Here are some additional tips on editing the personal statement
- When you have to cut out words, consider every sentence and ask yourself this question: does this sentence (or word) help the admissions committee member reading your personal statement want to give you an interview?
- It is good to be honest, but there is no need to be overly frank about every motivation behind your activities.
- Again, show, don’t tell. Instead of saying I am compassionate, show this side of you with an anecdote.
Here is an example of a rough draft of a paragraph prior to undergoing editing:
Nonetheless, I began to volunteer at Hospital X because I thought that this is what I “should” be doing. I did not feel that I was truly making a difference and had no idea why I was volunteering. I wanted to quit so badly until I watched an endoscopy procedure performed on an 87-year old lady. As the instrument traversed the patient’s throat and deep into the GI tract, the frowning on the poor old lady’s face made me feel incredibly uneasy. The geriatric patient was so frail that her wheezing plea to have it removed remotely resembled that of a human. Fortunately, she did not have any duodenal ulcers and I was glad she did not have any. The peptic ulcers that she did have were treated by local injection of epinephrine. As fascinating as it was to see the lumen of a human organ, it was really sad to see how much discomfort the patient had to cope with. There were 10 ulcers dispersed throughout the stomach. I simply could not even imagine how painful it would be to have them inside the stomach, ulcers that cause bleeding. Nonetheless, I realized how important interpersonal skills are. Being able to comfort a patient as much as possible, reassuring that everything will be okay. I noticed the little things that the doctor did the calm the patient – firmly holding hands, gently stroking the patient’s calf to soothe her, saying encouraging words to help her battle through the procedure.
- First two sentences: This is probably the truth, but there is no need to be this frank.
- The positives: very descriptive
- Some grammatical mistakes
- The sentence about peptic ulcers and how exactly it was treated is not essential. It does not help the reader understand why they should select you for interviews.
- “Sad” is very primitive. Better word choice can engage the reader more.
- “gently stroking the patient’s calf to soothe her” – now, this may very well have happened, but it is important to be careful with word choice. You do not want the reader to suddenly think he/she is reading something out of some inappropriate genre of novels.
- Some showing going on here.
Here is what it looks after (several rounds of) editing:
With my refined interests in medicine, I wanted to apply my developing interpersonal skills in a clinical setting so I decided to volunteer at Hospital X. One day at the ICU, I jumped at the chance to observe an endoscopy. As the endoscope snaked down Mrs. J’s throat, her face contorted into a grimace. I silently grew frustrated waiting for someone to address her wheezing plea to have it removed. Finally a doctor gently placed a hand on my shoulder, gesturing me to step back, and only then did I realize I had instinctively inched towards Mrs. J. The doctor began to encourage her verbally and massage her arms to assuage her pain. It was clear that this doctor had done an incredible job by the look of relief and gratitude she now wore on her face. This doctor not only treated the peptic ulcer, she also treated Mrs. J by expressing empathy through the art of healing. This art, in combination with my research, has ignited a desire to learn more about medicine as a union of science and human interaction.
- We incorporated more descriptive words (e.g. ‘snake’, ‘contorted into a grimace’)
- We removed sentences that did not add value
- We incorporated a theme to the personal statement that had not existed before.
- We “showed” a compassionate side of the applicant rather than simply stating “I am compassionate.”
- Some of the sentences from the original paragraph could have stayed, but they were removed due to character limit constraints.
If you would like professional help with editing your personal statement, help from physicians who have admissions committee experience from schools like UCSF, please visit our main webpage for more information: http://www.road2md.com/#services