What to look for in a personal statement

Residency Program Insider, October 1, 2020

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Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Resident Recruitment: From ERAS to Match. Click here to order your copy.

The advent of the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) has allowed programs to filter applications based on specified criteria, thus reducing the amount of time that the review committee needs to conduct this process. An additional positive effect of ERAS is that the program manager can use the criteria/filter to preselect candidates for the committee to review.

A popular filtering method is the personal statement. This document gives insight into the personal life and goals of the candidate. Medical students are “taught” what should be in a personal statement, and a quick online search will produce articles on that subject. However, there is not a set format that they must use.

The following are qualities to look for in strong personal statements:

  • A focus on a single theme, with specific supportive examples
  • Good writing with clear and direct language
  • Relevant experiences that explain an applicant’s choice to pursue a life in medicine
  • A unique angle

Meanwhile, be cautious with personal statements that contain the following:

  • A rehashed resume
  • Too many self-congratulatory or self-deprecating statements
  • Discussions of controversial topics
  • Apologies or excuses for less-than-stellar grades

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