Personal statements in the radiology field are the least effective way to bolster your application. (1) Rarely, do they help an applicant. Occasionally, they hurt the applicant’s case. Regardless, I am aware that the personal statement will often become essential to many viewers of this article who apply to radiology regardless of whatever I say. Therefore, I am creating this blog for anyone that is applying for a radiology related job to learn to create that killer radiology personal statement. And, today I am going to recount some of the basics for creating one. Specifically, I am going to start by explaining the parts of a great radiology personal statement and then give you some general tips that I have learned over the years from blogging and reading many personal statements.
After having rummaged through thousands of radiology personal statements and writing lots of blogs, I can definitely say that the key paragraph for the reader begins at the beginning. If it is average/boring, I have almost zero desire to read the rest of the statement, especially when you have another 10 more to read that day. Something in the few first few sentences needs to draw the reader in quickly. You are not writing a short story or novel where you can slowly develop your characters and plot. Rather, you need to write using a technique that I like to call the hook. Reel that program director in.
There are several techniques that I have seen over the years. Let’s start by using the writing technique of irony. Notice the irony I chose in the first paragraph of this article. I started by saying personal statements are the least effective way to bolster your application. Whoa, wait a minute! The title of the article is How To Create A Killer Personal Statement. That’s somewhat interesting. The dissonance in that first paragraph draws the reader in.
So, what other techniques can you use to maintain the interest of the reader? Sometimes quotes can certainly help. Once in a while, I come across a quote that really interests me. I tend to like quotes from Albert Einstein. They tend to be witty and have double meanings. But, there are certainly millions to choose from. A good quote can set the tone for the rest of the personal statement.
Finally, you can write about an interesting theatrical description of a life-altering event that caused you to want to go into radiology. Use descriptive novel-like adjectives and adverbs. Go to town. However, be careful. Don’t choose the same events as everyone else. Read my other blog called Radiology Personal Statement Mythbusters to give you some other ideas about what not to choose!
Tell Why You Are Interested In Radiology
The first paragraph is also an important place to tell the reader why you are interested in radiology. Many times I will read a radiology personal statement and say to myself that was kind of interesting, but why does this person want to go into the radiology field? He/she never quite answers the question and I am left feeling that this person does not know why they want to enter the field. Don’t let that be you!
Explain Any Problems/Issues
I like the applicant to be upfront with the reader rather quickly if there was an issue that may cause a program director or resident to discard an application. It could be addressing something as serious as a former conviction for drunk driving when you were young and stupid. Or, it could be something milder like a questionable quotation from a mentor that you found in your Deans Letter. Either way, you need to explain yourself. Otherwise, the problem/issue can declare itself as a red flag. Subsequently, it can prevent you from getting the interview that you really want.
Second and Third Paragraphs
Expand Upon Your Application
Let’s say you don’t really have any red flags in your application. Well then, now you can write about some of the things that you accomplished that you want to bring to the attention of your reader. Typically, these may be items in your application that are partially explained in the experience or research sections of the ERAS application but really deserve further emphasis or explanation.
Show Not Tell
In addition, the meat of any personal statement should contain information about what you did. Do not, instead, describe all the characteristics you had to allow you to do it. This is a cardinal mistake I often see in many personal statements. What do I mean by that? If you have been working at NASA on the Webb Space Telescope, you don’t want to say I was a hard worker and was well liked by everybody. Rather you would want to say I spent 1000 hours building the mirror for the telescope constantly correcting for mistakes to such a fine degree that the engineering societies considered it to be almost perfect. And to show you were well liked by everybody, you can say when you were done completing the telescope, NASA held a ticker tape parade for me!!! (Well, that’s probably not the case. But, hopefully, you get the idea.)
Time to Sum Up
This can be the most difficult part of writing a personal statement (and blog too!) How do you tie everything together into a tight knot so that everything comes together and makes sense? Well, one thing you can write about is what you will bring to the table if your residency program selects you based on what you have stated in your radiology personal statement. Back to the Webb telescope example: Given my experience with my successful quest for perfection by creating an almost perfect telescope mirror, similarly, I plan to hone my skills to become an incredible radiologist by always learning from others and my fellow clinicians to get as close to perfection as possible. Bottom line. You want to make sure to apply your experiences to the job that you want to get.
General Issues With Editing
1. I have learned a few things about writing over the past years, whether it is blogs, personal statements, letters, or whatever else you need to write. However, the most important is the obsessive need to review and re-review whatever you are writing for editing. It may take 100 edits to get it right!!!
2. Have a friend or a relative read your personal statement to catch errors you may not see. Your brain is trained to already know what you have written. Many times the only way to catch your own mistakes is to have another person read your writings.
3. Also, make sure to the read the personal statement out loud. Sometimes you can only detect errors by listening to what you have actually written. It happened many times when I edited my book Radsresident: A Guidebook For The Radiology Applicant And Radiology Resident
4. Finally, I recommend the use of grammar correcting programs. The one that I would like to bring to your attention is the program called Grammarly. I am an affiliate of Grammarly. However, that is only because I use the program myself for my blogs all the time. It has saved me from really stupid mistakes. One version is for free and corrects simple critical errors. The other uses more complex grammatical corrections and is a paid service. Regardless, either version will assist you in catching those silly errors. In addition, I usually paste my blogs into the Microsoft Word program to correct any other possible errors. I have found both programs to be complementary.
Other Useful Tidbits
Avoid Too Many I Words
When writing a radiology personal statement, try to reduce the usage of the word I for multiple reasons. First, it begins to sound very redundant. Second, you appear selfish. (It’s always about you, isn’t it?) And finally, you want to create the impression that you are going to be a team player, not in the field of radiology just for yourself.
Active Not Passive Tense
If you want a passage to sound great, make sure to almost always use the active tense, not the passive variety. When using the passive form, the reader has more work to do because he/she has to figure out who is doing the activity. In addition, the environment appears to control you rather than you controlling the environment. And finally, sentences sound more verbose when using the passive tense. Think about the following phrases: The job of creating a computer algorithm was completed over the course of 10 years vs. My colleagues and I created a computer algorithm over the course of 10 years. Which sounds better to you?
Use Sentence Transitions
If you want your personal statement to sound smooth, I find words other than the subject at the beginning of the sentence help to diversify the sound of the individual sentence. Also (notice this transition word!), it allows for a change of idea without being so abrupt.
Don’t Use The Same Word At The Beginning Of Each Sentence
In that same train of thought, try not to use the same word to begin a sentence over and over again. It’s a surefire way to bore the reader!!!
Creating That Perfect Radiology Personal Statement
Now you know some of the rules I would utilize to create an interesting radiology personal statement. Some of these are general rules that I apply to my blog on a weekly basis that I also see in the best personal statements. Therefore, I know that they work well. So, go forth and write that killer radiology personal statement. You now have all the tools you need!!!