The application essay, or "Personal Comment", section is a vital part of your medical school application. It is also perhaps the most challenging. Members of medical school admission committees have access to your academic records and supporting materials; however, the personal statement is their only opportunity to get a sense of who you are at a personal level. Your task is to address your commitment and motivation to pursue a career in medicine and to make it "personal". When members of the admission committee are comparing applicants with similar academic credentials, your personal statement could be a very important deciding factor.
The first part of the question, "WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A DOCTOR?" includes, "WHY YOU ?". What personal qualities do you possess that are important in the practice of medicine and the treatment of patients? You should indicate that you understand the challenges and the dedication needed to practice medicine. Who has influenced you and why? What do you value? What are you passionate about? Who are you?
Also included in the basic question is, "WHY A DOCTOR?". There are many challenging professions where you can help people, especially in health-care, so you need to specifically address why you want to be a physician. How did you come to this decision? What experiences have you had to confirm that this is a good decision for you? It is not meant to be list of what you have done, rather what you learned about others and yourself from those experiences. You have a valuable opportunity to outline your commitment to medicine and how this interest developed as you have matured.
A brief note about length: The AMCAS "Personal Comment" section for allopathic (M.D.) medical schools gives you about one page, single-spaced (5300 characters) for your statement. It is ill-advised to not take full advantage of space allowed and write only a brief one to two paragraph personal statement. Members of the admissions committee may assume that you think the personal essay section is unimportant because you know the rest of your application is stellar, or may assume that you lack significant experiences in your life to write about or that you have failed to learn anything from your experiences. Overall, this might indicate to them that you are unmotivated, you procrastinated, or that you just don't care.
AACOM essay: If you plan on applying to a College of Osteopathic medicine to become a D.O., the personal statement for the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) must include an indication of why you are interested in osteopathic medicine specifically and your understanding of the osteopathic philosophy. It is important to shadow an osteopathic physician to learn more about the profession and their holistic approach to health-care. The AACOMAS personal statement is shorter than that of AMCAS, so you must write a much shorter, but effective, statement.
There are several resources available to ensure you write a quality personal statement:
University of Arkansas Liebolt Premedical Program: Personal Statement Writing Workshop
April and May (Times and dates TBA): Attendance is highly recommended.
University of Arkansas Quality Writing Center (QWC)
Department of English, 315 Kimpel Hall 575-6747
The QWC is a free service for University of Arkansas students to offer guidance in content and writing style. Individual one-on-one appointments can be set up by going to their website.
We also have members of the Premedical Advisory Committee who are available to read personal statements and provide feedback.
WEB SITE INFORMATION
The list of sites below are samples of the several million hits that come up when you do a Google search for "Medical School Personal Statements".
Sample essays and writing tips: Accepted.com
This site has sample essays, do's and don'ts, advice for secondary application essays, 10 secrets of good writing etc.
Stelzer, Richard (1997) How to write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. Peterson Guides, Princeton, N.J.
Magee, Mike (2005) The 2006 Pfizer Medical School Manual. A Practical Guide to Getting Into Medical School. Spencer Books.