Personal Statements

Personal statementThe purpose of the personal statement in your ERAS application is to tell the reader something about you that cannot be gathered from other parts of the application. The personal statement is a longer discussion of yourself, motivation, and experiences. It is also an important element of your application with 67% of residency programs citing the personal statement as a factor in selecting students to interview. We've put together some tips to help you below:

The "Do's" of writing personal statements:

  • DO tell a story about yourself or share a unique situation.
  • DO approach the statement as an opportunity to process life experiences and articulate the arc of your journey.
  • DO be specific. Concrete details help provide the reader with a memorable image of you.
  • DO be candid and honest.
  • DO pay attention to grammar and writing style.
  • DO keep the statement to one page.
  • DO get an early start. We recommend to begin writing your personal statement during the summer between your third and fourth years of medical school to allow ample time for revisions and reviews.
  • DO be prepared to do many drafts.
  • DO get feedback. Have multiple people read your statement including faculty in your field.

What to avoid:

  • DON'T tell the reader what an emergency physician does; he or she already knows this.
  • DON’T belittle another person or specialty
  • DON’T overestimate your personal statement. The benefit gained from even an outstanding personal statement is still marginal compared with other aspects of your application which carry more weight.
  • DON’T underestimate your personal statement. A poorly-written or error filled personal statement can drag down your candidacy.
  • DON'T just focus on activities that the admissions committee can learn about from your application. Use this opportunity to give NEW information that is not available anywhere else.
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Questions to think about to get you started on your personal statement

Strong personal statements begin with reflection. Lay the groundwork for your statement by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you choosing emergency medicine? If you want to help people, why don’t you want to be a social worker or a teacher? What interests, concerns, or values drive you in your studies, work, and career choice?
  • Think back to volunteer, shadowing, study abroad, research, work, and course experiences. What has been defining? Are there any moments that stick out? What did you learn about yourself or your future profession? How did you change after that experience?
  • What do you want the committee to know about you as a person, a student, and a future colleague? What makes you a good fit for the profession and the profession a good fit for you?
  • What makes you unique from other applicants?

Additional resources

Feeling overwhelmed? Have writer's block? You're not alone. EM physicians from all backgrounds have created online library of their personal statements to help give perspective when writing your own. Follow along on Twitter @ThePSLibrary.

Most universities and colleges also have writing centers that may be able to help you focus your ideas into a theme or read and give feedback on your personal statement. 

Disclaimer: this resource is meant to serve as inspiration and a compass to guide your own writing. All personal statements or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the author.