Your personal statement is of massive importance in your application to Medical School, regardless of which Universities you are applying to. In combination with your academic grades and admission test results, a well-written and interesting personal statement could be the ticket to getting an interview.
But how do you go about fitting everything you want to say into 4,000 characters? Where do you start? How do you convince the admissions tutors to take your application to the next step? It can be challenging to know how to approach writing your personal statement – after all, you’ve likely never written one before and yet it’s an extremely important piece of writing to do well. Read through the steps to writing your personal statement for a head-start.
Planning and Ideas
- Consider your reader. Before you start writing, imagine the admissions tutor at your chosen Medical Schools. Think about what they are looking for in applicants. Remember that they have likely read hundreds of personal statements and you need to make sure that yours is interesting and engaging.
- Write a list of all your experiences, such as:
- Medical work experience
- Non-medical work experience
- Previous degrees (if you are post-graduate)
- Sports teams
- School clubs
- Hobbies and interests
- Duke of Edinburgh
- Nuffield Bursary
- Write a list of all the personality traits, attributes, characteristics and skills that a good doctor should have. For example: honesty, excellent communication skills, team player, empathy, hard-working, motivated, committed, organised…
- Put your two lists side-by-side and match up which skills/ attributes you demonstrated during each experience. For example, getting to Grade 8 Violin shows commitment, playing on a school sports team demonstrates teamwork, volunteering in an elderly care home requires empathy. Each experience may show more than one attribute, and you can use each attribute more than once.
- Refine the experience & skill pairings.
- Reflect on each of the experiences in your list from number 2 and how they relate to Medicine or how they’d make you a better doctor. So for example, if you’ve been a member of the school sports team which demonstrates teamworking skills, reflect on how this could relate to being a valuable member of the multi-disciplinary team in a hospital.
- It is likely that you have quite a long list of experience & skill pairings. It is much better to write in slightly more detail about each experience to demonstrate deeper reflection and learning, and therefore you may need to remove a few things from the list so that you can stay within the character limit. Cross off anything that is a complete duplicate of skills. Also consider removing your weakest/ least important experience. You can always add it back in later when you start writing and editing if you find that you have enough characters.
- Think about why you want to study Medicine, and why you want to be a Doctor (bear in mind that these are different things).The introduction to a personal statement normally includes the reasons why the applicant wants to study that particular course subject and – in the case of Medicine – why you want to pursue a career as a Doctor. Think about this thoroughly and avoid overly-used or basic reasons such as “I want to study Medicine and be a Doctor because it combines scientific knowledge and people-skills” or “I want to help people”. There are so many other careers that allow you to use Science and people-skills, or help people. Think more deeply when you ask yourself “Why Medicine?”
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- Turn your plan and ideas from point 5 into sentences to build the main section of your personal statement. Pad out your list of paired experiences & skills into sentences. Link similar ideas together when you structure your writing so that it flows. Keep your reasons for Medicine in mind when you are writing to ensure that it will all tie together.
- Write your introduction based on your thoughts from point 6. Try to write 2-3 sentences to introduce why you want to study Medicine and why you want to be a Doctor. These should flow into your main section logically.
- Write 2-3 sentences for your conclusion. This should bring together all of your ideas and main points together cohesively.
- Take a break, then come back and edit. Read over your first draft with a fresh mind. Ask yourself these questions as you read:
- Does it make sense?
- Do the ideas and sentences flow?
- Is everything in the right order? Would it make more sense to present your ideas in a different order?
- Is it interesting to read?
- Is there anything missing which is important? Don't worry about your character count at the moment, just write and reflect on your experiences. You can reduce the character count if needed in the next step.
- Is there anything that is not needed? If a sentence doesn't add anything then get rid of it.
- Ask a parent or guardian to read through your personal statement and suggest any improvements. They will be able to tell if your personal statement is a good representation of you. They will also be able to offer an objective view about whether your writing flows and makes sense. They may make suggestions of things to improve. If your character count is too high, ask them to cross out anything that they don’t feel is necessary.
- Make a list of anyone else who you trust to give you advice on your personal statement and ask them for their suggestions. This may include your form tutor, subject class teachers, Head of Sixth Form and employer. If you know a Doctor (perhaps a family friend, neighbour, or friend’s parent) ask if they can review it.
- Send your personal statement draft for professional review. There are several online services who will review your personal statement professionally for a fee. They will be able to give you in-depth feedback based on extensive knowledge of what Medical Schools are looking for. We offer a personal statement review service here and will aim to return your personal statement within 72 hours.
- Listen to the advice, consider the suggestions for improvements, and make the changes that you agree with. Listen to the input and feedback you receive from parents/ guardians/ teachers/ employers/ professional services, but don’t feel forced into changing something on your personal statement if you disagree with them. Remember it’s YOUR personal statement, and you need to be happy with it.
- Repeat steps 10-14 (perhaps with some different people) as many times through as you need to before you are 100% happy with your personal statement, then submit it to UCAS. Then celebrate – you’re one step closer towards getting an offer!