3. Not Focusing On the Target Institution _ Many medical institutions ask residency applicants to elaborate on why they have chosen to pursue a specialty residency at that particular facility. I have found that many applicants do not pay enough attention to answering this question when it is asked. This is not a difficult thing to do these days since every medical facility/program has a website with web pages where they make a point of explaining in detail, how they are unique and different from all of their peer organizations. All an applicant has to do is spend a few minutes studying the target website to find out what that institution is saying about itself in terms of: vision, mission, philosophy, priorities, demographics, special capabilities, etc., etc. Armed with this information, it is not difficult to work some of those themes and facts into one's personal statement. This will show application reviewers that you are truly interested in their program and not just going through the motions while submitting multiple applications. Not focusing sufficiently on your target institution is another major oversight that can hurt your medical residency personal statement.
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.