Writing the Personal Statement for Residency. Writing Consult Center and Office of Student Affairs. Goals for the Personal Statement essay:. Get an interview Guide the interviewer. How do they choose?. What are the program directors looking for?.
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Writing the Personal Statement for Residency
Writing Consult Center
Office of Student Affairs
Goals for the Personal Statement essay:
Get an interview
Guide the interviewer
How do they choose?
What are the program directors looking for?
What are the reviewers trying to learn about you?
It’s like remembering a face– ‘Oh yes, I
remember her.’ Some personality,
some individuality should come
through. I want to be able to say,
“That’s the person who….”
“Personal life events that had an impact on
you are important, positive or negative, but
don’t spend half the essay on them.”
“I want to know who you are, why you are a
doctor and why you want to become an
anesthesiologist [or xxxx] and where you’re
possibly going with this training in the
“Somewhere in the essay, work in some
comments about your strengths. All
residency directors know that not every
student will be at the top of the class or have
every possible “stellar resident” attribute.
However, some comments about
determination, hard work, intellect, values,
and special skills will catch my attention.”
4 things reviewers want to learn about you
1. Your personal story
“Just a bit if it is conventional, more if it is unusual & relevant.”
Concrete, not abstract:
“I look for personal stories that really tell me something about the applicant. The ‘I love kids’ doesn’t work as well as a patient encounter or any kind of story about how things could have been done better. Insight is always good.”
2. Significant academic difficulty
“Not mentioning significant academic
difficulty doesn’t mean we won’t see it on the
transcript or read it in the Dean’s letter. This
is a good opportunity to explain what
happened– and is particularly important if
the explanation suggests that the problem is
not likely to recur.”
3. Special experiences that guided you to select this specialty
Why you’re well-suited to this field
“Most of the reasons we’ve heard
before. But an applicant’s own process
of decision is individual and needs to
be heard in his or her own words.”
“I like the essays that tell about the
applicant’s past– if it was a struggle, or
why in general he or she would make a
good [ pediatrician, anesthesiologist,
surgeon,etc.]. Insight is always good.”
“Let me know what you are looking for in a
program. I’m going to invite people to
interview who I believe are looking for the
things that we offer. Be honest about your
future goals. If you want to do clinical or
basic science research, make sure you bring
4. What the applicant chooses as avocations
“This might not be appropriate in an
essay that is, of necessity, very serious
or in which a good portion of effort is
devoted to explaining academic
difficulty, for example.”
“The personal statement should be
personal and real. I use it a lot to
structure my interview.”
“Above all, be honest.
Dishonesty will kill the application.”
So, how to write the essay?
Create a coherent
Logically connected & intelligible
Concrete, not abstract
Form:How to structure the essay
Hook your reader.
Show logical flow.
Begin with a personal story,
Go to theory, or what the story means.
Explore alternatives to the formula
A different opening
“Make sure to check for errors– this is the biggest no- no to me. If you don’t write well, it doesn’t bode well for you.”
Grammar, spelling, diction, syntax, punctuation, tone, and style.
Suggestions from reviewers
“Clarity is fundamental.”
“If you don’t have confidence in yourself as a
writer, keep it simple. One idea per
Tone and style
“ Don’t be dramatic or effusive.”
“ Be careful in touting your accomplishments. Tone is important. Sounding egotistical or boastful makes a bad impression.”
Proofreading & editing
“Get input from others. Have at least
one other person read the essay.”
“Good writing is re-writing. Read and
edit it several times.”
“Let it cool off before submitting it with the
application. If it sounds corny or trite to you or
perhaps even too strong, rewrite!”
Writing clear prose
Identify me as Ishmael.
Several twelvemonths past– disregard the exact period– being somewhat impoverished financially and possessing nothing remarkable to intrigue me on terra firma, I reflected I would navigate about somewhat and observe the liquid, aqueous component of the globe.
Call me Ishmael.
Some years ago– never mind how long precisely– having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
Make your reader work as little as possible.
Keep the degree of difficulty as low as possible.
Robert Gunning’s Fog Index:
measuring the degree of difficulty of writing based on the length of the words we choose.
the world’s richest, most expressive language.
Heteroglot: constant absorption
American Indian: chipmunk, moose
Italian: balcony, umbrella
Persian: shawl, paradise, sherbet
Greek: acrobat, catastrophe, elastic
Spanish: alligator, vanilla, hammock
Language exploded– and separated into 2 classes:
Home / Residence
Eat / Dine
Loving / Amorous
cogitate, ruminate, reflect, meditate,
privation, destitution, indigence,
amenable, compliant, submissive, tractable
Endeavor – Try
Initiate – Begin
Is desirous of – Wants
Cognizant of – Knows
Ascertain – Find out
Implement – Start, create, carry out, begin
Eventuate – Happen
Transpire – Happen
Transmit – Send
It would thus appear that….
It is considered that….
It is this that….
It is possible that the cause is….
The cause may be….
In light of the fact that….
It is often the case that….
It is interesting to note that….
It is not impossible that….
It seems that there can be little doubt that…
In the course of
In the event that
In the majority of instances
In the near future
In the nature of
Like (similar to)
In the neighborhood of
In the not too distant future
In the vicinity of
In view of the fact that
It is imperative that
Be sure that
It is interesting to note that
It would thus appear that
Make decisions about
Needless to say
(Then why say it?)
On a few occasions
On the assumption that
Take into consideration
With regard to
With the exception of
Please find enclosed, herewith, my new paper, which was published in January of this year.
Here is my January 2003 paper.
Clarity = Economy + Precision
“Give us a coherent personal story written in clear standard English.”