You finally have time to sit down and write you personal statement. You know it’s a big deal, and maybe you know vaguely what you want to write about. But all you can do is stare at that blank white screen helplessly.
“Where do I even begin?”
There are several key points you want to hit with a personal statement, regardless of what your background is and what type of program you’re applying to. A good starting point is to answer the following questions:
- What ignited your passion for career X?
- What moments reaffirmed your decision that YES, this is the career for you?
- How do your background, personality and experiences make you a great fit for career X?
- How does the program you’re applying to take your career to the next level? How is it a good fit for you?
- What are your long-term career goals?
By the way, if you need a little more guidance than that, we have an awesome Brainstorming Packet that we highly recommend for any applicant: https://edityour.net/product/personal-statement-brainstorming-packet/
Ok so if you’ve figured out generally what you’re going to write about, believe it or not, that’s not actually enough! You also need to structure your personal statement in a way that will draw the admissions team into your story and keep them hooked from start to finish. The structure and flow can have a big impact on how powerfully your experiences come across and how organized as a person you seem. For some tips on how to best structure your personal statement, check out our blog post on the topic of structure: https://edityour.net/structuring-your-personal-statement-with-a-strong-backbone/
Once you know what you’re going to write about and how you’re going to structure it, you are well on your way! After that first draft is complete, don’t forget the last step: Get it edited by a professional editor. That way you know it’s as strong as it can possibly be from a grammatical, structural and content point of view.
See all our best tips and resources on the EditYour Blog: https://edityour.net/blog/
Saint Louis University medical student
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer 4 years ago. He underwent surgery as well as chemotherapy, necessitating his stay in the hospital. With the hours he had, trapped in a hospital bed, he began to write his autobiography. This exercise was his method of taking stock of his life, the mental challenge of grappling with his own mortality by systematically revisiting the trials and tribulations that brought him to where he was. Based on his writings and reflecting on my father’s persona, if he asked me to title his autobiography, I would select : Physician, Father, Researcher, and Activist. Physician before all else simply because it was more than a profession, it describes his ethos, how he went about doing everything else he did in life.
Should I ever complete a similar mental exercise, the title of my autobiography will begin, “: Surgeon”. My first year in medical school exposed me to a handful of specialties and dozens of subspecialties. Finding and choosing a specialty was daunting as many appeared to peak my interests. In an attempt to gain better perspective, I decided to spend as much time in the hospital as possible in the summer between my 1st and 2nd years. I contacted several departments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NWM) in Chicago about shadowing their physicians. My schedule started me on the Trauma Surgery and Critical Care service and rotated between different departments every week. I never ended up leaving the Trauma Surgery service.
Though I spent time in other department’s clinics and floors, I would always gravitate back to the Trauma service. I was fortunate to be at NWM in June when there is a traditional break between 3rd and 4th year for medical students, leaving me the sole medical student in the entire hospital and the only student on a surgical service. This gave me an unparalleled opportunity to explore my interest in surgery. The residents tried to direct me to what they thought would be interesting cases as well as those that I would be of use. My transforming experience that summer, in particular the 200 or so hours in the hospital those two weeks being the only medical student, exposed me to three aspects of surgery that convinced me that I was destined to be a surgeon: the surgical problems, surgical patients and surgeon characteristics.
Surgical problems and patients are difficult, complex and unique. Surgery is an assault on the human body. A surgeon must contend not only with the patient’s natural decline in health, but also the infliction that we cause trying to help. They must deal with three distinct, but complicated problem areas; pre-operative: whether or not to operate, operative: the marriage of medical knowledge and the technical skill and post-operative: management of wounds, infections and a whole host of potential complications. These problems represent the pinnacle of intellectual challenges and are life altering for patients. I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than dedicating my life to solving them.
The uniqueness of surgical problems requires surgeons to not only be intelligent, diligent physicians, but also creative, good with their hands, work well under pressure, decisive and good team leaders. These are all characteristics that throughout my life I have aspired to. I am eager to realize these aspirations as I continue my medical education as a surgical resident.