When writing your residency personal statement, standing apart from the crowd can be difficult. Because the requirements to become a physician are rigorous (as they should be!), your background will likely be similar to other applicants in numerous ways. The good news is that residency selectors know this – and they want applicants who have the right background so that they can be confident in your ability to do the work of being a resident. Therefore, how do you show that you are the best candidate? By making your residency personal statement personal. Here are some tips on creating a residency personal statement that showcases your passion and potential to excel as a resident.
1. Pay Attention to Patients
Although this may seem obvious, it is truly astounding how many residency personal statements overlook patients. Your residency personal statement should absolutely contain at least one anecdote about a patient (or a group of patients if, for example, you’ve participated in an outreach program abroad). In your residency personal statement, discuss the issues at hand and why this patient (or this experience treating patients) was meaningful to you. The anecdote itself probably won’t be unique, but don’t worry about that. The point is the insight that this provides the selectors into your character and your ability to interact with patients effectively to provide them with the highest level of care.
2. Tailor to the Program
The surest way to have a residency personal statement that is all but ignored by the selectors is to submit a general personal statement. If you are applying to more than one specialty, that’s fine. However, you need to craft a personal statement that is tailored to each specialty. General statements are, by definition, not personal. You won’t seem really interested in the program, and the selector will simply move on to someone who is. A less-perfect but passionate personal statement will always perform better than a well-crafted but generic one.
3. Write about Relationships – Even in Research
In order to keep your residency personal statement from reading like a narrative version of your CV, focus on relationships. This is true for writing about patients as well as writing about your research accomplishments and your goals for your residency program. When writing about research, be sure to mention your relationships with others. If you developed a particularly strong working relationship with the head researcher, be specific about the meaningful interactions that built the foundation of your bond. Detail how you collaborated with other researchers or sought guidance from experts outside of your research team. Ultimately, it is people who get research done, so you need to show that you can make connections with others.
4. Have Clear Goals for Your Program
It’s okay to know what you want from a program and to state this directly in your residency personal statement. Every selector wasn’t going to love you anyway, so there’s no need to worry about trying to impress everybody. Instead, focus on getting your message across to the selectors who have the right type of program that will make you feel at home and is a match for your goals.
5. Don’t Get Too Creative
As stated above, your background probably isn’t going to deviate significantly from that of other applicants. Over the years, I’ve had some applicants attempt to overcome this hurdle by submitting essays that are, let’s say, creative. I advise them against it. They do it anyway. I never hear from them again. Not once have I seen a personal statement like that succeed in the matching process. The overall structure of your residency personal statement should be rather formulaic. It’s the details that make it personal.
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