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Personal Statement Writing Guide


Personal Statements are an important part of the application process. Program directors use them to find out information about you beyond your application as part of the interview selection process and during the interview.  

Purpose of the Personal Statement

Your goal for your Personal Statement should be to:

How the Personal Statement is Used

The audience of your personal will likely include:

Program directors look at personal statements with a goal of understanding a little bit more about you as a candidate than can be listed from the accomplishments on your application/ CV (Curriculum Vitae), such as:

Content of a Personal Statement

The content of a personal statement can be broken down into a few different parts, which should answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why this specialty?
  3. What will you bring to the program/ Why you?
  4. What are you looking for in a program?
  5. What are your career interests and goals?

Topics to Consider

Do you need more than one personal statement?


All personal statements should have an overarching theme.Think: What is the common thread of your experiences? (For example, is there a core value that sums up your experiences?). You may use a patient case or personal experience to deliver that theme.

Use the theme to:

The theme unites your essay and should make your personal statement cohesive and less list-like

Structure of a Personal Statement

Introduction paragraph

1-3 body paragraphs


Your personal statement should amount to 5-6 pararaphs in about 650-800 words (~1 page)

Other Writing Considerations

Remember that your personal statement is your first impression with residency programs. To establish yourself as an effective communicator, focus on all the elements of good writing. Ensure that your personal statement is:

Proof read your personal statement to ensure it has a logical flow, does not contain grammatical errors, and uses short to moderate length sentences.

Some of the most common errors in personal statements include the following:

Review Process

Your first draft... should be reviewed for clarity, flow, grammar and spelling errors by family or friend

Your final draft... should be reviewed by your pathway director or someone in the specialty

This worksheet was developed by Anita D. Taylor, M.A. Ed., Associate Professor & Director of Career Advising Oregon Health & Science SOM, to aid her students in preparing for and organizing their personal statements.  She has shared to document with us. Download your own copy of the worksheet and fill it in yourself before starting your P.S.
Download Worksheet


Sample Personal Statements

P.S. Reviews

All initial P.S. review requests can go to your Pathway Advisor. If you have specific or special circumstances (gaps in medical education, failed board exams, etc), then you can ask your Student Affairs Career Advisor to also review your Personal Statement.


*This worksheet was developed by Anita D. Taylor, M.A. Ed., Associate Professor & Director of Career Advising Oregon Health & Science SOM

AAMC Careers in Medicine Website