What to say and how to say it

The most impactful statements start out with something personal: “I chose to purse medicine when I learned about …” or “I became interested in a health care career when (a loved one) was diagnosed with …” or “I always loved science and the challenge of …”

Talk about why you have narrowed your interest to a particular field of medicine. You might explain “when I rotated through the cardiology unit as a medical student, my interest in helping heart patients was sparked …”

Write about any talents, proficiencies or abilities you have that go beyond what you were expected to learn in medical school or through residency. For example, if you went above and beyond a standard curriculum to create a program of some kind, or volunteered your time or expertise in a community setting, explain what you did and what abilities or knowledge you developed through that experience.

The closing paragraph should sum up your enthusiasm for the fellowship as well as what you expect to be able to provide for your target program.

Go online and look for “successful medical fellowship essays/applications.” Of course, check the websites you look at for credibility (e.g., established educational or medical institutions), but you’ll find some good examples out there that should spark some ideas.

DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Never ever lift words from someone else’s statement. It’s easier than you think to spot when someone’s words are not their own.

Keep your statement in your own “voice.” While your CV is a very formal and professional document, your personal statement should fairly informal. Don’t use technical jargon or overly complex terms or words. Keep it simple, so that it sounds like you’re having a conversation with a colleague. In fact, read it out loud, to yourself or a friend – does it sound natural and comfortable? Does it sound like you? Sometimes what we write looks ok on the computer screen, but when you hear your words out loud, you can sometimes recognize that what you wrote may not come across as you expected.

Finally, spend some time on your statement—don’t rush it. If it’s overwhelming to sit down and write it from start to end, write bits and pieces at first. Write a little bit at a time, put the statement away, and then come back to it again later to refine it.

How to set up the document

  • Keep it to one page!
  • Make sure page margins are no smaller than 1”
  • Keep text single-space
  • Use a common font and font size, such as Arial or Helvetica, 11 or 12 pt (use the same font/font size as your CV)
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph OR put a blank line between paragraphs – don’t do both
  • Page numbers are not needed since the document is only one page
  • When saving the Word file, make sure to include your name and the words “personal statement” in the file name. While your statement is likely to be uploaded and automatically added to a file created for you when you apply for a fellowship, it helps to have your CV and personal statement file names reflect exactly what those files are and who they are from, just in case the files get lost somehow, or if they are emailed to someone who may be handling multiple documents from many applicants.