Your medical school personal statement needs to sell. Every single word has to sell your reader and answer the question: “Is it worth my time to read one more word of this essay?” To be persuasive is to sell your reader on your next sentence, your next paragraph, your next idea of your medical school essay.
How do you write a medical school personal statement that will capture your reader? You need to be in tune with your audience and you need to be willing to completely clear your mind from all of your worries, doubts, fears, apprehensions, expectations of what you think a medical school essay should be, and you’ve got to come at it from the point of view of this older, experienced, seasoned, maybe cynical admissions committee member who has read 5,000 essays, and is kind of dreading having to read another medical personal statement.
Take a minute and think about what most students are electing to write about in a medical school personal statement. 5,000 times, a medical school admissions committee member sees: “I want to be a doctor,” “I want to help people,” “I have wanted to be a doctor for a long time.”
To an experienced admissions committee member, these cliched reasons say, “I know I want to be a doctor but I don’t really know how to express why I want to do it. I don’t have specifics, clear motivation. I don’t have a specific orientation. I just want to do it.”
To write a medical school essay that’s great, you’ve got to transcend generalities like that in order to be persuasive. Because if you don’t, what’s going to happen is your reader is going to say, “I’ve read this medical school personal essay a million times before.”
And although it’s a nice medical personal statement, it has nothing new, nothing unique to you. It causes your reader, the person who’s going to determine whether or not you get an interview, to look at other aspects of your application to try and get some sense as to who you are. And that is going to be experiences, it’s going to be grades, it’s going to be MCAT score. Your reader, the committee member, is really going to be stuck, struggling to figure out why you’re applying.
How to write a medical school personal statement that works:
Let go of all of your worries and your doubts and come at it from the point of view that you have read 5,000 medical school essays in your life and you know they’re all about the same thing. (I want to be a doctor, I want to help people.)
You’ve got to stand away from that position and really develop your medical school personal essay as though it were a dialogue between you and your reader. But since you can’t wait for the reader to ask you questions, you have to anticipate what they might say by mentally asking yourself questions and answering them.
So what are the questions that a medical school admissions committee member might ask you in a conversation?
Consider these as you write your essay for medical school:
1.) “What do you really want to do in medicine?
2.) How are your grades different from everybody else?
3.) What are your original motivations and
4.) How have you confirmed those motivations?”
The reader of your medical school application is expecting a degree of proof and really wants to know how you know. It’s not enough for you to say you want to help people. How do you know what you want to do in medicine, what have you done that leads you to know that?
How to write your medical school personal statement: Persuasion
The most persuasive way to answer this question is by sharing experiential knowledge. You would say to an admissions official in conversation, “I know because I’ve done it. That’s how I know. And I can give a specific story.”
How to write your medical school personal statement: Tell stories
Storytelling is how we relate to each other socially. We tell stories to each other all the time. A highly persuasive medical personal statement means that you’re pulling the reader into your life story as it intersects your purpose for medicine, the reason why you’re interested in pursuing medicine. The most persuasive storytelling you can do is to write about what you have done in your life that relates to your interest in medicine. Okay, so that’s persuasion.
How to write your medical school essay: High-impact language
Use high-impact language. Bottom line for high-impact language is specificity. You want an emotional kind of absolute quality to your speech. You want to elevate your essay so that when you read it you feel like you’re not just a little bit committed to your topic, but you’re 10,000% committed to your topic. This is really hard for a college student to do because college students don’t want to be 10,000% committed to anything.
But you’ve got to sound:
1.) Like you care a lot, and
2.) like you’re completely devoted to it. An example: “I am completely devoted to medicine for the rest of my life. It’s everything for me because it’s the only thing that’s going to allow me to express who I am personally and professionally.”
High-impact language has this very strong absolute, emotionally rich, concrete side to it where as a reader I am completely engrossed, engaged, enmeshed. I buy it. I believe you.
Some of the best places to look for this kind of writing is where there is someone who is making a very impassioned speech. One of the best places that I know is in the most powerful, compelling, moving speeches of our time. Like Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream,” or speeches by Gandhi, or speeches by John F. Kennedy, or speeches by Barack Obama. Speeches that really elevate you and make you feel that there’s hope for you, hope for us and that there’s something bigger to strive for.
How to write a medical school personal statement: Motive
Third is having a compelling motive. It’s the underpinning of the whole essay. Unless you speak to a compelling motive, the default result from the reader’s point of view is this student is writing a general medical school essay, but doesn’t really know why.
You’ve got to be willing to flaunt the motivation and be really willing to shout at the top of your lungs standing on a chair in the middle of a crowded auditorium. Be THAT committed to what you have to say.
All of this sounds incredibly unrealistic and incredibly overdone, but once you put these concepts down on paper, the very act of reading mutes so much of the impact of language, that you’ve got to be willing to trust that you can be very committed and very over the top in how you articulate, and it will still carry off.
I’m confident you can write a memorable and persuasive medical school personal statement if you follow these guidelines. Check out the following link if you want more tips on how to write the personal statement.