Writing a Personal Statement for Residency Application

Personal statements are an essential, required part of applying to residency. Residency programs screen thousands of applications every cycle and read many hundreds of these statements in the process. You should aim to write an interesting statement that showcases your personality as well as your achievements. Perhaps most importantly, you will need to skillfully articulate the reasons for your interest in family medicine and the particular program you're applying to.

How to Write a Great Personal Statement

A great personal statement sets itself apart from a good personal statement in several ways.

  • First, it includes a level of specificity that shows your motivations and interests are authentic. For example, when conveying why you want to match into family medicine, show awareness of the exciting developments in the specialty, or describe your experience with or knowledge of topics like population health management, care coordination, and the social determinants of health.
  • Feel free to highlight items in your CV if they help remind your reader of the experiences you’ve had that prepared you for the position. This is your opportunity to expand upon activities that are just listed in the CV but deserve to be described so your reader can appreciate the breadth and depth of your involvement in them. It should not be another comprehensive list of your activities, but rather should refer to activities that are listed in detail on the CV.
  • The personal statement is also an appropriate place to address anything that may be ambiguous on your CV. In particular, you should address any nontraditional path you’ve taken through medical school, such as time off or an altered curricular journey. It is better to address these than to leave a program wondering. If you write about academic or personal challenges that you faced during medical school, make a positive impression by focusing on what you've learned from those experiences and how they brought you to where you are now. 

You may choose to relate significant personal experiences, but do so only if they are relevant to your candidacy for the position.

Sharpen Your Writing Skills 

The importance of good writing in a personal statement cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately, not only are good writing skills allowed to deteriorate during medical school, but in some sense, they also are deliberately undermined in the interest of learning to write concise histories and physicals. For the moment, forget everything you know about writing histories and physicals. While preparing your personal statement:

  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Avoid repetitive sentence structure.
  • Avoid using jargon. If there is a shorter, simpler, less pretentious way of putting it, use it.
  • Don't assume your reader knows the acronyms you use. As a courtesy, spell everything out.
  • Use a dictionary and spell check. 
  • Use a thesaurus. Variety in the written language can add interest, but don't get carried away.
  • Write in complete sentences.

If you need a crash course in good writing, read  The Elements of Style ,  Fourth Edition  by Strunk and White. If you have friends or relatives with writing or editing skills, enlist their help. Student organizations at your school may host personal statement clinics, or your school may offer review services. Many student, medical, and specialty societies, local and national, may offer personal statement reviews or workshops.

Even if you're a great writer and feel confident about your application, you should ask trusted advisors, mentors, and friends to critique your personal statement (and your CV! ). They can help you make your statement as flawless as possible by giving you feedback about areas that might have been unclear or things that should be added.

Don't cross the line

Your personal statement should remain an original composition, even as you seek input and advice. Retain your voice as you refine your writing and don't ever plagiarize. Be aware of other ethical lines you shouldn't cross as well, for example, don't use vague references that would allow for the reader to misinterpret the nature of your experience, and don't take full credit for a project if others worked on it with you.

Copyright © 2024 American Academy of Family Physicians. All Rights Reserved.

Sample Personal Statement: Internal Medicine

Throughout medical school I have committed myself to finding the one specialty that aligns perfectly with my personality and future goals. While this task seemed straightforward and uncomplicated, I soon realized during my third-year clerkships that every area of medicine offered aspects I enjoyed. After exploring other specialties, I reflected on the qualities that I wished to possess as a physician. I envisioned myself as compassionate, respected, and knowledgeable, traits which I realized embodied the field of internal medicine. My intense self-reflection, combined with my medical school experiences, solidified my decision to pursue a residency in internal medicine.

The first patient I admitted while on my third-year internal medicine clerkship was an African American lady who was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. After I completed my history and physical, I realized the questions I had asked relied upon my ability to combine my knowledge of pathophysiology along with the clinical presentation of a disease process. At last I comprehended the importance of the basic science years as it related to patient care. I continued to follow this patient every day, and the responsibility of caring for someone's health had both a significant and fulfilling impact on me. I gained immense satisfaction from treating the whole person: her emotional needs as well as her medical needs. After completing my twelve weeks on internal medicine, I discovered that four months later this patient was re-admitted for a pulmonary embolus, which combined with her diminished lung function, ultimately resulted in her passing away. Although I was only a small part of this woman's care, I still felt connected to her. While her death saddened me, it also made me conscious of the potential rewards, such as lasting patient-doctor relationships, which could only come out of providing a lifetime of care to each of my patients.

Upon the completion of my third-year rotations, I felt that the role of the internist most closely matched my interests and abilities. The variety and complexity of the problems I encountered offered the intellectual stimulation that I desired in a medical field. I admired my attendings' breadth of knowledge across various medical disciplines, and I took pleasure in collaborating with physicians of all specialties, especially when the diagnosis proved to be difficult. The opportunity for close patient contact was also an appealing aspect. With fewer responsibilities than an intern, I found that as a third-year medical student I was able to spend more time with my patients, explaining how a diagnosis is made and what treatments might be required. Encouraged by these experiences with my patients, I was inspired to learn more about their conditions, not only for my own personal knowledge but also for their education as well.

I have many attributes to contribute to internal medicine. My experiences as a secondary education school teacher, Special Olympics swim coach, and elected class officer attest to my ability to lead and educate others. I am also analytical and detail-oriented, characteristics which originally led me to complete an undergraduate degree in economics. After my first year of medical school, I was awarded a scholarship to conduct research in the field of trauma surgery, an experience which enhanced my problem solving skills. In addition, my years as a varsity swimmer at Duke University have endowed me with certain traits that will not only make me a successful internist but also a well-balanced physician. These qualities include a never-ending quest for personal improvement, pride in my work or training, and the ability to focus on several tasks while balancing personal and professional obligations.

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Internal Medicine Personal Statement Writing Strategies

EssayEdge > Blog > Internal Medicine Personal Statement Writing Strategies

Because an internal medicine (IM) residency is an essential step towards a career in numerous sub-specialties, IM residency matching is particularly competitive. Therefore, including an internal medicine personal statement in your application package that helps you stand apart from the crowd is especially important.

Despite so many applicants with a variety of long-term goals either in IM or a subspecialty, IM residency selectors really want to read about your interest in IM and working with IM patients. They need to know that you’re passionate about being part of their IM residency program and have the personality and background to do the day-to-day work of being an internist. Follow these guidelines on how to write a personal statement for medical residency and grab the selector’s attention.

6 Guidelines for Your Internal Medicine Personal Statement - EssayEdge

Table of Contents:

How to Stand Out

1. start with an experience related to im.

Yes, almost all internal medicine residency personal statements will begin this way. And yes, it is exactly what you should do, too. However, it is important that the anecdote that you choose make direct connections to the skills that you will use during your IM residency. Any anecdote that relates to managing a patient with multiple diagnoses, finding a correct diagnosis that required going beyond presentation of symptoms/initial testing or collaborating with physicians in other specialties to devise a tailored plan to suit the patient’s needs will show the IM residency selectors that you have the right mindset for internal medicine.

2. Focus on analytical skills

Working with IM patients can require significant detective skills. For this reason, make problem solving skills a focal point. Using a detective or Sherlock Holmes analogy is not uncommon in an internal medicine residency personal statement, and this works well when it is done well. If you choose this route, remember not to get so involved in the literary device that it takes over the statement. The main goal is to convey your ability to follow the facts wherever they lead to provide the highest level of care to each patient.

3. Highlight research skills

Finding the right course of treatment for IM patients, especially those with multiple diagnoses, often means digging into the literature. To demonstrate this to the IM residency selectors, you might want to include this as part of a larger paragraph on research experience (if you played a major role in conducting the literature review) or as part of a second anecdote specifically about a patient where consulting the literature was necessary.

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4. Discuss working with other providers

From Family Practitioners to Pathologists, internists frequently consult with other providers. Therefore, writing about your ability to work effectively as part of a healthcare team, especially having productive and effective interactions with providers from a variety of specialties, is an important aspect of your internal medicine residency personal statement. Also, emphasize your ability to be a leader as the primary advocate for your patient’s overall health and well-being.

5. Demonstrate your desire to build long-term relationships

Because IM patients may work with the same internist for years or even decades to manage chronic illnesses, the ability to build strong physician/patient rapport and earn a patient’s trust is an imperative aspect of the specialty. Additionally, these long-term relationships mean that IM doctors often get to know not only the patient personally but their loved ones. Let the selectors see that you are interested in patient care, patient education, and forming lasting bonds with your patients.

Personal Statement Internal Medicine Bonus Tip: While it’s fine to mention long-term goals beyond IM, don’t overdo it.

As stated above, many residents pursue IM training as either a supplement to a specialty or as part of a path to a subspecialty. Although it’s perfectly fine to be forthright about your career plans, remember to be clear that securing a spot in an IM residency program means more to you than just a means to an end. Always show that IM is where you really want to be at this stage in your career progress and that you are passionate about the opportunity to join an internal medicine residency program.

The internal medicine program will open numerous prospects to you. Make an effort on yourself and create a competitive personal statement to impress the faculty members. If you doubt your skills, find a medical school personal statement editor on EssayEdge. Some of our members have experience in this field, so you’ll get a perfect paper.

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A Personal Statement Checklist

Hi everyone,

With fellowship application season approaching, many of you are starting to write personal statements. Even if you plan to apply next year, or the year after that, or even if fellowship’s not for you, you’re still going to write a personal statement someday, so read on.

Before you begin, check out my PD Note on Personal statement “Do’s and Don’ts . The talent pool is deep and you want to rise to the top. A powerful essay will boost you.

Each year, I review more than 30 personal statements and without fail, common errors emerge. You don’t want to spend hours drafting an essay just to be told it needs an overhaul, so hopefully this checklist will help:

  • Check your spelling: Make it perfect. Run a spell check.
  • Check your grammar: Make this perfect too. Nix the bad syntax, misplaced commas, and run-on sentences. Read your essay out loud and hear how it sounds.
  • Be compelling: Make it enticing. If you were a fellowship director, would you choose you?
  • One page max: You may think your tome is riveting, but think again. Fellowship directors read hundreds of essays and you don’t want to make them yawn. Take pity. Be brief.
  • Explain why you chose your field: Cut the hyperbole and be specific. Fellowship directors can see through dubious odes to their specialty, like how you swoon over pee or dream about diarrhea. You can’t out-love the competition’s affection for hormones or sputum. Instead, explain how a field aligns with your interests and skills. And don’t trash other specialties. Cardiology isn’t the only field that deals with life and death, and oncology isn’t the only specialty with novel treatments. Finally, don’t waste space on this topic: you’re obviously interested, because you’re applying. Move on.
  • Show how you will contribute: Fellowship directors don’t really care about your happiness and fulfillment, at least when it comes to choosing fellows, but they’re laser focused on your academic potential. Tell them how you will advance the field.
  • Show your sophistication: Demonstrate that you know where the field is going. For example, describe the significance of your research or consider how the specialty is likely to change during your career.
  • Describe the skills you seek: These can include procedural, research, and teaching skills, like advanced endoscopy, trial design, and medical education training.
  • Outline what you’re looking for in a fellowship: Examples could include basic science opportunities, exposure to specific patient populations, or access to graduate degrees. Make sure the fellowship’s mission aligns with your career plans.
  • Map your trajectory: Academic fellowship directors aim to train funded investigators, master educators, and cutting-edge clinicians. They love to brag about their alumni. As much as you can, without being overly specific, look into your future. Be true to yourself- don’t pursue a research-intensive fellowship if you plan to become a master clinician. You’re looking for a match.
  • Strive for coherence: Your narrative should make sense. It’s easier to convey an interest in investigation when you have extensive research experience, or an interest in teaching when you’re pursuing a Clinician Education Distinction. You’re permitted to change paths- for example, many MD PhDs become clinician educators, but explain the transition.
  • Highlight your accomplishments: What makes you proud? Don’t rehash your CV. Provide context and color, and show your growth.
  • If necessary, address questions and concerns: If you failed a test, took an extended leave, or got derailed temporarily, seize the narrative and address the issues here. If you get stuck, talk to a trusted advisor.
  • Seek input: It’s easy to lose perspective, particularly after hours of writing and editing. When your eyes start glazing over, ask for help.

In the end, your personal statement should highlight your potential. Use the checklist. Make yourself shine.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone, and when your drafts are ready, send them to me for review.

Featured in this article

  • Mark David Siegel, MD Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary); Program Director, Internal Medicine Traditional Residency Program

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Introduction

Conclusions, making the personal statement “truly personal”: recommendations from a qualitative case study of internal medicine program and associate program directors.

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Marie Moulton , Katie Lappé , Sonja E Raaum , Caroline K. Milne , Candace J. Chow; Making the Personal Statement “Truly Personal”: Recommendations From a Qualitative Case Study of Internal Medicine Program and Associate Program Directors. J Grad Med Educ 1 April 2022; 14 (2): 210–217. doi: https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-21-00849.1

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The personal statement is an integral part of a residency application but little guidance exists for medical students about what content to include.

We use the framework of isomorphism, the process by which institutions model themselves after one another, to understand what internal medicine program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) recommend be included in the personal statement and how programs use personal statements in their selection of applicants to interview and rank.

Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted between August and October 2020 with 13 academic PDs and APDs, who were selected for participation based on program size and geographic location. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded using content analysis.

Effective personal statements should be well-written, present unique information, and demonstrate fit with a residency program. PDs and APDs recommended against expressing lack of interest in a program or highlighting negative personal characteristics. PDs and APDs used personal statements to distinguish between applicants and noted that personal statements help programs form an impression of the applicant. Consensus among PDs and APDs about what personal statements should include and how they are used indicates that isomorphism influences the match process.

Our study found that the personal statement is a valued part of the residency application when it includes unique attributes and reveals personal values that align with that of the program. Additionally, PDs and APDs noted that when applicants highlight their unique characteristics, it can help distinguish themselves from others.

This exploratory study aims to clarify what internal medicine program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) recommend be included in a personal statement and how they use the personal statement in their decision to interview and rank residency applicants.

Internal medicine PDs and APDs recommend that personal statements be well-written, present unique information about the applicant, and demonstrate fit with a residency program.

This study is a sampling of academic PDs and APDs from a single specialty, and while participants were queried about their use and recommendations for a personal statement, they may use personal statements in a way not represented by this data.

PDs and APDs value personal statements that highlight unique characteristics, including personal attributes and demonstration of how their values align with that of the program, which allow applicants to distinguish themselves.

The personal statement is an integral component of a residency application and acts as a narrative that highlights the distinctiveness and character of an applicant. The intention of the narrative is to reveal the professional identity and humanity of an applicant, and can be the most unique element of the residency application. 1 , 2   Given the paucity of guidance on what to include in the personal statement, it is not surprising that the majority of medical students report anxiety surrounding crafting a personal statement. 3  

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides general guidance regarding the content of the personal statement, including that it should communicate fervor for the medical specialty, address setbacks in training, and serve as a basis for interview questions. 4   A study of pulmonary and critical care fellowship applications suggested that valuable components for the personal statement are career goals, information not found elsewhere in the application, and inspirational experiences. 5   Additionally, a review article noted that personal statements should include unique characteristics, information regarding future career and program choice as well as an explanation of any gaps or negative events. 6   Finally, a study of personal statements in anesthesiology residency applications identified that personal statements should include the proper use of English, while other factors, including career goals, originality, and decision for pursuing anesthesiology, are less important. 5 , 7   Together, this literature provides some guidance for applicants, but is less than ideal in providing prescriptive goals, particularly as they relate to how statements should be tailored based on one's specialty.

Residency programs are increasingly aiming to perform a holistic review of applicants during the selection process. 8 - 10   The AAMC defines holistic review as “mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that take into consideration applicants' experiences, attributes, and academic metrics as well as the value an applicant would contribute to learning, practice, and teaching.” 8   Since the personal statement is a component of the residency application that can be truly individual, and also the only part of the application that communicates to the program director (PD) directly, it seems it could be an integral part of holistic review. 11 , 12   Despite this, the 2021 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) PD survey shows that internal medicine, as well as other large specialties such as general surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine, rely heavily on United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores as well as the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) when selecting applicants to interview and rank. 13   As USMLE Step 1 moves to pass/fail and several academic institutions transition to a pass/fail grading system, residency programs will need to rely more on other components of the application, including the personal statement.

Conceptual Framework

Isomorphism refers to the process by which organizations, such as residency programs, model themselves after one another. 14   It's a useful framework for understanding how residency programs, which outwardly aim to distinguish themselves from peer institutions, are quite like each other in their aims and selection processes. As DiMaggio and Powell explain, isomorphism occurs through 3 mechanisms: coercive, mimetic, and normative. 14   Coercive isomorphism occurs when external pressures and “cultural expectations” are exerted on organizations to be a certain way or to engage in or adopt certain values. 14   When ambiguity and uncertainty arise, organizations engage in mimetic isomorphism and look to other organizations for direction on how to behave to legitimize their own processes. Finally, normative isomorphism “stem[s] from the conformity resulting from professionalization.” 15   Lipson, 15   Warikoo, 16   and Price-Johnson 17   use isomorphism to explain why universities, particularly elite ones, have converging policies around admissions as it relates to diversity. Isomorphism illuminates why residency PDs have been keen to incorporate holistic review and personal statements into their admissions process: there are external pressures to build racially diverse classes (coercive isomorphism), the ambiguity around how to consider diversity has spurred programs to imitate their peers (mimetic isomorphism), and the field of medicine is highly concerned with training physicians who adhere to certain standards of professionalism (normative isomorphism). Thus, isomorphism helps us understand why personal statements remain an important part of the application process. Isomorphism may also shed light on how statements are used.

This exploratory study aims to clarify the weight that PDs and associate program directors (APDs) give to personal statements when selecting applicants to interview and rank as well as establish the components that PDs and APDs are looking for when reviewing this part of the application. Gaining a better understanding of how internal medicine PDs and APDs use personal statements, and how this is affected by isomorphism, may provide insightful guidance for residency applicants writing personal statements.

Recruitment and Sampling

We conducted a qualitative case study utilizing semi-structured phone interviews with PDs and APDs from across the United States. Our PD, who works with PDs and APDs across the nation through the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine network, identified individuals to interview based on their program's location and characteristics. We purposively sampled institutions to include academic residency programs with diverse geographic locations and sizes. An invitation to participate was sent to PDs and APDs in August 2020. Interviews were conducted between August and October 2020 with PDs and APDs from residency programs representing all 4 AAMC regions: Western (n=3), Central (n=2), Northeast (n=3), and Southern (n=5). Participation was voluntary and informed consent was obtained. Participants did not receive any compensation.

Phone Interview Format and Questions

All semi-structured phone interviews were conducted by an internal medicine resident investigator (M.M.). Phone interview questions were developed by expert opinion of the PD, 2 APDs, and an education PhD with expertise in qualitative design. Questions focused on what content should be included in a personal statement and how PDs and APDs use personal statements in their selection of applicants to interview and rank. In addition to seeing what PDs and APDs said, we were interested in the extent to which their answers converged, because convergence would indicate isomorphism at work. The complete protocol is available as online supplementary data. The investigator with an education PhD (C.J.C.) trained the resident investigator (M.M.) in how to conduct a semi-structured phone interview. 18  

After the initial 4 interviews were completed, 3 authors (M.M., C.J.C., K.L.) met to review the interview questions and interview transcripts. It was noted at this time that the PDs and APDs who were initially interviewed made frequent comments about the “fit” of an applicant, however, did not specify what fit meant. Thinking this was an opportunity to further explore the role of isomorphism in the residency selection process, the resident investigator (M.M.) made a point to ask a more probing question regarding fit in the following 9 interviews if the PDs or APDs being interviewed used that term.

Data Collection and Analysis

We audio-recorded interview data using the Rev Call Recorder phone application (Rev.com Inc, San Francisco, CA), which was then transcribed by the same service. We used Dedoose Version 7.0.23 to engage in content analysis of the data. 19 , 20   Three authors (M.M., K.L., C.J.C.) independently and inductively coded 4 transcripts, compared results, and came to consensus on initial codes and categories in order to develop a codebook. Two authors (M.M., C.J.C.) then used the codebook to independently code all 13 transcripts so that each transcript was coded twice, with the understanding that new codes could be added to the codebook and that coding would take place until thematic saturation was achieved. 18   Following individual coding, they met to discuss any new codes that they had created, how to further refine codes and categories by collapsing and reorganizing codes, and to resolve any discrepancies in coding. After making additional revisions to the codebook based on these discussions, one author (C.J.C.) reviewed transcripts a final time to ensure that data were thoroughly described by the codes in the final codebook. 18  

Reflexivity and Trustworthiness

Our researcher positionalities are relevant to the study because they influence the perspectives we bring to our work. Having multiple coders (M.M., an internal medicine resident, and C.J.C., an educational researcher), each of whom has a different relationship with the data and the internal medicine context and culture, was important in exploring multiple interpretations of the data. M.M. and C.J.C. also engaged in peer debriefing with K.L., an APD and clerkship director, to gain an additional perspective. Writing memos also helped us keep an audit trail of our codes and coding process. 21  

The Institutional Review Board at the University of Utah School of Medicine deemed this study exempt.

Findings were organized into 4 broad themes: (1) how personal statements are used by PDs and APDs; (2) what personal statements should include; (3) what personal statements should not include; and (4) elements that PDs and APDs disagreed on. In the following paragraphs, we describe each theme and provide exemplary quotes. We use the term participants and PD/APD interchangeably.

How Personal Statements Are Used

Participants reported that personal statements were used during the pre-interview and post-interview processes and to form a gestalt impression of applicants, as shown in Box 1 . Participants identified using the personal statement most often in the pre-interview process to prepare for the interview day. In addition, many participants reported using the personal statement in some way to screen and select applicants for interviews. Following the interview, some participants identified using the statement in the ranking process to distinguish between 2 applicants or to move an applicant from one grouping on the rank list to another. Finally, participants identified using the personal statement to form an overall impression of applicants, as it is an opportunity to gather information not available in other areas of the application and to assess an applicant's fit for a program.

Statements can:

Help prepare for the interview day, “I do use it as help in terms of the questions that I want to ask during the interview.”

Provide reasons to be invited for an interview, “Sometimes if they [applicants] are borderline…[and] I'm looking for reasons to invite them.”

Screen out applicants with red flags, “in the first round…it can only hurt you…it's more of a ‘please do no harm to yourself area.'”

Be used in ranking applicants, “…the big middle chunk of our rank list, where it does matter more…sometimes we'll use the personal statement to decide whether they're in this cluster or this cluster kind of thing.”

Distinguish between 2 applicants, “it's one of the components for which people can move up or down. If 2 applicants were completely equal…and one had a really great statement…then we would rank that person higher.”

Be used to gather information not available otherwise, “I want to know if there are any items that I couldn't discern from the rest of the ERAS application, such as disadvantaged background or a big life event that impacted them in a way.”

Be used to assess “fit for the program,” “add to [their] holistic review of the individual.”

What Personal Statements Should Include

Participants reported that statements should be well-written, include information that makes an applicant stand out, and include data that shows how the applicant's interests match those of the program, as shown in Box 2 . They noted that statements should be easily readable and interesting. In addition, several participants stressed the importance of the personal statement in highlighting an applicant's unique characteristics and experiences. Finally, many participants commented that applicants should use the personal statement as an opportunity to convey their fit for a program.

“Reasonably well-written.”

“Should start out with some kind of hook…you want to grab the reader.”

“Really captivating instead of this monologue.”

“Looking for authenticity.”

Convey “true character” such that the program director “can't wait to meet them.”

Provide “insight into [an] individual as a unique person” and “items that describe distance traveled…first person in their family to go to college…someone that worked a job throughout medical school…some that [meets] the underprivileged background as established by HRSA.”

“If…there's something in an application that could sink an applicant…add a sentence or 2 in their statement, because it's their one chance to provide a narrative.”

Explain “a clear elucidation of their goals…that fit with the vision of our…program.”

“I'm looking for evidence that they have a commitment to primary care.”

“For our research track, we look to see if they've identified specific areas…it helps us figure out whether or not we can offer those things to them.”

Applicants should name “particular patient population that [they're] going to work with.”

Should say if they “have a specific reason to come to either the program or to the geographic location” such as if an applicant's “significant other is on faculty at [nearby institution].”

What Personal Statements Should Not Include

According to PDs and APDs, personal statements that are poorly written, indicate a lack of or superficial interest in the program, and demonstrate an applicant's poor character reflect negatively on the applicant, as shown in Box 3 . Participants reported many things about the statement that would make for a poor impression, including the length, poor grammar, generic format, and cliché analogies. In addition, participants noted that personal statements that fail to convey interest in the program, such as when statements convey interest in another specialty if an applicant is dual applying or mention a program's name as a way to “name drop,” are viewed poorly. Finally, participants reported that personal statements that revealed an applicant's character flaws gave them “pause in wanting to interview an applicant.” These include statements that demonstrate a lack of professionalism or include elitist statements or overconfidence in one's achievements.

Should “not exceed a page,” nor should they be “super short.”

“Evidence of carelessness.”

Make programs “wonder what else will be sloppy about [the applicant's] work.”

“Content-wise worst, probably are the ones that don't give me a sense of who the person is, that almost feel as if they're a little too vanilla.”

Avoid cliché analogies, “‘oh, it's like solving a puzzle,' just some lines that you…read over and over again.”

“I feel bad for these students but where they're clearly applying to more than one specialty, and they send us the wrong personal statement.”

“Sometimes you can see this copy paste where they say, ‘and they want to go [here] because they love the [geography] and blah, blah, blah'…that feels disingenuous to me.”

“Remark[ed] on negative role modeling and how they don't want to be like this negative experience” or “talking badly about others.”

“Sexist, or racist, or appear to have a bias.”

“Self-aggrandizing” or convey “a sense of arrogance or overconfidence in one's achievements.”

Elements That PDs and APDs Disagreed On

There were 3 topics that participants did not agree on, including future plans, a patient story, and explanation of interest in internal medicine, as shown in Box 4 . Some PDs and APDs felt including information about future plans was important while others thought providing career goals was unnecessary. In addition, there were differing opinions about whether or not a patient story should be included, although most identified that if students were going to include a story, it should capture something personal about them (eg, how the interaction affected their decision to pursue internal medicine or made them feel differently about patients). Finally, while some participants wanted to hear about an applicant's interest in internal medicine, others found this to be less useful.

“I look…to see if people have at least at that point in their career, an idea about their career trajectory, any long-term career goals.”

“I don't think that the personal statements have to say necessarily what someone's career trajectory is, many people don't know…unless they're looking to fast track, I don't think there's anything specific that has to be there.”

“I always enjoy a patient story, just because they're going to be doing a medical career, so I want to make sure that they're connected to patients.”

“I think overreliance on a patient story to tell a message that may not be very unique.”

“Something that references why you're choosing this specialty” because “there's nowhere else, really, in the application… [that addresses this interest].”

“I often just skip over those short paragraphs, or the short statements about why I'm interested in internal medicine, or how I fell in love with internal medicine. I find those less helpful, because you're applying to internal medicine, of course you want to do internal medicine.”

To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore academic internal medicine PDs and APDs recommendations for personal statement content. PDs and APDs used personal statements to distinguish between applicants with otherwise equivalent applications and help form an impression of the applicant. We identified 3 themes that participants thought were important for an effective personal statement—that it be well-written, include personal or unique information to make the applicant stand out, and demonstrate fit with a residency program. Participants also recommended avoiding poorly written or excessively long statements, inappropriately signaling interest in another program, or highlighting negative characteristics. Elements where there was a conflicting opinion—patient stories, future plans, and interest in internal medicine—hint at potential common pitfalls of the personal statement.

In our study, PDs and APDs identified that personal statements should highlight unique personal characteristics of the applicant. While applicants invest significant time and effort into personal statements, prior literature suggests personal statements often lack originality and uniqueness in favor of a more formulaic structure. 7   Perhaps a lack of originality stems from little guidance from residency programs to date stating what is important to include in the personal statement. It is also possible that applicants are unknowingly influenced by mimetic isomorphism. In wanting to write a statement that will be deemed acceptable, all applicants are using the only available guidelines, which means that statements end up being like each other. With an overall lack of specialty-specific guidance, applicants rely on general guidelines from the AAMC and expert opinion. 4 , 6   Future work should focus on creating specialty-specific guidelines for the content and structure of the personal statement to improve its utility in the residency application.

Several PDs and APDs reported using the personal statement to gauge applicants' fit for their residency program. We found that most commonly, participants referred to how an applicant's individual attributes, interests, and goals aligned with that of the residency program. This use suggests that the PD and APD definition of fit may be contributing to the holistic review of the applicant and supports the idea that isomorphism plays a role in residency application review. Holistic review relies on assessing an applicant's unique experiences with the intent to recruit a diverse group of residents (coercive isomorphism). For example, the implementation of holistic review in an emergency medicine screening application process, which placed more emphasis on applicants' attributes, resulted in increased recruitment of underrepresented in medicine applicants. 22   In contrast, fit often hinges on recruiting applicants who possess similar characteristics to the program (normative isomorphism). This practice may be helpful in some situations (eg, applicant demonstrates a personality that aligns with the institution's culture), but it also can promote unconscious bias and threaten diversity. 23  

Humans all possess unconscious biases that may negatively influence our view of interviewees who are dissimilar to us. A gestalt impression may result in only selecting applicants for interviews or ranking who appear similar to the interviewer (eg, race, sexual orientation). Further, at a program level, evaluation of an applicant by gestalt impression with a focus on fit may promote “cultural homogeneity” 23   and normative isomorphism where the eventual matched residents reinforce areas that their institutions have historically valued. To address homogeneity and unconscious bias, residency programs could employ the principles of personnel psychology to align fit with a more holistic review of applicants. 24   Within personnel psychology, fit is expanded to include person-job fit (ie, knowledge, skills), person-workgroup fit (ie, interpersonal attributes, group performance), and person-organization fit (ie, values, goals). 25   Person-job fit may include an applicant's cognitive ability as measured by standardized examination and clinical performance. Person-workgroup fit may include tests of integrity (eg, personality assessments, situational judgement tests) during the interview process. Finally, person-organization fit may include assessing if a resident's values align with that of the institution. As hinted at by the participants in our study, personal statements may be an important element to assess person-organization fit addressing personal values and goals.

Residency programs may improve assessment of this domain by identifying their core values, placing them within an overall brand, and sharing transparently with applicants so they can be addressed by the applicant. The addition of the supplemental Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application for internal medicine, general surgery, and dermatology could provide a structured way for applicants to reference signal programs that have similar values and to highlight their most meaningful past experiences that demonstrate their values. It is possible that as the supplemental ERAS application is more widely used across specialties, the guidance provided to applicants regarding content to include in the personal statement may evolve. Future work should focus on how residency programs may be able to utilize the personal statement and supplemental ERAS application to assess person-organization fit.

There were conflicting opinions about the inclusion of career goals, use of a patient story, and explanation of the decision to pursue internal medicine. Career goals and patient stories are common themes of internal medicine personal statements. 1 , 2   Interestingly, the conflict highlighted in our interviews hints at how to personalize content. PDs and APDs seemed to support the inclusion of these topics when they were used to emphasize a personal quality of the applicant (eg, use of a patient story to explain “how it made them think differently about patients, or feel, or learn something”). Comparably, pulmonary and critical care fellowship PDs found that quotes and stories without explanation of impact on the applicant were viewed negatively in review of applications. 5   While themes of the personal statement may vary, the overarching recommendation for the personal statement is that it is personal and, ideally, sparks the program's interest to meet and learn more about the applicant.

Finally, we found that internal medicine PDs and APDs most often use the personal statement in preparation for the interview, which is similar to findings from other specialties. 7   In addition, programs identified using the personal statement in the pre-interview and post-interview processes to either extend an interview invite or move an applicant up or down the rank list if the applicant was otherwise equivalent to another applicant on the list. In the 2021 NRMP PD survey, 73% of internal medicine PDs reported using the personal statement in selecting applicants to interview with a mean importance of 3.6, which is well below that of USMLE Step scores, MSPE, clerkship performance, and class ranking. 12   The survey results are similar for other large specialties including general surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine. 13   This is likely due to the poor interrater reliability of personal statements, 26   which likely precludes their use in the decision to interview and rank applicants the majority of the time. 12   Yet, the PDs and APDs in our study converged on many criteria—how they used the personal statement to what they wanted to see to what they did not want to see in a personal statement—indicating that residency programs are more similar to each other than they think, which suggests that mimetic and normative isomorphism are at work. Additional research with PDs and APDs in other specialties about the use of personal statements could further shed light on the role of isomorphism in the residency review and selection process.

The main limitation of our exploratory study is the focus on sampling academic PDs and APDs in a single specialty. While participants were questioned about their use and recommendations for personal statements, some internal medicine programs may use personal statements in ways not represented by this data. Given the sample program characteristics, recommendations from this group may be less applicable to applicants applying to community-based programs, to smaller programs (<30 residents per year), and to other specialties. However, the sample covers all geographic regions as defined by the AAMC and represents residency programs with intern class sizes ranging from 33 to 64. Additionally, as with all qualitative work, our identities and experience influence our interpretations of the data. We have done our best to ensure trustworthiness by including multiple coders who bring differing perspectives to ensure multiple interpretations of the data, engagment in peer debriefing, and keeping a written audit trail.

Our study found that the personal statement can be a valuable part of the internal medicine residency application when it includes unique attributes, is well-written, and demonstrates a fit with program values. Additionally, PDs and APDs noted that when applicants highlight their unique characteristics, it can help distinguish themselves from otherwise equal applicants.

Author notes

Editor's Note: The online version of this article contains the interview questions used in the study .

Funding: The authors report no external funding source for this study.

Competing Interests

Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no competing interests.

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Subject: Making the Personal Statement “Truly Personal”: Recommendations From a Qualitative Case Study of Internal Medicine Program and Associate Program Directors

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Crafting a Compelling Personal Statement for Internal Medicine Residency

Crafting a compelling personal statement for internal medicine residency can be a daunting task.

Posted May 11, 2023

internal medicine personal statement guidelines

If you are applying for an internal medicine residency, one of the most important pieces of your application is your personal statement. A well-crafted personal statement can set you apart from other candidates and even make up for any shortcomings in other areas of your application. In this article, we will discuss the essential components of a winning internal medicine residency personal statement and provide tips on how to create a compelling and unique statement.

Why a Strong Personal Statement is Crucial for Internal Medicine Residency

Your personal statement is a chance for you to communicate who you are, what drives your passion for medicine, and what unique qualities you bring to the table. It is an opportunity to showcase your strengths, address any gaps or weaknesses in your application, and demonstrate why you are the best candidate for a residency program. A personal statement is also an excellent way to show that you are a well-rounded individual with interests, goals, and experiences beyond the medical field.

One important aspect of a strong personal statement is to highlight your experiences in the medical field. This can include any clinical rotations, research projects, or volunteer work that you have done. By showcasing your experiences, you can demonstrate your commitment to the field and your ability to handle the challenges of residency.

Another key element of a strong personal statement is to explain why you are interested in internal medicine specifically. This can include discussing any personal experiences that have led you to pursue this specialty, as well as your long-term career goals. By demonstrating your passion for internal medicine, you can show residency programs that you are a dedicated and motivated candidate who is committed to the field.

Understanding the Purpose of Your Personal Statement

Before writing your personal statement, consider what you want to convey to residency programs. You want to paint a vivid picture of who you are as a person and as a medical professional. Explain your motivations to pursue internal medicine, connect your personal experiences to your career aspirations, and highlight your accomplishments and achievements. You should also share your plans for the future and how you believe a residency program will help you reach your career goals.

Another important aspect to consider when writing your personal statement is to showcase your unique qualities and characteristics that make you stand out from other applicants. This can include your communication skills, leadership abilities, or your ability to work well in a team. By highlighting these qualities, you can demonstrate to residency programs that you have the potential to become a successful and valuable member of their team.

It is also important to remember that your personal statement should be well-written and free of errors. Take the time to proofread and edit your statement, and consider having someone else review it as well. A well-crafted personal statement can make a significant impact on your residency application, so it is worth investing the time and effort to ensure that it is the best it can be.

The Components of a Winning Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement

There are several essential components you should include in your personal statement:

  • Your motivation to pursue internal medicine as a career
  • Your clinical and research experiences
  • Your unique qualities and achievements
  • Your future career goals

Make sure to tie all of these components together cohesively in your personal statement and emphasize why you are passionate about internal medicine.

In addition to these essential components, it is also important to highlight any leadership roles or volunteer experiences you have had in the field of internal medicine. These experiences can demonstrate your commitment to the field and your ability to work collaboratively with others. Additionally, consider discussing any challenges you have faced in your journey towards pursuing internal medicine and how you have overcome them. This can showcase your resilience and determination, qualities that are highly valued in the medical field.

How to Choose the Right Content for Your Personal Statement

The best way to choose the right content for your personal statement is to brainstorm all of your experiences, achievements, and skills that relate to the field of internal medicine. You should aim to be specific and provide examples that illustrate your points. Some examples of experiences that may be relevant to include in your statement could be a research project, volunteer work, or a particular patient encounter. Choose experiences that truly resonate with you and focus on how these experiences have helped you to grow as a medical professional.

It is also important to consider the specific program or institution you are applying to and tailor your personal statement accordingly. Research the program and its values, and try to highlight experiences or skills that align with those values. Additionally, make sure to showcase your unique perspective and personality in your statement, as this can help you stand out from other applicants. Remember to proofread and edit your statement thoroughly to ensure it is clear, concise, and free of errors.

Tips for Writing an Attention-Grabbing Introduction

Your personal statement's introduction is critical because it is the first impression residency programs will have of you. Start your personal statement with an attention-grabbing opening sentence that captures the reader's interest. You could start with a personal anecdote or a quote that is relevant to your field. Make sure the introduction is engaging and sets the tone for the rest of your personal statement.

Another tip for writing an attention-grabbing introduction is to highlight your unique qualities and experiences. Residency programs receive numerous applications, so it's important to stand out from the crowd. Use your introduction to showcase what makes you different from other applicants. This could be a specific skill set, a research project you worked on, or a personal experience that inspired you to pursue a career in medicine.

Lastly, keep in mind that your introduction should be concise and to the point. Avoid using overly complicated language or trying to impress the reader with your vocabulary. Instead, focus on communicating your message clearly and effectively. Remember, the goal of your introduction is to capture the reader's attention and make them want to keep reading your personal statement.

Highlighting Your Relevant Experience and Accomplishments

Your personal statement should provide details of your relevant experience and accomplishments. You can frame your experiences and accomplishments into a narrative that demonstrates why you are a good fit for an internal medicine residency program. For instance, you can explain how a particular clinical exposure shaped your perspective on internal medicine and contributed to your decision to pursue it as a career.

In addition to highlighting your experiences and accomplishments, it is important to also discuss any research or scholarly activities you have participated in. This can include publications, presentations, or research projects. By showcasing your involvement in these activities, you demonstrate your commitment to the field of internal medicine and your ability to contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge.

Furthermore, it is important to discuss any leadership or teamwork experiences you have had. Internal medicine residency programs value candidates who can work effectively in a team and take on leadership roles when necessary. By highlighting your experiences in these areas, you demonstrate your ability to collaborate with others and take on important responsibilities.

Showcasing Your Passion and Motivation for Internal Medicine

One of the most critical components of your personal statement is communicating your passion for internal medicine. Provide concrete examples of your passion, such as how you have gone above and beyond to learn more about your area of interest or how you have seized opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Discuss how this passion has driven you to pursue internal medicine as a career and how it will continue to guide you throughout your residency.

Additionally, it is important to showcase your motivation for internal medicine. This can include discussing any challenges you have faced in your academic or personal life that have strengthened your resolve to pursue this field. You can also highlight any specific goals you have for your career in internal medicine, such as working in underserved communities or conducting research in a particular area. By demonstrating your passion and motivation for internal medicine, you can convey to residency programs that you are committed to this field and have the drive to succeed as a resident and future physician.

Addressing Any Gaps or Weaknesses in Your Application

If there are any gaps or weaknesses in your application, such as a lower GPA or a gap in your education, your personal statement is a place to address these concerns. Do not try to make excuses; be honest and transparent about your past challenges, why you experienced them, and how you overcame them. This will demonstrate your resilience and commitment to your goals.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statements

Some common mistakes to avoid in your personal statement include using clichés, oversharing personal information, sounding boastful, or overgeneralizing. Also, make sure to proofread your personal statement for grammar and spelling errors and avoid using overly technical jargon that might confuse the reader.

Tailoring Your Personal Statement to Each Program You Apply To

While it is tempting to send the same personal statement to every program you apply to, it is crucial to tailor your statement to each program's specific requirements and interests. Take the time to research each program's unique features, such as their clinical emphasis, research opportunities, and geographic location. Use this knowledge to show why you are a good fit for that program and how you can contribute to their program's goals.

Proofreading and Editing Your Personal Statement for Maximum Impact

Once you have written your personal statement, take the time to proofread and edit it carefully. Consider having a trusted mentor or peer review your statement for feedback. Make sure your statement is well-organized, concise, and demonstrates your strengths and qualifications. Your statement should be engaging and persuasive, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Seeking Feedback and Advice from Advisors, Mentors, and Peers

Receiving feedback and advice on your personal statement can be incredibly beneficial. Seek feedback from your advisors, mentors, and peers who are familiar with the residency application process. They can provide valuable insights and guidance on how to improve your statement and ensure that you are presenting your best self to residency programs.

Best Practices for Submitting Your Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement

When submitting your personal statement, make sure to follow the program's specific guidelines. Double-check to ensure that you have included all necessary information and that your statement is formatted correctly. You should also submit your statement on time and with a polite and professional email that includes all necessary documents.

Crafting a compelling personal statement for internal medicine residency takes time, effort, and creativity. However, with careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a statement that showcases your unique qualities and sets you apart from other candidates. Follow these tips and guidelines, and you'll be sure to have a personal statement that makes a lasting impression on residency programs.

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Medical Student Perspectives: Writing the Residency Application Personal Statement

The residency personal statement process may feel a bit like déjà vu from those days of finger-crossing about getting into medical school. While we all wrote personal statements compelling enough to get into medical school, these four years offer very few opportunities to produce reflective written work. As such, the personal statement may be a larger challenge than expected during the residency application process.

For internal medicine, the personal statement needs to explain why you are choosing a particular career path and what makes you unique. It goes without saying that it should be well written; it also needs to be succinct and direct. This is not the time to brush off your creative writing skills: we have all been warned that personal statements that use a SOAP note structure to be cute, or a yellow brick road theme to be creative are not well received by residency directors.

Keep in mind that the first paragraph and the last paragraph are what get read most often and by the most people. These two paragraphs get skimmed by the administrator to set you up with a good interviewer match, and then by your interviewer five minutes before the interview starts. Open the first paragraph with an interesting story about yourself. Readers are trying to get a sense of who you are and whether you would be a good fit for the culture and tone of the program. The temptation is high to talk about an experience with a patient. Resist the urge. Residency directors know about patients. They don't know about you. Make yourself the subject of each sentence as often as possible.

In approaching the meat of the essay, use it as an opportunity to breathe life into your ERAS application. Use this part of the essay to explain why your activities during medical school will render you a strong, dynamic physician. Talk about your accomplishments and accolades, but remember that humility goes a long way in this profession. You may also want to talk about earlier experiences in high school or college that led to your decision to go into medicine that may not be apparent in your ERAS application.

The last paragraph is very important. It should act as a summary, but also talk about what you envision for your future. A good question to help you formulate this part of the essay is "Where do I see myself in 10 years?" You may have very specific ideas. You may not. That's okay. The process of thinking about the future says a lot about your priorities and your goals, which ultimately are of interest to residency directors. Do not feel like this is set in stone either-if you say you want to be a cardiologist in your essay and then decide in a few years that you want to do GI instead, this essay is not going to hold you back.

Your letter should be no more than one page long. End of story.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Think twice about revealing a personal illness. This may bring about questions regarding your ability to perform.
  • If there is a blemish in your record, you may want to discuss whether or not to touch on it in your essay with a career advisor at your school. If you have a good explanation for the fact that you failed Step 1 (e.g., a serious death in the family), this essay is a good opportunity to explain. But if you didn't get Honors in your first clerkship and you explain this with, "I had a hard time adjusting to third year," residency directors are not going to feel very reassured with such an explanation.
  • Do not talk about the field of medicine. Your reader has been in the field a lot longer than you. Trying to sound authoritative on the subject will backfire on you.

Some tips on the writing process:

  • Start early. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is getting the first words on the page. Even though the whole application is not due for a few months, try to spend some time now getting your ideas on paper.
  • Read well written prose with attention to what makes the writing good. A professor I had in college said that to improve your writing, read good writing. So head out to your local newsstand, pick up a New Yorker or an Atlantic Monthly. As tempting as it might be to read a novel, reading non-fiction will probably be more fruitful. Pay attention to the structure and how the concepts are communicated.
  • Read your old personal statements. The potential for cringing is high, but remember that your essay was good enough to get you into medical school in the first place. Regardless of how much you have changed in the last four years, it is good to reflect on your reasons for entering the medical profession. Now that you have had years away from this piece of writing, note what sentences and paragraphs jump out at you both as strong and weak, and keep those in mind as you start the writing process.
  • Talk it through out loud. While you may not have been writing op-ed pieces during medical school, you have learned how to communicate information effectively for presentations and rounds. By talking through your ideas aloud, you may be able to make major progress in getting through that first draft.
  • Accept input from others. A non-medical reader may have good insight on the writing, the organization of the essay, and the content. But remember to trust your gut in terms of modifying anything. Another reader will also pick up typos and serve in a proofreading capacity-always a plus.

I would like to thank Vineet Arora, MD, MA, FACP, Associate Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago, and James Woodruff, MD, FACP, Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago, for their advice and assistance with this article.

Celine Goetz Central Region Representative, Council of Student Members University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, 2011 E-mail: [email protected]

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Personal Statement Guidelines

Guidelines for writing personal statements.

The Personal Statement should be personal and specific to you and your experience/s. The goal of the personal statement is so that reviewers can get to know you as unique applicant and what you will bring to the program and the field. Consider the following when putting together your personal statement.      

  • Never use another person or program to write your personal statement.
  • Never copy another individual’s personal statement. This is a violation of professional conduct and the Match.

Before you get started:

  • Some specialties may require that you have a separate personal statement for each program.
  • Some students will choose to make a common personal statement but modify a paragraph that is program or location specific.
  • Be sure to check with specialty and program requirements when drafting your personal statement.

General Tips :

  • Grammarly® is an example of a free online resource.
  • Stick to 1 page
  • Save these highlights for your interview or your noteworthy characteristics.
  • We recommend that you create your personal statements in a text file.
  • The way you create a text file is Click on 'Start' menu on the desktop, under 'All Programs' Click 'Accessories', Click 'Notepad'. Change the Font to Courier New 10 which is used by ERAS. Keep it to less than one-page single spaced with one-inch margins all around and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Do not use any special characters such as Bold, Italics, Underlines, &, ñ, µ, @,#,% etc.
  • You don’t want it to look too cluttered.

When you may need more than ONE personal statement :

  • If you are dual applying, you likely will need separate personal statements
  • For a preliminary program personal statement, you may consider a separate personal statement or modify the personal statement to include what you are looking for in a preliminary program.
  • You may consider personalizing a personal statement due to location, family, other circumstances. We recommend that you do this either early or at the end of the personal statement.
  • If you are deciding between two or more specialties, it is sometimes helpful to write a personal statement for each. If you cannot see the real differences among them, others who read your statements may be able to discover your true passion.
  • Label your personal statement files well so that you know which personal statement is being used for which specialty or program

Before drafting your personal statement, please use the information below to help you organize your thoughts :  

  • 2-3 paragraphs with a theme (see prompts below)
  • Final thoughts/projections forward

Suggested prompts for your personal statement might be : 

  • Why you chose this field? 
  • Personality traits
  • Experiences such as education, leadership, service, research, or volunteerism
  • Related hobbies, etc. 
  • A brief explanation of gap time particularly for research, dual-degree or certification and how you see this time as beneficial to your residency goals.
  • Some things of that nature might be best explained in your MSPE, if you wish.  Discuss this with the OSA dean writing your MSPE. 
  • Applicants can describe any challenges or hardships that influenced their journey to residency. This could include experiences related to family background, financial background, community setting, educational experiences, and/or general life experiences. This question is intended for applicants who have overcome major challenges or obstacles.
  • Some projection into your future, of both a professional and personal nature, if you wish. You may not want to be too specific about sub-specialty aspirations, though. People like to see an open mind. 
  • What you see as the next exciting things happening in your field of interest? How do you see yourself as part of them?

Common Pitfalls:

  • Avoid being a just list of reasons that you like the specialty
  • Balance being personal without overly revealing in these cases
  • If you don’t want to talk about a situation in your interview, it shouldn’t be in your personal statement
  • If you can’t talk about a situation without becoming overly emotional, you may want to brainstorm if that should be in your personal statement (remember this is a job interview)
  • If the description of your story is 1/3 of your personal statement, you are missing an opportunity to talk more about yourself.
  • AVOID: I disliked all other specialties till I rotated on XXX.
  • AVOID: I noticed that I didn’t really like the way XXX interacted with patients
  • AVOID: The patient was angry and non-compliant.
  • Run the risk of losing the reader’s attention

Final Thoughts :

  • Be specific in what you ask them to review (I.e. grammar, content, voice)
  • Faculty members in the type of program to which you are applying.
  • People who know you well, on whom you can count for honest feedback, and who can make any necessary corrections in syntax and grammar. 
  • Read your personal statement out loud to yourself- this is the best way to hear/find things that do not make sense grammatically or in syntax.

Additional Resources:

  • Personal Statement Worksheet
  • Personal Growth Program

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The Residency Personal Statement (2023/2024): The Insider’s Guide (with Examples)

Residency Match Personal Statement

A physician and former residency program director explains how to write your residency personal statement to match in to your top-choice residency program in 2024.

Read example residency personal statements and suggested outlines..

Introduction

The residency personal statement allows residency program directors and associate directors the chance to get a sense of who you are and your commitment to your chosen specialty. 

As a former program director who understands how residency personal statements are reviewed, what “stands out,” and, most importantly, what will earn you interview invitations, the information below will help you write a residency personal statement to match!

It is imperative to make sure you get the most accurate guidance possible with regards to your residency personal statement content and optimal residency personal statement length (up to 5300 characters with spaces).

Want more personalized suggestions? Sign up for a FREE residency personal statement consultation .

Table of Contents

Goals for Writing Your 2024 Residency Personal Statement

Above all else, your residency personal statement offers the opportunity to show your interest in your chosen specialty when applying to residency to illustrate you are a good fit.

The more details you offer about why you are interested in the specialty and how your med school rotations, accomplishments and experiences have reinforced this interest, the stronger your personal statement will be, the more it will appeal to selection committees and the better you will do in the match process .

I encourage applicants to offer as much “evidence” as possible to “show” rather than “tell” what qualities, characteristics and interests they have. “Telling” a reader, for example, that you are compassionate and hard working means nothing. Instead, you must “show” that you embody these qualities based on your experiences in health care and the patients for whom you have cared.

The residency personal statement also offers the opportunity to write about who you are as a person to convey some details about your background, influences, and interests outside of your given specialty.

The Importance of a Balanced Residency Personal Statement

The key when writing your residency personal statement is to ensure that it is well-balanced so it appeals to a large group of people who might read your ERAS residency application.

However, it is important to understand that every program director and faculty member has his or her own idea of what he would like to read in a personal statement. As an applicant, you must go into this process understanding that you cannot please everyone, or a specific program, and your personal statement should therefore have the broadest appeal possible.

For example, some program directors would rather hear about your personal interests and curiosities and get to know who you are rather than have you focus on the specialty in which you are interested.

At MedEdits, we suggest taking a “middle of the road” approach; include some details about who you are but also focus on the specialty itself. In this way, you will make more traditional reviewers who want to hear about your interest in the specialty happy while also satisfying those who would rather learn about you as a person.

Above all, be authentic and true to yourself when writing your statement. This always leads to the best results! Read on to learn more about how to write a winning personal statement.

About MedEdits

Getting into a residency has never been more competitive. Founded by a former associate program director, the experts at MedEdits will make your residency personal statement shine. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been matched to one of their top-choice programs.

Need Help With Your Residency Personal Statement?

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Residency Personal Statement Outline & Structure

Residency applicants often do well when given outlines or templates to follow, so, we will offer that, but, it is important to realize that many applicants deviate from these rigid rules. One very typical outline that serves applicants quite well in the residency admissions process is:

  • Compose a catchy introduction. Your intro can be related to your interest in the specialty to which you are applying, about a hobby or personal experience, or about your background. Regardless of the topic you choose, you want to tell a story and start with something that will interest your reader and engage him.
  • The next two to four paragraphs comprise the body of your personal statement. We encourage applicants to write about any significant experiences they have had related to their desired specialty and/or future goals. This would include information about rotations, electives, and sub internships related to the specialty, volunteer and research experiences and even significant outside interests.
  • Finally, you want to conclude your essay. In your conclusion, write about what you seek in a residency program, what you will bring to a residency program, and, if you have any idea of your future career goals, write about those as well. Your conclusion is also where you can tailor a personal statement to a specific geographic area of interest or type of program (rural, urban, community).

Residency Personal Statement Length & Residency Personal Statement Word Limit

Residency Personal Statement Length: Our recommendation is that your residency personal statement be between 4000 – 5300 characters with spaces or up to 900 words in length. 

The allowed ERAS residency personal statement length is 28,000 characters which equates to about five pages!

We have been hearing from more and more applicants that the personal statement should not exceed one page when typed in to the ERAS application . Because of this overwhelming trend, we are supporting this guidance unless you have extenuating circumstances that require your personal statement be longer.

Our recommendation is that your residency personal statement be a maximum of 5300 characters with spaces.

ERAS Residency Personal Statement Checklist

  • Ensure your personal statement flows well

The best personal statements are easy to read, don’t make the reader think too much, and make your path and interests seem logical. Rarely does a personal statement have a theme. Also try to have each paragraph transition to the next seamlessly. 

2. Your personal statement should be about you!

Your personal statement should be about you and no one else. Focus on your interests, your accomplishments and your path. This is your opportunity to be forthcoming about your achievements – by writing in detail about what you have done.

3. Be sure your personal statement clearly outlines your interest in the specialty.

Since the reader wants to be convinced of your understanding of, experience in, and curiosity about the specialty to which you are applying, be sure you highlight what you have done to explore your interest as well as your insights and observations about the specialty to show your understanding of it.

4. Make it human.

Again, your personal statement should be about you! The reader wants to know who you are, where you are from, what your interests are and who you are outside of medicine. Therefore, try to include those details about your background that are intriguing or important to you.

5. Express your interest in the specialty.

The reader fundamentally wants to know why you are pursuing the specialty. The more details you offer the more convincing you are about your commitment and your understanding of the specialty. Be sure to include details that might seem obvious. For example, in emergency medicine you must like acute care, but try to include more nuanced details about your interest, too. What do you enjoy about the diagnoses and pathologies involved? What do you value about the actual work you will do? What do you enjoy about the patients for whom you will care? How about the setting in which you will practice?

6. The start and evolution of your interest.

Readers want to know how and when you became interested in your specialty. Was this before medical school? During medical school? What have you done to pursue and nurture your interest in the specialty?

7. What you have done to learn more about the specialty.

You should explain what you have done to pursue your interest. What rotations have you done or have planned? What research, scholarly work or community service activities have you pursued to further your interest?

8. Where you see yourself in the future – if you know!

Without going into too much detail, write about the type of setting in which you see yourself in the future. Do you hope to also participate in research, teaching, public health work or community outreach as a part of your career? What are your future goals? Since many programs typically train a certain type of physician, it is important that your goals are aligned with the programs to which you are applying.

9. What do you bring to the specialty?

You should try to identify what you can bring to the program and the specialty to which you are applying as a whole. For example, are you applying to family medicine and have a distinct interest in public health? Are you applying for internal medicine and do you have demonstrated expertise in information technology and hope to improve electronic medical records? Do you have extensive research or teaching experience, and do you hope to continue to pursue these interests in the future? Have you developed a commitment to global health, and do you hope to continue making contributions abroad? Programs have a societal obligation to select residents who will make valuable contributions in the future, so the more ambitions you have the more desirable a candidate you will be.

10. What type of program you hope to join?

Do you hope to be part of a community or university-based program? What are you seeking in a residency program? Programs are looking for residents who will be the right “fit” so offering an idea of what you are seeking in a program will help them determine if your values and goals mesh with those of the program.

11. Who you are outside of the hospital?

Try to bring in some personal elements about who you are. You can do this in a few ways. If you have any outside interests or accomplishments that complement your interest in your specialty, such as extracurricular work, global work, teaching or volunteer efforts, write about them in detail, and, in doing so, show the reader a different dimension of your personality. Or, consider opening your statement by writing about an experience related to your hobbies or outside interests. Write about this in the form of an introductory vignette. I suggest taking this nontraditional approach only if you are a talented writer and can somehow relate your outside interest to the specialty you are pursuing, however. An interest in the arts can lend itself to dermatology, plastic surgery or ophthalmology, for example. Or, an interest in technology could relate to radiology .

12. Any personal challenges?

Also explain any obstacles you have overcome: Were you the first in your family to graduate from college? Were you an immigrant? Did you have limited financial resources and work through college? Many applicants tend to shy away from the very things that make them impressive because they are afraid of appearing to be looking for sympathy. As long as you explain how you have overcome adversity in a positive or creative way, your experience will be viewed as the tremendous accomplishment that it is. The personal statement should explain any unusual or distinctive aspects of your background.

  • Residency Match: How It Works & How To Get Matched

Common ERAS Residency Personal Statement Mistakes

Do not tell your entire life story or write a statement focused on your childhood or undergraduate career. 

Do not write about why you wanted to be a doctor. This is old news. From the reviewers perspective, you already are a doctor!

Do not write a personal statement focused on one hobby or begin with your birth. Some background information might be useful if it offers context to your choices and path, but your residency personal statement should be focused on the present and what you have done to pursue your interest in the specialty to which you are applying.

Do not preach. The reader understands what it means to practice his specialty and does not need you to tell him. Don’t write, for example: Internal medicine requires that a physician be knowledgeable, kind and compassionate. The reader wants to know about you!

Do not put down other specialties. You don’t need to convince anyone of your interest by writing something negative about other specialties. Doing so just makes you look bad. If you switched residencies or interests, you can explain what else you were seeking and what you found in the specialty of your choice that interests you.

Do not embellish. Program directors are pretty good at sniffing out inconsistencies and dishonesty. Always tell the truth and be honest and authentic. 

Do not plagiarize. While this seems obvious to most people, every year people copy personal statements they find online or hire companies that use stock phrases and statement to compose statements for applicants. Don’t do it!

Do not write about sensitive topics. Even if you were in a relationship that ended and resulted in a poor USMLE score , this is not a topic for a personal statement. In general, it is best to avoid discussing relationships, politics, ethical issues and religion.

Do not boast. Any hint of arrogance or self-righteousness may result in getting rejected. There is a fine line between confidence and self promotion. Some people make the mistake of over-selling themselves or writing about all of their fantastic qualities and characteristics. Rarely do readers view such personal statements favorably.

Do not write an overly creative piece. A residency personal statement should be professional. This work is equivalent to a job application. Don’t get too creative; stay focused.

Writing ERAS Residency Personal Statements For Multiple Specialties

An increasing number of applicants are applying to more than one specialty in medicine especially if the first choice specialty is very competitive. If you are applying to more than one specialty, even if there is disciplinary overlap between the two (for example family medicine and pediatrics ), we advise you write a distinct specialty for each. Remember that a physician who practices the specialty you hope to join will most likely be reviewing your statement. He or she will definitely be able to determine if the personal statement illustrates a true understanding of the specialty. If you try to recycle an entire personal statement or parts of a personal statement for two specialties, there is a high likelihood the personal statement will communicate that you aren’t sincerely interested in that specialty or that you don’t really understand what the specialty is about.

Writing About Red Flags in your ERAS Personal Statement

The personal statement is also the place to explain any red flags in your application, such as gaps in time or a leave of absence. When addressing any red flags, explain what happened succinctly. Be honest, don’t make excuses, and don’t dwell on the topic. Whenever possible, write about how you have matured or grown from the adversity or what you may have learned and how this benefits you.

If you have left a program or had a break in your medical education, you will also have the chance to explain this in your ERAS application . You should also write about this topic in your personal statement only if you have more to explain, however. 

If you have failed a Step exam or one course in medical school, this likely isn’t something to address in the personal statement. However, you should be prepared to discuss any failure during an interview. By the same token, it is best not to address one low grade or poor attending evaluation in your statement. 

Have you taken a circuitous path to medicine? If so you might address why you made these choices and what you found so interesting about medicine that was lacking in your former career.

Residency Personal Statement Example

Below are two great examples of residency personal statements that earned the applicants who wrote them numerous interviews and first choice matches. As you will see, these two applicants took very different approaches when writing the personal statement yet wrote equally persuasive and “successful” personal statements.

Residency Personal Statement Example, Analysis, and Outline: The Traditional Approach

The most common approach to the personal statement is what I will call the traditional approach, in which the applicant conveys her interest in the specialty, when that interest began and what she has done to pursue the particular specialty.

Suggested outline:

  • Introduction: Catchy Story
  • Paragraph 2: Background Information and how Interest Started
  • Paragraph 3: Write about what you did to explore your interest
  • Paragraph 4: Second paragraph about your experiences related to your specialty
  • Conclusion: Wrap it up. Write something about your future goals.

Below is an example of the traditional approach:

I looked into her eyes and saw terror. She knew the life of her unborn baby was in jeopardy. As tears streamed down her face, she looked to the attending physician. In desperation, she pleaded, “Please save our baby.” She and her husband had been trying to conceive for more than two years, and they knew this could be their only chance to have a healthy child. She went into labor at home and because of a horrible snowstorm was not able to reach the hospital for several hours. When she arrived in labor and delivery, she was crowning. But, the baby was having late decelerations. Because of the sweat on my attending’s forehead I knew the situation was serious. Yet we all tried to remain calm and to keep the patient and her husband calm as well. 

I entered medical school with an open mind as everyone suggested. Even as a first year medical student, however, I was fascinated with embryology. I entered my third year still unsure of what I would pursue. I knew I wanted a career that would be challenging and interesting. Because of my background in drawing and painting, I always loved working with my hands. Yet I also enjoyed working with people. Thankfully, my obstetrics and gynecology (ob/gyn) rotation was the first of my third year and I was immediately hooked.

I quickly sought out opportunities for research and became involved in a clinical study investigating the impact of a vegan diet on birth outcomes. I have always had an interest in wellness and nutrition, and this seemed like a perfect fit for me. My research is still in process, but through this experience I have learned how to analyze data, stay objective and critically evaluate the literature. So far, our findings suggest better than normal outcomes for babies born to vegan mothers. This reinforces my goal to educate my patients about the important of diet and nutrition, which I hope to make a part of my future practice. 

Early in my fourth year, I completed an elective rotation at Inner City Medical Center. There I cared for a diverse group of patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. I realized how much I enjoy labor and delivery, but I also value the operative aspects of ob/gyn. I appreciate the importance of understanding the female anatomy so I can operate with precision.  I also value the diversity of practice in ob/gyn. Whether caring for a woman about to give birth, helping a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer navigate her treatment options, or caring for a perimenopausal woman who is coping with symptoms of hormone fluctuations, I enjoy caring for patients with knowledge and compassion. The outpatient aspect of ob/gyn brings satisfaction as well. I look forward to building relationships with my patients, helping them to lead the healthiest lives possible. I have also realized how much I want to care for those who lack access to care. The work I have done at Medical School Free Clinic has helped me realize the gaps that exist in access to care and education. As a future practicing ob/gyn, I hope to work in such a setting at least on a part time basis.

On that snowy night, when we realized the baby was having difficulty being born because of shoulder dystocia, a simple maneuver eased the situation. The baby’s first cry brought such joy and relief to everyone in the room and, at that moment, I knew I had to be part of this specialty. I hope to join a program where I will have the clinical exposure that will give me the skills and experience to care for a wide range of patients. I do not yet know if I will subspecialize, and I will seek out mentors and experiences as a resident to make an informed decision. I would be honored to interview at your program and thank you for your consideration.

Why It’s Great

This is a great personal statement because it clearly conveys the applicant’s interest in, and understanding of, obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and what the applicant has done to pursue that interest. Not only does this applicant have a long-standing interest in OB/GYN, but, she conveys that she has experienced the specialty in different settings and understands the diverse nature of the specialty. She also includes information about her hobbies and interests and writes about her exploration of OB/GYN outside of the clinical arena. An added bonus is that the applicant writes well and uses descriptive language making her statement interesting and fun to read.

Residency Personal Statement Example, Analysis, and Outline: The Outside Interests Approach

Many mentors advise applicants to tell the reader something about them that is unrelated to medicine or the specialty they are pursuing. This is a fine idea, but be sure your personal statement also includes some details about your interest in your specialty if you decide to move in this direction.

Suggested Outline:

  • Introduction: Write a Catchy Introduction. Be creative! Think outside the box.
  • Paragraph 2:Elaborate on your introduction offering more details
  • Paragraph 3: Write about your specialty choice and what appeals to you.
  • Paragraph 4: Write more about your explorations in medical school.
  • Concluding paragraph(s): Write about your future goals, the type of program you hope to join and consider looping back to your introduction.

Below is an example of the outside interests approach:

The landscape before me was lush and magical. We had been hiking for hours and had found a great spot to set up camp. As I was unloading my backpack and helping to pitch the tent, I saw a scene I knew I had to capture. I quickly grabbed my carefully packed Leica before the magnificent sunset disappeared. Trying to get the perfect exposure, I somehow managed to capture this image so accurately that it reflected the beauty of what was before us high in the mountains of Utah, so far away from the hustle and bustle of New York City where we attended medical school.

Throughout my life, I have pursued my interests and curiosities with focus and creativity. One of those interests is photography. Even as a small child, I wanted my own camera, and I started snapping interesting scenes and images at the age of 6. As I grew older, this hobby took on more significance. I took a college level course in photography as a high school student, worked as a photographer’s assistant and even considered a career in photography. Paralleling my interest, however, was a desire to travel and experience new places, foods, and cultures.

I have been fortunate to travel all over the world. Rather than stopping in a city or place for a couple of days and seeing the sights, I prefer to immerse myself in my surroundings, eating the food, meeting the people, and staying for as long as I can. My fluency in Spanish and Italian has made it easier to “fit in” naturally. My most recent trip to Costa Rica allowed me to visit sugar cane fields and rain forests. I also volunteered in a clinic that helps the most desperate citizens. Of course, because I never travel without my camera, I also captured the beauty of this country; those pictures can be found on my blog.

Surgery seemed like a natural choice for me. It is a very tactile and visual field that requires patience, attention to detail and creativity—just like photography. The operating room setting is invigorating. I love to be a member of a team, and in surgery team work is an essential part of practice. The ability to deal with anatomical variations also satisfies my creative side; I have always been fond of puzzles, and the field of surgery represents a real-world puzzle to me. I also appreciate the intensity of surgery and believe I have the personality and demeanor for the field. I have always enjoyed solving problems quickly, something the field of surgery requires. My rotations in surgery – in addition to my core surgery rotation I have done trauma and cardiothoracic surgery – have helped me to understand the tremendous opportunities and diversity of the field. I have heard some residents lament that the only reason they went into surgery is to operate. However, I really enjoy seeing patients postoperatively. It is only at that time that a surgeon can really appreciate the impact of his or her work.

Finally, my trip to Honduras with a surgical team from my hospital and medical school made me realize that I can make a great contribution globally in the field of surgery. There we saw patients who had no resources or access to care. The facilities in which we worked were bare-bones. Yet the impact we made was tremendous, given that this was a group of people who otherwise would have no surgical care. In this way, I hope to combine my interests in travel and surgery as a resident, if I have time, and certainly as a practicing physician. My ultimate goal is to use my training to help populations globally and domestically.

To gain the most clinical exposure possible, I hope to train in a busy urban hospital. I believe that such a setting will give me the operative experience I need to be able to navigate many situations in the future. Such a setting will also give me the outpatient experience to understand how to manage patients once the surgery is completed.

I look forward to the day when I can be snapping my camera intraoperatively, documenting what I am doing and seeking to help other surgeons. For some, such pictures may not represent the art of those pictures I take in the wilderness, but for me they reflect the beauty of surgery and the great opportunity to make a lasting impression on another human being’s life.

This is a really intriguing personal statement because the author writes about his outside interests in a compelling way that makes him instinctively likable. He then goes on to explain what he enjoys about surgery and what he has done to pursue that interest. As you can see, this applicant writes less about his specialty (surgery) than the applicant in statement #1 did, but, he still convinces the reader of his understanding of, and commitment to, surgery. In this statement, the reader gains a much broader understanding of who the applicant is as a person and what he likes to do in his free time.

Final Thoughts

Writing your residency personal statement should be about telling your story in your own voice and style. You want to highlight your interest in the specialty for which you are applying while also conveying some ideas about who you are as a person to keep your reader engaged in learning about you as a person.

Residency Personal Statement Consulting Services

MedEdits Medical Admissions offers comprehensive guidance and document review services for residency applicants to every specialty in medicine. With more than twenty years of experience in residency admissions and founded by a former residency admissions officer and physician, MedEdits understands what program directors want to read and can help you decide what aspects of your background to focus on in your residency personal statement to earn the most interviews possible.

Getting into a residency has never been more competitive. Let the experts at MedEdits help you with your ERAS personal statement. We’ve worked with more than 5,000 students and 94% have been matched to one of their top-choice programs.

Sample Residency Personal Statement Page 1

Sample Residency Personal Statements

Residency Personal Statement Example Page 2

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internal medicine personal statement guidelines

internal medicine personal statement guidelines

Crafting an Exceptional Internal Medicine Personal Statement: A Comprehensive Guide for Students

Writing an exceptional internal medicine personal statement.

Welcome, ambitious students, to this comprehensive guide on crafting an exceptional internal medicine personal statement. As you embark on your journey toward a career in medicine, it is crucial to master the art of effectively communicating your passion, skills, and experiences through this pivotal document. The internal medicine personal statement holds significant weight in your application to residency programs, as it enables admissions committees to assess your suitability for this specialized field. In this guide, we will explore the nature of an internal medicine personal statement, delve into its main requirements, and provide invaluable writing tips to help you distinguish yourself among your peers.

Understanding the Nature of an Internal Medicine Personal Statement

An internal medicine personal statement is a written document that offers profound insights into your motivations, experiences, and aspirations related to a career in internal medicine. It serves as a platform for you to showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and unwavering dedication to the field. A well-crafted personal statement can effectively highlight your suitability for residency programs and demonstrate your potential as a future physician specializing in internal medicine.

Main Requirements for an Internal Medicine Personal Statement:

  • Concise and Focused: your personal statement should be concise and directly address your passion for internal medicine. Avoid lengthy narratives or unrelated anecdotes that may dilute the impact of your message. Stay focused on demonstrating your commitment to the field.
  • Authenticity: be genuine and true to yourself when sharing your experiences. Reflect on how these experiences have shaped your desire to pursue a career in internal medicine. Authenticity resonates with readers and sets your personal statement apart.
  • Clear Structure: organize your personal statement into well-structured paragraphs that flow logically. Begin with a captivating introduction, develop your ideas in the body paragraphs, and conclude with a strong summary that reiterates your unwavering commitment to internal medicine.
  • Reflective Thinking: showcase your critical thinking skills by reflecting on your experiences and articulating how they have shaped your understanding of internal medicine. Demonstrate your ability to learn from challenges and successes, showcasing your resilience and adaptability.
  • Emphasize Relevant Experiences: highlight experiences that directly relate to internal medicine, such as clinical rotations, research projects, and volunteer work. Illustrate your knowledge of the field and your dedication to lifelong learning.
  • Effective Writing Style: use clear, concise, and engaging language in your personal statement. Maintain a professional tone while conveying your passion for internal medicine. Avoid excessive jargon or overly complex terminology that may hinder comprehension.
  • Proofreading and Editing: take the time to meticulously proofread your personal statement, checking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Consider seeking feedback from mentors, professors, or writing centers to refine your work. This step ensures your personal statement is polished and error-free.

Helpful Writing Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Internal Medicine Personal Statement

Start Early Begin brainstorming and drafting your personal statement well in advance to allow ample time for reflection, revision, and editing. Rushing through the process may compromise the quality of your final submission.

Tell a Compelling Story Capture the reader’s attention by sharing a personal anecdote or a patient encounter that left a lasting impression. Engage the reader emotionally and vividly describe the situation to create a memorable narrative.

Show, Don’t Tell Instead of simply stating your attributes, provide concrete examples that demonstrate them. For instance, rather than saying, “I am a compassionate individual,” share a specific experience that exemplifies your compassion in action.

Be Specific and Quantitative Whenever possible, include specific details and statistics to quantify your accomplishments and experiences. This helps create a vivid picture of your abilities and lends credibility to your claims.

Connect Your Experiences Establish meaningful connections between your experiences, highlighting how each one has contributed to your understanding of internal medicine. Demonstrate your ability to integrate knowledge from various domains.

Highlight Diversity and Inclusion Emphasize how your unique background, perspectives, or experiences contribute to diversity in the field of internal medicine. Showcase your understanding of cultural competency and the importance of inclusivity.

Seek Feedback and Revise Share your personal statement with trusted mentors, professors, or writing centers. Incorporate their feedback and revise your work accordingly. Fresh perspectives can provide invaluable insights to enhance your personal statement.

Stay Positive and Motivated Express your enthusiasm for internal medicine and your unwavering commitment to serving patients. Showcase your resilience, adaptability, and passion for lifelong learning, as these traits are highly valued in the field.

To create a powerful and effective internal medicine personal statement, it is important to consider what to include and what to avoid:

  • Your Motivation: Clearly articulate what motivates you to pursue a career in internal medicine. Share personal experiences, patient encounters, or research that have inspired and solidified your passion for the field.
  • Unique Experiences: Highlight experiences that set you apart from other applicants. This could include research projects, clinical rotations, or volunteer work that demonstrate your dedication, skills, and understanding of the challenges and rewards of internal medicine.
  • Leadership and Teamwork: Showcase instances where you have taken on leadership roles or worked effectively as part of a team. Highlight how these experiences have prepared you for the collaborative nature of internal medicine.
  • Communication Skills: Demonstrate your ability to effectively communicate with patients, colleagues, and interdisciplinary teams. Share examples of challenging conversations or instances where your communication skills played a crucial role in patient care.
  • Clichés and Generic Statements: Steer clear of overused phrases or generic statements that could make your personal statement sound unoriginal. Instead, focus on sharing unique experiences and perspectives that truly reflect your journey in internal medicine.
  • Excessive Technical Jargon: While it is important to showcase your knowledge, avoid overwhelming the reader with excessive technical jargon. Aim for clear and concise explanations that can be understood by a broader audience.
  • Negativity or Complaints: Maintain a positive tone throughout your personal statement. Avoid dwelling on negative experiences or complaining about challenges you have faced. Instead, focus on how you have overcome obstacles and grown as a result.
  • Irrelevant Information: Stay focused on internal medicine and avoid including extraneous details or experiences that are not directly relevant to your pursuit of this specialty. Streamline your personal statement to include only the most impactful and pertinent information.

By carefully considering what to include and what to avoid, you can craft a compelling and memorable internal medicine personal statement that showcases your unique qualities, experiences, and potential as a future physician in this dynamic field.

Create an Impressive Internal Medicine Personal Statement and Succeed Today

The journey to becoming an exceptional internal medicine resident begins with the art of crafting your personal statement. A symphony of time, introspection, and attention to detail, your words will paint a captivating narrative that illuminates your passion for this specialized field. This guide is your compass, guiding you to adhere to the key requirements and embrace invaluable writing tips. Your personal statement is a canvas, where you showcase your unique attributes and experiences, a testament to the remarkable physician you aspire to be. As you embark on this transformative writing endeavor, may your words resonate with the melody of healing, and may you leave a profound impact on the discerning hearts of the admissions committees. Best of luck, future healer, as you pen the masterpiece that reveals the core of your dedication to internal medicine. Share this:

  • Residency Application

IMG Personal Statement Examples

IMG Personal Statement Examples

IMG personal statement examples outline a variety of important structural and content requirements for this component of your application. Reading residency personal statement examples can help you construct an essay that resonates with similar quality and assembly. The personal statement is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are and what appeals to you about their program. Because international medical graduate (IMG) status can make the match more difficult for some schools and residency programs, having a strong personal statement can significantly increase your chances of getting invited for an interview. In this article, we provide some examples of personal statements for IMGs to inspire your own.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 9 min read

Img personal statement example 1.

Since I was young, I’ve had a keen interest in wanting to become a doctor due to my mother’s influence; she’s a cardiologist who works at a hospital in my hometown in Georgia. She always encouraged me to make my own choices irrespective of hers, and she never tried to deliberately push me into medicine’s outstretched arms. Medicine, at least early on in my life, was never on my radar. I was too invested in my creative endeavors, which led to a burgeoning career as a commercial actress starting in elementary school. However, in my senior year of high school, I felt weighed down by the yawning void of my intellectual cravings. I was, as my mother would say, a scientist at heart, which I began to accept when I volunteered at the research institute at a local hospital studying new genomic technology.

I had my doubts about whether I would be able to pursue a career in medicine due to my conflicting creative interests; however, when I took a trip to Delhi, India, in my first year of undergraduate studies, I volunteered at a slum hospital, and it was the inspiration that aroused my already established interest in public health. I mostly observed the health care workers, but I assisted with routine medical tasks and fulfilled a supportive role during routine checkups. On rare occasions, I would provide advice about nutrition or general health to some patients, which invigorated my passion for helping others and illuminating health disparities; I hadn’t realized how pervasive the lack of health awareness was in this community; it both disheartened and mobilized my eagerness to explore medical school abroad.

Check out this video to know about residency application tips that will ensure your success and help you stand out from the crowd:

Growing up, I was not encouraged to get good grades or work hard in school. In fact, it was much the opposite: my father worked on a farm and my mother as a hairdresser. In school, I couldn’t rely on the support of my parents, who were both against academic pursuits. In their words, school was a meaningless, debt-accruing venture that accomplished nothing more than having a fancy piece of paper to hang on the wall. The start of my medical school journey began when I made the brave choice to apply to undergraduate programs instead of working on my father’s farm, which is what he always wanted me to do. We had lots of disagreements and negotiations; I ended up promising to work for him on weekends when I wasn’t studying, and the university was within reasonable commuting distance so I could still commit to the compromise.

However, as I finished my undergraduate studies, I knew I needed a change of scenery. I wanted to live in another part of the world where education and academic excellence were encouraged, not undermined. I decided I was going to complete my MD degree in Mexico, in a city that I knew was scourged by a lack of health care resources. I was intrigued by the prospect of learning a new health care system in a less developed geographical area because I saw the parallels with my own hometown, where people tend to ignore their ailments because they’re suspicious of the health care system – again, a consequence of the lack of educational resources. I was convinced that medical school was the only way to make a real collective difference in this attitude emblemized in some rural areas. And, when I volunteered at a clinic specializing in sexual health, I became aware of how some obstinate traditionalist views impair good-faith attempts to educate and protect reproductive rights for women.

The Philippines is known for its commitment to health care excellence. My family is no different. My parents own a clinic in Manila; my mother is a family doctor, and my father is a nurse. My two older brothers work at the clinic fulfilling administrative roles while they complete their undergraduate degrees. They intend to become doctors to help my parents run their clinic and, eventually, inherit it. As high expectations abound, I always felt that I was set up to become a doctor by proximity to such high-achieving family members dedicated to health care. Of course, I was nudged gently in that direction, but my autonomy was never compromised. My first exposure to working in a clinical environment was as a teen, when I assisted in recreational therapy at my parents’ clinic. As expected, I found the interactions I had, particularly with elderly patients, to be interesting and rewarding. I had a knack for humor, which seemed to be remedial for many of the patients who were palliative or undergoing life-changing surgery that would require extensive physical rehabilitation.

Yes, internal medicine is one of the many IMG friendly residency programs .

According to the results of the program director survey published by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), the second most important listing in the section for personal characteristics and other knowledge of applicants considered in deciding whom to interview was the personal statement.

You need to demonstrate your skillset and inclination toward the specialty you’re interested in using clinical experiences and research. With that said, getting into too much detail about your research can be distracting and redundant, especially if you include this information in other application components.

You should discuss what you hope to gain from a residency program in the US, and why it’s important for you to pursue further education in this country as opposed to the one you completed your medical degree in.

You might decide to complete your fourth year of medical school in the US to gain exposure to US clinics and health care systems. Gaining references can also be a beneficial aspect of completing at least part of your education in the US.

Because you’re an international applicant, programs are more competitive and usually present more challenges for this type of applicant, which can reduce your chances of getting matched.

You should talk about any clinical experiences that contributed to your decision to pursue residency in the US, in addition to any other activities that activated your scientific interests and developed your clinical skills.

IMG residency consultants can help you navigate many of the challenges you will face as an international applicant. They can help you organize and write your materials and develop a strategy for applying to programs that suit your applicant status and background.

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internal medicine personal statement guidelines

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  • J Grad Med Educ
  • v.14(2); 2022 Apr

Making the Personal Statement “Truly Personal”: Recommendations From a Qualitative Case Study of Internal Medicine Program and Associate Program Directors

Marie moulton.

All authors are with the University of Utah School of Medicine

Marie Moulton, MD, is Internal Medicine Chief Medical Resident, Department of Internal Medicine

Katie Lappé

Katie Lappé, MD, is Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Sonja E Raaum

Sonja E. Raaum, MD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Caroline K. Milne

Caroline K. Milne, MD, is Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Candace J. Chow

Candace J. Chow, PhD, MA, is Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine, and Director of Education Research

Associated Data

The personal statement is an integral part of a residency application but little guidance exists for medical students about what content to include.

We use the framework of isomorphism, the process by which institutions model themselves after one another, to understand what internal medicine program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) recommend be included in the personal statement and how programs use personal statements in their selection of applicants to interview and rank.

Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted between August and October 2020 with 13 academic PDs and APDs, who were selected for participation based on program size and geographic location. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded using content analysis.

Effective personal statements should be well-written, present unique information, and demonstrate fit with a residency program. PDs and APDs recommended against expressing lack of interest in a program or highlighting negative personal characteristics. PDs and APDs used personal statements to distinguish between applicants and noted that personal statements help programs form an impression of the applicant. Consensus among PDs and APDs about what personal statements should include and how they are used indicates that isomorphism influences the match process.

Conclusions

Our study found that the personal statement is a valued part of the residency application when it includes unique attributes and reveals personal values that align with that of the program. Additionally, PDs and APDs noted that when applicants highlight their unique characteristics, it can help distinguish themselves from others.

Introduction

The personal statement is an integral component of a residency application and acts as a narrative that highlights the distinctiveness and character of an applicant. The intention of the narrative is to reveal the professional identity and humanity of an applicant, and can be the most unique element of the residency application. 1 , 2 Given the paucity of guidance on what to include in the personal statement, it is not surprising that the majority of medical students report anxiety surrounding crafting a personal statement. 3

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides general guidance regarding the content of the personal statement, including that it should communicate fervor for the medical specialty, address setbacks in training, and serve as a basis for interview questions. 4 A study of pulmonary and critical care fellowship applications suggested that valuable components for the personal statement are career goals, information not found elsewhere in the application, and inspirational experiences. 5 Additionally, a review article noted that personal statements should include unique characteristics, information regarding future career and program choice as well as an explanation of any gaps or negative events. 6 Finally, a study of personal statements in anesthesiology residency applications identified that personal statements should include the proper use of English, while other factors, including career goals, originality, and decision for pursuing anesthesiology, are less important. 5 , 7 Together, this literature provides some guidance for applicants, but is less than ideal in providing prescriptive goals, particularly as they relate to how statements should be tailored based on one's specialty.

Residency programs are increasingly aiming to perform a holistic review of applicants during the selection process. 8 - 10 The AAMC defines holistic review as “mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that take into consideration applicants' experiences, attributes, and academic metrics as well as the value an applicant would contribute to learning, practice, and teaching.” 8 Since the personal statement is a component of the residency application that can be truly individual, and also the only part of the application that communicates to the program director (PD) directly, it seems it could be an integral part of holistic review. 11 , 12 Despite this, the 2021 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) PD survey shows that internal medicine, as well as other large specialties such as general surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine, rely heavily on United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores as well as the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) when selecting applicants to interview and rank. 13 As USMLE Step 1 moves to pass/fail and several academic institutions transition to a pass/fail grading system, residency programs will need to rely more on other components of the application, including the personal statement.

Conceptual Framework

Isomorphism refers to the process by which organizations, such as residency programs, model themselves after one another. 14 It's a useful framework for understanding how residency programs, which outwardly aim to distinguish themselves from peer institutions, are quite like each other in their aims and selection processes. As DiMaggio and Powell explain, isomorphism occurs through 3 mechanisms: coercive, mimetic, and normative. 14 Coercive isomorphism occurs when external pressures and “cultural expectations” are exerted on organizations to be a certain way or to engage in or adopt certain values. 14 When ambiguity and uncertainty arise, organizations engage in mimetic isomorphism and look to other organizations for direction on how to behave to legitimize their own processes. Finally, normative isomorphism “stem[s] from the conformity resulting from professionalization.” 15 Lipson, 15 Warikoo, 16 and Price-Johnson 17 use isomorphism to explain why universities, particularly elite ones, have converging policies around admissions as it relates to diversity. Isomorphism illuminates why residency PDs have been keen to incorporate holistic review and personal statements into their admissions process: there are external pressures to build racially diverse classes (coercive isomorphism), the ambiguity around how to consider diversity has spurred programs to imitate their peers (mimetic isomorphism), and the field of medicine is highly concerned with training physicians who adhere to certain standards of professionalism (normative isomorphism). Thus, isomorphism helps us understand why personal statements remain an important part of the application process. Isomorphism may also shed light on how statements are used.

This exploratory study aims to clarify the weight that PDs and associate program directors (APDs) give to personal statements when selecting applicants to interview and rank as well as establish the components that PDs and APDs are looking for when reviewing this part of the application. Gaining a better understanding of how internal medicine PDs and APDs use personal statements, and how this is affected by isomorphism, may provide insightful guidance for residency applicants writing personal statements.

Recruitment and Sampling

We conducted a qualitative case study utilizing semi-structured phone interviews with PDs and APDs from across the United States. Our PD, who works with PDs and APDs across the nation through the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine network, identified individuals to interview based on their program's location and characteristics. We purposively sampled institutions to include academic residency programs with diverse geographic locations and sizes. An invitation to participate was sent to PDs and APDs in August 2020. Interviews were conducted between August and October 2020 with PDs and APDs from residency programs representing all 4 AAMC regions: Western (n=3), Central (n=2), Northeast (n=3), and Southern (n=5). Participation was voluntary and informed consent was obtained. Participants did not receive any compensation.

Phone Interview Format and Questions

All semi-structured phone interviews were conducted by an internal medicine resident investigator (M.M.). Phone interview questions were developed by expert opinion of the PD, 2 APDs, and an education PhD with expertise in qualitative design. Questions focused on what content should be included in a personal statement and how PDs and APDs use personal statements in their selection of applicants to interview and rank. In addition to seeing what PDs and APDs said, we were interested in the extent to which their answers converged, because convergence would indicate isomorphism at work. The complete protocol is available as online supplementary data. The investigator with an education PhD (C.J.C.) trained the resident investigator (M.M.) in how to conduct a semi-structured phone interview. 18

After the initial 4 interviews were completed, 3 authors (M.M., C.J.C., K.L.) met to review the interview questions and interview transcripts. It was noted at this time that the PDs and APDs who were initially interviewed made frequent comments about the “fit” of an applicant, however, did not specify what fit meant. Thinking this was an opportunity to further explore the role of isomorphism in the residency selection process, the resident investigator (M.M.) made a point to ask a more probing question regarding fit in the following 9 interviews if the PDs or APDs being interviewed used that term.

Data Collection and Analysis

We audio-recorded interview data using the Rev Call Recorder phone application (Rev.com Inc, San Francisco, CA), which was then transcribed by the same service. We used Dedoose Version 7.0.23 to engage in content analysis of the data. 19 , 20 Three authors (M.M., K.L., C.J.C.) independently and inductively coded 4 transcripts, compared results, and came to consensus on initial codes and categories in order to develop a codebook. Two authors (M.M., C.J.C.) then used the codebook to independently code all 13 transcripts so that each transcript was coded twice, with the understanding that new codes could be added to the codebook and that coding would take place until thematic saturation was achieved. 18 Following individual coding, they met to discuss any new codes that they had created, how to further refine codes and categories by collapsing and reorganizing codes, and to resolve any discrepancies in coding. After making additional revisions to the codebook based on these discussions, one author (C.J.C.) reviewed transcripts a final time to ensure that data were thoroughly described by the codes in the final codebook. 18

Reflexivity and Trustworthiness

Our researcher positionalities are relevant to the study because they influence the perspectives we bring to our work. Having multiple coders (M.M., an internal medicine resident, and C.J.C., an educational researcher), each of whom has a different relationship with the data and the internal medicine context and culture, was important in exploring multiple interpretations of the data. M.M. and C.J.C. also engaged in peer debriefing with K.L., an APD and clerkship director, to gain an additional perspective. Writing memos also helped us keep an audit trail of our codes and coding process. 21

The Institutional Review Board at the University of Utah School of Medicine deemed this study exempt.

Findings were organized into 4 broad themes: (1) how personal statements are used by PDs and APDs; (2) what personal statements should include; (3) what personal statements should not include; and (4) elements that PDs and APDs disagreed on. In the following paragraphs, we describe each theme and provide exemplary quotes. We use the term participants and PD/APD interchangeably.

How Personal Statements Are Used

Participants reported that personal statements were used during the pre-interview and post-interview processes and to form a gestalt impression of applicants, as shown in Box 1 . Participants identified using the personal statement most often in the pre-interview process to prepare for the interview day. In addition, many participants reported using the personal statement in some way to screen and select applicants for interviews. Following the interview, some participants identified using the statement in the ranking process to distinguish between 2 applicants or to move an applicant from one grouping on the rank list to another. Finally, participants identified using the personal statement to form an overall impression of applicants, as it is an opportunity to gather information not available in other areas of the application and to assess an applicant's fit for a program.

This exploratory study aims to clarify what internal medicine program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) recommend be included in a personal statement and how they use the personal statement in their decision to interview and rank residency applicants.

Internal medicine PDs and APDs recommend that personal statements be well-written, present unique information about the applicant, and demonstrate fit with a residency program.

Limitations

This study is a sampling of academic PDs and APDs from a single specialty, and while participants were queried about their use and recommendations for a personal statement, they may use personal statements in a way not represented by this data.

Bottom Line

PDs and APDs value personal statements that highlight unique characteristics, including personal attributes and demonstration of how their values align with that of the program, which allow applicants to distinguish themselves.

What Personal Statements Should Include

Participants reported that statements should be well-written, include information that makes an applicant stand out, and include data that shows how the applicant's interests match those of the program, as shown in Box 2 . They noted that statements should be easily readable and interesting. In addition, several participants stressed the importance of the personal statement in highlighting an applicant's unique characteristics and experiences. Finally, many participants commented that applicants should use the personal statement as an opportunity to convey their fit for a program.

Box 1 Representative Comments of How Personal Statements Are Used by Program Directors and Associate Program Directors in the Application Process

Pre-interview process.

Statements can:

  • ▪ Help prepare for the interview day, “I do use it as help in terms of the questions that I want to ask during the interview.”
  • ▪ Provide reasons to be invited for an interview, “Sometimes if they [applicants] are borderline…[and] I'm looking for reasons to invite them.”
  • ▪ Screen out applicants with red flags, “in the first round…it can only hurt you…it's more of a ‘please do no harm to yourself area.'”

Post-Interview Process

  • ▪ Be used in ranking applicants, “…the big middle chunk of our rank list, where it does matter more…sometimes we'll use the personal statement to decide whether they're in this cluster or this cluster kind of thing.”
  • ▪ Distinguish between 2 applicants, “it's one of the components for which people can move up or down. If 2 applicants were completely equal…and one had a really great statement…then we would rank that person higher.”

To Form Gestalt Impressions

  • ▪ Be used to gather information not available otherwise, “I want to know if there are any items that I couldn't discern from the rest of the ERAS application, such as disadvantaged background or a big life event that impacted them in a way.”
  • ▪ Be used to assess “fit for the program,” “add to [their] holistic review of the individual.”

What Personal Statements Should Not Include

According to PDs and APDs, personal statements that are poorly written, indicate a lack of or superficial interest in the program, and demonstrate an applicant's poor character reflect negatively on the applicant, as shown in Box 3 . Participants reported many things about the statement that would make for a poor impression, including the length, poor grammar, generic format, and cliché analogies. In addition, participants noted that personal statements that fail to convey interest in the program, such as when statements convey interest in another specialty if an applicant is dual applying or mention a program's name as a way to “name drop,” are viewed poorly. Finally, participants reported that personal statements that revealed an applicant's character flaws gave them “pause in wanting to interview an applicant.” These include statements that demonstrate a lack of professionalism or include elitist statements or overconfidence in one's achievements.

Box 2 Representative Comments of Content to Include in the Personal Statement

Personal statements should:, be well-written.

  • ▪ “Reasonably well-written.”
  • ▪ “Should start out with some kind of hook…you want to grab the reader.”
  • ▪ “Really captivating instead of this monologue.”

Help the Applicant Stand Out

  • ▪ “Looking for authenticity.”
  • ▪ Convey “true character” such that the program director “can't wait to meet them.”
  • ▪ Provide “insight into [an] individual as a unique person” and “items that describe distance traveled…first person in their family to go to college…someone that worked a job throughout medical school…some that [meets] the underprivileged background as established by HRSA.”
  • ▪ “If…there's something in an application that could sink an applicant…add a sentence or 2 in their statement, because it's their one chance to provide a narrative.”

Demonstrate Fit for the Program

  • ▪ Explain “a clear elucidation of their goals…that fit with the vision of our…program.”
  • ▪ “I'm looking for evidence that they have a commitment to primary care.”
  • ▪ “For our research track, we look to see if they've identified specific areas…it helps us figure out whether or not we can offer those things to them.”
  • ▪ Applicants should name “particular patient population that [they're] going to work with.”
  • ▪ Should say if they “have a specific reason to come to either the program or to the geographic location” such as if an applicant's “significant other is on faculty at [nearby institution].”

Elements That PDs and APDs Disagreed On

There were 3 topics that participants did not agree on, including future plans, a patient story, and explanation of interest in internal medicine, as shown in Box 4 . Some PDs and APDs felt including information about future plans was important while others thought providing career goals was unnecessary. In addition, there were differing opinions about whether or not a patient story should be included, although most identified that if students were going to include a story, it should capture something personal about them (eg, how the interaction affected their decision to pursue internal medicine or made them feel differently about patients). Finally, while some participants wanted to hear about an applicant's interest in internal medicine, others found this to be less useful.

Box 3 Representative Comments of Content Not to Include in the Personal Statement

Personal statements should not:, be poorly written.

  • ▪ Should “not exceed a page,” nor should they be “super short.”
  • ▪ “Evidence of carelessness.”
  • ▪ Make programs “wonder what else will be sloppy about [the applicant's] work.”
  • ▪ “Content-wise worst, probably are the ones that don't give me a sense of who the person is, that almost feel as if they're a little too vanilla.”
  • ▪ Avoid cliché analogies, “‘oh, it's like solving a puzzle,' just some lines that you…read over and over again.”

Indicate a Lack of Interest in a Program

  • ▪ “I feel bad for these students but where they're clearly applying to more than one specialty, and they send us the wrong personal statement.”
  • ▪ “Sometimes you can see this copy paste where they say, ‘and they want to go [here] because they love the [geography] and blah, blah, blah'…that feels disingenuous to me.”

Display Poor Characteristics

  • ▪ “Remark[ed] on negative role modeling and how they don't want to be like this negative experience” or “talking badly about others.”
  • ▪ “Sexist, or racist, or appear to have a bias.”
  • ▪ “Self-aggrandizing” or convey “a sense of arrogance or overconfidence in one's achievements.”

Box 4 Representative Comments of Disagreed on Elements of the Personal Statement

Future plans.

  • ▪ “I look…to see if people have at least at that point in their career, an idea about their career trajectory, any long-term career goals.”
  • ▪ “I don't think that the personal statements have to say necessarily what someone's career trajectory is, many people don't know…unless they're looking to fast track, I don't think there's anything specific that has to be there.”

Patient Story

  • ▪ “I always enjoy a patient story, just because they're going to be doing a medical career, so I want to make sure that they're connected to patients.”
  • ▪ “I think overreliance on a patient story to tell a message that may not be very unique.”

Interest in Internal Medicine

  • ▪ “Something that references why you're choosing this specialty” because “there's nowhere else, really, in the application… [that addresses this interest].”
  • ▪ “I often just skip over those short paragraphs, or the short statements about why I'm interested in internal medicine, or how I fell in love with internal medicine. I find those less helpful, because you're applying to internal medicine, of course you want to do internal medicine.”

To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore academic internal medicine PDs and APDs recommendations for personal statement content. PDs and APDs used personal statements to distinguish between applicants with otherwise equivalent applications and help form an impression of the applicant. We identified 3 themes that participants thought were important for an effective personal statement—that it be well-written, include personal or unique information to make the applicant stand out, and demonstrate fit with a residency program. Participants also recommended avoiding poorly written or excessively long statements, inappropriately signaling interest in another program, or highlighting negative characteristics. Elements where there was a conflicting opinion—patient stories, future plans, and interest in internal medicine—hint at potential common pitfalls of the personal statement.

In our study, PDs and APDs identified that personal statements should highlight unique personal characteristics of the applicant. While applicants invest significant time and effort into personal statements, prior literature suggests personal statements often lack originality and uniqueness in favor of a more formulaic structure. 7 Perhaps a lack of originality stems from little guidance from residency programs to date stating what is important to include in the personal statement. It is also possible that applicants are unknowingly influenced by mimetic isomorphism. In wanting to write a statement that will be deemed acceptable, all applicants are using the only available guidelines, which means that statements end up being like each other. With an overall lack of specialty-specific guidance, applicants rely on general guidelines from the AAMC and expert opinion. 4 , 6 Future work should focus on creating specialty-specific guidelines for the content and structure of the personal statement to improve its utility in the residency application.

Several PDs and APDs reported using the personal statement to gauge applicants' fit for their residency program. We found that most commonly, participants referred to how an applicant's individual attributes, interests, and goals aligned with that of the residency program. This use suggests that the PD and APD definition of fit may be contributing to the holistic review of the applicant and supports the idea that isomorphism plays a role in residency application review. Holistic review relies on assessing an applicant's unique experiences with the intent to recruit a diverse group of residents (coercive isomorphism). For example, the implementation of holistic review in an emergency medicine screening application process, which placed more emphasis on applicants' attributes, resulted in increased recruitment of underrepresented in medicine applicants. 22 In contrast, fit often hinges on recruiting applicants who possess similar characteristics to the program (normative isomorphism). This practice may be helpful in some situations (eg, applicant demonstrates a personality that aligns with the institution's culture), but it also can promote unconscious bias and threaten diversity. 23

Humans all possess unconscious biases that may negatively influence our view of interviewees who are dissimilar to us. A gestalt impression may result in only selecting applicants for interviews or ranking who appear similar to the interviewer (eg, race, sexual orientation). Further, at a program level, evaluation of an applicant by gestalt impression with a focus on fit may promote “cultural homogeneity” 23 and normative isomorphism where the eventual matched residents reinforce areas that their institutions have historically valued. To address homogeneity and unconscious bias, residency programs could employ the principles of personnel psychology to align fit with a more holistic review of applicants. 24 Within personnel psychology, fit is expanded to include person-job fit (ie, knowledge, skills), person-workgroup fit (ie, interpersonal attributes, group performance), and person-organization fit (ie, values, goals). 25 Person-job fit may include an applicant's cognitive ability as measured by standardized examination and clinical performance. Person-workgroup fit may include tests of integrity (eg, personality assessments, situational judgement tests) during the interview process. Finally, person-organization fit may include assessing if a resident's values align with that of the institution. As hinted at by the participants in our study, personal statements may be an important element to assess person-organization fit addressing personal values and goals.

Residency programs may improve assessment of this domain by identifying their core values, placing them within an overall brand, and sharing transparently with applicants so they can be addressed by the applicant. The addition of the supplemental Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application for internal medicine, general surgery, and dermatology could provide a structured way for applicants to reference signal programs that have similar values and to highlight their most meaningful past experiences that demonstrate their values. It is possible that as the supplemental ERAS application is more widely used across specialties, the guidance provided to applicants regarding content to include in the personal statement may evolve. Future work should focus on how residency programs may be able to utilize the personal statement and supplemental ERAS application to assess person-organization fit.

There were conflicting opinions about the inclusion of career goals, use of a patient story, and explanation of the decision to pursue internal medicine. Career goals and patient stories are common themes of internal medicine personal statements. 1 , 2 Interestingly, the conflict highlighted in our interviews hints at how to personalize content. PDs and APDs seemed to support the inclusion of these topics when they were used to emphasize a personal quality of the applicant (eg, use of a patient story to explain “how it made them think differently about patients, or feel, or learn something”). Comparably, pulmonary and critical care fellowship PDs found that quotes and stories without explanation of impact on the applicant were viewed negatively in review of applications. 5 While themes of the personal statement may vary, the overarching recommendation for the personal statement is that it is personal and, ideally, sparks the program's interest to meet and learn more about the applicant.

Finally, we found that internal medicine PDs and APDs most often use the personal statement in preparation for the interview, which is similar to findings from other specialties. 7 In addition, programs identified using the personal statement in the pre-interview and post-interview processes to either extend an interview invite or move an applicant up or down the rank list if the applicant was otherwise equivalent to another applicant on the list. In the 2021 NRMP PD survey, 73% of internal medicine PDs reported using the personal statement in selecting applicants to interview with a mean importance of 3.6, which is well below that of USMLE Step scores, MSPE, clerkship performance, and class ranking. 12 The survey results are similar for other large specialties including general surgery, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine. 13 This is likely due to the poor interrater reliability of personal statements, 26 which likely precludes their use in the decision to interview and rank applicants the majority of the time. 12 Yet, the PDs and APDs in our study converged on many criteria—how they used the personal statement to what they wanted to see to what they did not want to see in a personal statement—indicating that residency programs are more similar to each other than they think, which suggests that mimetic and normative isomorphism are at work. Additional research with PDs and APDs in other specialties about the use of personal statements could further shed light on the role of isomorphism in the residency review and selection process.

The main limitation of our exploratory study is the focus on sampling academic PDs and APDs in a single specialty. While participants were questioned about their use and recommendations for personal statements, some internal medicine programs may use personal statements in ways not represented by this data. Given the sample program characteristics, recommendations from this group may be less applicable to applicants applying to community-based programs, to smaller programs (<30 residents per year), and to other specialties. However, the sample covers all geographic regions as defined by the AAMC and represents residency programs with intern class sizes ranging from 33 to 64. Additionally, as with all qualitative work, our identities and experience influence our interpretations of the data. We have done our best to ensure trustworthiness by including multiple coders who bring differing perspectives to ensure multiple interpretations of the data, engagment in peer debriefing, and keeping a written audit trail.

Our study found that the personal statement can be a valuable part of the internal medicine residency application when it includes unique attributes, is well-written, and demonstrates a fit with program values. Additionally, PDs and APDs noted that when applicants highlight their unique characteristics, it can help distinguish themselves from otherwise equal applicants.

Supplementary Material

Funding: The authors report no external funding source for this study.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no competing interests.

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  1. How to Write a Standout Internal Medicine Personal Statement

    Your personal statement should tell a unique and engaging story about your journey into internal medicine. Avoid clichés and generic statements. Consider the following strategies to help you find your unique narrative:

  2. Writing a Personal Statement for Residency Application

    For the moment, forget everything you know about writing histories and physicals. While preparing your personal statement: Avoid abbreviations. Avoid repetitive sentence structure. Avoid using ...

  3. Sample Personal Statement: Internal Medicine

    Sample Personal Statement: Internal Medicine. Throughout medical school I have committed myself to finding the one specialty that aligns perfectly with my personality and future goals. While this task seemed straightforward and uncomplicated, I soon realized during my third-year clerkships that every area of medicine offered aspects I enjoyed.

  4. Internal Medicine Personal Statement Writing Strategies

    1. Start with an experience related to IM 2. Focus on analytical skills 3. Highlight research skills 4. Discuss working with other providers 5. Demonstrate your desire to build long-term relationships How to Stand Out 1. Start with an experience related to IM Yes, almost all internal medicine residency personal statements will begin this way.

  5. A Personal Statement Checklist < Internal Medicine

    May 05, 2019 by Mark David Siegel Hi everyone, With fellowship application season approaching, many of you are starting to write personal statements. Even if you plan to apply next year, or the year after that, or even if fellowship's not for you, you're still going to write a personal statement someday, so read on.

  6. Residency Personal Statement: The Ultimate Guide (Example Included

    Why does the residency personal statement matter? The personal statement is an essay of about a page (one page in ERAS is 3,500 characters including spaces) in which you articulate who you are and why you want to enter a certain specialty. It's your big opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants by highlighting anything that isn't well represented in other parts of your ...

  7. Making the Personal Statement "Truly Personal": Recommendations From a

    Internal medicine PDs and APDs recommend that personal statements be well-written, present unique information about the applicant, and demonstrate fit with a residency program. Limitations

  8. Preparing Your Residency Application Materials

    If you have decided to pursue an internal medicine residency, it is critical to review the overall details of the residency application process and make sure you contact those individuals who can help you navigate the process (see Applying to Internal Medicine). It is essential to begin preparing specific components of your residency application, even if it is not time yet to sign up for the ...

  9. Ten Steps for Writing an Exceptional Personal Statement

    A recent study supports that PDs find unique applicant information from personal statements helpful to determine fit. 4 Personal statement information also helps programs curate individualized interview days (eg, pair interviewers, guide conversations, highlight desirable curricula).

  10. Crafting a Compelling Personal Statement for Internal Medicine

    A well-crafted personal statement can make a significant impact on your residency application, so it is worth investing the time and effort to ensure that it is the best it can be. The Components of a Winning Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement. There are several essential components you should include in your personal statement:

  11. Medical Student Perspectives: Writing the Residency Application

    For internal medicine, the personal statement needs to explain why you are choosing a particular career path and what makes you unique. It goes without saying that it should be well written; it also needs to be succinct and direct.

  12. Personal Statement Guidelines

    Guidelines for Writing Personal Statements. The Personal Statement should be personal and specific to you and your experience/s. The goal of the personal statement is so that reviewers can get to know you as unique applicant and what you will bring to the program and the field. Consider the following when putting together your personal statement.

  13. Residency Personal Statement : An Insider's Guide

    As a former program director who understands how residency personal statements are reviewed, what "stands out," and, most importantly, what will earn you interview invitations, the information below will help you write a residency personal statement to match!

  14. PDF The Medical Residency Statement, Dissected.

    Below we have dissected a strong statement. It is strong because it is: 1.Personal (using detailed examples from the writer's experience) 2. Well-organized (with clear themes explored in a logical fashion) 3. Centered around the three points mentioned above (definition of the qualities of an excellent physician, strength of

  15. 5 Rules I Follow To Write a Personal Statement

    In my own personal statement for internal medicine residency, I focused on describing the medical sequelae that helped me crack the rare case of Ehrlichiosis in a patient with altered mental status. Describing the deductive reasoning skills used to narrow the diagnosis helped me indirectly highlight the very skills that would one day be a ...

  16. Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement Examples

    The following examples take different approaches to the personal statement, but they all include some essential components. They: Tell the applicant's story. Provide examples of significant moments and experiences. Illustrate the applicant's character. Describe the applicant's motivation for pursuing medicine.

  17. Crafting an Exceptional Internal Medicine Personal Statement: A

    Concise and Focused: your personal statement should be concise and directly address your passion for internal medicine. Avoid lengthy narratives or unrelated anecdotes that may dilute the impact of your message. Stay focused on demonstrating your commitment to the field. Authenticity: be genuine and true to yourself when sharing your experiences.

  18. Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement

    30 SEP Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement The Medfools IM Internal Medicine Sample Residency Personal Statement Library is now open! These sample Internal Medicine residency personal statement examples for Internal Med are here for your viewing pleasure (fully anonymous).

  19. Sample Internal Medicine Residency Personal Statement

    These sample Internal Medicine residency personal statement examples for Internal Med are here for your viewing pleasure (fully anonymous). We're hoping to add more in the future, including Pre-Med personal statements. If you've got one to add to the free library, don't forget to contribute yours. I commenced medical school with the aim ...

  20. IMG Personal Statement Examples

    Updated: Nov 23, 2023 IMG personal statement examples outline a variety of important structural and content requirements for this component of your application. Reading residency personal statement examples can help you construct an essay that resonates with similar quality and assembly.

  21. INTERNAL MEDICINE RESIDENCY PERSONAL STATEMENT

    These sample personal statements are here for your viewing pleasure (fully anonymous). We're hoping to add more in the future, including Pre-Med personal statements. If you've got one to add to the free library, don't forget to contribute yours. MEDICINE RESIDENCY PERSONAL STATEMENT. " BEEP!, BEEP!, BEEP!," cried the annoying pager.

  22. Making the Personal Statement "Truly Personal": Recommendations From a

    We use the framework of isomorphism, the process by which institutions model themselves after one another, to understand what internal medicine program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) recommend be included in the personal statement and how programs use personal statements in their selection of applicants to interview and r...

  23. Internal Medicine Personal Statement Examples 2023

    5 Questions You Must Answer When composing your internal medicine personal statement, try to address the following questions. Why do you prefer to specialize in this field? Describe your reasons. What characteristics and abilities do you possess that an internal medicine doctor would need?