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.
Like the AMCAS personal statement, residency personal statements are open ended in that there's no specific prompt. However, your residency matching application essay will need to be even more focused than the one that you submitted to medical school. Keep in mind that you are ultimately applying for a job, and your residency essay should reflect a strong level of professionalism.
One of the biggest mistakes that we see in residency essays is organizing them like med school application essays. Some applicants even try to use their med school essay as the basis for their residency essay. On the surface, this makes sense. Obviously, your medical school application essay was successful, so you want to repeat that success in the residency matching process.
However, we definitely recommend starting your residency essay from scratch. The selectors really only want to know about your life after you began medical school, so you'll need to draw upon those experiences to create an effective essay. Also, there is a strong trend within residency matching for shorter and shorter essays. No specialty is looking for an essay of longer than one page and one paragraph, but limiting the essay to fewer than 700 words is a good guideline.
Additionally, we've learned that creative essays don't perform particularly well in the matching process. Residency selectors are looking for very specific things within the essay, and they want to know how you'll fit in to their program. It's called 'matching' for a reason, and you'll need to show the selectors that you have a place with them as a resident.
Here are the main content areas that we suggest covering in your residency essay:
Why have you chosen this specialty?
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.
Why do you think you will excel in this specialty?
Not every med school student will have equal interest in, let alone talent for, every specialty. What about you makes this specialty the right match for your personality and goals? Help the selectors see that you have what it takes to thrive in the specialty. A meticulous person can feel right at home doing gross and checks in pathology. Excellent manual dexterity can ensure success as a surgeon. Persistence in solving complex puzzles can serve you well as an internist. In this part of the essay, make connections between general talents and your chosen specialty.
What are you seeking in a residency?
Next, write 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 send this essay 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. What will you contribute? You may want to write about things like teamwork, continuous learning, and passion for patient care.
How do you see your career in this field progressing?
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. Show the residency selectors how you will use the knowledge and skills that you gained in the residency for the benefit of patients. Do you envision yourself pursuing research? Working in a university? Being a provider in underserved regions? Tell them your vision for your career as a physician.
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CV and Personal Statement
Sample 1 Sample 2 Sample 3 Sample 4 Sample 5
In the world of applications and interviews, the Curriculum Vitae (CV) is the equivalent of a one minute patient presentation. It should be concise yet complete. A well written CV places a succinct, factual yet positive account of your academic, career and extracurricular accomplishments at the fingertips of the residency director. The CV works with the rest of your application to win you an interview.
What to include in the CV:
(1) Name and Address
Use the same name that you use in your applications, dean’s letter, transcripts, and correspondence with the programs and the matching service. Make sure to include an address and a phone number where program directors can reach you during the entire interview season.
List all major or medically related educational experiences from the present through college. Include the name and place of the institution, your area of study, dates of enrollment, type of degree received, and honors bestowed at graduation (e.g., graduating cum laude). List your expected graduation date.
If you have had an opportunity to participate in any research during medical school be sure to include this information. You will want to include the principle investigator overseeing the lab, the type of research being conducted as well as the dates you worked in the lab.
List all major or medically related work experiences, whether paid or volunteer. Include dates or work experience. If you worked as a tutor for Office of Students, you will have to decide where to place this experience. If you have many other employment experiences, you may want to place the tutoring experience under teaching. If you have had other experiences in teaching - it may be best to place under the employment category.
Include any opportunities you have had while in medical school. These examples could include working as a course teaching assistant, tutoring high school or college students.
Include any award and scholarship that you have received during your med school years as well as the most important awards and scholarships from your undergrad years.
Catalog any abstracts and papers published, in press, or submitted for publication. Format each publication as a detailed bibliography reference. Also list research presented or talks given at conferences.
If you contributed to the publication - Letters to a Third Year.
Last Name, First Name. (2007). Letter to a third-year medical student. In Letters to a Third Year Student from the Class of 2008, 5th Volume (Special Publication). San Antonio, TX: The UT Medical School at San Antonio, Student Affairs. Your Page Number
(8) Extracurricular Activities
List the most important long-term activities you were involved in during medical school. This category should include such things as community service projects, community work, participating in student organizations.
List hobbies and interests that define you. Also mention any special qualifications or skills that might enhance your effectiveness (foreign language, knowledge of sign language).
The goal of your single page personal statement is to present yourself as a unique candidate and summarize your reasons for selecting a particular specialty. It should reveal your motivation and describe the strengths and accomplishments that predict your future success. A well written personal statement illustrates an ability to reason and to communicate effectively.
There are many points of view on this subject, but all agree that you will need to address the following questions in your personal statement:
- What makes you unique? What strengths, skills, and experience will you bring to this specialty? (the most important question)
- What makes you a good fit for the specialty?
- What makes you stand out among applicants?
- Why did you choose this specialty? (a brief explanation of your decision process)
- What appeals to you about the specialty?
- How did you make your choice?
- What are your career goals at this time? (the least important of the 3 questions)
Surgical Residency Interviews (John H. Winston, M.D., M.B.A.)
CV and Personal Statement (David L. Henzi, Ed.D.)