Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes to Avoid

Padya Paramita

Medical School Personal Statement Mistakes to Avoid

Alongside your GPA and your MCAT score, your personal statement is one of the most important components of your medical school application. This is a real chance to stand out from other applicants by outlining the story of how you became interested in medicine and what you’ve done in preparation for this career path. Many students take this essay for granted as they think they can write about all the activities they’ve done or how their relative who’s a doctor has inspired them. However, you need to be more memorable than that. To give you an idea of what you shouldn’t write about, we’ve outlined some of the worst medical school personal statement mistakes you must avoid.

Relisting Your Activities List

One of the worst medical school personal statement mistakes a candidate can make would be to repeat information that admissions committee members have already seen in other components of your application. There are thousands of medical school applicants — if your attempt to stand out involves listing where you volunteered and who you shadowed repeatedly, you will be robbing yourself of a legitimate opportunity before you’ve even applied. The personal statement should be the place where you outline why you’ve chosen to apply to medical school, what you can bring that other students can’t, and why you’ll make a great physician. This needs to be a unique story that should be moving or powerful in some way and showcase traits that you have that can help you grow into a respected doctor. Don’t waste this essay by repeating your AMCAS activities section!

Outlining a Generic Reason Behind Your Choice to Apply

Face it — everyone applying to medical school wants to be a doctor, and they all want to help people. Your personal statement would not stand out in any way whatsoever if you fill it up with generic statements such as “I want to be a physician because I want to help people,” or “Medicine is great because it helps people.” Everyone knows that! There must have been something specific that made you decide to work hard throughout college and perhaps a gap year and strive to get to this point, other than just knowing you want to help people. You can help others in ways that would save you a lot more time than attending medical school. So, why are you here? Dig deeper and consider the real reason.

Writing Your Personal Statement About Someone Else

Many students are often inspired to become a doctor as a child because they looked up to someone who was a doctor. While it’s certainly okay to mention whether another physician has been important to you, remember that this is your medical school application and should focus on making sure the school representatives understand what you want from a career in medicine. In the same realm, if you know a well-known or well-respected doctor, don’t just sporadically name drop them if it’s not relevant to your essay! It doesn’t matter which world-class surgeon you shadowed — and that should certainly not be the central subject of your personal statement.

Wasting Space That Could Be Utilized Otherwise

Among the very obvious medical school personal statements lies writing about irrelevant information because you have space and aren’t sure what to do with it. If you’re compelled to summarize an entire book or television show that inspired you to become a doctor, admissions committees will certainly not be impressed. You might say one or two lines about a book that helped you realize your passion and ambition, but don’t make it the subject of your entire response. And if you try to even hint that Grey’s Anatomy might be why you started thinking about becoming a doctor, you will not convince anyone! So, avoid it.

Writing a Full Essay About COVID-19

Obviously, the situation this past year has been far from ideal. Your daily life has been disrupted, all plans have been canceled, and you’re stuck taking classes or doing your work from home. As you try to boost your medical school application components on top of this, you may be tempted to write your personal statement about the effects of COVID-19 and how it has inspired you to understand the importance of medicine. This brings us to the next among the medical school school personal statement mistakes you should avoid.

The virus has impacted people all over the world — it’s not just you. If you’ve been preparing to apply to medical school for a year, chances are, you made this decision before the virus spread worldwide. Saying that COVID-19 was the primary force behind your decision to pursue a medical career won’t sway admissions officers to advocate for you, especially when there will be applicants who have been put in much more dire situations as a result of the pandemic. 

We can assume that numerous candidates applying this cycle will probably write about the virus and how it has affected them. The goal of your application should be to stand out and help the admissions committee remember you. If the majority of applicants write about how their lives were disrupted by the Coronavirus and you’re one of them, unless you have an extremely unique circumstance, you won’t be memorable.

Technical Errors

It’s a given that your essay will be written in correct English, with proper spelling and grammar. There are other structural mistakes as well that you should avoid when writing the essay. One of these is to make sure you don’t use passive voice. “I was faced with numerous obstacles in trying to help my community” doesn’t sound as effective as “Despite many challenges, I worked 40 hours a week to help build and gather supplies for a free clinic in my neighborhood” since the latter shows what you actively did. Another error in your language usage you must avoid is throwing in buzzwords just for the sake of it. Don’t just look for any excuse to use words such as “empathy,” “honesty,” “leadership,” “teamwork,” or “diversity,” if they don’t add anything to your argument. Show how you might have embodied these rather than saying “I am a good leader.” If you have to use one of them, make sure you back it up with examples.

Now that you have a sense of the worst medical school personal statement mistakes students tend to make, you’ll hopefully be more aware of what to avoid. Take your experiences and frame them in a way that shines a light on your strong qualities as well as your reasoning behind pursuing medicine. Admissions to medical school is tough — so give yourself the best shot possible. All the best!

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