By Rick Perlman
When you write your medical school personal statement, you are looking to make an impression that will stand out above thousands of other applications. By this time, you’ve taken all the required science and math courses, done your volunteer work in the field, and studied for an taken the MCATs. You’ve done your research to figure out which medical schools you are most interested and checked and double checked to be sure that you’ve gotten all of your transcripts together, letters of reference, and filled out all the applications with the requisite admissions fees. You’ve put it off until the last minute and now it’s time to take it on – your medical school personal statement.
Without actually writing an essay called ‘Why I Want to be a Doctor’ and saying the words ‘I want to help people’, you need to explain why you would make a good doctor and reflect well on their institution and also what has moved you to not only choose medicine but choose their institution.
Why You Want to be a Doctor
This is not the easiest question to answer. It’s probably a combination of job security, high pay, and humanitarianism, which is what everyone else will say as well in their medical school personal statment. This is not a choice arrived at overnight, however, or a decision that was made lightly. Certainly there were a number of events that occurred over the course of your life that led you to be writing this essay. The number of hours and life choices that will give up to pursue this career says what a weighty decision this was. Search through your past, the people you’ve known, events you experienced or witnessed and epiphanies or revelations you came to that measure up to the level of solemnity and passion that have pushed you to work as hard as you have and given you the desire to work even harder in the future.
What Makes You the Best Candidate for a Medical Career
Again, you don’t want to take the traditional path to explain why you will make the next doctor. They already know your qualifications, your volunteer experience, the classes you’ve taken, and your GPA. Remember that this is a personal essay. You will do well on this point by showing them rather than telling the admissions committee in your medical school personal statement.
Consider your experiences that are not represented in cold, list form on your application. Did you have an experience at home or out in the world where you demonstrated calm under pressure and the ability to remember details and intricate facts in the face of an emergency? It may or may not have been a medical emergency, but it should be an event that holds the same weight. Don’t explain how you were in the weeds once when you were waiting tables and managed to calm a screaming customer, upset boss, and still remember a straw for table 7. It may have been important to you, but somehow, a heart attack patient and a spilled soda don’t really compare.
Additionally, you will want to show that your interest in becoming a doctor did not happen last week when you saw a particularly moving episode of ER. This is especially important if you majored in something outside of Pre-Med. Your love for the kids you took care of on a mission trip to Jamaica, a particular patient who you will never forget even though all they needed was a band aid and a listening ear – these are the kinds of things that are specific enough to create images that will stand out to the admissions committee as well as show your true passion for the field. Interweaving the reasons why you chose the profession and the reasons why you are a qualified applicant into your medical school personal statement will go a long way toward getting the attention of the people who can help you get there.
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