Applying - The Personal Statement

Updated March 2018

If you hate the idea of having to write another Personal Statement, please take some solace in the knowledge that you are not alone.

And, when you survey EM Residency Program Directors, they consider the Personal Statement to be one of the LEAST important factors in deciding to offer an interview and in determining rank list position for the match.

Most applicants invest far too much time into creating their Personal Statement, though a handful invest far too little.

If you are a great writer and can craft a moving piece that portrays the kind of physician you are going to become while not actually mentioning anything about medicine, then go for it.  For a reviewer reading hundreds of Personal Statements in a short time, a creative and well written one can grab their attention in a most favorable way. Unfortunately, many attempts at getting creative with the Personal Statement fall flat. And even if it is truly great, the impact it will have on getting an interview is minimal.

For most people, this is a good time to play it safe and stick to a nice simple formula.  Just answer the following questions:
  1. What drew you to Emergency Medicine?
  2. What experiences have you had that have prepared you for EM?
  3. What qualities do you possess that will make you an asset to a residency program?
  4. What are your goals for your EM training? 

There is one way where a Personal Statement can be really important.  If you have a "Red Flag" on your application, the Personal Statement is your best opportunity to address it.  Most people screening your application for a possible interview will look to your Personal Statement to explain anything concerning they find in your transcript, Dean's Letter (MSPE), or CV. If the reviewer does not find an adequate explanation they are likely to screen your application out: no interview. 

Take this opportunity to explain what happened and, more importantly, how you have learned and grown from your experience. If you can make a case for this experience leaving you better prepared for your a career in EM, that is even better.

Here is the single most important piece of advice for writing your Personal Statement:
Keep it under one page.  No exceptions.

You are applying to a specialty that prides itself on being fast-paced and able to focus on the most important details.  This is an opportunity to show your ability to deliver information concisely.

Lastly, have someone else read your personal statement.  You may not notice grammatical errors after being so familiar with it. And use that spell check. Not taking the 2 seconds to click the spell check button is a bad sign for your attention to detail. Emergency Physicians aim to be efficient, not sloppy.

For more on the Personal Statement:


  1. I would say that it's very important to revise your personal statement, until you had something a bit more reserved. Also, make sure to be unique and entertaining, but don’t do something stupid and that's why multiple proof readers becomes so important.

  2. You make a great point about making sure the finished product is "reserved" and inoffensive. Though I would prefer a bland PS than one that tries, and fails badly, to be unique/entertaining. Regardless of the style you go after, it should be polished (spell and grammar checked, proofread, and organized).