The medical school application process is extremely challenging and competitive. Every element of the application needs to be maximised to give students the best possible chance of gaining a place at medical school. One of the main elements of the application is the personal statement.
What is a personal statement?
A Personal Statement is a piece of writing that is your opportunity to sell yourself. Universities use it in a variety of ways, but mainly in assessing how you have proven your dedication towards a career in Medicine. A personal statement is a total of 4,000 characters which can seem restricted when you start jotting down ideas so here are a few tips on how to make it the best personal statement it can be.
Rough Plan for your Statement:
What have you done?
This is a key part of the personal statement. When you are creating your personal statement, you can’t just list things you have achieved or work experience you have done. Throughout your personal statement, you need to be able to reflect on why you have specifically chosen to study medicine, what skills and qualities you have gained from your experiences and why this makes you a good candidate for medical school. You may have completed ten times more work experience than the next candidate but unless you can communicate what you learnt from it, it is almost pointless.
The best personal statements have the rough structure as described above, and then you should expand on each section providing examples and your reflections on them. For example,
“During my year of volunteering at a hospice, I experienced a variety of difficult scenarios. I learned how to develop my skill of empathy when I witnessed an elderly lady in her last moments of death. These intimate experiences of being there for someone in a vulnerable time made me want to pursue a career in Medicine.”
With over nearly 100,000 applications for nearly 9,000 spaces each year for UK medical schools, competition is fierce. The reason for work experience is not just to tick off criteria for your UCAS application. There are many other reasons for undergoing work experience:
Exploring whether you want to pursue a career in medicine
Gaining further valuable knowledge
Learning more about yourself as a person
Gaining more personable qualities including leadership and communication skills
There are several ways to find work experience, of which this site has several options. The key is to pull out skills and qualities that you have seen or used you and reflect on them. Reflection changes how your personal statement is written, for example:
"I have completed two weeks work experience at my local GP where I saw a variety of medical cases"
With reflection becomes:
"Whilst shadowing at a local GP practice I saw first-hand the variety of cases a doctor can see on a daily basis. I was fascinated by the breadth of knowledge the doctor demonstrated and their ability to help such a large number of people. It was a huge driving force in my decision to apply to Medical School as it reinforces my passion to work with people and my interest in the broad field of medicine."
Although both statements are describing the same period of work experience, the second has demonstrated how to draw out the skills from the experience and reflect upon it. You need to be able to do this with every case or every skill you write in your statement.
Becoming a doctor involves lifelong learning and admissions tutors need to know you are 100% committed to the Medical School. You need to be able to demonstrate you have shown commitment in your previous work, work experience or extra-curricular activities. You can show this by adding only a few extra words, for example:
"I am a member of my local Guides group where I run sessions for the under 8 age group."
With commitment becomes:
"I have been a member of my local Guides group for 8 years and have also been volunteering twice a week for the past 4 years.”
By simply adding a timeframe to the extra-curricular activity automatically demonstrates the commitment.
A Realistic View of Medicine
A medical degree is a minimum of 5 years and then the hard work begins of actually being a doctor. You need to be able to show you have a realistic awareness of the challenges of being a medical student and a doctor; you should be able to comment on these. The students with the better personal statements will then be able to mention how they will overcome these challenges, for example:
"I have spoken to many current medical students to try and understand as much about the course as possible. It was mentioned several times how stressful the exam periods can be. At first this worried me, but I realised I can use my planning and time keeping skills from my volunteering to create a revision schedule that balances out my revision and relaxation time. I believe this organisation and balance will help me deal with the challenges of the exam periods."
Do the groundwork for this one. Make sure you talk to medical students, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professional about what their job is like as well as what it’s like to work in the NHS. Question them about the positives and negatives of their jobs and how they overcome challenges. It is highly impressive to hear from a student who fully understands what it’s all about.
Finally, top tips from Dr April Diviney!
Try to avoid clichés – they’re clichés for a reason
Keep a diary
REFLECT, REFLECT, REFLECT
Get everyone you know to read your personal statements especially teachers and careers advisors
Don’t just list things
DRAFT, DRAFT and DRAFT AGAIN!
Do your research and talk to healthcare professional
Get work experience!!!
Ok... so I know the facts, but where do I start with my application? Can you help me?
Yes, we can! Applying to medical school and completing your UCAS / personal statement is a challenge, so we've designed a one day course to assist you in gaining the knowledge and guidance you need to make your application as good as it possibly can be. Find out more about our one day course now: