According to the 2023 AMCAS Applicant Guide, the Personal Comments Essay (more commonly known as the personal statement) is an opportunity for the Admission Committee to read and examine your motivations to pursue medical school and ultimately become a physician.
Some questions you can consider are why have you selected the field of medicine and what motivates you to learn more about medicine.
Generally speaking, most applicants will answer the question “Why do you want to become a physician?”
There are countless ways to answer this question because we all have unique lives. After all, the “personal” statement has to be personal to you, your life, and your experiences.
As a result, it’s important to keep in mind that while many personal statements may sound similar or have similar structures, there is no one right, formulaic way to write your personal statement.
“There is no one right, formulaic way to write your personal statement.”
Although the personal statement is unique to you and your life, this essay is still considered a professional piece of writing. Thus, there are grammar and spelling rules that all writers must adhere to as well as close attention to word choice, tone, and formality.
Key words of emphasis
Let’s assume this discussion is based on the prompt “Why do you want to be a physician?”
The word “Why” in the prompt is arguably the most important word in the prompt. The objective of the personal statement is to explain to readers why you want to become a physician and in order to accomplish this, it requires you to provide compelling evidence, experiences, or explanations that prove it.
A common trap to fall into is straying away from the “why” and focusing on the “what” and the “how to” mentality. For example, many students write about what a good physician means. They write about how to become a good physician. A good physician is someone who is empathetic and hard-working. I want to become a physician who is kind and listens to all patients. While these sentences may be true or honorable, they do not answer the question of why you want to become a physician.
An analogy to this is if a friend were to ask you why you like a specific city i.e New York City (NYC), how would you answer it? You wouldn’t answer this question by saying that a good city should have many restaurants and skyscrapers and that you appreciate historical cities. Many cities that are not NYC have rich histories behind their development and a wide array of restaurants and skyscrapers. Furthermore, simply stating what a good city is like doesn’t answer why you like NYC. Certainly your answer may be about the fact that NYC has a unique history or unique restaurants and architecture, but unless you explicitly state examples, the answer seems to fall short from the actual question being asked (or at the very least does not truly answer the question in a specific manner). Answering the “why” you like NYC requires you to dig deeper and think about the many unique qualities or opportunities that NYC possesses that makes you drawn towards it. This is related to next important word which is listed next.
The word “physician” in the prompt is the next important word in the prompt because the objective of the personal statement is to explain why you want to become a physician rather than why you want to work in healthcare in general. Many of the attributes of a physician such as caring for another human being and being involved in the sciences can be accomplished by other careers such as nursing or dentistry. Why do you want to become a physician in particular though?
To answer this question, it takes time for reflection and thought into why becoming a physician is so appealing to you. What about being a physician allows you to do things that you can’t in other fields? Are there certain skills that you possess that would be ideal for being a physician? Or have you had specific experiences that pointed you to medicine and confirmed that being a physician is what you want to do in the future? Whatever the reasons may be, the personal statement requires a more nuanced answer to this question apart from reasons such as financial stability or prestige.
With that said, one should consider avoiding general statements about helping others or being able to heal others. This is not to say that you cannot mention this concept of serving and helping other people, but to make a personal statement stand out, one would have to go beyond these phrases or at the very least, provide concrete examples in your life that substantiate your claims of desiring to serve other people.
If you keep in mind the words “why” and “physician” when writing your personal statement, you will have a more focused mindset in terms of properly addressing the personal statement section.
Writing the personal statement takes time, thought, and effort. However, the hardest part is starting. Once you get the ball rolling, refining your essay becomes easier and easier. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. We encourage you to reach out to your colleagues (both medical and non-medical ones), professors and SF Mentors and Qalam personal statement editing services to assist you in editing your personal statement.
Remember that the personal statement is a unique opportunity for you to tell your story and how you came to the conclusion to apply to medical school. Every applicant has great grades and scores, but not every applicant has the same story to tell!