Michigan Medical Education Day October 8, 2011 Personal Statement Workshop
The Personal Statement… • …is a revelation of your personality. • …includes your strengths, beliefs, & values. • …uses concrete, vivid details to demonstrate the qualities & characteristics you possess. • …is your first (and perhaps only) opportunity to sell yourself.
Things to keep in mind • Applications use character count NOT word count • AMCAS – 5300 characters with spaces MAX • AACOMAS – 4500 characters with spaces MAX • You cannot run spell check & you cannot cut and paste. • Once it is submitted, it cannot be changed. • Plan on multiple rough drafts before you reach the finished product
Most importantly….this is your space to tell the medical schools things that you have not already told them. Example A: In the fall of 2004, I enrolled at Michigan State University’s Lyman Briggs College and began to pursue my major of physiology and minor in Spanish with a specialization in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society. I was excited about the challenges ahead but also apprehensive.
Most importantly….this is your space to tell the medical schools things that you have not already told them. Example A: In the fall of 2004, I enrolled at Michigan State University’s Lyman Briggs College and began to pursue my major of physiology and minor in Spanish with a specialization in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society. I was excited about the challenges ahead but also apprehensive. 273 characters with spaces
Most importantly….this is your space to tell the medical schools things that you have not already told them. Example B: When I entered college, I was excited about the challenges ahead but also apprehensive. 87 characters with spaces
Your statement must be personal. It is your initial opportunity to address the admissions committee. This statement might lead to an interview IF you express your commitments, motivations, and values. It should be a reflection of the unique individual that you are.
Opening Paragraph Examples Example A: In a certain sense, I am a terrible example of a pre-medical student. Pre-med students are known for our competitive natures. We are stereotyped as being students who claim to "want to help people" but who in the end really only care about ourselves and our eventual financial success. I am a terrible pre-medical student because I do not fit into this mold. Although I do value hard work and academic success, experience has taught me that the values of compassion, communication, and personal respect are of even greater importance in my life.
Opening Paragraph Examples Example B: A friend once told me “Everything you do, you do to the max”, and I feel like that was the greatest compliment that I have ever received. Throughout my life I have had many different goals and interests, but one thing that has remained constant is that I always strive to become better. If there was something that interested me that I wasn’t good at I would put all of my energy into becoming better at it. Some might say I have an “obsessive personality”, but I would say that I know what I want and I will do everything in my power to get it. I am an extremely competitive person who strives for recognition and to see myself growing.
Opening Paragraph Examples Example C: Growing up in a small rural area of a third world country the dream to become a physician seemed fictional and even absurd. The educational system was destitute and difficult to afford. The health care system was poor and expensive to afford. Physician, lawyer, and scientist, were not familiar words in the society. However, the small clinic next to my house opened the door for me to familiarize with the world of medicine. There was only one doctor in my town with a population of more than 10,000. Dr H was my first role model since my adolescence because I was greatly inspired and impressed by his passion and performance for the health of others. I always imagined how significant our health would have improved if we had more doctors like Dr H. I learned through him the value and importance of humanity and the care for others. My dream to become a physician has been rooted there.
ELABORATE… …upon extracurricular activitiesand/or volunteer work experiences that you have listed elsewhere in your application. Do NOT merely relist these activities. Focus on noteworthy activities….describe the depth of your involvement in a fashion that implies you have certain characteristics necessary to be a good physician.
ELABORATE on activities… Example A: Also in college, I have been instrumental in starting a new group for students interested in learning more about the health professions. I am currently serving as president of this group. As president of a new group, my most pressing concern was to establish a strong interest at my school for such an organization. I have been successful in building up the membership in this group and must credit my vice-president as well for her assistance. I organized all the meetings and contacted students. I also received an award from the Dean’s Office in recognition for my hard work and dedication to interested students. However, my most rewarding accomplishments thus far include arranging for students to attend medical school classes and observe other health professionals, but this is the first year, I have limited the exposure to medicine
ELABORATE on activities… Example A: Also in college, Ihave been instrumental in starting a new group for students interested in learning more about the health professions. Iam currently serving as president of this group. As president of a new group, mymost pressing concern was to establish a strong interest at myschool for such an organization. Ihave been successful in building up the membership in this group and must credit my vice-president as well for her assistance. Iorganized all the meetings and contacted students. Ialso received an award from the Dean’s Office in recognition for myhard work and dedication to interested students. However, mymost rewarding accomplishments thus far include arranging for students to attend medical school classes and observe other health professionals, but this is the first year, Ihave limited the exposure to medicine
ELABORATE on activities… Example B: I became a volunteer counselor at Camp X, a camp for children with cancer and their siblings. The camp is devoted to providing an environment that is worry free so that the children may have as much fun as possible. However lighthearted the environment may be, these children are still coping with serious problems and are emotionally unstable. I do my best to respond to their needs and promote conversation. Often I am approached by children who are scared of dying, overwhelmed with grief, or just lonely. Though challenging, these encounters have strengthened my confidence and enabled me to effectively and sensitively communicate with others who are in stress or pain. My experiences at Camp X are extremely rewarding, knowing that I am making a direct and positive impact on the lives of children that I counsel. I believe that I will be able to genuinely communicate with patients, not only because I have had a lot of practice interacting with others on various emotional levels, but because I truly enjoy it.
Your personal statement could… • …include any personal hardships or disadvantages • …include any special individuals or incidents that have shaped your life • …discuss a non-traditional background
Personal hardship… Example A: My undergraduate years started out a little rocky my freshmen & sophomore years because of personal difficulties. After only one week of college my freshmen year, my mom called to say that she & my dad had separated. Needless to say, I was devastated & unable to concentrate in my classes at all that first semester. After receiving my report card, I was shocked to realize just how poorly I had done in all my classes. I was very depressed about my grades which affected my progress the following semester. A few weeks into the 2nd semester, my mom called again only to say that she and my dad were getting a divorce. I was devastated! I returned home most weekends to comfort and care for my siblings, but being home made the divorce so real. Perhaps I would have been better to stay at school and concentrate on my studies, but at the time, that was not an option. The divorce was messy and lasted through most of my sophomore year which explains my poor performance that second year as well. My parents divorce is now final, & we are all trying to continue with our lives. I am prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. While my academic career has not always been stable due to personal problems, my desire and motivation for this profession has never wavered and is actually stronger today because of the setbacks I have faced. I look forward to the challenges that medical school will bring.
Personal hardship… Example B: A sense of "disorderly chaos" depicts most of my childhood. My parents became pregnant with me and started their lives together at eighteen years old. At such a young age, the stress of marriage and a baby made it difficult and they soon divorced. Neither of my parents went to college because they had to work very hard to just be able financially to support themselves and a baby. As time passed, each of my parents started new families so my high school years became more stable. Our dual family structure offers me stability and support. I am grateful that I now have two groups of people that create the essential fabric of my family, and I am the thread that binds us all together.
You MUST explain WHY you are pursuing medicine Example A: A third step in my journey that led to applying to medical school was job shadowing at my family physician's office. I was able to observe how the doctor was able to get information from the patient by asking targeted, polite questions. This job shadowing experience allowed me to see the kind of work that a physician does on a day-to-day basis and reassured for me that I would enjoy such work. Although this clinical experience was helpful, I do feel that I would like to have more clinical experience under my belt. The principal reason I have not done more clinical volunteer work is because of my employment history. Due to my family's financial position, it has been a necessity for me to work full time jobs every summer and part-time jobs during my college classes in order to pay for my education and additional costs such as food and books. Though all of this paid work deprived me of a good deal of clinical experiences, it also gave me a wide range of experiences in following directions, making decisions, and dealing with both coworkers and the general public. Working some rather unpleasant service-sector jobs has taught me the values of humility and hard work. These skills will be very useful if I am accepted to medical school and begin practicing medicine.
You MUST explain WHY you are pursuing medicine Example B: Only midway through my undergraduate work did I narrow my focus to osteopathic medicine, although my past experiences with doctors and my choice of major made it an easy decision. Growing up I had long term relationships with primary care doctors. In time trust grew and they were concerned about the whole life of the patient. They often acted as therapists, experiencing the tragedies of their patient’s lives with them. To me, this is the ideal doctor-patient relationship and it is the kind I hope to facilitate as a physician. This more holistic philosophy best suits health interactions and gives a fuller view of patient health that a focus limited to disease processes cannot offer. Given a depressed patient, a strong relationship could tell the physician that she is recently embroiled in an ugly divorce and needs support rather than medication.
You MUST explain WHY you are pursuing medicine Example C: In terms of academics, I have spent my entire undergraduate career pursuing my passionate interest in science. Overall, I have genuinely enjoyed my research opportunities, & I am extremely grateful that I was able to participate in them, as they allowed me to discover that I truly love science. Something was missing from these experiences, however. The only people with whom I interacted were my colleagues present in the labs, & I was never able to witness my work actually better the lives of others. My time working for a physician really showed me just how important this missing facet can be. Dr. X generously hired me as his research assistant in his practice during one summer break and two winter breaks. I worked for him full time & assisted him with his research in personalized molecular oncology. My time with Dr. X granted me many insights into the field of medicine, but most importantly, it revealed that I do not need to choose between my love of science & my drive to serve others; the goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, he showed me that many doctors successfully combine these passions, with their love for science allowing them to offer even better care to their patients. He was both an inquiring scientist & a compassionate caregiver. Science without patient interaction seems empty at times because I never have a connection to the ultimate beneficiaries of the research. The opportunity to apply my scientific talents to real people that genuinely need my help is my ultimate motivation to study medicine. Without the presence of these patients, scientific research for me is too abstract with no emotional aspects.
Final thoughts • Do NOT invent a hardship • Do NOT “over-share” – realize that anything you write about can be discussed in an interview & may also influence admissions decisions • Do NOT wait until May/June to start writing it • This statement goes everywhere – be school specific in your secondaries