Everyone is telling this premed student that she needs to include her military experience in her personal statement, what should she do?
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[00:20] Question of the Day
“I was wondering, I had written my personal statement right after I had read your book and talked about my seed and how I had watered that seed. And I had given it to all the people I trust and love, my husband being one of them. Then the surgeon that I work for and the mentor who’s in residency down in Texas for emergency medicine. They all said the same thing. They’re like, you need to add your military experience to it.
And for me, the military wasn’t even close to my seed. I had been in the military when I had an interest in medicine. I was pregnant with my daughter and had a great experience with my OB/GYN and my ultrasound technician. That’s how it sparked.
And so, do I listen to them and add it? Or obviously, it’s done now because I’ve already written my personal statement and submitted it. And I’m onto secondaries now. But I think it’s an important question to ask for other people.”
[02:02] The Goal of the Personal Statement
The goal of the personal statement is why you want to be a doctor. It’s not: why do you want to be a doctor – and have you also done something very cool that you think needs to stand out so that you can catch our attention?
Tell your story and show what your passions are so that you can connect with another human being.
That being said, if you’re going to have to let them know that you were in the military, then the perfect spot for that is in your activities section. You can’t play this game of what admissions committees are going to look at first then put in all the interesting things about you.
Ultimately, you have to do the best you can with each part of the application with the specific question in front of you at that moment. And for the personal statement, the goal, again, is why do you want to be a doctor?
[06:36] Tell Your Story and Connect
There are a million reasons why to be a doctor. But there are only a few core reasons that are going to give me the really good, warm, fuzzy feeling that you’re doing this for the right reasons. And it’s not just because you’re smart enough, or you’re hard working enough. It’s not just because you like science enough or that you love solving puzzles. At the end of the day, go back to what the prompt is asking you. When 60,000 students applying to medical school all say that they’re prepared or they can do it, who are we supposed to believe?
As humans, we connect through understanding each other. And admissions committees just want to understand why you want to be a doctor. Not everyone agrees with it.
We all have our own opinions and our own biases. And I stand behind the fact that we as humans connect through stories. For the personal statement, the prompt is, Why do you want to be a doctor? And the story about why you want to be a doctor is what’s going to connect human to human. Ultimately, it’s your story so tell the story the way you want to.
[11:12] Answering Secondaries
Now, secondaries are very different from personal statements, that’s why I don’t recommend stories for secondaries. My best advice is to just answer whatever the question is. And if they ask two very specific questions, then answer those two questions.
I disagree with the secondary process where a lot of people recommend writing generic essays, whether it’s for diversity or adversity essays. Essay prompts in these secondaries are so nuanced. By the time you get done writing the generic essay, you’re going to have to think about whether you should completely rewrite it. Because the school is asking super specific stuff.“For secondaries, you have to answer the question.”Click To Tweet
[18:38] Using Secondaries to Weed Out Applicants
There are ways to weed out people very easily, and one of them is whether you really answered the secondary question.
For instance, residencies are getting bombarded with applications. And so, this residency program director decided to put on the bottom of their website saying that if you’re interested in their program, click this link and fill out this form. They didn’t care that thousands of students applied to their program. They only looked at the people that actually went to the website, clicked the link, and did what they wanted to do.
Schools are asking you very specific questions, hopefully, for very specific reasons. They want to know these answers and they’re using these answers to help dictate who they’re going to invite for interviews and accept, ultimately.
When I wrote my personal statement book, I asked Dr. Rafael Rivera, the Associate Dean of Admissions at NYU, to give some tips when writing a personal statement. And he said they don’t like personal statements because they’re village statements. Instead, they look at the secondaries.
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