Your medicine personal statement is one of the most important elements of your medical school application. It will be key for distinguishing yourself from other applicants and will be used in the decision making process by universities, when comparing candidates either prior to or following an interview, along with the result from your admission exam (if applicable) and your predicted grades. Given the competitive nature of the application process, you should consider your personal statement as an opportunity to show universities more about you, your experiences and your motivation for applying.
Your personal statement is a key opportunity to show your chosen universities your skills and experiences that make you a suitable candidate, and your ambitions for a career within medicine. You’ll find some guidance on what you should aim to include in your personal statement in the next section but it’ll also be useful to consider the following when preparing to write your personal statement:
One of the biggest challenges when looking at areas that you need to cover is trying to include everything within the tight UCAS character limit; consider which elements are most important to you, and which qualities and experiences you want to demonstrate, as there may be things you have to sacrifice to avoid exceeding the character limit.
The quality of your writing is important within your personal statement, so consider your choice of language carefully and remember your audience and what you’re trying to convey. Equally, ensure that your writing is cohesive and flows well; as although undoubtedly you’ll have a list of skills, experiences and information you want to include, you want to avoid it reading like a list.
Whether you’re discussing work experience you’ve undertaken or hobbies or clubs that you partake in, you should always focus on making them relevant to your future studies. Universities aren’t looking for a narrative of work experience that you’ve carried out, they’re interested in what you learnt as a result of the experience. Your personal statement should reflect on any work experience and demonstrate what skills and/or qualities you’ve developed which are required within the medical profession. Similarly with your hobbies or clubs, you should reflect on relevant skills and qualities that you have developed as a result of these.
As well as demonstrating your motivation for working within the medical profession, it’s also important to show that you have a realistic understanding of what this entails - linking to your work experience is a great way of achieving this. However, while it’s favourable that you’ll acknowledge the less attractive side of medicine, ensure you put a positive spin on it and allow your passion for medicine to come through.
There isn’t a set structure which you need to follow when writing your personal statement, but there are some essential things which you should try to include. The UCAS website advises that university admissions tutors are looking for evidence of the following:
This can be demonstrated in a number of ways:
For example, sports, music, volunteering. Again, remember to use these to demonstrate your skills and qualities that will make you a suitable candidate for medical school.
Give examples of occasions when you’ve demonstrated that you can work effectively within a team and as an individual. You may also want to include examples of situations where you’ve led a group, if you have experience of this.
Try to provide examples which demonstrate your personal qualities which make you a suitable candidate for medical school, for example your empathy, your resilience, your drive, etc., by linking to your work experience, your hobbies and even your academic studies.
The most effective way to demonstrate your skills is by providing examples, using your experiences to show that you process the required analytical and critical thinking skills to make you a suitable candidate.
Writing your personal statement can seem daunting; keep it simple with the following useful tips:
Using the information above to help you, create a plan of what you want to include, whether that’s using a mind map, lists or any other way which works for you, to ensure you know which experiences, skills and qualities you want to share before starting your personal statement.
Don’t worry about making your personal statement perfect the first time around (or keeping within the character limit for that matter). Once you’ve written everything you want to include you can begin rewording sentences, moving sections around and editing parts which are less significant so you can get within the character limit.
It's simple but so important. All those drafts take time, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write.
Getting a second opinion is useful for picking up errors you might have missed or showing you where you can sell yourself more. Just be careful to avoid taking on board too many opinions, as you want you to make sure it’s your voice which comes through.
It’s so basic but it makes spotting punctuation and grammatical errors easier.
Often the most difficult part with any written piece is getting started; there is generally a focus on ensuring that your first paragraph captivates your reader and makes them want to read more, which can create a stumbling block when you begin writing. A useful tactic to help you to avoid staring at a blank page for hours, is to ignore your opening altogether, and to begin as if you’re picking it up after an introductory sentence or two. Once you’ve written your first draft you’ll find it easier to draw out interesting points and to rework them to create an opening statement.
It’s important within your opening paragraph to show your passion and your reasons for wanting to study medicine; the difficulty is trying to avoid cliches, when it’s highly likely that your reasons for wanting to study medicine are similar to many students who have come before you. Sharing your interests which are related to medicine, or your personal experiences (your work experience, volunteering, etc.) which have developed your passion, is an effective way to achieve this in an individual way. Don’t get fixated on trying to stand out, focus on giving an honest account of why you want to study medicine and your interests and experiences which have helped you to decide this, and avoid using unrealistic or exaggerated reasons or experiences.
Remember, while your opening section is important, it is also just one part of your overall statement; make sure that it adds to your personal statement (remember that tight character limit) and isn’t just there to grab attention.
If you’re applying for the graduate entry route, not only will the UCAS rules be the same for your personal statement (for example the character limit, deadline, etc.), but what you should aim to include will also remain the same. However, university admission tutors will have higher expectations for graduate entry applicants’ skills, competencies and experiences, given that you have undertaken a degree previously and likely have more experience; sharing relevant work experience, as well as any academic achievements or other accomplishments which are relevant, will allow you to demonstrate that you meet these expectations.
Even if your current or previous employment is not health related, it may still be relevant to your application, if you're able to demonstrate the transferable skills which will be useful for a career in medicine. Where possible, provide examples of additional work experience within medical or care settings, if your employment isn’t health related, to demonstrate your commitment to studying medicine and your development of skills to support this. Remember to limit your descriptions of your work experience, to include only what is necessary, and focus on reflecting on your experiences and the skills and qualities you have developed as a result of them.
As with other routes into medicine, you’ll be expected to demonstrate why you want to study and your passion for a future career in medicine. Admission tutors will also be assessing if you have the required attributes for a career in medicine and a realistic view of what it entails. Again, reflecting on your previous work experiences, either voluntary or paid, as well as your previous degree, if it’s relevant, will allow you to demonstrate that you meet these requirements.
The best medical school personal statements are well written and include evidence that the applicant meets all the requirements set out by UCAS (see above).
A good example can be found here.
This applicant opens their personal statement by outlining why they’re passionate about studying medicine:
You’ll notice that their reason is not extraordinary or groundbreaking, but it’s well worded and appears an honest reason, making it a successful opening sentence.
They reflect on their work experience and volunteer work to demonstrate their understanding of the medical profession and the skills they have developed which will support them for a career within medicine:
Their description of what activities they carried out is concise and used to support their reflection; therefore, the focus is on what they learnt as a result of this experience.
An area for development within this personal statement example is their discussion of their interests outside of academic work:
The candidate has missed an opportunity, possibly due to the tight character limit, to highlight the skills they have developed as a result of these activities; for example, they could outline their leadership qualities, possible teamwork and their organisation skills. Don’t forget, while extra-curricular activities are a positive thing to include in your personal statement, linking them to qualities and skills that are required for medicine will make them relevant and will support your application further.
Reading sample personal statements can be useful to gain an understanding of how you can lay out your own statement and the types of information to include. However, you want your personal statement to be individual and written in a style which is natural to you, so avoid focusing too much on examples or comparing your work to these.
Finally, remember that a good medical personal statement will look completely different depending on the candidate. Focus on sharing your unique experiences, skills and qualities, and your personal ambitions and passion for a career in medicine. That’s what admission tutors want to see and that’s what will make you stand out as an individual.
The following documentation has been used within this post and you may also find useful for further information: