University of Vermont

Personal Statements For Application to Medical & Dental School

An effective personal statement requires time, effort and honest reflection, as well as the writing of multiple drafts. Start well in advance of application deadlines.

This essay is a vital piece of an application to medical and dental schools. There is no doubt that it plays an important role in an Admissions Committee’s decision to offer the applicant an interview. The Committee uses the essay to get a sense of who you are and what’s important to you. Your personal statement differentiates you from other applicants and highlights the unique ways you are qualified to enter this profession. Although other candidates may have your identical GPA and standardized test scores, no one else will submit your essay.

Prepare this statement after thorough reflection and with careful attention to detail.  Be genuine and sincere. Avoid broad generalizations, clichés and hyperbole. Your narrative should highlight a few experiences that will make obvious your strong desire to follow this professional path, your continued growth, and how these experiences have enabled you to be prepared to meet the unique challenges ahead. Know why you are choosing to write about particular topics and consider how your choices in topics reflect on your candidacy and what these will elucidate about you for the Admissions Committee. Do not simply review your resume and accomplishments in your personal statement.

Qualities of an Excellent Essay

  • Highlights the candidate's strong writing skills
  • Has a clear narrative, with a coherent flow from beginning to middle to end, and allows the reader to connect with the writer
  • Demonstrates that the applicant will be a good fit for the profession by weaving into the essay evidence of the applicant’s relevant skills, personal qualities, and experiences
  • Is "action" oriented rather than simply factually descriptive
  • Engages the reader by showing the specific impact an experience you are referencing has had on you and/or others

Potential Topics to Illustrate in your Essay

  • Motivation: What specifically draws you to this profession? What are the factors contributing to your career choice and what you have done to test your commitment? Be sure to show depth of insight into the field and into yourself.  Your examples should be action/experience oriented, and tailored specifically to why medicine (or dentistry) is the right choice. Do not offer the generic response, "I want to help others."
  • Personal qualities: Show who you are as an individual.  Describe event(s) or experience(s) -- these do not have to be extraordinary -- that demonstrate relevant qualities and competencies, i.e. teamwork, leadership, service orientation, compassion, resilience, maturity, self-knowledge, etc.  Choose the quality/value/skill you hope to portray and then let your narrative allow the reader to “see” your competencies in action.
  • Challenges: In your essay, you may want to discuss unique hardships / challenges / obstacles that have influenced your educational pursuits. You may want to comment on significant fluctuations in your academic record which are not explained elsewhere. However, note that there is also a section of the application “Additional Information” which can be used for some of these issues.

Resources for Preparing your Statement

  • AAMC provides helpful FAQs relevant to the development of a personal statement
  • University of Minnesota's Pre-Health Student Resource Center provides free online workshops, including one entitled, "Personal statements for a Health Program."
  • University of Michigan's pre-health resources include excellent suggestions and prompts for writing the personal statement.
  • Johns Hopkins' Pre-Professional Advising Office provides advice on preparing a personal statement.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a widely used site offering free and comprehensive resources to support the writing process, including mechanics & grammar.  Visit OWL for specific guidance on writing a personal statement.
  • UVM Undergraduate (and Graduate) Writing Centers are located in Howe Library, Room 105. You may have your statement reviewed for technique and grammar.  Visit to schedule an appointment, or call 802-656-4075
  • UVM Career Center (undergraduates and alums)
    Career Counselors are available to UVM undergrad students and alums for a single appointment session to provide feedback on theme, tone and content. (Use the Writing Center for advice re writing mechanics.)  Schedule an appointment through Handshake (choose the appointment type called "Pre-Health Personal Statement Review" rather than a "Pre-Health Advising" type). At least one day before your appointment, make sure to email your draft to the counselor with whom you will be meeting at least one day before your appointment. Postbac students should consult with their Pre- Health Advisor.
  • Your Network: Seek out a trusted friend and/or family member with strong writing skills to help with proofreading and fine editing.  Remember, though, that this document should clearly reflect you: as with any feedback, utilize the suggestions that resonate with you.
  • Pre-Medical Advisory Committee Interviewer: For those participating in the Committee Letter Process, you can take the opportunity to ask your Committee interviewer for reactions to, and suggestions regarding, your personal statement.

National Application Personal Statement Guidelines

Each centralized application service (CAS) has its own length restrictions.

American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS): up to 5,300 characters with spaces.

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Services (ACOMAS):

up to 4,500 characters with spaces.

Association of American Dental Schools Application Services (AADSAS): up to 4,500 characters with spaces.

Please note that UVM and The Career Center do not endorse any particular websites/services. The resources provided are offered for your information only.

Last modified January 31 2019 03:49 PM