With the right advice, your personal statement for grad school or medical school can be a piece of cake. You’ve been thinking about this moment for years and now it has finally arrived. The opportunity to share with the admissions committee why you want to go into medicine is in front of you. But before you start writing, there are some mistakes that you need to avoid so that everything goes smoothly when they read your essay.
Mistake #1: Trying to sound like someone else
It’s important to be unique and memorable, but you do not want to sound like someone else. Everyone wants to make a good impression when they submit their personal statement, especially when it comes to Oxbridge personal statements, so it’s natural to study what other applicants have done and try to emulate them, but this can be dangerous territory. Admissions committees read hundreds of applications every year and they know the tricks that generic essays will use to appear as though they are something special or different from the rest. Take your time before writing your essay and find your own voice first. Once you have an idea of who you are and why you want to pursue medicine, then go for it!
Medical schools want people who will contribute something new to their field by bringing in different perspectives and ideas. So instead of trying too hard to impress them with all the knowledge that you have already acquired at this point, show them what makes YOU unique! Your personal statement is not supposed to be about what you think the committee wants to hear. It’s all about how you can contribute something new and valuable to their medical school.
Mistake #2: Using vague language and buzzwords
We’ve all read essays that just sound really good to us, but when we actually think about what they’re saying it doesn’t make much sense. Admissions committees will notice this as well and it’s a big reason why such generic personal statements can be confusing or unimpressive to them. When you are drafting your essay, try replacing vague language with more concrete ideas. Use examples from YOUR life experiences to elaborate on what you’re trying to say. One of the best ways to avoid sounding like everyone else is by being very specific in your writing.
When you go on job interviews, it’s easier to start this conversation with your interviewer by explaining your skill set in more detail than just repeating that you “work well in a team setting” or that you are an “effective communicator.” If these things are true, then they will come across in your personal statement if they are discussed in the past tense like when talking about what has already happened instead of telling them what you currently do or can do for their university.
Mistake #3: Making the committee wait until the end for your big reveal
Graduate and medical school personal statements aren’t supposed to be a summary of all the great things you have accomplished because admissions committees already know this information. They want to discover what makes you truly unique, especially in comparison with all the other applicants! Trying to make them fall in love with you when they are almost finished reading your essay will only make them start thinking about all of their responsibilities that are waiting back at work. And if they do finish reading it, then it will probably be too late for them to remember why they were excited by you in the first place. So instead, bring your best qualities forward early on so that they will get a better sense of your potential as a medical student and physician. This can help you avoid being one of the many applicants who have to be rejected even though they have proven to be just as capable as other students.
Mistake #4: Sticking to the character count
Writing too much or not enough in your personal statement is also a common mistake that many people make when writing these documents. Both of these problems will lead admissions committees to wonder whether you can successfully convey your ideas and thoughts in an organized manner. If they don’t understand what you are trying to say, then they can’t tell if it’s worth inviting you for an interview. When you write more than 700 words, it becomes difficult for them to identify the points that matter most about who YOU are and why YOU want to be a doctor. They just start skipping over large chunks of text because there is so much information presented at one time without any kind of organization/structure. However, if you only have 300 words of text, then they will wonder why you didn’t take this opportunity to explain your interest in medicine or what about your background is most valuable for admissions committees. You don’t want them to get lost in the minutiae so be aware of how much content you are putting on each page.
Mistake #5: Not customizing your essay for each school or plagiarising other student’s work
Finally, make sure you spend a lot of time thinking about each school’s mission and how it relates to your own motivations for becoming a physician, not someone else’s reasoning. It will be worth your while because it can help you avoid going through the frustration of having to resend your personal statement after getting rejected from that place. You will also demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in the specific program and not just in going to medical school or becoming a doctor. Admissions committees want students to show that they know what they are getting into when receiving a degree from their university because if you don’t care about it, then there’s no way you will be invested in their institution.
The personal statement is the one document that can make or break your application to a grad or medical school. It’s worth taking time and effort when drafting out this essay so you avoid these mistakes.