Fellowship Personal Statement Helping


Do the Same Rules Apply for Fellowship as for Residency?

The answer is yes, though following the same rules naturally leads to differences.

Generally speaking, the personal statement should/could touch on the following items:

The first time the applicant realized his or her interest in the particular field or specialty;

Times since then when that interest was refined, reinforced or redirected;

Any particular outstanding accomplishments achieved so far in following that path;

The direction the applicant now sees himself or herself taking; and

If possible, how the program would be a particular match for that direction.

What Should These Items Accomplish?

Each of these items should elucidate a particular quality or particular qualities about the applicant, and should be ones that are particular to the applicant, as opposed to being able to be said generically by anyone applying for the program. This is important.

What Are the Similarities?

Both the fellowship personal statement and the residency personal statement should describe the specific path/specific reasons that has/have led to the decision to apply for the desired position, as well as what the candidate hopes to achieve through the position from the point of view of how the candidate anticipates it will edify his or her future career.

What Are the Differences?

Answering these questions is where the differences lie between the fellowship personal statement and the residency personal statement.

For the residency personal statement, the general format is to describe the candidate's initial interest in medicine and how that was shaped into a desire for the particular field (e.g., internal medicine) being applied for. This is fleshed out with details that are relevant to the candidate's pursuit of the program (e.g., research experience, community involvement), and it is directed toward a view of the future career.

The fellowship personal statement should take this a step further by demonstrating both the personal and professional maturity that comes with having already completed significant training in the candidate's field.

How Does a Resident Applicant See His/Her Future Career?

Because candidates for residency are writing the personal statement for residency before having begun the training, it is often difficult for them to have a precise view of what they want in their future careers. While he or she may already have some inclinations of what his or her future career will be, many of those choices will be made through the course of the residency.

How Should a Fellowship Applicant See His/Her Future Career?

When it comes to applying for a fellowship, the candidate should know precisely what he or she anticipates for his or her future career, and how the fellowship training (and often the fellowship training offered at the particular institution receiving the application) is the necessary next step in that direction. The candidate should have a clear idea of who he or she is as a doctor and the specific path he or she sees his or her career taking.

The focus in the fellowship personal statement is therefore centered less on the part of the candidate's path that came before residency (e.g., original interest in medicine) and more on specific experiences that have come during residency (e.g., particular cases of interest, particular research accomplishments or involvement) or after.

What Should Be the Focus of the Anecdotes?

The anecdotes should demonstrate relevant academic and clinical competence. They should point squarely in the direction of the specialty being applied for, and any particular research interests.

Quick Questions

How long should my personal statement be?

Generally speaking, a fully developed personal statement will be approximately 750. Some programs (e.g. dentistry), though, may require shorter word counts. With few exceptions, if your personal statement is over 850 words, it is too long. If it is under 650 words, it is too short.

The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®) allows up to 28,000 characters with spaces, which is approximately 5,200 words. However, no program director will read a personal statement that long. Most won't even read any of it.

What do you mean by "be specific"?

First is to be specific to your story. If everyone else writes it in their personal statements, then you should not, unless it is particularly relevant to you.

An example of this is an IMG who writes, without any obvious reason for doing so, that she wants to pursue residency in the United States because the U.S. is at the forefront of medicine. A second example is a candidate who writes that he wants to pursue residency in a program that will give him the knowledge and training he will need to succeed in his chosen field. These are both vague statements that should be included only if they relate specifically to your personal career path.

Second is is a rephrasing of the first: to write only of your particular experience. This is your greatest strength and what will set you apart. If you write that you want to pursue a career in medicine in order to serve the community, we will ask what kind of community and what way do you see yourself serving. We will ask where this desire has come from and how you have pursued it.

If you write that you want to be a leader, we will ask where you want to be a leader, why you want to be a leader, what kind of leader you want to be, and in what way specifically you plan to lead others.

What are the most common mistakes that you have seen?

1.

To start with a quote. To use a quote successfully, it must be both personally and particularly relevant to the candidate. It must be the driving theme through every aspect of the essay. We have seen this done successfully—meaning that there was no way for the personal statement to be better without it—in just a handful of the personal statements we have read.

2.

To start with a simile or metaphor. An example of this is a personal statement that compares the pursuit of medicine to building a robot or any other activity. As with a quote, to use a simile or metaphor successfully, it must be both personally and particularly relevant to the candidate and the driving theme through every aspect of the essay, and it has been likewise rare to see this done successfully.

3.

To define the specialty in the personal statement, or otherwise to make statements that the program director what he/she will already know. An example of this is to start a personal statement with: "Internal medicine requires an understanding of how the different systems of the body affect each other."

4.

To describe experiences in only vague or general terms. This includes both not providing significant detail and not describing the effect the experiences have had on the candidate personally.

I want to "hook" the reader. What is the best way to do that?

Start with a simple, straightforward statement with how you started on the path that you are on. An example of this is: "The first time I saw how medicine can help people was when I was five years old and visited my mother in the hospital."

Second is to write of your particular experience. This is your greatest strength and what will set you apart.

I am having trouble getting started. Can you help me write my personal statement?

Absolutely, but we won't write it for you. For those needing assistance with developing a personal statement, we offer our Personal Statement Consultation service. With it, we will review your resume/CV if provided and, in one-on-one consultation with one of our personal statement editors, guide you through a series of questions and feedback to develop a concise plan for drafting your personal statement.

After you have drafted your personal statement, we will then review your personal statement with our Personal Statement Revision & Critique service for any adjustments needed to make it as polished and successful as possible.

I have followed all your advice. Do I still need to have my personal statement edited?

Yes, you should still have it edited, specifically for feedback/critique (see our Personal Statement Revision and Critique service) regarding how successful you are in communicating your points. It is our opportunity to help make what you have started as successful for you as possible.

Get More Advice on Our Blog

For more advice on personal statements, see the personal statement articles we have posted on our blog.

Sample Personal Statement
Medical Fellowship—Geriatric
and Palliative Care

Sample Personal Statement
Medical Residency—Ob/Gyn—
IMG with Leave of Absence


“You helped me edit my personal statement for my fellowship application a few months ago. Today I am writing to happily tell you that I have matched at one of the best programs in the U.S. I received many interviews from great programs, and almost all the interviewers mentioned that my personal statement was well-written and very interesting. I am very grateful for your wonderful work editing my personal statement and would like to express my sincere appreciation."

Taki U., New York, NY

“When I came to DLA for help with my personal statement, the application period had already opened, and I knew I was behind. I signed up for the consultation service and cannot be happier with the results. I just had an interview, and the interviewer said my personal statement was one of the best she had ever read, that it clearly presented who I was and the journey I have been on to reach this point. Hearing that made it totally worth the cost!”

Alessandra B., Biddeford, ME

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What is the personal statement?

Most fellowship applications include a personal statement. This is an opportunity for you to show your critical thinking skills in a creative format. It is where you get to add your voice to the mix of materials that reviewers see when you apply for fellowships. Use the personal statement to highlight positive aspects about yourself that may not be apparent in other parts of your application.

The personal statement is your place to ask and answer questions about your past, present and future, including:

  • What has brought you to this point in your life?
  • What have you learned from your past experiences?
  • What do you want to do with your studies?
  • How will this fellowship help you pursue you goals?
  • Why should this fellowship want to invest in you?

The personal statement should not be a simple list of your activities and accomplishments. Instead, try to craft a narrative that shows the review committee reader that you have the qualities the fellowship is looking for.

How to write a personal statement

You can approach the personal statement in many different ways. Some students like to start with an outline, while others start by brainstorming. The main points are: What are a few things you want people to know about you? Why is this fellowship right for you?

Writing improves with successive drafts. It is not unusual to write several drafts of the personal statement. As long as the fellowship rules allow it (and most do), you should bring your writing to the OGP advisers. We can discuss your ideas at any stage and talk in-depth with you about your statement. We don't try to fit you into a mold. Instead, our goal is to help you write a statement that you feel best represents you!

Keep these ideas in mind as you write:

  • Use specific examples from your life to highlight your positive qualities--the more concrete the better.
  • Include stories from your life, your favorite quotes, or anecdotes that reveal how you define yourself and see the world
  • Show your reader that the issues that move you are important. Get them to want to "fight the fight" with you.
  • Describe the ways you want to make an impact in the world.

Once you have written your personal statement, invite friends and family to read it. Do they think it portrays the person they know? Fellowship committees value authenticity above all other qualities. Make sure your statement reflects your true values and aspirations.

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