Questions about Primary Applications and Personal Statements

What goes into completing the primary application? Do I have to have my MCAT scores or letters of recommendation?

The primary application requires a lot of demographic information, your descriptions of your activities, your essay, and your grades. The application service then verifies that the grades you've entered on your application match the grades on your transcripts. Letters of recommendation and standardized test scores are not required in order to have your application verified--just your transcripts.

I am really happy with what I wrote in my HPA autobiography and would like to just use it for my personal statement, but it’s way too long. Do you have advice on how to use the autobio to create a personal statement?

First, when thinking about how you want to portray yourself in the application, think about all of the written components: the disadvantaged statement (if applicable), the work/activities mini-essays, especially the three longer, “most meaningful” activities, and the personal statement itself. To some degree, you can also consider the committee letter as a part of the written portrayal of your candidacy, even though you won’t be writing it—if there are aspects of your candidacy that we’ve discussed that we’ll share in the letter (like one tough semester or an MCAT repeat), you don’t necessarily have to address them in your application itself.

So, think about what a reader will glean about you from the other written components, and how you’ll use the essay to complement and tie everything together when it comes to helping someone else understand your motivation and what has led you to the decision to become a physician.

Other tips based on reading your autobiographies:

  • Give the most time and space to more recent developments in your life—the autobio went back to childhood, but the personal statement doesn’t need to go back to your first moments of considering medicine. It should focus on how you’ve matured and refined your values, interests, and beliefs through your endeavors over the years, and convey your vision of yourself as a physician based on this cumulative experience. Much of that personal refinement comes with the maturity and perspective gained over the college years and beyond, and that’s what the reader is looking for—an authentic understanding of your current self as a future physician.
  • Think about what stories you conveyed in the autobio may be better saved for an interview—with space limitations, sometimes you have to forego an anecdote that's hard to convey succinctly.
  • Try to separate what parts of your autobio may be relevant to your personal development, but less relevant to medicine. The personal statement should center on you in the context of medicine.
  • Some of our applicants did a good job of connecting the dots, reflecting on growth, and relating it to medicine in their autobiographies. Others focused more on early life, or on accomplishments (the “what”) rather than the meaning behind them and growth that resulted (the “so what”). The personal statement should prioritize growth and reflection over achievement.
  • It may limit your writing process to try to wrestle pre-existing writing into a new format. Try thinking about the most relevant insights from your autobio and from your intake form: favorite sentences, reflections on your values, overarching themes that you see have emerged, and use some of the resources we’ve provided as a springboard for a new piece of writing.