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The Essential Guide to Medical School Admissions: Application Essays

You might have dominated math and science courses, but composing a well-written personal statement could be the most challenging part of the med school application process. If writing isn’’t your strong suit, think about it as a formula. Here are a few simple tips to make your essay stand out.

1. Make it unique. That may seem easier said than done, but your essay will be one of thousands. Don’t use clichés. While “I want to be a doctor because I like helping people” might be true for you, it brings nothing to the table about who you are and what makes you unique.  Instead, find ways to show your desire to help others through anecdotes—whether it’s describing a philanthropic event you attended or a community project you’’ve worked on.

2. Don’t ignore your weaknesses, address them. While you don’t want to elaborate them in great detail, confront them head on and spin them into positives. For example, you received poor grades your first quarter, explain what you did to become a better student. If you ignore these deficiencies, admissions officers will dwell on why you did and it could adversely affect your chances of earning an acceptance letter.

3. Don’t be afraid to change up your sentence structure. Good writing feels natural, nothing should be forced. By using good transitions, you will progress your argument organically. The best writing uses varieties of sentence length and style throughout the paragraphs. See this paragraph for example. There are numerous ways to create a diverse sentence: using a colon, a semicolon, or a comma can do wonders to a basic paragraph. To find out how your essay flows, read it aloud.

4. Have others read it. After proofreading your work for hours, you’re bound to lose perspective. Ask your friends, family, and peers to help you evaluate your work and make sure you’re staying on track. Ask your proofreaders the following: does the essay have a central theme, are there any clichés, is it repetitious, and what about the essay is memorable. Don’t feel limited by these questions. Look at your work and see if there are any problems you’re having a difficulty overcoming.

5. Most importantly: revise, revise, and revise some more. No one creates a perfect first draft. The key to creating a great essay is to polish the writing until it shines.  That means reading it over, making corrections, having a peer edit it, and repeat. Sending in a rough first draft will show. EssayEdge.com offers free help throughout your entire essay writing process and can provide step-by-step guides if you need extra support.

At AUA, we require a personal statement from all applicants. If you’’ve followed all of the steps above, it shouldn’’t be too daunting! While you write, ask yourself this: why do you want to become a physician?

If you’ve already written your personal statement, what tips do you have for prospective students?