Category Archive: Guest Post

Pwning the Personal Statement Part IIIB: Example 2

We’ve talked about writing and editing the Personal Statement over 3 parts:

Pwning the Personal Statement Part I: Intro and Free Essay Reviews!
Pwning the Personal Statement Part II: Writing the thing
Pwning the Personal Statement Part IIIA: Editing

Now we want to show you how to put it in action. This series of example Personal Statements are from real students who have sent in their essays to us for review. We’ve carefully redacted identifying information, but the core contents remain the same. We’ve invited our guest blogger, Yumi Kovic of to share her insights with the submitted essays.

Actual Essay with Comments

I have always been a curious person. When I do not fully understand something, I ask questions, and I constantly follow my curiosities to new and interesting topics. This curiosity has led me to science and the field of medicine. [Good hook, but rather than just saying you’re curious, give a real, detailed example of your curiosity. Convince your readers!] I am attracted to the logic and extreme depth of science. As a detail oriented person, the scientific approach of objectivity fits my personality and suits my curiosity needs. I decided to study in the field of science by majoring in Exercise Biology at [my university]. Along with studying the body and its processes through biology, I also studied the mind and behavior by minoring in Psychology. With these two subjects, I studied the human condition as a whole. The mixture of these subjects also gave me a better understanding of the interaction between the physical and the mental aspects of medicine. After graduating, I continued to expand my knowledge of science by joining the Health Professions Post Baccalaureate Program at [my university]. Through this program, I enrolled in extremely interesting courses that continue to spark my curiosity and increase my passion for medicine. My ultimate goal is to unite my passion for medicine with my passion for people and the community through becoming a doctor who can provide care and educate communities to lead healthier lives. [“Lead healthier lifestyles” is a very broad statement. Do you have any specific interest or experience you can talk about that narrows this down?]

[Your path and integration of majors is interesting, but your language makes it sound like you’re reading off your CV. You can distill this down into a couple of sentences by simply describing your integration of psychology & biology. Then you can expand that by saying how this gave you a unique perspective on how health should be delivered. Then give examples of how you would use that to benefit your patients. Instead of listing your classes or majors, try to string your experiences into a single narrative.]

My interest in volunteering in the community started when I was an adolescent. I was born and raised in a region that has a prevalence of migrant workers and lower income families. This environment exposed me to the difficulties faced by disadvantaged populations and I decided to help those in my community who were underserved. [This story about your childhood is VERY interesting! However, you never gave us any real, gritty examples or stories about this part of your life. Pinpoint a sharp memory in your childhood that really defines your experience there. Just by telling the story it should answer things like: Who were these migrant workers? Did they teach you anything important? How did they impact your life? What difficulties did they face? How can this be solved?] When I left this region to attend college, I felt the need to continue to volunteer. I satiated this need by joining [redacted] Women’s Honor Society, whose main mission was to help the community through service-oriented activities. Through volunteering with [the Women’s Honor Society], I learned about the importance of effective communication and how simple acts of kindness can go a long way. I was particularly fond of the Inter-Faith Rotating Winter Shelter. I helped provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for homeless individuals, and also spent the night in the facility. Interacting with the homeless people was educational because I learned that most of these individuals were similar to myself, or people I know. A significant amount of the homeless people was educated and a few were around my age. This affirmed my belief that community service is essential because anyone, no matter his background, can undergo difficulties and need assistance.

[This paragraph, like the first, sounds like a CV. On the AMCAS application you’ll have plenty of room to list and describe your extracurricular activities. Avoid repeating your activities in your essay, otherwise the admissions committee will be essentially reading it over twice. You want your personal statement to be an entirely different piece from the rest of your application. This doesn’t not mean experiences on the AMCAS application have to be exclusive from the personal statement, but you should be speaking about those experiences on a deeper, more emotional and more personal level.]

The Red Cross exemplifies all that I believe a community service organization should be. The Red Cross not only provides service to individuals and communities in need, it also prepares the community for disasters and other difficult situations in order to prevent or minimize suffering. [Avoid describing organizations, especially something as widely known as the Red Cross. Any descriptors associated with the organization should be focused on what YOU did and how this changed YOU.] This is similar to how I want to be as a physician. [This correlation is somewhat confusing because you’re comparing yourself, a single person, to a global organization. Try picking one person, maybe within the Red Cross, that you admire.] I not only want to help people who are suffering, but I also want to help educate people to make healthier decisions to prevent disease whenever possible. While volunteering for the Red Cross the last seven years, I educated others in subjects such as swimming, CPR/first aid, and community preparedness. I have also taught and/or tutored science, math, anatomy, athletics, and even religion. [These lists create a very monotonous tone, and it’s unlikely that a reader is to remember much, if at all, from the list. Rather than typing out ALL of the activities you did, pick one significant moment that stuck with you and describe it in detail.] I take pleasure spreading my knowledge about my passions and helping others to overcome their fears. Recently, I started volunteering with an organization called the Special Needs Aquatic Program. This program enabled me to help special needs children become comfortable in the water while rehabilitating them and teaching them how to swim. Through this program, I have learned about physical and mental disabilities and how to overcome them in order to teach and communicate effectively.

Communication is key when it comes to education. While teaching over the years, I have worked with individuals of most ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. [How does this paragraph relate to the ones above? It feels very disconnected. Everything should flow and connect with one another.] I have also learned to adapt my teaching styles to fit to my student’s abilities. I understand what it feels like to be misunderstood. I lost my ability to properly communicate while studying abroad in Italy. I felt frustrated with my lack of communication skills, and even after catching onto the language; I still had difficulty expressing exactly what I wanted with my limited vocabulary. This experience helped me understand what it is like to be unable to communicate my intentions and how to overcome this boundary through non-verbal communication and observation. [I understand what you’re trying to say, but the way you’ve worded your experience in Italy can come off as slightly naive. Traveling to Italy is a privilege, and you should treat it this way. Rather than putting the focus on you here, you can quickly talk about how your experience was difficult, but then go back and say, “what I experienced was on a timeline of a few weeks/months in a foreign country, while others have to experience this on a day to day basis in a place they call home.”] When I have the same problem with communicating with someone because he is unable to speak English, or cannot speak at all, I use observation and the non-verbal forms of communication I have learned to rise above this limitation. Adapting to the given circumstances of a situation is a valuable tool that I have fine-tuned over the years of teaching and I feel that this quality is critical for an aspiring doctor such as myself. [Does this skill of observation and non-verbal communication truly set you apart from everyone else? Unless you are a professional in the art, it is better to tell a story where you saw the hardship these people go through and from there was enlightened/inspired to do something about it.]

I am a well-rounded, logic-driven, and generous person who has a lot to offer the field of medicine. I think that my communication skills along with my passion for education, science, and medicine will help me succeed as a medical student and as a future physician. I hope to spread my knowledge to help people in America make healthier decisions in order to battle the obesity, cancer, and heart disease epidemics, as well as fighting for the rights of underserved and overlooked communities.

[Your goals are very scattered and broad. Coming to the end, I find myself wishing you spoke more about the migrant workers and your experience there. I can easily see you stringing together an essay revolving around the migrant workers, their difficulty in communicating in their world, and their hardship of being medically underserved. Thus drawing connections between each of the topics you touched on with one very descriptive and heartfelt story.]

Overall takeaway

First off I want to state that when writing the personal statement, everyone should keep this in mind: on the AMCAS application you will be allowed to list up to 15 experiences of any kind. You will also be given 700 characters to describe each activity, as well as an additional 1325 characters for 3 experiences you find “most meaningful.” As you can see, you will have plenty of room to write and list off your activities. Therefore, in your personal statement you should limit yourself to talking about a few potent experiences.

Moving forward. This essay felt like a run-off of a CV. It listed your coursework, majors, and several volunteer activities. Then, when there were more intimate details about your childhood and life experiences, I felt myself looking for more to the story.

Remember this: your essay will be read by a committee that may have seen thousands of essays before yours. Think to yourself, if you had to read 10,000 personal statements, which ones would stand out?

The key to making an essay memorable is to tell a story that hooks the reader like a good book. Instead of listing a number of your experiences and skills, pick one to three incredible and defining moments in your life that will effectively communicate your story and drive for medicine. This will take some serious reflection, and may take a long time to work out.

Your essay already has a lot of great ideas that you can pick from. In particular, your childhood experience with migrant workers can develop into an intriguing story that strings together the difficulties they face in communicating and in accessing medical resources. Then, you could delve into the deeper and more emotionally rooted topics such as how this affected you from a young age, how it changed your perspective, how it shaped your goals, and how your unique drives you to aid the underserved.

In doing this, your ultimate goal is to make that one guy in the committee, after reviewing thousands of applications, speak up and say “what about that one who was so dedicated to fight for migrant workers? There was something special there.”

Yumi Kovic is the founder of, a comprehensive site of advice for all things pre-med. Yumi has a passion for writing, advising, and extreme multi-tasking. Follow Yumi on Twitter and check out her services for more personal and detailed essay edits.

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Pwning the Personal Statement Part IIIB: Example 1

We’ve talked about writing and editing the Personal Statement over 3 parts:

Pwning the Personal Statement Part I: Intro and Free Essay Reviews!
Pwning the Personal Statement Part II: Writing the thing
Pwning the Personal Statement Part IIIA: Editing

Now we want to show you how to put it in action. This series of example Personal Statements are from real students who have sent in their essays to us for review. We’ve carefully redacted identifying information, but the core contents remain the same. We’ve invited our guest blogger, Yumi Kovic of to share her insights with the submitted essays.

Actual Essay with Comments

“Beep! Beep!” the drive-thru sensor alarmed.
[With this line I see you’re attempting to captivate your reader. That is great – however your captive mark should be more soothing and intriguing. I will touch more on this throughout the essay.] 

“Welcome to Rooster’s. How may I help you?” It was the thirty-seventh time that
[The “thirty-seventh” descriptor put me in a somewhat negative mindset. I immediately thought to myself, “Did he/she really count every customer?” It’s better to exaggerate to a point where it’s obvious and somewhat funny. “It must have been the thousandth time that…”]
night I had asked that question at my after-school job in high school. Rooster’s was a fast-food chicken restaurant conveniently located down the street from my house. Before clocking out, I had a conversation with my manager, Sam, about him looking for another job because Rooster’s was not paying him enough to support himself and he did not want to live with his mother anymore. As I clocked out, I saw him boxing up what was probably the only food he would have to eat at home that night. “I cannot live like this for the rest of my life, “ I thought as I looked down at my greasy work shirt.

[The Rooster’s paragraph does not fit in with the rest of the essay and lacks to describe your reasons or goals for medicine. I understand you’re trying to describe a desire to do something greater. However, many high school students, including myself, have done menial work, and this likely has little effect on our career choices. Rather than looming on Sam’s poor situation, find something you’re inspired by.]

My thoughts quickly went back to Mrs. Marsh’s fourth grade classroom at [my] Elementary School. Over a snack of Ritz Bitz cheese crackers and a Juicy Juice apple juice box, my friend Sally and I were discussing our life’s goals. I decided I wanted to be a pediatrician because I loved kids and needed a profession that would be a support the type of lifestyle I wanted to provide for myself. Sally wanted to be a plastic surgeon. We both agreed to go to the same college and medical school, move to California to practice and be next door neighbors in our luxurious mansions. That plan soon became unrealistic as Sally and I got older and grew apart; however, it played a large role in the motivation I had to succeed throughout middle school and high school.

[The mention of “mansions” brings in a very negative connotation early on that cannot be easily salvaged. Rather than turning it around later on, which you did, it’s better to focus on more positive aspects. Also, the language of the paragraph has a strong sense of adult character in what is a childhood scene. If you want to talk about your childhood, make it sound fun and playful and not so serious, unless of course it is a serious topic.]

When I entered high school and had a little control over what classes I could take I found myself choosing science courses such as Chemistry and Human Anatomy & Physiology. [This sentence is somewhat contradictory because you say you had little control over your classes, yet you chose your courses.]
I really became intrigued with the human body and how it functions. A class called Health Science Careers gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of careers in the health field through researching the careers and shadowing. [Rather than arbitrarily listing the things you did, be DESCRIPTIVE! Real, descriptive examples are always more powerful than listing off a number of things you did, even if it’s only one example. For instance, what careers did you explore? Who did you shadow? What was that like? How did you feel?] I realized that the health field offered the best combination of two things I loved: science and people. Acknowledging this was indeed the path for me, I entered into college declaring a major in Biomedical Science. [At this point, you have told us that you had made a huge life decision to dive into the science & health field, however we have no reason to believe you. Again, give hefty descriptive examples. What excited you about science? Can you describe some specific experiment that enthralled you?]

As I rode into the campus of [my] University, I noticed a sign on each side that read “Enter to Learn” and “Depart to Serve” respectively. [These signs are very intriguing and could work well as your lead in for the personal statement. Consider making this your first paragraph. You may want to get more descriptive by telling us about the environment around you, the bustling students, your nerves and excitement.] I had no idea at that time that those words would shape and mold my desire to become a physician. [Another good hook that would work well in the first paragraph.] Service is a universal theme at [my University] no matter what club/organization [Avoid slashes, it’s better to keep the writing narrative-like by writing “club OR organization”.] you are involved in. My participation in various outreach experiences with different groups of people caused my eyes to be opened to an important life-long lesson: this world is not about me. [Again – give us a real, descriptive example full of emotions. This is a very emotional and important part of your life. Pick a moment that perfectly describes this tipping point.] Prior to college I was more interested in what medicine could do for me. Within one semester of being at [my University], my mentality switched to a desire to know what I could do for medicine. [Very good line: “what I could do for medicine.” – you may want to include people or humanity in that.] I soon saw my desire fulfilled by working with an Internal Medicine physician named Dr. Harold Mandet. I have been able to work with her all throughout my undergraduate education and have seen literally every patient [This feels a bit overstated.] leave her better than when they came. A transformation of their countenance would take place as she was treating them. I was amazed to see how she was able to combine the knowledge and skills she received in medical school with another tool that cannot be learned from a book—love. The love she has towards her patients makes them feel like a person and not a condition she is treating. [Good ideas – humanizing the process of medicine.] She takes the time to talk to her patients and shows a genuine concern for their health. By watching Dr. Handet [First you say Dr. Harold Mandet, and then Dr. Handet – be forewarned, spelling mistakes on important words like physician names will not look good!] I could see that what drove her was her passion to better someone else’s life through knowledge and training received in medical school.

Becoming a physician will allow me to impact individuals in the same way Dr. Handet does. [Rather than referring back to Dr. Handet, describe exactly what kind of physician YOU want to be. Remember, YOU are the one trying to get into medical school, not Dr. Mandet.] Physicians receive a certain level of trust and respect from their patients that will allow me to not only assist patients physically but emotionally. [This sentence feels somewhat like a power-trip. Instead, talk about carefully building trust and relationships with your patients. Remember – you have to earn your patients’ trust, even as a doctor.] There is a song that says “If I can help somebody, my living shall not be in vain.” I believe becoming a physician is the best career choice for me to make because it combines my love of science and people with my desire to serve others. [Be careful with this type of line. Virtually everyone going to medical school wants to go because they like science and people. It’s okay to like those two things, but you have to state it in an genuine and convincing way. For instance, chemistry teachers and nurses like science and people. What sets you apart from them? How is being a physician different from every other job involving science and people? Once again, stories go much farther than a run of words.]

For this case I focused on suggesting and analyzing the content of the essay, which is a great first step towards writing the personal statement. This essay brings in a range of ideas and experiences that can be narrowed and, at the same time, expanded.

Overall takeaway

It took nearly half the essay to get to the real essence of why you wanted to become a physician. You want to hook your readers early, and hook them with the right information. Rather, the essay started with a slightly upsetting story about Sam’s managerial position at Rooster’s.

If you are going to start off with a somewhat irrelevant topic, you MUST circle back to the story in the end and tie it into your goals and/or desires for medicine.

The essay had great ideas and thoughts towards the end when describing your university experience. However, they came in a little too late. An easy way to fix this is to push this paragraph straight to the top. The anecdote about seeing the signs “Enter to Learn” and “Depart to Serve” are intriguing hooks that you can add on to and play off of throughout the entire essay.

My biggest piece of advice is to go back to the drawing board and really reflect. Your essay is full of rather artificial descriptions of your passion. You cannot just say that you “like” science; you must SHOW it through pure example. After you show your detailed example you can summarize it. But you cannot claim anything without a captivating story.

Try to pinpoint very specific, colorful and meaningful moments in your university life that truly directed your passion to become a physician. Write them out with excruciating detail, choose which ones describe you and your goals best, and finally shave out the unneeded fluff.

By doing this you will hopefully turn the focus to YOU. Throughout the essay, we are constantly referred to outsiders: Sam, Sally, and then Dr. Mandet. This is the personal statement. Make it about you!

Descriptive examples. That is my best advice. Dig deep and reflect!

Yumi Kovic is the founder of, a comprehensive site of advice for all things pre-med. Yumi has a passion for writing, advising, and extreme multi-tasking. Follow Yumi on Twitter and check out her services for more personal and detailed essay edits.

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Pwning the Personal Statement Part IIIA: Editing

This article is a continuation of Pwning the Personal Statement Part II: Writing the thing

Students often think that great admissions essays are built using the most impressive content and that the sum of the content builds a coherent story. Unfortunately, this often leads to essays with no vision and no story. These essays often confuse readers who may be impressed by the individual experiences, but have little insight into the person behind the story (i.e. you!). The best essays shine because the author has a vision for the story from the beginning, then selects the experiences that best tell that story, even if they’re not individually the most impressive.

So you’ve brainstormed and got yourself a first draft of your essay. You’re practically done, right? Wrong! Editing is extremely undervalued because students usually think their focus should be on fixing grammar, spelling, and flow. Yes, these are crucial, but they’re insufficient to develop a solid essay. The final draft of a well-polished essay rarely resembles its first draft. Major structural changes and even choices of examples often change to optimize the message.

Most of us approach writing our personal statement like we approach studying for an exam. Imagine that you have a big orgo exam coming up. Undoubtedly, if you spend 4 hours studying, you will do significantly better than if you study for 0 hours. But there’s only marginal improvement in how you do if you study 20 hours rather than 16 hours. Eventually your benefits for each hour diminish so much they’re just not worth the time. Many people don’t realize that writing your personal statement is not like that.

Starting the Process

Read over your essay and clean up any glaring grammatical or structural problems so you can focus on the important parts. Now become a devil’s advocate for yourself. If anything even has the slightest whiff of being inappropriate (joking or otherwise), boring, lame, over-hyped, nonsensical or some other tangent, it probably needs to be removed or replaced. Now start editing the meat of the essay with the following questions in mind:

  • What is my overall message?

  • How does this paragraph/sentence contribute to the overall message?

  • Does this paragraph/sentence make sense where it is and the way it is?

  • Can I replace this with something better that would achieve my goal more succinctly?

You’re going to go through multiple iterations of your essay – but how many should you do? Simple answer: at least 8-10. Real answer: it depends on how much of a change you’re making in each iteration! Often, only 20-40% of the original text from Draft 1 will be in the final product. If there’s more than that, you’re doing a bad job of editing. It’s not that you’re a bad writer, it’s just that real gold takes time to refine.

As you progress through these iterations, your focus will shift from larger structural issues and your choices of examples to issues about the flow of the essay. You should keep the following items in mind.

Not all bad sentences are valuable even when reworded

We’ve all been there in an essay. You’ve written this mess of words which was supposed to convey an added layer of depth to your idea but no matter how you rephrase it, it’s perpetually awkward. Some sentences just have no place in the essay. It’s tough, but often these sentences contribute very little and detract a lot. Simply excise them. You won’t miss them when they’re gone.

Editing is NOT like studying for an exam

Normally, we study with improvements in performance that look something like this:

So we assume essay writing is similar; Draft 1 came out pretty ok, and Draft 2 was a lot better. So by Draft 4, it’s twice as good and ready to go! Wrong. Your essay doesn’t even start improving substantially until iteration 4 or 5. The real curve for the quality of your essay looks something like this:

Sometimes you’ll have more steps in the curve (like titrating a polyprotic acid; each has its own phase of exponential growth before a temporary plateau) but working through the plateaus is well worth the work when you reap the rewards of exponential improvement. Most people stop writing their essay just as they approach the exponential improvement phase. If you don’t get to iteration 7 or 8, your essay still needs a lot of work. You instantly have an edge over most other premeds when you really dedicate to your personal statement like this, because most people just get too tired to keep going.

Editing is more than hitting F7 in Microsoft Word

How do you know when an edit is “done” and you can compile the changes into a new iteration? When there’s about as much (or more) red text than black text. This holds true more for the earlier iterations than the later ones, but you’re not ready to slow down with the red ink until you’re at least on your 6th or 7th iteration.

Is Draft 1 too early to be read by others?

Yes, and Draft 2 and 3 are too early to be read by others too. You need to get a really clear sense of what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you don’t, nobody else is going to be able to make sense of it either. Don’t let others read your essay and influence your voice until you get into the middle stages of editing.

Use diverse editors you respect

We wrongly assume that our friends and family are the best people to read our essay because they know us and can tell if we’re bringing out our best. This is another big way we shoot ourselves in the foot. The problem with your friends and family is that they know you (ironic, right?). This means they inadvertently have biases about about what’s good and what’s not, and about what makes sense and what doesn’t. The best advice you’re going to get on your essays is from somebody who doesn’t know you and says “When you talk about this experience, I don’t get it.” Take these comments very seriously because the adcom doesn’t know you either, so your essay needs to reach them very clearly. Friends and family should absolutely read your essays, but you should have an equal number of people read your essays whose ideas you respect but who don’t know you well personally. Examples include those people on your Facebook newsfeed who always get those intellectual discussions going… or people you know are in med school now.

The more diverse your sample size, the better. Ideally, you want to have people read your personal statement from each of the following categories:

  • Family (at least 1)

  • Close friends (at least 2)

  • Acquaintances or friends of friends who are unfamiliar with the stories your essays reference (at least 2)

  • Current medical students (at least 2)

  • Professionals (preferably people intimately familiar with the admissions process, but career advisers, co-op coordinators, or professional essay editors should suffice) (at least 2)

Ok, but what are you supposed to even ask them? Don’t give people an essay and say “tell me what you think.” Some people can work with open-ended tasks but most can’t. You need a specific set of questions and goals for your editors, including:

  1. Do you think the examples I use

    1. are interesting and unique?

    2. make sense?

  2. Does my essay adequately explain the importance of the examples or does it feel like too much chronology and not enough analysis?

  3. How far did you get before you got bored?

  4. Does the whole story of the essay make sense? Which parts stand out as being out of sequence or just not fitting in the essay?

  5. Given what you know about me and what I’ve done, can you think of any examples that might better illustrate the points I’m trying to make?

Your goal is to have them do a little grammar and syntax editing (especially in the final stages of editing) but mostly big-picture critiquing of your story and how you tell it.

Admit that it’s awkward to write about yourself

People will tell you when an example is stupid or doesn’t serve the purpose you think it does. If you hear that piece of advice from more than one person, toss it. Always get a second opinion before you amputate. But if you get two opinions that conflict, get a third.

It’s easy for us to get attached to our work, brushing off the weakness of examples or descriptions too easily. If someone tells you that an example doesn’t make sense, don’t brush it off by thinking “the person just doesn’t know me well enough to get the example.” Remember: the adcom doesn’t know you either. If something is nonsensical to a few people, you don’t want to risk it being nonsensical to the adcom – get ready to swallow your pride and take people’s advice about the parts of your essay that suck.

Go down both forks in the road

Sometimes you get to a point in your essay when you have to make a choice about which road you’ll travel. Do I portray myself as the kind, empathetic volunteer or as the bold leader unwilling to take no for an answer but who gets the job done in the end?

Entertain both ideas separately. Programmers will often “fork” their code, iterating down one path separately from another to see which they like better. Ultimately you’ll get a sense of where each one is going and then pick the one that most succinctly fits the original vision you created for your essay.

Putting it all together

Eventually you’ll end up with tens of edits from your own to those of others. Sometimes you may feel like you want to backtrack and go back to earlier examples that you removed. All of that is fine. The version that you ultimately select needs to stay true to the vision you want to convey. Once you’ve accomplished that and it makes you go “wow”, you know you’re getting close. You’ll never truly be finished, because it will never be perfect. But this is an area where the investment of the time will pay off. Starting the process early will ensure that even if it’s not perfect, it’s still ready to represent you to the adcom.

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Personal Statement: Discussing Your MCAT Score

Is your MCAT score a good topic to discuss in your medical school personal statement? Let’s say your MCAT score isn’t too high — should you explain your score in the personal statement?

Or let’s say your MCAT score is something kickass, like a 35 or higher. Should you bring that up in your essay?

Your personal statement serves this purpose: To show medical schools why you want to become a doctor, and how your experiences have nurtured your motivation to medicine and given you a big “reason why” a career in medicine fulfills one of your life purposes.

Medical Schools Want to Learn about You, Not Your Scores
Your MCAT score doesn’t really say anything about why you want to become a doctor, so it’s not a good topic for discussion in your personal statement. Your MCAT score speaks for itself so further elaboration in your personal statement doesn’t give medical schools new information they need to make a better decision.

The best topics to cover in your personal statement are impactful experiences from your life that illustrate your motivation to medicine and position you as a thoughtful, driven person.

Good topics to hit on in your personal statement include:

•    An experience that shows your love of research
•    An experience that shows your love of service
•    A strong declaration of your “reason why”

For more hints on what to write and what not to write in your essay, check out “medical school personal statement” over at

Another option if you have a low MCAT score
If you believe that your grades or MCAT score are low because of a serious disadvantage you faced as a student, you can write the “disadvantaged student” essay that explains your situation, or in the “Is there anything else we should know?” question in the secondary application. It’s not going to help you to bring up a low MCAT score anywhere else.

Don Osborne is a contributing author to Princeton Review’s Hyperlearning MCAT Course. Don created the original Verbal Accelerator program and is a contributor to the latest “Cracking the MCAT” book from Princeton Review. Follow Don on Facebook to read his advice and recommendations to improve your chances of medical school admissions.

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What to Do For Medical School Admissions When Your GPA Is Low

There’s a paradox in premed advising, and frankly it’s pervasive.Here’s the paradox: Early in your academic career, you go to a premed advisor, teacher, professor, or trusted friend, talk about your grades, your background, your volunteering, etc., and then you ask, “How am I doing?” They ask a few questions, pause a moment, and then say, “Don’t worry, you’re doin’ just fine. Keep goin’.” Fast forward a year later, you go back to that same mentor and check-in. “How are your grades?” s/he asks. You tell him that you’re doin OK, but that your science GPA could be a little higher. “Uh oh. You should have studied more. You can’t get into medical school with that low of a GPA.”

You pause, stunned. Then you ask, “What did you say?!”

And that’s when your stomach drops out of you. Feels like you’re on an out-of-control roller coaster, and you’re gonna die. What the heck just happened? Nine months ago everything was great, and now you’re telling me I can’t get in? WTF?! After the dust settles and you regain your composure, you swallow hard. The question that you ask next is the important one: “What can I do now? How can I get in to medical school with a lower GPA?”

I don’t know what your mentor’s going to tell you, but I’ll tell you this: There are absolutely, positively, things that you can do that will definitely improve your chances for admissions to medical school, despite a lower GPA.

Here are the five main ways to solve the problem. Here you go.

What To Do When Your GPA Is Low
Solution #1: Stay in school an extra year and raise your grades
Solution #2: Enroll in a post baccalaureate program specifically focused on raising your grades and improving your chances for acceptance
Solution #3: Set up your own version of a postbacc program, called “the DIY postbacc.”
Solution #4: Enroll in a Special Masters Program
Solution #5: Consider DO, Caribbean or other International Medical Schools

You’ll find more detail about each of these strategies in the medical school admissions advising section of my website.

Don Osborne is a contributing author to Princeton Review’s Hyperlearning MCAT Course. Don created the original Verbal Accelerator program and is a contributor to the latest “Cracking the MCAT” book from Princeton Review. Follow Don on Facebook to read his advice and recommendations to improve your chances of medical school admissions.

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Finding Your Passion and the Push for Primary Care

There is an obvious primary care health care shortage looming in this country. By 2025 it is estimated that the US will be short nearly 52,000 primary care physicians.1 With such a shortfall looming, everyone involved in the health care system, including medical schools, are trying to innovate change to fix it.

One of the newest medical schools in the country, Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, is one of those medical schools trying to innovate change. They are actively seeking students who are interested in primary care, and are pushing a primary care track onto their students. Their goal is to have 50% of the graduating class match into primary care. The current national average is 33%.

While many students applying to medical school have an idea of what specialties they are interested in pursuing after medical school, the fact is, the majority will likely change their mind during medical school.2 Quinnipiac, according to an NPR article, has the right idea, picking applicants from the beginning that are statistically more likely to go into primary care.

I question whether or not this sort of selection process will hinder both the experience at medical school, and the career happiness after medical school of Quinnipiac’s students. Every student, at every medical school, should be given the opportunity to do what they are passionate about. Passion is an integral part of medical education, and in life.

Applicants to medical school are no doubt passionate. But what are they passionate about? They are certainly passionate about become physicians, but the specific type of physician they want to become is a passion that is cultivated during the 4 years of their medical education. Trial and error, through every rotation, and every bodily fluid builds a students passion for what they want to do with the rest of their life.

I think Quinnipiac, and other schools that have a primary focus of training, are at risk of restricting the process of finding and developing a passion for a specific specialty. If that passion is not developed for primary care, or if the student feels pressure to choose primary care over something they are more passionate about, it’s not a simple fix. It is not easy to go back and complete a different residency, once you have chosen a specialty.

While the short term goal of increasing primary care physicians may seem to be achieved with these initiatives, the long term consequences may only hinder the progress of primary care, and more importantly patient care. I understand that the primary care shortage is of the utmost importance for our healthcare system, however, this may not be the best way.

Physicians who are not passionate will not be lifelong learners. Why stay up to date on the newest medications, newest disease management strategies and newest research if you are not passionate about what you are doing?

Physicians who lack passion about what they are doing do not have careers – they have jobs. They might as well be flipping burgers at the local golden arched restaurant for a paycheck. We are already in a current state of extreme physician dissatisfaction, with almost half of physicians stating they WOULD NOT choose medicine again as a career.3

As you, the applicant, are choosing what school you want to attend, it is very important to think about these things. Don’t just look at the MCAT score and GPA. Don’t look at the “best of” lists.

If you are truly passionate about primary care, whether it is pediatrics, family practice or internal medicine, a school like Quinnipiac might be perfect for you. But, if you just know you want to be a physician, and aren’t 100% sure about the type of physician you want to be, then you need to do your research.

Researching the schools you want to apply to is something that you should be doing anyway. Location, climate and curriculum are all important to know. Your chance at doing a sub-specialty away rotation is importation as well.

At a school like Quinnipiac, you have to be honest with them, and yourself during the interview process. You need to disclose that, while you may be interested in primary care right now, you would like to explore some of the more than 2 dozen other specialties.

Schools with a primary care objective may be the solution to the current and future health care crisis, but as a student applying, make sure you know what questions to ask of the school, and of yourself to ensure that you will be the best physician for your patients, and the most passionate person you can be.

Dr. Ryan Gray is currently a practicing physician in the United States Air Force. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida (GO GATORS!) with a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Sciences, and received his M.D. from New York Medical College. After graduating medical school Ryan completed his internship through a Tufts Medical Center transitional medicine program at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital. He is the founder of Medical School HQ where he blogs regularly.

1. Primary Care Access Report –; Retrieved 6 Apr 2013
2. Kazerooni, EA; Blane, CE; Schlesinger, AE; Vydarney, KH. Medical students’ attitudes toward radiology; comparison of matriculating and graduating student. Academic Radiology. 8/1/1997. 4(8). 601–607.
3. Medscape Physician Compensation Report: 2012 Results –; Retrieved 4 Apr 2013

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