What are the Best Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for a Residency?

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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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There are four essential tips for anyone writing a personal statement for a residency program. Beginning with an anecdote, riddle, or quote will help grab and sustain the reader’s attention. The statement should be structured around a theme that will unite all the different aspects of the essay. Concrete but concise examples that relate to the candidate’s experiences and goals will distinguish an essay. The tone of the statement should be professional and positive, but also personable so that the author will be memorable to the reader.

Every candidate must address three topics when writing a personal statement for a residency program. The readers will want to know how the candidate became interested in his or her chosen specialty, what he or she hopes to gain from the residency program, and what his or her long-term goals are. Rather than wander from tangent to tangent, the essay’s sections should flow logically.

It is important for a candidate to distinguish his or her personal statement from all the others being submitted. One way to grab the reader’s attention is to start with a quote, anecdote, or riddle. An engaged reader will generally be more receptive to the essay’s contents and the candidate. The conclusion should refer back to the opening paragraph.


The quote, anecdote, or riddle can also introduce the essay’s theme. Selecting a theme provides structure when writing a personal statement for a residency. Structure can help the candidate avoid producing a statement that consists of mostly disorganized cliches and tangents.

Including concrete examples that relate to aspects of the candidate’s personality, experiences, and goals can make a statement more personable and interesting. These examples should help illustrate why the candidate has chosen a particular specialty and what his or her long-term goals are in the field. The reader will feel as though he or she is really getting to know the candidate as a person.

The tone is an important consideration when composing a personal statement for a residency program. Rather than read a negative assessment of the profession, many readers prefer a positive essay that highlights a candidate’s enthusiasm. Being professional yet personable is the key to crafting a statement that is memorable.

The editing process begins once a draft of the statement is complete. Having the program director, a professor, or writing center staff critique the essay can provide valuable feedback. Grammar and spelling errors in particular can create a negative impression of a candidate.

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of a personal statement, but this is the only part of the application that is not an exam score or another person’s impression of the candidate. The candidate can advocate for himself or herself directly by writing a personal statement for a residency program. The personal statement is what the candidate has complete control over and is therefore valuable to admissions committees.


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