You have passed all your USMLE exams, you have all the skills and requirements needed for matching, but you don’t know how to write an effective Personal Statement. Well, don’t worry! Here are a few tips and tricks on how to write a catchy and effective Personal Statement for medical graduates.

The Electronic Residency Application Services (ERAS) conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges is responsible for selecting candidates for the residency program. The online application procedure helps the candidates to participate in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) where the candidates need to choose a specific specialty for residency tenure.

Please note that the following subjects are not included in the NRMP – instead, they are matched through the SF match program.

  • Ophthalmology
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Otolaryngology

The Personal Statement is crucial in deciding your future residency program. The CV and the Personal Statement help examiners to assess the candidates’ capabilities.

Writing a Personal Statement is easy. However, one needs to plan how to write an effective Personal Statement as early as possible. Starting on time will help you acquire all the necessary insights and will ensure you have enough time to write, proofread, and finally, submit your Personal Statement.

The most important fact to remember is that the Personal Statement has to be written on a single page provided in the ERAS system.  Also, the statement should consist of about 750 to 850 words. Do not exceed the page limit since anything above the page limit will automatically be eliminated.

man writing on a laptop

Make sure your Personal Statement is not longer than a single page

How to Write an Effective Personal Statement

When writing your Personal Statement, it is necessary to touch on a few important points. The three essential points they are looking for in the Residency Program Personal Statement are:

  • The reason for your interest in the field
  • What you expect from the program
  • How the choice of the subject correlates to your professional life

It is good to know that the Medical School Personal Statement (MSPS) is not similar to the ERAS or Residency Program Personal Statement (RPPS).

Creativity and originality of the statement are not important in RPPS unlike in MSPS. The sole purpose of the statement is in providing the context to your choice of subject for residency.

The experts from the specific fields of Residency Programs are trained to look for applicants with a particular set of skills and criteria. For instance, some specialties require candidates with community service involvement history while some, such as dermatology and orthopedic, need candidates with research and publication history.

The Personal Statement should be very specific, to the point, and explain your achievements within the particular area and your expertise, unlike the MSPS, which is more like the description of individuals and their self-profile with lots of fluffiness and inspiring stories. It is best not to follow the MSPS format when writing the Personal Statement.

What Makes a Personal Statement Effective

An excellent and catchy Personal Statement for matching should have some key features to make it noticeable among the thousands of applications. These key features include:

  • Motivation and interest should be clearly visible in the statement, and it should look genuine. For instance, if you are applying for family medicine do not write about what you will do if you get the residency in family medicine. Instead, talk about the recent developments in the field and how you have tried to implement those advanced studies and research in your work experience. Show them in-depth knowledge of management, care, coordination of patients or even family medicine for America’s Health initiative.
  • Talk about your experiences while preparing for this residency. List and highlight your achievements in this field.
  • Mention specific personal experiences relevant to the subject of choice for candidacy. This will garner a few extra points for sure.
  • Explain your future goals and ambitions about the chosen subject in a very realistic and mature fashion that promotes your self-awareness and in-depth knowledge of the area. Over the top, unrealistic future aspirations will result in rejection.
  • Never take complete credit for your achievements. Make sure to appreciate all of your mentors, seniors, and colleagues who worked with you on those projects.
  • Repetitive sentences, abbreviations, jargon, and acronyms are a strict NO while writing.
  • It is best to use spell checkers and Thesaurus while constructing the statements.

A good writer cannot always write an effective statement. Even if you are confident in your skills, it’s best to consult with someone before sending the final version. Ask a senior mentor, or a trusted individual or advisor to assess the writing first. You can also take suggestions from Residency interns who are already in the program. This will ensure that there are no discrepancies in your statement. The Personal Statement should be authentic and error free. Don’t talk about bending the rules – it will not help you. Instead, you will end up being rejected.

an open notebook with a pen on it

Proofread everything you write

Types of Personal Statements you need to Avoid

Personal statement does not mean that you need to write about your personal details. Make sure the statement you are presenting is professional and not personal, unlike its name.

One should strictly avoid certain types of personal statements:

  • Family history and their professional achievements.
  • Unexpected and unrealistic goals based on your childhood memories and incidents. For example: “As a kid, I once saw a friend fall off stairs… “ or “The first time I was at a hospital as a kid…”
  • Appreciating someone else’s effort is good but taking credit for someone else’s work is unethical. Remember, the points you mention will be cross-checked and validated, so avoid such scenarios at all the time.
  • A Personal Statement is meant to be written by you and not by someone else. A ghostwriter cannot write a statement as good as you because the experiences and their descriptions are connected to your original view of the situation.
  • Use of popular language, political views and anecdotes should always be avoided because those may have severe after-effects to your application.

On completing the statement, make sure you read everything thoroughly and check out every detail mentioned. Cliché phrases are boring and even overlooked most of the time. Write about what made you the person you are right now.


What are the Points One can discuss in their Personal Statement

You should discuss certain points in your statement to make it more effective and appealing to the expert assessing your application. These are:

  • What is unique about you or your achievements so far, that makes you the best choice for the program?
  • How can you and your experiences influence the committee and the program to choose you for the residency?
  • Demonstrate how in-depth your knowledge is about the area and for how long have you been interested in it.
  • How much do you know about the development, research, and advances that happened in the specific field?
  • If you have any gaps or discrepancies during your time in school or if you have high med school grades but mediocre USMLE scores (or vice versa) explain the reason for that.
  • Talk about all the valid points as to why you are a perfect match for the specific residency program.
  • There must be a consistent style in the statement. The abrupt inclusion of words in the sentence that does not pertain to the aspect of the discussion will only hamper the quality of the statement.
  • Simple words with a fluent, crisp and concise explanation always work best in any application.
  • Do not write you Statement in any other language than English. A foreign Medical Graduate must remember that U.S English is slightly different than U.K English. Do a bit of research before conceptualizing the statement.
operating room with a group of doctors standing around the operating table

Include your previous experience in the statement

The Do’s and the Don’ts to Follow while Writing a Personal Statement

The Do’s

  • Honesty is the best policy. Remember this motto first and foremost when you sit down to write the personal statement.
  • Give your statement a central theme, and design the entire script around it. Include brief details about your achievements during your medical school.
  • Preclinical performances do not matter much. Concentrate on elaborating your benchmark performances during clinical and clerkship tenure. Include voluntary and research endeavors in the statement.
  • Unique experiences and achievements will act as an “anti-clone” factor that will distinguish you from other International Medical Graduates who are also applying.
  • The first paragraph should be attention-grabbing to encourage the examiner to go through the rest of your Personal Statement.
  • Back your personal narrative and achievements with substantial evidence, like certificates and awards.
  • Complicated statements and language are hard to understand in most cases because the examiners are medical, not literary professionals. Simple language is always the best choice.
  • Explain the reason why you want to practice Medicine in the U.S and why you moved there. Relocation to an entirely different country is often a huge decision, so give a proper explanation.
  • Proofread as many times as possible before sending the final statement.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t rush and write in a hurry. Take your time to outline a draft and then structure it before giving it a final go. Proofreading is necessary but finding a second pair of eyes is a better option.
  • The personal statement is not a CV or an extension of it. The application of ERAS already has designated space for the CV, so make sure the space allotted for personal statement includes your achievements, goals, reasons for applying to a specific program, publications, and clinical experiences.
  • Don’t exaggerate your achievements or write a false and misleading statement. The commission will question you thoroughly on everything you mentioned. Inability to answer will make it easier for them to disqualify your application.
  • Don’t let someone else write the personal statement. The examiners have years of knowledge and experience and know which ones were written personally and which by an external expert.
  • Don’t make spelling mistakes in the statement. Make sure you are using the right terminology.
  • Copy pasting is never an option. Examiners use the software, like Copyscape, to immediately catch plagiarisms. On being charged with plagiarism, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) will be informed immediately to investigate the issue thoroughly. If found guilty, you will be ineligible to participate in the National Resident Matching Program.
  • Salary is something you should never write about in the personal statement.