Personal Statements (Versus Autobiography)

The autobiography is one item the HPRC requires in order to get to know a student and write the most comprehensive and representative committee letter. The personal statement is what you will write for your centralized application. The autobiography and personal statement are two different things and you should approach them differently. The former may serve as one step in your preparation for writing the latter.

The autobiography is simple, thorough and straightforward. It is typically longer than the personal statement (AMCAS 5,300 characters, so about 1 ½ pages) and proceeds chronologically. It should be easy to read but does not have to have stellar prose, a theme running through it, or be perfect. It is one way we learn about your background, upbringing, earliest interests and activities, decision to come to Tufts, and the various things and experiences you have had here over recent years. Do not spend lots of time on it. It really should not take more than an hour or so.

The personal statement will take more thought, time and preparation. You may want to begin thinking about it it in the fall or winter prior to applying even though you will not need it before June. The fall workshop for upperclassmen planning to apply in the next cycle focuses on this. Writing down ideas as they come to you about past experiences, important people in your life, accomplishments and mistakes, and values that are important to you are among the things you might jot down. The next step would be reviewing all these notes and seeing how things connect and which ones stand out as providing the most insight into who you are. There are many things that will be in  your autobiography that will not make it into your personal statement.

The personal statement allows you to highlight what you feel is important about yourself and perhaps explain any discrepancies in your application. It is not strictly a “Why I want to be a doctor” essay; however, a sense of who you are and why you are motivated to a medical career should be evident. 

If you apply to osteopathic schools, you also need to address your understanding of the osteopathic philosophy directly. Dental schools specifically ask about your motivation for dentistry.

Writing the personal statement requires some time on your part. Writing consultants in the Academic Resource Center will be available throughout the late spring and summer to assist you. There will be a workshop set up in April as a follow-up to the fall workshop to go over the process of writing a personal statement. Then individual applicants can work one-on-one with a consultant. It is a good idea to begin working on your personal statement early so you will have the chance to return to it for fine tuning over time. 

You should plan on writing multiple drafts and having different people, including a health profession advisor, give you their reactions. Your end product should be a very well written, clear and concise essay. Don’t look for a gimmick. Just write something genuine that provides insight into you.

Your statement should let the reader learn something more about you than what the application has already told them. The reader should conclude that you would be an excellent physician and a wonderful addition to her medical school. That does not mean that you have to tell the reader that directly.