Choosing a Health Profession
Allied Health Program
How to Prepare
Prepare Health File
Prepare App. & Interview
Testing & Applications
Choose a Medical School
International Med Schools
During the fall of your junior year open an application file in the office of preprofessional advising. This file will be used as the basis for a committee evaluation and recommendation.
More Advice on Writing a Personal Essay:
The following is the advice of Dr. Richard H. Sullivan taken from the Georgetown Premed Handbook. The advice is excellent and is reprinted here with his permission.
In general the best use of the essay is to make it informative. In the context of how the essay will be read by a busy member of an admission’s committee, the essay will be useful if it is about the applicant (as opposed to being about medicine in general), if it is concrete (as opposed to being general, abstract or philosophical), if it is simple (as opposed too flowery or convoluted) and if it is straightforward (as opposed to self-evaluative or egotistical).
Because it is hard to write about yourself, there are several pitfalls that are common among applicants as they face the discomfort of having to present themselves on one page of an important application. One tendency is to avoid writing about yourself at all. The result is to write abstractly about the medical profession or about the qualities that you believe a good doctor should have, hoping, of course, that the reader will believe that you have acquired or are striving to acquire these qualities simply because you allege to hold them in high esteem.
A second pitfall is to believe that you can share with your readers some philosophical insight that you have gained about medicine, yourself or life in general. My observation is that even though it is very important that you have gained such insights, the format and context of the admissions essay is such that hardly any reader will do justice to even the best expressed philosophical statement. Besides wasting the space where you may have written something concrete and informative you may lose your readers attention and cause them to miss the valuable and memorable items you did put into your essay. Frequently abstract discussions sound like so many cliches. Often they sound pedantic and therefore inappropriate; an applicant need not instruct a group of doctors on the nature of medicine or about the qualities that make a good physician. Literary quotations are almost always inappropriate.
In the context of this essay, simple vocabulary is better than trying to impress readers with unusual words (appropriately used scientific terms accepted). Be economical. You do not need to tell readers what you are going to tell them before you tell them and then summarize your message again at the end. The essay is only one page so omit the structural statements. Above all do not tell the readers what conclusions they are supposed to draw from your arguments about how well prepared you for medical school and how you will be an outstanding physician. That is the job of the reader and you should let them do their job, namely evaluating you. Give them the evidence, and they will draw the conclusions.
So much for hints on style; now some points about content: students often have trouble deciding what topics to include in an essay. Information about your own life is an old hat and may not seem interesting to you but it will be of interest to someone who does not know anything about you other than the bare facts that appear elsewhere on your application form: MCAT scores, grades, where you are from and where you have gone to school. Below is a list of suggestions, by no means comprehensive but anyone may fill a page. Remember that this is the only place where you can guarantee some particular information about yourself will be presented. References may relay some information but they too may be filled largely with generalities. Also readers will be interested in knowing which topics you consider important enough to spend your precious little essay space upon. Some topics may best be covered in an interview. However if you want some topic to come up in an interview it is a good idea to put it in your essay.
Your family background, especially as it relates to medicine, or your education or if you are an immigrant, will be of interest. Your own experiences in medicine, research, volunteer work, or major extracurricular activities around campus, are of interest. Hobbies that have been genuinely important to you are fair game. Whatever has been a major preoccupation with you over your college years is probably important. You may want to explain as best you can any obvious weaknesses in your record. Make such explanations brief and do not use your entire essay on apologies. It is usually appropriate to address any discontinuities in your education such as a leave of absence or a transfer of schools.
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