Deadlines for ERAS applications is almost here (September 15), and the hardest part for many applicants is writing the personal statement. It’s the one part of your application that you have COMPLETE control over, which is a lot of responsibility. I’ve been agonizing over mine for months, but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from others. I’m no expert, but the advice below are literally quotes taken from other physicians or residency program directors.
1. Keep it personal.
The personal statement is the chance to let interviewers see a side of you that they normally wouldn’t see on ERAS. Show them why personal experiences, stories, quirks, past careers, hobbies have shaped your journey towards your goals and made you who are you are today.
The impact that chronic diseases have on children and their families makes the practice of pediatrics highly rewarding. Explaining to an asthmatic child why she needs to carry an inhaler, or helping worried parents understand the implications of Turner syndrome…
The problem with the above paragraph is that it could be written by anyone. Let your personality shine!
2. Be genuine.
The last thing interviewers want is to read paragraphs of cliches.
I walked into the room, saw the patient with ___________, and just knew that I was destined to be a ________________.
Everyone knows that one time patient experiences are not what shape people’s decisions to go into a specific field. And no need to make things more dramatic than they really are. So there’s no point in making your personal statement read like a script for a medical drama TV show.
3. Keep it concise. Short and sweet.
They say shoot for under 1 page. Interviewers are reading through hundreds of applications and won’t have the time or patience to sift through your thesis.
4. Unless you’re really confident in your writing, don’t get too creative with style.
Don’t get too weird or “meta” or out-of-the-box with your writing style. Keep the content interesting, but the style straight-forward, and language simple.
5. The FIRST and LAST paragraphs are the most important.
This ties back to #3. Often times, interviewers will just read the first and last paragraphs, and read more if it’s incredibly interesting. So make sure you convey your take-away points in those paragraphs.
6. Some will raise a red-flag. Some will get them the interview. The rest will just be okay.
Straight from the horse’s mouth. The reality is that personal statements are important, but they generally won’t make or break your chances at an interview. Odds are you’re not saying anything that they haven’t heard before. That’s why it’s probably better to play it safe, rather than be too polarizing or risky in your essay. Still put in the time and effort to make it about YOU, but don’t kill yourself trying to reinvent the wheel.
7. You have the final say.
You’re going to realize that people have very different opinions about what they like or don’t like. And you can go crazy trying to please everyone. Ultimately, you need to pull the trigger on what you want the finished product to look like. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut.