How do you Write a Personal Statement for Medicine?

Top tips on how to write a good personal statement for medical school

May 2021
Sakina Lakda (Blogger)
UCL - 2nd Year Medical Student

How do I start writing my medicine personal statement?

The best way to start writing your medicine personal statement is by doing a brainstorm. There are 3 lists you need to write down.

1. Make a list of all the skills you think are required to make an effective doctor.

This will stimulate your thinking towards the qualities you have seen in doctors and professionals in your work experience. Here are some examples:

What additional skills can you think of?

2. Make a list of all your different experiences that are relevant to medicine.

Jot everything down, from work experience to volunteering to books you read, people you spoke to, and lectures or workshops you've attended. You don't know which of these may make an appearance in your personal statement.

3. Make a list of all your different extra-curricular activities, jobs and hobbies that may not be directly related to medicine.

Again, you don't know which of these will feature just yet. This can include the sports team you play for, the after-school clubs you attend, the part-time job you have, and so on.

These three lists are the foundation for your personal statement. You're going to take the different experiences and skills you've identified and transform them into sentences and paragraphs that are relevant for you. There are two approaches you can take for this which we'll explore next.

What do I write about in my medicine personal statement?

We've identified two ways to get the ball rolling and start writing paragraphs for your personal statement. We're going to call one the Experience-first method, and the second the Skills-first method. Choose the method that feels easiest or most natural for you. There isn't a right or wrong way to do it.

Experience-first method

Reflect on your experiences

For each experience you've identified in steps 2 and 3, write a few short sentences reflecting on it and what you've learnt from it. Identify which skills (from step 1) that it's helped you develop, what it has taught you about medicine, and why it makes you a good candidate for medical school.

Template:

Once you've done this, group together similar experiences that have taught you similar lessons or skills and turn them into it's own paragraph.

Skills-first method

Reflect on a time you have demonstrated or observed each skill

Here, instead of writing about each experience, you're starting with the skill and finding examples of when you have demonstrated or observed these skills from all your different experiences (from step 2 or 3). Briefly describe the example or experience you've identified, reflecting on the skill and what it has taught you about medicine and why you want to become a doctor.

Template

  1. Skill
  2. Example of where you have demonstrated or observed this in your experience/activities/hobbies/research.
  3. Reflecting on what you learnt from this, how this skill relates to medicine, and how it will help you to become a better doctor.

Once you have done this, group some skills or scenarios together to form a paragraph.

How do I reflect on my experiences in my personal statement?

Many students make the mistake of making their personal statement sound like a list of experiences. However, quality reflections and an understanding of the realities of a career in medicine are far more important to convey rather than listing the quantity of experiences you have undertaken. For each skill, try to think of 1-2 sentences discussing what you have learnt.

If you’re someone that hasn’t had many work experience opportunities or have experience in non-medicine related areas, this is where reflection is a game-changer. No matter what kind of experience you have, there’s usually always a way to make it relevant to medicine. You need to reflect on it and frame the experience in such a way that the admission’s team will recognise the value of it.

Let's look at an example. Imagine you worked in Tesco during the Summer - there are good and bad ways to incorporate this into your personal statement.

Bad: When I’m not studying, I work part-time in Tesco which has helped my customer service skills. I also enjoy reading, swimming and baking.

Good: Working at Tesco for 3 months has developed my communication and customer service skills. It has given me the confidence to de-escalate situation’s when customers have become angry, as I approach them calmly and try to find the root of their problem. I am also aware of how to escalate situations to my manager or security if I am out of my depth. These are important skills in Medicine, as it is important to recognise your own limits to ensure patient safety and your own safety.

Just like this, a short-term job you may have had can bring so much value to your personal statement if you reflect on it in the right way.

Should I talk about my hobbies and interests in my personal statement?

In addition to your academic experiences, it’s worth including a few sentences about your interests outside of your studies. This is because it highlights to admissions tutors that you are able to find ways to balance your time and prevent burnout – as medicine can be quite intense as a profession and university course! In addition, it also shows that you are a well-rounded applicant who could add value to their university by participating in events that the university has to offer. Remember, you’re not just applying for the medicine course, you’re applying to be a representative of that university, so you want to show that you’ll be an asset to them.

How do I cut down my personal statement?

Cutting down the personal statement to 4000 characters can often seem like the most difficult part for many students, especially after all the hard work you have put into writing it. It can be daunting to know what is considered less important and should be cut down, therefore we will give you some useful tips!

Tips to cut down your word count include:

Don't over-describe your experience

Often students waste too many words describing an experience they undertook. It is important to remember that the admissions tutors are less interested in the exact details of the experience and want to see more of your reflections and skills developed from it. Bear this in mind when deciding which parts to cut down!

Avoid writing full names of experiences and places.

These are less significant to the success of your personal statement in comparison to what you learnt from that particular experience.

Consider condensing your hobbies and interests paragraph as these are arguably the least relevant

Cut down or combine areas where you've repeated yourself or described the same skill in two different ways/experiences.

Look for 'extra' words that can be cut out.

Let's look at an example:

"Volunteering in a hospital taught me that it's important to develop good team-working skills as this will mean that patients experience more efficient and effective care." - 169 characters.

Look for the extra words in this sentence that don't add any value, and take them out. For example, this same sentence can be written as:

"Volunteering in a hospital taught me the importance of good teamwork, as it will mean patients experience more efficient and effective care." - 141 characters.

And just like that, the essence of the sentence remains the same, but you've shaved off 28 characters. And in a personal statement, every character is valuable.

How do I start and end my personal statement?

Many students put off writing the introduction and conclusion to their personal statement to the end, which can be a useful idea as it requires a different approach to the main body paragraphs. In your introduction, you should answer the question of WHY you want to become a doctor and what sparked your passion to embark upon this career path. This may be a very personal reason so think about it carefully and try to make it gripping as it will ultimately create the first impression of your personal statement! Word of advice - try to avoid saying "Ever since I was 6..." or "When my grandma was diagnosed with cancer, I knew I wanted to be a doctor," as these make it seem less like it was an impulsive decision you made when you were young, instead of a well thought out decision that you truly understand.

You may also want to refer back to this reason in your conclusion to create a cyclic ending to the personal statement which can help admissions tutors understand your journey and thus make for a more memorable personal statement. When closing your personal statement, you should also re-emphasise the fact that your skills and experiences have enabled you to develop a deeper understanding of the realities of a medical career and that you are now better equipped to handle the challenges, therefore making you well suited to the course and career.

What should I do before submitting my personal statement?

Make sure you triple-check your personal statement before submitting it.

A few tips you should definitely try include:

However, we would recommend not letting too many people read your personal statement as it can leave you overwhelmed with so many different opinions and ideas. If you try to make everyone happy with your personal statement, it becomes very easy to lose your own voice and suddenly it doesn't really reflect who you are anymore.

Author: Sakina Lakda and Latifa Haque

Editor: Latifa Haque

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