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Resources     >     Advice for Personal Statements     >     Part 1: The Basics

Expert Personal Statement Advice - The Basics

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Written by David Lombardino  |  Updated March 11, 2024

Where to Start?

Writing a personal statement can be a daunting task. There can be too many thoughts, or none at all. Either way, I have found the best approach to be to put a framework in place to help guide your thoughts and focus your efforts.

This framework works no matter the type of program you are applying for.

As with this introduction, the best personal statements are ones that get directly to the point and remain focused on specifics.

The Specific Items a Personal Statement Should Cover

No matter your background or the program you are applying for, your personal statement should adhere to the following outline:

  1. The first time you realized your passion in the particular field or specialty;
  2. Times since then when your passion for the field or specialty was deepened, refined, reinforced or expanded;
  3. Any noteworthy accomplishments achieved—and ideally sought intentionally—so far in following that path, including clinical, research and teaching aspects;
  4. The direction, as a result, you now see yourself taking, including short-, medium- and long-term goals;
  5. How the program(s) you are applying for would be an ideal match for that direction; and
  6. How you and your path are an ideal fit for the program(s).

What Should These Items Accomplish?

Each of these items should elucidate a particular quality or qualities about the applicant and should be unique to the applicant, or at least presented from the applicant's unique perspective, as opposed to being ones anyone applying for the program could say.

No matter your background, what program directors want to see in your personal statement is the path you took to bring your application to their desk for consideration.

How Should You Write Them?

Equally important is to convey your qualities and experience as specifically as possible, with specific details and anecdotes, or examples, rather than general statements.

Each detail should correspond to at least one of the points listed in the outline above.

What Should You Include From Your CV?

While there is likely to be overlap between what you write in your personal statement and what you have listed in your CV, the role of each is different. Therefore what is written in each is different. Whereas the role of your CV is to provide the facts of what you have done, the role of your personal statement is to show which of those experiences you consider to have been most formative, and provide your insight into how they have shaped you.

While there will be some facts presented in the personal statement, their purpose there is to serve as the basis for the insight you share about them.

Are you looking to match into residency? If so, you’ll want to ensure your personal statement shows program directors what makes you a strong candidate. That’s where DLA Editors & Proofers comes in.

Led by David Lombardino, DLA Editors & Proofers is a team of expert editors and consultants that helps applicants of all backgrounds match into residency. With their expertise across many specialties and programs, DLA Editors & Proofers makes improving your personal statement easy until it’s ready for submission.

So if you are looking to match into residency, take your time—use DLA Editors & Proofers to give your personal statement the edge it needs to show program directors what makes you a strong candidate. Try DLA Editors & Proofers today, and take the first step toward matching into residency.

For International Medical Graduates (IMGS): Why the U.S.?

If you are an IMG—and more so if you have completed a residency in another country—then your personal statement must include not only where you are coming from but also why you want to pursue training in the United States.

For example, do you want to practice medicine in the U.S. after completing residency in the U.S.? If so, why is this your preference over simply staying to practice medicine in your own country? Or maybe you wish to come to the U.S. to gain knowledge to take back to your country? Either way, why?

N.B.: It does not suffice to state that you want to come to the U.S. because the U.S. is at the forefront of medicine. All IMGs write that. The ones who do so successfully are the ones who show that gaining knowledge in a U.S. medical residency is the obvious and necessary next step in their particular career path.

For IMGs: Cultural Barriers

Something to keep in mind is that in the United States, it is cultural to be open about experiences and feelings. Americans, for better or worse, are nosy, and much less reserved than those in many other cultures.

If you are from one of these more reserved cultures, and not yet used to how we are in the U.S., you might have an uphill battle in opening up enough not only for the personal statement, but also for the interviews. When evaluating candidates, program directors expect to get to know you as a person, not just as a doctor, to determine whether you would be a good fit for their programs.

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