If you are trying to stand out in a crowd of hundreds, even thousands, how would you do it? How would someone such as a residency program director know to pay special attention to you?
The truth is, there is one place to do it. You guessed it! This beacon of light comes from the MyERAS Personal Statement.
In fact, this is where most program coordinators and directors first go to review an application in greater detail. You might find your application in a virtual pile of hundreds of other applicants with similar criteria. However, if your Personal Statement grabs their attention and can concisely showcase both your personality, as well as abilities as a physician, you may just find yourself on top of the pile.
But how to do it? What turns a good Personal Statement into something great?
There are a few tips and tricks I would like to share with you to make your Personal Statement shine. The most important thing to remember is just that. Program Directors want to see a Personal Statement that shines apart from the rest of the hundreds they see each season. So don’t be afraid to show off who you really are, to be out of the box, and demonstrate your full capacity as a physician.
The personal statement is where medical programs will look to see if they feel your personality is an ideal fit for their program. So be authentic and don’t be afraid to showcase the qualities programs are looking for: teamwork, enthusiasm, resourcefulness, determination, and of course, competency.
In general, there are about 4 main points strong medical residency Personal Statements should have. First, the introduction can focus on why you have chosen the specific specialty you are applying for. Oftentimes, you can draw upon personal experiences or someone in your life to bring this story alive. Programs want to see passion and purpose behind your interest in the field.
Next, ask yourself, why would I excel in this specialty? What qualities and experiences would make me a strong performer in the chosen field? Be sure to consider what a program would expect for the given specialty. Using examples from your medical experience is key in this section. Don’t just tell a program about yourself. Show them who you are through your development as a medical professional.
Third, consider what your expectations are for a residency program. You can reference the experiences that you’ve already mentioned to help showcase what you look forward to in your residency. This is a great place to talk about what you would like to contribute and how you expect to grow.
In the last section, your conclusion, discuss your future goals as a physician. These should include shorter-term goals and the long-term big picture you have for your future. In this section, you can reference themes you previously introduced, as well as summarize the information you shared in a new way.
By the end of this short essay, programs should feel like they understand the story of who you are. In fact, if a program can sense that they already know you as a person, just by reading your statement, then you’ve done well.
Remember, the number one most important aspect of your Personal Statement is this: purpose. Review committees need to feel a visceral sense of your purpose lighting their face as they read. They don’t care if you are the smartest, fastest, or most experienced so long as they have a tangible sense that you care. The more convinced a program is that you will be a hardworking, compassionate, team-player by the end of the reading, the more likely you will be to have an interview. They will feel this by learning your story, hearing your experiences, and getting a sense of who you are by understanding how you’ve grown and developed.
I would like to finish by sharing a list of common pitfalls, as well as a few keys to success to keep in mind so that your Personal Statement is sure to shine.
- Your statement is not specialty specific. If it’s not specialty specific, don’t bother sending it in! Programs understand that you have an interest in medicine. Now what are you truly passionate about and why?
- Don’t be arrogant or overconfident. Showing off test scores, IQ, or narratives of out-performing teammates is a sure way to turn off a review committee. They much prefer you demonstrate your strengths through examples while remaining humble. Basically, avoid saying “I am hardworking… smart… a team player…” etc. Show them.
- Negativity is a no-no. Never speak poorly about others in the Personal Statement. Period. Also, if you have to talk about something difficult, focus on your growth and your expectations for the future. Creating a long-winded excuse is only adding holes to the boat.
- Avoid any detailed descriptions of patient information, as this could violate HIPAA.
Keys to Success
- Highlight your purpose and passion through concrete examples. Be sure to reflect on your experiences as well. What did you learn? How did you grow? How has hardship helped shape you as a professional?
- Keep it short. NEVER go over 1 page (no more, no less). I’d recommend 800 words maximum, but keeping it around 700 is even better. As such, only include vital and relevant information. While drafting, keep in mind it’s better to get your thoughts out first and then start slicing away anything non-essential or redundant.
- Focus on the positive! If you seem like a negative person, programs are unlikely to want to have you as part of their team.
- Make sure your statement is specialty specific and also relevant to the program you are applying to. For example, it’s best not to focus on the abundance of research you’ve done while applying to a community program. Unless you tailor your essays, you may come off as not being a good fit for some.
Finally, as a pro tip, I would highly recommend reading your drafted statement aloud. Even better, read it aloud in front of someone else. This can really help illuminate sections that sound awkward, are forced, or don’t have the right context. Once you’ve done that, give your Personal Statement to a few trusted friends that you feel are proficient in reading and writing. Listen to their feedback with an open mind and incorporate anything you feel will continue to help strengthen your statement.
If you feel like you could benefit from professional assistance with crafting the ideal Personal Statement, Residency Experts can be that help. We work to optimize your whole application, making sure that it also balances, reflects, and integrates the Personal Statement as well.