How to write a plastic surgery personal statement
It’s fair to say that, aside from the interview, the personal statement is the most frustrating and anxiety-provoking element of the application process. You will need to set aside some time to write. Do NOT leave this to the last minute. This isn’t some term paper for 12th grade English where your 2am rambling stream of consciousness will suffice.
Where to start:
Your plastic surgery residency personal statement should be just that, personal. Make it about you. This is your chance to tell programs something they wouldn’t otherwise learn from your application.
You can assume that people who read your application will read all of it. That means that your essay shouldn’t just recapitulate what’s already there. It is not a narrative version of your C.V. (that is a guaranteed way to bore your reader), although you should highlight or expound on certain elements that support the story you’re telling and are relevant to plastic surgery.
Start by writing down what you’re really interested in. Your essay doesn’t necessarily need to address these questions, but it’s a good place to start…
- Why are you interested in plastic surgery? What drew you to the field? What motivated you? Was it a particular case you participated in? A rotation? A life experience that shaped your career goals? While we all enjoy a good story, if yours is invented, your reader will likely figure that out and fabricating the truth does not reflect well. See below regarding “honesty.”
- What are your career goals?
- Tell us something about you. Don’t go crazy, but a quick bio is nice. What are your interests outside plastic surgery? Do you have a family? Military background?
- What skills or qualities do you have that make you suited to the training and practice of plastic surgery?
- What is something unique about you that would make you a fun and interesting person to train with? Why should we want to train you? Why should we want to be your co-resident? Are you well-traveled, speak several languages, started a business, do you compost under your sink, are you a serious athlete? Is there a transformative event from your past that helps explain better who you are as a person? This is what gets noticed, remembered, and makes a great opener for when you get invited for an interview.
Things NOT to do:
1. Do not tell plastic surgeons what plastic surgery is all about. This one is SUPER common. We see this phrase all the time; “plastic surgery is…” It generally depicts a superficial understanding of a limited aspect of the field. Everyone reading your personal statement already knows about plastic surgery. They don’t know about you. You are not an expert on plastic surgery (yet). You are an expert on YOU. Spend your time writing about that.
2. You are encouraged to have interests outside plastic surgery but remember that the whole point of applying and matching to a plastic surgery residency is to get surgical training. If it seems like all you want to do is research, leverage your MD/MBA into hospital administration, or design surgical devices for a living, then the programs reading your statement will rightly ask why they would devote 6-7 years to training you.
3. Do not ramble. Brevity really is the soul of wit.
4. Avoid abbreviations and colloquialisms.
5. Do not reuse your AMCAS statement (the one from your medical school application). We wouldn’t mention it if it didn’t happen.
6. A “cute” structure, such as writing your personal statement in the form of an H&P, is a terrible idea. Really. Don’t do it.
7. Do not use improper grammar. Please check your spelling. Twice.
8. Do not plagiarize. There are a few examples of personal statements on various websites. We’ve read a bunch of them (our opinion is that they are mediocre at best). Your best is better than this stuff.
Once you have a draft done, let it sit for a few days and come back to it. All writers go through drafts. Anticipate edits. Lots of them. Don’t get attached to a particular sentence or paragraph. And if the thing just isn’t working, take some time off and start over.
Would you like a plastic surgeon to proofread your essay? Read more about our Personal Statement Editing Service for Plastic Surgery and the Surgical Subspecialties.