How To Apply To Medical School Part II: Writing a Resume and Personal Statement

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” 
― Louis L'Amour


Welcome back to another entry into the "How To" Series. Since I'm currently up to my neck in reading and PBL objectives that must be done, this post is going to be short and sweet-well that's my aim anyway.

The photo decorating this post was taken in Zurich (in a bathroom) and I found it quite humorous. Since I'll be talking about writing your resume and your personal statement, I thought it was one of the more appropriate photos for this post.

As a non-traditional medical school applicant, my resume gave my application the "umph" it needed and it was a requirement for some of the schools I had applied to. I found that the biggest challenge I had with writing my personal statement was accurately relaying my thoughts to the reader in a way that wouldn't be misleading, or too convoluted. It took me a few months (yes months!) to perfect my personal statement and to be satisfied with my final submission

When writing your personal statement don't be discouraged if you begin and you find yourself with a million and one stories to tell or on the other hand, not sure what to say. We all get it 'all wrong' in the beginning (gang falsch). After a few days of contemplating what picture you want to paint to those who will be reading your personal statement, you start ironing out a few wrinkles. However you may still be wrong (falsch) in the construct and flow, but you're making progress nonetheless. Taking time to research what a good personal statement entails or simply taking time off from working on your piece, you're almost getting it right (fast richtig) and with more proofreading and constructive criticism from friends, family members or professors, you finally end up with a piece you can be proud of and ready to submit. Yes! You will get it right (richtig) at some point or the other, but first you must dedicate the time to just start writing "no matter what!"

Resume Writing

Step 1 

Start with a strong bold heading of your name and contact information. There are so many templates on the web that can make this step the easiest of them all. 

Step 2:

Follow a general outline, being sure to include things like: 
a) Education
b) Work Experience
c) Professional/Teaching Experience
d) Licenses/Certificates/Accreditations
e) Awards and Honors
f) Publications/Presentations
g) Pre-Med Societies
h) Volunteer Service
i) Extracurricular Activities

Step 3

Review your final piece. Your resume is one of the shortest reflections of yourself you can create. It gives a chronological outline of your life (to an extent) and it should be accurate and true. Try to ensure there are no gaps in your resume and take a second or third look at it before submission. There are multiple sites that require help for resume writing, Johns Hopkins even has a neat little PDF outlining how to construct a good pre-med resume. Feel free to check it out. 


Personal Statement

As much as I love quotes, I would advise you when writing your personal statement NOT to use them as your introduction. Most personal statements requires you to describe yourself and why you would make a great medical student and future doctor. For me the hardest part was showing my passion for medicine and illustrating why I felt medicine to be my calling.  This article gave great insight into things to consider before sitting down and writing your personal statement. Since its quite a detailed article, I'm just going to add three simple things that I found helpful when writing my personal statement. 

Thing 1

Be able to answer the question "why do you want to become a doctor?" Take the time to reflect what really drew you to the field of medicine. Once you can honestly answer this question you will find it easy to at least construct an introduction. 

Thing 2

Create an outline (similar to what  you would do if you were writing an essay for an English class) of what each paragraph would likely entail. This can be done in bulleted form or simple headings such as "Paragraph 1, II..". This will give you a visual idea of what you should include in each section and would help keep you on track. 

Thing 3

During your draft and editing phases, whenever you have someone proofread your personal statement, or as you complete a paragraph and before editing, go through a checklist that asks the following questions: 

1. Is the opening paragraph personal?
2. Do you start with action or an image?
3. Does the essay show rather than tell?
4. Did you use any words that are not usually a part of your vocabulary? (If so, get rid of them.)
5. Have you used the active voice whenever possible?
6. Have you overused adjectives and adverbs?
7. Have you eliminated clichés?
8. Have you deleted redundancies?
9. Does the essay sound interesting to you?
10. Will the ending give the reader a sense of completeness? Does the last sentence sound like the last sentence?

The above is just an example of things you can include. I used this during my process and it made it easier for my friends and family who proofread my personal statement to offer suggestions on what sections needed improvements. 


All the best as you begin this step of your medical school application. It seems like an insurmountable task at the moment, but hang in there, get to writing and in a matter of weeks you'll be able to check another task off of your 'to do' list. 



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