Caution: Post with heavy reading!
Since I have a lot of friends that just finished their junior year and are applying to medical school, I thought I would share my personal statement. If you’ve been applying then you already know the basic guidelines they give you and some of the more google-able tips you can find on what to put in it- and what not to.
About a page in length.
Highlight your good qualities. Duh.
Say what makes you unique.
Things like that.
But, the thing is. In all my searching, people rarely share them. I mean yeah, you can find a couple of examples, but I’m pretty sure they’re professionally written so as to be unrealistically bad, or “ideal scenario” good. Is mine perfect? No. Is it real? Yes.
So here it is. The personal statement of a real, imperfect student that really really really wants to be a doctor. I didn’t have all the right connections, I didn’t have the perfect grades, I didn’t have a stellar internship working for the dean of the medical school. I’m an average student that worked my butt off, and never felt like I was going to get in. And now I did.
I wrote it myself, but like I said here, many many people proofread it for me. Just to have people read it and tell you different points of view on how it comes across is valuable, I think. You should see how many drafts of it that I have on my computer. It’s a little ridiculous.
“Dear Admissions Committee,
As I begin medical school, below is a letter I envision sharing with my patients when I begin my career.
To My Patients:
Thank you so much for trusting me as your physician. I want you to know the doctor who will be giving you excellent care for a number of years, I thought I would begin our relationship by giving you a brief look at how I ended up as your doctor.
You are an amazing being. It is almost hard to comprehend how many things had to go right for you to be conceived, born, and here in front of me today. My love of medicine began when my older sister became pregnant; I was just thirteen. I read all the pregnancy books, went to ultrasound appointments, and listened intently at her prenatal visits. Not only did I enjoy the learning aspect, I loved taking care of her while her husband was at work and she was on bed rest. We grew closer as a result of the caretaker role I filled. I shaved her legs, made sure she was consuming enough calories and gave her the medications she needed to avoid preterm labor.
Ever since I could write, I have kept a journal. If you were to read my journal, you would see my gratitude for sharing life with people and hearing their stories. I believe everyone has a story to tell. This, and the fact that I was raised to respect and help others, fits seamlessly with my interest in medicine, being that a doctor connects the story of a life in need with the hope of healing.
While on a mission trip to Mexico during two of my Spring Breaks, I helped build new houses in a small village. Our team gave the people there more suitable housing and spent time playing games with their children at a nightly carnival we hosted. Here, I learned how helping a community changes the lives of both those served and those serving. My lifelong commitments to learning, listening, and serving in the world around me have taught me how valuable people are, no matter their background, economic status, or level of education.
Firm in my resolve to become a doctor, I began volunteering at a free clinic in Tulsa sponsored by OU Medical School serving those with no health insurance. One of the clinic’s goals is to improve the health status of a part of the city that has relatively poor health and low income. I love seeing the patients at Bedlam Clinic- learning from the medical students, and getting to experience different procedures and tests each time. The exposure alone is an invaluable experience I will carry with me throughout my education and practice. Each day, I leave Bedlam with a smile on my face that does not go away for hours afterward. The thought of a future continuing to see and help patients, is a true delight for me. I cannot think of anything I would rather do than be your doctor.
As a biology student, a devoted aunt of five young girls, a runner, a research lab intern, a church member, an avid reader, and a volunteer, I am used to working hard. I enjoy being busy, and maintaining a rigorous but fun routine. I thrive on learning and working with my hands, body, and mind alongside all kinds of people. Best of all, I love this journey I am on. Trials and errors, ups and downs, knee injuries and finish lines- I have learned that I am capable of more than I thought possible. In running, as in life, I have learned that going the distance leads to a better, stronger me. Taking the hard way has never led me to failure, so I will continue to live and care for patients this way.
I offer my heartfelt sympathies regarding whatever ailment is bringing you in today. I promise you my best to assist you in getting well. From my shadowing experiences, I built bonds with great doctors who, in turn, allowed me to see their bonds with their patients at a family clinic. It touched me to be privileged enough to enter these rooms. Since patients seek their doctors when something is wrong, illnesses and problems become very personal in nature. I think just being examined by a doctor makes you vulnerable. Mothers, you might bring your kids in to see me, putting their care in my hands. Sons, you might bring your beloved elderly parent in about a concern you have. The responsibility of taking on this role for you and your loved ones is something I do not take lightly.
In my pursuit of loving people, positively impacting the world around me, and eagerly seeking to grow in medical knowledge, I am privileged to call myself the physician to the best patients in the world- you.”
You may notice I picked a slightly different approach. I was told by a couple people mentoring me, could be pretty risky. Instead of addressing it to the admissions committee, I addressed it like a letter to my future patients. I did this because I knew it would be easier to write to “them”- my patients- about why it is I became their doctor than it would be to convince an admission committee or interviewer of all the “great” things I had done to become the best student for their medical school. It isn’t about being a medical student after all- its about the doctor you become.
In the end, to make it stand alone, I told the reader (my interviewers) that I was writing it unconventionally and explained my intended audience.
I do think that the whole thing was a risk. But the risk paid off. Plus, I’m really proud of it because I’ve never seen one like it out there.
The doctors I shadowed all said they loved it and gave excellent criticisms that I took into account and changed a few things. But what I really like about it is that I ignored some of the advice I was given and left it the way I made it so that it stayed “me”. So feel free to ignore this post if it takes the “you” out of your personal statement.
I also gave it to my mom’s coworkers (public school administrators), my professors, an OU resident I met through an OU information session that became a mentor, as well as all of my letter writers for their opinions. Some liked it, some didn’t. The best compliment I ever got was someone telling me that they wanted me to be their doctor after reading it.
This was me.
Both interviewers at OSU complimented me on it, but the young resident told me that he received my file the night before and read through it. (OSU told me that this is the ideal to have their interviewers read over your file the night before they interview you, which I thought was really nice). He said he read it twice and then he read it to his wife and they both loved it. He said that if every doctor felt that way about their patients, it would change the health of the world.
I encourage you all to do something creative with it! As creative as one page with all your attitudes, accomplishments, and activities can get! Who knows, it may pay off!