Should You Tell a Sad Story in Your Medical School Personal Statement?

A premed recently asked me this great question about their medical school personal statement: “I want to write a unique essay, and there are a few tragic stories from my life that I think will really get medical schools to remember my essay. Should I tell any of my sad stories?”

My answer: Don’t tell a sob story. Sob stories make medical schools admissions committees roll their eyes because they’re so common and forced. This is what I mean by sob story: Your (mother/uncle/best friend) got sick and/or die. You were devastated, so now you want to become a doctor.

Unfortunately in life trafic things happen to all of us, but not every tragic event explains why you want to become a doctor.

Showing emotion in your personal statement is a great technique (read more about emotion in your medical school personal statement, but exploiting a sad story just to manipulate your reader’s emotion is not a good writing strategy.

You should only use an emotional story in your personal statement in these situations

  • The situation genuinely reinforced your passion for medicine
  • The situation was unique — The death of an older friend or relative is universal, avoid these stories

Be genuine and don’t manipulate your reader. Follow those two guidelines and your personal statement will be an effective essay.


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