A Guide To Writing Your Personal Statement for Medical Residency

A Guide To Writing Your Personal Statement for Medical Residency

Jun 13, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

Your Personal Statement is one of the many important requirements that you need in applying for a medical residency program. Many applicants are often stuck on where to begin writing the personal statement and often underestimate how much sway it has in getting an interview invitation for a residency program. Your Personal Statement is one of the major deciding factors in selecting applicants for an interview according to an NRMP 2016 Program Directors Survey

The Importance of Your Personal Statement

The personal statement is a great opportunity for medical resident applicants to express themselves and provides the residency admissions committee with a fresh and new perspective other than your academic performance, clinical experiences, and other details in your curriculum vitae. The personal statement is also a great tool to make a first impression on the admissions committee so what you write really matters.

How to Write a Personal Statement

There are many ways to write a personal statement but following well-established best practices will greatly improve your chances of getting the interview. How you write your personal letter can also be used to determine your written communication skills so pay a lot of attention to your text, grammar, and spelling.

1. Set a Goal

The first step in writing a personal statement is to establish a goal on what you hope to accomplish with your statement. By setting a goal you are then able to determine what information to include in your statement to help you achieve that goal.

Setting the Goal for Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement should include, from the name itself, personal details to help give a great first impression to the residency admission committee. These details typically include the reason why you want to be a physician, the reason why you chose your field, the attributes, skills, and qualities that will help you in your chosen field and residency program.

Your Personal Statement should achieve the following goals:
  1. It provides the residency admission committee with a positive first impression. Your personal statement provides a showcase of qualitative traits and skills.
  2. It will help you stand-out against hundreds of applicants that are vying for limited interview slots.
  3. It should convey the purpose of your application and why you chose the specialty and the residency program.
  4. It should also provide an overview of your short term and long term goals in the residency program.
  5. It should highlight your skills and experiences and why you are the best fit for the residency program.

2. Self-Check Questions to Help you Write the Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a professional document and should not be taken lightly. It is expected that you go through several drafts and edits to iron out misspelling and mistakes. Most applicants often find it hard to write the first line because of being intimidated by the sheer importance of the document but after pushing through the wall most applicants will find it as a pleasant experience.

Writing takes a couple of tries to get used to especially when writing formally so writing your first draft normally like you would address your friends or family will help you quickly jot down your ideas into writing. Brainstorming and writing down ideas that pop-out is a great way to get started on your first draft.

Pointers That Will Help You Get Started

If you are having trouble starting then one of the best ways to start writing is by asking questions to yourself and write down one line answers.

  • What made you decide to be a physician?
  • Why did you choose your specialty or field?
  • What do you seek to accomplish in your medical residency?
  • What made you decide to choose the medical residency program?
  • How do you see yourself succeeding in the medical residency program?
  • Who are your role models in the medical profession?
  • What is your most proud accomplishment?

3. Writing Your First Draft

Once you are able to write down a few lines that answer your self-check questions then the next step is to structure your first draft for your personal statement. Your first draft should outline your personal statement as a whole. Your goal in writing your first draft is to create your personal statement without focusing too much on grammar and syntax but instead focus on your content. Focusing too much on grammar can potentially distract you and stall your progress.

Your personal statement should be no more than 2000 words and must contain the following structure:


The introduction of your personal statement should help draw the attention of your readers and provides an overview of what you hope to convey in your personal statement.

The Body (At least 2-4 Paragraphs)

The body of your personal statement is where you can freely express yourself. You can use the answers to your self-check questions to help you write this section. This section allows you to express your individuality and gives you the opportunity to stand out from the rest of the applicants. This section should genuinely demonstrate your interest in the medical field and the medical residency program and conveys your purpose and goals. Use real-life experiences to help highlight your skills, attributes, and personalities and relate them when your medical specialty.


The conclusion should recap the points that you mentioned in the body of your personal statement. This section is a great opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the reader so be sure to address all the goals of your personal statement.

4. Final Edits and Proof-Reading

The next step is to streamline your personal statement to ensure that your readers do not jump back and forth between your introduction, body, and conclusion. When doing your final edits you should ensure that there is a smooth flow of your message from start to end to minimize distracting your audience with unnecessary breaks. Ask a peer, mentor, or advisor to help you proofread your personal statement.