What is the Personal Statement and why do I need plan the structure?
When you apply to University through UCAS, you must submit a personal statement. This is a 4,000-character piece of writing (roughly one A4 page) which aims to persuade the admission tutor to take your application to the next step.
Once applicants have met the minimum academic entry criteria, the personal statement tends to be a significant factor in deciding who will be invited to interview. This piece of writing is your chance to impress the admission tutor, show them why you want to study Medicine, demonstrate that you understand what the career involves and convince them that you have the necessary skills and personality traits to make a great doctor. To do all of this in 4,000 characters is a tall order. You need to structure your personal statement well to ensure that you include all of the important areas.
There are lots of different ways to write your personal statement and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. However, we can recommend a typical structure which will help your writing to flow and ensure that you include all of the relevant things that the admission tutors will be looking for.
The Introduction of your Personal Statement
Whichever University course you are applying for, most personal statements have one thing in common: the applicant explains why they want to study that particular course in the introduction of their personal statement. When you’re applying to Medicine, you need to go one step further and also explain why you want to be a Doctor.
When you’re thinking about the introduction of your personal statement, as a minimum make sure you include:
- Why you want to study Medicine
- Why you want to be a Doctor.
You may also like to include:
- How your background/previous experiences have influenced your decision to apply to Medicine. This can be a nice strategy for smoothly transitioning from your introduction to the main section
- What areas of Medicine interest you the most. If you have become interested in this particular area of Medicine after seeing it on work experience perhaps save this for the main section instead when you will be writing about your work experience
The Main Section of your Personal Statement
The main section should be about 3,200 characters long. You should discuss any medical experience you have (for example work experience in a hospital, voluntary work in a care home or employment in a pharmacy) and reflect upon it to show that you have a good insight into what Medicine involves. The main section of your personal statement should also give admission tutors a good idea of what you are like as a person and what skills you have. The best way to demonstrate this is to mention different achievements, interests and hobbies which highlight relevant skills and personality traits.
It is a good idea to break the main section of your personal statement down into paragraphs, with each paragraph having a theme. This theme could be based on:
- The type of experience you’re writing about – for example, a paragraph about work experience, then one about volunteering, then one about employment, then one about hobbies and interests.
- The skills or personality traits demonstrated – for example, a paragraph about teamwork, then one about your caring disposition, then one about communication skills, then one about commitment and motivation.
Whichever way you decide to write your personal statement, make sure that you include as many of the following as you can:
- Medical experience – work experience, volunteering or employment
- Other experiences
- Interpersonal skills and personality traits
- Hobbies, interests, clubs and teams – try to include a mixture and think about what personality traits they suggest. Avoid listing only solitary hobbies (for example reading, artwork, skiing, cooking) because these do not give evidence that you are a good communicator, team-player or leader
- Courses you have attended, relevant books you have read, research you have been involved with, your academic background (if you are post-graduate)
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The Conclusion of your Personal Statement
This is your final opportunity to convince the admission tutor to offer you an interview and ensure that your application is considered further, so it is important to write a strong conclusion. Aim to draw all of your ideas and themes together into one or two cohesive sentences. Perhaps link back to the introduction when you explained your reasons for wanting to pursue Medicine – this can help to make your writing seem connected, rather than just being a collection of your experiences on a page.
All personal statements will be different and we encourage you to write a unique and interesting piece of work rather than following a very strict template or set of rules. The recommended structure discussed in this article is only a suggestion and you do not have to follow it exactly. However, our recommendation is based on the style and structure of personal statements that most often get taken forward for interview and it is a great foundation to build your own unique personal statement around.