Friday, April 8, 2016

Dr. Thinker: Personal Statement

-          Some say it is very important and some say they only read it after you are offered an interview.
-          Either way, I would say not to take it easy. Just think it as one of those minimum things which we can do to secure our future.

1.      When to start writing?

-          Start writing it as early possible. Don’t delay. The correct time to start writing or think about it is NOW.
-          You will end up making many drafts and corrections.  You would want to make changes even few seconds before applying. You would literally cry if you keep it for the end.

2.      How to start writing or what to start with?
I am just talking about how to go about starting to write the initial draft. Not how to start the first line/para of the PS.
Just start with some random point and you can build the content around it.
-          You can start with why you took up medicine – keep it interesting, like a story.
-          You can start with some interesting traits in you.
-          You can start with why you want to go the USA for residency.
-          You can start why you want that certain program.
-          You can start with some failure in your life which you want the reader to know.
Search for some sample personal statements online in order to get an idea. DON’T PLAGIARIZE.

3.      Can you mention any failures or whether you didn’t match last year?
-          Of course, you totally can mention it.
-          But, it’s not a compulsory that you mention it. It should be totally based on your own decision.
-          If you decide to mention it, then it is strongly advised to back it up with what you had done to overcome it or how that experience helped you become better or what it taught you. If you don’t have a solid follow up, then it’s better you don’t mention it.
-          I personally had mentioned that I didn’t match the previous year. My interviewers had liked the fact that I mentioned it in the personal statement.

4.      How many words should the PS be?
-          Ideally keep it between 550 words to 800 words.
-          It’s more about how far you can keep it interesting enough to read than about the actual word count.
-          So, if you feel you need 850 or 950 words for sure to express everything you must, don’t panic. It’s ok to go over 800 words, provided it doesn’t make it boring.

5.      What font should be used?
-          You will see everywhere mentioning you must use times new roman for it. You can use it while writing in the word document.
-          But, when you copy paste it onto ERAS, it will convert it into it’s own font. And you can’t change it there. So, don’t stress about the font.
-          Copy paste from a text document to ERAS, rather than from word document. The alignment is better from text doc to ERAS.

6.      What should a PS include?
-          A best PS is something that is totally unique from the regular format. So, don’t hesitate to try something out of ordinary.
-          The most important thing is the opening. Just like any story or play. Keep it as catchy as possible. You can start with a positive or a negative life incident and describe how it molded you into what you are now or how it inspired you to take up medicine. (It’s just an example. Think of other unique ways.)
-          The transitions from one para to another should be smooth. Ideally the flow should be connected. Keep it to max of 5 paragraphs in total.
-          Some common things which you can include: Why medicine, why this specialty, why USA, what you learnt about US system during your rotations which made you fall in love with it, your strengths (you can talk about your extracurricular activities like sports, community service etc.,  if they are an important part of your personality and show it in a way how it could be your strength as a doctor – like team player, leadership qualities and so on) and ideally end with why you want to join their program.
-          If you want to mention you didn’t match last year you can either open with it or mention in the middle. But, make sure to mention what you have done after the last season’s match results to secure your match for this year.
-          Just don’t repeat your CV in the PS. Don’t talk too much about how awesome you are.

TIPS:
-          Everyone has their own opinion. So, don’t ask too many people about how to write or their opinion about your PS.
-          Write a draft and show it to a couple of your very good friends (ideally those applying for or already in the USMLE field) or to a resident, fellow or an attending you built up a rapport with during your electives. Resident or a fellow is the best. Attending may not have much time. Just stick to a couple of people. You can’t please everyone.
-          The more people you show it to the more revisions or edits you will have to do and you will end up losing your mind. You can’t please everyone. I am stressing this point because I have seen people going crazy because of this.
-          If your grammar is not good, then give your finalized draft to anyone who is really good at grammar/English. This person need not be related to medical field. Also, what you wrote in 900 words can be explained in a better/interesting way within 600 words by someone whose vocabulary is excellent.Proper grammar is very important.
-          If you don’t have anyone to correct your grammar and if you are bad at it, you can use professional services online only to correct the grammar and trim the content. It’s better you don’t use them to write the PS for your from scratch. It should be expressed in your own way. The professional writers use a common format for everyone.
-          Don’t use too much of thesaurus or too complex words if you generally use simpler words while talking. They can easily find out the discrepancy during your interview and they would assume that you didn’t write it.
-          Include the name of the program at the end to show how interested you are in that program. It may not be practical to do this for all the programs you are applying to, but at least do for some programs where you really want to go or where you think your chances are good.
-          It’s not compulsory, but you can write a separate PS for each and every program. Definitely write a separate PS for different specialties, if you are applying to more than one specialty. At least, “why this specialty” part has to be different.
-          Write a separate PS for community hospitals and university hospitals. As you can talk about research and related stuff in the PS you write for university hospitals and not community ones (if they are poor in research or has no fellowships).
-          If possible write a customized PS for as many programs as you. To those where you think you have chances or where you want to go. This little effort might get you an interview or might help during ranking.

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