themes

Once you have determined what details you want to include in your essay, you should go about determining how these details will fit together. What message do you want them to send to the admissions committee? Your message will form the core of your essay, tying it together into a cohesive whole. All of your details should flow from, connect back to, and provide support for this message. Although you have the final say in what your message will be, it is recommended that your message encompass at least three core themes:

Additional Strategies

Keep the rest of your application in mind – Step back and take an objective look at your entire application package. What does all of this information say about you? If you feel there is important information about you that is not being conveyed in your application, then think about how you can use your essay to present a more complete picture of yourself to the admissions committee.

Similarly, look for any redundancies between your essay and the rest of the application. Do you need to say these things twice? In general, you should not recapitulate in your essay those items that can be found elsewhere in the application. Do not try to cram in a prose listing of all your activities and accomplishments because there is another section of the application meant for you to do just that. Your goal is to demonstrate personal characteristics or describe pivital experiences not included anywhere else in your application.

Moreover, be on the lookout for red flags. If there is a hole or gap that appears in another part of your application, then the committee will look to your personal statement to provide an explanation. Anything you say will probably be better than whatever scenario the committee dreams up on its own. Yet, if you need to do this, make sure you explain rather than excuse – you want to come off as a mature, responsible adult, not a whining child. For example, don't try to excuse a low MCAT score by saying you're a bad test taker (this would actually hurt your application because medical school is all about taking tests) or your low grade in organic chemistry by saying your professor had a problem with you. On the other hand, if you were seriously ill or had some other personal emergency, then explain it to the committee. Take responsibility for your academic record, show what steps you've taken to improve it, and move on.

Avoid discussing medical issues – Don't tell the admissions committee what it takes to be a doctor (they already know, and probably better than you do). Also, a discussion of controversial medical issues in your essay is not advised for the following reasons:

  • The essay is about you, not about these issues.
  • With only one page to write about the issue, you'll be unable to discuss the issue with the consideration it is due.
  • You may risk offending someone on the committee.
  • Your audience likely knows more about the issue than you do.

If the issue is something that has personally affected you and is tied into your motivations to become a physician, then it may be appropriate to mention if you do so tactfully and with due consideration to both sides of the argument. Don't preach! If you're unsure if something is controversial or not, remember this: when in doubt, leave it out.

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