Ten Do's and Don'ts for Your Medical School Personal Statement

The Do's

  1. Unite your essay and give it direction with a theme or thesis. The thesis is the main point you want to communicate.
  2. Before you begin writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it.
  3. Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  4. Write about what interests you, excites you. That's what the admissions staff wants to read.
  5. Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead--an anecdote, quote, question, or engaging description of a scene.
  6. End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.
  7. Revise your essay at least three times.
  8. In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your personal statement.
  9. Proofread your personal statement by reading it out loud or reading it into a tape recorder and playing back the tape.
  10. Write clearly, succinctly.

The Don'ts

  1. Don't include information that doesn't support your thesis.
  2. Don't start your essay with "I was born in...," or "My parents came from..."
  3. Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or resume in prose.
  4. Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humor is OK).
  5. Don't be afraid to start over if the essay just isn't working or doesn't answer the essay question.
  6. Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary.
  7. Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
  8. Don't provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes.
  9. Don't give mealy-mouthed, weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.
  10. Don't make things up.

Should you write the AMCAS with an eye towards secondary essays? Yes and no. Always put your most important and distinctive material in the AMCAS essay, because not all schools require a secondary. But knowing what to expect from the many schools that do require secondary essays can only help you. Let's look at the secondary essay piece in the jigsaw puzzle of medical school admissions.

But wait. Before delving into the secondary essays, what if you are still not sure how to develop a unifying theme? Or perhaps you don't know which experiences to focus on, or simply lack confidence in your writing skills, or have suddenly developed an acute case of blank-screen-itis. Remember, you can have one-on-one, personalized assistance every step of the way. Accepted's complete package is designed to give you the guidance and direction necessary to draft a compelling story and the comprehensive editing needed to perfect it.

By Linda Abraham, Founder and President of Accepted

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