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. Arisma is an undergraduate medical student at the King's College London; she is an international student from India.
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".
A few years ago, I lost my grandfather to blood cancer and my grandmother to breast cancer. Despite having the resources to provide them with good quality healthcare and support, there was no cure for their disease. The realization that there are ailments doctors couldn't cure, never left my mind, and I grew up waiting to dive into the field of medicine.
I started off my Personal Statement by explaining why I wanted to get into medicine in the first place. I chose to mention a personal anecdote because I believe that had a much bigger impact on me than working, reading or watching something. It is also important that the first paragraph has some sort of a hook which immediately catches the readers’ attention. I changed this first paragraph about a 100 times, so don’t worry about it in the beginning too much. After completing your Personal Statement and getting a sense of the direction it is taking as well as its contents, you can revisit this paragraph.
I gained practical exposure by shadowing doctors both in the UAE(Aster) and India (Aakash Hospital). These experiences, while vastly different, made me realize that doctors hone multiple skills, which I have tried to develop throughout high school. In the UAE, I was exposed to people from different nationalities, and I understood the importance of effective communication. The doctor-patient relationships I experienced taught me that empathy is non-negotiable in the medical field. The patience with which doctors reassured patients was remarkable. Looking back, I understood it was the doctors' help that made that experience with my grandparents bearable. In India, I not only witnessed patients from different socio-economic backgrounds receive quality healthcare but also how doctors manage to give individual attention to all patients, despite the large numbers. I saw doctors and nurses from different specialties (Dietician, Anesthesiologist, Gynecologist, & Pediatrician) working together to save a patient from complications in childbirth, and understood just how critical teamwork, patience, and respect are. However, the most important thing I witnessed was the importance of enjoying interacting with people continuously.
Since the Personal Statement is only 4000 characters, there is no need to add any fluff to your essay. This is your brag-sheet and make full use of it. However, the personal statement is not just a list of your achievements and work experiences. You need to convince you reader that these experiences have allowed you to develop skills that will be useful in your medical career. I would recommend thinking about the top three skills that you think all doctors must have before writing your personal statement. Then try to like all your experiences in the past 2 years to these skills. Show your reader that you will be a great clinician because you already know the skills that doctors need, and you’ve spent a considerable amount of time developing these skills as well. For me it was important to mention my work experience, because it made me sure that I wanted to be a doctor, and not pursue any other healthcare fields.
One of the doctors I shadowed in India said, "Regardless of their medical conditions, patients are people. It's our humane duty to treat them with respect and empathy." I never forgot that. While volunteering at SENSES, helping people of determination develop their motor and communication skills, I saw first-hand how different situations require different ways of interaction. For instance, I used pictures and symbols to communicate with an auditorily impaired girl and communicated in Arabic with one of the natives. Catering to their needs depended on empathy.
Empathy, good communication and teamwork were the 3 top skills that I chose to show throughout my Personal Statement. In this paragraph, I talk about my volunteering experiences and how they’ve taught me the importance of empathy. Your work or volunteering experience can even be something as small as helping older people get groceries during the COVID-19 lockdown. What’s important is explicitly mentioning what you’ve learnt from the experience.
In high school, I initiated the Sports Carnival, an opportunity for middle school students to play friendly matches, gain confidence and bond with their seniors; the Mod Mentor, a website, connecting middle school students with senior school academic mentors; and the IB Gazette, a monthly magazine. Being a violinist in my school orchestra for 8 years has taught me discipline and teamwork while being the Deputy Head Girl has given me the immense joy of interacting with my peers and bringing about meaningful change in our community. I worked on my communication skills through communication examinations, debates, and MUN competitions, where I was also awarded 'Best Orator'.
In this paragraph, I briefly talked about my leadership opportunities and the initiatives I’ve planned and headed. Leadership is another very important skill in medicine since you’ll be required to lead entire teams of healthcare workers in the future. While I spoke about learning the importance of these skills in the second paragraph, this paragraph focuses more on the opportunities that have helped me develop these skills. This paragraph also portrays my interests in other areas of my life, which is important since doctors need to maintain a work-life balance, which becomes increasingly easier if one has hobbies outside of academia.
I took up Biology and Chemistry at the Higher Level in my IB Diploma course, discovering the intricate yet complementary nature of the two subjects. The link between Computer Science and Biology, and a course on Bioinformatics from UC San Diego widened my perspective on the interdisciplinary approach in the field of medicine. I then partook in the Future Scientists of UAE program at the Gulf Medical University, interacting with professors conducting research on breast and lung cancer. I learnt the basics of research methodology and conducted experiments vital to biochemical research, alongside writing my IB Extended Essay in Biology. I also created a Medical Society in my school, mentoring potential medical applicants, organizing events and inviting doctors to share their experiences. I have also received First Aid and CPR training.
Lastly, it is also important to mention some of your academic achievements in and out of school. I didn’t mention my marks since that information has already been given to the university through UCAS and would be a waste of characters in my Personal Statement. Instead, what I chose to focus on, were academic endeavors outside the classroom. This shows my perseverance and commitment to always learning more and going above and beyond the prescribed syllabus. This is important since medicine is always being updated with newer research and technology. As a doctor, it will be your responsibility to keep up with these developments. I would highly recommend doing some online courses over the summer or winter breaks since they are a great example of perseverance. As mentioned in my Personal Statement, I did a course on the use of computer science in medical research. This isn’t as conventional of a course as say anatomy or b, but it portrayed my interests in other subjects as well.
For pursuing a medical degree, the UK is my primary choice owing to its tailored courses that provide students with maximum practical exposure. The link with the NHS makes the program more research-oriented. Upon becoming a doctor, my dream is to set up a research facility for cancer.
I wanted to end my Personal Statement with a vision of my future – my dreams and aspirations after completing my degree. Since I was an international student, I also thought it was important to mention why I chose the UK, over other countries, to pursue my medical degree.
King's College Medical Student