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Beware of Sample Medical School Personal Statements

Sitting down to write your personal statement for your medical school application can be an intimidating task. It's not easy to know the best approach, format, or style. That's where reading sample essays can help. But be careful – this seemingly harmless tool can quickly become your worst enemy.

A study conducted by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the organization that handles undergraduate applications to universities and colleges in the U.K., found that more than 200 applicants to undergraduate medical, dentistry, or veterinary programs at U.K. universities plagiarized personal stories in their essays. They were easily detected – they all used the same story from a sample essay about burning their pajamas while playing with a toy chemistry set as a child.

Despite your most honest intentions, if you read too many sample essays, you may end up plagiarizing – whether you mean to or not. Even if you don't plan to copy anything, reading a slew of sample essays can make it difficult to approach yours with a fresh perspective. The language and style of the samples will creep into your mind, and before you know it, yours will end up sounding like all the others.

And if you do try to copy from the samples, you're likely to do more harm than good. At worst, the admissions committee will recognize the plagiarism and dismiss your application. You never know how many other applicants are using the same material. At best, you'll just blend into the pool of all the other applicants who sound unoriginal, and you'll miss your chance to stand out from the crowd.

It can't hurt to read a couple of sample essays to help you get started. But don't let yourself get sucked into sounding like a canned essay, likely to get drowned out in the sea of others that sound the same. Your personal essay is one of your best tools to make the admissions committee remember you. It's your chance to introduce yourself as a unique individual. If you're serious about getting into med school, put in the time and effort to make the most of this opportunity. Spend some time doing a little soul-searching, and let your true self come through in your essay.

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