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The Medical School Personal Statement and Essays Office of Career Services Spring 2014.

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1 The Medical School Personal Statement and Essays Office of Career Services Spring 2014

2 The Personal Statement If we wish to know a man, we must ask, What is his story, his real, inmost story? for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed continually and unconsciously by, through, and in usthrough our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, through our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives, we are each of us unique. -Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

3 Topics to Cover 1.Primary & secondary essays; additional comments on AMCAS 2.Purpose of the personal statement 3.What to discuss and highlight 4.How to approach/craft your essay 5.Dos & donts 6.Feedback & resources 7.Q&A

4 Types of essays Personal comments: Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school 5300 characters – 1.5 single-spaced pgs

5 Types of essays Activities section: Experience description (700 or fewer characters) Select three as most meaningful experiences: Summarize why selected (maximum of 1325 characters)

6 Types of essays MD/PhD additional essays: Reasons for wishing to pursue combined MD/PhD degree (maximum of 3000 characters) Describe significant research experiences including supervisor, nature of problem studied, contribution to project (maximum of 10,000 characters)

7 Types of essays Examples of secondary questions: What do you think will be your greatest personal challenge as a physician, and how will you address this? How will you contribute to the diversity of your medical school class? Are there any special circumstances that we should be aware of? Describe your interest in our med school. Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation that you have encountered and how you dealt with it. more on the handout…

8 Special circumstances Questions on the AMCAS: Institutional Action: If you answer yes to this question, you must include an explanation. (Limited to 1325 characters or approximately 1/4 page) Felony: If you answer yes to this question, you must include an explanation. (Limited to 1325 characters or approximately 1/4 page)

9 Special circumstances Disadvantaged status: Explain why you believe you should be considered a disadvantaged applicant (maximum of 1325 characters) This is an optional question: Be prepared to discuss anything in your AMCAS application during your medical school interview; if you cant/dont want to talk about, dont write about it

10 Purpose of the personal statement 1.To discover the person behind the numbers and in the context of the rest of your application 2.To hear what has motivated you to pursue a career in medicine, how you know 3.To see a sample of your writing

11 Questions to consider How do you knownot simply why do you knowthat you want to be a doctor? How you have demonstrated this interest? How has your interest in medicine changed and developed over time? How did you overcome your doubts? Why medicine and not other career fields, e.g., teaching, science, public health, nursing, etc.?

12 Questions to consider Have you faced any obstacles in your life (for example, economic, familial, or physical)? How did you handle these? How have you been influenced by certain events and people? Recall a time when you had a positive impact on another person. How did you and the person change as a result? What were major turning points in your life? What do you want the committee to know that is not apparent elsewhere?

13 Drawing from your experiences: Use a concrete anecdote/experience to draw the reader in; perhaps circle back to it at the end to create bookends Approach the essay as a chance to share the arc of your journey to this point Reflections can be unique even if opportunities/experiences are not Consider whether to discuss fluctuations in performance, hardship affecting academic record, and/or personal medical situation

14 Stuck? Pretend you are writing to a friend, not an admissions committee; free write Ask a friend/family member which qualities they think distinguish you from others Reflect on two or three personality characteristics that you feel are your strengths

15 Dos Tell a story Keep it interesting by using specific examples and anecdotes Provide information, insight, or a perspective that cannot be found elsewhere in your application Describe experiences in terms of what they mean to you and what you learned Make sure the reader learns about you, not just what you did Use strong action verbs and vivid images; paint a picture

16 Dos (contd) Be concise. Make sure every sentence needs to be there Describe what you learned in your research, not the details of the specific research project (unless writing the MD/PhD essay) Allow plenty of time to write, revise, reflect, revise, etc. Step away often so you can revisit your essay with fresh eyes Proofread. Spell checking will will ( ) not catch everything! Then, proofread again and get someone else to do the same

17 Donts Just list or summarize your activities. This is not a resume and can be found elsewhere Try to impress the reader with the use of formal or fancy language Directly tell the reader that you are compassionate, motivated, intelligent, curious, dedicated, unique, different than most candidates, etc. Focus only on childhood experiences Use slang or forced analogies Lecture the reader, e.g., on whats wrong with medicine, what doctors should be like

18 Donts (contd) Make excuses for poor grades Begin every sentence or paragraph with I Overwork the essay to the point where you lose your own voice Make it your premier creative writing piece Use generalizations and clichés Follow the advice of too many people Try to share everything there is to know about you

19 Getting feedback Ask family, friends, and advisors: Does this sound like me? Do you want to meet this person? Could someone else write this essay?

20 Group exercise Review of EXAMPLE 1: Ive been asked many times why I wish to become a physician. Upon considerable reflection, the thought of possessing the ability to help others provides me with tremendous internal gratification and offers the feeling that my lifes efforts have been focused in a positive direction. Becoming a physician is the culmination of a lifelong dream; and I am prepared to dedicate myself, as I have in the past, to achieving this goal.

21 Group exercise EXAMPLE 2: I also shadowed a cardiologist, Dr. A., and later a team of immunologists led by Dr. B, seeking insights on how physicians make use of technology and the nature of their daily routine. While volunteering for Dr. A., I could not help but contrast his daily experience to mine as an engineer. His superlative relationship with his patients crystallized the unique responsibilities and rewards of being a doctor in my mind. I admired many things about his work: the dedication to serving others with a dignity and sincerity mostly absent from the business world, the importance of his ability to educate, and his palpable sensitivity toward the concerns expressed by his patients. Most of all, I witnessed the importance of trust. In order for Dr. A. to effectively treat his heart failure patients, they had to confide in him a completely honest account of their lives and trust his expertise when prescribing medication and changes in lifestyle. Furthermore, by simply allowing me in the room to observe, both doctor and patient had also placed trust in my ability to keep confidentiality on everything I saw and do no harm. It was a privilege to simply shadow, much less to wear the shoes of a physician…. …After working at a totally different career for nearly three years, and watching doctors like Dr. A. and Dr. B., Ive found that Im inspired most when using my talents to make a tangible, immediate difference in other peoples lives… I often mingle with CS students who admire the geek-centric universe portrayed in new movies like The Social Network and namedrop internships theyre landing at Google and Microsoft. Coding JavaScript in a terminal on my laptop, Ill be showing a small group how to put create a mobile app and deploy it online. Inevitably at some point theyll ask me about my future plans and their response is bewildered: to them, its like Mark Zuckerberg wanting to become a paleontologist. So, they ask me why Id want to be a doctor… I think about Dr. A. and Dr. B.the amazing work that they get to do every day, how to explain my feelings about it… The words are bursting from the tip of my tongue. I need to stay calm!

22 Resources Premed tutors (resident and non-res) Writing center Applicant Website: Telephone: 202-828-0600 (M-F 9am-7pm EST) Email:

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