Getting into medical school is a rigorous procedure that requires many steps. For instance, whereas other graduate school programs require only one personal statement, many medical school applications require that the student write two personal statements: an AMCAS application essay, and a secondary application essay.
How does AMCAS work?
AMCAS is an application processing service that allows you to put together just one application, which is then submitted to all of the medical schools of your choice. One of the pieces of your AMCAS application is your primary personal statement.
Because your AMCAS application essay is submitted to multiple schools at once, it focuses on the applicant, leaving out the school-specific information that many graduate school personal statements include. As a result, many medical schools require prospective students to submit a secondary application essay, which is written with that specific school in mind.
What Does My AMCAS Personal Statement Need to Include?
Most graduate schools require that your personal statement address your interest in that school, as well as answering a range of questions about yourself. When you use AMCAS to apply for medical school, however, you will need to omit the school-specific information in order to create a primary personal statement that can be submitted to all of your chosen schools.
The AMCAS personal statement or primary application essay should always answer two different types of questions:
• Why do you want to be a physician? As with any personal statement, this question should not be answered by stating that you have always wanted to be a doctor. Likewise, you should avoid espousing a desire to “help people.” These are clichéd responses that not only fail to convey anything concrete about you, but also have been undoubtedly used by many other applicants. Instead, you should use anecdotes of your personal experiences to show, rather than tell, your interest in the field of medicine.
• Why are you qualified to be a physician? Your personal statement also needs to demonstrate the qualities that will make you a dedicated medical student and a skilled physician. For example, you can discuss other interests that you have, describing the qualities that have helped you to excel, and explaining how those qualities will benefit your education and career. Other examples of material for your personal statement include stories from your hospital experiences that demonstrate how you interact with patients, or stories from your laboratory experiences that demonstrate your insight and dedication in a research environment.
How is the Secondary Personal Statement Different?
Some medical schools require a secondary personal statement, in addition to your standard AMCAS application. This application essay is meant to give the school a closer look at each applicant, particularly more individualized information such as why you are interested in that school.
Secondary personal statements usually are focused on answering specific questions. Examples of questions that many medical schools ask include:
• Why you want to attend that school – As with a personal statement for any other graduate school, you may be asked to indicate that you are familiar with the specific program. Research the school and take note of any professors whose work you admire. Your essay can also mention factors such as location and other program advantages, but don’t make it sound like your reasoning is based solely on geography or school rating.
• Where you envision yourself in ten years – Some medical schools may also ask about your long-term career goals. These admission boards are looking for personal statements that reflect the writer’s ambition and career focus. A student who has not given a lot of thought to their career path is more likely to fail to complete the program, so be sure that you convey your passion and dedication to your chosen career.
• The specific clinical experiences that influenced your decision – If you are asked this question, do not interpret it as a request to repeat information given in your AMCAS personal statement. Instead, use it as an example to provide information that you didn’t have space for in your primary application essay, or fill in the gaps that your other anecdotes have left.
What Else Do I Need to Know about Writing a Medical School Personal Statement?
Regardless of whether you are writing a primary (AMCAS) or secondary personal statement, you need to be sure your essay will stand apart from all the rest. For instance, you should be sure to:
• Use anecdotes to illustrate your points. Personal stories not only make your personal statement unique and memorable, but also illustrate your qualifications and personality to the admissions board.
• Avoid generalizations. Although stating – either in your thesis or your title – that you have always wanted to be a doctor may seem to answer the question concisely, this does not really convey anything about you, either as a student or as a prospective doctor.
• Avoid clichés. Almost all the personal statements the admissions board reads will contain at least one cliché – and probably more. By avoiding clichés in your application essay, you will ensure that your writing is not only unique, but also more interesting than the competition.
• Be concise. Although it is important to avoid generalizations and add personal detail in your application essay, you also don’t want to bore your readers. Make sure that your writing is as concise as it can be without losing important detail.
• Proofread your work. The last thing you want to do is to give the admissions board the impression of a hastily thrown-together personal statement. To avoid typos, grammatical errors, and other problems in your essay, be sure to proofread and revise your work several times before submitting it.
Writing a Winning Medical School Personal Statement
Applying to medical school can be an intimidating process. The stakes are high, the competition is fierce, and the application itself can be quite length and complicated. Writing both an AMCAS application essay and at least one secondary personal statement can be quite an alarming prospect, as well.
However, it is important to remember that writing your personal statements for medical school is not that much different than for other graduate programs: The information is simply broken up into primary and secondary application essays, instead of all being contained in one. With the right information and mindset, writing your medical school personal statement doesn’t have to be difficult at all!
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