Medical School Personal Statement: 3 Essential Elements

Your medical school personal statement must address three critical topics:

1) You 2) Your passion for the field of medicine, and 3) your qualifications as a future medical student and physician. These three elements are foundational to both the content and purpose of your personal statement.

1) You

  • If it isn’t about you, it isn’t a personal statement.

A medical school personal statement is the admission committee’s best chance to get to know you.

Thus, the most important characteristic of a personal statement is that it is written about you. The content of your personal statement is not relevant unless those contents pertain directly to you.

For example, applicants will occasionally use their medical school personal statement to wax lyrical about the value of medicine in society. Even when brilliantly written (though they rarely are), they make you look stupid, because they demonstrate your inability to complete a straightforward task. You are asked to write a personal statement. Make it personal.

  • Your medical school personal statement must make your application more, not less, coherent.

Everyone has a diverse set of experiences. Your extra-curricular activities might or medical school resume run the gamut from pianist to professional juggler, from football star to forensics whiz.

Your medical school personal statement is an opportunity to reconcile this array of experiences into a coherent and unified portrait of yourself.

Personal statements for medical schools must clarify how the disparate pieces of your application combine to create a single, viable, and coherent med school candidate.

  • Your medical school personal statement must distinguish you from other, equally-qualified applicants.

As much as you may like to ignore this fact, you are in competition with thousands of other equally-motivated and more-or-less equally-qualified applicants. Some part of what makes you excellent must differentiate you from the crowd.

You must give admissions officers some reason why you should be admitted rather than the other candidates who have what it takes to succeed in medical school.

  • Make sure your medical school personal statement can be summed up the way you want it to be.

The admissions officer(s) reading your medical school personal statement should be able to summarize something important and distinguishing about you in a very concise, memorable way.

Regardless of how you choose to present yourself, an admissions officer will be far more likely to remember you if there is a unique “catch-phrase” which could summarize the, or one of the, major characteristics of your application.

  • Be likeable and interesting.

Whatever you discuss, make sure it is interesting and engaging information about yourself.

One of the best ways to do this is by culling your life experiences for instructive and illuminating anecdotes and vignettes.

There is nothing wrong with appearing human in your medical school personal statement; appearing complex, imperfect, and capable of learning from mistakes is the foundation of what makes you a person, and you should be sure to flesh that out in your personal statement.

2) Your Passion for Medicine and Motivation for Pursuing a Medical Career

Your medical school personal statement should demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in and passionate about medicine.

Write as though admissions officers will presume that you are applying merely because it is the “next step in your life,” and not because you have a genuine interest in the medical field. You must rebut this presumption in your personal statement.

You do not need to, and if possible should not, declare outright your passion for medicine – e.g., “I am passionate about medicine because of x,y,z….”

Rather, your personal statement should allow the reader to naturally infer that you are genuinely passionate about medicine, and that there is some valid explanation for your passion.

In demonstrating your interest in medicine, it is crucial that your interest seems genuine, and that your justifications appear reasonable.

Do not say that you are passionate about becoming a doctor because of your wish to help the downtrodden unless your experiences provide ample support for that explanation.

Alternatively, do not say that you are interested in medicine because you watch the TV show House; that is a manifestly unreasonable explanation that will make you seem foolish.

3) Your Qualifications as a Future Medical Student and Physician

You should think of each of your experiences, achievements, qualities, and skills as providing a separate reason why you are well suited to the medical field.

Perhaps you have extensive experience with teamwork and collaborative learning, which might allow you to work effectively in a clinical setting; or maybe you are a well-seasoned debater who can quickly digest complex readings and provide thoughtful analysis on them, which will allow you to make meaningful contributions during class or in the lab.

If you decide to include a skill or personal quality in your personal statement, it should be clearly related to a successful career in medicine.

Don’t bother discussing how you are a phenomenal gymnast unless you can give a compelling reason for why your achievements as a gymnast are related to medical school or the practice of medicine generally.

  • Your medical school personal statement should proactively demonstrate why you will make a great medical student and physician

In essence, this task boils down to whether or not you possess the skills and qualities necessary to succeed both in a rigorous academic environment as a medical student, as well as a challenging and fast-paced professional environment as a doctor.  

  • Use your medical school personal statement to preempt concerns which might arise from other parts of your application

The medical school personal statement is at the very end of your AMCAS application.

Thus, by the time they read your personal statement, admissions officers will already know your GPA, MCAT scores, educational background, employment/internship history, research experience, honors, awards, extracurricular activities, and more.

You must be conscious of the impressions left by the earlier parts of your application.

Did you struggle with your classes freshman year?

Has the time you’ve spent doing community service or volunteer work flagged in the past couple of years?

Whatever the weaknesses or holes in your application, you must be aware of them, and takes steps to counteract them.

In conclusion, you cannot fail to address any of these three critical topics in your medical school personal statement. For help writing your essay, don’t hesitate to contact our medical school admissions experts!

About the Author

Joel Butterly, Co-founder and CEO of InGenius Prep, is an experienced admissions counselor and entrepreneur. Joel comes from a rich educational background—his immediate family alone has 14 Ivy League Degrees—from Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Dartmouth.

Joel attended Dartmouth College, where he studied Government, Geography, and the Philosophy of Ethics. He was inducted early into Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. He graduated with a double major in Government and International Studies, and a minor in Ethical Philosophy.

After Dartmouth, Joel attended Yale Law School, where he served on the executive board of the Journal on Regulation, as well as the Law School’s entrepreneurship society.

Joel currently resides at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. He lives with his fiance – Emily – who teaches and is receiving her PhD in Medieval History from Yale.