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Perhaps the hardest part of a residency application personal statement is the vagueness of the prompt. You have one page to get your reader to like you, understand you, and want to meet you in person — so what on earth are you supposed to talk about?
Your personal statement should be a reflection of your unique past, your current goals, and a glimpse into your future. There is no “formula” for a good personal statement. In fact, some of the best ones are refreshing because they’re well-organized but don’t follow that boring five-paragraph essay format.
We can’t tell you exactly what to say, but here are a few general tips for your residency application personal statement:
Have a good “hook.” Start with a quote or an interesting situation. Grab the reader’s attention. Use shorter sentences that are easy to read and digest. Get straight to the point, and make sure every single word is necessary — this is not the part for flowy, overly descriptive language.
Keep it short(ish) and sweet. In terms of length, 500-600 words is probably a good rule of thumb. This is a lot shorter than you think, especially for everything you’re going to want to say. Make sure every word serves some purpose in showing who you are as a person and future resident. When you’re done, use the PDF preview function to see if you’re going over 1 page. Trim it to fit under 1 page if you can.
Talk about overcoming obstacles. Did you work as a teenager or in college? Are you the first one in your family with a college education? Did you have to struggle to get where you are? Medical school is often only accessible to the privileged, and not having that entitlement is extremely refreshing. Programs love applicants who know what “hard work” and “real world” mean.
Personalize your personal statement. ERAS® gives you the option of sending individual personal statements to each program you apply to. Use this flexibility to your advantage, at least for programs of particular interest to you. In the last paragraph of your personal statement, it’s worth mentioning the program by name (but obviously triple-check that it’s the right one!) and talk about why you want to go there in particular. Do you have family and friends in the area? Did you have research there under a certain faculty member? Did you do an away rotation there and love it? Although personalization isn’t guaranteed to get you an interview, it’s not that difficult and definitely worth the extra effort.
Mention why you want to do this specialty. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does give the reader a better sense of your motivations and your background. If you have a unique reason, it’s worth mentioning. (Note: “I want to be a dermatologist because I had terrible acne as a kid” is not compelling or unique!)
Electronic Residency Application Service® (ERAS®) is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and is used under the fair use doctrine. Med School Mentors is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the AAMC.
United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) is a registered trademark of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and is used under the fair use doctrine. Med School Mentors is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the NBME.