Expert Personal Statement Advice
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While the following guidelines are intended specifically for writing personal statements for medical residency and medical fellowship in the U.S., these same concepts apply to personal statements for all other programs as well.
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A personal statement is a person’s narrative of how he or she came to apply for the position being sought. It should be concise and efficient, is generally best organized in chronological order, and should generally range in length from 650 to 850 words.
The only clients who have used our personal statement services and were not accepted into a program either ignored our suggestions or did not meet the program’s minimum requirements.
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We interview program directors and admission committee members to know exactly what they want—and don’t want—to see in a personal statement.
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Our Advice for Personal Statements is broken down into the following sections:
How long should my personal statement be?
The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®) allows up to 28,000 characters with spaces, which is approximately 5,200 words. However, no program director will read a personal statement that long. Most won't even read any of it.
What do you mean by “be specific”?
An example of this is an IMG who writes, without any obvious reason for doing so, that she wants to pursue residency in the United States because the U.S. is at the forefront of medicine. A second example is a candidate who writes that he wants to pursue residency in a program that will give him the knowledge and training he will need to succeed in his chosen field. These are both vague statements that should be included only if they relate specifically to your personal career path.
Second is is a rephrasing of the first: to write only of your particular experience. This is your greatest strength and what will set you apart. If you write that you want to pursue a career in medicine in order to serve the community, we will ask what kind of community and what way do you see yourself serving. We will ask where this desire has come from and how you have pursued it.
If you write that you want to be a leader, we will ask where you want to be a leader, why you want to be a leader, what kind of leader you want to be, and in what way specifically you plan to lead others.
What are the most common mistakes that you have seen?
2. To start with a simile or metaphor. An example of this is a personal statement that compares the pursuit of medicine to building a robot or any other activity. As with a quote, to use a simile or metaphor successfully, it must be both personally and particularly relevant to the candidate and the driving theme through every aspect of the essay, and it has been likewise rare to see this done successfully.
3. To define the specialty in the personal statement, or otherwise to make statements that the program director what he/she will already know. An example of this is to start a personal statement with: "Internal medicine requires an understanding of how the different systems of the body affect each other."
4. To describe experiences in only vague or general terms. This includes both not providing significant detail and not describing the effect the experiences have had on the candidate personally.
I want to "hook" the reader. What is the best way to do that?
Second is to write of your particular experience. This is your greatest strength and what will set you apart.
I am having trouble getting started. Can you help me write my personal statement?
After you have drafted your personal statement, we will then review your personal statement with our Personal Statement Revision & Critique service for any adjustments needed to make it as polished and successful as possible.