One of the most common flaws we see in medical school essay writing is an uber trite, overly expository, or totally vague first paragraph. Let’s look at a few examples:
1) THE UBER TRITE
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. My parents are doctors, as are many of my aunts and uncles. I grew up playing doctor and always knew that I would go to medical school. …
There’s a lot of potential for interesting material in this no-no genre. The way to steer clear of cliché is by getting far more specific. Don’t tell us about your family members, tell us about YOU. What was the first memory you have of the medical field? How did this shape you? Bring your history to life! Show, don’t tell.
2) THE OVERLY EXPOSITORY
In 2008, I graduated with highest honors from Kennedy High School and went on to receive a scholarship for my premed studies at UCLA. I took a variety of courses, from Organic Chemistry to the Ethics of Biomedical Engineering. For my efforts with the Student Health Association, I earned a Presidential Medal and was asked to speak at the Premedical Students group annual meeting. …
The introduction that tries to regurgitate an entire resume in a paragraph will bore its reader before they even get to the end of the first sentence. Try to think about your statement in terms of theme rather than exposition. You want to balance personal fact and history with insightful self-reflection.
The facts are great, but they need to be integrated with a healthy dose of perspective in order to be effective in a statement. The critical question here will be WHY? Every fact presented in a statement should be there for a very specific reason, contributing to the larger theme.
3) THE TOTALLY VAGUE
I am inspired to become a doctor because it is the most effective way to help people. My passion for medicine, and for service, guides every choice I have made in my life thus far. Applying to medical school is the obvious next step on this path. …
Your first paragraph is the place to grab the Admissions Committee by the eyeballs and insist that you and your statement are worth the next five minutes of their time. You cannot afford generalities in these first crucial moments. Think about impact. Don’t get gimmicky, and don’t get overdramatic. Instead, consider the events and people that have most authentically shaped your interest in medicine. Tell a story that you would want to read. Be specific.
If you get stuck as you start, try the following mantra: I deserve a fantastic first paragraph. And hey, if that doesn’t work, we’re always a click away!
Ivy Eyes Editing