Lesson One: Preparation

The purpose of this section is to get you acquainted with the task that confronts you. The first step is to understand your audience and what your readers will be expecting. But you should view this knowledge as a groundwork from which to build your own creative composition, not as a set of limiting factors. Once you understand the context of your assignment, you must approach the brainstorming process with a free and open mind. Allow yourself to reflect without the interference of preconceived notions. Create a long and varied list of possible topics, and then narrow that list down using the criteria we give you.

The preparation process is essential here as it is for any important project. If you don't identify and develop the optimal set of ideas, then no degree of effective structuring or engaging language will make the essay as strong as it could have been.

EssayEdge Extra: All About Medicine?

"Many people discuss who they are in many ways without talking about medicine at all. An outline of accomplishment or a grandiose essay about what a doctor should be doesn't tell us much about who the applicant is and makes it difficult to evaluate him or her. What we want instead in terms of content is for people to tell us who they are. I would encourage them to be themselves and have faith in themselves when writing their personal statements well." - Stanford University School of Medicine

"We don't screen AMCAS personal statements systematically for certain content. We read the personal statement to assess the person's ability to communicate in writing and for any explanatory information that helps elucidate the academic record and give us a general impression of the person's background and interest in medicine. I tell the applicants that this is their chance to tell us about themselves as persons since the rest of the application really doesn't." - University of Michigan Medical School

"At this school, when the committee members read the AMCAS personal statements they look for motivation - why the individual really wants to go into medicine; what really gave him or her the "call," so to speak. Applicants should give details about why they feel that they are meant for medicine and what in life or in their reading has influenced them in this direction." - School of Medicine, University of Washington

As you can see, there are three different levels of expectation when it comes to how your essay should deal with medicine. The first admissions officer simply wants to know about you; the second would like to know about you and your interest in medicine; the third places clear emphasis on the importance of explaining your motivation.

So what should you do? Our advice is to avoid the first approach simply because you risk putting off readers who do expect some discussion of medicine. By all means you should aim to reveal meaningful insight into your personality, but effectively tying your themes into your motivation to pursue medicine is imperative.

Next: Your Audience