Not sure how to distinguish cover letters from personal statements? We’re here to help! We’ll break down the parts of each piece of content, as well as what they’re used for. Cover letters and personal statements are both used in many different settings, and both of them serve different purposes. If you’re planning to apply to residency or fellowship, you will need a personal statement, where a cover letter is required when applying for jobs. In the event that you need assistance writing your personal statement, we have written an article about it. You can access that article here.

Cover Letter
A cover letter serves the purpose of establishing your qualifications for a position for which you may have applied. Cover letters tend to be more formal and introductory. Your cover letter should be used to expand upon the experience listed on your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Most people make the mistake of writing their cover letter about how the company could help them advance their career, rather than writing about how the company would benefit from hiring them. Your cover letter should not only be about selling your skills to a company, but you should explain how your skills could benefit that company. It is important to tailor your cover letter to each position that you apply for. As easy as it is to go in and replace the company name and job title before submitting a job application, you should also take the time to change the skills and experiences you have included so that they fit the position you’re applying for. Keep in mind that while including your skills and experiences in your cover letter is beneficial, you should make sure that you include the information that best fits the description of each position. Below are some things you should remember when writing your cover letter:

  • Highlight the right experiences
  • Showcase your skills
  • Don’t focus too much on your education
  • Avoid apologizing for any missing experience
  • Consider including testimonials from your colleagues and supervisors
  • Don’t be too formal – an excessive amount of formality makes you seem robotic

Personal Statement
If you’re applying for medical school, you will need a personal statement. Personal statements are less formal and more flexible than cover letters. When writing your personal statement, there is no such thing as a “perfect topic”, nor will you have an “aha moment”. You should focus on writing about the experiences that helped you decide on a specialty, and you could even discuss other specialties that you considered. It is also important that you use identifying information in your story to avoid the risk of writing a personal statement that someone else could’ve written. Your personal statement should make you stand out rather than blend in, and should have quality and depth, and be personal and unique to you.


Here are some important reminders for your personal statement:

  • Introduce your personal statement with a unique observation or idea that you will further develop in subsequent paragraphs
  • Demonstrate the qualities that make you distinct by choosing experiences that highlight your best characteristics
  • Show instead of tell – use a story to talk about your qualities
  • Explain ways that you intend to help patients, or reasons you want to help patients
  • Maintain the focus of your personal statement on the main character – you!
  • Explain your thought process, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities
  • Use identifying information to write a personal statement that could have only been written by you

Now that you know the difference between cover letters and personal statements, you’re reading to prepare yourself for medical school! If you find that there’s something we missed or something you would just like to share, please reach out to us at – we love to hear from you!


Crystal Carter

Crystal Carter, Marketing Specialist

You can stay connected with me on LinkedIn for all of the latest PracticeMatch articles and upcoming events.