Anyways, in another attempt to help those aspiring physicians among you, and to ease the nerves of a certain premed who emailed me from Pennsylvania, I thought I’d touch on what it takes to write the gold-standard Pulitzer prize winning personal statement you’ll need to overcome an application otherwise devoid of Nobel prize winning research, Malaria eradication efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a transcript full of graduate level biochemical physics classes (I guess everyone can’t be like me). What follows is a template to create the stunning essay that will seal your admission to the medical school of your choice*.
The Passion Of The Pre-Med
[FYI, don’t actually title your essay. Unless you choose “Will Put Out: My Life Story” or you’re just a complete douche. In which case, go right ahead.]
Introduction: Were you a refugee from Craptakistan? Did you lose one of your nails in a freakish tire factory explosion? Were you hit by a car during the second week of your freshman year of college, crushing and totaling the car with your body while walking away relatively unscathed (umm...hypothetically speaking, of course)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or you can come up with an equally tragic/shocking/disturbing/eye-opening sob story of your own, then that is how you must begin your essay. For example, “Walking across the scorching Sub-Saharan desert, carrying four dying children on my back while saving the last drops of water for their disease-ridden mother dragging a fifth child right behind me, I knew that I was within inches of losing my life during this dangerous trek to provide Malaria medications to save an entire tribe of thousands. I also knew, right then and there, that I was meant to become a radiation oncologist.” It pretty much writes itself.
Body: Here is where your journey to becoming a physician really starts to explain itself. Yes, that moment in the Saharan desert may have provided you with your original epiphany, but that alone will not sway admissions reviewers your way. What you need to lay out over the next few paragraphs is how, more specifically, you have acted on this original epiphany in your preparation for medical school. Practically speaking, this means you need to pick out the two or three most stupendously amazing things you’ve ever done since you started college and spend a paragraph talking about how stupendously amazing those things were, and how they were made even more stupendously amazing because you were the person who did them. You should also be sure to mention how these stupendously amazing things will make you an amazingly stupendous doctor.
In other words, no, you didn’t just steal $6,000 from your undergraduate institution to spend a summer pretending to do research while you chatted online with babes for hours on end, silly (not that I would have any idea what that’s about). You devoted your summer to the pursuit of original science research with the hope of making a significant contribution to your field while also honing your research skills so that you could apply them to your future as a groundbreaking researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
No, you didn’t spend a few random afternoons standing around in a hospital while people rushed back and forth in front of you, stopping only to ask you where the bathroom was on occasion. You served valiantly as a hospital volunteer, assisting the aged in all aspects of their hospital care, whether that meant spending hours on end talking with them about their treatment or even, dare I say it, assisting the doctors while they treated these glorious people. And now you are not only acutely aware of what it takes to be a clinical physician, you are also one step closer to being completely prepared for your future as a pediatric thoracic surgeon.
Conclusion: The big finish. The grand finale. The lasting impression you will make on every and all admissions committee members. You need something big, something that hits home, something so profound that it will leave your admissions reviewers in tears, yearning for the moment they can approve your admission to their medical school and sealing their fate as “The Person Who Made Sure The [Now Ridiculously Famous] _____ Attended Our School of Medicine”. Time to make it personal. Very, very personal. In other words, if you don’t make some reference to the profound effect a doctor had on either your health or the health of one of your family members, you’ve bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood Upstairs Medical School (it has been way too long since I’ve made an obscure The Simpsons reference). Here, let me help: “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to pursue a career as a physician because I want to follow in the footsteps of my great-grandmother’s personal assistant’s third cousin, who, while on her death bed after suffering through a shattering trial of cocaine and substance abuse, shared with me the compassionate tale of the physician who sacrificed everything to save her life. This person’s dying words to me, whispered under her breath, were ‘Be like Dr. Nobleheart. Save lives. Use the force. It is your destiny.’ And with that last breath, she passed, but not before providing me with the final dose of inspiration I needed to pursue a career as a cardiothoracicneurobiliaryspinal surgeon, while also pursuing medical research in pediatric oncology.”
I’m all choked up…are you?
P.S. In an effort to provide full disclosure, I should point out that people spend, on average, about 90 seconds reading the essay you are going to slave over for the next three weeks. And after this essay there are these things called “secondaries” where you have to answer even more inane and humiliating questions about yourself in small spaces that people will spend even less time reading. So the only way you can really look bad is if you have a non-functional spell-checker (and you’d be surprized how manny people fall into this categaury).
*Guarantee void in Tennessee. That's two obscure The Simpsons references in one post, in case you're counting.