How to Write a Residency Personal Statement: A New Guide for IMGs

How to Write a Residency Personal Statement: A Guide for IMGs

July 29, 2020


IMGPrep is pleased to present the IMGPrep Guide to Writing a Personal Statement IMGPrep Guide to Writing a Personal Statement that is specifically designed to help International Medical School Graduates (IMGs) in preparing a compelling personal essay as part of their applications for medical residency programs. The two-page guide is downloadable from the IMGPrep website and is a free resource. It contains concise information to help you prepare, organize, and structure a well-written narrative that can strengthen your overall application

If, after reviewing the guide, you still want professional assistance, know that you are not alone. It can be a challenge to write a full-page essay about yourself. IMGPrep is a great resource because its staff and experts have the insights and know the requirements that can help you prepare an excellent Personal Statement for your Residency application. Whether you already have your draft or still need to get started, IMGPrep’s writers and editors can help. To start the process, IMGPrep has a user-friendly questionnaire that prompts you to identify and focus your story’s content. Working online, via email, and by phone, we provide one-on-one consultations and assistance in every step of the process. Give us a call to learn more and/or visit our website today: 

Meanwhile, please refer to the FAQ below with answers to some commonly asked questions that applicants have when preparing their Residency Personal Statements:

What is the Purpose of the Residency Personal Statement?

The Personal Statement in your application package helps others learn more about you as a whole person – someone who is more than test scores and facts and figures or what others say about you. That is why the Personal Statement is so important; it is the one place in your application where you can relate personal details about yourself: your life challenges and struggles as well as your dreams and aspirations. Dry facts and figures are often hard to retain, especially for a person reviewing many applications. But a personal story with a compelling narrative that has an emotional impact is memorable. Such a well-crafted statement is what helps you stand out in the minds of the program directors and review committee members. Nowhere else in your application will you have the opportunity to “tell your story” in such a powerful and impactful way. So, it is definitely worth spending time and attention to do it well. 

Is the Residency Personal Statement an Important Document?

In short, yes, the Personal Statement is one of the most important parts of your residency application, usually listed in the top five documents that program directors look for in considering a candidate for admission to their program. According to an annual survey of residency program directors by the National Residency Match Program, as many as 78 percent of the program directors responding to the survey (regardless of specialty) indicated that the Personal Statement was an important consideration in determining whether to schedule an interview with an applicant. For Family Medicine residency programs, it was much higher; 87 percent of survey respondents cited the Personal Statement as important for interview selection. 

How Long Should the Residency Personal Statement be? Is there a word count for a Residency Personal Statement?

The most important thing about a Personal Statement is the accuracy and the quality of the content, so especially when you begin, it is not necessary to be too concerned about length – just focus on getting a good first draft. Once you move to the editing stage, however, there are some limits to the length to keep in mind. Most IMGs think that the PS should be no more than one written page. But that way of looking at it can be misleading when working on your laptop or desktop, where the length of a page can vary according to margin settings, font sizes, etc. 

It is good to understand the bigger picture of where this statement will be positioned in your application package. Since you are most likely applying through the ERAS portal, your final statement will be copied and pasted into a box of the ERAS application that is an entire page of that online form. If the pasted text is too long, the box will not accept the last few lines, which will be cut off, and the program director will miss the ending to your beautifully written narrative. So, you want to ensure that the entire statement will fit properly. The ERAS, Personal Statement section, correlates to no more than approximately 750-850 words of text, so a good rule of thumb is to aim for around 800 words for the final draft.  As for a minimum length, IMGPrep recommends that the statement be at least 650 words.

How do you structure a Residency Personal Statement?

Just as there are no two applicants alike, each personal statement is a unique reflection of that person’s story. That said, there are some ways to structure your narrative to help hold the reader’s attention. Whether you start with a pivotal moment in your childhood or with some words of wisdom from a special person who inspired you, it is essential to have a compelling start that “hooks” the reader and brings them into your story. After a strong opening, it is essential to remember to include a description of why you chose your specialty. A strong and inspiring finish is also essential. In between, the challenge is to provide specific details that tell the reader more about you than what is elsewhere in your application. 

What should a Personal Statement for Residency include? 

In addition to the suggestions above regarding structure and content, here are a few additional considerations for what to include in your Personal Statement. Remember to:

  • Be specific. Use details and actual examples of encounters with patients, mentors, teachers, family members, and colleagues who influenced your life’s path.
  • Relate why you chose your specialty and what attracts you to your chosen field. Residency program directors want to know who they will be working with, and they will appreciate knowing about your dedication and your insights.
  • Use good grammar.
  • Determine whether and how to address any “issues” in your credentials. For example, if there are gaps in your education or if there were extenuating circumstances to help the reader understand test scores or the number of attempts, the Personal Statement is a good place in your application to do that.  It also is the place to highlight honors, achievements, and high moments in your life.
  • Consider including details of your life outside of work, including hobbies, pastimes, and volunteer/community service work. This shows a well-rounded person and again helps the reader see you as more than a recitation of test scores and job titles. 
  • Don’t list the same items that are on your CV. That document is already in your application. So the Personal Statement is an opportunity to more than merely list your credentials. 
  • Don’t be afraid of emotional impact. A dry recitation of facts is not helpful. This is your opportunity to help the reader see you as a whole person. 

For more information, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) offers some advice on Writing a Personal Statement for Residency Application. See also this article on Personal Statement Do’s and Dont’s from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).: 

Can I edit my personal statement after submitting it to ERAS? 

Yes. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “Personal Statements can be edited at any point during the application season – even when assigned to programs [to which you have] applied.” 

For more information, check out IMGPrep’s articles:  Personal Statement For Residency: The Basics and 20 Residency Personal Statement Writing Tips

Learn more about our Residency Personal Statement Editing Services

IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH®.