The Best Way to Approach the Personal Statement

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | Jonathan Kaplan, MD | Matt Varacallo, MD

July 10, 2019


For some people, writing personal statements (PS) comes super naturally. For others, it can be a very daunting task. In today’s post, we highlight some key points for writing your PS. Remember, these statements are read and reviewed by the selection committees so take them seriously! Personal statements do not need to be filled with words from the thesaurus or drag on endlessly. They are written, instead, to provide insight into who you are as a person and an aspiring physician/surgeon, and how you have gotten to this point. Read on for how best to craft your PS!

1 PS “101”: Make sure you spell and grammar-check

Please make sure that you do not exceed one page and do not use less than 11 pt. font to get there! Have someone not in medicine and not related to you read your PS to ensure that it passes the “non-medical, non-family” sniff test.

2 Start with an anecdote

Whether it’s personal or professional, choose one that speaks to your interest in orthopaedic surgery. Beware, however, as numerous people start their PS with discussions of their own orthopaedic injuries. You are best off to engage the reader right off the bat and separate yourself from the rest of the pack! 

3 Why orthopedics?

What specific experiences stirred your interest in orthopaedics? Again, remember to think critically about this piece; lots of people will cite personal injuries (..” I knew I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon when I tore my ACL…”), or the first surgery they saw…but what is more novel about your particular story?

4 How have you fortified your interest in orthopaedics?

Was it through specific research projects, medical missions, or otherwise? Do you have a mentor who inspired you? This is a chance to highlight important facets of your application that you want to review in more detail than ERAS allows, and that are not simple regurgitations of what can otherwise be found on your CV.

5 Why you?

What separates you from the rest of the pack? This is where you need to sell yourself, however this doesn’t mean you should come off arrogant. You need to be confident in your abilities and discuss why your skill set makes you best suited for a given residency position! This is arguably the hardest part of a PS and we would not recommend for a moment that you go outside your comfort zone or come off as too boisterous. Pick a personality trait of yours or an experience you have had which highlights what hospitals would be getting if you were to match in their program!

If you follow these five steps, you will have a great framework for your PS. You don’t need to be the most prolific writer or super poetic. Start the PS early and keep fine-tuning it with the help of friends, faculty advisors and mentors. Make sure to put your best foot forward.


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support. Dr. Kaplan Medline: Paid consultant, Wright Medical Technology, Inc.: Paid consultant. Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.