The ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) opened back in June, and now it’s already September, so it’s time to get cracking on those residency essays!
Why your residency essays are so important
Your personal statement is a vital part of your residency application: it provides you with an opportunity to explain why you’ve chosen your target specialty and to show the committee who you are and why you’d be the best candidate for the job. Unlike other pieces of your application (such as letters of rec), your personal statement is something that you have complete control over. Make the most of it!
Avoid these personal statement mistakes at all costs
Here are 4 things you should AVOID when preparing your residency personal statement:
- DON’T explain why you went into medicine.
This isn’t a med school application; you’ve already convinced your med school’s adcom why you want to be a doctor. Now that you are a doctor, that information is really beside the point.
Instead, write about your next stage in this medical adventure: why you want to be a specific type of doctor.
- DON’T offer a superficial or generic explanation for choosing your specialty.
Show that you are serious about your chosen field by giving a serious explanation. Saying that you have wanted to become a surgeon ever since playing Operation as a child doesn’t really shed the right level of knowledge or experience on your decision. Most likely, you’ve chosen your field based on something you learned or an experience you had during med school. Go with that instead.
For example, instead of saying that you like the fast-paced energy of the emergency room, talk about a particular experience you had while doing rounds in the ER – include details about the energy that you felt, how your people skills and your ability to stay calm under pressure came into play, and how you felt a sense of accomplishment in helping patients find immediate relief. Mention how you had a professor who had worked for 30 years in the ER and how you had connected with this professor and her stories and teachings. The more examples you can give about why this specialty is the specialty for you, the better.
- DON’T send the same personal statement to each of the programs you’re applying to.
It should go without saying that since your reasons for applying to each of your given programs are different, then your essays should be different as well. After all, you’re supposed to write about why each program appeals to you – they can’t all have the same attraction.
Yes, you may be able to “recycle” certain parts of your essay, but you should approach each one as a completely new assignment. Using your “fresh” voice will keep your writing sounding authentic.
- DON’T use all 28,000 characters for your personal statement.
The 28,000 character limit (approximately five pages) set by ERAS is the absolute maximum your essay is allowed to be. But that doesn’t mean that it should be that long. In fact, no residency director wants to read that much, or even close to that much. Try and stick to a one-page essay that addresses all of your key points. Your essay will be more effective if you’re more to the point and concise. You can offer longer answers during your interview.
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• From Example to Exemplary, a free guide to writing outstanding application essays
• 4 Must-Haves in Residency Personal Statements
• All You Need to Know About Residency Applications and Matching