Personal Statements and Essays

I receive lots of requests this time of year for help with personal statements and secondary application essays, some thoughts...

Read your essays out loud, they should feel conversational (they will in fact likely be conversation starters during interviews), the tone should be professional, similar to what you would find in The New York Times. Journalistic is probably the correct way to think about it, with accurate but efficient descriptions, and a clear simple message. You want to display your passion for medicine, but avoid overburdening the reader with too much emotion. If you read the essay back to yourself and it could work for an application to nursing school you've gotten off track. Compassion is great, but being a physician is about more than just feelings.

Avoid words like truly, really, starkly and any complicated terms that you don't have the space to clearly define, like social justice and cultural perspectives. Instead of saying "I am culturally competent" or "I am really compassionate" tell a story or anecdote that shows your deeper knowledge of the role culture plays in health outcomes, or how compassion can foster a beneficial physician-patient alliance. Stories and anecdotes give the essays a personal flavor that sticks in the readers mind, and allows the reader to relate to you and the situation.

Compare your essays with the rest of your application. If you aren't introducing anything new, something NOT covered in your application, then you are missing an opportunity.

Here are a number of helpful articles on pitfalls to avoid in admissions essays.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-oversharing-in-admissions-essays.html?_r=0

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/today-essay/

http://www.studentdoctor.net/2013/03/tales-from-an-insider-personal-statement-fails/

http://www.studentdoctor.net/2011/07/medical-school-application-secondary-essays/

http://www.mommd.com/inquarta007.shtml