How To Write the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

May 25, 2023


If you’re preparing to apply to medical school in the United States, you are probably already familiar with the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The AMCAS is a centralized online application processing service where you can apply to most medical schools in the nation.

However, if you’re planning to apply to medical, dental, or veterinary school in the state of Texas, you should be aware that the state uses its own application service - the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS).

In this blog, we will discuss some background information about the TMDSAS. Then, we will highlight everything you need to know about the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay and how to write an essay that will maximize your chances of getting accepted into your dream medical school in Texas.

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Purpose of the TMDSAS

Because Texas is such an extensive and populous state, the purpose of the TMDSAS is to provide a centralized application service that is a network of Texas-only medical, dental, and veterinary schools. In fact, the TMDSAS pre-dates the AMCAS, and Texas has remained committed to its own application system.

The following medical schools participate in the TMDSAS network:

At this time, two Texas medical schools do not participate in the TMDSAS:

Be sure to stay up-to-date with Texas medical school application procedures and visit the school’s website to use the correct application portal.

TMDSAS Essay Overview

Like the AMCAS personal statement, the TMDSAS also requires a personal statement essay (with a stricter character limit of 5000). In addition, the TMDSAS requires a personal characteristics essay as well as an optional essay. 

The personal characteristics essay is unique to TMDSAS, so let’s highlight some key information such as its purpose, tips and tricks on how to write a compelling narrative, and a sample personal characteristics essay that thoroughly answers the prompt.

Purpose of the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay must be 2500 characters or less (including spaces). Applicants must respond to the following prompt:

“Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, talents, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others.”

The way this prompt is worded might sound confusing and challenging, but we can simplify it. The purpose of this essay is really just a way to measure your diversity. Diversity has different contexts for the purposes of this prompt.

These may include your unique background, perspectives, ideas, talents, skills, insights, experiences, knowledge, creativity, critical thinking, and ideas that showcase your diversity and how your diversity, specifically, will enhance the medical school and be an asset to your peers.

A strong personal characteristics essay will connect your diverse background to the medical school and illustrate how it can benefit from your diversity. Let’s do a thought experiment to understand the personal characteristics essay even further.

Imagine a medical school entering class consisting of students from the same type of household, the same kind of family, the same socioeconomic class, the same culture, the same geographical landscape, and the same education. Now, because people are individuals, there would be some diversity within this group, but not much.

How much do their experiences actually differ from one another? And how much can they actually enhance one another with their unique perspectives? 

Now imagine a different medical school entering class that consists of diverse students with other cultures, upbringings, socioeconomic classes, places of birth, educational experiences, ethnicities, hobbies, talents, and skills. This latter student body has the advantage of learning brand new ideas, insights, and perspectives from one another.

This student body can challenge one another to grow, learn to empathize with diverse people, and foster a global mindset that is open, accepting, and critical in medicine, which aspires to heal human beings as equals. This is the heart of the personal characteristics essay. This is what medical schools want from leaders in medicine.


How to Write the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is only 2500 characters, including spaces, so every word must count. Use the following tips and tricks on how to write a strong and compelling personal characteristics essay:

How to write the TMDSAS characteristics essay

1. Brainstorm ideas that demonstrate your diversity in the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay.

Brainstorming is an effective technique to recall memories and experiences you can write about in your personal characteristics essay. At this point, brainstorming ideas should feel liberating and open. You are not editing or revising your thoughts; don’t worry about grammar, structure, or spelling.

You simply want to write down every idea that comes to you that may be relevant in the personal characteristics essay. Here is a list of questions to get started with thinking about diversity:

  • Who are you at your core, and what experience(s) defined you?
  • How do you identify yourself?
  • Where did you grow up, and what was it like to live there?
  • What was your family like?
  • What have you done or experienced that shaped who you are today?
  • Have you traveled abroad?
  • Have you learned another language?
  • Did you serve in the military?
  • Have you volunteered in your community?
  • Are you a part of any teams, groups, or organizations?
  • Have you suffered or had to overcome disability, injury, or illness?
  • Have you been a caregiver for someone with a disability or illness?
  • Have you had to face and overcome rejection?
  • Have you been bullied? How did you overcome it?

2. After brainstorming, pick one to three stories that fulfill the prompt and are meaningful in your pursuit of medicine. 

Remember, the personal characteristics essay is a diversity essay, so pick the ideas that will demonstrate diversity and how they will enrich your peers. Because the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is only 2500 characters, it is important to value quality over quantity.

So, pick the best one to three ideas, and write a compelling narrative that prioritizes meaning, impact, and quality.

3. Outline the structure of your essay.

Create an outline to structure and organize your essay. Although the personal characteristics essay is relatively short, you still want the content to be professional and easy to follow. The essay should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion:

structure of personal characteristics essay

4. Begin the first draft.

After completing your outline, begin to write the first draft. Be mindful of the 2500 character limit. Your tone should be professional or academic, not casual. It’s important to show rather than tell; instead of writing “I am compassionate,” tell a story that shows an experience where you demonstrated compassion.

For example, you could write, “having endured long bouts of homelessness when my single mother raised me, I immediately connected with the people in the local homeless shelter and addressed their immediate need of obtaining fresh socks and wool hats.”

5. Revise and edit your work.

Go over your first draft with a fine-toothed comb. Check for any errors in spelling, grammar, clarity, and sentence structure. If there are weak sentences, cross them out and rewrite them. Remember to show rather than tell by answering the prompt and staying on topic.

The introduction should flow seamlessly to the body, and the body should flow seamlessly to the conclusion. Have someone else look at your essay and give you feedback. This should be a trusted individual such as a mentor, colleague, supervisor, instructor, family member, or friend. 

Sample TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

Here is a sample TMDSAS personal characteristics essay that effectively answers the prompt of the medical school applicant’s diversity and how it will enhance her peers:

Being South Asian, I have firsthand knowledge of what it means not to access basic healthcare. As a child, my mother took me to Pakistan every year, where I spent summers with my grandfather, a top pediatrician in the nation.

He had a free clinic attached to his home in Faisalabad, and his practice was so renowned and respected that people from all over the country would travel great distances to have my grandfather treat their children. 

Pakistan is a third-world country where a significant part of the population remains illiterate and uneducated due to the lack of resources and opportunities. This population is the most vulnerable, with extremely high numbers of infectious disease and mortality rates.

Yet, it is entirely underserved. With the lack of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices in rural Pakistan, parents of ailing children must travel great distances and wait in long lines to receive proper healthcare. 

Every summer at my grandfather’s clinic, from ages five to seventeen, my job was to open the doors to long lines of tired, hungry, and thirsty parents with their sick children. I would pass out bottled water and pieces of fruit. I would record names, where the patients came from, and reasons for their visit.

I would scurry back inside with the information for my grandfather to assess, and then he’d send me running back out again to let the next family inside. I learned in my formative years how to communicate with diverse patient populations with special needs and lack of basic necessities.

I learned to listen to every family’s unique reasons for their visit, and some of their desperation and pleading for the lives of their children will stay with me forever.

When I get into medical school, I hope to share the story of how Gulzarah carried her dehydrated daughter for twelve miles in the Pakistani summer heat without rest (thanks to my grandfather, she later made a full recovery).

I want to tell my peers that doctors like my grandfather are not only healers in biology but healers in spirit when he made up heroic songs for the children and sang the fear out of their hearts. I want to show my peers that patients are unique individuals who have suffered and sacrificed to trust us with their healthcare, so we must honor their trust by providing quality treatment and empathy.

My formative experiences in pediatrics contributed to my globally conscious mindset, and I look forward to sharing these diverse insights in my medical career.


1. What if I don’t fall into one of the main categories of diversity?

For the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay, diversity doesn’t only mean racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or gender diversity. You can broaden the definition and think of any unique event or experience that is meaningful, answers the prompt, and shows how it would benefit your peers. Here are some additional questions to help with brainstorming:

  • What did you learn from an individual whose worldview was completely different from your own?
  • What are your passions outside of medicine, and how do they enhance your career goals?
  • How did you overcome your biggest challenge, and how did it shape your character? 
  • Describe an event that tested your character.

2. What is the difference between the TMDSAS personal statement and the personal characteristics essay?

The personal statement addresses why you are the right candidate for medical school. On the other hand, the personal characteristics essay focuses on your diversity and the insights that can educate your medical school peers.

3. How many experiences should I write in my personal characteristics essay?

Ideally, one to three events or experiences are sufficient to answer the prompt. It’s better to have quality over quantity, especially in the limited space of 2500 characters. The essay should be clear, well organized, and professional. It is much easier to achieve a compelling, coherent essay by focusing on a couple key ideas.

4. What should I avoid in my personal characteristics essay?

  • Don’t write a grocery list of events and experiences - it is essential to show rather than tell. 
  • Don’t write controversial, offensive, or alienating statements. 
  • Avoid negativity even if your essay talks about overcoming adversity. It is best to show a growth mindset and what you learned from the experience.
  • Avoid poor grammar. Always have another set of eyes to review your work. Be receptive to honest feedback.
  • Avoid clichés and filler words.
  • Don’t embellish your experiences or write something that isn’t true.

5. What is the character limit of TMDSAS essays?

The TMDSAS personal statement is 5000 characters (including spaces). The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is 2500 characters (including spaces). The TMDSAS optional essay is 2500 characters (including spaces).

6. What is the TMDSAS application fee?

The TMDSAS application fee is a non-refundable, flat rate of $185.


The TMDSAS is an application processing service for most medical schools in Texas. The personal characteristics essay is a required component of the application that measures a medical school applicant’s diversity and enhances the entering medical body.

To write a compelling and effective TMDSAS personal characteristics essay, first brainstorm events and experiences that answer the prompt. Second, narrow down your selection to one to three ideas. Next, outline the structure of the first draft with a strong introduction, body, and conclusion.

Write an essay that showcases your diversity in meaningful ways that tie your experiences to medicine. Finally, revise your work so that it is professional, free of errors, and tells a great story. With our guide, you are well on your way to crafting a successful TMDSAS personal characteristics essay that will make you stand out to the admissions committee. 

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