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Resources     >     Advice for Personal Statements     >     Part 2: Be Yourself

Expert Personal Statement Advice - Be Yourself

female doctor standing out from the crowd

Written by David Lombardino  |  Updated March 11, 2024

Are You Good Enough?

Writing a personal statement and applying for medical residency can be stressful. At the end of the day, you just want to get matched. So what do you need to say to program directors to convince them you are a strong candidate for their programs? What if your story isn't very interesting?

What Program Directors Want to See

When it comes to deciding which candidates to offer an interview, yes, Step scores matter. But what program directors are really looking for is who would be a good fit for their programs. How do you handle adversity? How do you get along with others? How will you fit into their culture?

No matter your background, what interests program directors the most is the path you took to bring your application to them for consideration. No matter how alike or unlike your path is to that of other candidates, they want to know who you are.

Be Yourself to Set Yourself Apart

But you wouldn't be reading this if you had a clear vision of your story. In all likelihood, you are concerned that your story doesn't come across to you as that different from the story of many other candidates.

This may be true. This is where being specific comes in, as well as what other candidates commonly write in their personal statements.

What Candidates Commonly Write: Internal Medicine

Those interested in internal medicine are often those who both enjoy interacting with patients and want to be at the forefront of diagnosing complicated diseases. They may wish to specialize to deal with diseases that are difficult to treat or that put their patients on the line between living and dying.

However, a great many are interested in internal medicine because of the combination of the breadth and depth of knowledge it requires, because of the variety of subspecialties avaialable, or as an option for providing primary care.

Because internal medicine is such a broad specialty, the key is to demonstrate your passion within internal medicine, with a clear vision of where you wish to focus.

What Candidates Commonly Write: Family Medicine

Those interested in family medicine are generally those who want to treat patients of all ages—and generally multiple members of the same family, if not the entire family—and also build close, personal relationships with their patients over time.

However, because family medicine positions often go unfilled in the first round of the match, this is also a popular specialty for international medical graduates (IMGs), and particularly those with training as internists in their home countries.

If you are an IMG and applying to family medicine or internal medicine (or any other specialty) as a change in specialty from what you trained in or practiced in your home country, then the key is to demonstrate how your previous experience has given you a clear vision for the new specialty you are pursuing.

Are you looking to convince program directors to offer you an interview? 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 convince program directors to offer you an interview, 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.

What Candidates Commonly Write: Emergency Medicine

Those interested in emergency medicine are generally those who thrive in unpredicatble, high-stress environments and in situations where they are the first to encounter a patient. Because they will be the first to asses any number of varied patient complaints, they appreciate more having a wide knowledge in medicine than a specific, deep knowledge focused in just one area.

However, they also want to show their desire to be a part of—and respect for—the team of other physicians, nurses and others providing care to the patients. A second "however" is that due to recent trends in employment for emergency medicine physicians, this specialty has become less competitive for residency.

The key is to demonstrate your passion for acute situations. If you have a less competitive application (e.g., low Step scores), demonstrate a desire to train (and practice) in a rural area.

What Candidates Commonly Write: Orthopedics

Those interested in orthopedics are generally those who when they were younger enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together again, or constructing things from scratch. They appreciate the systematic way in which things function—the way individual components work in unison for the efficient functioning of the whole. They generally like straightforward problems with straightforward answers, and derive great satisfaction in seeing an issue, knowing the solution and executing it.

If this is your story, the key is not to run away from it, but to embrace it in its detail and the passion it has given you for the field of orthopedics.

What Candidates Commonly Write: Ob/Gyn

Those interested in obstetrics and gynecology are generally those who are equally attracted to performing surgical procedures as to the personal side of patient care.

However, because of the variety of subspecialties in ob-gyn, like gyn-onc for example, there are many who are passionate for ob-gyn without caring so much for the personal aspects or, on the other hand, without being so interested in performing complicated surgical procedures.

Regardless of which side you are on, or if you are a mix of both, the key is to show exactly which aspects make you most passionate for the field, and the direction you see these taking you.

Does This Mean I Must Include These Characteristics?

No. Remember: No matter what specialty you are applying for, program directors want to know your story. If it is similar to what many other applicants write in their personal statements for your chosen specialty, then embrace that.

But at the same time, this does not mean that you should include these characteristics if they do match your particular story.

At the end of the day, you should write, and have confidence in, your story.

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