Statement of Purpose Sample Medical Phd

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					                                                                  The Personal Statement

                                                        “If we wish to know a man, we must ask, ‘What is
                                                        his story, his real, inmost story?’ for each of us is a
            The Medical School                          biography, a story. Each of us is a singular
            Personal Statement                          narrative, which is constructed continually and
                                                        unconsciously by, through, and in us—through
                                                             p     p     ,           g ,          g ,
                                                        our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our
                                                        actions; and , not least, through our discourse, our
                     Jeff Glenn                         spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we
                                                        are not so different from each other; historically, as
             Office of Career Services                  narratives, we are each of us unique.”
                    March 2010
                                                        -Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat




                 Topics to Cover                                        Types of essays

1.   Primary & secondary essays                        Primary (AMCAS) application:
                                                          • 5300 characters – 1.5 single-spaced pgs
2.   Purpose of the personal statement
                                                          • MD/PhD have two additional essays
3.   What to discuss and highlight                           ◦ Reasons for wishing to p
                                                                                   g pursue combined
4.   How to approach/craft your essay                          MD/PhD degree (3000 characters)
                                                             ◦ Describe significant research experiences
5.   Do’s & don’ts                                             including supervisor, nature of problem
6.   Feedback & resources                                      studied, contribution to project (10,000
                                                               characters)
7.   Q&A




                 Types of essays                                        Types of essays

Secondary applications:                                Examples of secondary questions:
     • Some med schools ask for more essays in         • What do you think will be your greatest personal
       secondary applications; some don’t                challenge as a physician, and how will you address
     • Many will ask you why you are interested in       this?
       their school (among other questions)              How will you contribute t th di
                                                       • H      ill                             it f
                                                                          t ib t to the diversity of your
     • May arrive at different times: upon AMCAS         medical school class?
       submission, AMCAS verification, all materials   • Are there any special circumstances that we
       received, or not at all                           should be aware of?
                                                       • Describe your interest in our med school.
                                                       • Tell us about a difficult or challenging situation that
                                                         you have encountered and how you dealt with it.
                                                       • more on the handout…




                                                                                                                   1
    Purpose of the personal statement                                 What do you need to do?

   1. To discover the person behind the                         •   Construct a narrative or story
      numbers and in the context of the rest                    •   Make sure your unique voice and
      of your application                                           personality come across
   2. To hear what has motivated you to                         •   Make sure it is clear why you are going
      pursue a career in medicine, how you                          into medicine
      know
   3. To see a sample of your writing

   Admissions Dean: “We must rely on their own
      words to determine if he/she is someone we
      would like to meet.”




            Example: unique voice?                                      Why medicine exactly?

“I’ve been asked many times why I wish to become a           • How do you know—not simply why do you
physician. Upon considerable reflection, the thought           know—that you want to be a doctor? How
of possessing the ability to help others provides me
                                                               you have demonstrated this interest
with tremendous internal gratification and offers the
feeling that my life s efforts have been focused in a
                 life’s                                      • How has your interest in medicine changed
positive direction. Becoming a physician is the                and developed over time?
culmination of a lifelong dream; and I am prepared to
                                                             • How did you overcome your doubts?
dedicate myself, as I have in the past, to achieving
this goal. “                                                 • Why medicine and not other career fields,
                                                               e.g. teaching, science, public health,
Too many generalities and not a unique perspective;            nursing, etc.?
could be written by many other applicants.




    Example: reflections on transitions                         Other questions you might consider

“But I also appreciated organic chemistry in a second way:
                                                             • Have you faced any obstacles in your life (for
It is truly beautiful…”
                                                               example, economic, familial, or physical)? How did
                                                               you handle these?
“My feelings for organic chemistry grew stronger when I
discovered how it relates to the human body…”                • How have you been influenced by certain events
                                                               and people?
“I soon learned, however, that medicine has a reality        • Recall a time when you had a positive impact on
beyond this intellectual epiphany.                             another person. How did you and the person
                                                               change as a result?
“Perhaps my view of medicine is idealistic. I have talked    • What were major turning points in your life?
with physicians who tell me that it is not a pretty          • What do you want the committee to know that is
profession…although I do not want to enter medicine with       not apparent elsewhere?
my eyes closed, I also do not want to lose sight of what I
                                                             • What will capture their imagination?
believe to be its greater purpose…




                                                                                                                    2
      Several common approaches                             Example: grabbing opening

• Use a concrete anecdote/experience to                 “I do not want to help this man. I do not
  draw the reader in; perhaps circle back to it         want to be near his gurney. I do not want to
                                                        touch his bloody legs. Why should I? He is a
  at the end to create bookends
                                                        felon. (Opening)
• Approach the essay as a chance to share
  the arc of your journey to this point                 Broader discussion of journey towards medicine
• Think of the one or two things you really
  want to say; highlight without cataloguing            “I realized, both on the giving and receiving
• Don’t need to utilize time progression but            ends, that in the medical world especially,
                                                        you cannot let assumptions and biases
  often good way to avoid generalization and            cloud your focus on the patient. Once the
  abstract language                                     curtain is pulled back, everyone deserves
                                                        respect. “ (Circle back at closing)




     Drawing from your experiences                                         Stuck?

   • Dramatic circumstances are fine; not so       • Pretend you are writing to a friend, not an
     dramatic circumstances are fine too!            admissions committee; free write
   • Share lessons & reflections rather than       • Ask a friend/family member which qualities
                                           It s
     detailed descriptions of experiences. It’s      they think distinguish you from others
     about you, i.e. what/how you think about      • Start off with a formative moment or
     the experience                                  realization and go from there
   • Reflections can be unique even if             • Think of a theme to build your essay around
     opportunities/experiences are not             • Two or three personality characteristics that
                                                     you feel are your strengths
                                                   • Don’t need to have a conclusion/point in
                                                     mind




                     Do’s                                              Do’s (cont’d)

☺ Tell a story                                    ☺ Be concise. Make sure every sentence needs
☺ Keep it interesting by using specific             to be there
  examples and anecdotes                          ☺ Describe what you learned in your research,
☺ Provide information, insight, or a                not the details of the specific research project
  perspective that cannot be found                  (unless writing the MD/PhD essay)
  elsewhere in your application                   ☺ Allow plenty of time to write, revise, reflect,
☺ Describe experiences in terms of what             revise. etc. Step away often so you can revisit
  they mean to you, what you learned                your essay with fresh eyes
☺ Make sure the reader learns about you,          ☺ Proofread. Spell checking will will (☺) not
  not just what you did                             catch everything! Then, proofread again and
☺ Use strong action verbs and vivid images;         get someone else to do the same
  paint a picture




                                                                                                         3
                    Don’ts                                              Don’ts (cont’d)

    Just list or summarize your activities. This is
    not a resume and can be found elsewhere              Make excuses for poor grades
    Try to impress the reader with the use of            Begin every sentence or paragraph with “I”
    formal or “fancy” language                           Overwork the essay to the point where you
    Directly tell the reader that you are                lose your own voice
    compassionate, motivated, intelligent,               Make it your premier creative writing piece
    curious, dedicated, unique, different than           Use generalizations and clichés
    most candidates, etc                                 Follow the advice of too many people
    Focus only on childhood experiences                  Try to share everything there is to know
    Use slang or forced analogies                        about you
    Lecture the reader, e.g. what’s wrong with
    medicine, what doctors should be like, etc




          Special circumstances                                      Special Situations

Questions on the AMCAS:                                 • Ad Board
  • Institutional Action: If you answer “yes” to        • Judgment call (eliminate big question
    this question, you must include an                    marks or gaps in readers’ minds):
    explanation. (Limited to 1325 characters
    or approximately 1/4 page)
               i t l             )                         ◦ Fluctuations in performance
  • Felony: If you answer “yes” to this                    ◦ Major changes in direction
    question, you must include an                          ◦ Hardship affecting academic record
    explanation. (Limited to 1325 characters               ◦ Personal medical situation
    or approximately 1/4 page)
                                                        • Be prepared to talk about your stories in
                                                          your interview; if you can’t/don’t want to
                                                          talk about it, don’t write about it.




              Getting feedback                                             Resources

• People who know you (family, friends) can           • Pre-med tutor
  give feedback, not only people in medicine
                                                      • Writing center
• Ask them:                                            http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/undergrad.html
      ◦ Do you want to meet this person?              • OCS Advisors (depends on demand)
      ◦ Does this sound like me?                      • www.aamc.org
      ◦ Could someone else write this essay?
                                                      • www.studentdoctor.net *
                                                                                           *read at your own risk or
                                                                                            perhaps not at all




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                Summary

• The personal statement is about
  telling a story, not arguing that they
  should accept you.
  Start     l      i it ft      d t
• St t early, revisit often, and get
  feedback.
• Use concrete examples from your
  personal experiences and avoid
  abstract language (prone to cliché).




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