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Make a Statement! A Guide to Writing your Personal Statement Angela Jackson, MD Associate Dean, Office of Student Affairs Boston University School of Medicine.

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Presentation on theme: "Make a Statement! A Guide to Writing your Personal Statement Angela Jackson, MD Associate Dean, Office of Student Affairs Boston University School of Medicine."— Presentation transcript:

1 Make a Statement! A Guide to Writing your Personal Statement Angela Jackson, MD Associate Dean, Office of Student Affairs Boston University School of Medicine

2 Outline Getting started Role of the Personal Statement in the residency application process General suggestions Basic anatomy of a Personal Statement What’s in, what’s out Editing

3 Resources for this presentation Based on- by Jeffrey G. Wiese, M.D.

4 Getting Started These slides are meant to provide you with the basic purpose and structure of the Personal Statement and some general guidelines for writing and editing your Personal Statement The Personal Statement is important, and it’s harder to write a good one than you think. Starting the process early will help. Review these slides and start work on a draft. Bring your draft and laptop to one of the Office of Student Affairs Personal Statement Workshops

5 Role of the Personal Statement in your Residency Program Application This is the one part of the application that you control entirely. Opportunity to present who you are, what you value and what makes you special Opportunity to make the Program Director want to meet you Opportunity to expand and explain things listed in your CV or transcript Opportunity to show that you have been thoughtful about your career Opportunity to paint a clear picture of who you are, and to tell a coherent story of how you got here

6 Role of the Personal Statement in your Residency Program Application The Personal Statement is not “defining” but it is important “Bad” Personal Statement can knock you out of the running A thoughtful, well written Personal Statement sets you up for a good interview. If you don’t want to discuss it – DON’T WRITE ABOUT IT IN YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT

7 Getting Started- General Suggestions: Decide on your chosen field- it will be easier to focus your Personal Statement once you have made this decision. (But if you have not been able to reach that decision yet, don’t panic. This is a good reason to meet with a dean in the OSA- we can help you start your Personal Statement writing anyway AND help with your career decision). Review your evaluations- It helps to hear others describe your strengths. This may suggest themes, character traits that you value and can build on in your Personal Statement. Talking over your ideas before your start writing can sometimes help clarify your “story line”.

8 Getting Started- General Suggestions: Think about your strengths and talents Think about your career decision and goals Your Personal Statement is focused on how the two fit together This is not a prose form of your CV- this is your chance to describe “who you are” not just “what you have done” Start early – this will take longer than you think

9 Getting Started- Writing Guidelines: This is not the time to be “wild and creative” No longer than one page Make it easy for the reader- keep it clear, simple and engaging Good Content needs Good Writing Clear prose Standard English Spelling and grammar mistakes are DEADLY Spell check compulsively

10 Keep it Simple… When you mean “think”, say “think” – NOT “contemplate” You don’t get points for the most syllables. Try vsEndeavor FairvsEquitable HelpvsFacilitate Sizevs Magnitude Need vsRequire UsevsUtilize EndvsTerminate

11 Start Strong: The Opening Sentence Grab your reader’s attention with the first sentence. One option: Start with a story, anecdote, very carefully selected quote Be careful to tie this in to the “theme” of the essay (Remember, the goal of your Personal Statement is to connect your strengths and career decision through a coherent story) Be succinct and deliberate with your word choice

12 Format Paragraph # 1: Frames the narrative Paragraph # 2-3: Your strengths- aimed at aligning with your chosen specialty Paragraph # 4: Your career plans Paragraph # 5: Wrap up

13 Format: Paragraph #1 is about YOU Who are you? Personal Events: life events that had an impact on you are important, but don’t spend half the essay on them. A taste if conventional, a little more if unusual Be concrete, not vague generalizations (“I like people” is too general.) Show insight- what did this experience mean to you? How did it shape/inform the doctor you have become? Why did you choose this career path? And what makes you a good fit? Focus on YOU, not the profession (Not “Internal Medicine requires analytical skills”, but “I enjoy thinking about complex problems”)

14 Format: Paragraph # Your Strengths State your strengths but don’t boast Note characteristics that you admire and are developing Expand on the activities listed on your CV and describe experiences that you have learned from- show insight, weave these activities into your coherent story Link your strengths and aptitude to chosen specialty Show that you are self-aware, thoughtful and learn from experiences Address significant academic difficulty head-on, don’t ignore past problems. Explain briefly what happened, and how you addressed the issue.

15 Format: Paragraph # 4- Your career plans What do you want to do after residency? Not too specific, but showing that you have given this thought. Realistic insight into the profession What do you want from a residency program? Not geography- training opportunities, philosophy of the program, etc. What do you want to develop while in residency? Realistic insight into training program reality

16 Format: Paragraph # 5- Wrap up Tie it all together Enthusiasm for the profession What you enjoy What your strengths are What you will contribute to the program, and later, to the profession and to society Loop back to the opening

17 Caution: DO NOT start your Personal Statement with boring facts DO NOT appear uncertain about your commitment to your chosen career DO NOT misrepresent yourself If you included it in your Personal Statement, be ready to discuss it intelligently in the interview DO NOT criticize other fields, other physicians or classmates Caution when comparing yourself to others DO NOT put down another specialty when explaining your career choice

18 Caution: Avoid empty fillers: “It would appear that” “Apparently” “It is interesting to note that”…. NOT NECESSARY “Needless to say”…THEN DON’T

19 Make sure you… Tell a clear, concise and coherent story Connect the information – the selection of information to include as well as placement, should flow easily and make sense to the reader Jump off the page! The program director should feel that he/she knows you after reading your Personal Statement

20 Editing Write and re-write- this will take some time Have someone who knows you well read it – Does it sound like you? Have someone who knows grammar and writing skills read it Have a program director in your chosen specialty read it Come to the Office of Student Affairs


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