Advice for Personal Statements—Medical Fellowship

The best fellowship personal statements are the ones that reflect both the personal and professional maturity that should come with residency. This means a focused and driven personal statement, one that shows its confidence in being directly and humbly written.


Do the Same Rules Apply for Fellowship as for Residency?

The answer is yes, though following the same rules naturally leads to differences.

Generally speaking, the personal statement should/could touch on the following items:

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The first time the applicant realized his or her interest in the particular field or specialty;

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Times since then when that interest was refined, reinforced or redirected;

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Any particular outstanding accomplishments achieved so far in following that path;

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The direction the applicant now sees himself or herself taking; and

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If possible, how the program would be a particular match for that direction.

What Should These Items Accomplish?

Each of these items should elucidate a particular quality or particular qualities about the applicant, and should be ones that are particular to the applicant, as opposed to being able to be said generically by anyone applying for the program. This is important.

What Are the Similarities?

Both the fellowship personal statement and the residency personal statement should describe the specific path/specific reasons that has/have led to the decision to apply for the desired position, as well as what the candidate hopes to achieve through the position from the point of view of how the candidate anticipates it will edify his or her future career.

What Are the Differences?

Answering these questions is where the differences lie between the fellowship personal statement and the residency personal statement.

For the residency personal statement, the general format is to describe the candidate's initial interest in medicine and how that was shaped into a desire for the particular field (e.g., internal medicine) being applied for. This is fleshed out with details that are relevant to the candidate's pursuit of the program (e.g., research experience, community involvement), and it is directed toward a view of the future career.

The fellowship personal statement should take this a step further by demonstrating both the personal and professional maturity that comes with having already completed significant training in the candidate's field.

How Does a Resident Applicant See His/Her Future Career?

Because candidates for residency are writing the personal statement for residency before having begun the training, it is often difficult for them to have a precise view of what they want in their future careers. While he or she may already have some inclinations of what his or her future career will be, many of those choices will be made through the course of the residency.

How Should a Fellowship Applicant See His/Her Future Career?

When it comes to applying for a fellowship, the candidate should know precisely what he or she anticipates for his or her future career, and how the fellowship training (and often the fellowship training offered at the particular institution receiving the application) is the necessary next step in that direction. The candidate should have a clear idea of who he or she is as a doctor and the specific path he or she sees his or her career taking.

The focus in the fellowship personal statement is therefore centered less on the part of the candidate's path that came before residency (e.g., original interest in medicine) and more on specific experiences that have come during residency (e.g., particular cases of interest, particular research accomplishments or involvement) or after.

What Should Be the Focus of the Anecdotes?

The anecdotes should demonstrate relevant academic and clinical competence. They should point squarely in the direction of the specialty being applied for, and any particular research interests.

Quick Questions

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How long should my personal statement be?

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What do you mean by "be specific"?

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What are the most common mistakes that you have seen?

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I want to "hook" the reader. What is the best way to do that?

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I am having trouble getting started. Can you help me write my personal statement?

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I have followed all your advice. Do I still need to have my personal statement edited?

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For more advice on personal statements, see the personal statement articles we have posted on our blog.

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