Personal Statement Suggested Guidelines

By Dr. Sherry-Ann Brown

It's always hard to write or talk about ourselves. Over the years I've enjoyed reading/editing personal statements. Feel free to send me yours when it's time. Just give me lots of notice and let me know when you need it back. I generally consider you a mentee (and friend) in that regard when I look at the statement. 

We all have different styles and follow various paradigms, so feel free to ask around, especially asking the current or recent trainees who submitted their statements in the last year or so. If you'd like to check out the paradigm I used and still propagate, continue reading. :)

Personal Statement for Residency Application (& maybe also for Fellowship?)

Here are a few suggested guidelines for writing a personal statement. I have incorporated all the advice I remember receiving for my own statement submitted in 2011. I was told by residency program directors who I met on the interview trail that my statement, in the end, was excellent and superb.

1. Length 3/4 of one page only. They may not continue reading beyond that. 

2. Four distinct and specific paragraphs:
    a. Introduction - describe something unique to your experience and
how that relates to your aspirations in medicine. Try not to use this
paragraph for a dramatic story, which is thought by program directors to be typical and so you may not stand out. 
    b. Main specialty, e.g., Internal Medicine - describe details about the specialty for which you are applying to residency programs, and why you want to do that particular speciality. From this paragraph, they must see that you
understand what the field/specialty is all about, and that you have good reason for wanting to do that specific specialty. 
   c. Your background - describe important things about your experiences that have prepared you for this next step. This paragraph should explain your experience and skills in the areas of patient
care, medical education, clinical research, community service, and leadership, as applicable. Try to hit as many of those areas as possible. 
   d. Your future plans - describe your aspirations, your vision for
your career destination, and how training in that particular residency program, e.g., an Internal Medicine Residency, will
prepare you for that. Make it specific to their program too if you can. End with some excited words about facing your

Don't use 'I' or 'me' or 'my' a lot. Write in the third person passively. 



Don't put a lot of emphasis on an intended SUBspecialty, e.g., Cardiology (a SUBspecialty of Internal Medicine). Mention it briefly in the Introduction and/or future plans, but the Residency personal statement is about your primary (first) specialty, e.g., Internal Medicine. 


Again, this is just ONE WAY to approach writing a personal statement, not THE WAY. Find your style. Find your way. Find His way.