Creating a Curriculum Vitae
The Office of Student Affairs encourages our students to use the following sample from a fictitious student as a guide in creating a curriculum vitae (CV). This format is well organized and provides adequate details for the purpose of preparing letters of recommendation and Medical Student Prformance Evaluations (also called dean’s letters). In completing a CV for our staff writer, begin with your undergraduate program and account for all time between college and medical school. Include dates and descriptions of all awards, activities, research, employment, etc. For the purposes of writing Medical Student Performance Evaluations and letters of recommendation, more information on the CV is better than less. Students will also use their CVs for other purposes and should make sure that, in those cases, content and format suit the purpose.
Creating a Personal Statement
The purpose of the personal statement is two-fold:
- to indicate that you have what the hospital needs in terms of abilities, experiences, skills, and maturity;
- to demonstrate that you are indeed the person the program is looking for with similar values and philosophies; in other words, that you are a good "match."
Suggestions from The Residency Match—101 Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
By Samir P. Desai, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Published by MD2B, Houston, Texas
Regarding personal statements, Dr. Desai's advice includes:
- Develop a high quality personal statement. While some reviewers only skim the statement, others read it very carefully. Since you don’t know how much weight it will carry at each program, do a good job. Many reviewers use the statement to learn more about an applicant’s qualities, information not readily apparent in the application.
- Give yourself plenty of time to write your personal statement. Don’t procrastinate. Give yourself time to write and revise. You may want to allow time for others to review your statement.
- Consider your audience. Your audience will likely consist of the residency program director, your interviewers, and perhaps other members of the selection committee. These readers use the personal statement to learn more about you as an individual to help them determine if you have the qualities they are seeking in a future resident. Your statement will better support your application if it conveys that you are a mature, thoughtful, enthusiastic, responsible, and stable individual.
- Make your statement the right length. At UNC, we recommend that it not go over 600 to 650 words long. Your audience is made up of busy people without the time or patience to read a lengthy statement. On the other hand, do not make your statement too short. A 10-line personal statement suggests that you did not expend much time, energy, or effort and the program may assume that you will approach your residency in the same manner.
- Know what to address in the statement. Here are some questions that you may choose to address:
- Why am I interested in the field I have chosen?
- What am I looking for in a residency program?
- What are my professional goals in the field I have chosen?
- Why should a program select me?
- What accomplishments should I highlight?
- What contributions can I make to the specialty?
- What contributions can I make to the residency program?
- What outside interests do I have?
- Be sure your statement is clearly written. He lists the following common mistakes: lack of flow (i.e., jumping from one tangent to the next), lack of structure (i.e., each paragraph should develop an idea and each sentence should build on the one before it), spelling errors, grammatical errors, using clichés or tired analogies and metaphors, beginning every sentence with “I”, using abbreviations, failing to back up descriptive statements about your self (i.e., if you say you are hardworking, give a specific example.)
- To prevent these errors, ask several people to read your statement. At UNC, ask your career goal advisor to ready your statement.
- Be sure to correct spelling and grammar errors! Readers will interpret these errors to mean that you are not attentive to details and they will conclude that you approach the care of patients in the same way.
- Avoid exaggeration. For instance, do not overstate your role in a research project.
- Avoid lying. Every year some students lie in an effort to come across in a better light. If you are caught, it will be extremely damaging to your candidacy and if you are not caught, you will have to live in fear that someday your lie may be discovered.
- Do not simply repeat information from your CV. The personal statement is not an expanded version of the CV.
- Seek help when writing the personal statement. Your statement should be reviewed by several people, including your advisor.
- Begin your statement with an attention grabber. Reviewers will be reading hundreds of statements and you should capture their attention from the beginning by using a story, a quote, or even an anecdote.
- Be concise. Avoid extraneous or unnecessary words.
- Rather than focusing on your undergraduate or preclinical years, focus on your growth during the clinical years of medical school, especially as it pertains to your chosen specialty. Exceptions include significant research, volunteer work, community service, and coursework towards earning another degree. If you include information from your past, be sure to tie it in with the specialty you have chosen.
- Although creativity is encouraged, avoid showing too much creativity. A highly unusual statement may be perceived negatively. Members of the selection committees tend to be conservative.
- You want to be perceived as self-confident, but not as arrogant.
- Avoid taboo topics. When discussing your reasons for choosing your specialty, avoid financial or lifestyle reasons. In addition, avoid discussing religion, political beliefs, romantic relationships, and opinions about sex or moral issues such as abortion. Do not make any inflammatory statements.
In addition to Dr. Desai’s suggestions we recommend:
- Double space between paragraphs so that your statement looks visually appealing to the readers. If you double space, you do not need to indent paragraphs.
- Don’t say you want something that a program does not offer. For instance, if you say to a community program that you want to do research and they do not offer that opportunity, they may conclude that you won’t be happy there and not interview you. ERAS allows you to direct different statements to different programs, so, in this example, you might have one statement mentioning your interest in doing research sent to academic programs and another statement without research for community programs.
- Be yourself. If a program does not like that, you wouldn’t be happy there anyway! For instance, if you feel strongly about starting with a Biblical quote, do it.
- Your AMCAS essay may help you think of some ideas.
Additional guidance is offered in Resumes and Personal Statements for Health Professionals, by James W. Tysinger, Ph.D., Galen Press, Ltd., Tucson, AZ.
Please feel free to contact the staff writer at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have further questions.
These examples of personal statements for residency applications are presented here with permission of the authors.