In this episode, we tackle personal statements for the “older among us.” Is there a need to justify why you applied to medical school so late in life? Is there a need to specifically discuss this on your personal statement? Or should you save this for the interview? Is there a difference between younger nontrads and older nontrads?
Our questions are pulled directly from the forums over at OldPreMeds.org so we can deliver the answers right on to you.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
Poster is currently drafting their personal statement and finding to continuously trying to answer the question, “If you want to be a physician so badly, then why haven’t you done it by now?” Is this something that needs to be justified? Poster can’t cover all the events that led them to apply so late in life. Should they discuss it all or save it for the interview? Are there topics older applicants should cover in the personal statement that the younger nontrads don’t?
Here are the insights from Ryan:
How do you fit in everything in your life into 5300 or 5400 characters?
- Your job is not to talk about everything you’ve done in your life.
- The job of the Personal Statement is to let the reader know why it is that you want to become a physician. (Not what’s taking you so long or what have you been doing in interim)
Some things to consider when answering why you want to become a physician:
- Start with what got you interested in medicine. What was your initial draw to medicine?
- Talk about the most meaningful experiences you’ve gained throughout your path
What the admissions committee members want to see from your personal statement:
- The impact that the experience had on you and your impact on the patients or scenario.
- Your experiences as adding and continually strengthening your desire to become a physician and your resolve to do it.
- Your experiences as securing in your mind that you want to be a physician and is really the only course that makes sense for you
Major takeaway from this episode:
What took you so long doesn’t really matter unless it supports your desire to become a physician. Then add it and talk about it. Think about the most impactful memories that you’ve had that are continually pushing you and reminding you why it is that you want to be a physician and write about those things.
Links and Other Resources:
Ryan does Personal Statement editing, if you need help, visit www.medicalschoolhq.net/personal-statement-editing
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.
This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 38.
You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.
Personal Statements for the Older Premed
Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast where we take questions directly from the www.OldPremeds.org forums. If you’re not registered over there, go check them out over at www.OldPremeds.org. A super friendly group of medical students, physicians, and nontrad premeds all there to help collaborate, help you on your nontraditional journey to medical school. Now the question I have for you today is from a poster asking about personal statements for the older among us, and this person asked this question. ‘I’m currently drafting my personal statement and find myself continuously trying to answer the question ‘if you want to be a physician so badly, then why haven’t you done it by now?’ Is this something that I need to justify? I have read that younger nontrads should discuss what they did in their gap years but I can’t really cover all of the events that led me to apply so late in life. Should I discuss it all, or should I save it for the interview? Are there any topics that the older crowd should cover in the personal statements that the younger nontrads don’t?’
Alright so let’s dig into this question. Now the poster talks about younger nontrads and older nontrads, and whether there’s a difference in personal statements. And I get this question a lot from older nontrads saying, ‘How do I fit in everything in my life into 5,300 characters, or 4,500 characters’ depending on which application service that you’re writing for. And my answer is always the same. Your job isn’t to talk about everything that you’ve done in your life. Your application has room for that with your extracurricular activities. The job of the personal statement is to let the reader know as they finish reading it, the reader should know why it is that you want to become a physician. Not what’s taken you so long, or what have you been doing in the interim. The question that you’re answering as you’re writing your personal statement is why am I becoming a physician?
Now there are some things to think about when you’re answering that question. The first one is what was your initial draw to medicine? I often read personal statements from students, and I don’t understand at the end of reading it why they were interested in medicine to begin with. They’ll talk about shadowing, and volunteering, and doing some clinical experience, but I don’t understand why they started doing that in the first place, and that always leaves me scratching my head. And so you should start with that. What was your initial interest in medicine? And then you start talking about the experiences that you’ve gained throughout your path. And you don’t have to talk about all of them, you need to talk about the most meaningful ones, the ones where you can show me the reader, or show the reader the admissions committee member, show them the impact that that experience had on you, the impact that you had on the patients or other people in that scenario, that experience, and that- when you lay all that out I should be able to go, ‘Okay I can see why John wants to become a physician, I see where that initial interest came from, and I see that these experiences that he’s gained over time are adding and continually strengthening his desire to become a physician, and it’s really strengthening his resolve to do it, and it’s not scaring him away, and it’s not making him jaded, or mad, or frustrated, or burnt out. It’s really supporting him and really securing in his mind that he wants to be a physician, and that this is really the only course that makes sense for him.
Becoming a physician is hard work. It’s hard work to get through your premed years, it’s hard work to get through medical school, it’s hard work to get through residency, and then once you’re a physician it’s emotionally draining to take care of patients. You’re constantly putting out, and putting out, and putting out for patients, and not oftentimes- not often enough at least taking time for yourself. So as a reader of a personal statement, I want to make sure that this is really what you want to do. You don’t need to answer what took you so long because it doesn’t really matter. There are plenty of nontrads that have various different reasons for not going into medicine to start, and your reason doesn’t really matter unless it supports your desire to become a physician, and then maybe you add it and talk about it.
So those are my thoughts on the personal statement. I do personal statement editing. If you go over to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net which is my main website of the Medical School Headquarters, and you click on ‘Our Services’ you can see ‘Personal Statement Editing’ there. Again that’s www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net.
I hope that was helpful for you as you start to think about writing your personal statement and what should go in it. Don’t freak out if you have all of your life to cram into these 5,300 characters because that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing. Think about the most impactful memories that you’ve had, the most impactful experiences that you’ve had that are continually pushing you and reminding you why it is that you want to be a physician, and write about those things.
I hope you have an awesome week, an awesome nontraditional premed week, and I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and the Old Premeds Podcast.