I finally finished my personal statement a few weeks ago, and I am just sitting down now to write about that awesome* experience. I haven’t done something like that since applying to medical school. I thought it was so intimidating at first. I sat down with a bowl of popcorn, a glass of wine and got to work. While writing, I realized that there is nothing else I would rather do with my life. I know I probably should have known that I wanted to be a family physician before, but articulating it renewed my drive.
Not to be too mushy, but my personal statement ended up being kind of a good experience. So here’s how I did it:
First, I read the personal statement from my medical school applications. I jotted down some qualities that stuck. I tried to target qualities that I had then that I feel will help me in residency. Next, I put away that personal statement. Today I am a confident, hard-working medical student who is prepared for a residency. I am ready to be a competent and enthusiastic patient advocate. So I added more skills and qualities that I acquired through medical school.
Then I began to write. I wrote whatever I thought, without regard for how long it was. I recalled and wrote about several stories. In the first few paragraphs, I talked about the experiences I have had that have made me want to pursue a career in family medicine. Working in a clinic in Haiti after the earthquake, my time with AmeriCorps VISTA at a free clinic, a few patients from rotations. I talked about how those experiences made the decision to go into family medicine an easy one.
Then, came the hardest part. It is important to discuss why you would make a great resident in your personal statement. This was really hard for me. I talked about what skills I have acquired and my ability to work as a member of a patient care team. I discussed what I am looking for in a residency and what kind of environment I want. I ended my personal statement with a somewhat mushy summary sentence. 🙂
Then, I began the task of editing my five page personal statement into a single page. I first picked out my favorite patient stories. It was hard because I have so many, but I limited it to only two. Then, I enlisted my mother’s help. I highly recommend outside review. You need to send your personal statement to someone who won’t be afraid to tear it up. (If you don’t have someone, write in the comments, I will happily be your person, time permitting.)
My mom gutted it, then I rewrote sections. After an endless number of rewrites and little edits, Mom called me and told me it made her cry. At that point, I knew it probably wasn’t perfect. And it would never be. But, it was done. It was my voice. It is exactly how I want residency programs to see me. I want them to ask questions about it. Through reading it, they have a snapshot of who I am, and the resident I will become. I knew it was finally done.
And not to be overly mushy, but I confess that sometimes after a long day, I will sit down and reread it. It makes me smile and reminds me how far I have come in these past few years.
Here’s a sample of my personal statement:
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend medical school and I am prepared to be a hard-working, compassionate, and enthusiastic resident. Family medicine will provide me the opportunity to care for patients in the way they deserve to be cared for. I will approach each day knowing what I do is making a difference in the lives of my patients. It is absolutely thrilling to realize what I was meant to do with my life: I was born to be a family physician.