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Crafting Your Personal Statement

For pre-professional health prep programs, UPHAC interviews and professional school applications you will need to have a strong personal statement. Your personal statement should create a compelling portrait of yourself and give the committee or admissions professionals who read it a sense of who you are as an individual, a student and a future medical professional. The AAMC’s “Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students” are an excellent guidepost for ALL pre-professional students. To the extent that it’s possible, your personal statement should address the more nuanced and social competencies. It should also have perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling. Students are encouraged to invest in a good resource that contains all of the rules for writing and citations in order to be sure that they are following these rules correctly in their statements.

Personal statements can be challenging to write as they require a lot of reflection, depth and clarity. Read the Princeton Review’s “15 Tips for Your Medical School Personal Statement” before you get started. Look for samples online. You should expect to go through several iterations of your statement and seek candid feedback from friends, family, mentors, professors and advisors. Well-rounded personal statements address the following elements in a compelling way:

  • Motivation refers to a student’s ongoing preparation for the health profession and can include the initial inspiration.
  • Fit is determined through self-assessment of relevant values and personal qualities as they relate to the profession.
  • Capacity is demonstrated through holistically aligning with the competencies expected in the profession.
  • Vision relates to the impact you wish to make in the field (1). 

Below are additional things to consider when writing a personal statement:

  • Don’t be too dramatic and don’t tell every intimate detail about yourself and what’s happened in your life that doesn’t relate to your larger academic career goal.
  • Identify when you realized your career goal and show what academic/professional/job/research/volunteering choices you’ve made in order to prepare you for your respective professional school.
  • In your examples, highlight stories that illuminate your resilience, passions, individuality, and skills that will make you successful in your respective field.
  • Consider your audience’s perspective: the committee members who read personal statements and make admissions decisions are typically faculty of the program to which you’re applying–the professors who you will do research with and who will teach your classes in professional school.
  • Don’t repeat information that is already in other parts of your application (resume, GPA, test scores).
  • Be mindful of how you incorporate stories of personal loss, hardship and tragedy. Admissions professionals are ultimately looking at what you learned from these experiences and how you showed resilience. The general rule is to briefly and succinctly describe the experience and then get directly back to the relevant lessons that you learned and the qualities that you gained that are going to make you great in your chosen field. Check out this helpful blog post to learn more.

Finally, pay attention to the length of your statement, each application system has strict character limits that you will need to follow:


Pre-Medical, MD

Pre-Medical, DO


Pre-Physician Assistant


Pre-Veterinary (instead of a personal statement, VMCAS requires answering 3 specific essay questions)

1. “Advisor Corner: Crafting Your Personal Statement.” American Association of Medical Colleges. 17 Feb. 2018