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The Personal Statement The Analysis

The Personal Statement:

I walked off the school bus; it was a beautiful summer day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing, but inside my house it was dark, a cloud had moved over us. I slowly made my way to the door, expecting my mother to greet me but instead my sister opened the door, something was wrong, I knew instantly. When I walked in and there sat my three year-old little brother playing with his toys in the family room and my parents were sitting on the couch. I looked up at my mom, she had been crying. What is wrong I asked? He is sick my mom said, "Your baby brother is very sick". I just shrugged my shoulders and walked away, I had been sick before and I got better, so would he. I went upstairs to my room and made a get well card for him. It was made out of blue construction paper and had black writing on it, I finished it off with a panda bear sticker. Inside I had written how much I loved him and to get better real soon. I proudly presented it to my mother; she took one look at it and began to cry" again. I climbed on to her lap and she said, He won't get better, we have to take care of him the best that we can". He has diabetes she explained but my naïve eight year-old mind just did not know what diabetes was. I did not understand. Whenever I was sick I went to the doctor and he always made be better, but this time even the best doctor's hands were tied. It was this very day I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up... I wanted to make my little brother better, I wanted to be a doctor. Although this was this first time that being a physician crossed my mind. I was sure I was destined to become one. I have always felt a deep desire to help people whenever they needed it, and would stop and no end to help them. Through the many volunteering experiences and through various jobs, my decision was solidified. My first trials with medicine and dealing with the ill began when I was twelve years old. I began to volunteer with a youth volunteer organization, which set up various activities around the community and with different members of the community. The very first volunteering activity that I participated in was going to St. Francis nursing home and playing bingo with the residents. It was this day that will always stick out in my mind. I walked in and immediately the musty it me like a brick wall. It slowly began to invade me filling my nostrils and spreading its way through my body. The sickness was engulfing me and I felt as if I would not be able to let it go. I knew that most of these people were sick, but I never realized how sick they were. We quickly began our task of inviting the residents to come and play bingo with us, as I walked down the halls asking each one that I met, I was saddened. Some of the people could not get out of bed and others were just too weak to leave their rooms. I knew that the couple of hours that I was going to spend there with them were going to brighten their day. For many of these people, the volunteers that they saw were the only people from the outside world they met; their families just stopped coming to visit them sometime ago. After a few hours my mom came to pick me up some how I was not the same girl who entered the nursing home just a short time ago. Something had changed for me, I now knew then that medicine was the only way that I felt I could help people. There are many things I have done that have helped me make this decision. Besides volunteering in nursing homes and other various places in my community, I have gained several years of lab experience at both Roswell Park Cancer Institute in which I was a participant in the summer research program for high school juniors and at Buffalo General Hospital. I have volunteered my time to carry out research in the areas of microbiology, immunology, and molecular biology. In each one of these laboratories I have gained various experiences of lab techniques. This has resulted in my participation in several abstracts that were presented in various meeting. In addition to this, I am the co-author in two peer review publications. I have also worked as a secretary in a pediatrician's office and an optometrist's office. Where I was able to see how the clinical aspect of medicine worked and gained experience with patient interaction and some knowledge of the business aspect of medicine. A career in medicine takes a lot of hard work and dedication, with this in mind I know that becoming a doctor is the only way for me to have a future that I will enjoy, because I will be doing the thing in life that I enjoy the most. Helping others.

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The Analysis:

Though your narrative style has merit, I would make some significant changes to the essay:

(1) The first third of the essay may be reduced to 2 or 3 well constructed sentences. This may be difficult to hear but since the people reading these letters are likely doctors or medical students, they will not generally regard diabetes as a very dramatic disease because it's treatable, the survival is excellent and because the next essay they read may present some other premed's brother who had a terminal illness (i.e. metastatic cancer). In other words, I am not denying the important nature of the diagnosis, but after reading one third of the essay, we still do not know much about you.

(2) Your compassion? empathy? your interest in the science of medicine? the human body? You mention volunteer work, but prove that you are a compassionate person (usually a brief story about a 1:1 encounter with a patient through volunteer work).

(3) "Self-directed learning" is essential at most modern med-schools and you have probably done it often (Roswell Park, BGH, etc). However, it should be clear whenever you have taught yourself something new, self-directed research, creativity, etc.

(4) What skills, relevant to the study of medicine, did you learn from working in a doctor's office? Cooperation among the health-care team, working with not above or against, empathy, compassion, reacting calmly in stressful situations, etc. [I would delete "the business aspect . . ."]

(5) Minor technical: (a) in most contexts, quotations follow a period or comma (i.e. lines 10, 19); (b) several sentences are not well constructed (i.e. lines 3-6; also see third to last sentence which is not actually a sentence; the last sentence we can reasonably call "poetic licence").

Consider it a first draft. I'm sure you'll make it excellent. Good luck!

More Feedback:

I think that the two stories (brother, nursing home) should be shortened quite a bit. You could tell both of those stories in 3 sentences each (many details that are there now are not necessary), and then you would have so much more of your essay to reveal more about yourself.

In the story about your brother, you find out he is sick and shrug your shoulders and walk away. At that point in the story, we do not know that you are eight years old, or that you will subsequently go and make your brother a card, and so that sentence has the effect of making you sound like a cold and uncaring person. Regardless of what information follows, the first impression was that you would walk away from a sick family member.

In the nursing home story, you write "It slowly began to invade me filling my nostrils and spreading its way through my body. The sickness was engulfing me and I felt as if I would not be able to let it go." For one thing, I think this is overly dramatic. For another, it sounds like an incredibly uncomfortable feeling to have, and so for you to conclude that you want to be a doctor after having this experience does not make sense. You say "I knew that the couple of hours that I was going to spend there with them were going to brighten their day." I think you should revamp that story so that you don't just 'know' it, you DO it. You should be coming out of the nursing home with a sense of satisfaction that you were ABLE to cheer people up, and make a difference for them... in your story I sort of felt like you came out of it feeling sorry for them, and perhaps feeling a little bit depressed or disturbed by what you saw.

I think you should expand on some of the things you mentioned quickly at the end. Lab experiences- pick a specific experience and tell what you learned and why it interested you. "This has resulted in my participation in several abstracts that were presented in various meetings," is not clear and does not show enthusiasm for the work you did. You say you worked at Roswell Cancer Institute. Could it be that you enjoyed your work there because your contributions, however small, might help toward finding a cure for cancer? Peer review publication- what was your responsibility and how did you handle it? If the school you are applying to has problem based learning, they will want to know that you are able to critically evaluate yourself and your peers. Pediatrician's office- try to think of a specific experience (but keep the story short and concise!) that shows you understand and empathize with the plight of patients.

I would edit your essay very carefully, and then submit it again... You will always get honest and valuable criticism here. Good Luck!

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