Residency Statement Guide
Constructing your personal statement for residency programs may revive old feelings of frustration and despair similar to concocting your personal statement for medical school some four or more years ago. Just like your AMCAS personal statement, the essay for residency programs in the field(s) of your choice represents the only portion of your application over which you have complete autonomy. For this reason, many residency directors place great import on this statement.
This document is intended to assist you in crafting an effective residency personal statement by providing a brief overview of the application system, and the "do's" and "don'ts" in your essay.
OVERVIEW OF ERAS
The Electronic Residency Application Services (ERAS) provided by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is much akin to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) that most of you used to apply to medical school. ERAS allows you to upload your entire residency application online and forward it to all programs to which you wish to apply that participate in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). Please note that the following specialty programs participate in a separate early match outside of the NRMP:
Starting with the 2003 application process, the American Urological Association has placed most of its programs under the ERAS system. The other four specialties participate in the SF Match, a separate early match program. Please refer to each of these fields for their own special application criteria.
Please refer to the following URL to gather more specific information on ERAS:
HOW TO CRAFT YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT
The personal statement can be no longer than one typed page on the ERAS system. This usually corresponds to a document between 750 and 850 words. Ensure that your statement fits in the ERAS allotted space, because the program will eliminate all lines that exceed its length restrictions.
Key differences from medical school personal statement (MSPS):
A) You actually have to provide your application reviewers with valuable information. If you discuss nothing else, the following three topics must be addressed in your statement.
- Why are you interested in the field of your choice?
- What are you looking for in a residency program?
- How does the field align with your professional goals?
B) Originality and creativity do not hold the same importance that they did in your MSPS. Once again, your application reviewers will be reading several hundreds of applications; so you will need to present an attention-grabbing statement. However, the fluffiness and individuality so valued in MSPSs are secondary to addressing the three themes mentioned in section A. While discussing your personal development always distinguishes you, you should focus such development in the context of your decision to pursue a chosen medical field.
C) Advisors in the specific field(s) of your choice are essential to determining the appropriate themes of your personal statement. Unlike your MSPS, in which an individualized, focused essay providing some sort of self-profile serves as the desired prototype, each specialty and subspecialty has certain types of individuals for which they are searching. For instance, many primary care fields place a huge emphasis on your community service involvement whereas more competitive specialties such as dermatology and orthopedic surgery seem to be more concerned with research endeavors and publications in their field. You should identify both a resident, who has just gone through the application process, and an attending physician, who is well-versed in the nuances of your desired specialty, to serve as advisors regarding the content of your personal statement.
- Unite your essay with a central theme. If possible paint multiple pictures of your medical school development around this theme, and link it to your field of choice.
- Unless you pursued another degree or participated in some significant research or community service project during your preclinical years, most of the content of your statement should address your clinical development during clerkships. Most residency programs express minimal concern for your preclinical performance, presuming that you suffered no academic failures or setbacks. If your institution has grades, your transcript will speak for your preclinical performance. The only information that you should address during your preclinical years of medical school should be related to obtaining other degrees or discussing significant volunteer or research endeavors. You should be able to relate the latter to your current interest to pursue the field of your choice.
- Use interesting or unique background experiences to complement your personal statement. This will be your "anti-clone" factor that distinguishes you from every other individual applying in your field. You will need to ensure that these personal factors, triumphs, obstacles, or experiences are clearly relevant to the progression of your essay. Fluffy and tangential topics will not be tolerated as well in residency personal statements as they were in MSPSs.
- Utilize the following advice, which applies to all admissions essays:
- Begin your statement with an attention-grabbing first paragraph.
- Provide specific narratives or examples in order to demonstrate any personal attributes you cultivated or lessons you learned. Avoid making statements such as "I am determined and hardworking" without backing them up with solid evidence.
- Keep your sentences concise and direct. Many of the physician application reviewers are busy people who cannot decipher advanced literary writing techniques.
- Link your conclusion back to your introduction.
- Your statement should not be an expanded version of your CV. The ERAS application allows more than ample space for you to discuss your paid work and volunteer experiences, research endeavors and publications, language fluency, hobbies and interests, and other awards and accomplishments. Only mention relevant endeavors or poignant experiences.
- You should avoid including any information in your essay that you could not discuss for at least an hour or that may be contradicted by other written evidence. Though this may seem facetious, some applicants will exaggerate their role in particular research projects or community service activities, but be unable to discuss them thoroughly in interviews. This can prove to be extremely detrimental to your candidacy. Also, some applicants have written things in these statements that directly contradict information written by their recommenders. Because waiving your rights to viewing letters of recommendation is the norm, you often will not know what your letter writers will say about you. Thus, only truthful information should appear in your statement.
- Your essay should avoid the following common indicators of poorly written or edited documents:
- Lack of flow
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Redundant or extraneous words
Overall, the most important advice to remember when crafting your personal statement is to provide yourself with plenty of time to write it. Two or three months prior to the date you wish to submit your final applications should prove sufficient. While respecting the different perspectives of each individual you wish to comment on your drafts, you should limit your statement to only a few individuals, making sure that one or two physicians in your desired field are among them. Also, do not be afraid to scrap one draft completely, and start another thought from scratch. Finally, be true to yourself in this essay. This is your one chance to show the unique side of yourself. Do not overdo it, but do not fail to do it. Good luck with your application process.
Next:Lesson One: Preparation
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Sample Medical School Residency Application Essay
Another excellent free grad school application essay designed to help inspire aspiring medical school students with your residency application.
When I was five years old, my grandmother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. After precociously pondering the query, I responded, “A doctor or a taxi cab driver.” Obviously, my options were somewhat limited at that juncture. As I aged, though, my career aspirations broadened to include fields like the social sciences, education, and the Spanish language. While careers in these areas certainly seemed attractive, I ultimately decided that the field of medicine best encompassed my varied interests and passion for service. I thus enrolled in medical school, an educational experience I have greatly enjoyed. Now, I seek training in an internal medicine residency program to prepare myself for a career that will best allow me to fully utilize my skills.
A multitude of personal experiences have prepared me to excel in this specialty. At Michigan State University, where I studied biobehavioral health, I involved myself in many health-care-related activities. For example, I worked as an interventionist with the Alcohol Intervention Program, educating students who had violated the campus drinking policy and teaching them behavior-modification techniques. This notably improved my interpersonal skills, as effectively guiding each client towards positive behavioral modifications required me to intimately understand his or her unique point of view. The invaluable experience equipped me with skills that will undoubtedly prove valuable when interviewing patients in a clinical setting.
Studying Spanish for eight years, ultimately earning a minor in the language at Michigan State, built my linguistic abilities into a tool that will vastly aid my medical practice. In advanced classes, discussions focused on Latin-American culture fascinated me about societies with very different perspectives on family and healthcare. Intrigued, I thus took two month-long trips to Guatemala after college to gain clinical experience with Latin American patients. Those journeys reinforced my conviction that American physicians must develop substantial cultural understanding and sensitivity to effectively treat patients from diverse backgrounds.
During a summer off from medical school, I interned with Congreso de Latinos Unidos’ Esfuerzo program, an HIV/AIDS prevention and education program aimed at Latino residents. As an intern, I assisted with client home visits and paperwork, facilitated HIV support group meetings, and gave lectures on important health topics. This internship enhanced my understanding of the relationship between poverty and pathology, and sparked my interest in complex adult medicine.
Throughout medical school, I found internal medicine increasingly appealing, particularly the broad range of pathology encompassed by the field. Additionally, I enjoy the constant problem solving demanded by internal medicine, from working up complex cases to addressing common inpatient issues such as spiking temperatures or a change in mental status. I find thinking through problems, drafting plans of action, and following patients throughout an entire course of treatment extremely rewarding. In doing so, I form relationships with patients, thereby preventing disease and enhancing health while educating others.
More than just being fascinated by internal medicine, I possess the skills needed to excel in this demanding specialty. As a compassionate individual who enjoys getting to know her patients, I will always go the extra mile to ensure that they receive the attention they deserve. I am also strongly committed to patient education, believing that enabling patients to take greater responsibility for their own health leads to improved disease prevention. Moreover, my proficiency in Spanish and understanding of Latino culture will enable me to effectively work with a diverse patient population. Lastly, my commitment to lifelong learning means that I will constantly educate myself about the latest advances in medical diagnostics and treatments.
While a residency in internal medicine will be enormously trying, I am not intimidated by the challenge but instead look forward to it. My passion for providing excellent health care will make me a valuable addition to your residency program, as I will strive to learn as much as possible while simultaneously contributing to my teachers, colleagues, and patients. Armed with the training garnered there, I aspire to realize my professional and humanitarian dreams, happy to have chosen medicine over a career as a taxi driver.
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