Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement‍

Writing an amazing residency personal statement on your ERAS application is about telling your story in your own voice. It’s about telling 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 as 67% of residency programs cite personal statements as a factor in selecting students to interview. We’ve put together some tips to help you below.

“Do’s” of writing personal statements:

🗸  DO tell a story about yourself or share a unique situation. You are showing the reader your narrative about why you are a great candidate for residency.

🗸  DO make it human. Approach the statement as an opportunity to process life experiences and articulate the arc of your journey.

🗸  DO be specific. Clearly outline your interest in the specialty, and use concrete examples where able.

🗸  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. Be prepared to do many drafts.

🗸  DO include personal challenges you have overcome in your medical education journey so far.

🗸  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.

Questions to Consider When Writing

Crafting a strong personal statement begins with self-reflection. Before you even begin writing, 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 (for example)? What interests, concerns, or values drive you in your studies, work, and career choice?

Think back to volunteer, shadowing, global health, research, work, and coursework 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 residency program 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.

*This resource is intended 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 without written permission of the author.