Articles — Writing a Personal Statement

If you're preparing to write your personal statement to use in your application for residency or fellowship, you've come to the right place. We have put together some tips for you on how to write the most perfect personal statement possible. Personal statements are different than cover letters, and if you're looking for the difference between the two, you can check out this article to learn more. In this article, we will cover things like when to start writing your personal statement, the perfect topic, and the process of writing your personal statement.

Like most essays, your personal statement should have 3 parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Each part of your personal statement has a different goal, and we will discuss those goals as we go along. The first thing we'll cover is the perfect topic. You should know that the perfect topic does not exist. Any topic you choose can either make your personal statement blend in or stand out. The important part is that you do your topic justice by making it into a story (more on this later). It is also important that you have no more than two people review your personal statement — this will help you avoid the desire of writing what others want you to write. After all, you should be the main character of your personal statement.

Writing a Personal Statement

As was previously mentioned, your personal statement will have 3 parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Below, we will break down each part of a personal statement, including goals, what should be included, and how to include that information. It is important to note that everything you write about in your personal statement doesn't have to be directly related to medicine, but you should have at least one medicine-related experience.


The goal of the introduction is to engage your reader. In the introduction of your personal statement, you should list your greatest qualities, describe where and/or when you have demonstrated those qualities, and ensure that you talk about this event in story format. It is important that when you demonstrate your qualities, you are showing rather than telling — describe the quality without using the word itself. For example, instead of just saying that you are trustworthy or dependable, tell a story about a time that you were trustworthy or dependable.

You should keep in mind that when writing a personal statement, you don't need to have an "aha moment", and you likely won't. This goes back to what we mentioned earlier about writing what you think the reader wants to hear from you. Instead of focusing on what the reader wants, you should focus on conveying your experiences thoroughly.


The goal of the body paragraph is to describe your path to medicine. You should discuss your most formative experiences leading you to your specialty, but make sure you don't choose more than 4 experiences. You are looking for quality rather than quantity — in this case, more is not always better, especially considering you have a limited number of characters for your personal statement. Instead of discussing everything you have done, apply the following five-step formula to expand on the most important experiences throughout the body paragraphs of your personal statement. When discussing your experiences, you should ensure that you do the following:

  • Discuss why you pursued the experience
  • Mention how you felt during the experience
  • Describe what you accomplished and learned
  • Discuss how your experience affected you
  • Describe how the experience influenced your decision

Sticking to the formula above will help ensure that your reader(s) can look at your situation from a different perspective.


The goal of the conclusion is to tie the entire personal statement together. Keep in mind that some of the best essays tie their conclusion to the story included in the introduction. You should also make sure to re-emphasize your qualities, perspectives, and passions. Your concluding paragraph should highlight the following 3 things:

  • Your positive qualities
  • Perspectives gained from your formative experiences
  • Your passion for medicine

The conclusion of any piece of writing is the most important — it not only ties everything together, but it ensures that the content really hits home with the reader. Now that you've written your personal statement, we'll discuss some things to think about when you are analyzing your writing.


When you are analyzing your personal statement, you should keep the following questions in mind:

Quality: Does the applicant demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a physician? What are those qualities?

Personal: Is the personal statement mostly about the applicant, or other people?

Unique: Could anyone else have written this personal statement, or is it unique to the applicant?

Depth: Does the personal statement cover too much, or is there real depth?

You should make sure that you don't choose more than two people to analyze your personal statement. This will help you avoid trying to please everyone with your statement. In addition, there are two qualities you should include to convince admissions committees that you want to pursue medicine specifically: a long-term commitment to medically relevant experiences and a clear understanding of what medicine entails that other fields don't.

Things You Should Remember

Demonstrate the qualities that make you distinct by choosing experiences that highlight your best characteristics.

Show your qualities rather than just telling your reader about them.

Explain specific ways that you intend to help patients, or specific reasons why you want to help patients.

Maintain the focus on the main character.

Explain your thought process, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities.

Use identifying information to write a personal statement that could have only been written by you.

You've made it to the end, and you're finished writing your personal statement! Congratulations! You've completed one of the elements of your residency/fellowship application.