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How to Write the Perfect Medical School Personal Statement

Med School graduate guru Kirsten Guenther shares her unique insight into crafting the ideal personal statement for your application.

By Kirsten Guenther

Admit it. You’ve watched at least one episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Even if you rolled your eyes the whole time, and made a gagging motion when they removed that kid from a block of cement with no permanent damage. (Okay, I’ve watched more than a couple of episodes.)

Although Grey’s Anatomy (sadly) is more Fabio than Florence Nightingale, it might actually be worth another look, because believe it or not, Grey’s Anatomy could help you with your personal statement for medical school.

Tom, one of my medical school hopefuls last year, had beaucoup internships and shadowships, a 37 MCAT score and a 3.9 G.P.A from Yale.  What he didn’t have was a compelling story for his personal statement.  Rather than writing about who he was, Tom just listed facts about himself—where he was born, what classes he had excelled in, all his fabulous qualities and qualifications.  Dullsville.  So I gave Tom some homework – he was to watch season one of Grey’s Anatomy and report back. 

Next week Tom gushed, “Kirsten! It was amazing! It’s called Grey’s Anatomy because it’s the Anatomy of Dr. Grey! The episode is like an x-ray of her soul.”

Yes, Tom …

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy is centered around a deeply personal revelation for the main character. And the show is narrated by her—so you really get into her head and her heart. The character is self-aware—she shares her fears, her goals, her strengths, and her weaknesses. And at the end of each episode, (or for purposes, essay) she shares a revelation that changed her.

Tom eventually found his inner Dr. McDreamy and got into his top choice of school, and you can too, as long as you follow these FIVE SIMPLE TIPS.

  1.  You are writing an autobiography.  And the heart of this autobiography is simply this -- why do you want to be a doctor?  Tell admissions the story of your evolving relationship to medicine, and make sure to demonstrate how passionate you are about medicine through self-understanding and action.
  2. Show compassion. Notice I said show, don’t tell. Do not FYI them that you are understanding and patient. Walk them through the time you broke through to that tutoring student that just ‘didn’t get it’, or the time you helped that patient at the free clinic deal with a diagnosis of cancer.
  3. What kind of doctor are you?  I don’t mean your discipline – pediatrician or brain surgeon, it’s all good.  I’m talking about your bedside manner. The way you describe your internship experiences, in particular, should provide clues on how you will treat your patients once you become a doctor.
  4. Demonstrate self-awareness. How scary would it be to have a doctor who thinks he or she is perfect? Exactly. You are not perfect, thank goodness, so be clear about your strengths and weaknesses. Where can you grow and develop at medical school?
  5. Evolve.  Even if you are into Intelligent Design, you can still benefit from some personal evolution. Each experience you describe must build on the previous one – not only will your essay become infinitely more dynamic, you will show a pattern of progressing maturity over time that will reflect well on you as a candidate.

By the end of the essay, admissions must be certain you will be come a doctor. That it is in your bones, and this is their chance to help you get there.  And if you still don’t understand what I’m talking about, I sentence you to watch more Grey’s Anatomy! (Best to stick to the first three seasons.)

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