The personal statement is one of the most important pieces of the medical school application. Despite this, the majority of applicants craft this vital essay incorrectly. Considering 51,680 applicants sent out 816,153 applications to medical schools around the country last year, this error registers in the tens of thousands. However, thanks to Bryan’s Black Bag’s guidance, you won’t be one of these individuals. Instead, your personal statement will captive admissions committee members with its clear, concise, and organized presentation of your aspirations and dreams. Ultimately, this series of personal statement blogs will walk you through the difficult, and certainly frustrating, process of writing an epic personal statement.
So, let’s get after it! This piece focuses on the introductory paragraph of your personal statement. There are three elements of the introductory paragraph: the hook, segue, and thesis. The hook is self-explanatory, being the section that draws the reader in. It is important to clear up some misconceptions first. The hook does not have to detail a medically enthralling anecdote. In fact, if you share a medically oriented story that has little to no relation to you, this will only hurt you. The personal statement is about YOU. Therefore, why would it be a good idea to begin with a hook that has no relation to you? Let me answer that for you. It would not be a good idea. It would be a terrible idea. Moreover, you want to be unique, not cliché. Medical hooks are what the vast majority of people write about. On the other hand, if you can really tease out why this experience impacted you so much, then by all means, go for it. This really requires some thought and reflection though. Beyond that, you need to clearly and coherently convey these thoughts on paper, otherwise the reader is lost, which is obviously never a good thing. Ultimately, this brings us to my cardinal rule. Whatever direction you decide to go with your hook, make sure that you can effectively relate it to you. By relating it to you, I mean that it ties into your desired foray into medicine. If you had a relative suffer unfortunate medical circumstances, or you yourself were the victim, how did this impact you? Be specific! The more specific you are, the more the reader can relate and ultimately the more you draw them in. This is the point of the hook after all.
Moving on, the segue is next. Overall, the hook should be very concise, as you do not want to waste valuable characters there. The majority of the characters are to be devoted to the body paragraphs, but more on that in a minute. The segue is merely a sentence or two that connects your hook to your thesis. The thesis is without a doubt the most important sentence in the entire piece. It is the focal point for the whole statement, laying the groundwork for what is to come. Ultimately, it answers two vital questions that admissions committee members care about; first, why are you interested in pursuing medicine and second, why will you excel in this field. If you do not have a thesis or it does not clearly address these questions, then the rest of the piece lacks direction and quickly falls apart. Believe it or not, there are good and bad answers to these questions. Please do not say you wish to pursue medicine for power, prestige, or wealth (this one is actually a bit of a fallacy, given medical school’s steep opportunity cost) or anything else with an egotistical bend. Also, you need to differentiate medicine from other professions where you can help people. If your reasoning is simply to help people, that is wonderful, but you could help people in a variety of different fields, including those outside medicine. As for the question about why you will be an excellent physician, just think about the qualities of physicians you admire or have enjoyed as a patient (compassionate, empathetic, patient, kind, etc.).
Now it is time for you to brainstorm. First think about ways to hook your audience. These MUST be relevant to your pursuit of medicine. Also, you need to be able to be incredibly specific, divulging meaningful details. This paints a visual picture for the reader while also clearly connecting it to your desire to become a physician. Second, brainstorm the reasons you desire to pursue medicine. Again, make sure there is not even the slightest hint of egotism in here. Last, think about reasons you will be an excellent physician. This generally encompasses character traits. Before selecting your favorite ideas and cranking out an introductory paragraph, read my next piece on crafting stellar body paragraphs. This will instruct you on how to choose the best ideas from the lists you have generated. See ya there!