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Medical School Personal Statement Tip #2

It’s important to have some form of clinical experience for your medical school applications, whether it’s volunteer work or shadowing. By no means is it a requirement for applying, but medical schools like to see that you have an idea of what clinical work is like. The best way to get that knowledge is to spend time with professionals. If you don’t know what the day-to-day work of medicine is like, at least generally, how can you be sure that you want to become a doctor?

But it’s also important to recognize the limitations of that experience. You probably realize that you can’t fully know what it is to be a doctor until you become one yourself. Many students opt to shadow doctors to obtain clinical experience, and shadowing does not involve providing any clinical service. You’re still an outsider looking in, even if you’re an especially well-informed and interested outsider, and you’ll stay that way as you apply for medical school.

Don’t write that your clinical experience has given you an understanding of what it is to be a doctor. This sounds naïve and grasping, even arrogant, and medical schools do not want you to think that you’ve already got it figured out. Instead, describe your clinical experience in itself—what you saw, how you felt about it, and what reflections it gave rise to. Focusing on the concrete experience itself will help focus your essay on a vivid scene. It will also speak to your maturity and your perspective; being aware of the limits of your knowledge is an attractive quality.

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