Medicine Personal Statement
📋 47 lines.
🏆 An opportunity to sell yourself.
Personal Statement Importance
“No one can determine your destiny but you. Will it be easy? Of course not. Can you do it? Of course you can. But it requires patience and persistence. Seize this moment of crisis as your opportunity to start fresh, and live your dreams.” – Les Brown
🏆An opportunity to sell yourself
The Medicine personal statement is the first time admissions tutors will assess you as an individual and not a set of grades and results, so it is important for you make a good impression. You will have 4,000 characters (around 500 words) over 47 lines to show how you possess the qualities needed to become a doctor. You should demonstrate your suitability to study medicine, for example, by showing your commitment, team-working skills and excellent communication skills to the admissions panel. Most importantly you should explain your motivation behind studying medicine and use your relevant volunteering and online work experience to show how you have explored the career path.
🏛️ Different universities will use it at different stages in their application process and with different weightings
Some universities do not use it at all, such as Brighton and Sussex* and St Georges*, whilst other universities, such as Manchester*, require an alternative form similar to the personal statement but not your personal statement itself. Universities including Leicester* use it as part of a scoring system alongside other academic components to select applicants for interview. Other universities, such as Liverpool*, use your personal statement in one of their MMI stations at interview. Your personal statement, at universities such as Hull York*, may also be used for shortlisting at any point in the application process. Similarly, at Bristol*, the personal statement may be used to differentiate between applicants with identical interview scores. It is useful to be aware of how the medical schools that you are applying to will use your personal statement.
(*More information will usually be made clear in each of the universities online admissions procedures guidance. Always check the university website for up-to-date information!)
👇 We have provided a table below to give you guidance👇
(The information on the table was accurate at time of writing)
We at The Aspiring Medics do our best to ensure our information is up to date; always check the university website for up-to-date information
The Experience Bank
🏗️Build your experience bank
An experience bank is essential in order to give you the framework to base your personal statement reflections around. It will help to ensure that your personal statement is as concise as possible. Without a clear strategy or intention, it can be very easy to write waffly answers that just waste the character count as opposed to showing your realistic insight or skills that you have developed.
💱Learning to reflect is a skill
Learning to reflect is an essential skill as a doctor. The greater you are able to build up the habit of using the STARR technique, the better your insights will be. This will not only help you when writing your personal statement, it will also be effective for interviews at your chosen medical schools.
⬇️Download your FREE Experience Bank
Our FREE Experience Bank gives you a framework to help you reflect upon your answers; it is based on the Medical School's COuncil Statement on the core values and attributes needed to study medicine. Check it out!
Personal Statement Tips
💯Quality not quantity
One of the most common questions we get from A-Level students thinking of applying for medicine is: ‘What work experience should I do?’ While work experience is very important the reassuring caveat is that you don’t necessarily need month long experience in hospital wards or surgical theatres to get into the med school of your dreams. The way you reflect and present it in your personal statement or talk about it in an interview makes all the difference!
🏛️ Reflect using the STARR technique
Try and consider at least all of these things:
What did you learn?
About medicine as a career?
About your motivations to be a doctor?)
What skills were you able to develop?
What did you observe in others that impacted you?
The way you saw people operate in the real world may have surprised you or motivated you or even just shown you an aspect of the caring professions that you hadn’t thought of before.
How did it impact your view of the medical/care based/customer focused profession?
What downsides did you observe? What are the challenges faced by the people you saw?
Med schools want students who are aware of the realities of medicine before they sign up to a long degree. After all, the students are an investment and they don’t want students who will drop out when they realise a doctor isn’t like the TV shows. Having everything written down in front of you then allows you to really pick out what stood out and what you want to talk about. Allowing you to be concise in your personal statement and clear in interviews.
What universities want to know is what you’ve learned from your work experience. Our second top tip is to sit down with a blank piece of paper and reflect on the experiences you’ve had even before you consider putting it in your personal statement.
💉 Relating it to Medicine
Here is where you really stand out when talking about work experience. A strong and personal link from the work experience to how it influenced your desire to be a doctor is where you really show off. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got experience in a hospital, a care home, a primary school or even a morgue - the way you relate it to medicine is what matters.
Our top tip here is don’t get bogged down in exactly what you did, procedures you saw or niche operations you shadowed - hopefully med school will teach you all of that anyway! Instead, really focus on showing or telling them what you learnt or observed and how that relates to your ambitions in a clear but concise way. If you can convince them that you can gain valuable skills and insight from work experience then your much more likely to convince them that you’re suited to their course where they hope to train you to be a doctor from time spent on a ward.
💬 Avoid Cliches
This is a tough one and hard to judge but definitely worth thinking about. It’s a fine line that you have to walk between making sure you get across the points they want to hear but also ensuring that you stand out. In an interview, it is especially important that you don’t sound too rehearsed when discussing work experience but still give off the impression that you have reflected upon it.
👼 Tell the Truth; Do NOT lie
Make sure that what you’re saying is really true! You will always sound more genuine and be more comfortable discussing your experience if the things you say you noticed and learned are real. Don’t feel that this is a box ticking exercise where you have to be able to give examples of a doctor responding well to a mistake, or carers showing kindness and compassion, or the team working well together. Instead, talk about what genuinely stood out to you.
🗣️ Crystallise your thoughts by talking to others
Talk to others; not only is it a great way of great way to crystallise your thoughts to help you write your personal statement, it will also serve as good practice for practice for interviews. Whether that be friends, who may also be applying for medicine, or family or teachers, anyone that is interested will do! Just the act of talking over and being comfortable discussing your work experience will help you realise what stood out to you as well as how best to present it to others.
❌ Write a bad first draft
At first, don't worry about how good your first draft. Bullet point your ideas, put everything down and then that will then remind you of other experiences as well as help you to think about what you have learned.
✅Use the selection criteria of medical schools and NHS values to guide you
The medical schools literally tell you what they are looking for; it's essentially a mark scheme. Know their selection criteria inside out and ensure that you are demonstrating each quality and are fully explaining them. Useful links can be found below
🦅 Show NOT tell
Do not just list off your experiences or just mention buzz words; ensure that you are really demonstrating how you developed personally and what new insights you have now gained as a result of the experience. It is NOT a CV!
Overall, work experience is something that most med school applicants will have and it is likely to feature in your personal statements and any interviews you are invited to attend. What is going to make you stand out is presenting it in an impactful way that highlights the things you learned from it and how it affirmed your decision to be a doctor.
Personal Statement Structure
💬 Importance of the Introduction and Conclusion
Writing a good introduction and conclusion is vital in achieving personal statement success. They are arguably the most important paragraphs in your Medical school application. Your introduction is your chance to make a good first impression on the admissions panel. Until now, they have only received your grades/UCAT/BMAT score, so it is a chance for them to get to know you on a personal level and demonstrate to them why you want to be a doctor and believe that you have the necessary skills and qualities to achieve this.
Your introduction should make the panel want to read on further and not simply discard your application. Your conclusion is the last impression that the panel will have of you, so you want to make it a good one! Ultimately it is after this closing paragraph when the panel will score your personal statement against their criteria and, depending on how the Medical school you have applied to uses the personal statement, their decision to interview you or not will be made.
✍️ Writing your Introduction
The opening paragraph of your personal statement should explain to the admissions panel what motivates you to want to study medicine. You should make it personal to yourself, rather than generic.
Instead of writing what every applicant would say (i.e. that you want to make a difference to other people's lives), make it specific to you. It could be that a particular life event sparked your interest or reading a specific book or studying a specific topic at school, for example. One of the qualities of a doctor is to act openly and honestly, so the admissions panel would rather an authentic explanation of your motivations specific to you.
While the introduction is there to set the scene for your personal statement, it does not stand alone. The rest of your personal statement needs to match the high quality of your introduction. Similarly, if the rest of your personal statement is of a high quality, then do not stress, your introduction is bound to be of that standard too.
🔚 Writing your Conclusion
The conclusion paragraph of your personal statement should not bring any information that you have not already previously mentioned. It should highlight the important points that you have mentioned and provide an overview. We suggest that this paragraph should be short, perhaps three sentences.
As a guide you could highlight the following points:
Your positive qualities and that you believe that these would make you a suitable candidate
The perspectives and insight that you have gained about being a doctor from your volunteering and work experience
Most importantly your passion and commitment for studying medicine
Reflecting on your Own Drafts
Writing a personal statement is a difficult but necessary part of the medical school application process, which is often partly used to select candidates for an interview. It is therefore the first chance that applicants get to become more than just a statistic to the panel, and ultimately demonstrate to them why 5 / 6 years of time and money should be invested in you.
It is a chance for applicants to show the insight into the role of the doctor that you have acquired from various work experience and volunteering placements and, crucially, that they uphold the necessary values and have the work ethic to succeed in a career of lifelong learning.
Being the only part of the medical school application process where there is unlimited time and resources available, it is understandable that applicants put a lot of pressure on themselves to make their personal statement as perfect as possible. This article hopes to address and give advice on some common barriers that applicants might face when reviewing their own personal statement.
📇 Keeping within the Word Count
The word count for the personal statement is 4,000 characters and 47 lines. At first this might seem a generous amount, but can quickly become a challenge. With a lot of relevant experience and skills demonstrating your capabilities and knowledge of the role of a doctor, it can be difficult to decide which to include.
A good starting point is removing any duplicated information. For example, if you have already spoken about the importance of having good teamworking skills earlier in your personal statement, you do not need to reiterate this again. Secondly, make sure that you are reflecting at every opportunity.
The admissions panel will gain no information about an applicant from them simply listing what they did on work experience. Instead, by describing what they learnt from their work experience placement, such as “the importance of team working skills between different members of the multidisciplinary team”, the applicant has shown that they have insight into the role of a doctor.
Similarly if candidates are talking about their hobbies/extra-curricular activities they should not just state everything that they do, but should relate that to the role of a doctor. For example, saying that in their free time they “run for their county and play the piano”, although impressive is using valuable characters by not adding much to the application. Saying that they “understand that medicine can be a demanding career and am planning to continue playing the piano as a stress relief” would be a much better use of the word count.
📇 Receiving Conflicting Advice
It can be difficult to know which advice to take when preparing your final draft for submission. The biggest advice we can give is that it is YOUR personal statement. Ultimately it is the applicants decision what is going to represent them and be submitted to their chosen universities.
Applicants should consider the source of the advice and whether it is someone's opinion that they value and trust before changing their work. Conflicting advice can be seen in a positive way by making the applicant think more deeply about the direction that they want to take their work.
⚠️ Taking Constructive Criticism
It can be difficult to take criticism on something that you have worked so long and hard on such as your personal statement. However it is easy to be blindsided by your own work and is important to get feedback to help you to improve. Obviously this feedback does not have to be incorporated into your work, but it is important to acknowledge the points that have been made. It is good to remember that as a doctor and medical student you will constantly be receiving feedback from colleagues, mentors and patients to help better your own practice.