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Expert Personal Statement Advice

Want an Outstanding Personal Statement?

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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How to Start Your Personal Statement to Get Your Reader’s Attention

Nothing drives the success of your personal statement like how you start. Some candidates start their personal statements with a quote. Others start with a dramatic narrative. Does either of these gimmicks work?

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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.

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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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  • Medical Fellowship 100%
  • Medical Residency 97.4%
  • Medical School 100%
  • Master’s PhD 100%
  • Law School 100%
  • Dental School 100%

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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.

1,000+ Personal Statements Every Year

We consult on, critique, revise, edit and proofread 1,000+ personal statements annually. From this volume alone, we know what it takes to stand out.

In-House, Highly Trained Personal Statement Experts

We do not use freelancers or students. And only our editors who have undergone rigorous training work on personal statements.

Red Flags We’ve Helped
Our Clients Overcome

Everyone faces challenges, but not everyone overcomes them. We’re experts in taking your blemishes and turning them into bright spots!

Red Flags We’ve Overcome

  • Low Test Scores (or Failed Attempts)
  • Poor GPA or Academic Performance
  • Lack of Relevant Experience
  • Professionalism Issues
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Failure to Match

Our Advice for Personal Statements is broken down into the following sections:

Quick Questions

How long should my personal statement be?

Generally speaking, a fully developed personal statement will be approximately 715. Some programs (e.g., dentistry), though, may require shorter word counts. With few exceptions, if your personal statement is over 750 words, it is too long. If it is under 650 words, it is too short.

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”?

First is to be specific to your story. If everyone else writes it in their personal statements, then you should not, unless it is particularly relevant to you.

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?

1. To start with a quote. To use a quote successfully, it must be both personally and particularly relevant to the candidate. It must be the driving theme through every aspect of the essay. We have seen this done successfully—meaning that there was no way for the personal statement to be better without it—in just a handful of the personal statements we have read.

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?

Start with a simple, straightforward statement with how you started on the path that you are on. An example of this is: "The first time I saw how medicine can help people was when I was five years old and visited my mother in the hospital."

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?

Absolutely, but we won't write it for you. For those needing assistance with developing a personal statement, we offer our Personal Statement Consultation service. With it, we will review your resume/CV if provided and, in one-on-one consultation with one of our personal statement editors, guide you through a series of questions and feedback to develop a concise plan for drafting your 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.

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

Yes, you should still have it edited, specifically for feedback/critique (see our Personal Statement Revision and Critique service) regarding how successful you are in communicating your points. It is our opportunity to help make what you have started as successful for you as possible.
Get More Advice on Our Blog

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

Still have questions? See a list of our frequently asked questions or give us a call at 877-454-4957.

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