In today’s episode, I talk with Dr. Greg Polites. For his third time on the show, Greg talks about the dos and don’ts of writing personal statements and why students make mistakes on personal statements.
Dr. Polites is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. He serves as Chairman of the Central Subcommittee for Admissions to the School of Medicine and is the former coursemaster for the Practice of Medicine for the 1st and 3rd-year medical students there.
If you’re struggling with your personal statement and need some help and motivation, brace yourself for the wealth of information that you will learn from today’s show. The personal statement in and of itself is not the determining factor for getting into medical school, but it’s still an important piece of the application to allow the admissions committee to understand you better, so take your time to do it right.
The enigma of the medical school personal statement
- There is no right and wrong. It’s your personal statement.
- It becomes an enigma because students try to figure out what an admissions committee wants to hear.
- Don’t put too much energy into trying to figure out what the committee wants. It’s all about you.
- Give schools a glimpse of who you are, the person behind the application.
- Write about anything that ties into to why you want to be a doctor.
- Every school is different in terms of their admission criteria.
- A personal statement is not a make-or-break like most students think.
The dos of writing personal statements
- Explain why this is the path you’ve chosen.
- Have 3 different people read your personal statement before submitting it:
- A person who knows you well (ex. a parent or friend to show your internal consistency)
- A person to proofread your statement for grammatical correctness
- A person who can read it for substance and content (ex. premed advisor)
- It should flow nicely and be effortless to read. It doesn’t have to be long.
- Write about 1-2 specific experiences.
- Take time writing it.
[Related episode: What Should Nontrads Focus on in Their Personal Statement?]
Personal statement mistakes to avoid
- Writing a poor personal statement with spelling and grammatical errors, which is indicative that you did not put the time to do it right
- No display of maturity
- Meandering and lacking focus
- Trying to be unique and coming off too quirky
- Just rehashing your CV (don’t go through every aspect of it)
- Using too much of the first person (“I did this. I did that.”)
Write about your experiences and what they meant to you. Don’t just list off what you’ve achieved. Show, don’t tell.
[Related episode: 5 Biggest Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes]
Are quotes okay in personal statements?
Yes, if it ties in well. Be sure to cite it.
Should red flags like terrible grades be addressed in the personal statement?
Yes, because there aren’t a lot of other places in the primary application to put that, and the secondary application may not be a great place for it. That said, don’t spend too much space on them.
Links and Other Resources:
- Check out my book on personal statements, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement.
- Check out my Personal Statement Writing Course.
- Check out my Personal Statement Editing service.
- Related episode: How to Write Personal Statements with Dr. Arora
- Related episode: How to Start Brainstorming Your Personal Statement Draft
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