In this series of blogs, medical students and medicine offer holders share and explain their personal statement so that you can learn from our experiences and reflections. Teesta is an undergraduate medical student at Imperial University who also received offers from Sheffield and Birmingham Universities.
Disclaimer: Please do NOT be tempted to use our personal statements as a model/foundation/plan. UCAS is very strict about plagiarism, more information can be found here.
Please remember that there is no such thing as a model personal statement. By definition, it is supposed to be unique and there is no "golden formula".
My appreciation for the impact that healthcare workers have on people's lives grew when discussing a rotationplasty case during an online work experience. Seeing the creativity and scientific problem-solving involved in improving the child’s quality of life has strengthened my decision to pursue Medicine.
Initially, in my first few drafts, I had written something like ‘There stood a boy with a foot rotated 180 degrees - a rotationplasty. A solution so bizarre, yet so perfect for a growing child with their burnt knee having been removed.’
Luckily, I had realised this was slightly too dramatic for a personal statement. It didn’t seem to have any personal reflection on what I had seen and seemed to rely a bit too much on the shock factor. With introductions, it may take a few drafts to find which works best for you so it’s alright to do other paragraphs and come back to the introduction later. There are different ways to start off but often mentioning something personal is a good way of doing this. It is very unlikely that any personal statement has a completely unique introduction and admission tutors understand this, so please don’t fret too much about it. However, a word of caution, please avoid quotes as much as you can!
Personally, I spoke about the rotationplasty because I genuinely found this procedure to be fascinating and I had researched about it. I felt this definitely piqued the curiosity of the reader and may be a good talking point for interviews, which would allow me to showcase my knowledge.
There are different ways of starting the first paragraph: mentioning what inspired you to choose Medicine; something that helped to fully consolidate your decision; or the specific things that attract you towards Medicine. In this introduction, I tried to allude to the positives that drew me towards it such as the impact on others, creativity and problem-solving.
It is worth pointing out that all my experiences, whether it was online or in-person, were very informative and valuable in my understanding of Medicine. In my opinion, the rotationplasty was the most fascinating procedure I had seen, despite it being online, so please don’t disregard any online activities you have done.
Crucial to build doctor-patient rapport, the value of empathy was evident when witnessing a conversation between a GP and a patient in a difficult home situation. Unable to take action on their behalf illustrated the ethical dilemmas in medicine such as consent and autonomy, demonstrating the importance of patient-centred care. Discussing social care with a doctor and nurse about a pregnant woman, whose husband was in prison, was a poignant reminder of the social aspects of medicine and the need for a non-judgmental, caring approach. It also highlighted the role of a multidisciplinary team in providing holistic care. Over the past few months, I have been improving these interpersonal skills while volunteering as a 1-to-1 befriender. When my befriendee was crying after she said, ‘Your voice is the first I’ve heard all week’, I was struck by the loneliness that she faced and felt rewarded by helping her through a simple phone call. While this was emotionally challenging, I learnt about the importance of making someone feel listened to and the need for compassion and patience when comforting someone.
This paragraph emphasised the humane nature of Medicine and focused on my work experience and some ethical issues. Its purpose was to show that I understood what qualities (such as empathy) and skills (such as interpersonal skills) are needed to pursue a career in Medicine. I intentionally mentioned ethical dilemmas and made sure to be specific about the particular ethical pillar of autonomy rather than a general blanket statement (as it may seem slightly disingenuous).
I used to have a few paragraphs on work experience and soft skills but it was too hard to include them all. From reflecting on some of my older drafts, I realised that I used to think having a paragraph on the multidisciplinary team (MDT) was essential in a medical PS, and I had tried very hard to shoe-horn a whole example. However, I had ultimately decided to remove it after I was given some very good advice about shortening my PS. I was told that mentioning the MDT from work experience was very common and that a more unique, personal experience will seem more genuine. For example, in my PS, I included a very pivotal quote from my befriendee that really tugged at my heartstrings and was a very formative experience for me.
It’s also important to demonstrate that Medicine is as much about human compassion as it is about science, which was why I included my volunteering here. Mentioning the skills learnt from this experience is most vital because it shows that you have put in the time and effort to develop the relevant skills you have witnessed during your work experience.
In terms of cutting down on paragraphs, my key advice would be to include as many buzz words as you can to highlight your point concisely.
On the GP work experience, I came across a patient hesitant to get a COVID vaccine due to misinformation in the community. The GP needed an understanding of different cultural backgrounds and their use of language was vital in educating the public. This showed the importance of tailored communication in medicine. For the past year, I have developed this and problem-solving skills through mentoring in chemistry by dissecting difficult concepts and paying attention to non-verbal cues.
You may notice a structure in some of my paragraphs. I begin with the work experience, then I identify the skill needed in the scenario and its importance (I did this in a slightly different order). On its own this is very passive, so you must now demonstrate how you have developed this skill yourself. For example, in this paragraph, there was tailored communication used when speaking in a different language for patients, and it was important for public education, and I’ve now done this myself through peer-mentoring. I would always recommend this structure.
To explore the scientific aspects of medicine, I attended a lecture on the role of chemists in the discovery of drugs. This led me to explore the structure of penicillin and its mechanism of action as a competitive inhibitor in our school newsletter. Following this, I wrote an essay on the difficulties of developing new antibiotics for the Newnham Essay competition. After reading a chapter about heart transplants in ‘The Matter of the Heart: A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations’, I was struck by how much research regulations have changed in the last century, and learning about clinical research prompted me to join an NIHR Clinical Research Group. Reading in Nature about the controversy of the approval of a recent Alzheimer's drug caught my interest, leading me to explore this in my EPQ and sharpen my critical thinking skills and evaluation of methods.
For universities that have a greater emphasis on research, having academic paragraphs and supra-curricula is paramount. In these paragraphs having a ‘story’ of your subject exploration is crucial. For example, I did X which inspired me to read about Y and I ultimately did a project/activity on Z. This shows you are proactive and have this unquenching thirst for knowledge - a characteristic of the ideal medical applicant. In this paragraph I did this a few times, however, upon rereading this now, it feels a bit more like a list than I would prefer it to be.
Here there is plenty of material to be asked about in academic interviews, so I would only mention something in my PS if I have a thorough knowledge of the topic. This paragraph also highlights that you don’t need to have read hundreds of medical books to show exploration of the subject. As a matter of fact, I had only read one chapter of the book and I was honest about this because I had done other supra-curricula to make up for the lack of books.
After a lesson on haemoglobin, I was curious about why cooperative binding occurred. I then explored the role of transition metals in the R and T state of haem groups by writing an article for the Youth Medical Journal. Following this, I read ‘The thalassaemias’ (Weatherall, 1997) to understand the pathology of when haemoglobin is dysfunctional. Founding Year 12 Biological Society has allowed me to continue subject exploration through organising presentations and dissections.
I would say the ‘storyline’ of subject exploration was done more smoothly in this paragraph. My interest was piqued in a lesson, I researched this and wrote an article about it, and then I read an advanced academic paper. If quoting an academic paper, please make sure to reference it.
Joining NHS Cadets and SJA has taught me first aid and time management skills, and playing badminton and working towards my Grade 8 in singing has helped me maintain a healthy work-life balance. These will continue to help me destress as a doctor to prevent making mistakes. As prefect and house captain, I have used leadership and teamwork skills to organise school events and solve logistical issues due to changing COVID restrictions.
In all medical personal statements (even for more academic universities), a paragraph about extra-curriculars is necessary to show that students are well-rounded and have a life beyond Medicine. However, for everything you mention, it has to be linked to how it makes you more suitable for Medicine. This is something that is very helpful to remember when reducing paragraphs - it is likely that you cannot include all the activities you have done.
In interviews, they tend to ask about your resilience and how you relax and you could explain the need for recreational activities for a good work-life balance using some of these examples in your PS. Often this paragraph can be very helpful to highlight soft skills you have not mentioned already such as time management skills or teamwork skills - which is something I would definitely mention in all personal statements.
In my paragraph, if I had more space, I would’ve been even more specific about how exactly these activities would be good for Medicine and perhaps link to work experience.
Through my work experience, I know Medicine comes with long hours and pressure. However, the prospect of an intellectually challenging and fulfilling career reinforces my determination to study Medicine. I will relish the academic and personal development that Medicine offers.
I would always recommend illustrating that your view of Medicine is not one that is through rose-tinted glasses. One way of doing this is perhaps mentioning some of the issues you may have seen during work experience and how the healthcare professional dealt with the issue. How were your views of Medicine changed and what skills do you have that could help you deal with similar problems in the future? Though in some of my paragraphs I had spoken about some other challenges, retrospectively, perhaps I should’ve highlighted and explained some more disadvantages of Medicine.
In the last paragraph, I would recommend highlighting that you understand the challenges of Medicine but recircle back to the main reasons of why you want to study Medicine and perhaps how work experience/volunteering helped you consolidate your choice.
Overall, my final advice would be to make sure to always think of ways to show that you are suitable for Medicine. Good luck with everything!