The Personal Statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to admission committees. It can explain your motivation and why you have made the decision to apply. It can bring out your personal attributes and competencies and weave together all of your experiences. A sincere, thoughtful, and introspective personal statement may make the difference to committee members as they decide whether to interview or admit an academically qualified applicant. This is the time to strengthen the narrative part of your application and demonstrate how you view the meaning of your experiences rather than just present them as an annotated resume.
A 5300-character essay (the character limit for AMCAS) requires focus in your essay. You might have a particular interest that spans both your academic achievements and your extracurricular experiences and you can use that interest as a thread to tie your essay together. You may have a unique background that you'd like to begin with. Or you may want to describe a meaningful clinical experience.
Here are some key points to keep in mind when writing the personal essay:
- Use perfect English. Check for typos and remember that spell checkers don’t catch all errors (e.g., “there” vs. “their”)
- Use action verbs and active voice rather than passive. Don't say “I was given the opportunity to volunteer (or work) in”, but rather "I volunteered in ... "
- Circle all the times you used the word “I” and if there are too many, rewrite your sentences
- Be personal when you write, as though you were talking with someone in person
- Be sure to explain the lessons learned, skills, and attributes you’ve cultivated through experiences
- You might use an engaging story and anecdote to personalize your essay; if you do, be careful not to spend half of your essay describing someone else - the essay is about you
- Write an essay that describes you, one that only you could have written
- Multiple rewrites over a period of time are to be expected
- Ask others to read your essay for content, especially those individuals who know you well to ensure that your authentic voice is coming through
- Don’t be wildly creative. This is not a creative writing essay
- Don’t be gratuitous
- Don’t use trite and vague phrases such as “gained valuable experience” and “became intrigued with the human body”
- Don’t list
- Don’t over inflate or under-inflate your accomplishments/activities
- Don’t include inaccuracies or unsubstantiated claims
- Don't begin your essay with how you wanted to be a doctor at age 4 when you received your first Fisher Price doctor kit
- Don’t place blame on others
There are a wide variety of sample essays online (google sample essay questions medical school) that might give you ideas, but remember that this is your personal statement and it needs to be written from the heart.
If you are applying to an MD-PhD program, you will write and include two other essays, one on why you are applying to these programs and one on your research experience.
Our office will be glad to read a draft of your personal statement and offer comments. You can submit a statement with your RMA or at a later date. We'll provide details on how to do this during the spring.
Even if you are naturally charming and charismatic, resist the temptation to wing your medical school interview. You will be miles ahead if you have already given any serious thought to common interview questions beforehand.
Our list of classic medical interview questions represent all the questions an interviewer might pose from your decision to pursue medicine to your views on universal healthcare. The key is to think through your answers to the more difficult questions here before you walk through the door.
Questions about your Education
- Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
- How have you tried to achieve breadth in your undergraduate curriculum?
- How has your undergraduate research experience, if any, better prepared you for a medical career?
- How have the jobs, volunteer opportunities, or extracurricular experiences that you have had better prepared you for the responsibilities of being a physician?
- How do you envision using your medical education?
Questions about Your Character and Personality
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What travels have you taken and what exposure to other cultures have you had?
- Thinking of examples from your recent past, how would you assess your empathy and compassion?
- As a pre-med, what skills have you learned to help manage your time and relieve stress?
- If you could be granted three wishes for making the world/society/ your community a better place, what would they be and why (or, If you were given a million dollars to achieve three goals, what would you work on and why)?
- What do you do for fun?
- What is “success” in your opinion? After 20 years as a physician, what kind of “success” would you hope to have achieved? Please explain
- What qualities do you look for in a physician? Can you provide an example of a physician who embodies any of these ideals? How do they do this?
- What kind of experiences have you had working with sick people? Have these experiences taught you anything that you didn’t know beforehand?
- Do you have any family members or role models who are physicians?
- What family members, friends, or other individuals have been influential in your decision to pursue a medical career?
- If you could invite four people from the past to dinner, who would they be, and why would you invite them? What would you talk about?
- Does your academic record reflect any major challenges? If so, what are they and why did they occur?
- What excites you about medicine in general?
- What do you know about the current trends in our nation’s healthcare system?
- What do you believe to be some of the most pressing health issues today? Why?
- What do you feel are the negative or restrictive aspects of medicine from a professional standpoint?
- If you had to choose between clinical and academic medicine as a profession, which would you pick? What do you feel you might lose by being forced to choose?
Society Related Questions
- What do you feel are the social responsibilities of a physician?
- What do you consider an important/the most important social problem facing the United States today and why?
- How do you think national health insurance affects physicians, patients, and society?
- In what manner and to what degree do you stay in touch with current events?
- What books, films, or other media come to mind as having been particularly important to your sciences/non-sciences education?
- Can you think of any examples in our society when healthcare is a right? When is it a privilege? When is it not clear?
Questions about Ethics
- Are you aware of any current controversies in the area of medical ethics? List and discuss some of these.
- Have you personally encountered any moral dilemmas to date? Of what nature?
- How do you feel about euthanasia or medically assisted suicide?
- What different feelings and issues might you experience with a terminally ill patient, as opposed to other patients?
- How would you feel about treating a patient who has tested positive for HIV?
- What are some of the ethical issues that our society considers in regard to teenage pregnancy?
- Assume there are limited resources available and you must make decisions in a major emergency with a wide assortment of patients from all ages, backgrounds, and degree of injury. Assume also that there is no “right answer” to this question, only considered and unconsidered responses. Who would you direct to receive the treatment first and why.
Questions about Diversity
- If you are a minority candidate, how do you feel your background uniquely prepares you to be, and will influence your role as, a physician?
- If you are a woman, how has your gender impacted your decision to pursue a medical career?
- If you are not a minority, how might you best meet the needs of a multiethnic, multicultural patient population?
- If you are economically disadvantaged or have limited financial means, how has this adversity shaped you?
- To what extent do you feel that you owe a debt to your fellow man? To what extent do you owe a debt to those less fortunate than yourself? Please explain.
Questions about Medical School
- What special qualities do you feel you possess that set you apart from other medical school candidates? What makes you unique or different as a medical school candidate?
- What kind of medical schools are you applying to, and why?
- Pick any specific medical school to which you are applying, and tell the interviewer about it. What makes this school particularly desirable to you?
- What general and specific skills would you hope an ideal medical school experience would give you? How might your ideal school achieve that result?
Questions about Your Motivation
- Discuss your decision to pursue medicine. When did you decide to become an MD, and why?
- Why did you decide to choose medicine and not some other field where you can help others, such as nursing, physical therapy, pharmacology, psychology, education, or social work?
- How have you tested your motivation to become an MD? Please explain.
- What will you do if you are not accepted to medical school this year? Have you an alternative career plan?
- Is there anything else we have not covered that you feel the interviewer should know about you or your interest in becoming a doctor?
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