When coming up for material for your personal statement, it’s important that you ask yourself the following: Are there any weaknesses, any holes in my information, any questionable data that somebody may question about my application?
You don’t want your admissions reader getting to the end of your application and then asking, “But why was his GPA so low?” or “How does she think she’s competitive with no extracurricular activities?” If you answer their questions before they’re asked, then you’ll position yourself as a much stronger and more confident candidate, despite your weaknesses.
How can you anticipate their questions?
Get a friend, family member, or admissions consultant (like those of us here at Accepted) to review your application and highlight any potential weaknesses. Sometimes, as the subject of the application, you may not see these blemishes – recruiting an outside critic may be just what you need to pinpoint flaws so you can see them, and address them.
Tackle the issue!
Now you need to take a step back and be critical yourself. Was there a quarter or semester that you got some poor grades? That would need to be explained. Was there a reason why you were too busy for an arm’s length list of extracurricular activities? Explain what went wrong, what obstacle you faced, and how you worked to overcome that challenge. Addressing the improvements you made (boosting your GPA, retaking a class) is an excellent strategy for your personal statement. You really do want to emphasize the steps you took and the self-development and self-awareness that you gained as a result. Medical schools love to see that level of self-reflection in essays and that level of maturity.
Don’t Be Too Negative!
Tread carefully! It’s a mistake to focus exclusively on perceived weaknesses. You want to give the admissions committee positive reasons to accept you. Again, why are you going to make a great doctor as opposed to merely what are the weaknesses in your profile that may keep you out? What are the stories that you can tell? What experiences have you had that will tell somebody not just that you can claim, but that will tell somebody, “Hey, you have the qualities, the personal traits that will make a great doctor.” Frame your weaknesses as stepping stones for increased strength. Don’t be defensive; be confident that you were able to face your challenges and overcome them.
The advice in this post is based on a conversation we had in our recent webinar, Ask The Experts: Medical School Admissions Q&A with Cydney Foote and Alicia McNease Nimonkar. Check out the full transcript for more tips on applying to med school successfully!