Writing a Great Residency Personal Statement

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013
Like the AMCAS personal statement, residency personal statements are open ended; they don’t ask a specific question. When writing such an essay, however, you’re likely going to want to adhere to a much stricter guideline regarding what to write.

The residency application process is all business. Those who read your essay are not looking for novel styling, mysterious openings, or poetic phrasing; instead, they are looking for a clear statement of why you want to pursue a career in that particular specialty. Thus, we recommend that you base your essay on answering the following three questions – start thinking about them now!

  1. Why have you chosen this specialty?
  2. What are you seeking in a residency?
  3. How do you see your career in this field progressing?

Specific content suggestions for residency personal statements differ from those we recommend to med school applicants. Why? Simple. Having made it through med school and rotations, you should have a clear understanding of your preferred career path by this point – thus, you should showcase that in your residency essay. Unlike medical schools, residencies are looking for focused/directed applicants with a clear passion for a field and career trajectory.

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Putting Residency Statement Content Together

In the first part of your residency statement, you should discuss what in particular has interested you about the specialty you’ve chosen, and how you’ve built experience in that field. If you’re planning on devoting your life to internal medicine, radiology, or any other focused branch of medicine, you must have a clear reason for doing so. Thus, make sure that the reader comes away from this section understanding what has led you to this profession.

Then, you need to talk about how you intend to further that experience during your residency and what specifically you’re seeking in a residency. Don’t talk about specific locations, though, as you’ll likely be sending this to a large number of facilities. You’ve got a solid base of experience already, but during your residency you’re going to become an expert; how will you go about doing that?

Finally, look past your residency to give the reader an idea of what you plan to do with your accrued knowledge once you have completed your residency. As with all types of forward-looking essays, be as specific as possible here – don’t just say you want to change the world.

Above all, remember that there is no silver bullet – each individual will be best served by writing about something unique to him or her. This goes for all applicants, regardless of where you’re applying. The suggestions presented here are meant to serve as a guide; it’s your job to apply them to your case and choose the specific content that will make your essay shine.

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