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Myth of the One-Page Personal Statement

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Written by David Lombardino  |  Updated February 28, 2024

It Has to Be One Page?

We hear it all the time from candidates applying for medical residency: my personal statement has to be one page. One of my attendings told me so. A program director told me so. It is ERAS' recommendation.

Every year my team of editors and I critique, edit and proofread hundreds of personal statements for medical residency.

And every year, program directors tell our clients they love their personal statements. Attendings tell our clients they have never seen candidates articulating their experiences and goals in such an engaging manner. And almost none of them have a personal statement less than one page.

How Is It Possible to Match With a Personal Statement Longer Than One Page?

Not only is it possible to get matched with a personal statement longer than one page, in our experience it is much more likely, with one caveat. No one wants to read a boring personal statement. No one wants to read a personal statement that is the same as even one personal statement they have read before, let alone hundreds or thousands.

We see all the time candidates who believe writing a personal statement according to a template or according to what they believe program directors will want to hear submit weaker applications for medical residency as a result.

They do not get interviews where they should, and they do not get matched at the programs of their preference.

Then Why All the Advice About Personal Statements Being No More Than One Page?

ERAS recommends keeping the personal statement to one page or less because that is the feedback they receive from attendings and program directors, and the reason for this is simple.

No one wants to read a boring personal statement, and most candidates submit boring personal statements.

If a program director is going to have to read a boring personal statement, then they will prefer for it to be as short as possible.

What Makes a Personal Statement Boring?

The challenge of writing a personal statement is that there are many more ways to write a boring one than one that is interesting. The most common way is to be vague. Another is to write what could be just as true if anyone else wrote it. Another is not to know how or where to start. Another is not to know how or when to end. Another is to define the specialty for the program director.

When I talk to program directors and attendings about what they are looking for in a personal statement, they consistently tell me it is much less about what they want to see than it is about what they do not want to see.

What they do not want to see is the same thing they have seen hundreds of times before.

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 match to residency. With their expertise across many specialties, programs and unique candidate circumstances, DLA Editors & Proofers makes improving your personal statement easy until it’s ready for submission.

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

How to Make Your Personal Statement Stand out

The first step is to make it honest and genuine. Be yourself, rather than who you think program directors want you to be. Establish the key themes that represent who you are.

Next, be specific. Provide specific details, replace vague writing with specific writing.

Finally, write a compelling conclusion that brings it all together, and don't worry about whether it finishes all on one page or goes a few lines onto the next page. If it is worth reading, they will read all of it.

Posted in  Applicants
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