The Best Way to Approach the Personal Statement

Claire McDaniel, MD | Liana Tedesco, MD

February 20, 2023

The personal statement is a key part of applying for residency or fellowship but can be challenging to write. This is the first opportunity to show yourself as an applicant and a person, to begin to craft the narrative of who you are and why you should be considered for the position. As daunting as it may seem, here are a few key points to consider when first drafting your personal statements that can help you.

1What is your message?

Start by figuring out what you would like to say about yourself, beyond the demographics, test scores, and transcripts that can be reviewed on your CV. The best personal statements are the ones that have clearly been written from a place of introspection. Think critically about what assets you bring to the position to which you are applying. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses – what have you learned from your experiences that have made you the applicant you are today? Identify a few characteristics that you would like to highlight about yourself and begin to frame your personal statement around these.

2What is your story?

Ultimately, a personal statement is a short story about you as an applicant. Business schools teach their students how to craft a response to the classic interview question “Tell Me About Yourself,” focusing on a few bullet points that highlight the story of who you are as an applicant. Frame your personal statement as your “Tell Me About Yourself.” Some people refer to this as your elevator pitch – can you share your story in less than 2 minutes riding up the elevator with the company CEO? Take those aspects of yourself you identified previously and create a cohesive story. What do you want residency programs to know about you, that may or may not be on your application or CV, and how do they come together into a single, easy to craft, storyline? These questions will come up again in interviews, and nailing down a cohesive story with your personal statement can set you up for success.

3Get a second set of eyes

Phone a friend or family member to read your drafts to make sure there are no grammatical errors and to make sure the story makes sense.

Proofreading your statement is mandatory for spelling or grammatical errors, but you should have someone else read it  as well. Consider a mentor, friend, or family member as an option for reviewing your drafts both for grammar as well as to make sure the story makes sense. That second set of eyes doesn’t even need to be in orthopaedics, or even in medicine, if they know who you are (and grammar!) well enough to know if your personal statement sounds as authentic as possible. 

Ultimately, a personal statement is an opportunity to show a more nuanced picture of who you are as a candidate. By focusing on the characteristics you want to show to potential programs, as well as crafting a cohesive story about yourself, you can use your personal statement to strengthen your application and stand out as an applicant.

DISCLOSURES: Dr. McDaniel a close family member who works for Ferring Pharmaceuticals (makes Euflexxa). Dr. Tedesco This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2023 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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