When you write a personal statement for a medical school application, you’re writing for someone who’s going to make an important decision about your future based, in part, on what you’ve written. For this reason, it’s a good idea to understand who this person is. Who are you really writing for?
You may not want to believe it, but the person who is going to read and score your statement probably isn’t going to be fully awake and focused when reading it. Instead, this person may be exhausted from being up all night with a sick child, distracted by thoughts about a recent argument with a colleague, or feeling rushed because your statement is only one of 40–50 statements he or she has to read in the next two hours. You may think that statement reviewers should give each statement their undivided attention because decisions about whether or not to accept an applicant into a medical school program are a big deal. The reality, though, is that the person who will review your statement is only human. Your reviewer’s memory and attention span are just as susceptible to the effects of exhaustion and distraction as yours are.
It may feel a bit disheartening to know that after all of the work that you’ve been doing to maximize your chances of getting into med school, your statement reviewer may not read your statement as carefully as he or she could. However, instead of feeling depressed or demotivated by this, focus on how it empowers you: now that you know the type of reader you’re writing for, you can tailor your writing to this person. Specifically, now that you know that your reviewer may be tired, distracted, or rushed, you know that you need to make your statement as easy as possible to read and understand.
Why is it so important to make your statement easy to read? It may not seem like it, but reading is a complex task – your brain has to do quite a bit of work to take strings of letters on a page and turn them into something understandable and meaningful. Because reading is mentally demanding, it’s harder to read and understand documents when you’re so tried, distracted, or rushed that your attention and memory can’t function optimally. A reviewer who’s exhausted or distracted is going to have an even harder time understanding a sentence that’s already somewhat long and difficult to follow under optimal reading circumstances. Similarly, a reviewer who’s rushing through your statement may be more likely to miss key details about your experiences that are buried in dense paragraphs. It’s not going to be your fault that your reviewer is exhausted, distracted, or rushed. However, it’s going to be your personal statement that gets a low score if your reviewer can’t understand what you wrote or wasn’t able to pick up on the key pieces of information you were trying to convey.
Avoid the perils of an exhausted, distracted, or rushed reviewer by making sure that your personal statement is as clear as you can make it. If you write clearly, you won’t run the risk of putting your reviewer in a position where he or she needs to guess what you’re trying to say. You’ll also avoid irritating your reviewer by making him or her read a statement that’s challenging to understand.
Note that even if your statement reviewer isn’t exhausted, distracted, or rushed, this person will still appreciate reading a statement that’s easy to understand. Data shows that people view information more positively when this information is easy to read, so a statement that’s written clearly may also leave a better overall impression on your reviewer. Plus, if you make your statement easy to read, you’ll have a better chance of showcasing what you have to offer as an applicant AND convincing your reviewer that you’re competent enough to know how to write well.
Need some concrete tips on how to write clearly? Download our guide “How To Write A Medical School Personal Statement: A Step-By-Step Process.” In Step 9 of this guide, we provide 11 specific tips for writing clearly along with examples. As a whole, the guide outlines a step-by-step process for writing a strong personal statement. It also contains worksheets and examples to help you complete each step of the process.
Download the guide for free here.
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