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Guidelines for Writing Personal Statements

Back to Residency Planning 

Talk with the program director in the specialty in which you are applying and ask them what they look for in a personal statement. If you are applying for a prelim year and a residency, you will need only one personal statement, focused on the residency specialty.

The primary issue is why you want to go into that field. That should go pretty close to the beginning of the statement. The readers are busy and if that’s what they want to know you have to make that accessible to them. You can write about other things after that. A suggested structure might be:
 

  1. Why you chose this field.
     
     
  2. Why you think you will be good at it. This might include any biographical history you might like to include, plus any mitigating circumstances in your qualifications. Avoid being too defensive, though. Some things of that nature might be best explained in your MSPE if you wish.

     
  3. Some projection into your future, of both a professional and personal nature, if you wish. You may not want to be too specific about sub-specialty aspirations, though. People like to see an open mind.

Keep it to less than one page single spaced. One inch margins all around, spaces between paragraphs, indent paragraphs, standard font (e.g., Times New Roman) 10-12 point. You don’t want it to look too cluttered. Poignant stories are nice, but basically keep it short and to the point.

Have a number of people read your statement to get their reactions, especially faculty members in the type of program to which you are applying. Also, people who know you well, on whom you can count for honest feedback, and who can make any necessary corrections in syntax and grammar.

If you are deciding between two or more specialties, it is sometimes helpful to write a personal statement for each. If you can’t see the real differences among them, others who read your statements may be able to tell you where the passion is.