3 tips to overcome writer's block for your medical school personal statement

medical school admissions personal statements strategy

The “Personal Comments” essay for medical school, or personal statement, can be daunting. How to capture in 5,300 words or less why you want to go into medicine and what unique experiences have helped your get there? How to make the years of hard work and determination come alive on the page to tell your story? Often, the broadness and importance of this essay leads students to develop writer’s block.

If you are currently working on your personal statement and are unable to think, write, or make any progress on it, you may have writer’s block, and these tips might just be what you need!  

1. Have a conversation with your Voice App

If you’re stuck staring at a blank document, step away from your desk, go on a walk, and record yourself talking. Imagine you are on the phone with a close friend, and they’re asking you why you want to go to medical school. When you get home, listen to the recording and take note of how you’ve told your story. Where, when, and how did you start? Is there a certain part of the recording that’s particularly poignant as you listen to your own story? Sometimes, if you’re still unsure, it can be helpful to transcribe your recording verbatim, re-read it, and then edit.   

2. Pick 3 different moments in your journey and write about them in three different documents

Forget about your personal statement. Pretend you are in a creative writing class and the professor has just assigned you an exercise. It consists of picking three moments that helped you realize your doctor. These moments don’t need to be chronological or connected. Write about each of them in a separate word document without focusing too much on the grammar, vocabulary, or sentence structure. The following day, revisit them. Is there one description that you find moving? Is there some sort of throughline that you hadn’t expected between the three vignettes? Could one of them be the beginning of your personal statement?   

3. Try writing in the third person

Sometimes it feels weird to write about yourself. It is hard to share your achievements while being simultaneously humble, to express your vocation when you’re worried about being cliché, to write genuinely when you’re worried about how others might perceive your writing. One way to tackle this problem is to write about yourself in the third person to get some distance from the narrative. Once you’re done, change the third-person pronoun to first person, and see if that helps! 

Clara holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Columbia. She is now an MD candidate at Harvard Medical School.

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