3 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement in 2022

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This post was written by Lily Trinh, MD, founder of Med Mentors and has extensive experience editing hundreds of personal statements and serving on her medical school admissions committee.

1. Talking too much about a patient or someone other than you.

I have seen this over and over again.

Students will write two paragraphs about a patient encounter they had to demonstrate how impactful that was to them. However, that’s not really the point of the personal statement.

Remember this is YOUR personal statement. The admission committee want to learn about you and your purpose. While it’s important to have some stories in your statement, a good rule of thumb I abide by is that no paragraph should be more than 50% describing someone else.

To do this, briefly describe the patient story, then spend the much of the time describing how it impacting you. What did you take away from the experience? How did it change your view of medicine? Did this motivate you to take specific actions after?

2. Being disorganized

Many students will jump back and forth between experiences and thoughts. This makes it very challenging to read as a reader. In order to prevent this, make sure you outline your PS before you write. This way, you can see exactly what you are trying to write before you write.

The 5-point framework I recommend is:
1. Opening paragraph – start with a hook and interesting story
2. Body/supporting paragraph #1 – describe an activity or experience that led you to “why medicine or this specialty.”
3. Body/supporting paragraph #2 – build on your narrative by describing another activity or experience that led you to “why medicine or this specialty.”
4. Body/supporting paragraph #2 – continue to do the same as the previous paragraph. Highlight your strengths and skills if you haven’t already.
5. Conclusion – tie this paragraph to the opening paragraph to bring your essay full circle. Describe your goals for medicine and where you see yourself in the future.

3. Not having a memorable theme

A cohesive and memorable essay is developed around a theme. You should connect the dots with your experiences and find a connecting theme. For instance, if you come from an immigrant family, are really interesting in health care disparities, and had many leadership roles in organizations that break down access to care – that’s you’re theme! In each of your paragraphs, you will want to remind your reader that THIS is why you got involved your volunteer experience and why want to pursue medicine.

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