If you are planning to apply for a U.S. medical residency in 2018, you’re probably already in the process of working on your personal statement. After successfully brainstorming and planning out your personal statement, you may have written your first, second, or even third draft by now. Once you feel like you have a solid draft in hand, you can move on to the next phase of the writing process: revising your personal statement.
Revising Your Personal Statement
Revising your personal statement means going back and reconsidering its overall content, organization, and flow. When you’re ready to revise your personal statement, take a look at our previous posts on what to do and what not to do when writing your personal statement. After ensuring that your personal statement meets those general guidelines, here are a few more things you can do to make the revision process as productive as possible.
- Give it a day to rest. After you finish a draft of your personal statement, it can help to step away from the paper for a little while. Many writers get so wrapped up in writing that they start to miss obvious problems with organization and sentence fluency. Often, when you come back to your paper, the problems will immediately jump out at you, so they are far easier to fix. Plus, with so much of the summer remaining to work on your personal statement, you can afford to take your time!
- Have a close friend or family member read it over. When you’re revising your personal statement, your main focus is on the overall content (not the grammar or punctuation — editing comes later), so it is best to have someone who knows you well read it over for the first time. Even your best friend isn’t a grammar whiz, they can tell you whether your voice and your story truly shine through, because those are the things that will stand out to your residency application reader!
- Print it out. Many students no longer write anything by hand, but when you print out your personal statement, it can be easier to see how the changes you make fit into the paper as a whole. Also, when you cross things out on paper, they don’t get deleted on your computer — so you can add them back in later. If you do decide to revise your paper only on your computer, make sure that you save separate versions of each draft so that you can always recover the parts that you took out if you need to.
- Read it out loud. Reading your personal statement out loud can help you quickly identify problems with flow. Your eyes might skim over a confusing sentence as you silently read over the document, but when you read it out loud, you have to consider every word and how they fit together. Also, reading your statement out loud can make you realize if you are starting every sentence the same way, which is a sign that you need to vary your sentence structure.
- Imagine you are the application reader. Read over your personal statement as if you had never met yourself before. What questions would you have? Is there anything that does not make sense? Again, before performing this exercise, it can be helpful to step away from your personal statement for at least a few hours.
- Have someone who is familiar with the U.S. medical residency application process read it. Whether it is an adviser at your medical school, an attending physician who was trained in the United States, or a friend who has already been matched to a U.S. medical residency program, it often helps to get advice from someone who has a general understanding of what application readers are looking for.
- Seek advice from your letter writers. When you ask for letters of reference, some attending physicians ask for a draft of your personal statement. You should make sure that you hand them a copy that has already gone through multiple revisions (and has undergone enough editing that it is free of major errors in spelling and grammar) — but you can also ask them for any advice that they have on it. They may be able to help you tweak the content so that it does a better job of highlighting your character or emphasizing the quality of your clinical experience in your desired specialty area.
- Keep revising. Even if you feel like the first draft of your statement is well done, remember that revision is more than a one-hour, one-day, or even one-week process. Leave ample time to create multiple drafts, try out different organizational structures, and add or remove content. That way, the content of your personal statement will be well-established when it comes time to move on to the next step in the writing process — editing. Stay tuned to the blog for advice on editing in a future post!
If you’re a foreign medical graduate and you’re thinking about applying for a U.S. medical residency, FMG offers lots of resources that can help you get matched. Contact us today for more information!