Sample essays that wowed admissions committees
The question I most frequently receive about med school personal statements is, “What topic should I write about?”
A close second is, “Can you share any successful medical school personal statement examples with me?”
The following sample medical school personal statements from former applicants will help you see how diverse approaches to writing your essay can result in admission.
In other words, there is no formula or “one-size-fits-all” model to producing a standout essay.
I encourage you to use these examples alongside our comprehensive Medical School Personal Statement: The Ultimate Guide and warn you not to copy or otherwise plagiarize the material.
(Note: All identifying details have been changed in the examples below.)
Personal Statement Example 1
In my family, food is the language of love. A warm meal is the way we say, “I love you.” Whenever I get sick, my mother prepares a pot of spicy kimchi (fermented cabbage) soup and barley tea. When my brother throws a game-winning strike for his baseball team, we prepare braised cod. Food is also used to honor our loved ones. On the tenth anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, my family and I celebrated by making his favorite dish: bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) with a side of rice and pickled vegetables. The familiar aromas of garlic and sesame oil bring us together for a night of reminiscing. While I had always associated food with happiness, when I was in high school I learned that it could also make you sick. My Dad, once a healthy eater, began indulging in daily bagels and late night sweets, eventually causing him to feel fatigued and to urinate frequently. The end result was a diagnosis of Type II diabetes. It was not until my mother and I started adding brown rice and green, leafy vegetables to his diet, that he was able to improve his glucose levels. Within a few years, I witnessed my father go from being sluggish and tired, to being energetic and active. I had always known that healthy eating was important but I had never thought it was that important. After my Dad’s health improved due to his dietary changes, I realized that food wasn’t just nutrition; it could also be medicine.
I always believed medicine referred to pills or drugs created in a pharmaceutical lab. However, I first began to understand food’s medicinal role during college when I started taking difficult science classes. My Health and Society class taught me that early Type II diabetes can be reversed through changes in diet. My biochemistry class showed me that low glycemic index foods, such as beans or oatmeal, decrease the amount of glucose released to the blood. In my physiology class, I learned that lowering levels of circulating glucose in diabetics can improve kidney function and reduce swelling. Despite everything I learned in my classes, I always found myself wanting to learn more. I would spend time between lectures—during late night study sessions, on long flights—reading about the various ways food could prevent illness. I was surprised to learn that certain plants contained powerful phytochemicals that could do things like reduce inflammation, reduce cell damage, and increase immune function. It was exciting to get a glimpse of how food could play a role as a “prescription” in Preventative Medicine. While this new passion for preventative medicine was sparked by my dad’s diabetes, it bled into my college classes and volunteer experiences.
“Nutrition as medicine” is the mantra of the Ramirez Community Development Center, a free clinic for low-income, diabetic families in Chicago. Ramirez is located in a food desert, a characteristic of some urban Chicago neighborhoods. My Saturday mornings at the center are usually spent participating in healthy eating workshops or volunteering with the “fresh prescriptions” program. Every week, doctors give patients “fresh prescriptions,” a combination of fruits and vegetables that serve as a replacement for fast food meals. It’s fun to make conversation with the families as I fill their prescriptions at the farmer’s market. We talk about everything from the unpredictable Illinois winters to the Chicago Cubs and sunflowers. As I listen to the stories of each family, I can hear the struggle and pain of having to raise children in a neighborhood that lacks affordable healthcare centers and grocery stores. I realized that changing your diet isn’t easy after you’ve been eating fast food for many years. These changes, like the ones my dad made, can be overwhelming and require patience.
Even though I was passionate about sharing the benefits of healthy eating, I realized that my enthusiasm may have been overwhelming as many of the families did not feel the same. Learning too much information too quickly can be difficult for individuals who are just beginning to make a change. I began to understand that it was better for people to make changes regarding their health slowly. By making small steps, such as replacing soda for water, families could see real, tangible impacts without being overwhelmed. In the beginning, I was focused on sharing the benefits of healthy eating with others through a fun, engaging conversation. Over time, I learned that the most important thing was that families were more likely to follow through on their goals after leaving Ramirez. I still go to the center every weekend and I’m enjoying it more than ever.
In the end, even though I’ve learned that food can be medicine, it will remain a way of expressing love between family and friends. Even if given as a “fresh prescription” between volunteer and visitor, food can still be a way to express care for their health and vitality. This journey in learning about food has been useful in sparking my interest in preventing disease before it can start. I’m not a doctor yet, but I know that I’ve just barely scraped the tip of the “preventative medicine” iceberg. I look forward to finding out just how deep the iceberg is and learning how it can help heal current patients and prevent making new ones.
Personal Statement Example 2
As a freshman, I saw the practice of medicine as a kind of black box. In my mind, the steps in between illness and recovery were opaque and unimportant relative to the final patient outcome. I aspired to be a physician in so far as I aspired to be a magician, using my miracle box of medicine to flip the switch between sick patients and lives saved. I started volunteering at the West Philadelphia Homeless Shelter with this outcome-obsessed outlook, motivated by a grandiose desire to lift people in terrible circumstances out of destitution and into permanent housing. Over the course of four years as a volunteer and on staff, however, the opportunity to peer into the black box reshaped how I thought about service and medicine. I can say now with utmost certainty that I am committed to becoming a practicing clinician not only because of the opportunity to treat illness but because of the tremendous privilege of building relationships with patients along the road to recovery.
When I started volunteering at the shelter, I was unsure about the impact I would be able to have. As a volunteer and then a staff supervisor, I felt some gratification from the realization that the simple tasks that I was performing like washing dishes and serving breakfast were essential to the operation of the shelter, but it was hard not to feel frustrated at times that I was not actually doing anything to reduce homelessness. The same guests cycled in and out of the emergency beds at the shelter, week after week. When the opportunity to run the transitional program at the shelter opened up, I took the position, thrilled to finally have the chance to help guests move into permanent housing. I felt like I finally had a real chance to make a difference.
I quickly found out, however, that helping someone transition out of homelessness was no easy task. The first guest that my co-director and I accepted into the program was one of the friendliest men one could imagine, thrust into a horrible situation due to a difficult divorce. I worked with him for a full year straight before we could finally find a stable housing situation for him. It was an arduous and exhausting process for both of us, filled with moments of hope when it seemed like we had found a suitable apartment and moments of despair when possibilities fell through. At the end of that year, when this particular guest left the shelter for the final time, I found myself at the moment I had been waiting for. After all the anticipation, I had helped a guest reach that perfect outcome, the goal that in my mind was what service was all about. But I found myself reflecting on a moment that had occurred months earlier.
On that night, I had walked down the ramp at the entrance and saw this guest sitting at the computer, eyes glued to the screen. I went over to him ask how he was doing only to find him speechless in shock. After a few moments of silence, he told me that he had just found the obituary of his mother online. I had known that he was estranged from his family, but I could not imagine the devastation he must have felt to discover such tragic news in that manner. It is hard to find privacy in a shelter, but I remember retreating to the laundry room with him so that he did not have to suffer in front of everyone. I sat with him for hours that night, listening to him reminisce about childhood memories riding horses with his family and listening to him lament losing touch with mother and siblings. In the grand scheme of helping this man transition out of homelessness, it is hard to know what impact this moment had, but I’d like to think that I provided him with some comfort when he needed it.
Moments like this one, and so many others that I experienced during the process of building relationships with guests as a case manager, helped me realize that service is not path independent. It is not some race to the finish where the only thing that matters is where one ends up. Each step along the way is an opportunity to make someone more comfortable. Medicine is no different. It is easy to glamorize medicine as just a profession of saving lives but curing a patient isn’t immediate or guaranteed. While the opportunity to work on health problems is in line with my academic sensibilities and I would be thrilled to help a patient recover, I have realized from my experiences shadowing in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Penn Medicine that I want to become a physician because of the reassurance a doctor can provide a patient who is terrified because she has been in the hospital for a week and still doesn’t know what is wrong with her and because of the comfort a doctor can provide a nervous girl whose grandmother is slowly recovering after surgery. I want to become a physician because of the gratification of laughing with a patient when things are looking up but also to try to soften the blow when delivering bad news. It has become clear to me that the doctor-patient relationship is not some miracle black box that performs some magic and outputs a healthy patient but rather an opportunity to ease a patient’s suffering in real-time. Ultimately, I am committed to becoming a clinical practitioner because I cannot imagine a career without that privilege.
Personal Statement Example 3
I was sitting in a chatter-filled cafeteria with my third-grade classmates, uncertain of how to open the “simple” chocolate milk carton in front of me. Karen saw the confusion brewing in my eyes, grabbed the carton from my lunch tray, and pried open the carton lips in one swift motion. I was overcome with awe on that first day of school in America, having never seen anything like it back in my hometown. In fact, there were many things I would encounter during the next 14 years of my life that would be foreign to me. Nevertheless, as I look back on my childhood, my memory of this moment stands out most vividly. My friendship with Karen emerged from her act of kindness in that instance. Moreover, that moment represents a starting point from which I made my journey from the familiar bicycle-lined streets of Hangzhou, China to the long, windy stretches of highway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The relationships I have formed with peers and community members along my transition shape the core of who I am today, and form the basis behind my desire to pursue medicine.
Karen was my first friend in the U.S. Her friendship, along with those with teachers, classmates, and neighbors, constantly supported and guided me in school. When I initially entered school,, I did not know a single letter of the English alphabet, let alone how to verbally articulate my thoughts. For the first month, I carried a notebook containing common English phrases written by my father, such as, “Where is the restroom?” and, “Can you tell me how to get to X, Y, Z?” with Chinese translations and transliterations on the side. I felt completely dependent on others to use the restroom during class or buy lunch in the cafeteria. In response, I immersed myself in the English language to fully master it and regain independence. Reciting vocabulary pronunciations and practicing verb tenses with my ESL teacher paved the way for audiobooks of stories about magic tree houses and shows of Arthur on PBS. Throughout this process, teacher and classmate encouragement pushed me when I doubted my abilities to succeed. More importantly, Jodi readily supported me, from showing me how to use the monkey bars during recess to helping me study for spelling quizzes. To this day, our friendship resonates with me. Though we lacked the means to converse freely, our friendship developed through compassion, a universal language that transcended cultural boundaries and social norms.
After moving from New Mexico to Washington, Kansas, and Delaware for my father’s job, I paid forward the compassion I was shown to connect with others when words proved insufficient. I witnessed compassion’s power in medical settings when bringing water to patients in the ER or distributing warm blankets to patients receiving chemotherapy. Each patient I met carried his or her own unique story. Strolling down the blue-and-white-tiled hallways of Liberty Hospice in suburban Delaware, I envisioned myself navigating through a storybook where each room presented a vignette. For example, as a hospice volunteer, I visited L. on a weekly basis. L. was coping with the debilitating effects of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD), including a loss of the majority of her motor and speech control. Like many others receiving palliative care, she struggled to perform daily activities that were once second nature to her. By keeping L. company during meals, walking with her outside, and exchanging fragmented yet meaningful conversations with her, I helped alleviate some of her social isolation. Caring for L. reminded me of how embarrassed I had felt about relying on others to navigate my world as a new immigrant. Therefore, I wanted to support her as much as my ESL teachers and classmates had supported me. Despite L.’s progressive memory loss, she often greeted me with a smile, perhaps indicating her memory of my visits. My interactions with L. reaffirmed my motivation to pursue medicine; its patient-centered focus and humanistic nature captured my heart.
Whereas my attraction to the humanistic side of medicine crystallized through patient interactions, my love for its investigative nature developed through research. Though I could offer comforting sentiments to patients, I yearned to understand why L. was suffering from AD and how to prevent its further progression. My curiosity led me to explore the formation of plaques and tangles in 3D human neuronal stem cell cultures, track the lifespan of C. elegans harboring longevity-promoting mutations in the electron transport chain, and learn the logistics of early-target drug development. However, though intellectually stimulating, I missed interacting with patients and learning about their journeys. I wanted to form personal connections beyond the lab bench.
The community of people who had helped me grow and succeed, starting from my first day in America, inspired me to do the same for others. Having fully explored the profession, medicine certainly encompasses my two passions: developing relationships and contributing to scientific discoveries. While the journey ahead will present challenges, my experiences have helped me cultivate the skills necessary to overcome adversity and to help patients in their times of need, just like Karen had done for me.
Personal Statement Example 4
Mr. Potato Head, one of America’s most beloved toys, has a plastic head that is disproportionately larger than the interchangeable pieces used to transform his facial expression and personality. Like this quirky, loveable toy, I have always had a large head. When I was a child, my mother cut the openings of my t-shirts so that she could slip them over my head. Physicians confirmed my head was unusually large—99th percentile in circumference—but normal in function. Growing up as the youngest of four, I was often teased for my large head. In fact, my siblings dubbed me "Mr. Potato Head."
As my body grew, my head became slightly more proportionate. Still, my height remained in the tenth percentile. Despite my small stature, I excelled in hockey and baseball because I was determined to prove that size does not define athletic prowess or leadership ability. In high school, however, my my tenacious style led me to suffer four concussions by the end of my junior year. My head once again came under scrutiny, but this time for brain injury concerns. When my Latin teacher overheard a discussion about my brain’s health with a classmate in May of my junior year, he mentioned the alarming statistics of childhood concussions leading to dementia later in life. Concerned, I poured time and energy into researching the long-term effects of concussions on the brain. I was naively trying to determine the severity of my successive brain traumas to confirm or, rather, dispel my teacher’s report. I became engrossed with the brain’s mechanics and the overwhelming amount of distressing research findings.
After my fourth concussion in February of my junior year, my pediatrician referred me to an internationally-renowned sports-related concussion specialist, Dr. George Sandhofer. After several visits, Dr. Sandhofer sympathetically advised me to stop playing contact sports. I had suffered a double blow: one literally to my head and the other figuratively to my ego. Through sports, had I proved that I deserved respect despite my small stature; the reality of having to quit hit me harder than the four head shots combined.
From my first visit, I could sense that Dr. Sandhofer was a remarkable physician, and a special person. His razor-sharp aptitude was obvious, but his patience and compassion, traits that make a truly great doctor, were more heartening. I learned from him the importance of scientific knowledge as well as emotional intelligence in delivering outstanding care. In comparison with some of his other patients, my situation was less severe. Still, Dr. Sandhofer’s demonstrated concern for me that was just as heartfelt. He understood that to me the news was heartbreaking and having to give up sports would be distressing. His humble nature, clear rationale, and genuine care cemented my trust in his advice regarding my future.
Over time, that future started to align with a desire to pursue a career in medicine. Researching concussions for countless hours, becoming aware of neurology’s intricacies, and observing Dr. Sandhofer sparked my keen interest in becoming a highly skilled yet compassionate physician who readily serves others. I plan to immerse myself in medicine—clinically and through research—and communicate with patients, no matter their age, sophistication, or background, in a way that individually demonstrates how much I care.
Through the Walker Vascular Institute internship program last summer, I confirmed my motivation to apply to medical school. I had an incredible experience working on the potential digital analysis of pulse volume waveforms in the diagnosis of deep vein thromboses. Through reviewing thousands of patient data points, I concluded that the digital readings from this new technology are analyzable. Researching vascular medicine, collaborating with highly skilled health professionals, and shadowing several surgeons taught me that medicine has a steep and constantly evolving learning curve that I am excited to take on. I recognized that research and the larger medical field promotes open problem solving in a collaborative environment. This aspect perhaps most draws me to a career as a physician. Throughout the internship, our multi-disciplinary team was forced to troubleshoot aberrations in the data collection process. It was remarkable to me that although I was an intern, my superiors helped me troubleshoot possible explanations and mechanisms while valuing my contributions and ideas. They knew of my intentions to become a physician, and spent valuable time with me teaching, discussing, and listening. Similarly, I commit to constantly learning and teaching others.
The irony of my childhood nickname is that like Mr. Potato Head, medical professionals make adjustments and are regularly transformed by forces beyond their control. Mr. Potato Head has been able to entertain for generations because he has advanced with the changing entertainment environment through applications and online interfacing. My concussions prompted me to embrace a change in hobbies, broadened my outlook, deepened my character, and provoked my interest in medicine, which I hope to pursue in medical school.
Now when someone responds to my concussion history with, “Wow, that must have been traumatic,” I answer, “Yes, it may have been one of the worst experiences I have ever had.” After a short pause, I add with contentment, “But it may have also been the best.”