If you’re completing your med school application, and are stuck on your personal statement, read on to learn more about what to avoid in medical school personal statements.
Since medical school personal statements typically have a two-page limit, it can be difficult to figure out what to write in this limited amount of space.
The list of possible topics you could write about in your personal statement is endless. If written well, almost any topic can be unique and reflective of your experiences.
However, there are certain topics and tropes you should stay clear of. This guide will go over bad medical school personal statement examples and tell you exactly what to avoid to ensure you write a stellar personal statement!
There are six common types of medical personal statements you should avoid:
Even if you think you have a wealth of medical knowledge that you’d like to show off to impress the admissions committee, writing a personal statement detailing your medical history, or a family member’s, is risky and borders on oversharing.
Remember, you’re writing to a committee of medical professionals who have been in the field for years and have several qualifications. You have a high chance of relaying incorrect or outdated information if you choose to write a technical personal statement.
There are several ways you may be perceived as an overachiever in your personal statement. One way would be to grossly exaggerate or even make up a story just to make yourself the hero. For instance, saying you saved someone’s life as a pre-med student is bound to raise eyebrows.
Bragging about achievements and putting down your fellow classmates or colleagues is also a surefire way to make the judges think you're pretentious.
Doctors must be able to collaborate well with other healthcare professionals in order to provide the best care to their patients. If your entire personal statement places you on a pedestal, and other pre-med students below you, it’s clear you are not a team player.
The last way to be considered an overachiever is by using flowery language. Your writing should be clear and concise, not poetic. By trying to use vocabulary you are not familiar with, you risk using these words incorrectly, which will reflect poorly on your writing skills.
While you don’t want to spend your entire personal statement bragging, you also don’t want to completely avoid mentioning significant achievements. You need to still impress the committee through your personal statement, so refrain from portraying yourself as the underdog, the overlooked, or the one that was always in last place.
Medical school is highly competitive, and admission committees are only looking for the best and brightest. If you paint yourself as the opposite, you’ll be hurting your chances of getting accepted into your top choices.
You want to focus on important achievements but don’t want to repeat what’s already on your application. Don’t treat your personal statement like a resume or cover letter.
The committee will already have access to this information, so use this space to tell them something new!
You want the committee to read your personal statement and remember it as they go through other applicants’ statements. If you rely on cliches, the committee will have a hard time remembering your statement.
One common cliche is telling the committee you’ve wanted to pursue medicine for as long as you can remember. While it’s a nice sentiment, it’s overused. Focus less on how long you’ve wanted to become a physician and more on why you chose this career path.
Lastly, you want to ensure you proofread your personal statement multiple times before submitting it. If you have typos, punctuation errors, or spelling mistakes, the committee will think you are careless.
Considering how competitive medical school is, committees expect you to bring your A game to your applications. Having avoidable writing errors in your personal statement tells the committee you aren’t as dedicated as other students who took the time to revise their statements.
Although we’ve covered the general types of personal statements to avoid, you may be wondering which topics are inappropriate to write about. Here are the six topics you should absolutely avoid in your medical school personal statement:
Students participate in various extracurriculars to diversify their med school applications. Many students play school sports as part of their extracurriculars, and use their favorite sports-related metaphors and sayings in their statements.
There is no guarantee that the entire admissions committee will understand these references. To give yourself the best chance of impressing the committee, ensure you choose a topic that is universally understood.
A common way students introduce their medical school personal statements is “I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was three, four, or five years old.” The truth is, almost every child wants to be a doctor at some point! They also want to be astronauts, princesses, and firefighters.
Your childhood career ambitions mean nothing to the admissions committee, and it’s unlikely you even remember much from that age, anyway.
Rather than mentioning that your favorite childhood game was playing “doctor” with your siblings, focus on your motivation to pursue medicine when you were old enough to understand the time and effort it would require.
Using adversity you faced to prove your resilience and dedication to medicine can be an excellent topic for your personal statement. However, if this adversity involves criminal activity or academic misconduct, it’s best to leave it in the rough drafts.
You want to make your statement personal, but not too personal. Avoid sharing information that you would only tell your therapist or best friend.
While the majority of students exaggerate their personal statements a little, you shouldn’t make up stories. You’ll likely be asked to elaborate on your personal statement during your interview. One lie will turn into many, which isn’t a good way to start off your medical career.
Don’t use your personal statement to provide excuses for low MCAT scores or a low GPA. While you may talk about adversity that created obstacles in your med school journey, excuses will only make you seem like you can’t take accountability for your actions.
For any remaining questions about what to avoid in medical school personal statements, read on to find your answers.
You should avoid writing about complex medical terminology, focusing solely on your accomplishments, mentioning none of your accomplishments, or sharing highly personal information.
Ensure you also avoid using clichés, false stories, or excuses.
You should only mention your own major illnesses if they presented challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are today. However, you should be very cautious and ensure you don’t make any medical mistakes, overshare, evoke pity, or make excuses.
Common medical school personal statement mistakes include statements that use selective metaphors and sayings, overshare, rely on clichés, or use complex and misused vocabulary.
Statements that share incriminating information, that are obviously false, that play the underdog card, or make excuses should also be avoided.
By knowing what to avoid in your medical school personal statement, writing one should be less intimidating.
Remember, your personal statement gives the committee direct insight into who you are and what you value. If you read your personal statement, and it doesn’t capture your essence, it may be time to go back to the drawing board or reach out to our admissions experts who know exactly how to write a winning personal statement!