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Personal Statements: How to get started

Hi everyone and welcome back to the blog! I hope you are ready to finish 2022 strong with just a few weeks to go! With that theme in mind, if you are applying to medical school in 2023, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your personal statement as you can get a head start on it over your holiday break coming up. As the personal statement is a very stressful component of the application, here are some tips to get you started!

1. Brainstorm the main theme

This may be a no-brainer but it is often the second hardest part of this process (next to step 3 below). The main theme of the personal statement serves as the backbone to build the rest of the statement around. This main theme does not have to be ground-breaking or life-changing but should be focused around the question: why do you want to be a physician? While this seems like a simple question for someone interested in medicine, articulating your reasons for pursuing a career in medicine can often be quite difficult at first.

Stay tuned for a later post where I will dive deeper into developing this main theme but here are some main ideas to consider:

Personal experience with healthcare: Typically a childhood or early adolescent experience with a specific physician or healthcare in general that sparks your interest.

Familial experience with healthcare: A situation where you experience healthcare through a family member and you are inspired by the care they received or the compassion afforded to your family through a difficult time.

Life experience: This category is a bit harder to define but it is typically an event or experience in which it does not fit into the other two categories. Some examples of this could be a study-abroad trip, a church mission trip you went on or some other event or experience that really motivated you to help others.

2. Develop the supporting evidence

Once you have identified the main theme that you want to permeate throughout your statement, then you should start thinking about what events, experiences or opportunities you have had that have reaffirmed your desire to pursue medicine as a career or had a lasting impact upon you. If you think of your main theme as the story, event, experience that sparked your interest in medicine, then the supporting evidence represents those things that have confirmed your goals.

When thinking about the supporting evidence, I would identify 2-4 things that you could use to support your goals. You can always trim down this list during the editing process to the top 2-3 as they fit into your statement.

3. Just start writing

This is definitely easier said than done but it is crucial to get started. Just like it may be difficult to sit down and start writing that midterm paper for your undergraduate class, just starting to write the personal statement may feel like you are preparing to climb Mt. Everest. However, once you are able to get past the hurdle of just starting to write, you will find that this helps immensely! When you are just getting started, I would set out with a goal of just writing a portion of the statement at a time. For example, just start with the introduction and jot some ideas down before putting it away for the day. Then, a few days later, look at what you wrote and try to expand on it. Keep doing this process until you have written the entirety of the statement.

Following these steps will hopefully get your statement off to a good start but there is much work to be done once you have a rough draft. Stay tuned for a future blog post about how to edit and review your statement. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have on the personal statement writing process!

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