A personal statement is your chance to sell yourself to the admissions committee (adcom) at the medical schools you want to attend. Yes, it’s a bit of a brag. You’re putting together the rationale for the adcom committee—and the medical school—to include you in a very select group of students that will both represent and define the school. It’s hardly the typical essay you may be accustomed to personal statementwriting for college level English classes. Here’s the thing: if you can use it to demonstrate to the committee your true passion for becoming a doctor, you’re half way there.

In your voice

Speak in the first person, using the word “I” throughout. Start with a clear focus on some defining thought or experience that has shaped your decision to attend medical school, and build on that idea. The focus might be on a relationship where someone has mentored you in your life. Or it could be directed at an aspect of medical care you’ve experienced or had the chance to influence.

Personal statement: it’s personal

Use detail and anecdotes, allowing the reader to “see” into your personality, your character, your life’s ambition. Your pivotal thought or experience is uniquely yours, and may have created a turning point in your life, or motivated you to think differently about your education and the world around you. This isn’t simply a thought that ends, “and that’s why I want to be a doctor,” but it’s a compelling story or idea that helps you drive home the point that you are passionate and excited about your future medical career.

Good writing

The details of your writing in the personal statement are important: follow through on all your thoughts; use transitions from one idea to another; stay focused on your main theme; get to the point; and use a proofreader! You may want to have a few friends who know you well review it to see what improvements they might make. Give yourself time to write a truly reflective essay; don’t set aside a couple of rushed days to complete it. I wrote my essay and then let it sit for a few days, passed it to a few friends, then sat down and revised it completely. Give yourself time to think about what you’ve written and go back to change it more than once.

No trite-isms

Don’t use trite statements like, “I’m looking forward to being part of a great health care team,” or “being a doctor will give me the satisfaction of helping others.” Be personal. Share who you are, what you are about, and what you will do with the chance to practice medicine. If you have interesting talents or experiences that are relevant to your story, by all means, include them.

You can check out several websites to see examples of personal statements. And there are companies who specialize in helping pre-med students write and edit their personal statements. If you’re not comfortable with your writing skills, you may want to consider this option.

The personal statement should be no longer than 5,300 characters, but if you can get your message across in less, then stop! It won’t help you to ramble on after you’ve made your point. 5,300 characters is around 2-3 pages double-spaced.

For more help with your personal statement and AMCAS application, check out this post:

—Writing a personal statement: these are big DON’Ts

—What’s in the AMCAS medical school application?

—How important is my science GPA vs. cumulative GPA to medical schools?

—What’s a good GPA/MCAT combo for acceptance to med school?