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Writing a Personal Statement

Personal Statement Prompts


1. Briefly describe what specifically led you to a career in medicine.

  • Was it something that happened to you personally?

  • Was it something that happened to a family member or friend?

  • Was it an interest, skill, or experience  in science or another discipline?

  • Was it an interest or experience in humanity/helping others?


2. Describe your trajectory through medical school and/or residency.

  • Are there things that came easily to you? (eg, leadership, medical knowledge, clinical judgment)

  • Are there things that were challenging? (eg, medical knowledge, clinical skills)

  • Describe how you grew and/or improved during this time.

  • Are there lessons that you learned? (eg, importance of patient care, value of teamwork)

  • What was the most interesting or gratifying thing about medical school? (eg, .'“it gave me confidence”, “I realized my interest in…”, “I was deeply affected by a patient when…”, “one teacher in particular inspired me to…”

  • Describe any volunteer work you have done and the impact it has had on you.


3. Describe yourself

  • Pick three or four adjectives that describe your personality (eg, driven, mature, responsible).

  • Pick three or four skills that you possess (eg, good communicator, good clinical judgment, good medical knowledge).

  • Pick three or four things you want to improve upon (eg, medical knowledge, clinical judgment, clinical skills).


4. Goals

  • If you are applying to fellowship: Why have you chosen this particular subspecialty?

  • If you are applying to residency: Why have you chosen this particular specialty?

  • What are your goals for the future? (eg, private practice, academic medicine, research)

  • What are you looking for in a program? (eg, interesting cases, research opportunities, small/large program, regional preference, teaching opportunities, type of environment)

A personal statement is an important part of your application to medical residency and fellowship programs. A narrative of your training and professional experiences to-date, a well-written personal statement enhances the factual information listed in your CV. Your personal statement is an effective way for programs to get insight into your character and qualities. Because the goal is to get an interview, your personal statement should be an accurate and truthful representation of who you are.

Although each program – in fact, each person within each program – has a different opinion about the value of a personal statement and the weight it carries, it is important to note that a well-written and compelling personal statement can only enhance your application, while a poorly-written personal statement that shares inappropriate information, or information in an inappropriate and/or disorganized way, can be a red flag.

The truth is, being considered a “good fit” for a program is subjective. It is, however, safe to say that most programs are looking for candidates who are professional, mature, enthusiastic, self-aware, and responsible.

A personal statement should be between 600-650 words. Writing a personal statement takes time and reflection. By writing down the answers to the questions posed in The Personal Statement Prompts to the left you can actually write a first draft. As you approach this task, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Why are you interested in medicine and/or a sub-specialty? (eg, a specific experience you or someone you know had, interest in science, desire to help others)

  • What are your accomplishments? (eg, volunteer work/service, awards and honors, professional work experience, research, noteworthy rotations within medical school or residency)

  • What are you looking for in a residency or fellowship program? (eg, small/large program, opportunity to see a lot of patients, research opportunities, urban vs. rural)

  • What are your professional goals (eg, private practice, academic medicine, research)

  • What will you bring to the program? (list your relevant qualities)

  • What are your strengths and what are you interested in improving? (ex: “While I feel I have a good fund of medical knowledge, I look forward to enhancing my leadership abilities.”)

  • What outside interests do you have that can help illustrate your personal qualities? 

The structure we recommend ensures that your personal statement will flow and be a “good read.”

  • Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself with a specific experience from your personal life or training that explains the reason you are interested in medicine or a particular specialty. Use this paragraph to capture the reader’s attention.

  • Paragraphs 2 & 3: Discuss your training/work experience to date. Provide chronological highlights from medical school, graduate training, or work that illustrate your professional and personal growth. Don’t forget to mention volunteer work/service and research.

  • Paragraph 4: Conclude with what you are looking for in a program, what you can bring to the program, and your professional goals. If possible, refer back to your first paragraph. 

Don't worry if your first draft exceeds the recommended word count of 600-650. Remember, it’s easier to edit something that is too long than too short.    


Some final words of wisdom before you start writing:


  • Be direct, concise, and to the point

  • Be honest

  • Be self-confident

  • Be yourself


  • Start every sentence or paragraph with “I…”

  • Exaggerate or overstate your role

  • Use flowery language, clichés, or metaphors

  • Be arrogant

Good luck!

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