5 Tips on Writing the Personal Statement for Residency

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5 Tips on Writing the Personal Statement for Residency

Residency admission committees take into account a variety of factors when determining to whom they will offer a spot in their program. Most of the factors they consider are secondary to numerical grades or other’s opinions of you. The only factor that is specifically related to the resident applicant’s voice is their personal statement. For that reason, the personal statement provides a unique perspective into the residency candidate’s personality, goals, and thought processes for pursuing that specific path of training.

Producing a personal statement that will stand out among high achieving medical students will likely make the difference between getting your first choice of residency and being left to settle for a residency program that is still available at the end of the match process.

What can you do to make your personal statement for residency stand out?

1 – Make your strongest point in the first paragraph

Unfortunate as it may be, if you don’t make a strong point for admission quickly, it is possible that your essay may never get read. Something that grabs an admissions officer in the first paragraph, is likely to be completely read and gain your admission, to at least the next round of evaluations. If your essay is slow to gain speed or catch the eye of one of the admission personnel, it is likely the remainder of your essay will never be read.

2 – Tie your personal life experiences into your essay

If you want the admissions committee to truly understand who you are, you will need to tie your experience in life into your statement. For example, if you traveled to a foreign country and a particular patient experience changed your life, write about that. If you worked in the field during your summers off (for example you may have worked in the emergency room as a volunteer) you need to make sure the committee knows about that. People are generally touched by specific examples rather than generalized statements.

Say this:

During a recent relief trip to rural Mexico after my first year of medical school, I counseled Carla M., a promiscuous fourteen year-old runaway female, about how safe sex procedures to protect one from both STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Opening these streams of thought in a young teenager, which were previously unknown to her, and realizing that I could change the course of her future adult life sparked my interest in specializing in a career devoted to caring for adolescents.

Don’t say this:

Since the teenage years were very formidable years in my life, I want to be a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine so I can make a difference in the lives of adolescents. I know I can make a big difference in the trajectory of the lives of teenagers so they become responsible adults.

The first example is more interesting, more descriptive, and more personalized (using a name, demographics, a specific example, and your role in this example) as opposed to making generalized impersonal ways regarding how you will help others.

Next time you watch a State of the Union speech. The President usually highlights certain policies by singling out guests they brought to the event and personalizes their story. It makes a big impact on both the retention of the message and the emotional bonding with the theme of the message as well.

3 – Be Concise

The admissions committee will likely have hundreds of personal statements to sift through, on their way to offering spots to medical students. Make sure you get your point across within a single page. Essays that drag on will get lost in the shuffle.

4 – Elicit the help of professional writers

Many medical schools or universities have a writing staff or English department to assist in the writing process. Though it is important that you write your own essay in your own voice, it always helps to have a second set of eyes read your essay and suggest changes. Consider hiring a virtual assistant through odesk.com or elance.com to have professionals edit your essay.

5 – Don’t be afraid to start over

With a push to get your completed application turned in, there is always the enticement to move swiftly through the process. While it is important that you meet all the deadlines, rushing through your essay is a major mistake and one that will likely cost you leverage in the admissions evaluation. If your essay doesn’t represent who you really are, it is best to reevaluate what you are trying to say and start from scratch.

Conclusion

With the personal essay being the single most important method of expressing your unique personality, goals and career direction, the best advice is to take it slow and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite…until it represents the best version of you!

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