Common Debacles in Personal Statement Essays: Mistakes to Avoid


March 16, 2020

If you are just beginning to write your personal statement, or you are done writing it, go through these common mistakes before you submit the final copy for review. More often than not, the multiple editing and drafting sessions can leave us blind to the subtle mistakes that can easily become glaring reasons for rejection. Go through the following common mistakes students make and steer clear of them.

Crowding the Essay:

Personal Statement Essay

This is very common and usually proves counterintuitive. A personal statement Essays has to be brief and to the point. You have a limited space to argue a compelling case for yourself. Sometimes, all of your experiences are equally significant and you might be tempted to include all of them in your personal statement essays. But this is a huge mistake. An admission officer is always pressed for time. Weaving too many experiences will only make you seem ‘trying too hard”. It will make communication chaotic and unpleasing. It is recommended that you stick with two or three significant and convincing plot lines. It is best to list out all of your experiences and then discuss them with your mentor for better analysis, and to decide which ones are the best ones to write about.

Lack of Integrity:

A pre-med student has to show integrity. There is no way to stress this enough. Your essay is a reflection of who you are, and it should imply that you value the fundamental ethics of medicine. It is easy to get lured by so many tricks and hacks masquerading as suggestions. None of them will ever work if you are not honest and sincere in your essay. Don’t lie or try to make up anecdotes. The admission officers see endless amount of applications and are trained lie-detectors. If you don’t back-up your high sounding promises with evidence of related action, then it is easy to come off as big-mouthed and insincere. Also, remember that the Admission board has your complete application and scores to cross-check any fact that you have mentioned. This means that if you claim to be a brilliant and dedicated student, then you must also explain how you ended up with meagre grades in a particular semester.

You have to be extremely aware of the possible flaws on your application. It is a sign of integrity that you choose to explain any flaw with honesty. However, you can be creative with that as well. Discuss with your mentor and come up with a suitable narrative for explaining the flaws on your application.

Sounding Entitled or like a Victim:

common mistakes

It is commendable that you have used your lack of resources and opportunities as a steppingstone to pursue challenging things in life, such as a career in medicine. However, it is never a good idea to use such experiences to imply entitlement or victimhood. There are appropriate ways of talking about your adverse experiences and weaving them in your personal narrative for the purpose of a personal statement. Remember that you have to show the reader why you have chosen a career in medicine over and above other professions. For instance, how has a difficult childhood made you more decisive and shaped leadership qualities in you, or, how the loss of a loved one to an illness made you more compassionate and aware of human suffering.

Similarly, if you want to use your diverse experience in the personal statement essays, then do so without sounding entitled or desperate. Diversity can be your strength, but it is certainly not your only strength. Therefore, don’t use such unique qualities to sound entitled, but rather use them to further strengthen your case.

Getting too personal:

A Personal Statement Essays is not about getting up-close and personal. It is meant to be an opportunity to express your character and personal motivations which together make you suitable to pursue a career in medicine.  Therefore, expressing any religious or political preferences is not a good idea. Talking about anything that is too personal will raise eyebrows and make your narrative oblique. You can never know who is reading your essay and what that person believes in or supports. It is best to stick to the expression of strengths and qualities that depict your suitability for pursuing a career in medicine. Any transgression can prove to be counter-intuitive and it is best to discuss it with your mentor before deciding to write about it.

Confidence v/s Perfection:

Admission Officers are trained in spotting any discrepancies in your Essay and the most common one is letting your lack of confidence and insecurity be evident. Being under-confident or insecure is very human. But the personal statement offers only a limited space and therefore, you have to use it to argue the most convincing case for yourself. Expressing anything that hints lack of self-confidence or insecurity has to be avoided. Same is true for anecdotes hinting irresponsibility and rash negligence.

personal statement

Another crucial aspect is to avoid writing in a way that implies you are inhumanely perfect. Remember that compassion and grit are human qualities. If you will continue to list your achievements and accolades in the essay, then you risk coming across as fake or inhuman. If you are exceptionally good, then let your grades do the talking. Use the essay to demonstrate how well you relate and connect with the human predicaments in general, and how this further motivates you to pursue a career in medicine.

Humility and Gratitude:

As a pre-med student, one can easily become self-centered due to the intense focus and determination required for achieving good grades, competitive scores, and completing mandatory course-work and a load of other stuff. However, we mustn’t forget to acknowledge people who make our journey easier. This can include anyone from your family and friends, to a Mentor who lead you through every tricky crevice. Moreover, being humble and grateful is a cherished quality, evidence of deep compassion and empathy. If you have been an over-achiever, it is best to stress upon your humility and compassion by expressing gratitude through your essay. Show how you acknowledge the sacrifices made by people near to you so that you could achieve your dreams. Introspect and reflect as much as possible.

Starting too late:

Common mistakes

This is the most common mistake students make when it comes to writing an essay. You must give yourself optimum amount of time to introspect, reflect, pick the best suited theme and write your essay. Leaving the task for last-minute handling can prove to be fatal. Most of the winning essays that leave powerful impacts are framed, drafted and written over the course of many months, sometimes even a year. This is the best way to approach the task. The demand of brevity in the essay makes meaningful compilation a challenging task. Even the best writers struggle with it. Thus, it is highly recommended that you pan out the complete process over a month or two at least. Get your draft reviewed by your peers, and especially your Mentors.

Skipping the sanity check:

Usually, the task of introspection, reflection and compilation is very exhausting. The rigorous brainstorming can leave you complacent. Many students skip conducting a sanity check on their essay. A lack of editing will always show through your essay. A sanity check is crucial as it can reveal something as insignificant as a wrong preposition to something as glaring as a misplaced plotline or lack of basic rationality. The purpose of this post is help you spot your mistakes and then correct them. A sanity check is absolutely non-negotiable, and not doing one a fatal mistake.

Ignoring your audience and the question:

It is easy to get carried away and forget the basic purpose of why we are writing a personal statement essays in the first place. The basic purpose of the essay is to convince the Admission Board that you are a promising and suitable choice for their school. Therefore, you have to customize the essay so that you can include these crucial points. This is bit of a task, but it is substantially rewarding.

Another common mistake is to end-up ignoring and sideling the chosen prompt. The idea is to give a holistic view and explanation that authenticates the argument in favor of the chosen prompt. There is no point in talking about your life-experiences if they don’t culminate into a strong argument in favor of your candidature. A prompt is a question that tries to find an answer to your suitability as a candidate for the particular Medical School.


After you have grazed your essay for these mistakes, do the required editing and consult your Mentor for further checks. Once you get a green light from your Mentor, go ahead and submit your final product!

All the Best!

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