How To Write the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

September 5, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 6/23/23

Applying through the TMDSAS? Read on to learn more about personal characteristics essays for TMDSAS schools! 

How to write the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay

If you’re preparing to apply to medical school, you’re probably familiar with AMCAS. However, if you’re planning to apply to medical, dental, or veterinary school in Texas, you’ll need to apply using the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS).

On top of your personal statement, you’ll need to write a personal characteristics essay. We’ll highlight everything you need to know about the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay and how to craft a narrative that maximizes your chances of getting accepted into your dream Texas medical school.

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TMDSAS Essay Overview

Like AMCAS, the TMDSAS also requires a personal statement. The TMDSAS requires a personal characteristics essay and allows candidates to write an additional optional essay. 

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

Purpose of the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay must be 2,500 characters or fewer (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 – you can think of this as a diversity essay. Diversity has different contexts for this prompt. These may include your: 

  • Unique background (ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, etc.) 
  • Perspectives
  • Ideas, talents, or skills
  • Insights
  • Experiences
  • Knowledge
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

A strong personal characteristics essay connects your diverse background to medical school and illustrates how your peers, program, and the medical school can benefit from your diversity. 

Group of students talking about the TMDSAS personal characteristics essay

Every entering class consists of diverse students with differing cultures, upbringings, socioeconomic statuses, birthplaces, educational experiences, and more. A diverse student body can expose students to new perspectives, insights, and information. 

This student body can challenge one another to grow, empathize with others, and foster a global mindset that is open, accepting, and critical in medicine. This is the heart of the personal characteristics essay, and what medical schools are looking for in future leaders – how will you add diversity and value to the class? 

How to Write the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay

The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is only 2,500 characters, including spaces, so every word must count. Here are tips for writing a strong and compelling personal characteristics essay:

1. Brainstorm Ideas That Demonstrate Your Diversity

Brainstorming is an effective technique to recall memories and experiences you can write about. You aren’t editing or revising your thoughts; don’t worry about grammar, structure, or spelling at this stage. 

First tip on how to write the personal characteristics essay: Brainstorm ideas that demonstrate your diversity and define you.

You simply want to write down every idea that comes to you that may be relevant to your narrative. Here’s 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. Pick Your Most Meaningful Anecdotes

After brainstorming, pick one to three stories that fulfill the prompt and are meaningful in your pursuit of medicine. Remember, you don’t want to choose similar experiences to those outlined in your personal statement! 

Tip #2 on how to write the personal characteristics essay: Pick one to three stories that fulfill the prompt.

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 want your narrative to flow. 

Tip #3 on how to write the personal characteristics essay: Outline the structure of your essay

The essay should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion:

Essay Component Description
Introduction Introduce one to three characteristics showcasing diversity.
Body Describe characteristics through relevant anecdotes and how your experiences/background is an asset to your peers.
Conclusion Tie your meaningful experiences to your pursuit of medicine.

4. Write Your First Draft 

After completing your outline, begin writing your first draft. Your tone should be professional yet conversational – you don’t want to be too stiff or casual.

Tip #4 on how to write the TMDSAS personal characteristics: Begin the first draft

It’s important to show rather than tell; instead of writing “I am compassionate,” tell a story that conveys your compassion. Remember, your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, and it may even exceed the word limit the first time – changes can be made in the next step. 

5. Edit Your Work 

Review your first draft for spelling, grammar, clarity, and sentence structure errors. If there are weak sentences, cross them out and rewrite them. You can also check for concision – does every word serve a purpose? Eliminate wordy phrases to leave more room for rich descriptions. 

Tip #5 on how to write the personal characteristics essay: Revise and edit your work

The introduction should flow seamlessly to the body and the body to the conclusion. Another pair of eyes can help provide a fresh perspective on your work – consider an admissions counselor’s help to ensure your writing aligns with what Texan med schools seek! 

TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay Examples

Here are some personal characteristics essay samples to help inspire you as you write your own drafts:

TMDSAS Essay Example #1 

Here’s the first TMDSAS essay example: 

“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 developing 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.” 

This essay connects the writer’s ethnic background and experiences interacting with underserved patients. 

The communication skills they learned, their experiences with diverse individuals, and the stories patients shared with them will allow them to add diversity to the incoming class while sharing new insights and perspectives with their peers.  

TMDSAS Essay Example #2

This diversity essay example was adapted from a personal statement but still checks the boxes to showcase the author’s experiences and interests:

“Hatha yoga emphasizes the ability to sculpt the human form into a fit, healthy, balanced vehicle for self-awareness and discovery…My instructor, John, encouraged me to push myself further until full splits and headstands could be achieved with ease. Yoga therapy and instruction became a way for me to connect to people in many aspects of my life… 

I cherish the diversity I encounter. It is what excites and motivates me. My study of yoga grew from my interest in exploring the philosophies of Eastern cultures. Traveling, mostly independently, to over 20 countries and living in Germany challenged me to continuously learn more about the diverse world around me. Ordinary tasks such as getting water and preparing food can become unique challenges as different modes of operation and cultural differences come into play. Incorporating “sanuk,” the Thai description for playful contentment, became a key tool for overcoming the obstacles of traveling alone in Asia. 

Living abroad afforded me the opportunity to learn a language in a shorter time than studying in an English-speaking environment. Having studied Spanish and German encouraged me to be precise in the messages I want to convey. As I continue to travel, I am touched by the sincere desire and efforts of people to improve their English speaking skills. This invigorated my desire, and I find myself jumping at the opportunity to practice my language skills. These experiences will be valuable resources in establishing trust and building thoughtful communication with patients…

Since college, I have been committed to volunteer work as a means of improving social conditions and quality of life. As a therapist, I offered massages and yoga instruction to low-income individuals in exchange for donations to Habit for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders. I was able to raise hundreds of dollars for these organizations while providing massages to people who would ordinarily not be able to afford such services. …Observing work done in hospitals in India provided an insight into the ways in which I can incorporate a desire to work in underserved communities into my career as a physician…

Though the path I have chosen may be arduous at times, my practice of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness will help keep my own physical and emotional health in balance. It is this integrated balance, along with a sincere desire to help people, that I have to share with my community and the medical profession.” 

This diversity essay showcases the writer’s passion for yoga and how their pursuit of new experiences in new places invigorates them. While they connect their travels and other experiences to how it will help them become a better doctor, they could have been more direct about what they could teach their peers. 

TMDSAS Essay Example #3  

Here’s another TMDSAS personal characteristics essay sample

“I grew up in a household of six, and I am the youngest of four siblings, with two older brothers and one older sister. I spent the first eighteen years of my life living in Cedar Hill, a suburb of Dallas with a population of 50,000 and around 50% of that being Black. All of my siblings played sports, and everyone was very competitive, but in a good way…It was more about doing better than your previous best than being the other person. This was especially true after I became a swimmer in higher school. Before every race, my swim coaches always made sure to tell me that it was me against the clock, not against the people who were swimming around me. It instilled in me a very internally motivated hard work ethic. I want to improve myself because I know that my full potential has not been reached, not because other people are doing better. As a medical student, this will only make me a better doctor, as I will always be striving to become a better caregiver than I was before, whether that means learning more about the body and disease or learning how to become more compassionate so that I can serve my patients to the best of my ability. But hard work is not all that is necessary for success. 

My life has been heavily affected by my Blackness. My dad used to give me lessons on what to do if I were stopped by the police. He said that because of the color of my skin, I would have to be as subservient as possible that there was less of a chance of my name becoming another hashtag. When I walked to school, I saw confederate flags flying on people’s houses. I was told, “You’re so lucky you’re black,” referring the the advantage in college admissions people thought I received because of my race, disregarding the struggles that come with growing up black, including the criminalization of Black people. The same criminalization that has a very negative impact on Black people, causing us to see things such as the color of our skin as negative…But because I had such a strong support system and grew up in a family full of Black role models, I did not see my Blackness as a detriment, but something to be celebrated. 

It is important and uplifting to see people who look like you as successful. It is even more important that you have a connection with these people, and my Blackness taught me the value of mentorship. If I had not had powerful Black people pouring into me, things would be a lot different. Because mentorship influenced me so much, I became a mentor while at Vanderbilt, leading mentorship organizations such as Project I Am and After School Program. I want to continue to be a mentor and role model as I pursue my career as a doctor, being a positive example for aspiring Black doctors and communities of color in general. Yes, hard work is necessary to succeed, and you will accomplish much by being hard-working, but you need mentors and role models. Everyone needs someone to look up to who will guide, encourage and care for them.” 

This essay showcases various aspects of the writer’s background, interests, and insights. They’ve seamlessly tied their home upbringing, racial identity, perspectives on competition, and appreciation for mentorship. 

They clearly reference how they want to be a mentor and role model for other doctors who are Black or POC. 


Still have questions about the TMDSAS’ personal characteristics essay? Then check out these FAQs! 

1. What Does Diversity Mean in the TMDSAS Personal Characteristics Essay? 

For the TMDSAS 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’s meaningful and shows how your acceptance would benefit your peers.

2. What’s the Difference Between the TMDSAS Personal Statement and Personal Characteristics Essay?

The personal statement addresses why you’re the right candidate for med school. The personal characteristics essay focuses on your diversity and the insights you can bring to the class to educate your peers and add value to the program.

3. What Do I Write About 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. The essay should be clear, well-organized, and professional. It’s easier to achieve a compelling, coherent essay by focusing on a couple of key ideas.

4. What Should I Avoid in My Personal Characteristics Essay?

Some things to avoid in your TMDSAS essay include rehashing your resume, writing controversial or alienating statements, being overly negative or critical, not editing, using filler words, and lying or embellishing. 

5. What Is the Character Limit of the TMDSAS Essays?

The TMDSAS personal statement is 5,000 characters (including spaces). The TMDSAS personal characteristics essay is 2,500 characters (including spaces). 

Final Thoughts 

The personal characteristics essay is a required TMDSAS component that shares your diversity and how it would enhance the entering class. With our guide, you’re well on your way to crafting a successful TMDSAS personal characteristics essay that showcases your diversity, fit, background, and experiences! 

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