Can AI articulate your dreams?

Ryan Kelly

Why do you want to pursue your chosen career path?

This question is at the heart of every personal statement, and students often struggle to answer it thoroughly and convincingly, especially in their early drafts.

Why? Well, sometimes they dance around it in fear of being too cliche or straightforward. Sometimes their answer isn’t specific enough, thus failing to differentiate their chosen career from other paths. And sometimes they just can’t manage to articulate their dreams in a way that’s both eloquent and definitive.

So today I want to test how well AI can handle this question, to see if it could be helpful for students who are struggling to put their aspirations into the right words.

Make sure to check out part 1 and part 2 to see my assessment of AI’s other potential roles in personal statement writing.

Should You Use AI to Answer “Why ______ Career?

For this experiment, we’ll be using “Why medicine?” as our career path question, and I want to try two different approaches.

First, let’s simply ask AI for an answer to the question with no other context:

You: Can you give me a good answer to the question "why medicine?" for a medical school personal statement?


Crafting an effective answer to "why medicine?" for a medical school personal statement requires introspection, clarity, and authenticity. This question is central to your application, offering you a platform to showcase your passion, commitment, and suitability for a career in medicine. Here’s a comprehensive strategy to structure your response, blending personal anecdotes with a clear vision for your future in the medical field.

1. Start with a Personal Anecdote

Begin your essay by sharing a compelling personal story that initially sparked your interest in medicine. This could be a moment you encountered a medical challenge within your family, an inspiring interaction with a healthcare professional, or a volunteer experience that exposed you to the impact of medical care. The key is to connect your personal story to your decision to pursue medicine, making it relatable and genuine.

Example: "Growing up in a rural area with limited access to advanced medical care, I witnessed firsthand the challenges and disparities in health services. When my cousin was diagnosed with a chronic condition that required specialized treatment miles away from our home, I saw the stress it put on my family. This experience ignited my desire to pursue a career where I could bridge the gap in healthcare accessibility."

Here’s the first of five tips ChatGPT gave me. I honestly wasn’t expecting such a long answer, almost as if the AI cannot answer this question in a vacuum so it invented its own context.

The problem with this first point of advice is that it’s answering “when medicine?” more so than “why medicine?” I like the attempt at personalization, but the examples it lists (“a medical challenge within your family, an inspiring interaction with a healthcare professional, or a volunteer experience that exposed you to the impact of medical care”) are some of the most cliché possible ways of introducing your interest in medicine.

2. Highlight Relevant Experiences

Beyond the initial spark, delve into the experiences that reinforced your decision to pursue medicine. Discuss your academic pursuits, research, shadowing experiences, healthcare-related volunteering, or any work in medical settings. Highlight what you learned from these experiences, focusing on the aspects of medicine that excite you the most and how they have prepared you for the challenges of a medical career.

Example: "My shadowing experience with Dr. Smith, a family physician, allowed me to appreciate the importance of patient-centered care and the impact of empathy and communication in medical practice. Volunteering at the local clinic, I was exposed to the complexities of healthcare delivery, further fueling my passion to contribute to equitable healthcare solutions."

The problem with this one is that it’s merely making commentary about medicine, as opposed to actually explaining why you’re personally drawn to medicine and why its qualities are stimulating, rewarding, or engaging to YOU.

3. Reflect on the Qualities You Bring to Medicine

Medicine requires a unique blend of skills and qualities. Reflect on the personal attributes that make you well-suited for a career in medicine. This could include problem-solving skills, empathy, resilience, a strong ethical foundation, or an ability to work in a team. Provide examples from your life or experiences that illustrate these qualities.

Example: "During my tenure as president of the university's health advocacy group, I honed my leadership and teamwork skills, organizing health awareness campaigns that reached over 5,000 students. These experiences have equipped me with the resilience and empathy necessary to tackle the emotional and physical demands of medical school and a medical career."

The problem with this one is that it’s answering “why you?” rather than “why medicine?” Although that’s important as well, it’s not very helpful for our task at hand.

4. Connect to Your Future Vision

Articulate your long-term goals and how they align with the medical profession. Whether you aspire to contribute to medical research, specialize in a particular field, or work in underserved communities, explain how your vision motivates your pursuit of a medical career. This section should tie back to your opening anecdote and the core reasons behind your choice, demonstrating a clear, thoughtful path from your past experiences to your future in medicine.

Example: "Inspired by my rural upbringing, I am determined to specialize in family medicine and work in underserved areas. My goal is to improve healthcare accessibility and advocate for policies that bridge the gap in healthcare delivery. I am committed to becoming a physician who not only heals but also serves as a community leader, improving the lives of those with limited access to healthcare."

This one is probably the closest to success so far. It’s a specific declaration of goals and aspirations within the career.

However, it almost seems to be jumping the gun a little bit, answering what kind of physician you want to be, as opposed to just answering the baseline “why physician?” question.

This feels like it’d be more appropriate for the “career goals” question that commonly arises in some medical schools’ secondary essays.

5. Conclude with a Strong Statement

End your essay with a powerful conclusion that reiterates your passion for medicine and your readiness for the challenges and rewards of a medical career. This is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression, so emphasize your commitment and the unique perspective you bring to medicine.

Example: "The journey to a career in medicine is undoubtedly challenging, yet my experiences have solidified my resolve to pursue this path. I am eager to embark on this journey, equipped with the knowledge, experiences, and passion to make a meaningful impact in the field of medicine. I am not just choosing medicine as a career; I am committing to a lifetime of learning, service, and compassion."

This just comes off as an incredibly generic, cliché conclusion paragraph.

Overall, it felt like the AI was explaining how to write an entire personal statement, rather than just a “why medicine?” paragraph.

So, let’s try that?

You: Can you write a paragraph that answers the question of why I want to be a physician?

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here's a personalized paragraph based on a general perspective that you can further customize to reflect your unique journey and aspirations:

"My desire to become a physician stems from a profound commitment to positively impact individual lives and communities through the power and compassion of medicine. Growing up in an environment where I witnessed the disparities in healthcare access and the transformative effect of empathetic medical intervention, I developed a deep-seated resolve to contribute to bridging these gaps. The intricate blend of science and human interaction within the medical field fascinates me, offering a unique opportunity to combine my passion for scientific inquiry with the desire to foster meaningful, personal connections. Volunteering at local clinics and shadowing professionals in diverse medical settings, I've seen the difference compassionate care can make, reinforcing my ambition to pursue a career where I can apply my skills and knowledge to advocate for and implement innovative healthcare solutions. To me, being a physician means more than just a profession; it represents a lifelong commitment to learning, healing, and serving with empathy and integrity."

Feel free to adjust this paragraph to include specific experiences, motivations, and aspirations that are true to your journey towards becoming a physician.

Using this new prompt offered us a much better result. This one, although needlessly long, is definitely the best answer so far.

Is it a bit generic? Sure. But at least it definitively answers “why medicine?” and includes enough criteria to differentiate it from other careers. The lack of personalization would probably be forgivable if this paragraph was inserted into an otherwise specific, individualized essay.

I also appreciate that the AI recommends adjusting the paragraph with your own experiences. To me, that’s the perfect use of AI–giving you a strong, structured template that you can tweak and spruce until it feels like your own.

OK - last test - I want to see if the AI can write a “why medicine?” paragraph after reading a specific essay draft that’s missing that paragraph.

To save us space, I won’t include the entire essay draft I gave the AI, but just so you know, I took one of my students’ rough drafts and deleted all the “why medicine?” sentences from it.

You: Could you read this essay draft and write a paragraph that sums up this writer's reasons for pursuing a career as a physician? Here is the draft:

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here's how the summary could be written in the first person, seamlessly fitting into the essay:

"My journey towards pursuing a career in medicine is deeply personal, shaped by experiences that highlighted the critical interplay between empathy, mentorship, and the impactful reach of healthcare. From the profound moment of aiding a peer in distress during my time as a Resident Assistant to navigating my own health crisis as a child, I've been acutely aware of the isolating challenges that accompany health issues. These pivotal experiences instilled in me a fervent desire to marry scientific knowledge with compassionate care. My academic exploration, particularly in physiology, further ignited my passion, teaching me the invaluable lesson that effective healthcare transcends scientific competence; it requires listening to and understanding the unique stories of each patient. Opting to turn down an acceptance to dental school, I sought roles that allowed me to make a broader impact, such as working as an ED scribe and serving as a COVID response coordinator in one of LA County's most underserved communities. These roles not only expanded my medical knowledge but also empowered me to combat misinformation and vaccine hesitancy head-on, reinforcing my commitment to a career where I can provide both emotional comfort and informed guidance. As I reflect on my path, I am reminded of my childhood moment in the ICU, a harrowing experience that serves as a constant reminder to humanize my care. I aspire to be a physician who not only delivers emotional support but also clarity and direction through a deeper understanding of medicine, ensuring my patients feel heard, valued, and genuinely cared for."

This certainly isn’t perfect, but it has some strong sentences/ideas. I particularly like the way that it contrasts the writer’s original path in dentistry with their new path in medicine. I also like how it makes specific callbacks to the other parts of the writer’s essay and uses them as vessels for conveying aspects of medicine that compel and drive the writer.

Lessons and Takeaways from This Experiment

  • AI is much more effective at this type of task compared to writing an introductory, story-based paragraph (as discussed in part 2 of this series)
  • It’s key to be precise in the wording of your prompt to get the best results; I recommend asking the AI to keep its advice to a single paragraph, and then give it further prompting if necessary to adjust to your needs.
  • It seems helpful to use AI as a template, which will give you a solid foundation if you’re struggling to get started with your “why _____ career” section of your personal statement. Then you can tweak and personalize on your own.
  • Feeding the AI the rest of your essay draft will get you much closer to a finished product, perhaps giving you a “why _____ career” answer that only needs minimal adjusting

Overall, when it comes to personal statement writing, I would say that you can’t blindly rely on AI to do all the work for you, but it’s certainly worth doing your own experiments to see what ideas, templates, or connections it can elucidate for you.

- Ryan

Try Out Passport’s Prompt on ChatGPT!

(fill in brackets yourself):

Based on the core stories that I’ve included below, especially regarding my [name of experience], [name of experience], and [name of experience], can you help me write a short paragraph that explains my reasons for pursuing a career as a physician over any other path? This paragraph should call back to or reference my intellectual stimulation from my [name of experience], my emotional fulfillment from my [name of experience], and medicine’s conduciveness to my [personal strengths] that connect to my [name of experience].

[Copy/paste core stories here]

For over 11 years, Ryan Kelly has guided hundreds of students towards acceptance into top colleges and graduate schools, with an emphasis on standing out while also staying true to themselves. Read more about Ryan here. Or book a free intro meeting with him here.