The most important thing to remember about the residency personal statement is that it takes alot of time to write. You need to write it, read it, edit, and rewrite several times before you get a final polished piece. Therefore, like everything, the first step is integrating this task into your overall schedule. Even if you are an excellent writer you should give yourself several months for this process (at the least two). If you did this portion correctly, you have already made a major step in the right direction.
Now to the easy part, writing the personal statement itself. Well, as you know there are many ways to write the personal statement and if you google "personal statement" you will find an endless amount of examples for all and every residency field. I encourage you to do that in order to get an idea of the repertoire of options out there. One of the sites you can try is:
You should try to discern the literary structure of the paper in order to see if it has a well put together cohesive message. This is important because the personal statement needs to lead the reader to one clear conclusion: that you will be the absolute best resident in X field the program will ever have and therefore they must invite you for an interview. Remember this simple principle as you write your statement.
Now, we can write an endless amount of pages about the residency personal statement, but I will leave that to the millions of other sites out there. What I will present here is an algorithm of how to write one type of personal statement. It includes all the things that we feel are necessary for a program to notice your statement.
Of course, this algorithm is not set in stone. On the contrary, you should change the components around, add your own, and integrate between them. This algorithm is simply meant to give you ideas and to help you get on the right track. We do, however, suggest to keep the hook and closing paragraph in their positions for obvious reasons. Finally, it goes without saying that the quality of your personal statement will depend on your writing skills, the content you place in your statement, and how much time you spend editing it until you reach the final product.
- Specific experience in the field and the resulting conclusions
- Your unique traits that fit the field
- Real day to day experiences that you have had in the field
- Research experience
- Hopes/Plans for residency and beyond
- Confident Closing Summary that is sure to make everyone think you will be that doctor who saves the world
The hook is that thing that exists in the first few sentences of your statement that forces the reader to read on. It lets the reader know that they are about to read something interesting and special. What is it exactly? for some its the fact that they participated in the rescue efforts in Haiti, for others its the fact that they were a fearless Navy Seal in Iraq, and for others its a research project that was done under the instruction of a Nobel prize winner. Whatever your special thing is (and it does not have to be research with a Nobel prize winner its just an example) it must be here. I must stress, however, that you do not want to be over dramatic. This is not an application to medical school. Here you want to make sure the reader knows about the hook, but at the same time you need to convey a certain maturity and modesty. This is a fine balance that is attained through the editing process.
Specific experience that relates to the field and allows you to draw conclusions
The specific experience serves several purposes that are intertwined: to tell an interesting story in which you were involved (meaning took an active part) and to form a connection between you and the specific residency field. This is best explained by an example: a student who was involved in a resuscitation in the OR describes the role of the anesthesiologist as he manages the resuscitation and brings the patient back to life. Based on his dramatic experience the student draws conclusions as to the importance of the anesthesiologist in such an emergency setting.
Your unique traits and why they fit the field
Well, you have just described a dramatic event that obviously necessitated some unique abilities, now describe how and why you think you have those abilities. For example, resuscitation requires a cool head under pressure and leaderships skills. If you are a former Navy Seal you have most likely acquired those traits during your training. Explain and detail this while trying to keep things interesting and exciting for the reader. In this navy seal example that would be telling a story about a specific operation that necessitated that same cool head and excellent leadership skills. Again, don't be too dramatic.
Real day to day experiences
After you have built up the story you must also show that you have an idea of where you're going. This is the time to detail a bit about your real day to day experience in a specific specialty and why you love it. As you know, most of the time the anesthesiologist sits back and relaxes while the surgeons work, so you can's just say you love resuscitations. You need to show them that you've experienced the daily routine of the anesthesiologist and that you think its the best thing in the whole wide world. Again, dont forget to detail how these experiences affected you and why they led you to that specific specialty. Remember that you are constantly leading the reader to understand that you will be the best resident in that field and that you want it more then anything.
If youve got it, this is the time to give the details. Again, tie it in to the general theme and specialty even if its research in a field other then your specialty. By the way, why do programs love research? because research = commitment and true interest in the field.
Hopes/Plans for residency and beyond
This is the section that details your plans as a resident and beyond. Even if you have no idea what you want to do after residency, you should write that you plan to continue moving forward in the field (whether its fellowship, research, or otherwise). This shows the program director that you are in for the long run and that hes taking a resident with alot of motivation and drive to put forth effort and succeed. If you don't know by now, people always prefer those who commit as opposed to the transient passers by. There is one exception here. If youre going to a community program with no fellowships or research, you want to tone the importance of those two elements down a bit. You can still write that you plan to develop in the field, but stress the importance of excellent residency training as opposed to having a direct track to fellowship.
Confident closing summary
As the name above says, this is the place to summarize everything that you wrote before, to remind the director that you are a former navy seal (if you could see the spark in his eyes...), and to make it clear that you and no other will the best resident that program has ever seen (and on the side you will also save the world).
Tailoring of the personal statement to the program
This final step, which is not in the algorithm, is optional and includes tailoring the personal statement to the specific program. You can tailor the personal statement to the program in many ways. For example by mentioning them by name, by mentioning experiences you have had with specific people from the program, by mentioning certain aspects of the training at that specific institution, by talking about the program's research etc. etc.
This tailoring may be very beneficial as it gives the impression that you have though long and hard about the personal statement written for that specific program. If you can actually do this its great. However, in most cases this takes way too much time and so the smart thing is to build your personal statement ahead of time in a manner that allows to fit in certain sentences that relate to the different programs. For example, a closing line may be: "There is nothing i would like more then to become a resident at bla bla bla hospital".
Residency Personal Statement
Application & Interviews