Polishing Your Personal Statement: The Editing Process


If you’re participating in the ERAS process, you’re probably spending part of your summer working on your personal statement, which is a key component of your application for a U.S. medical residency program. Over the course of the last few posts, we’ve been going over the major steps of the process: from the early stages of brainstorming, to the first draft, to the later revisions of your personal statement, there are lots of important things to keep in mind so that you can create a personal statement that will impress the application readers at your desired residency program. Once you are happy with the general content and overall organization of your personal statement, it is finally time to move on to the last step of the writing process — editing and polishing.

Steps within the Editing Process

When you submit your personal statement to a medical residency program, it is essential for the document to be free from errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Even if you are telling a great story that shows your application reader exactly why you are an excellent candidate for their residency program, your reader can be easily turned off by a minor mistake. Mistakes can suggest sloppiness or a lack of true interest in the program — and you don’t want your reader to think either of those things! In order to ensure that the personal statement you submit is error-free, here are some key steps to take:

  • Run the spelling and grammar check in your word processing program. These tools are NOT comprehensive, so you should NOT rely solely on them to edit your paper…but they are still valuable tools that are readily available. You might as well use them.
  • Read the paper out loud. You might recognize this tip from the post about the revision process, but it can also help you as you edit your paper. When you read your personal statement out loud, it’s easier to catch minor wording errors, such as using “a” instead of “an,” because they just don’t sound right when you hear them. Reading your paper out loud can also help with the identification of grammatically incorrect sentence structures.
  • Print your paper out. Again, this tip applies to both the revision process and the editing process. Often, when you see the words directly on paper, errors in spelling and grammar are more likely to jump out at you.
  • Ask multiple friends to read your personal statement. At this point, you’ve been staring at your personal statement for days, weeks, or even months. People who have never read it before are much less likely to overlook spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Also, it’s a good idea to get multiple perspectives on your personal statement. Sometimes, a sentence structure that makes sense to one person is confusing for another, so it can be helpful to have more than one person weigh in.
  • Ask an expert in American English to help you edit. If English is not your first language, it may be a good idea to have a native speaker look over your personal statement. Ideally, this person should be most familiar with American English, since you’re applying for a U.S. medical residency program. An American English expert might be able to detect subtle in grammar or diction that detract from the overall message of your paper, and they can help you tweak it so that it reads smoothly for an American application reader.

What To Watch Out For When Editing Your Personal Statement

When you edit your personal statement, or when you have a friend edit the document, it can be helpful to think about exactly what you are looking for before you start. That way, you’re more likely to notice the errors that exist in your personal statement. Here are a few of the things you should keep in mind:

  • Spelling. Misspelled words look bad in your personal statement. If you come across a word and you’re not sure of the correct spelling, consult a dictionary.
  • Punctuation. Does every sentence end with a period? Are the commas in the right places? If you used quotes or parentheses, did you make sure to close them? Are colons and semicolons used appropriately?
  • Grammar. Look for common mistakes, like errors in subject-verb agreement and the use of singular and plural nouns.
  • Capitalization. Make sure that names and other proper nouns are capitalized. All other nouns should not be capitalized.
  • Presentation. Although you may not be able to control the font size and style of your personal statement when you enter it into the ERAS system, make sure that the overall layout of the personal statement is visually appealing. Rather than having one long block of text, it should be divided into cohesive paragraphs that look good on the page.

By carefully editing your personal statement for problems in each of these areas, you can be sure to make the best possible impression on your residency application reader. As a result, you will maximize your odds of being accepted into your desired program!

For foreign medical graduates, landing a U.S. medical residency can be a challenge, but FMG Portal is here to help. Contact us today to find out more about the resources we offer!