Show, Don't Tell. This is one of the most difficult (but also one of the most important) skills to incorporate into your essay. "Showing and not telling" means that you ground your essay in specific details. Rather than simply asserting a big idea, you describe the experience surrounding it. Consider the following two examples: a) Because I was often sick, I learned one of my most important values in life: to make the most of my time and create a meaningful existence. b) When I was little, I was often sick. I would spend days in bed, and as an active kid, I hated the enforced stillness. I used to complain ceaselessly to my parents__but rather than let me succumb to self_pity, my parents would force me to make the most of my time. And as I painted, built Lego castles, and wrote crazy madlibs (quite badly!), I learned something important about myself: that I could be happy so long as I was productive. Do you see the difference? The first example offers a statement of personal belief__ but because it is just a factual declaration, it sounds as though it could have been written by anyone. The second example offers the same idea, but shows us rather than tells us about it. As a result, it is personal and unique, and makes the writer stand out as an applicant.
Engage the Reader from the Start. When it comes to your application, all the information you submit is already set in stone__ except the personal statement. This is your chance to get your program's attention, especially if you feel that your MCAT scores or GPA may be lacking. You want your reader to be interested from the very start of the essay. Admission committee members are often short on time and may be more likely to gloss over your essay if it has a generic, flat, or boring beginning. One way to begin an essay is with a personal vignette__ a quick snapshot of a moment in your life that relates to your decision to apply to medical school. Consider the following two opening statements: a) I've always known that I want to be a doctor. Since my first encounter with death, I've recognized that it is my responsibility to help people. b) The lights flashed, and the sirens wailed as I watched the ambulances cart my next_door neighbor to the hospital. I was ten years old, and it was my first encounter with death. Do you see how the second example engages the reader's attention right away? It is a snapshot rather than a factual statement, which immediately catches the reader's interest. Personal vignettes are not the only way to start your essay, but they are easy to shape into engaging opening statements.