What are some basic principles to build my personal statement around?
A bad personal statement can put your medical school application on life support.
Don’t negate an otherwise impressive application with an innocent mistep. Avoid these approaches like a virus:
Don’t repeat information from other parts of your application. Take this unique opportunity to provide some deeper insight into who you are; don’t regurgitate your resume.
Avoid generalities. Admissions officers read an enormous number of (probably boring) essays. If you want to be remembered, the devil is in the details. Use specific incidents and examples from your life.
Maintain the proper tone. You don’t need to be ultra–formal, but remember that this is a professional document, not a post on your blog. Skip the outrageous stories and casual slang.
Be careful with humor. Only a select few can pull off humor in this context. Keep it subtle and restrained, and have someone else read your essay and tell you if you’re as funny as you think. If you are successful, you won’t soon be forgotten.
Don’t get (too) political. Medical schools want students committed to the preservation of human life. Left or right, blue or red doesn’t matter as much. If you opt to write about a controversial issue, tread with care and respect.
No gimmicks, no gambles. Standing out is a far cry from going off the deep end. Don’t write a satire or a mocked–up front-page newspaper article. Don’t rhyme. Gimmicky personal statements often appear contrived and usually fall flat. Stick to a straightforward narrative.
Don’t revisit grades or test scores. They speak for themselves. Trying to explain away bad credentials just draws unnecessary attention to them.
“I want to become a doctor to help people.” Duh. A statement like this seems insincere unless you back it up with evidence. Demonstrate your commitment through the example of your work and your life.