A personal statement is a brief summary that details and narrates all essential facts about you which are not included in your recommendation letters or resume. In short, it’s an addition to other documents which reflects what you’ve written in your resume and describes your character and motivations. This article will show you how to use narrative to make your personal statement stand out.

Before we can go any further, let’s get this clear – do not rewrite all the things you mentioned in your CV.

What you should focus on in your personal statement

A personal statement depicts mainly your ambitions, beliefs and anything else that can help in selling yourself to the reader. You can include anything as long as it adheres to the statement above. However, there are specific guidelines that can give you an upper hand. We chose several that will help you get noticed:

  • Narratives/short stories (which are explained further in this article)
  • An intriguing introduction to catch your examiners’ attention.
  • The main reason why you’re interested in a particular specialty.
  • How your inclusion in the team will be an added advantage.
  • The skills and qualities that you profess that will help the team. You let your accomplishments do the talking.

The Narrative

As pointed out earlier, we’ll discuss the narrative part of a personal statement. But first, what’s a narrative? Plainly said, it’s a story about you or your experience. The story should be thematic and convey what happened in an easy-to-understand and funny way.

Why is Narrative Important

a hand writing the word important on a glass board referencing to the headline on why using narrative in personal statements is important

  • With narrative, you can introduce humor without breaking proper form, hence creating an environment that’ll make your reader feel at ease in reading your statement. You can easily win him/her here.
  • A narrative quickly captures your reader’s attention making him/her captivated by your statement till the end.
  • The narrative reduces the monotony of the statement. Stories create vivid images in your examiner’s mind enabling them to picture you in a better light.
  • Most importantly, it reflects experiences from your career and demonstrates your skills more practically. It acts as evidence that you’ve genuinely participated in activities mentioned in your resume.

How to Narrate the Story

This is where you come guns blazing. Just make sure that you are painting a picture that’s in accordance with the image you want to achieve. When using narrative, consider these points:

  • The story should be a genuine experience you’ve had. Don’t take your friend’s story and paste it into your statement. Using fake stories is cheap and can ruin your chances of getting a spot in your specialty.
  • The narrative must be in line with what you’ve applied for. It must be connected to your specialty. Don’t tell a story of your first experience in Internal Medicine while applying for General Surgery. If you lack real experience in the field, write about something general that showcases your character and ability to overcome difficulties.
  • Your story should be peculiar. Unique and exciting stories will let your personality shine and give you an edge over other applicants. Try to stay away from usual, heartbreaking stories where you know what happens from the moment you start reading. Everyone is writing about those. Be unique, exciting and to the point.
  • Your narrative should NOT, and I repeat should NOT cause any offense. Don’t let your ego take over and try to be clever or over the top. This simple mistake can have dire consequences.
  • The narrative should reflect the fact that you’ve grown professionally. For example, you can tell a story where you’ve faced a challenge and how you were able to solve it efficiently and professionally. It would be best if you wrote about some of the common problems in your chosen field. This will help convince your examiners you are the right choice and make your statement more interesting.

What Stories should You Narrate

a person holding a black pen and thinking of what story to narrate in her personal statement

This is where many applicants go wrong. You choose the wrong story and end up ruining the whole statement. Cautiously select the accounts to narrate. As already mentioned above, you should ONLY recount your experiences.

  • ONLY tell the stories that can be easily understood. Don’t write a puzzle and expect your readers to solve it. No one is going to take their time to try and figure out what your story means. Be specific and to the point.
  • The narrative should not depict too much humor. But you said it’s okay to introduce humor? Did I? This is what you’re probably thinking. Yes, I admit I said it, but don’t get me wrong – you are not writing a comedy show. Find a balance between being funny and relaying the necessary information. Too much humor can hurt your chances.
  • The story should be personal. Speak as if you are talking with the reader. The reader should feel what is happening and should connect to everything happening in your recount.

What does it Mean to Narrate a Story in a Personal Statement

A story means a lot when writing a personal statement. Here are some facts to prove this statement.

  • The story is the first touchpoint where you can demonstrate your personality and how you handle in real-world situations. It showcases what you can do and how you are the perfect match for the position. It is only a part of the application, but it creates a positive image that you’re capable and have whatever it takes for a particular specialty.
  • An excellently narrated story following all the guidelines can easily influence your reader to accept you. The narrative part, however small, has a considerable effect on the selection.
  • The narrative, in a way, reflects your ambitions and objectives as an individual. Go ahead and mention them to remind the reader what your goal is and how it aligns with the chosen specialty.

What You Shouldn’t Forget

a yellow sticky note with a light-bulb on a board


With all said and done, DON’T forget these three simple guidelines.

  • Don’t include facts from your CV or your personal information.
  • The primary purpose of a narrative is to reflect your personal experiences in your area of practice.
  • A narrative MUST appear in at least one part of your statement.

Bottom line

Use narrative in all personal statements. It’s almost as important as the statement itself. It acts as a building block in painting a picture of who you are as a person. Use the simple steps covered in the article to come up with a compelling narrative that will spice up your personal statement.