The Importance of a Personal Statement – How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Although it’s easy to get wrapped up in the technicalities of obtaining your medical degree and gaining solid clinical experience, it’s important to understand that such things aren’t all there is to turning in a successful application for residency. While program directors are without question interested in knowing whether or not you’re ready to be a doctor on paper via credentials, they are also interested in who you are as a person and what you bring to a medical team that no one else can.

Letters of recommendation are immensely important in this regard, as they show the program director whether or not you make the grade in the eyes of other respected physicians. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the weight that a well-written personal statement can lend either. Your personal statement is your chance to state in your own words how you shine as an individual, so it’s important to make sure that it sounds not only intelligent and impressive, but unique.

Be Sure to Include Enough Personal Focus

One of the most commonly made mistakes when it comes to personal statements is a lack of focus on who the applicant is as a person. While it’s probably tempting to use your statement as a platform to remind the director of the quality of your degree, your awesome USMLE test scores, or the big name facility where you did your elective rotation, keep in mind that they already know all that about you. Many of the other applicants will be in the same boat there as well – qualified on paper and good when it comes to the numbers.

Point out personal qualities you possess that you feel make you not only a good physician, but an important potential addition to the target institution’s medical team in particular. Talk about what it was that drew you to your specialty and how you plan on contributing to that specialty in a valuable way once you’re a doctor.

Address Questions Asked by the Institution

In the end, it really pays to do your homework on your target institution. Even a thorough visit to their website will clue you in to a lot of what they’re looking for in applicants and help you find a direction from which to approach your statement.

Also take care to address actual questions that are asked of applicants. Many people focus so much on trying to be impressive that they forget the importance of telling the director what he or she really needs to know. Make sure that you don’t fall into this trap and thoroughly answer each of the questions asked. Be sure to do so from an angle that really shows what you in particular bring to the table as an individual.

Proofread Your Statement

Last but not least, make sure your statement is properly proofread. You may even want to consider enlisting the aid of a professional proofreader in order to help you here if you don’t consider writing to be your forte.