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Sample Residency Application Essays

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.

For access to 100 free sample successful admissions essays, visit EssayEdge, the company The New York Times calls “the world’s premier application essay editing service.” You’ll also find other great essay and editing resources (some free and some fee-based) at EssayEdge.

Go back to Writing the Graduate School Application Essay

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While I can be the queen of procrastination, I feel it is my duty to shake some of you out of denial and into reality: ERAS is coming soon. Very soon. In a few short months you will be applying to residency and the application can be extremely daunting, especially the personal statement. I’m not sure why essays of this nature are so intimidating. Maybe it’s because not all medical students are well versed in language arts, we hate writing, or maybe just the thought of putting ‘who you are’ onto paper brings to the surface formerly suppressed feelings from your dark past (whoa—this just got intense!).

I’m mostly kidding, but to be honest, sometimes when we sit down to write our personal statement we immediately think things like  “I’m not that interesting,” or “I haven’t done anything cool in life, I’ve spent most of my time in school thus far.” And that is completely normal. The majority of us haven’t had these pivotal moments in life that shake the ground beneath us and form a new foundation for who we are, and that’s OK! Your personal statement isn’t intended to be a best-selling memoir; it is intended to add another dimension to the otherwise black and white ERAS application full of scores and grades. It is an opportunity to show Program Directors your personality, what motivates you and what you're looking for in a residency program.

While you've probably heard all of this before, you probably have more questions, specific questions, about how to tackle this personal statement (I know I did).

Here are the 7 most important questions answered about your personal statement:


1. How big of deal is my personal statement to program directors?


The 2014 NRMP program director survey revealed that 78% of program directors cite the personal statement as an important factor in deciding which candidates to interview. The average importance was rated 3.6/5. So basically, 78% of program directors think this is important. Now from experience in talking to different program directors and mentors, I have learned that the most important thing is that your personal statement is well organized, well written, with proper grammar, and no red flags…oh… and that it’s ONLY ONE PAGE.

A personal statement typically isn’t the “maker” but it can be a deal “breaker” if it doesn’t have these attributes. That said, if you have a memorable, well written personal statement, program directors WILL mention it, and it will make you stand out as an applicant. If they are on the fence on whether or not to interview you, a personal statement could potentially be the deciding factor. So I guess it is pretty important. Are you surprised?

2. What should I include in my personal statement?

While everyone’s personal statement will be different, all of them should include the following components:

  •  A catchy introduction to grab the reader
  •  An overview of your desirable qualities. Word of advice: SHOW, don’t tell. Instead of saying you are compassionate, describe a story from your life that demonstrates your compassion.
  • Highlights from your life experience (jobs, extracurricular activities, hobbies) that would help you to be an ideal candidate for <<<whatever>>> residency you are applying to. Pro tip: DON’T REGURGITATE YOUR CV. This is your opportunity to tell people things that aren’t on your CV (do you play chess in the park every Saturday or have you traveled to some amazing places?... Tell us about it!).
  • Why you are interested in your specialty. This doesn’t have to be a profound story, but it should be the truth!
  • What you are looking for in a residency program. Is a strong procedural curriculum important to you? Is the culture of the program more important?Suggestion: Try to include things you know your programs of choice embody.
  • Address any red flags on your application. Did you do poorly on Step 1? Did you take a leave of absence for a long time? Best to just come out and talk about it without being defensive. Show how you have grown from the experience, rather than apologizing for it!
  • A cohesive closing statement. Sometimes the first and the last sentence of the statement are the hardest to come up with, but it's worth your time to make it tidy, even if it isn’t profound.


3. What shouldn’t I include?

Avoid any topic that is controversial. Stay away from extreme religious or political statements. It doesn’t mean you can’t say you are an active member of church, but don’t use this as an opportunity to discuss whether or not you are pro-choice. You never know who is going to be reading this, and anything too polarizing can be off-putting for some readers.

Additionally, as stated before, don’t just list your accomplishments straight from your CV. Anything that you include should be in a bigger context (otherwise how is it any different than your CV?).

Lastly, leave out any traces of bitterness, defensiveness or anger about anything that has happened in your life. Everything MUST have a positive spin.

4. How can I make my statement unique?

As evidenced by The Voice and American Idol, it is everyone’s impulse to divulge their “sob story” to help them stand out and garner sympathy with the audience. While it is important to include stories that helped shape you as a person, it is very transparent and cliché to talk about that person you know who died, and how ever since you vowed to ‘save people.’

The best way to make your statement unique is to allow your personality to shine through. Use your words, your humor, and your depth to tell your story. Find a way to show yourself to your reader, and if you do this, your paper will be unique. Start brainstorming ideas as they come to you. 


5. Should I have more than one to upload?

In short: absolutely. Especially if you are applying to more than one specialty, it's essential that you have several versions of your personal statement. That doesn’t mean you have to write a whole new one; you just have to tailor it to fit that specialty. If you're applying for a preliminary year, tailor your personal statement to explain how important you feel a solid foundation in medicine is for Dermatology (or whatever) and what you're looking for in a preliminary year.

Furthermore, I found that for the programs I REALLY wanted to interview with, I would upload a tailored personal statement for that program saying something like “I am seeking a Family Medicine Residency position with ABC University program because of their dedication to XYZ.” Just name-dropping their institution demonstrates your attention to detail and interest in THEIR institution. Even if you are an amazing applicant, if a program doesn’t feel you are interested in their specific program, they won’t interview you. It's best to make sure you give those out of state programs some extra attention so they know you are willing to relocate for them!

Lastly, you should know that you can upload as many versions of your personal statement as you like onto ERAS, but be especially careful when uploading and make sure you apply the correct personal statement to each program! Triple check your work! Pro Tip: Use your file names to help you stay organized. Pick a format and stick with it. Ex. PS-JohnsHopkins, USCF-PS, etc.

6. When should I start writing it?

Do I really have to answer this? The sooner the better, people! Get cracking now. You can even begin to think of ideas during your third year as you develop your interests in specific specialties. As ideas come to you, jot them into your phone so you don’t forget!

7. Can/should I get any help with my statement?

Yes. Yes. A thousand times YES! After getting your draft finished, show it to whomever will look at it BUT please remember to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt and to strongly consider the source. If you have an advisor at your school, ask for their input. Do you have an English Lit friend? Ask them for advice on polishing your essay.

Be careful asking other people applying for help. Sometimes people get weird and competitive and try to give you advice about making their statement more like theirs because they want to feel justified in their own efforts.

Now, it should be mentioned that there are services out there that will “write your personal statement” for you. Aside from the obvious reasons why not to do this, you have to be really careful. Those services don’t know you, don’t know your voice, and often times have very generic ways of putting these statements together. Using a service to help polish your statement, though, is A-OK. Overall, it’s best to stick with getting help from people you know and trust!

So without further ado, get writing!