We’ve all been there. You’re looking at a blank page, paralyzed at the idea of writing the most important essay of your life: the infamous medical school personal statement. You’re anxious, tired, and burnt out. Each day, the application deadline creeps a bit closer.
You're not alone! Everyone goes through that feeling. This simple guide is built just for you to get over that hump and be on your way to writing the best personal statement to ever grace the admissions committee’s desk.
1. Write with abandon.
Open an empty Word document. Take out your phone and set a timer for ten minutes. For the next ten minutes, you are not allowed to stop typing. Ready? Set. Go!
It doesn’t matter if you end up typing out a soliloquy on Stephen Curry’s greatest three-point shot (February 27th, 2016 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in my humble opinion) or if you’re listing out the elements of the periodic table in alphabetical order. Don’t. Stop. Writing.
Ninety percent of what you write you’ll never use again. But, in the process of writing, your mind will start to wander over why you are choosing medicine. What exactly about the field draws you in? What stories and memories shaped you into the aspiring doctor you are?
And there you have it. A the end of the ten minutes, you'll find a lead. Now, keep writing.
2. Find your X factor.
What is the ‘x factor’ that makes you stand out? Whether it’s wet lab research, a focus on community health, or a passion for education, your statement must convey this.
Now, it can be difficult to tease out your ‘x factor’. Here’s a simple exercise to jump-start that process of self-discovery: I want you to write your elevator pitch for yourself to all the admissions officers out there. Don’t focus on the accolades or the GPA. Write about yourself. Your personality. Your dreams. Your experiences. Keep it tight, a few sentences max.
Now read that over. Did you find an ‘x factor’? If not, try again. I assure you it will come out over a few iterations.
3. Everyone is wrong and everyone is right.
One problem I often see is a student who’s sent their drafted essays to ten different friends. Each of them has great intentions and wants their friend to succeed. They edit the essays and send the back. Oh no! The student is overwhelmed when they realize that all the edits disagree with each other. Does this sound familiar?
Remember, a personal statement is a body of writing. Writing is, at the end of the day, subjective. There is better and there is definitely worse, but there is no perfect in writing a personal statement. There are simply the experiences you have and the way you package them.
Do not get overwhelmed if you have feedback that disagrees with each other. Look at why the feedback disagrees. What was the purpose behind each edit? If you agree with their reasoning and their edit, take their advice. If you don’t, then try to understand where you disagree. That’ll help you better understand the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.