Writing your personal statement is probably the hardest part of applying for a university place to study medicine.
But don’t let that put you off! Every year, thousands of students take up their places in medical school, which means their personal statements were good enough to help get them through the application process.
If they can do it, so can you.
We’ve put some tips together to help you craft a personal statement that scores highly with the admissions team.
Write the beginning at the end
Outstanding personal statements have a powerful opening. They capture motivation, passion and commitment in a single sentence.
If that sounds daunting, you’re right, it is. If you try to write it ‘cold’. The best way to warm up is to write the body of your statement first. You’ll probably do this over and over, drafting and amending until you’ve created a document you’re comfortable with.
That’s the moment to create those opening phrases, that sentence or two which encapsulates your statement. The act of writing helps you order your thoughts and consider your motivations and should bring you naturally to those all-important opening lines.
Show, don’t tell, motivation
The admissions team already know that you’ve got or are on track to get the grades and that you want to become a doctor. One job of your personal statement is to tell them why you’re choosing medicine.
It’s probably best to avoid describing a moment of revelation or intense personal experience. More effective is demonstrating that you’ve thought long and hard about your choice, including descriptions of events or actions which illustrate this motivation.
Write about work experience and volunteering that show an interest in medicine. Explain something of how these experiences made you feel, without going over the top.
Be honest about the negatives
Studying medicine and going on to become a doctor is hard work, with more than just academic challenges. Use your personal statement to show that you have a realistic perspective on your desired career. Don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns and how you intend to address them.
Show an interest in the science
Just because your application explains what you’re studying doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it on your personal statement. Doctors don’t just know how the body works; they’re intellectually curious, always keen to understand more.
You can show this in your personal statement by describing the aspects of your studies you find the most interesting or exciting, and why.
Reveal a more rounded personality
While the admissions team will be very interested in any of your activities related to medicine, they will also be on the lookout for evidence of other capabilities and experiences.
Leadership, teambuilding and analytical skills all rate highly and, once again, these are best presented through actions rather than words. Write about experiences where you’ve been challenged or motivated, where you’ve worked hard and demonstrated the ability to manage your time.
If you’ve learned a particular skill, such as playing a musical instrument, or participated in a sport, make a point of including this in your statement. It may seem insignificant to you, but it helps give a fuller picture of who you are.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
In the same way that you want to show, not tell, about motivation, your personal statement needs to demonstrate attention to detail. Which means no spelling or typing errors.
While you might not miss out on medical school because you misplaced an apostrophe, why take the risk? If you’re uncertain about an aspect of grammar, check it out.
Ask someone else to read your statement, because they’re more likely to spot a mistake than you are. If they say something doesn’t make sense, change it. If it’s confusing or unclear to them, the admissions team may find it equally difficult to understand.
A well-constructed, error-free, personal statement gives an insight into your communication skills—an attribute the admissions team will be pleased to see.
Start well and end well
Just as you need a strong opening line or two, the final words in your personal statement require thoughtful crafting.
To be really effective, those final sentences should summarise what has been said before, particularly about your motivation and the attributes you consider most relevant to working in medicine.
Remember: the admissions team have read stacks of personal statements. Some are outstanding; many are mediocre. They’ve learned to spot the applicants trying too hard or lacking the right motivation.
Give yourself the best chance of success by writing a personal statement that reads well, and is interesting, honest and appropriate for a medical school application.