Can you believe it? Truly, the most important line of an effective introductory paragraph is the first sentence. Also known as the hook, this attention grabber is arguably one of the most important sentences of an entire essay, especially medical residency personal statements.

The Hook

The first sentence sets the stage for what will follow in the introductory paragraph. Our advice for this: go big or go home. When medical residency faculty are reading through hundreds and sometimes thousands of statements each year, their attention span is limited. A statement that starts out with a bang is more likely to be read in detail than one which crumbles due to dryness and lack of appeal. Here are some options to use as effective introductory sentences: vivid imagery, questions, bold statements, mystery, and anything else to set the stage for the story that is your personhood to come. We typically recommend avoiding starting with words like – The, A, or It. Boring! After the hook comes the lead-in.

The Lead-in

The lead-in, with regards to an introductory paragraph, is the filling in a sandwich whose slices of bread are the hook and the thesis. Basically, the lead-in is the continuation of the attention-grabbing hook, which provides the reader with some context as to who they are reading about and why. Oftentimes, in medical residency personal statements, the author will discuss an extremely poignant moment in their life when they decided to pursue medicine, a specific specialty, or something else that helped shape their current journey. A hint – make this interesting, but NOT too long. Oftentimes, writers will stretch this lead-in way too far (imagine two paragraphs of non-essential content!?). Don’t be that person. Remember, how long is the attention span of someone reading thousands of these? The lead-in should, ideally, bring the story of the author to the thesis, ie- why are we here?

The Thesis

A thesis statement is, at its core, a summary of the main point(s) or main claim(s) of an essay. Basically, “For these reasons (x,y,z), I have diligently pursued my path as a future (specialty) physician.” The thesis should set the stage for what you are going to be talking about in the body paragraphs of your essay. In case you missed it, that should largely discuss why you are well-suited for your specialty, including several (ideally, clinical) examples. Other topics would be your expectations of residency and future goals as a physician. Your thesis will probably focus on what brought you to your specialty and why you are well suited for it.

Time to Eat!

Well, we’ve made an effective introductory paragraph sandwich for medical residency personal statements. The great thing about sandwiches? There is an infinite variety. So try your hand in the writing kitchen and see what unique and tantalizing creations are there for you to cook up.