- Medical School Application
Medical School Personal Statement Examples That Got 6 Acceptances
Including one that got six acceptances.
These 30 exemplary medical school personal statement examples come from our students who enrolled in one of our application review programs. Most of these examples led to multiple acceptance for our students. For instance, the first example got our student accepted into SIX medical schools. Here's what you'll find in this article: We'll first go over 30 medical school personal statement samples, then we'll provide you a step-by-step guide for composing your own outstanding statement from scratch. If you follow the strategy, you're going to have a stellar statement whether you apply to the most competitive or the easiest medical schools to get into .
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Article Contents 29 min read
30 stellar medical school personal statement examples, example #1/30.
I made my way to Hillary’s house after hearing about her alcoholic father’s incarceration. Seeing her tearfulness and at a loss for words, I took her hand and held it, hoping to make things more bearable. She squeezed back gently in reply, “thank you.” My silent gesture seemed to confer a soundless message of comfort, encouragement and support.
Through mentoring, I have developed meaningful relationships with individuals of all ages, including seven-year-old Hillary. Many of my mentees come from disadvantaged backgrounds; working with them has challenged me to become more understanding and compassionate. Although Hillary was not able to control her father’s alcoholism and I had no immediate solution to her problems, I felt truly fortunate to be able to comfort her with my presence. Though not always tangible, my small victories, such as the support I offered Hillary, hold great personal meaning. Similarly, medicine encompasses more than an understanding of tangible entities such as the science of disease and treatment—to be an excellent physician requires empathy, dedication, curiosity and love of problem solving. These are skills I have developed through my experiences both teaching and shadowing inspiring physicians.
Medicine encompasses more than hard science. My experience as a teaching assistant nurtured my passion for medicine; I found that helping students required more than knowledge of organic chemistry. Rather, I was only able to address their difficulties when I sought out their underlying fears and feelings. One student, Azra, struggled despite regularly attending office hours. She approached me, asking for help. As we worked together, I noticed that her frustration stemmed from how intimidated she was by problems. I helped her by listening to her as a fellow student and normalizing her struggles. “I remember doing badly on my first organic chem test, despite studying really hard,” I said to Azra while working on a problem. “Really? You’re a TA, shouldn’t you be perfect?” I looked up and explained that I had improved my grades through hard work. I could tell she instantly felt more hopeful, she said, “If you could do it, then I can too!” When she passed, receiving a B+;I felt as if I had passed too. That B+ meant so much: it was a tangible result of Azra’s hard work, but it was also symbol of our dedication to one another and the bond we forged working together.
My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems.
Shadowing physicians further taught me that medicine not only fuels my curiosity; it also challenges my problem solving skills. I enjoy the connections found in medicine, how things learned in one area can aid in coming up with a solution in another. For instance, while shadowing Dr. Steel I was asked, “What causes varicose veins and what are the complications?” I thought to myself, what could it be? I knew that veins have valves and thought back to my shadowing experience with Dr. Smith in the operating room. She had amputated a patient’s foot due to ulcers obstructing the venous circulation. I replied, “veins have valves and valve problems could lead to ulcers.” Dr. Steel smiled, “you’re right, but it doesn’t end there!” Medicine is not disconnected; it is not about interventional cardiology or orthopedic surgery. In fact, medicine is intertwined and collaborative. The ability to gather knowledge from many specialties and put seemingly distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.
Let's take a step back to consider what this medical school personal statement example does, not just what it says. It begins with an engaging hook in the first paragraph and ends with a compelling conclusion. The introduction draws you in, making the essay almost impossible to put down, while the conclusion paints a picture of someone who is both passionate and dedicated to the profession. In between the introduction and conclusion, this student makes excellent use of personal narrative. The anecdotes chosen demonstrate this individual's response to the common question, " Why do you want to be a doctor ?" while simultaneously making them come across as compassionate, curious, and reflective. The essay articulates a number of key qualities and competencies, which go far beyond the common trope, I want to be a doctor because I want to help people.
This person is clearly a talented writer, but this was the result of several rounds of edits with one of our medical school admissions consulting team members and a lot of hard work on the student's part. If your essay is not quite there yet, or if you're just getting started, don't sweat it. Do take note that writing a good personal essay takes advanced planning and significant effort.
We are here to help you articulate your own vision, passion, and skills in a way that is equally captivating and compelling!
Would you like to learn why "show, don’t tell" is the most important rule of any personal statement? Watch this:
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be doctor. I didn’t understand the responsibilities and heartbreaks, the difficult decisions, and the years of study and training that go with the title, but I did understand that the person in the white coat stood for knowledge, professionalism, and compassion. As a child, visits to the pediatrician were important events. I’d attend to my hair and clothes, and travel to the appointment in anticipation. I loved the interaction with my doctor. I loved that whoever I was in the larger world, I could enter the safe space of the doctor’s office, and for a moment my concerns were heard and evaluated. I listened as my mother communicated with the doctor. I’d be asked questions, respectfully examined, treatments and options would be weighed, and we would be on our way. My mother had been supported in her efforts to raise a well child, and I’d had a meaningful interaction with an adult who cared for my body and development. I understood medicine as an act of service, which aligned with my values, and became a dream.
I was hospitalized for several months as a teenager and was inspired by the experience, despite the illness. In the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I met truly sick children. Children who were much more ill than me. Children who wouldn’t recover. We shared a four-bed room, and we shared our medical stories. Because of the old hospital building, there was little privacy in our room, and we couldn’t help but listen-in during rounds, learning the medical details, becoming “experts” in our four distinct cases. I had more mobility than some of the patients, and when the medical team and family members were unavailable, I’d run simple errands for my roommates, liaise informally with staff, and attend to needs. To bring physical relief, a cold compress, a warmed blanket, a message to a nurse, filled me with such an intense joy and sense of purpose that I applied for a volunteer position at the hospital even before my release.
I have since been volunteering in emergency departments, out-patient clinics, and long term care facilities. While the depth of human suffering is at times shocking and the iterations of illness astounding, it is in the long-term care facility that I had the most meaningful experiences by virtue of my responsibilities and the nature of the patients’ illnesses. Charles was 55 when he died. He had early onset Parkinson’s Disease with dementia that revealed itself with a small tremor when he was in his late twenties. Charles had a wife and three daughters who visited regularly, but whom he didn’t often remember. Over four years as a volunteer, my role with the family was to fill in the spaces left by Charles’ periodic inability to project his voice as well as his growing cognitive lapses. I would tell the family of his activities between their visits, and I would remind him of their visits and their news. This was a hard experience for me. I watched as 3 daughters, around my own age, incrementally lost their father. I became angry, and then I grew even more determined.
In the summer of third year of my Health Sciences degree, I was chosen to participate in an undergraduate research fellowship in biomedical research at my university. As part of this experience, I worked alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, physicians, and faculty in Alzheimer’s research into biomarkers that might predict future disease. We collaborated in teams, and by way of the principal investigator’s careful leadership, I learned wherever one falls in terms of rank, each contribution is vital to the outcome. None of the work is in isolation. For instance, I was closely mentored by Will, a graduate student who had been in my role the previous summer. He, in turn, collaborated with post docs and medical students, turning to faculty when roadblocks were met. While one person’s knowledge and skill may be deeper than another’s, individual efforts make up the whole. Working in this team, aside from developing research skills, I realized that practicing medicine is not an individual pursuit, but a collaborative commitment to excellence in scholarship and leadership, which all begins with mentorship.
Building on this experience with teamwork in the lab, I participated in a global health initiative in Nepal for four months, where I worked alongside nurses, doctors, and translators. I worked in mobile rural health camps that offered tuberculosis care, monitored the health and development of babies and children under 5, and tended to minor injuries. We worked 11-hour days helping hundreds of people in the 3 days we spent in each location. Patients would already be in line before we woke each morning. I spent each day recording basic demographic information, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight, height, as well as random blood sugar levels, for each patient, before they lined up to see a doctor. Each day was exhausting and satisfying. We helped so many people. But this satisfaction was quickly displaced by a developing understanding of issues in health equity.
My desire to be doctor as a young person was not misguided, but simply naïve. I’ve since learned the role of empathy and compassion through my experiences as a patient and volunteer. I’ve broadened my contextual understanding of medicine in the lab and in Nepal. My purpose hasn’t changed, but what has developed is my understanding that to be a physician is to help people live healthy, dignified lives by practicing both medicine and social justice.
28 More Medical School Personal Statement Examples
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As one of the most important medical school requirements , the personal statement tells your story of why you decided to pursue the medical profession. Keep in mind that personal statements are one of the key factors that affect medical school acceptance rates . This is why it's important to write a stellar essay!
So let's help you get started writing your own personal statement. Let's approach this step-by-step. Below you will see how we will outline the steps to creating your very best personal statement. Check out AMCAS personal statement examples, AACOMAS personal statement examples and TMDSAS personal statement examples for more excellent essays.
#1 Understanding the Qualities of a Strong Med School Personal Statement
Before discussing how to write a strong medical school personal statement, we first need to understand the qualities of a strong essay. Similar to crafting strong medical school secondary essays , writing a strong personal statement is a challenging, yet extremely important, part of your MD or MD-PhD programs applications. Your AMCAS Work and Activities section may show the reader what you have done, but the personal statement explains why. A personal statement should be deeply personal, giving the admissions committee insight into your passions and your ultimate decision to pursue a career in medicine. A compelling and introspective personal statement can make the difference between getting an interview and facing medical school rejection . Review our blogs to find out how to prepare for med school interviews and learn the most common medical school interview questions .
As you contemplate the task in front of you, you may be wondering what composing an essay has to do with entering the field of medicine. Many of our students were surprised to learn that medical school personal statements are so valued by med schools. The two things are more closely related than you think. A compelling personal statement demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your accomplishments, passions, and aspirations. The ability to communicate a complex idea in a short space is an important skill as a physician. You should demonstrate your communication skills by writing a concise and meaningful statement that illustrates your best attributes. Leaving a lasting impression on your reader is what will lead to interview invitations.
A quick note: if you are applying to schools that do not require the formal medical school personal statement, such as medical schools in Canada , you should still learn how to write such essays. Many medical schools in Ontario , for example, ask for short essays for supplementary questionnaires. These are very similar to the personal statement. Knowing how to brainstorm, write, and format your answers is key to your success!!!
You want to give yourself as much time as possible to write your statement. Do not think you can do this in an evening or even in a week. Some statements take months. My best statement took almost a year to get right. Allow yourself time and start early to avoid added stress. Think of the ideas you want to include and brainstorm possible ways to highlight these ideas. Ask your friends for ideas or even brainstorm your ideas with people you trust. Get some feedback early to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
All personal statements for medical school, often start by explaining why medicine is awesome; the admission committee already knows that. You should explain why you want a career in medicine. What is it about the practice of medicine that resonates with who you are? Naturally, this takes a lot of reflection around who you are. Here are some additional questions you can consider as you go about brainstorming for your essay:
- What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
- What is something you want them to know about you that isn't in your application?
- Where were you born, how did you grow up, and what type of childhood did you have growing up (perhaps including interesting stories about your siblings, parents, grandparents)?
- What kinds of early exposure to the medical field left an impression on you as a child?
- Did you become familiar with and interested in the field of medicine at an early stage of your life? If so, why?
- What are your key strengths, and how have you developed these?
- What steps did you take to familiarize yourself with the medical profession?
- Did you shadow a physician? Did you volunteer or work in a clinical setting? Did you get involved in medical research?
- What challenges have you faced? Have these made an impact on what you chose to study?
- What are your favorite activities?
- What kinds of extracurriculars for medical school or volunteer work have you done, and how have these shaped who you are, your priorities, and or your perspectives on a career in medicine?
- What was your "Aha!" moment?
- When did your desire to become a doctor solidify?
- How did you make the decision to apply to medical school?
As you begin thinking about what to include in your personal essay, remember that you are writing for a specific audience with specific expectations. Your evaluator will be familiar with the key qualities desired by medical schools, as informed by the standards of the profession. They will be examining your essay through the lens of their particular school's mission, values, and priorities. You should think about your experiences with reference to the AAMC Core Competencies and to each school's mission statement so that you're working toward your narrative with the institution and broader discipline in mind.
Review AAMC Core Competencies : The AAMC Core Competencies are the key characteristics and skills sought by U.S. medical schools. These are separated into four general categories:
Science Competencies : living systems and human behavior. ","label":"Science","title":"Science"}]' code='tab1' template='BlogArticle'>
You are not expected to have mastered all of these competencies at this stage of your education. Display those that are relevant to your experiences will help demonstrate your commitment to the medical profession.
Review the school's mission statement: Educational institutions put a lot of time and care into drafting their school's vision. The mission statement will articulate the overall values and priorities of each university, giving you insight into what they might seek in candidates, and thus what you should try to display in your personal statement. Echoing the values of the university helps illustrate that you are a good fit for their intellectual culture. The mission statement may help you identify other priorities of the university, for example, whether they prioritize research-based or experiential-based education. All this research into your chosen medical schools will help you tremendously not only when you write you personal statement, but also the rest of your medical school application components, including your medical school letter of intent if you ever need to write one later.
Just like the personal statement is, in essence, a prompt without a prompt. They give you free rein to write your own prompt to tell your story. This is often difficult for students as they find it hard to get started without having a true direction. Below is a list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Use these prompts as a starting point for your essay. Also, they are a great way of addressing why you want to be a doctor without saying something generic.
- The moment your passion for medicine crystallized
- The events that led you toward this path
- Specific instances in which you experienced opportunities
- Challenges that helped shape your worldview
- Your compassion, resilience, or enthusiastic collaboration
- Demonstrate your commitment to others
- Your dependability
- Your leadership skills
- Your ability to problem-solve or to resolve a conflict
These are personal, impactful experiences that only you have had. Focus on the personal, and connect that to the values of your future profession. Do that and you will avoid writing the same essay as everyone else.
Admissions committees don't want your resumé in narrative form. The most boring essays are those of applicants listing their accomplishments. Remember, all that stuff is already in the activities section of the application. This is where you should discuss interesting or important life events that shaped you and your interest in medicine (a service trip to rural Guatemala, a death in the family, a personal experience as a patient). One suggestion is to have an overarching theme to your essay to tie everything together, starting with an anecdote. Alternatively, you can use one big metaphor or analogy through the essay.
Your personal statement must be well-organized, showing a clear, logical progression, as well as connections between ideas. It is generally best to use a chronological progression since this mirrors your progression into a mature adult and gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you learned from early mistakes later on. Carry the theme throughout the statement to achieve continuity and cohesion. Use the theme to links ideas from each paragraph to the next and to unite your piece.
Medical School Personal Statement Structure
When working toward the initial draft of your essay, it is important to keep the following in mind: The essay should read like a chronological narrative and have good structure and flow. Just like any academic essay, it will need an introduction, body content, and a conclusion. If you're wondering whether a medical school advisor can help you with your medical school application, check out our blog for the answer.
Check out our video to learn how to create a killer introduction to your medical school personal statement:
The introductory paragraph and, even more importantly, the introductory sentence of your essay, will most certainly make or break your overall statement. Ensure that you have a creative and captivating opening sentence that draws the reader in. This is your first and only chance to make a first impression and really capture the attention of the committee. Starting with an event or an Aha! moment that inspired your decision to pursue a medical profession is one way to grab their attention. The kinds of things that inspire or motivate you can say a lot about who you are as a person.
The broader introductory paragraph itself should serve several functions. First, it must draw your reader in with an eye-catching first line and an engaging hook or anecdote. It should point toward the qualities that most effectively demonstrate your desire and suitability for becoming a physician (you will discuss these qualities further in the body paragraphs). The thesis of the introduction is that you have certain skills, experiences, and characteristics and that these skills, experiences, and characteristics will lead you to thrive in the field of medicine. Finally, it must also serve as a roadmap to the reader, allowing them to understand where the remainder of the story is headed.
That is a lot of work for a single paragraph to do. To better help you envision what this looks like in practice, here is a sample introduction that hits these main points.
I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a professional chef. This was not just another far-fetched idealistic childhood dream that many of us had growing up. There was a sense of certainty about this dream that motivated me to devote countless hours to its practice. It was mostly the wonder that it brought to others and the way they were left in awe after they tried a dish that I recall enjoying the most creating as a young chef. But, when I was 13, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I realized that sometimes cooking is not enough, as I quickly learned about the vital role physicians play in the life of everyday people like my family and myself. Although my grandfather ended up passing away from his illness, the impact that the healthcare team had on him, my family, and I will always serve as the initial starting point of my fascination with the medical profession. Since that time, I have spent years learning more about the human sciences through my undergraduate studies and research, have developed a deeper understanding of the demands and challenges of the medical profession through my various volunteer and extra-curricular experiences, and although it has been difficult along the way, I have continued to forge a more intimate fascination with the medical field that has motivated me to apply to medical school at this juncture of my life. ","label":"Sample Introduction","title":"Sample Introduction"}]' code='tab3' template='BlogArticle'>
In the body of your essay, you essentially want to elaborate on the ideas that you have introduced in your opening paragraph by drawing on your personal experiences to provide evidence. Major points from the above sample introduction could be: dedication and resilience (practicing cooking for hours, and devoting years to undergraduate studies in human sciences), passion and emotional connection (being able to create something that inspired awe in others, and personally connecting with the work of the grandfather's healthcare team), motivation and drive (being inspired by the role physicians play in their patients' lives, participating in volunteer work and extracurriculars, and an enduring fascination with the field of medicine). Depending on the details, a selection of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences might also be discussed in more detail, in order to emphasize other traits like collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, or a sense of social responsibility – all key characteristics sought by medical schools. Just like an academic essay, you will devote one paragraph to each major point, explaining this in detail, supporting your claims with experiences from your life, and reflecting on the meaning of each plot point in your personal narrative, with reference to why you want to pursue a medical career.
Your final statement should not be a simple summary of the things you have discussed. It should be insightful, captivating, and leave the reader with a lasting impression. Although you want to re-emphasize the major ideas of your essay, you should try to be creative and captivating, much like your opening paragraph. Sometimes if you can link your opening idea to your last paragraph it will really tie the whole essay together. The conclusion is just as important as the introduction. It is your last chance to express your medical aspirations. You want to impress the reader while also leaving them wanting more. In this case, more would mean getting an interview so they can learn more about who you are! Leave them thinking I have got to meet this person.
The narrative you construct should display some of your most tightly held values, principles, or ethical positions, along with key accomplishments and activities. If you see yourself as someone who is committed to community service, and you have a track record of such service, your story should feature this and provide insight into why you care about your community and what you learned from your experiences. Saying that you value community service when you've never volunteered a day in your life is pointless. Stating that your family is one where we support each other through challenge and loss (if this is indeed true), is excellent because it lays the groundwork for telling a story while showing that you are orientated towards close relationships. You would then go on to offer a brief anecdote that supports this. You are showing how you live such principles, rather than just telling your reader that you have such principles.
A lot of students make the mistake of verbalizing their personal attributes with a bunch of adjectives, such as, "This experience taught me to be a self-reliant leader, with excellent communication skills, and empathy for others..." In reality, this does nothing to convey these qualities. It's a mistake to simply list your skills or characteristics without showing the reader an example of a time you used them to solve a problem. If you simply list your skills or characteristics (telling), without demonstrating the ways you have applied them (showing), you risk coming across as arrogant. The person reading the essay may not believe you, as you've not really given them a way to see such values in your actions. It is better to construct a narrative to show the reader that you possess the traits that medical schools are looking for, rather than explicitly stating that you are an empathetic individual or capable of deep self-reflection. Instead of listing adjectives, tell your personal story and allow the admissions committee to paint the picture for themselves. This step is very challenging for many students, but it's one of the most important strategies used in successful essays. Writing this way will absolutely make your statement stand out from the rest.
While it may be tempting to write in a high academic tone, using terminology or jargon that is often complex or discipline-specific, requiring a specialized vocabulary for comprehension. You should actually aim to write for a non-specialist audience. Remember, in the world of medicine, describing a complex, clinical condition to a patient requires using specific but clear words. This is why your personal statement should show that you can do the same thing. Using large words in unwieldy ways makes you sound like you are compensating for poor communication skills. Use words that you believe most people understand. Read your personal statement back to a 14-year-old, and then again to someone for whom English is not their first language, to see if you're on the right path.
Ultimately, fancy words do not make you a good communicator; listening and ensuring reader comprehension makes you a good communicator. Instead of using complex terminology to tell the admissions committee that you have strong communication skills, show them your communication skills through clear, accessible prose, written with non-specialists in mind. A common refrain among writing instructors is, never use a $10 word where a $2 word will suffice. If you can say it in plain, accessible language, then this is what you should do.
Professionalism may seem like a difficult quality to display when only composing a personal statement. After all, the reader can't see your mannerisms, your personal style, or any of those little qualities that allow someone to appear professional. Professionalism is about respect for the experience of others on your team or in your workplace. It is displayed when you are able to step back from your own individual position and think about what is best for your colleagues and peers, considering their needs alongside your own. If a story is relevant to why you want to be a physician and demonstrates an example of how you were professional in a workplace setting, then it is appropriate to include in your essay.
One easy way to destroy a sense of professionalism is to act in a judgmental way towards others, particularly if you perceived and ultimately resolved an error on someone else's part. Sometimes students blame another medical professional for something that went wrong with a patient.
They might say something to the effect of, "The nurse kept brushing off the patient's concerns, refusing to ask the attending to increase her pain medications. Luckily, being the empathetic individual that I am, I took the time to listen to sit with the patient, eventually bringing her concerns to the attending physician, who thanked me for letting him know."
There are a couple of things wrong with this example. It seems like this person is putting down someone else in an attempt to make themselves look better. They come across as un-empathetic and judgmental of the nurse. Maybe she was having a busy day, or maybe the attending had just seen the patient for this issue and the patient didn't really need re-assessment. Reading this kind of account in a personal statement makes the reader question the maturity of the applicant and their ability to move past blaming others and resolve problems in a meaningful way. Instead of allocating blame, identify what the problem was for the patient and then focus on what you did to resolve it and reflect on what you learned from the whole experience.
One last note on professionalism: Being professional does not mean being overly stoic, hiding your emotions, or cultivating a bland personality. A lot of students are afraid to talk about how a situation made them feel in their personal statement. They worry that discussing feelings is inappropriate and will appear unprofessional. Unfortunately for these students, emotional intelligence is hugely important to the practice of medicine. In order to be a good doctor, one must be aware of their own emotions as well as those of their patients. Good doctors are able to quickly identify their own emotions and understand how their emotional reactions may inform their actions, and the ability to deliver appropriate care, in a given situation. Someone who is incapable of identifying their emotions is also incapable of managing them effectively and will likely struggle to identify the emotions of others. So, when writing your personal statement, think about how each experience made you feel, and what you learned from those feelings and that experience.
How to Write About Discrepancies and Common Mistakes to Avoid
Part of your essay's body can include a discussion of any discrepancies or gaps in your education, or disruptions in your academic performance. If you had to take time off, or if you had a term or course with low grades, or if you had any other extenuating circumstances that impacted your education, you can take time to address these here. It is very important to address these strategically. Do not approach this section as space to plead your case. Offer a brief summary of the situation, and then emphasize what you learned from such hardships. Always focus on the positive, illustrating how such difficulties made you stronger, more resilient, or more compassionate. Connect your experiences to the qualities desired by medical schools.
Emphasize your ability to persevere through it all but do so in a positive way. Most of all, if you feel like you have to explain yourself, take accountability for the situation. State that it is unfortunate and then redirect it to what you learned and how it will make you a better doctor. Always focus on being positive and do not lament on the negative situation too much.
Additional Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements:
Check out this video on the top 5 errors to avoid in your personal statement!
Step 3: Writing Your First Draft
As you can see, there is a LOT of planning and consideration to be done before actually starting your first draft. Properly brainstorming, outlining, and considering the content and style of your essay prior to beginning the essay will make the writing process much smoother than it would be you to try to jump right to the draft-writing stage. Now, you're not just staring at a blank page wondering what you could possibly write to impress the admissions committee. Instead, you've researched what the school desires from its students and what the medical profession prioritizes in terms of personal characteristics, you've sketched out some key moments from your life that exemplify those traits, and you have a detailed outline that just needs filling in.
As you're getting started, focus on getting content on the page, filling in your outline and getting your ideas arranged on the page. Your essay will go through multiple drafts and re-writes, so the first step is to free write and start articulating connections between your experiences and the characteristics you're highlighting. You can worry about flow, transitions, and perfect grammar in later drafts. The first draft is always a working draft, written with the understanding that its purpose is to act as a starting point, not an ending point. Once you've completed a draft, you can begin the revising process. The next section will break down what to do once you have your first draft completed.
You can also begin looking at things like style, voice, transitions, and overall theme. The best way to do this is to read your essay aloud. This may sound strange, but it is one of the single most impactful bits of writing advice a student can receive. When we're reading in our heads (and particularly when we're reading our own words), it is easy to skip over parts that may be awkwardly worded, or where the grammar is off. As our brains process information differently, depending on whether we're taking in visual or auditory information, this can also help you understand where the connections between ideas aren't as evident as you would like. Reading the essay aloud will help you begin internalizing the narrative you've crafted, so that you can come to more easily express this both formally in writing and informally in conversation (for example, in an interview).
#1 Did You Distinguish Yourself From Others?
Does your narrative sound unique? Is it different than your peers or did you write in a generic manner? Use your narrative to provide a compelling picture of who you are as a person, as a learner, as an advocate, and as a future medical professional. What can you offer? Remember, you will be getting a lot out of your med school experience, but the school will be getting a lot out of you, as well. You will be contributing your research efforts to your department, you will be participating in the academic community, and as you go on to become a successful medical professional you will impact the perception of your school's prestige. This is a mutually beneficial relationship, so use this opportunity to highlight what you bring to the table, and what you will contribute as a student at their institution. Let them know what it is about you that is an attribute to their program. Make them see you as a stand out from the crowd.
#2 Does My Essay Flow and is it Comprehensible?
Personal statements are a blessing and a curse for admission committees. They give them a better glimpse of who the applicant is than simple scores. Also, they are long and time-consuming to read. And often, they sound exactly alike. On occasion, a personal statement really makes an applicant shine. After reading page after page of redundant, cookie-cutter essays, an essay comes along with fluid prose and a compelling narrative, the reader snaps out of that feeling of monotony and gladly extends their enthusiastic attention.
Frankly, if the statement is pleasant to read, it will get read with more attention and appreciation. Flow is easier to craft through narrative, which is why you should root the statement in a story that demonstrates characteristics desirable to medical schools. Fluidity takes time to build, though, so your statement should be etched out through many drafts and should also be based on an outline. You need to brainstorm, then outline, then draft and re-draft, and then bring in editors and listeners for feedback (Note: You need someone to proofread your work. Bestselling authors have editors. Top scholars have editors. I need an editor. You need an editor. Everyone needs an editor). Then, check and double-check and fix anything that needs fixing. Then check again. Then submit. You want this to be a statement that captures the reader's interest by creating a fluid, comprehensible piece that leads the reader to not only read each paragraph but want to continue to the next sentence.
#3 Did You Check Your Grammar?
If you give yourself more than one night to write your statement, the chances of grammatical errors will decrease considerably. If you are pressed for time, upload your file into an online grammar website. Use the grammar checker on your word processor, but know that this, in itself, isn't enough. Use the eyes and ears of other people to check and double-check your grammar, punctuation, and syntax. Read your statement out loud to yourself and you will almost certainly find an error (and likely several errors). Use fresh eyes to review the statement several times before you actually submit it, by walking away from it for a day or so and then re-reading it. Start your essay early, so that you actually have time to do this. This step can make or break your essay. Do not waste all the effort you have put into writing, to only be discarded by the committee for using incorrect grammar and syntax.
#4 Did You Gather Feedback From Other People?
The most important tip in writing a strong application essay is this getting someone else to read your work. While the tips above are all very useful for writing a strong draft, nothing will benefit you more than getting an outside appraisal of your work. For example, it's very easy to overlook your own spelling or grammatical errors. You know your own story and you may think that your narrative and it's meaning make sense to your reader. You won't know that for sure without having someone else actually read it. This may sound obvious, but it's still an absolute necessity. Have someone you trust to read the essay and ask them what they thought of it. What was their impression of you after reading it? Did it make sense? Was it confusing? Do they have any questions? What was the tone of the essay? Do they see the connections you're trying to make? What were their takeaways from your essay, and do these align with your intended takeaways for your reader? Ideally, this person should have some knowledge of the application process or the medical profession, so that they can say whether you were successful in demonstrating that you are a suitable candidate for medical school. However, any external reader is better than no external reader at all.
Avoid having people too close to you read your work. They may refrain from being too critical in an effort to spare your feelings. This is the time to get brutal, honest feedback. If you know someone who is an editor but do not feel that they can be objective, try and find someone else.
Would you like 8 medical school personal statement tips? Check out our video below:
FAQs and Final Notes
Your personal statement should tell your story and highlight specific experiences or aspects of your journey that have led you to medicine. If your first exposure or interest in the medical field was sparked from your own medical struggles, then you can certainly include this in your statement. What is most important is that you write about what factors or experiences attributed to you deciding that medicine is the right career path for you.
Sometimes students shy away from including their own personal struggles and describing how they felt during difficult times but this is a great way for admissions committees to gain perspective into who you are as a person and where your motivations lie. Remember, this is your story, not someone else's, so your statement should revolve around you. If you choose to discuss a personal hardship, what's most important is that you don't cast yourself as the victim and that you discuss what the experience taught you. Also, medical schools are not allowed to discriminate against students for discussing medical issues, so it is not looked at as a red flag unless you are talking about an issue inappropriately. For example, making yourself appear as the victim or not taking responsibility.
All US medical schools require the completion of a personal statement with your AMCAS, TMDSAS or AACOMAS applications.
Medical schools in Canada on the other hand, do not require or accept personal statements. In lieu of the personal statement, a few of these schools may require you to address a prompt in the form of an essay, or allow you to submit an explanation essay to describe any extenuating circumstances, but this is not the same as the US personal statement. For example, when applying through OMSAS , the University of Toronto medical school requires applicants to complete four short, 250 words or less, personal essays.
Many students struggle with whether or not they should address an unfavorable grade in their personal statement. What one student does isn't necessarily the right decision for you.
To help you decide, think about whether or not that bad grade might reflect on your poorly. If you think it will, then it's best to address the academic misstep head-on instead of having admissions committees dwell on possible areas of concern. If you're addressing a poor evaluation, ensure that you take responsibility for your grade, discuss what you learned and how your performance will be improved in the future - then move on. It's important that you don't play the victim and you must always reflect on what lessons you've learned moving forward.
Of course not, just because you didn't wake up one morning and notice a lightbulb flashing the words medicine, doesn't mean that your experiences and journey to medicine are inferior to those who did. Students arrive to medicine in all sorts of ways, some change career paths later in life, some always knew they wanted to pursue medicine, and others slowly became interested in medicine through their life interactions and experiences. Your personal statement should address your own unique story to how you first became interested in medicine and when and how that interest turned to a concrete desire.
While your entire statement is important, the opening sentence can often make or break your statement. This is because admission committee members are reviewing hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. If your opening sentence is not eye-catching, interesting, and memorable, you risk your statement blending in with the large pile of other statements. Have a look at our video above for tips and strategies for creating a fantastic opening sentence.
Having your statement reviewed by family and friends can be a good place to start, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible for them to provide you with unbiased feedback. Often, friends and family members are going to support us and rave about our achievements. Even if they may truly think your statement needs work, they may feel uncomfortable giving you their honest feedback at the risk of hurting your feelings.
In addition, family and friends don't know exactly what admission committee members are looking for in a personal statement, nor do they have years of experience reviewing personal statements and helping students put the best version of themselves forward. For these reasons, many students choose to seek the help of a professional medical school advisor to make sure they have the absolute best chances of acceptance to medical school the first time around.
If you have enough time set aside to write your statement without juggling multiple other commitments, it normally takes at least four weeks to write your statement. If you are working, in school, or volunteering and have other commitments, be prepared to spend 6-8 weeks.
Your conclusion should have a summary of the main points you have made in your essay, but it should not just be a summary. You should also end with something that makes the reader want to learn more about you (i.e. call you for an interview). A good way to do this is to include a call-back to your opening anecdote: how have you grown or matured since then? How are you more prepared now to begin medical school?
The goal is to show as many of them as you can in the WHOLE application: this includes your personal statement, sketch, reference letters, secondary essays, and even your GPA and MCAT (which show critical thinking and reasoning already). So, it’s not an issue to focus on only a few select experiences and competencies in the personal statement.
Yes, you can. However, if you used an experience as a most meaningful entry, pick something else to talk about in your essay. Remember, you want to highlight as many core competencies across your whole application). Or, if you do pick the same experience: pick a different specific encounter or project with a different lesson learned.
Once your essay is in good shape, it's best to submit to ensure your application is reviewed as soon as possible. Remember, with rolling admissions, as more time passes before you submit your application, your chances of acceptance decreases. Nerves are normal and wanting to tinker is also normal, but over-analyzing and constant adjustments can actually weaken your essay.
So, if you're thinking about making more changes, it's important to really reflect and think about WHY you want to change something and if it will actually make the essay stronger. If not your changes won't actually make the essay stronger or if it's a very minor change you're thinking of making, then you should likely leave it as is.
The reality is, medical school admission is an extremely competitive process. In order to have the best chance of success, every part of your application must be stellar. Also, every year some students get in whose GPAs or MCAT scores are below the median. How? Simply because they must have stood out in other parts of the application, such as the personal statement.
The ones that honestly made the most impact on you. You'll need to reflect on your whole life and think about which experiences helped you grow and pushed you to pursue medicine. Ideally, experiences that show commitment and progression are better than one-off or short-term activities, as they usually contribute more to growth.
This Ultimate Guide has demonstrated all the work that needs to be done to compose a successful, engaging personal statement for your medical school application. While it would be wonderful if there was an easy way to write your personal statement in a day, the reality is that this kind of composition takes a lot of work. As daunting as this may seem, this guide lays out a clear path. In summary, the following 5 steps are the basis of what you should take away from this guide. These 5 steps are your guide and sort of cheat sheet to writing your best personal statement.
5 Main Takeaways For Personal Statement Writing:
- Content and Theme
- Multiple Drafts
- Revision With Attention to Grammar
While a strong personal statement alone will not guarantee admission to medical school, it could absolutely squeeze you onto a medical school waitlist , off the waitlist, and onto the offer list, or give someone on the admissions committee a reason to go to battle for your candidacy. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the incredible skills you've worked and studied to refine, the remarkable life experiences you've had, and the key qualities you possess in your own unique way. Show the admissions committee that you are someone they want to meet. Remember, in this context, wanting to meet you means wanting to bring you in for an interview!
Dr. Lauren Prufer is an admissions expert at BeMo. Dr. Prufer is also a medical resident at McMaster University. Her medical degree is from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. During her time in medical school, she developed a passion for sharing her knowledge with others through medical writing, research, and peer mentoring.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
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I have been reading posts regarding this topic and this post is one of the most interesting and informative one I have read. Thank you for this!
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The Only 3 Medical School Personal Statement Examples You Need to Read
Posted in: Applying to Medical School
The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the med school application process . Why? This mini-essay provides a critical opportunity for you to stand out from other prospective medical students by demonstrating your passion and personality, not just your grades.
Admissions committees receive numerous AMCAS medical school applications , so yours should be unique and captivating. Your medical school personal statement shows admissions officers who you are beyond your high school or pre-med GPA , extracurriculars , and MCAT score .
The best personal statements are… well, personal . This is your chance to share what life experiences have compelled you toward a career in healthcare or the medical field , and how those experiences shape the picture of your ideal future.
MedSchoolCoach has crucial advice for writing your personal statement .
Read these examples of personal statements for prospective med students.
Writing a great medical school personal statement is a lot easier with the right support. We’ve helped numerous med school applicants craft top-notch personal statements and can do the same for you.
But First: 7 Steps to Writing an Engaging Personal Statement
Before you read these excellent examples, you need to understand the process of writing a personal statement.
Include these in your medical school personal statement:
- Why you’re passionate about becoming a doctor
- Your qualities that will make you a great physician
- Personal stories that demonstrate those qualities
- Specific examples of the communities you want to serve as a member of the medical field
What are the most important things to remember when writing a medical school personal statement ?
- Begin the writing process early: Give yourself plenty of time for brainstorming and to revisit your first draft, revising it based on input from family members and undergrad professors. Consult the application timeline for your target enrollment season.
- Choose a central theme: An unfocused essay will leave readers confused and uninterested. Give your statement a clear thesis in the first paragraph that guides its formation.
- Start with a hook: Grab the reader’s attention immediately with your statement’s first sentence. Instead of opening with a conventional introduction, be creative! Begin with something unexpected.
- Be the you of today, not the you of the future: Forecasting your future as a physician can come across as empty promises. Don’t get caught up in your ambitions; instead, be honest about your current situation and interest in the field of medicine.
- Demonstrate your passion: It’s not enough to simply state your interest in becoming a doctor; you have to prove it through personal stories. Show how your perspectives have been shaped by formative experiences and how those will make you an effective physician.
- Show, don’t tell : Avoid cliches that admissions committees have heard hundreds of times, like “I want to help people.” Make your writing come alive with dynamic, persuasive storytelling that recounts your personal experiences.
- Tie everything together: Conclude by wrapping up your main points. Reiterate your passion for the medical profession, your defining personal qualities, and why you’ll make a good doctor.
You can read more about our recommended method in our step-by-step guide , but those are the major points.
Example 1 — From the Stretcher to the Spotlight: My Journey to Becoming an Emergency Medicine Physician
Another siren shrieks as the emergency room doors slide open and a team of EMTs pushes a blood-soaked stretcher through the entrance. It’s the fifth ambulance to arrive tonight — and only my first clinical shadowing experience in an emergency medicine department since my premed education began.
But it wasn’t my first time in an emergency room, and I knew I was meant to be here again.
In those crucial moments on the ER floor, many of my peers learned that they stumble in high-pressure environments. A few weeks of gunshot wounds, drug overdoses, broken bones, and deep lacerations in the busiest trauma bay in the region were enough to alter their career path.
They will be better practitioners somewhere predictable, like a pediatrician in a private practice where they choose their schedules, clients, and staff.
Every healthcare provider has their specialties, and mine are on full display in those crucial moments of lifesaving care. Why am I pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine? Because I’ve seen firsthand the miracles that Emergency Medicine physicians perform.
12 years ago, I was in an emergency room… but I was the one on the stretcher.
A forest-green Saturn coupe rolled into my parent’s driveway. The driver, my best friend Kevin, had just passed his driving test and was itching to take a late-night run to the other side of town. I had ridden with Kevin and his father many times before when he held his learner’s permit. But this time, we didn’t have an adult with us, and the joyride ended differently: with a 40-mph passenger-side collision, T-boned by a drunk driver.
I distinctly recall the sensation of being lifted out of the crumpled car by a paramedic and laid onto a stretcher. A quick drive later, I was in the care of Dr. Smith, the ER resident on call that night. Without missing a beat, he assessed my condition and provided the care I needed. When my mom thanked him for saving my life, he simply responded, “It’s what he needed.”
Now I’m watching other doctors and nurses provide this life-saving care as I observe as a premed student. I see the way the staff works together like a well-oiled machine, and it reminds me of my time in high-school theater.
Everyone has a role to play, however big or small, to make the show a success. All contributions are essential to a winning performance — even the technicians working behind the scenes. That’s what true teamwork is, and I see that same dynamic in the emergency department.
Some actors freeze during performances, overcome by stage fright. Other students are too anxious to even set foot in front of an audience; they remain backstage assisting with split-second costume changes.
Not me. I felt energized under the spotlight, deftly improvising to help my co-stars when they would forget their lines. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best actor or singer in the cast, but I provided something essential: assurance under pressure. Everyone knew me as dependable, always in their corner when something went awry. I had a reputation for remaining calm and thinking on my feet.
My ability to stay unruffled under pressure was first discovered on stage, but I can use it on a very different platform providing patient care. Now, when other people freeze under the intensity of serving public health on the front lines, I can step in and provide my calm, collected guidance to see them through.
As an ER doctor, I will have to provide that stability when a nurse gets flustered by a quarrelsome patient or shaken from an irreparably injured infant. When you’re an Emergency Medicine physician, you’re not following a script. It takes an aptitude of thinking on your toes to face the fast pace and unpredictable challenges of an emergency center.
During my time shadowing, I saw experienced physicians put those assured, gentle communication skills to use. A 13-year-old boy was admitted for a knife wound he’d received on the streets. He only spoke Spanish, but it was clear he mistrusted doctors and was alarmed by the situation. In mere minutes, one of the doctors calmed the patient so he could receive care he needed.
Let me be clear: I haven’t simply gravitated toward Emergency Medicine because I liked it most. It’s not the adrenaline or the pride that compel me. I owe Emergency Medicine my life, and I want to use my life to extend the lives of other people. Every person brought into the trauma bay could be another me , no matter what they look like.
People are more than their injury, health record, or circumstances. They are not just a task to complete or a challenge to conquer.
My childhood injury gave me an appreciation for the work of ER doctors and a compassion for patients, to foster well-being when people are most broken and vulnerable. I already have the dedication to the work and the heart for patients; I just need the medical knowledge and procedural skills to perform life-saving interventions. My ability to remain calm, think on my toes, be part of a team, and work decisively without making mistakes or overlooking critical issues will serve me well as an Emergency Medicine physician.
Some ER physicians I spoke with liked to think that they’re “a different breed” than other medical professionals — but I don’t see it that way. We’re just performing a different role than the rest of the cast.
Breaking It Down
Let’s look at what qualities make this a great personal statement for med school.
- Engaging opening: The writer painted a vivid scene that immediately puts the reader in their shoes and leaves them wanting more.
- Personal examples: The writer demonstrated his ability to stay calm, work as a team, and problem-solve through theater experience, which he also uses as a comparison. And, he explained his passion for Emergency Medical care from his childhood accident.
- Organized: The writer transitions fluidly between body paragraphs, connecting stories and ideas by emphasizing parallels and hopping back and forth between time.
- Ample length: Makes full use of the AACOMAS and AMCAS application personal statement’s character limit of 5,300 characters (including spaces), which is about 850-950 words.
Unsure what traits and clinical or research experience your preferred medical school values ? You can research their admissions requirements and mission statement using the MSAR .
Example 2 — Early Clinical Work For Empathetic Patient Care
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine.
As I walked briskly down the hall to keep up during our daily rounds in the ICU, I heard the steady beeping of Michelle’s cardiac monitor and saw a ruby ornament twinkling on the small Christmas tree beside her. She was always alone, but someone had decorated her room for the holidays.
It warmed my heart that I wasn’t the only one who saw her as more than a patient in a coma. I continually felt guilty that I couldn’t spend more time with her; her usual companions were ventilators, IV bags, and catheters, not to mention the golf ball-sized tumors along her spine. Every day, I thought about running to Michelle’s bedside to do anything I could for her.
Thus, I was taken aback when my advisor, who was visiting me that day, asked me if I was okay. It never crossed my mind that at age 17, my peers might not be able to handle the tragedies that healthcare workers consistently face. These situations were difficult, but they invoked humanity and compassion from me. I knew I wanted to pursue medicine. And I knew I could do it.
From my senior year of high school to my senior year of college, I continued to explore my passion for patient interaction.
At the Stepp Lab, I was charged with contacting potential study participants for a study focusing on speech symptoms in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. The study would help future patients, but I couldn’t help but think: “What are we doing for these patients in return?” I worried that the heart and soul behind the research would get lost in the mix of acoustic data and participant ID numbers.
But my fears were put to rest by Richard, the self-proclaimed “Parkinson’s Song & Dance Man,” who recorded himself singing show tunes as part of his therapy. Knowing that he was legally blind and unable to read caller ID, I was always thrilled when he recognized my voice. The spirit in his voice indicated that my interest in him and his journey with Parkinson’s was meaningful. Talking with him inspired me to dive deeper, which led to an appreciative understanding of his time as a sergeant in the U.S. military.
It was an important reminder: my interest and care are just as important as an effective prescribed treatment plan.
Following graduation, I began my work as a medical assistant for a dermatologist. My experience with a patient, Joann, validated my ability to provide excellent hands-on patient care. Other physicians prescribed her painkillers to relieve the excruciating pain from the shingles rash, which presented as a fiery trail of blisters wrapped around her torso. But these painkillers offered no relief and made her so drowsy that she fell one night on the way to the bathroom.
Joann was tired, suffering, and beaten down. The lidocaine patches we initially prescribed would be a much safer option, but I refused for her to pay $250, as she was on the brink of losing her job. When she returned to the office a week later, she held my hand and cried tears of joy because I found her affordable patches, which helped her pain without the systemic effects.
The joy that pierced through the weariness in her eyes immediately confirmed that direct patient care like this was what I was meant to do. As I passed her a tissue, I felt ecstatic that I could make such a difference, and I sought to do more.
Since graduation, I have been volunteering at Open Door, a small pantry that serves a primarily Hispanic community of lower socioeconomic families. It is gut-wrenching to explain that we cannot give them certain items when our stock is low. After all, the fresh fruits and vegetables I serve are fundamental to their culturally-inspired meals.
For the first time, I found myself serving anguish rather than a helping hand. Usually, uplifting moments strengthen one’s desire to become a physician, but in this case, it was my ability to handle the low points that reignited my passion for aiding others.
After running out of produce one day, I was confused as to why a woman thanked me. Through translation by a fellow volunteer, I learned it was because of my positivity. She taught me that the way I approach unfavorable situations affects another’s perception and that my spirited attitude breaks through language barriers.
This volunteer work served as a wake-up call to the unacceptable fact that U.S. citizens’ health suffers due to lack of access to healthy foods. If someone cannot afford healthy foods, they may not have access to healthcare. In the future, I want to partner with other food banks to offer free services like blood pressure readings. I have always wanted to help people, but I now have a particular interest in bringing help to people who cannot afford it.
While the foundation of medicine is scientific knowledge, the foundation of healthcare is the word “care” itself. I never found out what happened to Michelle and her Christmas tree, but I still wonder about her to this day, and she has strengthened my passion to serve others. A sense of excitement and comfort stems from knowing that I will be there for people on their worst days, since I have already seen the impact my support has had.
In my mind, becoming a physician is not a choice but a natural next step to continue bringing humanity and compassion to those around me.
How did this personal statement grab and sustain attention so well?
- Personalization: Everything about this statement helps you to understand the writer, from their personal experiences to their hope for how their future career will look.
- Showing, not telling: From the first sentence, the reader is hooked. This prospective medical student has plenty of great “on paper” experience (early shadowing, clinical experience, etc.), but they showed this with storytelling, not by repeating their CV.
- Empathy: An admissions committee reading this personal statement would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this student cares deeply about their patients. They remember first names, individual details, and the emotions that each patient made them feel.
- A clear path forward: The writer doesn’t just want to work in the medical field — they have a passion for exactly how they want to impact the communities they serve. Outside of strictly medical work, they care about the way finances can limit access to healthcare and the struggle to find healthy food in food deserts around the US .
Read Next: How Hard Is It to Get Into Medical School?
Example 3 — Beyond the Diagnosis: The Importance of Individualized Care in Medicine
The applicant who wrote this personal statement was accepted into Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nova Southeastern University College Of Osteopathic Medicine.
Dr. Haywood sighs and shakes her head upon opening the chart. “I was worried about her A1C. It’s up again. Hypertension, too. Alright, let’s go.”
As we enter the patient’s room, I’m expecting the news about her blood sugar and pressure to fill the room. Instead, Dr. Haywood says, “Roseline! How are you doing? How’s your girl, doing well?”
Dr. Haywood continues to ask questions, genuinely interested in Roseline’s experience as a new mother. If not for the parchment-lined examination chair and anatomy posters plastered to the wall, this exchange could be happening in a grocery store. What about her A1C? Her blood pressure? Potential Type II diabetes?
As I continue to listen, Dr. Haywood discovers that Roseline’s mother moved in with her, cooking Haitian meals I recognize as high on the glycemic index. Dr. Haywood effortlessly evolves their conversation to focus on these. Being Haitian herself, she knows some traditional dishes are healthier than others and advises Roseline to avoid those that might exacerbate her high blood sugar and blood pressure. Dr. Haywood also suggests Roseline incorporate exercise by bringing her baby on a walk through her neighborhood.
During my shadowing experience, I observed one of the core components of being a physician through several encounters like this one. By establishing a relationship with her patient where Roseline was comfortable sharing the details of new motherhood, Dr. Haywood was able to individualize her approach to lowering the patient’s A1C and hypertension. Inspired by her ability to treat the whole person , I began to adopt a similar practice as a tutor for elementary kids in underserved areas of D.C.
Shaniyah did not like Zoom, or math for that matter. When I first met her as a prospective tutee online, she preferred to keep her microphone muted and would claim she was finished with her math homework after barely attempting the first problem. Realizing that basing our sessions solely on math would be fruitless, I adapted my tutoring style to incorporate some of the things for which she had a natural affinity.
The first step was acknowledging the difficulties a virtual environment posed to effective communication, particularly the ease at which distractions might take over. After sharing this with Shaniyah, she immediately disclosed her struggles to share her work with me. With this information, I found an online platform that allowed us to visualize each other’s work.
This obstacle in communication overcome, Shaniyah felt more comfortable sharing details about herself that I utilized as her tutor. Her love of soccer gave me the idea to use the concept of goal scoring to help with addition, and soon Shaniyah’s math skills and enthusiasm began to improve. As our relationship grew, so did her successes, and I suspect the feelings I experienced as her tutor are the same as a physician’s when their patient responds well to prescribed treatment.
I believe this skill, caring for someone as a whole person , that I have learned and practiced through shadowing and tutoring is the central tenet of medicine that allows a doctor to successfully treat their patients.
Inspired by talking with patients who had received life-altering organ transplants during my shadowing experience, I created a club called D.C. Donors for Georgetown University students to encourage their peers to register as organ donors or donate blood. This experience taught me that to truly serve a person, you must involve your whole person, too.
In starting this club to help those in need of transplants, I had to dedicate my time and effort beyond just my physical interactions with these patients. For instance, this involved reaching out to D.C.’s organ procurement organization to inquire about a potential partnership with my club, to which they agreed. In addition, I organized tabling events on campus, which required significant planning and communication with both club members and my university.
Though exciting, starting a club was also a difficult process, especially given the limitations the pandemic imposed on in-person meetings and events. To adapt, I had to plan more engaging meetings, designing virtual activities to make members more comfortable contributing their ideas. In addition, planning a blood drive required extensive communication with my university to ensure the safety of the staff and participants during the pandemic.
Ultimately, I believe these behind-the-scenes actions were instrumental in addressing the need for organ and blood donors in the D.C. area.
From these experiences, I have grown to believe that good medicine not only necessitates the physician cares for her patient as a whole, but also that she fully commits her whole person to the care of the patient. Tutoring and starting D.C. Donors not only allowed me to develop these skills but also to experience such fulfilling emotions: the pride I had in Shaniyah when her math improved, the gratefulness I felt when she confided in me, the steadfast commitment I expressed to transplant patients, and the joy I had in collaborating with other passionate club members.
I envision a career as a physician to demand these skills of me and more, and I have confirmed my desire to become one after feeling so enriched by practicing them.
Here’s what makes this personal statement such a good example of what works:
- Desirable qualities: The student clearly demonstrates qualities any school would want in an applicant: teachability, adaptability, leadership, organization, and empathy, to name a few. This again uses the “show, don’t tell” method, allowing the readers to understand the student without hand-holding.
- Personalized storytelling: Many in the healthcare profession will connect with experiences like the ones expressed here, such as addressing patient concerns relationally or the lack of blood donors during the recent pandemic. The writer automatically makes a personal link between themselves and the admissions committees reading this statement.
- Extensive (but not too long): Without feeling too wordy, this personal statement uses nearly all of the 5,300 characters allowed on the AMCAS application. There’s no fluff left in the final draft, only what matters.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
You can learn a lot from those personal statements. They avoid the most common mistakes that med school applicants make when writing the medical school personal statement.
What makes a bad med school personal statement? Here are some things you should avoid in your personal statement if you want to be a doctor:
- Don’t name-drop: Admissions counselors won’t be impressed when you brag about your highly regarded family members, associates, or mentors. You need to stand on your own feet — not someone else’s.
- Don’t be dishonest: Lies and exaggerations can torpedo your application. And they’re bad habits for anyone entering the medical field. Don’t do it.
- Don’t use AI to write your personal statement: Artificial intelligence can help you edit and improve your writing, but don’t let it do the work for you. Your statement needs to be authentic, which means in your voice! A chatbot can’t feel or adequately convey your own empathy, compassion, trauma, drive, or personality.
- Don’t make mistakes: Have someone reliable proofread your essay and scour it for typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors. Even free grammar-checking apps can catch mistakes!
- Don’t explain without demonstrating: I’ll reiterate how important it is to prove your self-descriptive statements with real-life examples. Telling without showing won’t persuade readers.
- Don’t include too many examples: Have 3-4 solid personal stories at most; only include a few that are crucial for providing your points. The more experiences you share, the less impact they’ll make.
- Don’t waste words: Cut all fluff, filler, and irrelevant points. There are many other places you can include information in your application, such as secondary essays on your clinical experience, volunteer work, and research projects .
You can find more valuable do’s and don’ts in our in-depth guide to writing your best personal statement .
Need extra help? We’ve got you covered.
Schedule a meeting with MedSchoolCoach for expert support on writing and editing your personal statement. We’re here to help you impress medical school admissions committees !
Renee Marinelli MD
Dr. Marinelli is an advisor at MedSchoolCoach and former admissions committee member at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Her insight into the application process is second to none!
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Medicine Personal Statement Examples
Last updated: 29/6/2023
- Is Medicine Right for Me?
- What do Doctors do?
- The Daily Life of a Doctor
- How to apply to medical school
- Different Routes into Medicine
- Factors to Consider
- Medicine at Oxford and Cambridge
- Your Fifth UCAS Choice
- Getting Your Grades
- Extra-curricular Activities
- What is the UCAT?
- Preparing for Your UCAT Test Day
- After Your UCAT
- BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
- Work Experience and Dental Schools
- NHS Work Experience
- Personal Statement
- Medicine PS Examples
- Dentistry PS Examples
- UCAS References
- Medical and Dental School Interviews
- Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)
- Medical School Interview Questions
- Dental School Interview Questions
- Graduate Entry Courses
- Foundation and Access Courses
- International students
- Taking a Gap Year
- Medicine in Australia and NZ
- Medicine in Ireland Medicine in Eastern Europe
- Other Roles in Healthcare
- What Our "Plan B" Looked Like
Your UCAS personal statement is a chance to showcase the skills, attributes, and experiences which make you suited to studying medicine. This can be quite a daunting prospect, especially when you have to boil all that down to just 4,000 characters, or 47 lines.
In this article, we will:
- Examine examples of strong and weak medicine personal statements (interested in dentistry? Check out dentistry personal statement examples )
- Help you learn what you should and shouldn't include in your medicine personal statement
Want to explore more examples? Our Personal Statement Course has over 100 personal statement examples to help you find your voice.
What you'll find in this article:
Personal statement example 1 – introduction
Personal statement example 2 – introduction, personal statement example 1 – main body, personal statement example 2 – main body, personal statement example 1 – conclusion, personal statement example 2 – conclusion, strong personal statement example, weak personal statement example, what should your personal statement include.
To get into medical school , your personal statement should:
- Demonstrate meaningful insight into the profession, in the form of work experience or independent research. This could be partly based on medical books or podcasts when medical work experience is not possible
- Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and experiences
- Mention your extracurricular activities
- Discuss your academic interests and achievements
'At the moment I am working towards A-Level Chemistry, Biology and Maths. I achieved my AS-Level in Spanish but decided to drop it to focus on my more medically relevant subjects. I’ve been dreaming of studying medicine since I was a young child, and this was only reinforced when I contracted measles during my primary school exams. This affected my performance, but I found that this motivated me rather than discouraged me. A particularly inspiring doctor was heavily involved in helping me deal with the pressure. I was inspired by her to become a doctor myself and help others in a similar way. I am particularly interested in science and as such the practical side of medicine interested me. I’ve always enjoyed chemistry and biology the most, and have best learned when trying to link the pure science I learn in school back to it's practical and useful real-world applications. This is what is particularly interesting about medicine to me - you can apply pure, evidence-based science in a clinical and practical setting to have an obvious positive effect. Inspired by this interest, I invested in a subscription to the New Scientist magazine. I’ve read about a huge number of fascinating discoveries and how they’ve been applied in medical settings.'
This introductory section has some promising features, but there are areas the author could improve:
- The introductory sentence doesn’t catch the reader’s attention or hold much relevance for a medical personal statement. This sentence would be better suited to a subsequent section on the author’s academic achievements, and it would need to be supplemented with a suitable explanation as to why the chosen subjects are relevant for medicine.
- The author uses an anecdote to illustrate why they first developed an interest in medicine. This is a good idea, but the anecdote they've chosen is not the most suitable. It references ‘primary school exams’, which uses the cliché of wanting to do medicine from a young age. This is not only overused, but is also underdeveloped.
- The applicant mentions feeling under pressure for these primary school exams. This won’t fill the reader with confidence that the author will be able to cope with the demands of medical school and a career as a doctor.
- The introduction should open with the anecdote rather than academic achievements. A strong and memorable opening line will catch the admission tutor’s attention, and gives the student an opportunity to summarise why they want to study medicine.
- It is far too long. A good introduction should be around 4-6 lines.
There are some parts of the introduction that are more effective:
- The part discussing why they enjoy chemistry and biology is useful – it links their love for pure science back to the passion they mentioned earlier for helping people. This demonstrates the blend of empathy and interest in science that medical schools will be looking for.
- The same part also introduces the candidate’s reading of medical literature, which they could choose to discuss in more depth later in the statement, or which might be something that interviewers could choose to examine in more detail.
'From a young age, my real fascination in life has been science - in particular, the incredible intricacy of the human body. My passion to discover more about its inner workings fuelled my motivation to study medicine, and the challenging yet rewarding nature of the job leaves me certain that I want to pursue it as a career. I think that my chosen A-Levels have only made me more determined to become a doctor, while simultaneously allowing me to develop and improve my skills. I have become a better problem-solver by studying physics and maths, while also learning the importance of accuracy and attention to detail. I’ve particularly enjoyed chemistry, which has again helped me improve my problem solving skills and my ability to think rationally and logically. Throughout my chemistry and biology A-Levels, I’ve been required to engage in practical work which has taught me how to design and construct an experiment. I’ve also become better at communicating with other members of my team, something I witnessed the importance of during my work experience in A&E. During recent months, I’ve started reading more medical publications such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal. I’ve been particularly interested in how this evidence-based science can be applied to clinical practice to really make an impact on patients.'
This introduction contains some useful reflection and demonstrates some insight, but is quite jumbled. The main areas of weakness are as follows:
- The content is good but much of it would be better suited to a later section and should be explored in more detail while being linked back to medicine (for example, the whole second half could be included in a longer segment on academia).
- The applicant mentions that they improved their problem-solving skills. How did they do this? Why is this important in medicine?
- They say that medicine is demanding but that this attracts them to the job. What experiences have they had to show the demanding nature of it? Why does this attract them to it?
- The author also briefly mentions a stint of work experience in A&E, but the rushed nature of the introduction means that they can’t go into detail about the experience or reflect on what exactly they learned from it.
- Similar to example 1, this introduction includes some clichés which detract from the author’s overall message. For example, that they have wanted to do medicine from a young age or that they love science (with no further explanation as to why).
- It is far too long. Again, an introduction should be a succinct summary of why you're interested in medicine, and not a brief account of all of your experiences.
The stronger parts of this introduction include the following:
- The author does demonstrate that they can reflect on the skills they’ve improved through experience. For example, the analytical and problem-solving skills they gained from chemistry.
- The candidate shows an understanding of the link between evidence-based science and clinical application when discussing how they did further research around their physics course. This shows a good level of curiosity and insight.
'I first became interested in studying medicine when I carried out a work experience placement with my father an elderly care specialist. I really enjoyed the experience and it gave me a deeper insight into the challenges doctors face. I now believe that I better understand the resilience - both mental and physical - that doctors need to cope with the heavy workload and emotional challenges. A few months ago I was given the opportunity to attend work experience in St Mary’s hospital in Manchester where I visited and observed many different specialties and areas of the hospital like A&E and the labs and witnessed how doctors carried out their jobs. For the past year I’ve been doing some other volunteering work too, such as, taking meals around to patients on the ward, asking them about their experience in the hospital and just chatting with them about how they’re feeling. They’re often delighted to have someone to talk to especially during Covid when they weren’t allowed to receive visitors. I saw how my communication and empathy made a real impact on the mood of the lonelier patients. I spent a few days working in the same hospital, shadowing doctors and Allied Health professionals in the stroke ward. I became much more familiar with the process doctors used for treating stroke patients, and developed an understanding of the role that physiotherapists and occupational therapists have in their rehabilitation. On top of that I organised a placement with the emergency medicine doctors and spent time in the haemapheresis unit at St Mary’s.'
This example does contain some of the features we look for in a complete main body section but could definitely be improved:
- The main issue with this is the list-like presentation, which goes hand-in-hand with a general lack of reflection or insight. Although it is good to discuss your work experience in your personal statement, it would be far better if the candidate focused on just one or two of the experiences mentioned, but went into far more detail about what they learned and the insight they gained. For example, after mentioning the role of Allied Health Professionals in the rehabilitation of stroke patients, they could go on to discuss how they came to appreciate the importance of these healthcare workers, and how the contribution of all these individuals within the multidisciplinary team is so important to achieving good outcomes.
- Statements like ‘I [...] witnessed how doctors carry out their jobs’ make it seem as if the candidate really wasn’t paying attention. They need to explain what they mean by this. Were they impressed by the doctors’ effective teamwork and communication skills, or perhaps by their positive attitude and morale? Did they seem well-trained and effective? What did they learn from this that might help them in the future?
- Similarly, the student simply states that they saw the effect of empathy on patients: ‘I saw how my communication and empathy made a real impact on the mood of the lonelier patients.’ This adopts a ‘telling’ approach, when the student needs to adopt a ‘showing’ approach. Simply telling us that they saw something does not adequately demonstrate an understanding of why those qualities are important, or what they actually mean. What does it mean to have empathy? What does that look like in real terms? How did they use it? What was the effect? Showing the tutor that you are empathetic is important, but simply saying it is disingenuous and shows a lack of understanding.
- The candidate spends a number of characters name-dropping the exact hospital they visited and its location, which isn’t the best use of valuable space, as it has no real impact on the message they’re trying to convey.
- Generally, it isn’t a good idea to talk about work experience with family members. Of course, this might be the reality, but try to have some other placements that you’ve organised yourself so that it doesn’t appear as if your family are doing all the hard work for you. At the very least, you could simply leave this information out.
- There are a few grammatical errors here, especially regarding the use of commas. It’s important to use a spell checker or to ask an English teacher to check your work for you before submitting your statement.
The better features of this example are:
- The candidate does show some insight into the role of a doctor when they talk about the resilience required by doctors to cope with the hard hours and challenging conditions. They just need to reflect in this way in other parts of the section, too.
- The author has clearly done a lot of work experience and is right to discuss this in their personal statement. Just remember that you don’t need to squeeze in every single little placement.
'I was pleased to be appointed as head boy in my last year of school, and as part of this role I headed up the school safety office. I carried out inspections of the dormitories, roll calls and helped in the running of school festivals and activity days. The office I was in charge of needed to ensure the safety of every student in the school and I helped plan and lead drills to prepare the students for storms, floods and fires. This role has made me a far better leader, and I also believe that I am now far more calm and logical when working under pressure or in uncertain situations. I’ve been an editor on the online school blog for over 2 years now and the experience has taught me how to work effectively in a team when under time pressure. In order to meet my deadlines I needed to remain motivated even when working independently, and I think that the diligence and work ethic I’ve developed as a result will be incredibly useful to me as a medical student. I took on the role of financial director for both the table tennis club and Model United Nations at my school. At first I struggled with the weight of responsibility as I was in charge of all of the clubs’ money and expenditures. However, I am now a far more organised individual as I came to appreciate the value of concise paperwork and of keeping a record of my actions. I not only manage the funds of the table tennis club but am also a regular member of it. I often play independently, and the lack of a specific coach means that I have to identify my own strengths and weaknesses. I am now far better at being honest about my weaknesses and then devising strategies for working on them. The sport has also allowed me to demonstrate my ability to work well in a team, but also to get my head down and work independently when necessary.'
This example is generally well written and showcases some of the features of a good main body section. However, there are some areas that can be improved:
- This section would benefit from the ‘show, don’t tell’ approach. Instead of explaining specific situations or events through which the candidate demonstrated certain attributes, they simply state them and then link them vaguely to a more general role or activity.
- The bigger problem, however, is that the author mentions a wide range of skills but falls short in linking these back to medicine. For example, after reflecting on their role in the school safety office and the leadership skills they developed as a result, the author could talk about the senior role that doctors have within the multidisciplinary team and the importance of good leadership in a medical setting. Similarly, the author mentions their ability to work independently but should really round this off by describing how this would benefit them in medical school, as the ability to progress your learning independently is crucial to success there. The student mentions an understanding of and proficiency with paperwork and recording their actions. Doctors must constantly do this when writing notes for each patient, so the candidate should really try to mention this in their statement to explain why their skills would be useful. The mention of teamwork could be followed by an explanation of why it is important in a medical setting and how the applicant witnessed this during their medical work experience. Finally, when the student talks about being able to identify and work on their weaknesses, they could use this as an opportunity to demonstrate further insight into the medical profession by discussing the importance of revalidation and audit in the modern NHS, or talking about how important it is for doctors to be able to work on their areas of weakness.
Better aspects of this example:
- The applicant doesn’t simply list the activities they have been a part of, but also explains what they learned from these and the skills and attributes they developed as a result. This reflective ability is exactly what assessors will be looking for.
- The tone of the section is appropriate. The applicant doesn’t appear arrogant or over-confident, but at the same time, they manage to paint themselves in a good light, highlighting their range of skills relevant to medicine.
- This example uses the character count effectively. Unlike the earlier examples, almost all of the sentences serve a purpose and are succinct.
- They demonstrate a wide range of skills, most of which are very relevant to medicine.
' I am a resilient and empathetic individual and I think that I have the qualities to thrive despite the social and academic challenges of university. Through my work experience I’ve gained an insight into the difficulties doctors face but this has not dampened my enthusiasm. My placements and voluntary work have only strengthened my commitment and dedication to studying medicine.'
The effectiveness of a conclusion depends on the rest of the statement before it, so it is hard to judge how good a conclusion is without seeing what the candidate has mentioned in the rest of their statement. Assuming this follows on logically from the statement, however, we can say that this conclusion is generally good for the following reasons:
- It is brief, to the point, and highlights that the student holds some of the skills doctors need (this would of course need to be backed up with examples in the rest of the statement).
- The author doesn’t introduce any new ideas here, as that would be inappropriate, but rather reiterates their determination, which is exactly what admissions tutors want to see.
- The author demonstrates a balanced understanding of the demands of a medical career, illustrating this is a decision they have made rationally while considering the implications of their choice.
As is always the case, this conclusion could still be improved:
- The mention of the social challenges of university is a bit too honest, even though these exist for everyone. Mentioning them could give the impression that the student struggles socially (which is not something they would want to highlight), or that they intend to dive into the social side of university at the expense of their studies.
- If the candidate really insists on mentioning the social side, they should at least do this after discussing academics, and they should do it in the body of the statement, where they have space to explain what exactly they mean.
- The student describes themselves as empathetic. This should be avoided, as it should be evident from the statement itself.
'Over the years I have built up a large and extensive set of medical work experiences and volunteering opportunities. These have allowed me to demonstrate my ability to communicate effectively and work in a team, and they will allow me to become a more diligent student and effective doctor. I think that this, alongside my ability and strength of character mean that I should be considered for this course. I am excited to get started and begin to put my skills to good use.'
This is a reasonably strong conclusion. It provides a to-the-point summary of why the author believes they should be selected to study medicine and shows their excitement for starting this journey. However, there are some parts of this example that could be improved:
- The author mentions 'ability' and 'strength of character.' These are nebulous terms and not specific to medicine or a medical degree in any way.
- The mention of a 'large and extensive range of medical work experiences' indicates overconfidence. Medical applicants are not expected to have any medical ability or any 'large and extensive range' of medical experience, nor is it probable that this candidate actually does (otherwise they wouldn’t need to go to medical school in the first place). Rather, medical students need a suitable set of skills and attributes in order to make the most of their medical education and become an effective doctor.
- On a similar note, the applicant says that their range of medical work experience will make them a better student and doctor, but this is only true if they can reflect on their experience and learn from it. Impassively watching an operation or clinic without properly engaging with it won’t make you a better doctor in the future.
We’ll now go on to look at an example of a strong personal statement. No personal statement is perfect, but this example demonstrates a good level of reflection, engagement and suitability to study medicine (we know this because the writer of this statement went on to receive four offers).
It goes without saying that plagiarism of any of these examples is a bad idea. They are known to medical schools and will be flagged up when run through plagiarism detection software.
Use these as examples of ways you could structure your own statement, how to reflect on experiences, and how to link them back to medicine and demonstrate suitable insight and motivation.
'It is the coupling of patient-centred care with evidence-based science that draws me to medicine. The depth of medical science enthrals me, but seeing complex pathology affecting a real person is what drives home my captivation. As a doctor, you are not only there for people during their most vulnerable moments but are empowered by science to offer them help, and this capacity for doing good alongside the prospect of lifelong learning intrigues me. In recent years I have stayed busy academically - despite my medical focus I have kept a range of interests, studying Spanish and German to grow my social and cultural awareness and playing the violin and drums in groups to improve my confidence when working in teams and performing. This is similar to the team-working environment that dominates in medical settings, and I have found that my awareness of other cultures is a great help when interacting with the hugely diverse range of patients I meet during my volunteering work. The independent projects I am undertaking for my A-levels teach me how to rigorously construct and perform experiments, process data and present findings, developing my written communication. My work experience showed me the importance of these skills when making patients’ notes, and of course, medical academia must be concisely written and well constructed and communicated. Maths teaches me to problem-solve and recognise patterns, vital skills in diagnosis. Over the past two years, I have actively sought out and planned work experience and volunteering opportunities. My time last year in Critical Care showed me the importance of communication in healthcare to ensure patients understand their diagnosis and feel comfortable making decisions. I saw the value of empathy and patience when a doctor talked to a patient refusing to take her insulin and suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis. They tried to understand her position and remain compassionate despite her refusal. My experience deepened my insight into the realities of a medical career, as we were at the hospital for more than ten hours a day with breaks and lunches cut short by bleeps or calls from the ward. This helped me understand the physical resilience required by staff as I also came to appreciate the immense emotional burden they often had to bear. Despite this, the brilliant staff remained motivated and compassionate which I found inspirational. The Brighton and Sussex Medical School work experience and Observe GP courses I completed put emphasis on the value of holistic, patient-centred care, introducing me to specialities I had not previously considered such as geriatrics and oncology. Inspired by my experience I explored a variety of specialisms, reading memoirs (Do no harm) and textbooks (Oxford handbook of clinical medicine) alike. I investigated medical politics with my English persuasive piece, discussing the ethics behind the junior doctor strikes of 2016. I have been volunteering in a hospital ward since January, which helps improve my confidence and communication skills when talking to patients and relatives. I showed my ability to deal with unexpected situations when I found a patient smoking whilst on oxygen, and acted quickly to tell nurses. Over lockdown I felt privileged offering lonely patients some tea and a chat and seeing their mood change - it taught me that medicine is about treating patients as individuals, not a diagnosis. My work on the hospital door taught me to stay calm and interact assuredly with visitors, vital skills in public-service jobs like medicine. I coach tennis at a local club, planning and running sessions for younger children. I am responsible for players' safety and must manage risk while showing leadership qualities by making the sessions fun and inclusive. As a player, I am part of the self-run performance team, which forces me to better my ability without coaching. This means developing self-reflection and insight into my weaknesses, which I know to be integral skills for medics. One of the doctors I shadowed during my work experience was just starting her revalidation process and I saw the importance of self-awareness and honest reflection in meeting her targets and becoming a better doctor. I achieved my Gold Duke of Edinburgh certificate of achievement (and the Bronze and Silver awards), exhibiting my commitment and ability to self-reflect and improve. On our Silver expedition, we experienced severe rain, showing resilience by continuing when our kit was wet from day one. My diligence and academic ability will allow me to thrive in medical school, and I have the prerequisite qualities to become a compassionate and effective doctor. Despite the obstacles, I am determined to earn the privilege of being able to improve peoples' health. This is something that excites me and a career I would happily dedicate my life to.'
Strong personal statement example analysis
This statement is a good example of how a personal statement should be constructed and presented. The introduction is short and to the point, only dealing with the candidate’s motivations to study medicine while also demonstrating an insight into what the career involves.
They demonstrate their insight briefly by mentioning that medicine involves lifelong learning. This is often seen as one of the challenges associated with the career but here they present it as an advantage which makes them seem more suited to the career. It also show they're a curious and interested individual who enjoys learning.
The introduction's final sentence offers an opportunity for interviewers to probe the candidate further, to explore their curiosity, and ask them to explain what exactly attracts them to lifelong learning. An astute candidate would recognise this and try to think of a suitable answer in advance.
The second paragraph opens the body of the statement by exploring the author’s academic interests. As with some of the previous example body paragraphs, the writer shows their reflective ability by explaining what each of their subjects taught them, and the skills they developed and demonstrated as a result. They improve upon this further by linking these skills back to medicine and explaining why they are important for doctors.
This paragraph demonstrates the author’s work-life balance by showing their varied interests in languages and music, all without wasting characters by saying this directly. They also mention the diverse range of patients they encountered during their volunteering, which again implies an empathetic and conscientious nature while showing an insight into a medical career (particularly regarding the vast diversity of the patient cohort treated by the NHS).
Their explanation of the relevance of maths could be more detailed, but again this could be something the applicant is hoping to be questioned on at interview. The candidate comes across as thoughtful and multi-talented, with the ability to reflect on their decisions and experiences, and with a suitable insight into how their strengths would play well into a medical career.
In this particular paragraph, there isn’t much explanation as to how they drew their inferences about what a medical career entails from their volunteering and work experience (and what exactly these entailed), but these are explored in more detail later in the statement.
P aragraphs 3 and 4
The next two paragraphs discuss the candidate’s work experience, beginning with a single work experience placement in detail. This is a better approach than the large lists of placements seen in the previous example body paragraphs. The author talks about a specific scenario and shows that they paid attention during their shadowing while also illustrating their ability to reflect on these experiences and the precise skills involved.
The skills they mention here – communication, empathy, resilience – are skills that they specifically talk about developing and demonstrating through their activities in other parts of the statement. This shows that they have taken their learning and used it to inform the focus of their personal development. They also not only state that these skills are important for medics, but also explain why this is. For example, they explain that communication is important in helping patients relax and engage with their healthcare, and that resilience is required to deal with the antisocial hours.
In this section, the applicant briefly mentions a specific medical condition. This shows that they were engaging with the science during their placement and also provides interviewers with an opportunity to test the applicant’s scientific knowledge. Knowing this, the candidate would likely research diabetic ketoacidosis in order to be able to impress the panel.
The author mentions some other virtual work experience opportunities they’ve been involved with and sets themselves up to discuss what these placements taught them. They then go on to explain the actions they took as a result of this, showing that they really engaged with the virtual placements and could identify what they learned and their areas of weakness. This is linked well to further reading and research they carried out, which illustrates their curiosity and engagement with medical science and literature.
The reference to the junior doctor strikes at the end shows that they have engaged with medical news as well as the ethical side of medicine, which is something that many medical schools place a lot of emphasis on at interviews. Ideally, this section would explain how exactly they explored these different specialties and illustrate what they learned and how they developed their learning from the books mentioned.
Paragraphs 5 and 6
These paragraphs discuss the applicant’s hospital volunteering and other extracurricular activities. The applicant doesn’t just state that they’ve volunteered in a hospital but goes into depth about the precise skills they developed as a result. They include an anecdote to illustrate their ability to react quickly and calmly in emergency situations, which is a great way to show that they’ve been paying attention (though this should really be backed up with an explanation as to why this is important in medicine).
The candidate also shows their patient-centred approach when discussing how they cared for demoralised patients (again illustrating empathy and compassion). This style of healthcare is something that the modern NHS is really trying to promote, so showing an awareness of this and an aptitude for applying it practically will really impress your assessors.
The author demonstrates another core attribute for medical students when talking about how their work on the front door of the hospital improved their confidence in communication, and they once more link this back to medicine. This last section could benefit from further explanation regarding the nature of their work on the hospital door and exactly how they developed these skills.
In the second of these sections, the candidate simultaneously reflects on the skills they learnt from their tennis and explains how these apply to medicine, showing insight into the profession by mentioning and showing awareness of the process of revalidation. This will show assessors that the candidate paid attention during their work experience, reflected on what they learned, and then identified a way they could work on these skills in their own life.
The author name-checks the Duke of Edinburgh Award but then goes on to explain how exactly this helped them grow as a person. They link back to resilience, a skill they mentioned in an earlier section as being important for medics.
The conclusion is succinct and direct. Although clichéd in parts, it does a good job of summarising the points the candidate has made throughout the statement. They demonstrate confidence and dedication, not by introducing any confusing new information, but rather by remaking and reinforcing some of the author’s original claims from the introduction.
The following example illustrates how not to approach your personal statement. Now that you’ve read through the analysis of previous example passages and a complete example statement, try going through this statement yourself to identify the main recurring weaknesses and points for improvement. We’ve pointed out a few of the main ones at the end. You can even redraft it as a practice exercise.
' The combination of science with empathy and compassion is what attracts me most to a career in medicine. However, I wanted to ensure that the career was right for me so I attended a Medic Insight course in my local hospital. I enjoyed the course and it gave me new insight - the lectures and accounts from medical students and doctors helped me realise that medicine was the career for me. I was also introduced to the concept of the diagnostic puzzle which now particularly interests me. This is the challenge doctors face when trying to make a diagnosis, as they have to avoid differential diagnoses and use their skills and past experiences to come to a decision and produce the right prognosis. In order to gain further insight into both the positives and downsides of being a doctor, I organised some work experience in my local GP’s surgery. I managed to see consultations for chest pain, headaches, contraception and some chronic conditions which was very interesting. I also sat in on and observed the asthma clinic, which proved to be a very educational experience. During my experience, I tried to chat to as many doctors as possible about their jobs and what they enjoyed. I recently took up some work volunteering in a local elderly care home. Many of the residents had quite complex needs making it arduous work, but I learned a lot about caring for different people and some appropriate techniques for making them feel comfortable and at home. I became a better communicator as a result of my experience Nevertheless I really enjoyed my time there and I found it fulfilling when the patients managed to have fun or see their family. I appreciated how doctors often have high job satisfaction, as when I managed to facilitate a resident to do something not otherwise available to them I felt like I was making a real difference. My academic interests have also been very useful in developing skills that will be crucial as a doctor. I chose to study Physics and business at a-level and these have helped me develop more of an interest in scientific research and understanding; I’ve also become a more logical thinker as a result of the challenging questions we receive in physics exams. I know how important communication is as a doctor so I chose to study Mandarin, a language I know to be spoken widely around the globe. I was the lead violin in my school orchestra and also took part in the wind band, showing that I was willing to throw myself into school life. I really enjoyed our school’s concert, in which I had to perform a solo and demonstrate that I could stay calm under pressure and cope with great responsibility and i think that I’m now a better leader. This skill has also been improved in roles within my school on the pupil council and as form captain, which have improved my self-confidence. I needed to work hard in order to achieve my bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh awards, and have dedicated much of my time outside school to this endeavour over the past few years. I endured weekly sessions of Taekwondo, worked voluntarily in the charity shop Barnardo’s and took part in violin lessons. As I’ve demonstrated throughout this statement I have an affinity for music, and so at university I plan to get involved with orchestras and bands. I also want to widen my horizons and discover new interests and hobbies, while trying to make new friends and cultivate a good work-life balance. I’m also keen to hike in the university’s surrounding territories. If I were allowed to study medicine, it would not only allow me to achieve one of my life goals, but to prove to you that I can become an effective, and successful doctor. I am absolutely dedicated to the study of medicine and know that I have the prerequisite skils and qualities to thrive in medical school and become a credit to your institution.”
Weak personal statement example analysis
- This personal statement does have some promising features, but overall it isn’t well structured and lacks appropriate reflection and insight. You can see this by comparing it to the strong example above. The author in this weak example very rarely describes what exactly they learned or gained from an experience and rarely links this back to medicine.
- It reads quite like a list, with the candidate reeling off the experiences they’ve had or activities they’ve taken part in, without going into any real depth. They also use some vocabulary that implies that they really weren’t enjoying these experiences, such as when they speak of ‘enduring’ their time doing taekwondo, or of caring for residents being ‘arduous’ work. You don’t have to enjoy every activity you take part in, but implying that caring for people (a huge part of the job you are applying for and claiming to enjoy) is something you consider a chore isn’t a great start. This statement also has some questionable grammar and punctuation errors, which raises a red flag. Don’t forget to proofread your statement carefully before you submit it.
- The candidate often starts off their sections in a promising way. For example, by stating that they started volunteering in a local GP practice to gain more insight into the profession, but they rarely actually follow through on this. You never find out what insight the candidate actually gained or how they used this to inform their decision to apply for medicine.
- Such lack of explanation and specificity is a theme throughout the statement. In the introduction, they say that personal accounts and lectures confirmed their wish to become a doctor, but they don’t actually explain how or why. They mention that their school subjects have helped them think more logically or improved their communication skills (which is good), but then they never go on to explain why this is relevant to medicine. They talk about leadership and self-confidence but again don’t link this back to the importance of self-confidence and the prominence of leadership in a medical setting.
To create an effective medicine personal statement, you need to provide plenty of detail. This includes concrete experiences demonstrating qualities that make a good doctor. If you can do this authentically, humbly and without selling yourself short, your personal statement will be in very good shape.
If you're looking for more inspiration to craft a compelling medicine personal statement, check out our Personal Statement Online Course . It has over 100 personal statement examples, in-depth tutorials, and guidance from admissions experts, to help you create a ready-to-submit personal statement in just three days.
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Don't underestimate the power of the medical school personal statement to make a strong, positive impression on an admissions committee. Combined with your interview performance, your personal statement can account for 60% (or more) of your total admissions score!
Medical schools want to enroll bright, empathetic, communicative people. Here's how to write a compelling med school personal statement that shows schools who you are and what you're capable of.
Personal Statement Topics
Your medical school personal statement is a component of your primary application submitted via, TMDSAS (for Texas applications), or AACOMAS (NB: If you are applying to medical school in Canada, confirm the application process with your school, as not all application components may be submitted through AMCAS).
These applications offer broad topics to consider, and many essay approaches are acceptable. For example, you could write about:
- an experience that challenged or changed your perspective about medicine
- a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual
- a challenging personal experience
- unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
- your motivation to seek a career in medicine
You'll write an additional essay (or two) when you submit secondary applications to individual schools. These essays require you to respond to a specific question. Admissions committees will review your entire application, so choose subject matter that complements your original essay .
Read More: Strategies for Secondary Applications
How to Write a Personal Statement for Medical School
Follow these personal statement tips to help the admissions committee better understand you as a candidate.
1. Write, re-write, let it sit, and write again!
Allow yourself 6 months of writing and revision to get your essay in submission-ready shape. This gives you the time to take your first pass, set your draft aside (for a minimum of 24 hours), review what you’ve written, and re-work your draft.
2. Stay focused.
Your personal statement should highlight interesting aspects of your journey—not tell your entire life story. Choose a theme, stick to it, and support it with specific examples.
3. Back off the cliches.
Loving science and wanting to help people might be your sincere passions, but they are also what everyone else is writing about. Instead, be personal and specific.
4. Find your unique angle.
What can you say about yourself that no one else can? Remember, everyone has trials, successes and failures. What's important and unique is how you reacted to those incidents. Bring your own voice and perspective to your personal statement to give it a truly memorable flavor.
5. Be interesting.
Start with a “catch” that will create intrigue before launching into the story of who you are. Make the admissions committee want to read on!
6. Show don't tell.
Instead of telling the admissions committee about your unique qualities (like compassion, empathy, and organization), show them through the stories you tell about yourself. Don’t just say it—actually prove it.
7. Embrace the 5-point essay format.
Here's a trusty format that you can make your own:
- 1st paragraph: These four or five sentences should "catch" the reader's attention.
- 3-4 body paragraphs: Use these paragraphs to reveal who you are. Ideally, one of these paragraphs will reflect clinical understanding and one will reflect service.
- Concluding paragraph: The strongest conclusion reflects the beginning of your essay, gives a brief summary of you are, and ends with a challenge for the future.
8. Good writing is simple writing.
Good medical students—and good doctors—use clear, direct language. Your essays should not be a struggle to comprehend.
9. Be thoughtful about transitions.
Be sure to vary your sentence structure. You don’t want your essay to be boring! Pay attention to how your paragraphs connect to each other.
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10. Stick to the rules.
Watch your word count. That’s 5,300 characters (including spaces) for AMCAS applications, 5,000 characters for TMDSAS, and 4,500 characters for AACOMAS.
11. Stay on topic.
Rambling not only uses up your precious character limit, but it also causes confusion! Think about the three to five “sound bytes” you want admissions committee to know and remember you by.
12. Don't overdo it.
Beware of being too self-congratulatory or too self-deprecating.
13. Seek multiple opinions.
Before you hit “submit,” ask several people you trust for feedback on your personal statement. The more time you have spent writing your statement, the less likely you are to spot any errors. A professor or friend whose judgment and writing skills you trust is invaluable.
Read More: 12 Smart Tips for Your AMCAS Application
14. Double-check the details.
Always check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. This goes for the rest of your application (like your activities list), too. A common oversight is referencing the wrong school in your statement! Give yourself (and your proofreaders) the time this task truly requires.
15. Consult the experts about your personal statement strategy.
Our med school admissions counselors can diagnose the “health” of your overall application, including your personal statement. Get expert help and guidance to write an effective personal statement that showcases not only your accomplishments, but your passion and your journey.
Want to get an edge over the crowd?
Our admissions experts know what it takes it get into med school. Get the customized strategy and guidance you need to help achieve your goals.
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Which program are you applying to?
Medical school personal statement examples.
Get accepted to your top choice medical school with your compelling essay.
THE TOP 10 MEDICAL SCHOOLS
HAVE AN AVERAGE ACCEPTANCE RATE OF 5.3%
A GREAT MEDICAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT IS KEY IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
If you want to get into the best school, you need to stand out from other applicants.
U.S. News reports the average medical school acceptance rate at the top 100 med schools at 6.35% , but our med school clients enjoy an 85% ACCEPTANCE RATE .
How can you separate yourself from the competition successfully? By creating a great personal statement.
body:nth-child(2) > div.body-wrapper > main:nth-child(3) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div.row-fluid-wrapper.row-depth-1.row-number-6 > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > div.row-fluid-wrapper.row-depth-1.row-number-7 > div:nth-child(1) > div:nth-child(1) > #hs_cos_wrapper_dnd_area-module-12 > #hs_cos_wrapper_dnd_area-module-12_ > h2:nth-child(2)">Medical School Sample Personal Statements and Essays
Here we present medical school personal statement examples to give you ideas for your own essay.
Pay close attention to the consistent format of these effective personal statements:
ENGAGING INTRODUCTION / UNIFYING THEME / COMPELLING CONCLUSION
Give the admissions committee readers a clear picture of you as an individual, a student, and a future medical professional. Make them want to meet you after they finish reading your essay.
Here's what you'll find on this page:
- How Sample Med School Essays Can Help You
- Before you Start Writing
- Writing Your Opening Paragraph
- Writing Your Body Paragraphs
- Writing Transitions
- Writing Your Conclusion
- Common Elements Between Personal Statements
Five Don'ts for Your Medical School Personal Statement
- Personal Statement Examples & Analysis
- Frequently Asked Questions
How can these sample med school essays help you?
You plan to become a physician, a highly respected professional who will have great responsibility over the health and well being of your future patients. How can you prove to the admissions committee that you have the intelligence, the maturity, the compassion, and the dedication needed to succeed in your goal?
The medical school personal statement examples below are all arguments in favor of top med schools accepting these applicants. And they worked. The applicants who wrote these essays were all accepted to top medical schools - most to multiple schools. They show a variety of experiences and thought processes that all led to the same outcome. However, while the paths to this decision point vary widely, these winning essays share several things in common.
As you read them, take note of how the stories are built sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, adding to the evidence that the writer is worthy of acceptance. This evidence includes showing a sustained focus, mature self-reflection, and professional and educational experiences that have helped prepare the applicant to succeed.
As you write your medical school personal statement , include your most compelling, memorable and meaningful experiences that are relevant to your decision to become a doctor. Each sentence should add to the reader’s understanding of who you are, what your strengths are, and why you will make an outstanding physician. Your resulting essay will help the adcom appreciate your intellectual and psychological strengths as well as your motivations, and conclude that you are worthy of acceptance into a top medical school.
Techniques for creating successful medical school personal statements
Before you start writing your med school personal statement.
Before you start writing your medical school personal statement you will need to choose a topic that will reflect who you are and engage the reader. There are a few strong ways to proceed. Try freewriting with a few of the following topic ideas.
Why medicine? Do you have a personal experience that made you certain about being a physician? How, when, did you know this was the right career for you? Is there a doctor you know (or knew) who emulates an altruistic moral character, someone who won your deepest respect? Can you show this person in action or describe them as they model inherent qualities, those for which you will strive as a physician?
How has a clinical experience been a real growth moment for you? Can you tell that story? Sometimes a clinical experience is deeply personal, something experienced by you or by someone in your family. Sometimes a clinical experience is about a patient whose situation taught you something deeply valuable, something honestly insightful about what good care means, about humanity, about empathy, about compassion, about community, about advantage and disadvantage, about equity and inclusion.
Choose an experience outside the comfort of your own community, an experience where you were the outsider (uncertain, facing ambiguity) and this experience brought about a fresh, resonant understanding of yourself and others, an understanding that made you grow as a person, and perhaps brought about humility or joy in light of this geographical or cultural dislocation. Often this prompt includes traveling to other countries. Yet, it could work just as beautifully discovering people in close places that were previously unfamiliar to you – the shelter in the next town over, a foster home for medically unstable children, the day you witnessed food insecurity firsthand at a local church and decided to do something about disparity.
Read other successful personal statements in guides and publications. You can read sample personal statements that work here: medical school personal statement examples
The prompts above have great possibilities to be successful because they locate experiences that require better than average human understanding and insight. When we re-convey a moving human experience well, we tell a story that aims to bring us together, unite us in our common humanity. Telling powerful stories about humanity, in the end, presents your deeper attributes to others and demonstrates your capacity to feel deeply about the human condition.
Be careful how often you use the first person pronoun, though you may use it. Revise for clarity many more times than you might do in other writing moments. Choose precise vocabulary that sounds like you, and, of course, revise so that you present to your readers the most pristinely grammatical you.
Once you’ve looked at the sample medical school personal statements in the link above, try freewriting again according to one of the themes listed that applies to you. For instance, perhaps your prior freewriting aimed to describe a moment in your life that seeded your interest in medicine. Great. Save that file. Now, start again with a different topic, perhaps one from the linked page of sample personal statements. For instance, let your freewriting explore the time you traveled to another country to participate in a public health mission. What person immediately comes to mind? Hopefully this person is quite different from you in identity and culture. Make sure this comes across. Describe the scene when you first encountered this person. What happened? Tell that story. Why do you think you remember this person so vividly? Did the experience challenge you? Did you learn something deeper and perhaps more complex about humanity, about culture, about your own assumptions about humanity? Hopefully, you grew from this experience. How did you grow? What do you now understand that you did not understand before having had this experience? Hindsight may very well bring about perspective that demonstrates that you now understand the value of that human encounter.
Here is a cautionary bit of advice about writing about childhood. Yes, it is relatively common to have had a formidable experience in childhood about illness, health, healthcare, medicine or doctors. Right? Most of us have had at least one critical health issue in our own family when still a child. Sometimes it is absolutely true that a moment in childhood began your interest in healthcare.
One may have had a diagnosis as a child that turned one’s life path toward being health-aware. For instance, are you a juvenile-onset, Type I diabetic? Do you have a cognitive or physical disability? Were you raised in a home with someone who had a critical illness or disability? Did a sibling, parent or grandparent get gravely sick when you were young?
Upon writing-up any of these situations for your personal statement, there is a catch-22. For medical school application activities, the rule of thumb is “nothing from high school.” So why then is it sometimes a good idea to write about a childhood situation in a personal statement? The answer has to do with the uniqueness of your story and the quality of hindsight through which you narrate it.
Let us slow down for a moment on the issue of writing about childhood. Typically, traditional applicants to medical school are steadfastly dedicated to their academic and pre-professional aims. Science curriculum, especially pre-med curriculum, is demanding and rigorous, and it trains science students to excel in empirical thinking and assessment.
Sometimes, when asked to write a personal essay, hard core science students feel the rug pulled out from under them. Are you more confident and meticulous about action steps and future plans than you are confident about being a sage looking back on your life? Chances are your answer is “yes.”
Of course you can write; you’re a smart person and a very good student. Yet, writing a heartfelt, perceptive essay about yourself or an aspect of your life for an application to medical school is unnerving even as you understand why your application might benefit from story-telling. Yes, your application should benefit from your engaging, authorial presence in the essay. An application that lacks this is wholly at a disadvantage.
Perhaps you are gravitating to the choice to share a story about your childhood.
For instance, what if you sat down to free-write the following prompt:
Draft an essay about a childhood experience that ingrained medicine as one of your inherent interests. Do so in a manner that demonstrates the value of hindsight while telling it.
Is it hard to stay calm about this prompt right now even though this prompt is precisely what could make your personal statement successful? The idea of this prompt is what many successful applicants have written well, and you can too. Why not seek professional guidance for your personal essay? Accepted has consultants who advise applicants through this process. We advise you on the whole process of developing a successful idea for an essay, help you mine your experiences, outline your strongest ideas, and after you’ve written them up, edit your drafts. You can view these personal statement services here: Essay Package
Back to tips. The key to writing a personal statement that frames a moment in childhood well is to stand firmly in the present and stay descriptive and perceptive. Write up that experience trusting you have insight. Quite a bit of time has passed since then, and that distance has given you the opportunity to see things a little differently now.
Let’s presume you want to write about how as a child you had an older sibling with a cognitive impairment. You and your family witnessed time and again doors being shut, so to speak, on his ability to be included in school events or community events.
Free writing A: My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. He was never given field time in soccer games. When this happened, G cried. When this happened, I cried and felt hurt by how much time my parents spent trying to calm him down, eventually leaving the field, holding him close and bringing us back home, another Saturday wrecked.
Example A has no benefit of hindsight.
Free writing B (with some hindsight): My older brother, G, had moderate cognitive impairment. Most of the time, kids were kind to him. “Hey G, how are you, man?,” they would say and high-five him. Most kids greeted him, offered him snacks and a seat on the sideline blanket. It was touching to see him included and seen at soccer games.
Further hindsight: G was rarely played in the game.
Reflective comment: No harm would have been done in letting him play. It’s clear to me now how much more work we each need to do about inclusion. Community-based team sports are pretty good about extending kindness at the sidelines, but that is not the same thing as letting all kids play in the game. I am still grateful for every kindness extended to my brother, but perhaps letting him play in the game would have demonstrated to kids and parents alike a deeper message about the importance of inclusion over winning. The coaches meant no harm, but that is precisely how unconscious bias plays. Afterall, community by its very definition is about inclusion.
Standing tall on this matter brings out a maturity and vocabulary to master this kind of personal writing that Free Writing A lacks. You don’t want to go back in time and join your younger self and narrate from that perspective. The “return” to your former child typically results in replicating a childlike emotional capacity – and chances are, that’s not you anymore. You’ve seen more. You’ve grown more. You’re now formally educated. You’re more skilled at making connections between ideas and experiences. You can narrate a scene or circumstance and attach awareness of what you realize now it means – like the over-narratives of documentaries where the author sheds true insight about the meaning of past events.
Most traditional applicants to medical school are just a few years older than teenagers.
When hindsight brings great clarity and insight to the significance of an experience, we demonstrate a keener maturity and an understanding that in authoring an experience we have a responsibility to demonstrate how a personal experience becomes a valuable portal to understanding the situation of others. Hindsight done well can be a stunningly beautiful and engaging narrative skill.
Perhaps you would rather write about a clinical experience? If you write about patients, change names, change gender, change some context to assure anonymity. Nearly all healthcare workers are concerned about telling patient stories because we worry about appropriating someone else’s experience, or feel we may not have the right, literally since HIPAA set rules on patients’ privacy rights in 1996. We should be concerned about telling patients’ stories; however, how we tell them is key in honoring them. When we honor patients and convey their stories to others we demonstrate the reciprocity of the professional relationship. Physicians no longer have a prescriptive, patrician role. Physicians are no longer sole authorities. Physicians and patients establish a reciprocal relationship, a two way street wherein a physician steps into a space of illness with the patient and walks with them, with the goal of healing, curing and advocating for them. When doctors tell stories, they establish that patients matter, that these encounters matter, that doctors think about patients and often learn from them.
How we write patient stories is best done humbly, of course. We can narrate a story that becomes exemplary for its insight and empathy – after all, insight and empathy are desirable traits of a physician. Be sure to show rather than tell, most of the time. Be sure to capture the sensory detail of people and place. For instance, is the patient sitting on a blue plastic chair under ultraviolet lights in the waiting room of a free clinic? Is a woman with her gray hair twisted in a bun wearing a cotton hospital gown, waiting against a concrete wall in a tiny examination room with the door open? (Setting makes a character more real.)
Finally, your story perspective, what you see and understand, becomes another way of revealing who you are.
How to write your opening paragraph:
A strong opening paragraph for a story begins “several pages in.” A strong story begins with you, the narrator, already standing in the ocean with water splashing at your knees. This is called a hook: “D began to bleed after the second attempt to start an intravenous line.”
Then, get the basic narrative facts down, the 5 W’s, the who, what, where, when and why, so your readers will not be confused: “She was a patient in the infusion clinic in the cancer pavilion of a major Boston hospital. She came to the clinic for her first round of chemotherapy.”
What else about this moment engaged you? Did D come to her appointment alone via an Uber ride? Why wasn’t anyone with her? How did that make you feel? Did the two of you hold a conversation while you were trying to start an IV? Why do you think she started to bleed? How did she respond when she saw you were having trouble starting this IV? Why didn’t she have a Medi-port yet? Here, you are building fuller context for her story. Don’t race through the scene; rather, build it, slowing down time, using images and sensory details to “paint” with your words. Smaller details, necessary ones, help you portray D as an individual.
“Semper Fidelis was tattooed on her forearm. ‘Thank you for your service,’ I said.”
“‘This cancer thing,’ she said, ‘this is nothing.’”
“D’s comment set me back. She had triple-negative breast cancer. She had blood running down her arm to her hand, between her fingers and onto a stiff, white pillow case on which she rested her arm. Triple-negative breast cancer was much more than nothing. In fact, it was very serious.”
What questions came to mind that provide several ways of reading this moment? Write them down. For instance,
- Did D not know about the gravity of her diagnosis?
- Was she steely and tough yet informed?
- Did she live through something much worse while enlisted as a Marine?
The questions themselves may wander too much to serve your personal statement as a succinct essay, which it needs to be. However, the answers to those questions may be exactly the additional content you need to develop this story’s acumen and perception as you demonstrate how getting to know the patient is a critical skill in order to help her. And now a theme is starting to come through: a doctor treats a patient, not a diagnosis. Voilà!
Moving forward: How does a doctor reframe clinical assumptions in this instance? What does a future doctor learn from a circumstance like this?
Notice in the example above that the writing is active, uses details, and vivid language.
This writer has a palpable connection to the moment. One key to choosing one experience over another for your personal statement is how visual and vivid your recollection is. Often, moments worth mining for meaning are easy to recollect because they still have unresolved messages that need to be understood. Writing experiences helps us find their meaning, their sense.
Notice as well, the scene above captures a moment of ambiguity, a concept particularly difficult for many health science professionals to embrace because there are multiple ways of looking at and understanding something. Stories send empiricism into the wind. People are not solely empirical. There is the self that is the body, which can be understood empirically, but there’s also the self that inhabits the body, the thinking/feeling/being and perceiving self. Stories are not about right answers. Stories attend to sentience and explore humanity. Patients’ lives are rife with uncertain moments, uncertain decisions, uncertain treatments, uncertain consequences, and uncertain outcomes. How does a physician engage with health uncertainty, understand it, and navigate it through pathways of humanity rather than pathways of diagnosis?
How does health care challenge you to grow in humanistic ways?
How to write your body paragraphs:
Once you have written a compelling scene, it might be a good idea to reflect upon why you were drawn to write about this experience in particular before your proceed. How does this scene illustrate meaningfully something worth explaining about becoming a physician? For instance, D’s scene was illustrative of an unexpected shift in perception that mattered when treating a patient with a serious cancer diagnosis. This unexpected shift happened to you, not to her. D’s been living with herself aplenty. Her point of view surprised you, not her, and reveals an incongruence between her perspective on her illness and yours.
Brief moments of ambiguity like this one can make us talk to each other, make us want to do something, can bring us to explore some further niche, specialty or research. Perhaps D brought you to peruse PubMed to research “Issues in Clinical Practice when Caring for Veterans” to see if you could find articles to help you help D and other veterans. Perhaps D’s comment was so truthful that you now volunteer with a veterans’ organization to scribe their stories for a war history museum? This “call to action” is a worthy story in a personal statement. Tell D’s story and conclude it with empathy and action. (Taking action to help is a demonstration of empathy.) Mindfully showing the experience with D as a catalyst to a path of action to help those under duress -- in distress, in crisis, or adrift in inequity -- matters.
Perhaps, follow this conclusion with a brief explanation of what principles now guide your humanistic path to medical school as long as they are principles that matter to your choice schools.
Here are a few things to avoid in writing your medical school personal statement. Avoid talking about your scholastic path in preparation for medical school in your essay. The essay is not a place to reiterate scholastic achievements, for instance, a high GPA, academic honors, academic awards, publications, or MCAT scores because they’re front and center in other areas of your application.
Instead, frame your medical school personal statement around a formidable experience that directly or indirectly led you to pursue medicine. This could be a struggle that you’ve overcome that demonstrates your fortitude (the story of a sociocultural disadvantage or disability), the first time you deeply understood the ramifications of health care disparities you will not forget. Likely, this would be a personal story about yourself or a family member, a clinical story or a mission trip, or a story about a patient from some other volunteer work that you’ve done.
Additional topic ideas for your personal statement: What is a successful doctor? What does a successful life as a doctor look like? What happens to your understanding of best practices when a patient’s situation makes a best practice unrealistic, and what is the remedy? What epiphany, small or large, resides in you now since having mined a critical, clinical experience? Do you see a difference in the way you respond to patients since having had this experience? How has clinical experience matured you, deepened your awareness of living? If a patient experience became a catalyst for you to branch out or deepen your healthcare exposure opportunities, talk about that too. What opportunities? Why?
Writing effective transitions:
You are now ready to proceed to a conclusion that leaves your readers, the admissions committee, with a lasting impression of you – your life, your mind, your character -- as a 21 st century physician.
Chances are, you’ll need to transition from the previous discussion of a time in the past to squarely speak about yourself here and now or in a comment toward the future.
Can you sum up your main idea for the past experience? Consider the benefit of using a word or phrase -- thus, just as, hence, accordingly, in the same way, correspondingly -- and present your central idea again but only in a few repetitive words (called parallelism) or with synonymous words, creating internal unity in the essay.
Be careful how you do this. The phrasing should feel necessary and fluid rather than reductive or even worse, phrasing that sounds like filler.
The shift you’re making is from then to now, or from then to now and to the future as in “all this is to say.” Would you benefit from a fact, a quote, a statistic, or an informed prediction on the state of medicine, public health, or the future of medicine?
Transitional words can indicate:
- a process: first, second, next, finally…
- time: by lunch time, that evening, two weeks later…
- spatial sequences: down the block, two miles west, one bed over…
- logic sequences: likewise, however, evidently, in other words…
- meta-thought: as I say this, looking back, I have nothing left to say…
If grammar and idea flow are a concern, have a look at Accepted’s editing services: Med School Essay Package
A consultant will walk you through the inception of an essay, an outline, and editing from first through final drafts, including suggestions for idea development and transitions from one idea to another.
How to write your conclusion:
A strong conclusion for your medical school personal statement can highlight the relevance of a timely issue (for instance, the physician shortage in the U.S.), make broader inferences about something you’ve already discussed (for instance, the broader implications of a particular health care disparity), or a call to action that you now embrace (for instance, community-based work that you did during the pandemic that now has become a central interest). Altruism, or understanding another’s disadvantaged situation, should not be represented in your conclusion as “ideas alone.” Commitment to serve others is not solely aspirational (“As physicians, we must do everything we can about inequity"), but a strong conclusion puts ideals into action (“I have joined Dr. T’s research team to conduct qualitative research about how social strata paradigms impact health care inequity”). Action in the conclusion should be associated with an experience shown earlier in the essay and culminate as a demonstration that you have already begun shaping your path in medicine. You are not waiting to begin but have already begun facing the challenges and responsibilities of future physicians. This kind of conclusion shows vision, maturity, commitment and character.
If the story in the body of your personal statement is about an experience, the conclusion should show your growth since then and keep in alignment how you’ve grown with the medical school values and missions of the majority of schools on your list. So, if you’re applying to top-tier allopathic schools, your growth may be in the depth and orientation of your recent research, or in having established a tighter link between your clinical experience and research.
If you’re applying to osteopathic schools, your growth should be in keeping with the osteopathic schools’ values and missions on your list and include recent hands-on experience, something with specific tasks and responsibilities, rather than shadowing, since shadowing is often seen as passive experience. It may be that you’ve become a licensed EMT and will work as an EMT in a relevant region or state during the gap year. It may be that you’ve been certified and now work as a harm reduction specialist for a particular organization in a particular city or county.
If you’re applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools, each personal statement should align with the academic orientation of each pathway. Using the same personal statement for both AMCAS and AACOMAS applications is rarely a good idea.
Accepted offers help with the whole application process: Primary Application Package
Other elements that each essay below have in common:
Accepted provides sample medical school personal statements with titles classifying types of narratives that have potential for success. Applicants do have some freedom of choice in what topic will serve their essay best. Why only “some” freedom in topic for this personal essay? Because this essay is one tool you will use to reach a professional goal.
Not all essays help us reach professional goals. Writers of effective essays must take into account who will read them. Think about who your audience is. In this case, it’s a medical school admissions committee – not a friend, not a parent, not a peer. How will you write an essay on the same topic, let’s say a lab experience that went from bad to revelatory? You’d tell this story quite differently to your lab mates than you would to your professor, than you would to the president of your university, than you would in a grant application.
Here’s what can happen when the “audience” isn’t considered sufficiently when writing about a passion. Let’s say you love playing soccer, and played on a Division 3 team as an undergraduate. Let’s say it didn’t matter to you that the team was Division 3 as long as it meant you could get on the field and play through your undergraduate years. It’s quite possible that one can write well about playing soccer, but one must do so in such a way that the reader really believes and understands the parallel between doing what you love and a future in medicine. Otherwise, the writer may very well convey that they love soccer. However, when written without the focus that medical school admissions committees will be readers, the essay could end up conveying that the narrator really wants to be a soccer coach, not a doctor.
So, there’s only some freedom in topic and some freedom in writing approach - and the two must make sense together in order to facilitate accomplishing your goal.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” to writing a successful medical school personal statement. There are, however, aspects to the sample essays on this site that stand out.
First, each personal statement example is authored by someone who knows exactly what story they’re telling. No matter what their first draft looked like, by the time the final draft is ready to go, all fuzzy draft moments have been made lucid and engaging. All sections of the essay should have the polish and the same goals.
- Why am I telling this in this way?
- To what ends does each scene or moment speak?
- Have I revised enough to make every sentence demonstrate strong writing skills?
Each sample personal statement emphasizes narrative control, engages with a direct voice, has conclusive things to show and say, demonstrates logical steps in idea development, and presents effective framing of the composition as a well-written form that displays strong writing skills.
Even when an essay includes a “bookend” structure (a narrative structure that begins and ends with X, with middle content about Y), the story of Y (i.e. a mission trip in Mexico) is the primary story framed by the X bookend story (i.e. the love of running) to give ballast to the context in which this writer wants us to understand the mission trip as well, as a parallel story of challenge, commitment, exhilaration, exhaustion and necessity.
The same is true for stories that contain contrasts. If you’ve traveled ten mile or ten thousand miles, it is quite possible you’ve encountered different assumptions than your own about health care, health care access, trust, understanding of middle-class or first-world beliefs about health, understanding beliefs from poor and disadvantaged communities, illness, health care in contrast with a different cultural standard than what you’re used to, different beliefs about health care access, and a lack of or cautious trust in deference to doctors. (See the “Nontraditional Applicant” and “The Traveler.”) The key to this kind of essay is first demonstrating the contrasts between the two realities (yours and the patient’s reality) and their relative assumptions. Second, demonstrate an understanding of beliefs amid the two experiences and aim to reconcile their adverse assumptions.
However you proceed with the paragraph by paragraph progression of your medical school personal statement, be sure to see how there’s deeper intuition or knowledge associated with how the ideas progress. Do not repeat yourself, or reiterate a statement or idea unless you are clearly doing so for rhetorical emphasis.
Then, kiss your draft goodnight. Let it sit for two or three days, and return to it time and again with fresh eyes – to trim, tighten, clarify, improve tone and intention, and importantly, to make sure you have direct regard for your audience, who it is, what they’re looking for, and how you are the person whom they seek, as you maintain a tone and direction consistent with your goals and what you’re seeking from an admissions committee.
Many students focus on their own or family members’ medical conditions in their personal statements. The essay sometimes reads like a medical history. Taking this approach can hurt your application for several reasons: It may alert them to conditions that could impact your ability to perform in medical school, indicate that you lack boundaries by oversharing , or suggest a lack of maturity in focusing only on yourself and family – rather than on helping others or serving the community.
Anything you share in your personal statement can be brought up in your interview. If you share details of painful events, losses, or failures that you have not yet processed or come to terms with, that disclosure could come across as an invitation for the reader to pity you. Accepting long-term changes in our lives transforms us; we are constantly evolving through our experiences. Until you have integrated this information into your identity, depending on how impactful it was, you may not be able to use the experience to shed insight on yourself quite yet. Use negative experiences that are at least a year or older depending on how long it takes you to process and reflect. Most importantly, use them to show growth and resilience , not to create pity.
- DON’T demonstrate a lack of compassion or empathy. One of the creepiest essays I’ve ever read – it still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it – was a student’s description of how much she enjoyed anesthetizing and removing the brains of mice. Her intention was to share her love of science, research, and learning but the feverish glee with which she described these procedures lacked compassion for the creatures that lost their lives for her research project. This lack of respect for the sacredness of life made it an easy decision to reject her application. Research was probably a better path for her, especially since she wasn’t able to gauge the reaction her statements would have on her audience.
- DON’T bargain. The least fun essays to read are those that contain more promises than a politician’s speech. They include statements like, “If accepted into this program, I will….” The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you really want to demonstrate what you are capable of achieving during your medical education, give examples of what you have already accomplished . This approach is far stronger than making hollow promises.
- DON’T complain. Criticizing or pointing out the failures of healthcare professionals who have treated you or whom you have observed in the past will only reflect negatively on you. Since your application will be reviewed by doctors, as well as admissions professionals, it’s critical that you do not insult those from whom you are seeking acceptance. While it is true that medical mistakes and lack of access to care have devastating consequences for patients, their families and communities, identifying ways to improve in these areas without pointing any fingers would be more effective. By demonstrating your realistic knowledge of patient needs and sharing potential solutions, you can present yourself as an asset to their team.
Be careful what you write. Create a personal statement that is honest (not bitter), reveals your personality (not your medical history), and delivers a compelling explanation for your motivations for entering medicine (not empty promises).
Do you want our expert advice on your medical school personal statement?
Med School Personal Statement Consultant Dr. Mary Mahoney
Med School Personal Statement Examples and Analysis
Now let’s explore what you can learn from some of these outstanding sample med school essays.
Medical school personal statement example #1: Emergency 911
“Call 911!” I shouted to my friend as I sprinted down the street. The young Caucasian male had been thrown fifteen yards from the site of impact and surprisingly was still conscious upon my arrival. “My name is Michael. Can you tell me your name?” In his late twenties, he gasped in response as his eyes searched desperately in every direction for help, for comfort, for assurance, for loved ones, for death, until his eyes met mine. “Flail chest,” I thought to myself as I unbuttoned his shirt and placed my backpack upon his right side. “Pulse 98, respiration 28 short and quick. Help is on the way. Hang in there, buddy,” I urged.
After assessing the patient, the gravity of the situation struck me into sobriety. The adrenaline was no longer running through my veins — this was real. His right leg was mangled with a compound fracture; his left leg was also obviously broken. The tow-truck that had hit him looked as though it had run into a telephone pole. Traffic had ceased on the six-lane road, and a large crowd had gathered. However, no one was by my side to help. “Get me some blankets from that motel!” I yelled to a bystander and three people immediately fled. I was in charge.
But my patient was no longer conscious; his pulse was faint and respiration was low. “Stay with me, man!” I yelled. “15 to 1, 15 to 1,” I thought as I rehearsed CPR in my mind. Suddenly he stopped breathing. Without hesitation, I removed my T-shirt and created a makeshift barrier between his mouth and mine through which I proceeded to administer two breaths. No response. And furthermore, there was no pulse. I began CPR. I continued for approximately five minutes until the paramedics arrived, but it was too late. I had lost my first patient.
Medicine. I had always imagined it as saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, overall making life better for everyone. However, as I watched the paramedics pull the sheets over the victim’s head, I began to tremble. I had learned my first lesson of medicine: for all its power, medicine cannot always prevail. I had experienced one of the most disheartening and demoralizing aspects of medicine and faced it. I also demonstrated then that I know how to cope with a life-and-death emergency with confidence, a confidence instilled in me by my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician, a confidence that I had the ability to take charge of a desperate situation and help someone in critical need. This pivotal incident confirmed my decision to pursue medicine as a career.
Of course healing, curing, and saving is much more rewarding than trying and failing. As an EMT I was exposed to these satisfying aspects of medicine in a setting very new to me — urban medicine. I spent most of a summer doing ride-alongs with the Ambulance Company in Houston. Every call we received dealt with Latino patients either speaking only Spanish or very little broken English. I suddenly realized the importance of understanding a foreign culture and language in the practice of medicine, particularly when serving an underserved majority. In transporting patients from the field to the hospitals I saw the community’s reduced access to medical care due to a lack of physicians able to communicate with and understand their patients. I decided to minor in Spanish. Having almost completed my minor, I have not only expanded my academic horizons, I have gained a cultural awareness I feel is indispensable in today’s diverse society.
Throughout my undergraduate years at Berkeley I have combined my scientific interests with my passion for the Hispanic culture and language. I have even blended the two with my interests in medicine. During my sophomore year I volunteered at a medical clinic in the rural town of Chacala, Mexico. In Mexico for one month, I shadowed a doctor in the clinic and was concurrently enrolled in classes for medical Spanish. It was in Chacala, hundreds of miles away from home, that I witnessed medicine practiced as I imagined it should be. Seeing the doctor treat his patients with skill and compassion as fellow human beings rather than simply diseases to be outsmarted, I realized he was truly helping the people of Chacala in a manner unique to medicine. Fascinated by this exposure to clinical medicine, I saw medicine’s ability to make a difference in people’s lives. For me the disciplines of Spanish and science have become inseparable, and I plan to pursue a career in urban medicine that allows me to integrate them.
Having seen medicine’s different sides, I view this as a multifaceted profession. I have witnessed its power as a healing agent in rural Chacala, and I have seen its weakness when I met death face-to-face as an EMT. Inspired by the Latino community of Houston, I realize the benefits of viewing it from a holistic, culturally aware perspective. And whatever the outcome of the cry "Call 911!" I look forward as a physician to experiencing the satisfaction of saving lives, curing ailments, alleviating pain, and overall making life better for my patients.
Lessons From Med School Sample Essay #1: Emergency 911
This essay is one of our favorites. The applicant tells a story and weaves a lot of information into it about his background and interests. Note how the lead grabs one’s attention and the conclusion ties everything together.
What makes this essay work?
- A dramatic opening paragraph
This essay has an unusually long opener, but not only is it dramatic, it also lays out the high-stakes situation of the writer desperately trying to save the life of a young man. As an EMT, the writer is safe in sharing so much detail, because they establish their bona fides as medically knowledgeable. With the urgent opening sentence (“Call 911!”) and the sad final sentence (“I had lost my first patient.”), the writer bookends a particularly transformative experience, one that confirmed their goal of becoming a doctor.
- A consistent theme
The theme of a med school essay in which the applicant first deals with the inevitable reality of seeing a patient die can become hackneyed through overuse. This essay is saved from that fate because after acknowledging the pain of this reality check, the writer reports that they immediately committed to expanding his knowledge and skills to better serve the local Hispanic community. While not an extraordinary story for an EMT, the substance, self-awareness, and focus the writer brings to the topic makes it a compelling read.
- Evidence supporting the stated goal
This applicant is already a certified EMT, which serves as evidence of their serious interest in a medical career. In going on ambulance ride-alongs, the writer realized the barrier in communication between many doctors and their Spanish-speaking patients, which inspired the writer to take steps to both learn medical Spanish and shadow a doctor in a Mexican clinic. These concrete steps affirm that the applicant has serious intent.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #2: The Traveler
"On the first day that I walked into the Church Nursing Home, I was unsure of what to expect. A jumble of questions ran through my mind simultaneously: Is this the right job for me? Will I be capable of aiding the elderly residents? Will I enjoy what I do? A couple of hours later, these questions were largely forgotten as I slowly cut chicken pieces and fed them to Frau Meyer. Soon afterwards, I was strolling through the garden with Herr Schmidt, listening to him tell of his tour of duty in World War II. By the end of the day, I realized how much I enjoyed the whole experience and at the same time smiled at the irony of it all. I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany, to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.
Experiences like my volunteer work in the German nursing home illustrate the decisive role travel has played in my life. For instance, I had volunteered at a local hospital in New York but was not satisfied. Dreams of watching doctors in the ER or obstetricians in the maternity ward were soon replaced with the reality of carrying urine and feces samples to the lab. With virtually no patient contact, my exposure to clinical medicine in this setting was unenlightening and uninspiring. However, in Heidelberg, despite the fact that I frequently change diapers for the incontinent and deal with occasionally cantankerous elderly, I love my twice-weekly visits to the nursing home. Here, I feel that I am needed and wanted. That rewarding feeling of fulfillment attracts me to the practice of medicine.
My year abroad in Germany also enriched and diversified my experience with research. Although I had a tremendously valuable exposure to research as a summer intern investigating chemotherapeutic resistance in human carcinomas, I found disconcerting the constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research. In contrast, my work at the University of Heidelberg gave me a broader view of basic research and demonstrated how it can expand knowledge – even without the promise of immediate profit. I am currently attempting to characterize the role of an enzyme during neural development. Even though the benefit of such research is not yet apparent, it will ultimately contribute to a vast body of information which will further medical science.
My different reactions to research and medicine just exemplify the intrinsically broadening impact of travel. For example, on a recent trip to Egypt, I visited a small village on the banks of the Nile. This impoverished hamlet boasted a large textile factory in its center where many children worked in clean, bright, and cheerful conditions weaving carpets and rugs. After a discussion with the foreman of the plant, I discovered that the children of the village learned trades at a young age to prepare them to enter the job market and to support their families. If I had just heard about this factory, I would have recoiled in horror with visions of sweatshops running through my head. However, watching the skill and precision each child displayed, in addition to his or her endless creativity, soon made me realize that it is impossible to judge this country’s attempts to deal with its poverty using American standards and experience.
Travel has not only had a formative and decisive impact on my decision to pursue a career in medicine, it has also broadened my horizons – whether in a prosperous city on the Rhine or an impoverished village on the Nile. In dealing with patients or addressing research puzzles, I intend to bring the inquiring mind fostered in school, lab, and volunteer experiences. But above all, I intend to bring the open mind formed through travel.
Lessons From Medical School Sample Essay #2: The Traveler
No boring repetition of itinerary from this seasoned traveler! This student ties their travels to their medical ambitions through the effective use of short anecdotes and vivid images. Can you sense the writer’s youthful disappointment during early clinical experiences and mature satisfaction working in the retirement home?
This applicant effectively links the expansive benefits of travel to their medical ambitions. By sharing vivid anecdotes from and reflections on these experiences, the writer enables the reader to easily imagine them as a talented physician in the future.
- An engaging opening that frames the storyline Many fine application essays open with imagery so vibrant that the writing could be mistaken for fiction. This essay is no different. We meet the writer in the setting of a nursing home overseas, where they question whether their volunteer experiences there will help them determine their career path. Notice how the first sentence reflects a worry, “I was unsure of what to expect,” but by the final sentence, the writer concludes with satisfaction, “I needed to travel to Heidelberg, Germany, to confirm my interest in clinical medicine.” With this framing, we appreciate the essay’s theme.
- Reflections on and contrasts about varied experiences in medicine The writer’s reactions to various encounters reveal a maturing mind-set: the “unenlightening and uninspiring” experience volunteering in a New York hospital versus the feeling of being “needed and wanted” in the nursing home in Heidelberg; the “disconcerting . . . constant cost-benefit analysis required in applied biomedical research” versus the “broader view of basic research and . . . how it can expand knowledge – even without the promise of immediate profit” at the University of Heidelberg. These reflections demonstrate a thoughtfulness born of experience.
- How traveling has expanded his potential as a physician Of the five tightly constructed paragraphs in this substantial essay, the final two paragraphs home in on how travel has had an “intrinsically broadening impact” and stimulated an “open mind” to people and situations. This kind of sophisticated view is a desirable trait to adcoms.
- Out-of-the-box theme Although this essay’s foundation is built on the writer’s sincere and dedicated aspirations for a medical career, they allowed themselves the space to write about the broadening intellectual benefits of travel, linking those benefits to professional potential. Even when writing about children working in a factory in Egypt, this applicant brings an expanded mind-set and greater cross-cultural understanding that will no doubt benefit them in their career.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #3: The Non-Traditional Applicant
"Modest one-room houses lay scattered across the desert landscape, their rooftops a seemingly helpless shield against the intense heat generated by the mid-July sun. The steel security bars that guarded the windows and doors of every house seemed to belie the large welcome sign at the entrance to the ABC Indian Reservation. As a young civil engineer employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I was far removed from my cubicle in downtown Los Angeles.
However, I felt I was well-prepared to conduct my first project proposal. The project involved a $500,000 repair of an earthen levee surrounding an active Native American burial site. A fairly inexpensive and straightforward job by federal standards, but nonetheless, I could hardly contain my excitement. Strict federal construction guidelines laden with a generous portion of technical jargon danced through my head as I stepped up to the podium to greet the twelve tribal council members. My premature confidence quickly disappeared as they confronted me with a troubled ancient gaze. Their faces revealed centuries of distrust and broken government promises.
Suddenly, from a design based solely upon abstract engineering principles, an additional human dimension emerged – one for which I had not prepared. The calculations I had crunched over the past several months and the abstract engineering principles simply no longer applied. Their potential impact on this community was clearly evident in the faces before me. With perspiration forming on my brow, I decided I would need to take a new approach to salvage this meeting. So I discarded my rehearsed speech, stepped out from behind the safety of the podium, and began to solicit the council members’ questions and concerns. By the end of the afternoon, our efforts to establish a cooperative working relationship had resulted in a distinct shift in the mood of the meeting. Although I am not saying we erased centuries of mistrust in a single day, I feel certain our steps towards improved relations and trust produced a successful project.
I found this opportunity to humanize my engineering project both personally and professionally rewarding. Unfortunately, experiences like it were not common. I realized early in my career that I needed a profession where I could more frequently incorporate human interaction and my interests in science. After two years of working as a civil engineer, I enrolled in night school to explore a medical career and test my aptitude for pre-medical classes. I found my classes fascinating and became a more effective student. Today, I am proud of the 3.7 GPA I have achieved in competitive post-baccalaureate courses such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics.
Confident of my ability to succeed in the classroom, I proceeded to volunteer in the Preceptorship Program at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. I acquired an understanding of the emotional demands and time commitment required of physicians by watching them schedule their personal lives around the needs of their patients. I also soon observed that the rewards of medicine stem from serving the needs of these same patients. I too found it personally gratifying to provide individuals with emotional support by holding an elderly woman’s hand as a physician drew a blood sample or befriending frightened patients with a smile and conversation.
To test my aptitude for a medical career further, I began a research project under the supervision of Dr. John Doe from the Orthopedic Department at Big University. The focus of my study was to determine the fate of abstracts presented at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand annual meeting. As primary author, I reported the results in an article for the Journal of Hand Surgery, a peer-reviewed publication. My contribution to medicine, albeit small, gave me much satisfaction. In the future, I would like to pursue an active role in scientific research.
My preparation for a career as a medical doctor started with my work as a professional engineer. From my experiences at the ABC Indian Reservation, I realized I need more direct personal interaction than engineering offers. The rewarding experiences I have had in my research, my volunteer work at the Los Angeles County Hospital, and my post-bac studies have focused my energies and prepared me for the new challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead in medicine."
Lessons From Med School Sample Essay #3: The Non-Traditional Applicant
Here, an older applicant takes advantage of their experience and maturity. Note how this engineer demonstrates their sensitivity and addresses possible stereotypes about engineers’ lack of communications skills.
What works well in this essay?
- A compelling lead This story begins in a hot desert landscape, an unexpected and dramatic starting point. Can’t you just feel the heat and sense the loneliness of the remote Indian reservation? Equally powerful in this first paragraph is when the writer faces the need to suddenly and completely rethink their carefully planned approach to address the tribal leaders. Their excitement is dashed. Their confidence has plummeted. They are totally unprepared for the mistrust facing them and their plan, and they need to improvise –quickly. Who wouldn’t want to read on to see how they resolve this dramatic turn of events?
- Solid storytelling that leads to a satisfying conclusion This nontraditional med school applicant reinvents themself in this essay. After realizing that they want more human involvement and interaction in their work, they take this self-knowledge and show us the steps they took to achieve their new goal. The steps are logical and well thought out, so the writer’s conclusion that they are well prepared in every way for med school makes perfect sense.
- Evidence to support their theme Through taking prerequisite courses in medicine (and achieving high grades) to bedside hospital volunteering (which provides emotional satisfaction) to helping write a medical research paper (which provides a feeling that they are making a meaningful contribution), the writer offers evidence that they are well suited for their new goal of a career in medicine. Each experience shared is relevant to the writer’s story. Any reader will agree that the applicant’s future as a physician is promising.
- A thoughtful perspective From the opening paragraph, the writer shows their ability to adapt to new situations and realities with quick thinking and psychological openness. They assess each stage of their journey, testing it for intellectual value and emotional satisfaction. Journeys of reflective self-discovery are something adcoms value.
Medical School Personal Statement Example #4: The Anthropology Student
"Crayfish tails in tarragon butter, galantine of rabbit with foie gras, oxtail in red wine, and apple tartelettes. The patient had this rich meal and complained of “liver upset” (crise de foie). Why a liver ache? I always associate indigestion with a stomach ache. In studying French culture in my Evolutionary Psychology class, I learned that when experiencing discomfort after a rich meal, the French assume their liver is the culprit. Understanding and dealing with the minor – sometimes major – cultural differences is a necessity in our shrinking world and diverse American society. Anthropology has prepared me to effectively communicate with an ethnically diverse population. My science classes, research, and clinical experience have prepared me to meet the demands of medical school.
I first became aware of the valuable service that physicians provide when I observed my father, a surgeon, working in his office. I gained practical experience assisting him and his staff perform various procedures in his outpatient center. This exposure increased my admiration for the restorative, technological, and artistic aspects of surgery. I also saw that the application of medical knowledge was most effective when combined with compassion and empathy from the health care provider.
While admiring my father’s role as a head and neck surgeon helping people after severe accidents, I also found a way to help those suffering from debilitating ailments. Working as a certified physical trainer, I became aware of the powerful recuperative effects of exercise. I was able to apply this knowledge in the case of Sharon, a 43-year-old client suffering from lupus. She reported a 200% increase in her strength tests after I trained her. This meant she could once again perform simple tasks like carrying groceries into her house. Unfortunately, this glimpse of improvement was followed by a further deterioration in her condition. On one occasion, she broke down and cried about her declining health and growing fears. It was then that I learned no physical prowess or application of kinesiology would alleviate her pain. I helped reduce her anxiety with a comforting embrace. Compassion and understanding were the only remedies available, temporary though they were.
To confirm that medicine is the best way for me to help others, I assisted a research team in the Emergency Room at University Medical Center (UMC). This experience brought me in direct contact with clinical care and provided me with the opportunity to witness and participate in the “behind-the-scenes” hospital operations. Specifically, we analyzed the therapeutic effects of two new drugs – Drug A and Drug B – in patients suffering from acute ischemic stroke. The purpose of this trial was to determine the efficacy and safety of these agents in improving functional outcome in patients who had sustained an acute cerebral infarction. My duties centered around the role of patient-physician liaison, determining patients’ eligibility, monitoring their conditions, and conducting patient histories.
I continued to advance my research experience at the VA Non-Human Primate Center. During the past year, I have been conducting independent research in endocrinology and biological aspects of anthropology. For this project, I am examining the correlation between captive vervet monkeys’ adrenal and androgen levels with age, gender, and various behavioral measures across different stress-level environments. I enjoy the discipline and responsibility which research requires, and I hope to incorporate it into my career.
Anthropology is the study of humans; medicine is the science and art of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease in humans. From my work at UMC and my observation of my father’s practice, I know medicine will allow me to pursue an art and science that is tremendously gratifying and contributes to the welfare of those around me. My anthropology classes have taught me to appreciate cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology. Firsthand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition has taught me the invaluable role of prevention. Medical school will now provide me with the technical knowledge to alleviate a crise de foie."
[ Click here to view an excerpt from the original draft of this essay. ]
Lessons From Medical School Sample Essay #4: The Anthropology Student
With a diverse background that includes anthropology studies, work as a certified physical trainer, and experience in clinical medical research, this applicant builds a strong case for their logical and dedicated choice of a medical career.
- An engaging opening that frames the storyline This writer cleverly uses an example from anthropology class, linking the description of a heavy, gourmet French meal to an appreciation for cross-cultural understanding that will be an asset during their medical career. Notice that the writer is not describing their own personal experience here but piggybacked on a class lesson to create a colorful, engaging opening.
- A solid variety of relevant experiences In this six-paragraph essay, the writer links their lessons from anthropology studies to a firsthand understanding based on observing how their surgeon-father related to patients, to becoming a physical trainer directly helping others, and then to two different kinds of medical research. Each experience builds logically and chronologically on what came before, adding to the substance of the applicant’s preparation for medical school.
- A powerful personal experience with a client In the third paragraph, the writer’s experience working with a patient with lupus is particularly strong and memorable. Their initial success with Sharon is followed by an almost immediate and radical decline in her condition. This is a moving anecdote that shows the applicant’s understanding of the limitations of medicine – and the power of compassion.
- An excellent summary paragraph that ties everything together The final paragraph isn’t the place to offer new information, and this one doesn’t. Instead, it reminds the reader about the strong foundation the writer built from academics to career and medical research. Readers will be persuaded that after these experiences and reflections, the applicant truly appreciates “cross-cultural perspectives and their relationship to pathology and its etiology,” as well as the “firsthand experience with exercise therapy and nutrition teaching the invaluable role of prevention.”
Don’t Write Like This!
As the time approached for me to set my personal and professional goals, I made a conscientious decision to enter a field which would provide me with a sense of achievement and, at the same time, produce a positive impact on mankind. It became apparent to me that the practice of medicine would fulfill these objectives. In retrospect, my ever-growing commitment to medicine has been crystallizing for years. My intense interest in social issues, education, and athletics seems particularly appropriate to this field and has prepared me well for such a critical choice...
I’ve been asked many times why I wish to become a physician. Upon considerable reflection, the thought of possessing the ability to help others provides me with tremendous internal gratification and offers the feeling that my life’s efforts have been focused in a positive direction. Becoming a physician is the culmination of a lifelong dream, and I am prepared to dedicate myself, as I have in the past, to achieving this goal.
Lessons from Don’t Write Like This
This is an excerpt from the original draft of the Anthropology Student’s AMCAS essay. We are not including the whole thing because you can get the idea all too rapidly from just this brief portion. Note the abundant use of generalities that apply to the overwhelming majority of medical school applicants. Observe how the colorless platitudes and pomposity hide any personality. Can you imagine reading essays like this all day long? If so, then imagine your reaction to a good essay.
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Med school personal statement FAQs
1. when should i start writing my personal statement for medical school.
Typically, traditional applicants who have a goal of submitting their AMCAS or AACOMAS application in June write their personal statement after they take the MCAT in March. Starting the prewriting for the personal statement earlier than that is fine too; however, if an applicant plans to sit for the MCAT in the early spring, writing a compelling personal narrative while preparing for the MCAT can often be too much. Both require very different kinds of thinking. The intensity of studying for the MCAT, and the empirical thinking it requires, can interfere with the imaginative brainstorming needed to find your topic and develop it.
Before focusing on the personal statement, look at all the elements of the primary application. As a whole, the personal statement, activities, MMEs, MCAT, transcript, biographical information and letters, will portray you. One element alone is not enough to bring out the whole you. It might help to strategize about how (and where) to highlight different elements of your background, experience, and character in the different parts of the primary application. Then work on the personal statement knowing what aspects of you are already represented in the other sections of the application. This way, each element adds value to the application and contributes to a more complete picture of you.
It makes sense to compartmentalize completing different parts of the application. Many applicants take the time they need to focus on one application component at a time, which seems to help them be thorough.
Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to write well. Exploring ideas in writing, developing those ideas, showing rather than telling a story, staying clear, writing fluidly, surmising maturely and insightfully, takes much more time than most people anticipate. So, don’t wait until Memorial Day to write your essay and intend to submit on June 1. Give yourself the churn time writing well needs. Also, give yourself time to put a draft down for a day or two and return to it when you’re able to read it afresh. Sometimes, we revise over and over again in one sitting to the point that we can no longer hear the story or its sense because we have been rehearsing and revising a draft to beat the clock. Doing this is a risky way to go about the personal statement. Remember, this essay should be a very impressive part of your application, not merely one more part of the application to finish. At the end of the day, the medical school personal statement is a window that allows others to see you, know you as a person, know you better and beyond your achievements.
2. How do I find the perfect personal statement topic? Does one exist?
Certainly, some ideas are better than others, and one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. However, there is no “perfect” topic. In fact, writing an essay with the approach of trying to out-psych this important application requirement is likely not the strongest way to find your best topic, nor is it the best way to engage your readers.
Instead, consider the following approach. What is an experience you’ve had that matters greatly in helping others understand who you are as a future physician? Why medicine, not in general, but for you, demonstrated by way of a story about an experience that directly ties to being a physician or indirectly demonstrates your sound character as it corresponds with human qualities medical schools desire. When we read what kinds of people medical schools seek, it’s easy enough to identify quite a few character traits that appeal to many schools: compassion, resiliency, adaptability, selflessness, inclusivity, and altruism among them. What experience, when written with key details and description, reveals who you really are?
3. How do you choose the right amount of personal qualities to list?
A strong medical school personal statement should not replicate other parts of the application, with the exception of it being a specific story that stems from a particular experience associated with one of your activities. Otherwise, there’s no listing in this essay. Unfortunately, some applicants do treat the personal statement as an opportunity to list awards, accolades, and experiences, paragraph by paragraph. Meanwhile, medical school admissions officers can see these awards and experiences in the Experiences section of the application. Rarely, if ever, does this kind of writing bring out voice, vision and identity. Instead, tell a true story, revised with care and precision, that shines with voice, vision and identity.
4. Are there any topics I should avoid for my medical school personal statement?
Certainly, one idea might work better for one person and not so well for someone else. So, there’s a subjectivity in what to write and what not to write. Generally, however, there are some topics to avoid. Don’t write about a time you felt cheated, inconvenienced, frustrated or angry. Sometimes, secondary essay prompts will ask you about a struggle or a mistake, and for these answers, it’s best to show how you turned the situation around or keenly learned from it. Don’t get too caught in childhood. Many applicants do write about a time when they were not yet grown; however, don’t get swallowed by it. Write the scene and then stay in the present to demonstrate your maturity and worthwhile hindsight.
Remember -- no matter what the topic, tone matters.
5. What kind of experience should I include in my personal statement?
6. can the experience i use on my med school personal statement be from outside of college.
Absolutely. It is relatively common for applicants to only portray themselves as students, and this can be a problem. Sometimes, when applicants write about themselves as excellent students the tone of such a personal statement can sound boastful or pleading. Neither quality is advantageous.
Seeing oneself in any other light can result in a stronger “snapshot” of who you are, as long as the theme or topic of your personal statement still suits the intention of the application in the first place – demonstrating who you are as an appealing candidate for medical school. When we consider the writing task for the personal statement to be much more story-driven, readers go on a descriptive journey. What journey would you like to share?
7. Should I talk about challenges I’ve faced?
If other parts of your medical school application suggest a struggle – whether a lower MCAT score or a notable weak semester on a transcript – it might be advantageous to explain what happened and how you turned that situation around. Whether writing about a challenge in the personal statement or secondaries, the key is to demonstrate resilience. Applicants with physical or cognitive disabilities may choose to write about seeking assistance -- whether a doctor, therapist or a tutor -- and how learning alternative strategies helped them figure out how to attain higher academic achievement.
Sometimes challenges are circumstantial. Sometimes families face financial hardship (did the family breadwinner become unemployed and therefore everyone else had to work more hours, including you?), emotional stress (due to an ongoing illness, Covid-19, or a divorce?) or trauma (a death of a loved one, a house fire, a veteran/sibling returning home with PTSD). Sometimes an applicant has been a caregiver for someone in the family. Sometimes an applicant has taken a leave from school because of someone else’s struggles, or the emotional fallout on the applicant from someone else’s struggle – the loss of a childhood friend, for instance. Self-care is reasonable. We might need to share a life moment in order to frame the context of a life struggle, showing it in the context of responsibility rather than recklessness or immaturity. Showing how you stepped up in a challenging time can show that you are accountable and caring, as long as the story is told to these ends, rather than suggesting resentment or self-pity. Again, neither of these tones is advantageous, nor is blame.
Occasionally applicants have been challenged by a course or by a professor, a classmate or teammate and feel unduly subjected to bias. If there’s discrimination involved, that might be a story to tell. If there’s a personality clash, that might not be a good story to tell.
Finally, as any story of challenge moves along, it’s important to demonstrate what you did, what you learned, how you adapted, or what you now value from having had this life experience that you did not understand before.
Being a doctor is rife with challenges. In the end, your readers may come to understand how you are an insightful leader with great resilience or a compassionate, problem-solver.
8. How do I focus my personal statement to show that I want to go into medicine and not another field in healthcare?
Great question. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to demonstrate your compassion for others and empathy for people suffering from illness. On the other hand, these are favorable attributes for nearly all healthcare workers -- not only doctors -- but for physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers and psychologists too. Since most applicants have done some shadowing of physicians, it’s not unusual for these experiences to contain moments of learning about being a physician through shadowing or through work in a clinic. However, the more clinical the story, the better especially if you’re applying to osteopathic schools of medicine. If you’re applying to allopathic schools of medicine, it’s possible you have some interest in being a researcher, so telling a story about working in a physician’s lab might demonstrate your insights into the value of research in light of disease or patient care. If you already have an affinity for a specialty, telling how you came to know this could be the way to go.
9. Do I introduce my desired field of healthcare in my personal statement?
Maybe. If you’re very committed and have demonstrated a trend in your activities from general volunteer work (older listings) to more specialized experience in a field of medicine (more recent listings), it may be a good idea to write up how you came to know one field of medicine was really your passion.
Bear in mind that announcing a deep interest in a particular field of medicine may make you “a good fit” or “not a good fit” for some schools. So, if you do write up a story about your desired field of medicine for your personal statement, be sure your list of schools corresponds with this. For instance, if you want to be an obstetrician and you convey this in your personal statement, be certain your schools have clinical exposure or better yet offer specializations in obstetrics, or a required rotation through a hospital for women, for instance.
Lastly, by no means must you announce a desired field of healthcare in your personal statement. You may be asked about your specialized interests in medicine in a secondary or in an interview, so it’s a good idea to think this through, but no, you don’t have to tackle this in the personal statement.
10. What should my character limit be?
The AMCAS and AACOMAS character limit for the personal statement is 5,300 characters with spaces. The TMDSAS character limit for the personal statement is 5,000 characters with spaces. It’s a good idea to use most if not all of this space for your personal statement. Also, try to avoid the temptation to use the same personal statement for AMCAS and AACOMAS. The osteopathic schools seek applicants who know and prefer an osteopathic orientation to medicine, so the AACOMAS personal statement should demonstrate your fit with osteopathic medicine, based on what story you choose to tell and how you tell it, or at the very least, in the conclusion.
11. How do I know when I’m ready to submit my med school personal statement?
I highly recommend getting feedback about this from a strong mentor, advisor or consultant. Accepted offers comprehensive consultation for every part of the writing process, from brainstorming, to outlining, to mentoring on ideas, and editing until a client has a solid final draft in hand, ready for submission. You can review these services here: Initial Essay Package
Generally speaking, when you’ve accomplished FAQ #2 and #3, avoided the pitfalls in #4, revised for clarity and quality of ideas, developed ideas engagingly, and meticulously revised for quality of writing, then, you may be done.
12. What if I don’t have enough space to discuss everything?
Then your topic is too large or unfocused, in which case you need to focus and narrow the scope of your essays. Or you have a bit of editing to do to eliminate wordiness, digressions, or overstatement Ultimately, you want your essay to be focused, clear, and engaging.
13. Should I personalize my personal statement to the med school I am applying to?
Only if you’re applying to one medical school. Otherwise, your personal statement will reach all schools listed in your AMCAS application or AACOMAS application. It is okay, however, to speak toward the ideals of your first choice, aspirational schools on your list. Other times, applicants choose to write toward the schools that are their safest bets.
Your secondary/supplemental essays will give you plenty of opportunity to show you belong at an individual school.
14. Can I talk about mental or physical health in my statement?
15. should i address any bad grades that i got in school.
Generally yes, as long as bad grades are truly bad grades. It’s likely that you do not need to address a rogue grade of B on a transcript. If you had a bad semester or two, the question becomes how and where to address them. The answer is an individual one dependent on the context. The one certainty: You definitely don’t want your entire application to be a rationalization of those bad grades.
See FAQ #7.
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Medicine Personal Statement Examples
Get some inspiration to start writing your Medicine Personal Statement with these successful examples from current Medical School students. We've got Medicine Personal Statements which were successful for universities including Imperial, UCL, King's, Bristol, Edinburgh and more.
Personal Statement Examples
- Read successful Personal Statements for Medicine
- Pay attention to the structure and the content
- Get inspiration to plan your Personal Statement
Personal Statement Example 1
Check out this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, UCL, QMUL and King's.
Personal Statement Example 2
This Personal Statement comes from a student who received Medicine offers from Bristol and Plymouth - and also got an interview at Cambridge.
Personal Statement Example 3
Have a look at this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, Edinburgh, Dundee and Newcastle.
Personal Statement Example 4
Take a look at this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for King's, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield.
Personal Statement Example 5
Pick up tips from this Medicine Personal Statement which was successful for Imperial, Birmingham and Manchester.
Personal Statement Example 6
This Personal Statement comes from a student got into Graduate Entry Medicine at King's - and also had interviews for Undergraduate Medicine at King's, QMUL and Exeter.
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- Studying medicine
- Making an application
- Personal statement
In addition to high academic achievement, medical schools will look for certain skills and attributes which they believe make an ideal candidate for medicine. Medical schools will look for evidence of these attributes in your personal statement, which is part of your UCAS application. The following points in the dropdown bar have been agreed by the medical schools as the skills and attributes they are looking for.
Skills and attributes of an ideal candidate to medicine
- Motivation to study medicine and genuine interest in the medical profession
- Insight into your own strengths and weaknesses
- The ability to reflect on your own work
- Personal organisation
- Academic ability
- Problem solving
- Dealing with uncertainty
- Manage risk and deal effectively with problems
- Ability to take responsibility for your own actions
- Insight into your own health
- Effective communication, including reading, writing, listening and speaking
- Ability to treat people with respect
- Resilience and the ability to deal with difficult situations
- Empathy and the ability to care for others
Keep these in mind while writing your personal statement. Rather than simply stating that you embody these attributes, give examples of how you have demonstrated them in the past, for instance while on work experience or through extracurricular activities.
Medical schools vary in how they assess personal statements. Some score them while others do not. They commonly use personal statements as a basis for conversation during interview, so it is a good idea to write things which you would be prepared to expand on if asked.
For more on these attributes, see the Statement on the core values and attributes needed to study medicine .
Writing your personal statement for medical school
Many students get very concerned about what to write in their personal statement. The most important thing is that it is written by you, it reflects you as a person, and is an honest reflection of your thoughts, skills and interests. Watch the video below to find out how medical schools use personal statements.
What makes a good doctor?
Medical schools want students who have commitment, perseverance, initiative, concern for others and the ability to communicate. There is a list of core values and attributes needed to study medicine, and this list has been endorsed by all medical schools. It sets out what medical schools are looking for so they can recruit and train students to make good doctors.
- The UCAS application - guide for teachers
- Personal statement - i nfosheet
- Course types
- Entry requirements for 2024 start
- Work experience
- Admissions tests
- International applicants
Values and attributes needed to study medicine
The ucas application.
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Medical School Personal Statement Examples
Your Personal Statement for Medical School will arguably be the most important essay you’ll ever write…So no pressure, right?
Our team has the honor of helping applicants craft their story in an impactful way. Below are a few of those effective personal statement essays from recently accepted medical students.
Please note that these are final drafts. It took multiple rounds of revisions to reach the draft you are about to read.
Read Courtney’s Personal Statement
Read Matt’s Personal Statement
Read Alex’s Personal Statement
Read Suzy’s Personal Statement
Medical school personal statement Sample #1
I stood shoulder to shoulder with choir members, hundreds of eyes in our direction, each seated in the great hall known as the Dallas Myerson Symphony Center. The countless rehearsals, rhythms, and lyrics danced through my mind as I watched the conductor raise his arms, and eagerly awaited his signal. His baton came crashing down and within seconds, the room was filled with the sound of musicians whose every note, melody, and harmony were married together to form an exquisite synchrony. We sang the words of the great poet William Ernest Henley who emphasized resilience in the face of suffering as well as bravery in the face of adversity. I could physically see the impact of our voices on those in the room, particularly evident when beginning an ascent to an emotionally salient crescendo. It was through this experience that I recognized the unifying and healing power of music as well as the importance of holistic healing. This was a theme that has been at the forefront of my growth and empowerment as I faced some of the hardest years of my life in search of my own emotional healing. In a manner similar to music’s impact, I am motivated to become a physician to heal those around me through a holistic approach, advocacy, and continual evolvement along a journey of lifelong learning and growth.
I still remember my mother frantically waking my brother and I to tell us that our, then, dad was in the hospital, which left us searching for holistic healing ourselves. It was not until later that I learned he had suffered an aortic dissection. I was seven years old and struck with worry though simultaneously grateful for the miracle performed by the cardiothoracic surgeons. This was the initial spark that led me to uncover my passion for science as well as interest in medicine. Three years later, he carefully told me that for most of his life he felt as if he has been living in the wrong body. I remember the confusion, lack of comprehension, and most importantly, the newly surfaced and seemingly infinite compassion I felt towards both my mom and my now transgender father. This was a situation far from simple and many times, I was left amongst familial dissension, shadows of lost friends, and fear. Regardless, I remained resilient and found solace in my faith and music. Each provided an outlet to transform sadness and fear into something beautiful and face my emotions head-on with the help of those who loyally surrounded me. In stumbling upon this emotional healing, I saw correlations between the emotional and spiritual healing that our bodies demand to be physically well and later recognized that this was a significant aspect of what drew me to medicine. In the future, I long to bring comfort and peace to patients who trust in me during their most vulnerable times and when they are most afraid, as so many have done for me.
In the words of William Ernest Henley, having been through the trials of my circumstances, I continue to “find myself unafraid” and able to overcome challenges. I think I ultimately learned this perseverance and endurance from my mother, who never gave up even when she had to start over to provide for my brother and I. Simultaneously, I felt the pain my dad faced and saw my mother defy all odds to overcome our situation. My experiences are what pushes me to want to make a difference in a world that can be so cruel to so many. I remember the judgement and lack of compassion I faced when I was with my dad as well as the deliberate marginalization my dad faced as a transgender woman. This incited a sense of advocacy in me and prompted me to become part of a non-profit organization dedicated to serving a similarly marginalized community, the homeless. I have been able to work alongside college students to cultivate change and provide supplies to those in need. I see the ability to reiterate and continue this spirit through a career in medicine. For physicians are the listeners, the branches that extend across communities and through diverse populations, ultimately the advocates for their patients and deliverers of holistic care. I long to begin this journey, even if just as a budding twig among hundreds of branches, on the path to making a difference.
Much as a choir performance is dependent upon each component, pursuing a standard of holistic healing is also far from an individual endeavor. It takes a comprehensive team to meet the needs of a patient and their family, a reoccurring theme that I have been exposed to countless times. For this is a career that requires traversing a path that is no easy feat, but one that will procure undoubtable fulfillment and beauty. This is a place in my life I might never have expected I would be, but one that I welcome with open arms. I have found myself ready to face my journey of endless growth and possibility as I am certain I want to become a physician and certain that I am capable because I have faced adversity and have only grown stronger as a result.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #2
Reading through mission statements of various medical schools, I have discovered an enthralling question: Is medicine science or art? I find this discourse of disparate viewpoints interesting because of a similar battle that has played out in my own mind between the head and the heart. Medicine is where I belong as it provides an avenue between these two raging forces unique to any other field I have found. A career as a clinician is precisely the symphony of problem solving I crave and the opportunity to love humanity I long for, making it the perfect life for me.
My initial attraction to medicine during high school came from my inquisitive nature, a desire to solve puzzles. I enjoy the thrill of mastering a topic, and then either revealing how the pieces fit to others, or using my newfound expertise in the application of solving new problems. Thus, it’s no wonder that I found medicine invigorating. It provides an endless depth of knowledge to plunder, and the opportunity to utilize that material in new situations.
Previously, I saw the human machine as something I could solve and repair if I knew enough. This has driven me to seek out opportunities to understand the deep mechanistic nature of the body. I wanted, and still want, to understand medicine at its most basic level, and then apply that knowledge to fixing diseases. Because of this desire, I have continued to seek out medical knowledge in my own time, through reading and research at school.
Admittedly, this first attraction to medicine was misguided and born of selfishness. I saw my future self as a medical Sherlock Holmes-the smartest person in the room disseminating my own cleverness from on high to solve a medical problem. I had only a mild interest in the artful, human, side of medicine. This intense passion to solve problems I now see is not itself inherently wrong and will indeed serve me well in medical school, but such a desire must be tempered by the heart.
When I arrived at college, my concept of the world, and with it medicine, was completely rearranged. Living in close community, I soon realized a simple, but important Truth: Life is not about you. It isn’t even about each other on an individual level. It’s about how people connect and intersect on the whole and effect change for their fellow man. This perspective shift drastically changed how I lived at school. Now I had a desire to serve others and participate in my activities precisely to do so.
I also shifted how I understood medicine. Medicine, it seemed, was not the cold calculation of Holmesian deduction to fix diseases as I once believed, but the art of understanding, navigating, and mitigating human pain in whatever form-physical, emotional, psychological- via the conduit of scientific understanding. While the science of medicine first attracted me to the field, it is the desire to practice the art of medicine that has continued to propel me towards a career as a physician.
My understanding of medicine as an art and a science and my desire to pursue both have only grown stronger as I have become a patient myself. Last summer, I became very ill, and spent most of my summer asleep, in the bathroom, or at the clinic, only being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the end of July. In such a vulnerable position, I experienced first-hand that importance and impact of medicine as art and science. Dr. Hallak, my gastroenterologist, treated not just my illness, but the fear and pain I possessed, and for that I am forever grateful (and fortunately, also healthy).
Likewise, Dr. Hallak graciously taught me about my disease on a mechanistic level, demonstrating that he understood the science of medicine as deeply as I had hoped a clinician would. Thus, I was assured that a career as a clinician could sate my scientific hunger as well. In Dr. Hallak I clearly saw that I did not have to compromise between my desire to understand the human body as a machine, and my need to serve others and effect change in their lives. When I think of the type of physician I want to be, I know that I want to follow Dr. Hallak’s example and live a life using science to not simply fix disease, but to heal human pain.
Because of these experiences, I believe that medicine is precisely this: the application of knowledge of both humankind- our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies- and human disease towards the eradication of human pain. In this definition, I have found a means to navigate the tricky space between medicine as science and art, between my inquisitiveness and the earnest longing to benefit others, between the head and the heart. I am confident that in my future career as a physician I will be able to fulfill these two desires.
Furthermore, I believe that my perspective on medicine, one that unifies art and science, is necessary for the evolving landscape of medicine. With the advent of new technologies, future physicians will be called to new roles. It is only by understanding and synthesizing the disparate halves of medicine that we as future physicians can fulfill these new, unknown roles. It is my hope that I might bring a fresh perspective to the field of medicine, and bring a positive impact not simply for my own sake, but for all the patients I will have in the future.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #3
I gripped the kitchen phone and listened to a voice utter words that even at six years old, I could never forget: “your father is cured.” A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I realized that the invisible monsters that plagued my father’s body, ones much scarier than the Boogeyman hidden under my bed, were finally gone. My resilient father was no longer infected with hepatitis B and C. During his fight against those invisible monsters, I was far too young to understand the etiology of his ailments, much less the pharmacodynamics of his medications. However, there was one thing that at six years old I undisputedly understood; these monsters were making my father weak despite costly treatments. Seeing the physical and emotional pain my father bore and the constant havoc it wreaked on my family, I desperately scrambled to educate myself, naively using the computer as leverage to find a remedy. Each search was met with medical jargon my juvenile mind could not decode. However, after years of searching, “Dr. S,” my father’s gastroenterologist, accomplished what I had been naively trying to do: find a cure. Dr. S’s holistic understanding of my father and his heroic ability to help planted a seed of motivation inside me to become a physician, like him. One that is dedicated to curing others of the monsters that plague their bodies.
Growing up, various questions flooded my mind regarding my father’s illness. Why did he have hepatitis? Why did it take so long to find a cure? Slowly, answers emerged as I educated myself on healthcare in underdeveloped countries. My father, who was from a village outside X, was unknowingly infected with hepatitis. His life back home was simple, but the unsanitary health practices, lack of infrastructure, smoke-polluted air, contaminated water, and minimal health education or preventative medicine produced a suboptimal environment for sustaining a healthy lifestyle. As a result of these conditions and the insufficiency of available physicians, many individuals were beset by disease and mortality. This predisposition is, unfortunately, a reality that my father and millions of others living in underdeveloped countries or marginalized communities in the United States unjustly face. Learning about these roadblocks to healthcare subsequently made my passion to become a physician even more deeply rooted. My mission has now evolved into becoming a physician dedicated to implementing preventative medicine for underserved individuals.
While immersing myself in clinical experiences as an emergency medical technician (EMT), I became aware of prevailing healthcare inequalities, similar to what my father endured. While sitting on the edge of a blue seat in the ambulance, I watched my patient, “Max,” clutch his abdomen as he sat on the stretcher. “Max, do you have stomach pain?” though was not met with a response. “Max, ¿tiene dolor?” As the words left my mouth, all eyes turned to me. Max sluggishly nodded. “¿Max, dónde le duele?” He slowly pointed to his stomach. I continued to speak to Max in Spanish, which allowed me to further my assessment and obtain vitals. The time I spent caring for Max during transport underscored the importance of being adaptable to linguistic and cultural differences, as equitable patient care is dependent on the ability to acknowledge and cater to these differences. Being an EMT has allowed me to mitigate barriers to healthcare within my community, though I am left with the urge to do more. As a physician, I will be able to provide longitudinal care and make seeking primary care more accessible for marginalized individuals, such as my father and Max.
While becoming a physician for marginalized communities is part of my goal, it was not until my health promotion class that I realized how these populations can benefit from both preventative and osteopathic medicine. For these individuals, imbalances in internal and external stressors, whether they be environmental, social, emotional, or biological, may result in illness, such as my father’s. Rather than advocating for costly or invasive symptomatic treatment, A.T. Still’s philosophy on the mind, body, and spirit has demonstrated that as an osteopathic physician, I can holistically treat or even prevent disease by restoring these imbalances. Moreover, the second tenant of osteopathic medicine surrounding self-regulation and self-healing would allow me to help marginalized individuals realize that they have the innate tools necessary to maintain optimal health and overcome disease. Altogether, this outlook would enable these individuals, who often cannot afford costly treatment, to feel empowered and capable of controlling their own health narratives. Although my introduction to osteopathic medicine was brief, the impact it has made on my journey to medicine is long-lasting.
Never would I have thought that four simple words would lead me down a path towards becoming an osteopathic physician. Yet, the story behind them inadvertently ignited a fire within me. Regardless of cultural differences or even language barriers, I now know that with an osteopathic outlook, I can be the hope in medicine for underserved communities and deliver the life-changing words that I once received.
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Medical school personal statement Sample #4
One 40-minute bus ride and three wrong turns later, I arrived at Dr. C’s cardiology clinic in X. After climbing the stairs to the clinic doors, a volunteer coordinator welcomed me and gestured to a waiting room brimming with restless patients. “We’re behind schedule today. Here’s the first patient’s chart. You’ll learn on the go.” He ushered me quickly into the nearest patient room, where I found myself standing in front of a confused elderly woman. I took a deep breath and introduced myself. Then, listening carefully, I began to update her medical chart as she described her sharp chest pain. As I reviewed her family and social history, she inhaled shallowly: her only daughter had passed away a few weeks earlier. She crumpled the medication list in her lap, her gaze downcast. I acknowledged her pain, handed her a box of tissues as well as a glass of water and listened to her as she shared fond memories of her daughter. Once we finished our session, I brought her over to Dr. C, who warmly squeezed her hand. I observed as he listened and patiently attended to each of her concerns while he simultaneously interpreted her electrocardiogram results and prescribed a regimen of beta-blockers. As I watched her leave the office with a renewed sense of calm, I immediately recognized the significance of a patient-physician relationship defined by curiosity, compassion, and communication.
My interest in medicine began as a child living with X, my exuberant autistic brother with a fierce sweet tooth. As I watched childhood friends take part in friendly sibling rivalries, I could not help but wonder if I would ever be able to do the same. With his speech limited to a handful of utterances and with his aversion to physical touch, I had to learn how to connect with X in other ways. Despite my short stature as a child, I remember tenaciously balancing myself upon a kitchen stool, foraging through the top cupboards, and sneaking away with a box of cookies so that my brother and I could eat together in contented silence. Yet this shared silence led me to so many questions: Would I ever know what X was thinking? How did this happen? My love for my brother grew alongside the puzzling nature of his diagnosis. This acted as the initial push into an education in the sciences and into a desire to uncover the intricacies of the human body.
Armed with a background in biochemistry, my pursuit of knowledge propelled me through an undergraduate senior thesis in Dr. K’s lab. Enlightened by the scientific method and curious about the molecular processes underlying complex illnesses, I decided to examine the regulation of transcription factors involved in renal fibrosis, a pathological marker of chronic kidney disease. This laborious but rewarding process allowed me to correlate the presence of the cav-1 gene to the lowered expression of the SP1 transcription factor and the decreased production of follistatin, a protein that neutralizes pro-inflammatory pathways and protects against renal fibrosis. Though I was thrilled by my findings, I was still left unsatisfied. I had originally set out to seek answers, but I realized that what I wanted even more was to be reassured in the face of the unknown. More than that, I wanted to offer assurance to those in similarly ambiguous situations through experiences in clinical and community settings.
For the better part of a decade, I offered assurance in the emergency department (ED) at X. There, I formed strong relationships and gained experience working alongside accomplished and dedicated physicians. However, the ED, for most patients, is often a place of distress. I remember one particular patient crying relentlessly while her mother spoke to me about a research study that we were conducting at the hospital. She mentioned that her daughter loved to draw, but in their haste to the hospital, she had forgotten to bring drawing supplies. As her mother read over the consent form that I presented to her, I excused myself to find paper and crayons. When I returned, I sat next to the child as she drew her favorite cartoons. I complimented her artistic skills. She laughed relentlessly, engrossing herself further in her evolving artwork. This scene continues to replay in my mind – the reprieve that art offered, the child’s pure joy, and her mother mouthing “Thank You” from her seat. While not a technical part of my role as a clinical research project assistant, this small act brought tranquility to a stressful environment. Being willing to exceed beyond expectations for others in a compassion-led approach is essential for connecting with and advocating for patients.
While the silence between my brother and me prompted questions, it equally taught me lessons that no one else could. From him, I learned about the individuality in human connection and the power of kindness. My experiences combined with a penchant for scientific inquiry have both established and continuously reaffirmed my desire to become a physician. Whether it is following up with a distressed cardiology patient or connecting with distraught families in the ED, I want to improve the lives of others and provide a place of solace for all that I meet.
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