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Tackling the Residency Personal Statement

10 min



Elite Medical Prep recently organized a roundtable event on the nuances of residency applications, equipping attendees with essential insights for this year’s cycle. In the event titled “Mastering the Residency Personal Statement,” hosted by Dr. Eigar and Dr. Zielinski. During the session, participants delved into the critical aspect of the residency personal statement. Given its significance, initiating the process early is key, with a recommended submission target of August. You can also see our residency application timeline for all deadlines and milestones!


We’ve encapsulated the discussed points in this blog for those who prefer written content or wish to complement the recorded session. If you prefer to watch the session, you may do so above. Additionally, other informative residency roundtable discussions and Q&A sessions are available here.


Navigating the Residency Personal Statement Landscape


  • No set prompt: The personal statement offers flexibility.
  • Extent: Maximum 28,000 characters (roughly 4,000-7,000 words), spanning 7-9 pages.
  • Multiple versions permitted: Tailor your personal statement to different specialties if applying to multiple, highlighting relevant strengths.



The Do’s of Crafting a Compelling ERAS Personal Statement


  1. Keep it concise: Given the influx of applications, brevity is key to ensuring your statement gets noticed and read thoroughly.
  2. Highlight unique experiences: Embrace this opportunity to shed light on aspects not covered elsewhere in your application.
  3. Give concrete examples: Illustrate your attributes through real-life instances; mere claims hold less impact.
  4. Tell a story: Weave your statement around a central theme, ensuring a coherent and engaging flow.
  5. Showcase your individuality: Deviate from the norm and present a distinctive angle of your journey; avoid echoing common sentiments.



The Don’ts of ERAS Personal Statement Writing


  1. Avoid redundancy: Replicating your CV is counterproductive; add value by sharing new insights.
  2. Don’t ramble: Maintain clarity and precision, sidestepping prolonged tangents.
  3. Be genuine, not appeasing: Don’t just write what you think the reviewers want to hear. Tailor your content to your unique strengths, substantiated by experiences.
  4. Clichés and hyperboles: Strike a balance between bland and over-exaggeration; be relatable and authentic.
  5. Originality over imitation: Refrain from plagiarism. Don’t start off with someone else’s example and edit from there. Begin anew to maintain authenticity and distinctiveness.
  6. Spare the medical lessons: Your reviewers have been in practice for a long time. They are very knowledgeable. Refrain from presenting them with an interesting or niche medical case, even if it is very exciting to you. Focus on your journey instead.



Embarking on the Writing Process


Initiating your residency personal statement necessitates action. Your first draft is just a stepping stone. It’s best to just get started! While writing, consider the following points:


  • How you developed an interest in medicine.
  • Why you were drawn to a certain specialty.
  • Your strengths (and your weaknesses) as a physician.
  • Why you will be an excellent resident.
  • What do you hope to get out of residency?
  • Your goals for future practice.
  • Brainstorm a list of stories that illustrate…
    • Your passion for medicine.
    • Your passion for your specialty.
    • Your strengths and weaknesses.
    • Your background and personal identity.
  • Build an outline of points to include.


Don’t explicitly answer these questions. Rather, weave some of this information into the story you are telling. 



Writing, Writing, Writing


Once you’ve got some ideas to pull from, it’s time to get started with your actual residency personal statement.

  • Start with a great hook. It’s a good idea to start strong and hook the reader in from the start. This can help keep the reader engaged with your story.
  • Use your space diligently. When you’re just starting off writing, it may make it easier not to think about this too much. Rather, get started working and allowing the residency personal statement to flow as it will. You can go back and make edits to make your writing more efficient and economical.
  • Complement aspects of your application. Parts that have already been stated in other parts of your application are good places to cut out later. If you aren’t adding anything new in a section of your statement, it’s unnecessary.
  • Write multiple drafts.
      • Change up the content.
      • Change up the style.
      • Move things around, tie them together differently. Etc.
      • Review different versions to see what works best.
  • Decide whether or not you will include content specific to a program or geographic area. We recommend keeping this to a minimum. It’s hard to keep track of multiple different final versions. However, if you do choose to write a couple of different final personal statements, make sure you are accounting for the differences throughout your whole personal statement, and not just in one small section. Additionally, be sure to double-check that you are associating your different versions with the correct applications.



Editing Your Residency Personal Statement


It’s very important to have several additional pairs of eyes on your personal statement. Ask several people to look over your personal statement and give you notes. The most important thing is to get brutal honesty from your reviewers. It’s important to emphasize this to your readers.


  • Swap personal statements with colleagues.
  • Ask family members.
  • Ask a trusted mentor or professor.
  • Ask a residency advisor.
  • Ask a current resident.
  • Ask colleagues not in medicine. This is more important than you may think. Some of the people reading your residency personal statement may not be from medicine. You want to make sure that your statement is approachable to anyone.
  • For non-native speakers: have a native speaker look over your statement. Make sure to convey proficiency in the English language.



Submit Your Work


It’s time to upload your draft to ERAS. Before you submit, be sure to preview how this will look and tweak the formatting. If you are different personal statements, be cautious and make sure you are associating correctly.

If you are looking for help with your application, consider a 1-on-1 residency advisor! Schedule your consultation today to learn more about how Elite Medical Prep can help you succeed!

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