 An ESSENTIAL opportunity to reflect and convey
what has been personally meaningful to you, in a way
that will help the reader know more about your self
and your life experience.
 Your chance to communicate directly to the
Admissions readers as a real person, not a set of
numbers and facts.
 A chance to know more about yourself—and take
deeper ownership of your own choices and
Autobiographical Sketch
VS the Personal Essay: what’s the difference?
Autobiographical Sketch
 Informal, 1-2 pages
Personal Essay
 A coherent, polished piece of
 prose or bullets
 like a “life resume”, a simple
description/outline of life
experience and events that bring
you to this decision.
 It only goes to your letter writers
(and posted on interfolio for
composite writer)
 Helps writers know about your
character, personality and
motivation for going to med
school. writer(s) get to know
writing based on personal
5300 characters
A beginning, middle and end
This is a significant PART of
your AMCAS application
This tells a story about you that
is authentic to you, and is the
readers’ chance to discover
something about who you are as
a whole person. Also helps them
know about your character and
motivation for going to medical
*From Barron’s “Essays that Will Get you Into Medical School:”
Some Admissions committee readers (comprised of staff, faculty,
students and/or doctors) will read up to 40 essays a day
Essays must be interesting and make the committee want to
interview you.
Essays should demonstrate “proof” of an applicants motivation to
become a doctor
Strong writing and communication skills should be demonstrated
Evidence of skills not found elsewhere in application can be
 You will also be writing about up to 15 specific
experiences—3 of which you will be asked to
amplify with the question: how was this most
 You will eventually be writing secondary application
Let your personality come out!
Tell stories. Use details.
Be honest and genuine.
Create or recognize your
Construct your paragraphs to make
Make good transitions between
paragraphs creates cohesion.
Write a lead-in that grabs reader’s
Draw a conclusion that ties, summarizes
or emphasizes main pts.
Be Active (verbs, for instance)
Get feedback, have readers, check all
grammar and punctuation in final drafts.
 Use gimmicks
 Be vague or general
 Make unsubstantiated
Make lists
Use passive structures
Overuse words like: however,
thus, nevertheless etc.
Make overlong sentences
Make sentences too choppy.
Overuse “big” words.
Be trite
Be hyperbolic
Make grammatical errors or
AND DO: Give Yourself Time!
Creativity (which is what this is), and reflection take
time to percolate and come into form.
 Meet up with the blank page and don’t wait until you
get “the perfect, fully formed, idea.”
 Just get started, and you will find that your ideas will
emerge and develop by having given yourself the time.
A fully formed (GREAT) essay, will emerge. Really.
In this phase you are gathering your ideas, your material.
 Writing exercises help you build your writing “muscle.”
 Brainstorming exercises help devise essay topics.
As you do these kinds of exercises, notice what grabs
your attention, feels sparky to you, best describes you and
your motivations. Welcome surprises!
•Make timed writing “sessions” to explore a specific question or topic. Put
your pen to the paper and just write until the time is out. You can use
questions specific to the Personal essay or just play. IE: you can start with
a word or idea: “goals;” “influences;” strengths;” “compassion;” integrity;”
“inspiration;” “red;” “my grandparent’s house,” “fast cars;” etc.
•Morning pages: keep a notepad and pen by your pen and just write for 10
minutes as soon as you wake up, whatever comes to mind.
•Journal writing, taking stock or your thoughts, responses or experiences
in your day.
•Notice What You Notice: Choose a question or idea, and, as if you were
looking at a tree, or rock, that, just notice /describe anything, ANYthing
that comes into your head about it and just take notes. Then you can do
the same with a personal experience, or goal.
Today’s Exercises: Use again
For Today:
3-5 Minutes per question/suggestion
Just put your pen to paper
I will state questions /suggestions out loud
All questions/statements are on next slide for your
future use
•Talk about something you love to do
•Describe a time/experience of personal growth/change in
•Write down anything you are proud of doing/having done, no
matter how “small” it might seem. Don’t limit this to “career”
types of accomplishments. What’s mattered to YOU.
•Who is someone that has been important to you and why?
•Describe a meaningful experience in your life
•What is a favorite food for you and why? Describe..
•What are you passionate about?
•What motivates you to be a doctor? Why medicine?
•When have you “changed your mind” because of an experience.
•What are your skills?
Other ways to “get the ball rolling”
 Make use of chronology for discovery (not necessarily how your structure your
essay). Starting from childhood note any and all special or pivotal experiences you
might remember… Include feelings/responses.
 Describe some of your personal characteristics/qualities, and consider how some
of them are also skills. Note how they have been part of how you do things and
what you choose. Note how they might be part of what would make you a
successful doctor.
 What healthcare experiences have been meaningful to you?
 When have you experienced adversity and how did you go through it?
 When have you been resilient
 What touches you, moves you, makes you laugh?
 When have you been affected by others you have encountered; when has your
humanity been touched, evolved.
**Remember--what’s been pivotal to YOU might have been apparently
small moments, but for some reason were meaningful to YOU. That is
what is important. Big or small, what is True for you?
 You can Put it away for a little
while and let things percolate,
Make time to keep exploring
and keep coming back.
What pops out at you: what
questions were easy to
answer, what were difficult?
Was there anyplace where
you just wanted to keep
Did anything surprise you?
Or did something grab you?
 You Can Use some of this info
for Autobiographical Sketch
 Try an essay draft built around
some of the bits that grabbed.
See where it leads.
 Ask a trusted friend to read it
for feedback.
 At this stage, know it might still
change a great deal…
 be open to starting one place
and finding yourself writing in
a whole new direction
because of something you
found out once you put your
pen to the paper!

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