Our families often inspire our choices.
But is it really appropriate to talk about family in your personal statement to a professional program?
Find the scenario below that best applies to your situation:
Scenario 1: Some aspect of my family’s history is fascinating and unique.
→ Did your family’s history directly impact your education and/or personal development? → Will this influence the way you someday practice medicine? → If yes, tell an interesting story that summarizes, in a nutshell, what happened and then connect that to a patient care story (or some other “eureka moment”) that helped crystallize your decision to pursue medicine. → Remember to keep most of the focus on what you learned and how that translates into action.
Scenario 2: My family is not particularly unique, but I love them and they inspired me.
→ Did you do something unusual or remarkable as a result of their encouragement? → If so, tell a story; that’s your focus, not your family. You might briefly mention them, but that’s about it.
Scenario 3: My family kind of let me down, but I have achieved a lot in spite of them.
→ Did you achieve what should have been impossible, given your circumstances? → If so, describe some of those obstacles (Tell a story!) and how that experience made you stronger. Don’t focus on how others disappointed you; tell your story without blaming or accusing.
Scenario 4: My family introduced me to the field of medicine.
→Do you have a parent (or other immediate family member) who is a physician? → You might briefly allude to that, but avoid making it a central focus. For example, you might mention working summers in your mother’s practice. No need to chronicle your parent’s journey to medicine, or education, or life philosophy. This essay is about YOU, not them.
Scenario 5: My close family member faced a life-threatening illness.
→ Were you extensively involved in their care or affected by their diagnosis? → Did this forever impact your view of medicine? → Are you comfortable talking about the experience and providing the basic details (type of illness, outcome, etc.). → If yes, then you can mention it. But try not to devote more than one paragraph to the subject, and make sure it connects to the other main points of your essay.
Scenario 6: Someone in my family told me I should be a doctor.
→ Don’t mention it! Even though our loved ones influence our decisions, you don’t want to send the message that you are primarily swayed by others’ preferences or pressure.