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
What are the program directors looking for? What are the reviewers trying to learn about you?
“Reading a personal statement is like meeting someone… 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 “Personal life events that had an impact on you are important, positive or negative, but don’t spend half the essay on them.”
“Grab my attention.” “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 future.”
“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.”
Personal story “Just a bit if it is conventional, more if it is unusual & relevant.” But actually….
Personal story 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 Address it.
“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
Selecting the specialty “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.”
Selecting the specialty “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 it up.”
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.”
3 areas of attention • Content • Form • Mechanics
Content Create a coherent life story
coherent Sticking together, Logically connected & intelligible
Coherent? • It had been dry for a long time. No rain had fallen for more than a month. • We had a beautiful home. • Now I want to be a dermatologist.
A coherent life story • Direction • Dedication • Purpose • Energy
A coherent life story? • 12 year old sister with leukemia died • Played basketball for K-State • Rafting instructor for 3 years after college • Decided to go to medical school
A coherent life story? • 12 year old sister with leukemia died. • Volunteered at hospital 3 years in college. • Did research in oncology lab at KU for 2 summers. • Decided to go to medical school. Hope to become a pediatric oncologist.
Form:How to structure the essay Hook your reader. Show logical flow.
The formula Begin with a personal story, Go to theory, or what the story means.
Explore alternatives to the formula Slight rearrangements A different opening
Form • No longer than one page. • 6 paragraphs maximum. • “Leave some white space! One big gray page turns me off.”
Mechanics of good writing “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.”
Mechanics Grammar, spelling, diction, syntax, punctuation, tone, and style.
Mechanics of good writing • Competently written in standard English. • Workmanlike to Creative: the continuum.
Clarity “If you don’t have confidence in yourself as a writer, keep it simple. One idea per sentence.”
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 and 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!”
Eschew Obfuscation Writing clear prose
It’s raining • At the present time we are experiencing precipitation.
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.