Amcas Personal Statement

Kate Fukawa-Connelly, Director of Health Professions Advising, Princeton University

The personal statement is an unfamiliar genre for most students—you’ve practiced writing lab reports, analytical essays, maybe even creative fiction or poetry, but the personal statement is something between a reflective, analytical narrative, and an argumentative essay. You want to reveal something about yourself and your thoughts around your future in medicine while also making an argument that provides evidence supporting your readiness for your career. Well ahead of when you’re writing your personal statement, consider taking classes that require you to create and support arguments through writing, or those that ask you to reflect on your personal experiences to help you sharpen these skills.

As you draft your essay, you may want to include anecdotes from your experiences. It’s easiest to recall these anecdotes as they happen so it can be helpful to keep a journal where you can jot down stories, conversations, and insights that come to you. This could be recounting a meaningful conversation that you had with someone, venting after an especially challenging experience, or even writing about what keeps you going at times when you feel in danger of giving up. If it’s more comfortable, take audio notes by talking into your phone.

While reading sample personal statements can sometimes make a student feel limited to emulating pieces that already exist, I do think that reading others’ reflective writing can be inspirational. The Aspiring Docs Diaries blog written by premeds is one great place to look, as are publications like the Bellevue Literary Review and Pulse, which will deliver a story to your inbox every week. Check with your pre-health advisor to see if they have other examples that they recommend.

Rachel Tolen, Assistant Director and Premedical Advisor, Indiana University

I encourage students to think of the personal statement not just as a product. Instead, I encourage them to think of the process of writing the statement as embedded in the larger process of preparing themselves for the experience of medical school. Here are a few key tips that I share with students:

  • Start writing early, even months before you begin your application cycle. Expect to revise many versions of your draft over time.
  • Take some time to reflect on your life and goals. By the end of reading your statement, the reader should understand why you want to be a physician. 
  • When you consider what to write, think about the series of events in your life that have led up to the point where you are applying to medical school. How did you get here? What set you on the path toward medical school? What kept you coming back, even at times when it was challenging? On the day that you retire, what do you hope you’ll be able to say you’ve achieved through your work as a physician? 
  • Don’t waste too much time trying to think of a catchy opening or a theme designed just to set your essay apart. Applicants sometimes end up with an opening that comes across as phony and artificial because they are trying too hard to distinguish themselves from other applicants. 
  • Just start writing. Writing is a means for thinking and reflecting. Let the theme grow out of the process of writing itself. Some of the best personal statements focus on ordinary events that many other people may have experienced, but what makes the essay stand out are the writer’s unique insights and ability to reflect on these experiences.

Dana Lovold, MPH, Career Counselor at the University of Minnesota

Your personal statement can and should include more than what you’ve done to prepare for medical school. The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that isn’t conveyed elsewhere in your application.

Advisors at the University of Minnesota employ a storytelling model to support students in finding and writing their unique personal statement. One critical aspect of storytelling is the concept of change. When a story lacks change, it becomes a recitation of facts and events, rather than a reflection of how you’ve learned and grown through your experiences. Many students express concern that their experiences are not unique and wonder how they can stand out. Focusing on change can help with this. Some questions you may want to consider when exploring ideas are:

  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How did you change as a result of the experience?
  • What insight did you gain?

By sharing your thoughts on these aspects of your preparation and motivation for medicine, the reader has a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value. Then, connect that insight to how it relates to your future in the profession. This will convey your unique insight and demonstrate how you will use that insight as a physician.  

In exploring additional aspects of what to write about, we also encourage students to cover these four components in the essay:

Image © 2016 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved

  • Motivation refers to a student’s ongoing preparation for the health profession and can include the initial inspiration.
  • Fit is determined through self-assessment of relevant values and personal qualities as they relate to the profession.
  • Capacity is demonstrated through holistically aligning with the competencies expected in the profession.
  • Vision relates to the impact you wish to make in the field.

After you finish a working draft, go back through and see how you’ve covered each of these components. Ask people who are reading your draft if they can identify how you’ve covered these elements in your essay so that you know it’s clear to others.


In this post, I will show you the 6 step process to write a personal statement for medical school that is impactful and persuasive.

Your AMCAS personal statement is the single most important piece of your med school application because it is your opportunity to consciously control how you are perceived by the med school admissions committee.

Context

By the time you begin filling out your application, your MCAT and GPA will be unchangeable and cold numbers alone might not convince an admissions committee that you are an exemplary applicant prepared to thrive in a rigorous medical program. And unlike a statement of purpose for graduate school or residency, consider your med school personal statement a “written interview” that gives you the opportunity to show why you are a unique and promising individual within a massive field of applicants.

Stuck on your med school personal statement?

Here’s the tough part: The prompt for the medical school application essay — aka the AMCAS personal statement — (which says, in part, “Use this section to compose a personal essay explaining hwy you selected the field of medicine, what motivates you to learn more about medicine…”) is so open-ended that the vast majority of pre-med students have no idea how to approach the medical school personal statement with a strategy that will create persuasive results.

Many medical school applicants rely on tired techniques in their admission essay, like chronological storytelling: “I was born, I went to school and got good grades, now I want to be a doctor” (SNOOZE) and they write their essay with no structure, theme or imagination.

A personal statement for medical school written without a clear theme and structure won’t pull your reader in; it will bore them and push them away.

It’s easy to get stuck after you complete your first med school personal statement draft because you might not be confident that your approach to the personal statement for medical school is good because you don’t have a successful model to follow.

Below is a video I made with a student who wanted to know if his med school personal statement was “good enough.”

Get our medical school personal statement samples.

How to write an outstanding med school personal statement

Follow the steps below as you begin writing your medical school admissions essay and you’ll many of the common pitfalls and stumbling points experienced by applicants. This advice has helped guide hundreds of students write compelling and successful med school personal statements that got them admitted to medical school.

Step 1. Map out the entire structure of your paper to ensure that your med school personal statement follows a clear theme. Every anecdote you include or reflection you make should clearly fit into your strategic framework and remind your reader what your motivations are.

Step 2. Excite your reader with life-changing stories from your past — ones that inspired your passions or gave you direction in life — and discuss how these incidents changed you as a person. These riveting stories will become the focus of your medical school personal statement even if they are not medically related. Big hint: Any type of story can work as long as it demonstrates personal growth and motivation.

Step 3. Use interesting writing techniques like simile and metaphor to “show” rather than “tell” information to your reader. Plain, unimaginative writing will BORE your reader.

Step 4. Avoid repetitive statements that don’t add anything new to your ideas and waste valuable character space. Be concise!

Step 5. The AMCAS application electronically limits the length of your AMCAS personal statement to 5300 characters. Spaces, punctuation marks and paragraph breaks all count as characters.

Step 6. Model your essay after past successful med school personal statements. You are much more likely to create a successful personal statement for medical school if you approach it with writing strategies that have worked for applicants in the past. Use sample essays, sample outlines and writing instructions. This strategy will reduce the heartache and stress that many pre-meds experience while writing their med school personal statements because this approach shows you exactly how to layout your medical school admissions essay with content that will be engaging and memorable.

Sample Personal Statements make your life easier

You absolutely must have example essays, like our medical school personal statements.

Sample personal statements will help you get a massive head start because you’ll see not only the format, but many examples of what other students have written. One thing to be aware of is that some student samples may not fit your situation specifically, so you want to look for some samples that match you and your experiences, as well as your MCAT score and GPA.

That’s why I created Personal Statement Secrets. Personal Statement Secrets includes 25 example personal statements, and also include step-by-step instructions on how to write the personal statement. There are also several personal statement templatesincluded that will show you how to easily and persuasively structure your ideas.

I also really like the video critiques of several essays that I have done with previous students that are included in personal statement secrets. You’ll find the conversation with the students really enlightening, as I go through line by line of each student essay and help them understand how to make their essay more persuasive and more impactful on the admissions committee.

A friend of mine was recently with an admissions committee member for a University of California system medical school and he told her just how important the personal statement is to University of California medical schools.

He said, “Most students don’t realize just how much emphasis we, in the admissions committee, place on the content of the personal statement. The help that you’re giving to students is extremely important and you’re right on track.”

Get our sample medical school personal statements.

So, now you know the main tricks on how to write a personal statement for medical school admissions. Good luck!

This article was originally posted at PersonalStatementSecrets.com by Don Osborne.

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