Will your undergraduate degree in English or Economics put you at a disadvantage when the time comes to apply for medical school? Not at all! Assuming you did well in your science prerequisites, your non-science major can be one of your greatest strengths. There are many ways to tell your story; here are just some of the elements that can make up a winning personal statement for a medical applicant with a liberal arts background.
What do you care about?
You probably chose your undergraduate major for several reasons – career opportunities, high grades, inspiring professors – but hopefully the top reason was your genuine interest in the subject. You need to convey this interest in your personal statement. Medical schools want students with the potential to become passionate, dedicated physicians. Following your heart into art or physics can demonstrate that you have these raw materials.
To write a compelling personal statement, however, you need to do more than state your love for the Louvre or Einstein. Dig deeply into your passion and explain – with specific examples – how you expressed it. These details will show the admissions committee that you're a multidimensional human being with the breadth and depth to learn on different levels and relate to your patients, while contributing to the medical school classroom.
What skills did you pick up?
Every major subject imparts a unique set of skills. Your job now is to translate these into ones that are relevant to the medical profession. You know that patient interactions are important, so explain how reporting for the college newspaper honed your empathetic and listening skills. You know that it's essential to work closely with your classmates and colleagues, so write about the mentorship you provided while directing a one-act play (or tutoring mathematics). You've heard about the importance of memorizing and assimilating facts in medical school, so describe your facility for memorizing Keats and Shelley (or the periodic table).
In each case, select specific examples that demonstrate your strengths and make your essay come alive. Regardless of your major, your personal statement should emphasize the qualities that will make you a good medical student and physician.
Why do you want to be a doctor?
Even after pursuing your other passions, you still want to be a doctor. It's particularly important for applicants who strayed from the normal premed track to explain this decision in honest, heartfelt terms that go beyond a basic desire to "help people." Just as important, you need to share your understanding of what practicing medicine will be like, based on your interactions with physicians. What do you love about the profession? Knowing the challenges and difficulties, why is this still your career goal? Again, provide specific supporting examples. Your realistic expectations and first-hand observations will reflect your maturity and commitment to succeed as a physician.
Need more help?
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By Cydney Foote, Accepted Senior Medical School Admissions Consultant.More Med School Admissions Articles