Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

Office of Student Affairs & Career Counseling
Writing a Personal Statement


The personal statement is the portion of your residency application that allows you to express a variety of statements, facts, thoughts and feelings about yourself. It is the less structured portion of the application, and allows for a freer flow of expression.

Example of a Pediatrics Personal Statement (PDF)

General Guidelines

  • Statement should be one page, single-spaced, 12-point type with one inch margins
  • Use complete sentences, proper grammar and correct spelling. Have at least one person review your personal statement for this purpose.
  • Avoid abbreviations—they may not be as clear as you think. Spell everything out.
  • Be brief and to the point
  • Your readers will be physicians—concrete writing tends to be better than abstract ideas
  • You may create as many personal statements as you like. Through ERAS, you will be able to assign different personal statements to different residency programs, if you are applying to more than one field.

Topics to Include

  • Explain gaps in your life’s timeline. Program Directors will trace your recent life’s history on your CV and application. Any gaps in time not accounted for need to be explained. The personal statement is the best place to reconcile this. If this gap affected your desire to enter medicine, make sure to expand on it.
  • Time gaps during medical school/academic difficulties. Any leaves of absence must be explained. The personal statement is the best area to do so.  How much detail is presented becomes a judgment call. You may wish to discuss this with your student affairs dean.

Topics to Consider Including

  • 

Personal background. Is there a life experience, family member or travel experience that led you to medicine in general or a particular field of medicine?

  • Medical experiences. Was there a patient encounter, a doctor-patient interaction, or other experience that led you to choose this specialty?


  • Research/community work/time spent abroad. You might also consider focusing on something you have done during medical school—research in a certain field, community service work, significant time abroad—and how that has affected your choice.
  • Your reasons for choosing the field. What do you like about it? What personal characteristics make you a good fit for the field?
  • Your future. What do you plan to be doing 5 or 10 years after finishing your residency?  While this may be difficult to know, it gives the reader an idea of your insight into the specialty.