If you’re preparing a personal statement for a med school, law school, grad school, or medical residency program, don’t make the mistake that many applicants make. That is, avoid writing a series of vague statements about why you want to pursue a particular career, how you’ve explored your interest in this career, and why you’re a strong candidate for the program you’re applying to. For example, don’t write something like this:
“I am interested in pursuing a career in medicine because I am passionate about helping people. By training to become a physician, I hope to improve the care that patients receive.”
It’s easier to write a vague statement, but taking the easy route isn’t going to help you get in to your dream program.
So how do you avoid making one of the most common personal statement mistakes? Ground your statement in specific experiences and examples. First, think about the past experiences you’ve had that could be relevant to your application. These can include extracurricular activities, academic experiences or accomplishments, research experience, volunteer work, employment, or defining moments. Then, identify a few experiences that will allow you to provide the best answers to these questions:
- Why do you want to pursue a career in Field X?
- What activities or experiences have you pursued to explore your interest in Field X and make sure that it’s the right fit for you?
- How have your activities and experiences influenced you?
- How are the things that you learned from your activities and experiences useful for a career in Field X?
When you describe your experiences in your statement, be sure that you don’t just rehash your resume or provide a laundry list of activities you’ve taken part in. Instead, focus on a few key experiences and give yourself the space to describe what you did, why you did it, and what you learned from it in detail. Admissions committee don’t just want to know what you did. They want to see that you have the self-awareness to reflect on your experiences and understand what they mean for your personal growth or professional development.
In our guide “How To Write a Medical School Personal Statement: A Step-By-Step Process,” we provide a detailed method for writing a personal statement that’s centered on identifying and describing specific, concrete experiences. Although this guide is geared toward medical school applicants, many of the points in the guide are relevant to all types of personal statements for academic programs. Download a copy of it here.
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