Welcome to my next blog on the medical school personal statement! This one focuses on the body paragraphs. These are undoubtedly the most important paragraphs in the essay. Why is that? It’s because they actually prove (or at least hopefully prove) what you say in your thesis. Remember from my blog featuring the introductory paragraph (https://www.bryansblackbag.com/blog/how-to-write-a-medical-school-personal-statement-introductory-paragraph), the thesis answers two questions. First, why are you interested in attending medical school and second, why will you be a kick-ass physician? If you read that piece, you generated a list of ideas for each question. Now it is time to select the most powerful supporting evidence from those lists.
When doing so, the montra to think about is show, rather than tell. What I mean by this is that anyone can say that they are interested in medicine because of X, Y or Z. Similarly, they could easily say they possess certain stellar character traits that are going to allow them to flourish in the field. The real magic though comes when you can actually convince the reader of these things, beyond a shadow of a doubt, through an anecdote. In a later piece, I will actually dissect my own personal statement, which features many anecdotes for this explicit purpose. When choosing an anecdote, there are three things to keep in mind. First, does it actually relate to the point you are trying to prove? If not, then there is no reason to share it. Second, does it highlight you? By this, I mean are you the one playing an active role in the story? If not, this will certainly not be as strong. Actually, it will be quite weak. The personal statement is about you, not someone else, so build yourself up, not them. Passive examples can be included, but always need to be juxtaposed with an active example, showcasing how you actually internalized whatever it is you are alluding to. Last, you need to zero in as much as possible on the details. This is where you not only craft some imagery for the reader, but also truly convince them. If you say you helped kids at a summer camp over the summer, great, but it is not as easy for the reader to sink their teeth into. Instead, if you talk about a particular kid you helped, how you helped him, and the positive way in which he responded, this is much more specific and surely convinces the reader. Looping back to your lists for why medicine and why you will be an excellent physician, which ideas can be best supported through anecdotes that feature you in an active role? Beyond that, which anecdotes can you describe with juicy detail?
Alright, so now we have our thesis, but beyond that, we have the anecdotes that will actually serve as evidence for this thesis. Without this, the thesis is virtually useless. So, how do we structure the body paragraphs globally? There are two ways to go about it. The first way, and honestly the most straight forward way, is to build the first body paragraph around the why you are interested in medicine question, with the subsequent three body paragraphs showcasing three traits that will allow you to excel medically. Four body paragraphs is about what you can fit into the limited about of characters without sacrificing quality. Remember, you actually need to convince the reader of each point with each respective body paragraph. The opposite direction is to address both why medicine and separate character traits in each body paragraph. This is trickier and requires that you clearly and coherently spell everything out so the reader is not lost. My recommendation is to take the former approach, as that is both easier to craft and easier for the reader to follow. As you will see with my own personal statement, that is the direction I took.
The last pointer is that you cannot assume anything. When writing about your carefully selected anecdotes, it is easy to fill in gaps that are second nature to you. Remember, the reader does not know you though. Therefore, they certainly do not know your own stories as intimately as you. Make sure you spell absolutely everything out so they are not confused. If they are lost at any point, you have failed to convince them through your showing, rather than telling tactics.
My next blog will feature the concluding paragraph, which is actually the easiest paragraph to write. Keep grinding, you are soooo close to having an epic and memorable personal statement.