Question of the Week: Converting the Autobio to a Personal Statement

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

Q: 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?

A: 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 (see the longer version on our website):

  • Give the most time and space to more recent developments in your life—the essay should provide 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.
  • The personal statement should center on you in the context of medicine.
  • 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 to use those as a springboard for a new piece of writing. 

QOTW 2020: MCAT This Summer for Future Application?
QOTW 2019: GPA Cutoff for Committee Letter?