Today, medical schools differ in how they utilize personal statements in the admissions process. At Oceania University of Medicine (OUM), we call it the Admissions Essay.

You may have heard that medical schools don’t care about them anymore, but that is not true: They just use them differently — often to identify discussion points during the interview, so it’s a good idea to write things that you will be comfortable speaking about.

Most importantly, your essay says who you are as a person. It tells Admissions Committee members things they won’t see in your other application documents. It is, therefore, worth investing time in writing your essay, to ensure it defines your character, why you want to become a doctor, and why you will be a good one. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Avoid stating the obvious.

Don’t waste the limited space allocated to your essay with information your Admissions Counselor or interview committee members can see in other parts of your application. Information like relevant coursework or work experience from your past will be in your CV. You don’t need to mention it again.

Tell readers about your character.

OUM looks for what motivates each candidate, the personal qualities and attributes deemed to be essential to both the study and practice of medicine.

“Our Admissions Panel takes a holistic approach to every application, considering the overall quality of an applicant’s academic performance, together with the demonstrated intellectual curiosity, discipline, and empathy that are characteristic of successful medical practitioners,” says Angelo Mojtabaee, BScEcon, MBA, OUM’s Lead Admissions Counselor. “Make sure those important character identifiers are included in your essay.”

Don’t include lists of things that happened long ago, without a clarifier.

Discussing something you started when you were 10 years old and still do today may be worth discussing — it shows great commitment — but featuring a long list of sports you played, extracurricular activities, or professional memberships won’t likely impress anyone, unless you make special note of what you learned from them and how they define who you are today.

Avoid clichés.

Edit closely, and revise common phrases like

“From a young age, I was . . .”
“For as long as I can remember, I have been…”

Remember, your personal statement needs to be personal. It tells a medical school who you are and why they will, one day, be proud to claim you as their graduate.

Thank you to global medical education colleagues who contributed to these recommendations: Dr. David Salter and Rohan Agarwal in The Ultimate Medical Personal Statement Guide, UniAdmissions, and the UK’s Medical Schools Council.

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