Writing your personal statement is one of the first of many hurdles you face when applying to Medical School. Your personal statement is what stands between your UCAS application and your medical school interviews which precede your offers. It is your opportunity to show the admissions staff who you are, why you would be a good addition to their medical school as well as a good doctor in the long run. You only have 4000 characters with spaces, this is much harder than it seems. It’s is easy not to know where to start when writing your personal statement and it is process characterised by continuous refining and patience. Good things take time. This blog post will give you advice and tips that I was told or realised along my journey and also features aspects of my own personal statement too, which earned me 3 Medical School interviews.
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
I would suggest creating a notes page full of personal statement ideas, by having it on your phone you can also add things to it when you’re on the go or when you receive inspiration and use it as a reflective diary based on your experiences. This is a great way to gather ideas whilst not under pressure.
I would then advise you create a mind map categorising your motivation, work experience & volunteering, character traits, hobbies, interests and extracurricular activities, important characteristics of doctors and aspirations, this will help you to remember what to include and also help you with the structure.
I would recommend that you then use your notes page and mind map to create a first draft, without considering character count just let it be free flowing. Let this first draft serve as a starting point, you can make changes later.
HOW DO I STRUCTURE IT?
A medical personal statement should reflect 3 main themes:
1. Motivation — Why do you want to study Medicine? 2. Exploration — What have you done to learn about it? 3. Suitability — Why are you a great fit for it?
Introduction – Why your chosen subject 2nd paragraph – Clinical Work Experience 3rd paragraph – Voluntary Work 4th paragraph – A Level subjects, degrees, courses (study) & Wider Reading 5th paragraph – Hobbies & Interests (Extra-curricular Activities) 6th paragraph – Achievements (Optional) Closing paragraph – What you look forward to, Why they should pick you & Motivation
TIPS & ADVICE
Make it personal to you
They want to see your perspective of your desired course, why do you want to study it, what are your ambitions and why higher education
Let your opening and closing phrase be memorable e.g. quote or personal experience
They want to hear your voice come through
If you’ve had any personal experiences of health services, you might want to include them.
Be original and memorable!
Relate everything you’ve learnt to why it will be good for your chosen course and future career
Remember to reflect on any experience you’ve included
Show your commitment to medicine by including approximate dates e.g. ‘for the past year’
Show you are a critical thinker, independent and analytical
Show why you’re a good student and professional (skills, experience and achievements)
Display your knowledge of different aspects of the course
Emphasise transferable skills
Elaborate on your strengths, your enthusiasm for the course and talk positively about yourself.
If you’ve got an specific path in mind show them your long term goals
Show your motivation
Take your time
Do not rush to find the perfect opening sentence, it takes time and sets the tone
Do not use abbreviations, be formal
Try not to repeat adjectives (use a thesaurus but ensure you know the exact meaning of the alternative word)
Do not add things for the sake of it (e.g. use a quote that relates to your personal statement) Only include relevant content
Only talk about the specific course not the university
Know what the universities you applied to are looking for
Be concise and structured
Get straight to the point from line one
Read it out to yourself
Talk about any ideas or concepts that you think are significant or relevant.
Make sure it is reviewed
Be honest, do not lie (they tend to ask you about your personal statement in the interview)
Do not read your friends as it is easy to keep a particular sentence in mind or get discouraged
Do not just show your academic side alone, show you are a well-rounded individual
Do not mention your extra-curricular pursuits if you cannot link it with your course choice
Only pick key extra-curricular activities and think about the skills they give you and feed that into what you are doing – do not pick too many as it could lead the university to question your dedication to a particular subject
Write about unique experiences e.g mission trips
MY PERSONAL STATEMENT
This is only to be used as an example, please do not copy any aspect of it as they are excerpts from my original statement and you will be caught by UCAS Copy Catch making your application will be made void. From my personal statement I received 3 interviews even without including medical work experience.
…many of the doctors I encountered left a lasting impression on me. I was captivated by their intricate knowledge of the human body and their ability to alleviate pain despite not necessarily providing a cure; they provided a new lease of life. I long for a career that is able to satisfy my urge to care for others as well as heighten my knowledge of the human body and provide me with the opportunity to contribute to the sustenance of humanity through scientific advances.
This paragraph was taken from my introduction, it straight away lets the reader know of my motivation, my interests and my perspective. It showcases an element of intellectual curiosity and engagement and also plays on various strands of medicine not just a one dimensional view e.g. a doctor’s knowledge, a doctor as a healer, a doctor as a carer and a doctor as a scientist. It also discretely lets them know of my nature as it let’s them know that I am caring, inquisitive as well as scholarly. It is also personal, as it indicates that it is a topic of interest that was heightened through my experiences and is a decision that has been well thought about.
Over the past 5 years I have volunteered extensively with my local church, I sang at care homes and volunteered at the homeless shelter and at a local Red Cross charity shop. Volunteering has increased my confidence and helped me develop strong interpersonal skills. Working in the shop I encountered people from various walks of life which taught me to define people by their character rather than by their set circumstances. I wish to carry this non-judgemental attitude forward into my future career.
When talking about my experience/ voluntary work I used a clear cut structure which can be seen mirrored throughout my whole personal statement.
What you did/ your role
What you learnt/ traits you developed
How it relates to you as a medical student or future doctor
This paragraph also shows empathy as it displays the fact a menial task was not taken for granted and had a positive and lasting effect on not just myself but those I also encountered. It also shows maturity and an understanding of Medicine as a whole as you will be dealing with a variety of situations but your role is always to provide high quality healthcare.
… I work with some of the children who have ADHD and autism; I have learnt to support them in terms of their individual needs providing them with achievable goals. This has taught me to become observant, adaptable and patient which are important qualities for a doctor since they often deal with unpredictable situations.
My personal statement was different because I lacked medical work experience and so I could only elaborate on my volunteer work. However, this paragraph demonstrates dealing with medical conditions in a non-medical environment, as a doctor your job is not restricted to the walls of a hospital, it extends far beyond this. It gives evidence of analytical skills, strategy as well as capacity for intense work with little resources and knowledge and is then related back to your future profession.
I study Chemistry, Biology and Psychology at A level; this has enabled me to develop skills such as; time management, perseverance and tenacity which are all necessary for successful completion of an academically challenging course like medicine.
This aspect could be easily excluded however I wanted to show my appreciation of my A Level subjects as they are undeniably difficult and success in such subjects is attained only by students of a certain calibre and conveys enthusiasm and curiosity in science. This paragraph focused largely on the successful completion of the course and so the characteristics identified feed into this theme displaying why you are more likely to succeed in your academics.
I enjoy photography, blogging and teaching dance. I play Netball and participate in Athletics and my involvement has taught me to become self-motivated and independent. I wish to continue to partake in sporting activities to represent the university.
The reader wants to know what you will contribute to the university as a whole, how will your admission make a difference and add value. It displays a well-rounded character and life outside studying; also each activity requires a different skill and shows different characteristics as they are not all individual activities or team activities. The character traits identified show how you view your involvement for example; Netball is a team sport and each individual has a responsibility to fulfil their position in order to collectively achieve success. Photography demonstrates creativity, blogging demonstrates a reflective nature as well as stress outlet and teaching dance shows your willingness to give back to others. Again, the characteristics identified must be essential to you as a medical student or as a future doctor e.g. self-motivation is key as you work hard it is your drive that keeps you going.
When I was elected deputy head girl, part of my role involved mentoring new pupils; I encouraged new pupils to be confident and I was also the chair of the Student Voice Committee. I believe approachability is a very important attribute of a doctor because patients need to be comfortable speaking to you knowing you have the desire to help and that you are there to listen in order for their opinions to be heard.
This paragraph gives light to some of my achievements within school. I do not only just mention my achievement, I explain my role and elaborate on aspects that can manifest themselves in my future career by explaining why they are important. Again, it shows my capacity for sustained responsibility as well as my ability to fulfil two roles at the same time and exemplifies aspects of leadership.
I am aware that the journey to becoming a doctor is not easy, the emotional and physical challenge it presents are some of the many hurdles I am willing to face. Through my endeavours I have been able to develop and refine essential qualities necessary in the world of medicine.
This was included in the closing paragraph and displays a realistic perspectice of medicine, it shows that the decision to study Medicine has been subject to serious deliberation demonstrating the negatives as well as a willingness to overcome them; leading to the decision the Medicine is the right choice. It also highlights the importance of all my experiences thus far and a constant process of refining essential traits.
I want to be a doctor because a lifetime of acquiring medical scientific knowledge excites me; I know that wherever I go I will be able to make a positive and substantial impact on society.
This was taken from the closing paragraph and reaffirms my motivation for Medicine and why the university should pick me. It shows the selflessness of such a career path as doctors are instruments of change. I concluded my personal statement by stating the attributes I deemed as most important as made me suitable to study such a course.
Please remember that your personal statement is unique to you and there is no single template for success; by sharing aspects of my personal statement I hoped to give you an example of a successful entry and pull out important points. Your personal statement tends to provide the basis of your interview, so do not lie and make sure you can account for anything mentioned in it. Your personal statement is only one aspect when your admission to Medical School is being considered alongside your academic record, references, admissions tests scores and interview performance.
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