Writing a Personal Statement

The personal statement should tell a story about your path to a health profession and your ambitions, one that compels admissions committees to meet with you and help you succeed.

Each year, OPHA hosts several workshops and write-ins for applicants co-sponsored by the Writing Center. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of these resources to help you brainstorm, free-write and edit your application essays.

General Writing Tips

Do:

  • Answer the question “why medicine?” This is the core prompt that many candidates fail to answer; instead, they simply document chronological resume items and accomplishments.

  • Compel your reader by describing clinical, shadowing, volunteering and research experiences that demonstrate you know why you want to be a physician.

  • Talk about yourself. This is your personal statement; readers are interested in your upbringing, growth and transformations, not the stories of a physician you shadowed, your role model, or family members you took care of.

  • Develop a narrative. What is the patient population you would like to serve? How do you interpret social determinants of health? How did you demonstrate the core competencies? How do you see yourself as an agent of change?

  • Show, not tell. Do not say “I have an excellent bedside manner;” use descriptive language and examples to show your readers how you deliver compassionate care.

  • Be genuine and be yourself. Any applicant could have 200 hours volunteering experience—it is how you handle those patient encounters that make you unique.

Do not:

  • Say you chose medicine because: “I love science,” “The human body is fascinating,” “I have a sick family member,” “I like helping people,” or “I was sick and a doctor cured me.”

  • Resume dump, or focus on “why I qualify for medical school.”

  • Spend too much time setting up the story.

  • Start your essay with a quote.

  • Only talk about research. Research is valuable if you want to become a physician-scientist (MD-PhD), but a healthcare provider requires clinical experiences.

  • Only talk about personal hardship and challenges. How did you leverage those challenges to uplift you and your community?

Medical School Personal Statement Prompts 

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) Prompts (5300 character limit)
  • Why have you selected the field of medicine?
  • What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
  • What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?
  • Unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
  • Comments on significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere in your application
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOMAS) Prompts (5300 character limit)

Keep the statement general as this essay is sent to all the programs you apply to. Even if you plan to apply to only one program, we still strongly recommend keeping your statement general in case you later apply to additional programs.

Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Services (TMDSAS) Prompts (5000 character limit)

The personal essay asks you to explain your motivation to seek a career in medicine. You are asked to include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a physician.

MD-PhD Prompts
  1. MD-PhD Essay (3000 character limit)
    State your reasons for pursuing the combined MD-PhD degree. Your response will be forwarded only to your designated MD-PhD program(s).

  2. Significant Research Experience Essay (10,000 character limit)
    Please specify your research supervisor’s name and affiliation, the duration of the experience, the nature of the problem studied and your contributions to the research effort. If your research resulted in a publication on which you were an author, please enter the full citation in the Work/Activities section of your application.

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Applicant Service (AACPMAS) Prompts (4500 character limit)

Write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a podiatric physician.

Additional Resources 

  • Guide your free-writing with this activity designed by B Cambell et al
  • University of Washington School of Medicine Personal Statement Sample
  • Drexel University College of Medicine Writing a Personal Statement
  • UMN Free Personal Statement Workshop
  • The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement- R Gray, 
  • Resumes and Personal Statements for Health Professionals – J. Tysinger, 2nd Edition
  • Perfect Personal Statements: Successful Application Essays From Students At America's Top Graduate and Professional Schools – M. Stewart
  • On Writing Well – W. Zinsser
  • Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays: A Student Handbook – J. Schall
  • Write for Success: Preparing a Successful Professional School Application – Jackson & Bardo, 4th Edition
  • Essays That Worked for Medical Schools – Baer & Jones
  • How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School – Stelzer