I am not sure why I made muddled thinking the last flaw. Good writing starts with good thinking and ends with lots of editing, but editing is a topic for another series. Let’s stick with thinking in this tip.
One of the biggest causes of muddled thinking: Writing what you think the admissions committee wants to read as opposed to what you want them to know. In fact, most residency committee members believe that is the most common mistake applicants make.
A point to consider: When adcoms receive thousands of essays, each one enumerating the A-Z of what applicants think their readers want to hear, it can get boring, not to mention annoying. The person who writes, “Before medical school I was a 22-year old male biology major who had volunteered in an ER since I was 12,” is impressive, but needs to pep it up a bit. Even someone who doesn’t possess a heavily-represented profile can’t simply rely on the facts. “Before medical school I was a goat shepherding woman from the Chilean coast,” sure is unusual, but unless you continue and express HOW that will allow you to contribute to this residency program, then it’ll sound just as drab as the first example to the exhausted person reading your essay.
You want to write what program directors want to hear? Fine. Tell them about YOU, about your individual experiences, about what makes you tick. This is not the place to reel off every rotation and publication you’ve ever had (they belong in your CV). Your essay is where you transform from being the straight-A, hard working, compassionate, service-oriented Residency Applicant Number 658 to a person, a human being. With a voice. With a passion. And with something important to say.
Much of making a compelling case depends on making connections. A connection between your past and your present. Or your present and your future. Your interests and your activities. Your passions and your commitments. Those connections reflect clear thinking and propel persuasive writing.
So before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, think about what you want to say clearly and critically. Your dreams are important. As I said in “Lack of Substance,” examine your head and your heart. Just make sure your head is in good working order when it listens to your heart.
Avoid Fatal Flaw #5: Think clearly and honestly before beginning to write.
“Muddled Thinking” is the final post of our series, 5 Fatal Flaws: Eliminate These Common Flaws in Your Residency Personal Statement. You can download the complete guide right here.
• From Example to Exemplary: Lessons from Sample Essays to Make Your Essays Outstanding [Free Guide]
• Getting Into Medical School: Advice from a Pro [Podcast]
• Nine Ways To Get Rejected From Medical School