Demonstrate a commitment to your specialty.
When residency directors review applications, they are seeking out candidates who have really thought through their choice of specialty. They want to know that you are not just making a hasty decision or basing your choice on factors such as salary, lifestyle, or the fact that you have a friend or parent who practices that specialty.
When talking about why you are choosing a particular specialty, avoid vague blanket statements such as, “I really enjoyed my internal medicine rotation, so I would like to pursue residency training in internal medicine.” First of all, it is obvious that you like the specialty you are pursuing or you would have to be crazy to pursue it. Secondly, this sentence doesn’t give any detail as to why you like that specialty.
When describing your choice of specialty, you want to give at least three distinct reasons why it appeals to you. You may want to further elaborate by discussing some of your hands-on experiences in that specialty and how those experiences affected you.
In addition, you want to describe why you feel you will excel at that particular specialty. Perhaps you received numerous compliments during your pediatrics rotation and your preceptors said you were a natural in that area. These are things you want to mention! You want to convince the residency director that the specialty essentially chose you, and that you are firmly committed to dedicating your life to that field.
Have a unifying theme and/or logical order to your statement.
You need to ensure that your personal statement flows smoothly from beginning to end. One way to achieve this is by employing a unifying theme.
Perhaps you are applying for a residency in Emergency Medicine and one of the reasons you know you will excel in this specialty is your ability to keep cool under pressure. You can use this quality as a unifying theme by mentioning several times in your life when you exhibited a sense of calm in stressful situations. For example, you might begin the essay with a paragraph about a time in your childhood when you helped a friend who had fallen off a bike and gotten seriously injured. Then, you could go on to mention several times during college and medical school when you successfully handled stressful situations. As a conclusion, you could talk about how this quality will enable you to handle the pressure and hectic schedule of your residency program.
The benefit of having a theme is that you leave the reader with one clear concept to remember you by. While the theme doesn’t have to be touched on in every paragraph, it should be mentioned at the beginning, middle, and end of your personal statement.
Another way to make your essay cohesive is to use a chronological format. If you’ve gone through an interesting journey on your path to completing medical school, you may choose to give a brief biography in your personal statement. Now, be careful with this! By “biography,” I’m not referring to a novel-length essay beginning with “I was born in 1985 in a small town in Nebraska…” What you want to do instead is to touch on a few of the most interesting parts of your background and/or turning points that you’ve encountered in your life.
Make sure that each event or situation you describe can be tied in some way to your ability to succeed as a resident! Remember, the primary goal of your personal statement is to convince a residency director that you will be an asset to the program and be able to handle the level of training you’ll receive. This objective should be at the forefront of your mind as you decide what to include in and exclude from your personal statement. You may have a cute anecdote about your childhood that works great as an ice breaker, but if you can’t tie it in to the overall theme or purpose of your personal statement, it needs to go.
Continued on Residency Statement Tips p. 3 of 3
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- The Doctor Job – The Doctor Job has worked with thousands of medical students and foreign medical graduates to create the perfect personal statement to get the most interviews and subsequently get into the best programs.