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. Amri is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Oxford; he received offers from Oxford, UCL, Bristol and King’s College London.
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".
The opportunity for lifelong learning in an evolving field, the chance for patient contact and a desire to deepen my understanding of the human body is what initially drew me to a career in medicine. My work experience and volunteering convinced me that medicine is a challenging yet ultimately rewarding vocation positively impacting the lives of people everyday.
I found starting my personal statement the hardest part of the whole thing, and this paragraph is the one I edited and changed the most, to be honest, even now I wouldn’t say it's perfect. In the end, I decided to really focus on why I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor as well as briefly outlining the rest of my statement. However you decide to start your statement, make sure it’s true to you and shows insight into your reasons for studying medicine.
Watching doctors build trust and provide care under tight time constraints, at both a GP surgery and Minor Injuries Unit first impressed me. Following this, during a Deep Vein Thrombosis clinic, I saw how investigative tools such as Ultrasound and D-dimer tests, and a physical examination combine to create a diagnosis. In contrast, physicians in the Outpatients Department of a Hospital in Sri Lanka relied more on their clinical knowledge to make a diagnosis due to lack of resources. From my week in the hospital, the surgical ward most interested me; watching a caesarean section procedure illustrated the importance of a multidisciplinary team, similar to my personal experiences on the sporting pitch.
In this paragraph I reflected upon a range of medical work experience I had been fortunate enough to go to, it’s important that you don’t just list every procedure you saw and ward you went into. You aren’t expected to learn any medical procedures from your work experience, but admissions tutors will expect you to have a more realistic understanding of what it means to be a doctor so really try and show this when you reflect upon it in your statement.
Volunteering showed me the two way benefits of prolonged contact with people in the care system. Two years volunteering in an elderly care home demonstrated first hand the debilitating effects of dementia. However, becoming a recognisable face over time was a heartwarming experience. Helping teach maths at a primary school has challenged me to explain familiar concepts in simpler ways to the young students. Specifically, helping a student with autism led me to change my teaching style after researching the Sally-Anne test and how that affected the way this student perceived the world around her. Likewise, I currently visit the National Epilepsy Centre weekly as a befriender to one of the residents with intellectual disabilities, where applying specific communication skills improved the depth of our interactions. These have also been transferable to my job at a pharmacy which introduced me to the NHS, pharmacology and the public interface of a medical career.
Volunteering of any kind is always beneficial for an application as it allows you to both develop and demonstrate that you possess the necessary soft skills to be a doctor. These may include communication skills, empathy and commitment to name a few but always make sure you relate this to your own experiences! If you have been volunteering over a longer period of time, definitely emphasise this as admissions tutor have to believe that you can cope with a five or six year degree.
The basic introduction to genetics in AS biology sparked my curiosity to read further. ‘The end of Infertility?’ (2016) presented the first instance of inducing pluripotent cells from a differentiated cell and introduced me to epigenetics leading me to ‘Epigenetic Revolution’ by Carey. This describes the conception of the emerging field and core concepts like DNA methylation. I subsequently attended a lecture on Clinical Genetics which related the theory to examples of autosomal and X-linked disorders and the difficulties faced when treating them. Similarly, progressive neurological conditions such as Parkinson's prove equally hard to treat, though ‘The Brain’s way of Healing’ by Doidge presented neuroplasticity as an intriguing avenue for potential recovery for both neurological and genetic disorders. This interest in medical research led me to start a Medical Journal Society for my peers where we present and discuss topical medical research and news.
Universities will often say what kind of qualities they prioritise in their med school applicants and you can use this information to tailor your statement to them. For example, as I knew Oxford would be my first choice university this paragraph focused a lot on my personal academic interests and extra-curricular research as I wanted to show my suitability for the more academic parts of the degree. A paragraph like this may not be what all universities are looking for though so make sure you do your research!
Don’t just list all the books you’ve read, focus on what you’ve learnt from them and what led you to them, I tried to outline the path of my research through sixth form to highlight my academic drive in topics I’m interested in. On top of just reading books, attending lectures, going to museum exhibits, starting clubs at school, and entering essay competitions are just a few examples of how you can show a more active interest in the science behind the course.
Further to my studies, I enjoy playing several sports and pushing myself physically. I’ve completed a double marathon, Gold DofE and an ascent of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco. Most moving to me however, were my experiences volunteering in Namibia which inspired me through the impact a small group of us could have on a community. I have gained a distinction in Grade 8 piano and am proud to be a Senior Prefect, organising weekly guest lecture series alongside my leadership role. I am also the chairman at my Explorer unit; responsible for the schedule and camps throughout the year.
How much of your personal statement should be focused on extra-curricular skills or positions of responsibility is an ongoing debate that I won’t pretend to have the answer to. From my experience, it’s important to show that you are a well-rounded applicant with other hobbies and interests but if you can relate these back to medicine then this always looks better.
As I relish the opportunity to deepen my understanding outside the curriculum, I have enjoyed competing in national olympiads in maths and biology, achieving a distinction and gold award respectively. I view university as a continuation of this opportunity for independent learning and my desire will aid me through the challenges of studying medicine.
The conclusion, much like the start, is a chance to round off why I want to study medicine at university. My final tips are to get an initial draft down on paper as soon as you can, editing your personal statement is a long process and you don’t want to feel rushed in October when you’ll have a lot of other things to focus on too!