Building a personal statement for medicine is a big deal. It basically determines whether you get an interview or not, as its one of the few things that separates you from other candidates. You could argue that UKCAT(+ similar tests) and academic grades also contribute, but not nearly to the same degree as your personal statement, so it’s worth putting in a fair bit of thought and effort into your personal statement! It also almost always is a topic of conversation at medical school interviews as well, so it really is worth doing well and developing over time.
What should you include in your personal statement? Well, just about anything! It’s not important particularly what you put in, what IS important is how you justify its relevance to medicine. For example, if you wrote something like “I particularly enjoy knitting”… big deal. However, if you wrote something about how you feel this has asssisted you in developing your manual dexterity, a skill which would be of benefit to you regardless of which branch of medicine you wish to pursue, then that would seem a lot more impressive and a far more interesting read!
Some broad categories to think about including on your Statement would be:
Reason for wanting to do medicine
Sports and level of competition if any
Musical instruments and level of ability
Hobbies and interests
First aid courses
Societies, Clubs you are a member of
Personal qualities you think which are appropriate for a career in medicine
As I say, try and link things to the personal qualities each task has helped you develop.
Once you have written your statement, ask some other people to look over it – English teachers for spelling, wording etc. Guidance teachers who have had experience of applying to medicine before can be useful, even head teachers would probably be happy to help you. Parents as well can be an invaluable resource for helping you make a slick personal statement.
One thing I would say is don’t lie on your personal statement. It sounds obvious, but seriously, dont! If you get found out, I could say with almost certainty that you won’t get into medicine!
For people who aren’t at the stage of writing their statement yet, but know they want to apply to medicine, it’s still worth thinking about! If you’re looking at this thinking you haven’t done any of these things, it might be a good idea to make a start!
Academic prizes: Obviously, not everyone can have these sorts of things (e.g. Dux), but if you’ve got them, write them down. Even if you’ve got something like “Voted most likely to succeed” in your yearbook or something, it all counts!
Work Experience: The more, the better. Pouring tea in a care home is a great and easy way to get some voluntary and work experience. Almost any local care home would help you and most are short staffed, so would love the extra help. If you’re “lucky” you might get to do more than just pour teas! This is what I did prior to medicine and it lead to summer job as well for some extra pennies to pay for a pint or two in freshers week! Also, there’s usually programmes around letting you shadow hospital doctors. Have a look on the internet. I did one at Monklands Hospital which was really good. If not though, try and find a doctors email address (doctors with an interest in teaching are usually the best bet) and ask them if you can shadow for a week. If all else fails, try a GP surgery (try one outside your local area as there are issues of confidentiality if you go to the surgery in your town, in case you know people!). Also, if you know any current medical students, ask them if they would mind at least chatting to you about medicine and the uni course etc. Its not really about what you do and med schools appreciate that not everyone has contacts to let you do hospital work experience, but anything you do goes in your favour, as long as you’ve made an effort!
Sports: If you do any, say what you do and what level you’ve done it e.g. bronze at district level, gold at national level, set the world record at the olympics in 2008, did 12 keepy-uppys in the garden last week, whatever it is, get it down – its important to have interests outside of medicine! Also, sometimes volunteering as an assistant coach at local sports clubs or even your own sports club can be a good thing. A lot of those kind of things let you work with kids as well, so you can see if you enjoy that or not!
Musical instruments: same as sports!
Hobbies: if you like music, put it down, if you like wine tasting, put it down.
Voluntary work: Again this looks really good – it shows a giving nature with no expectation of reward – a good quality for a doctor. It also allows you the opportunity to develop communication skills and confidence, probably without you even noticing it, which would improve your chances at an interview!
First aid courses: probably a good idea, although can cost a wee bit of money to do. It shows an interest, and also, as of yet, ive not been taught how to put a bandage on somebody in medicine. You’d look like a prize fool when somebody screams for a doctor in 5 years time asking you to bandage somebody up and all you can think to do is tie a nice bow-knot!
Societies and clubs: Member of the scouts? Got any awards/badges from it? Write it down! If you’re a member of the healthy eating society at school, brilliant, health promotion is a great thing for medics to do (and is even a Dundee Outcome (more of that later, im sure!))
Personal qualities: as the name suggests, I can’t really guide you on this one…
With all these things you can put in, you’ve got to try and be concise and watch your word count. Although, in saying that, I wouldn’t say use bullet-point lists or anything… it doesn’t really give you the chance to tell the story of how you’ve developed your interest in medicine which would come across more from writing a kind-of essay. Besides, if you have too many words, you can always take out the keepy-uppy thing…
Any questions? Ask away! Want any advice? Ask away! Want me to look at your personal statement? Fire away! Want to know more about the Dundee course? Feel free to ask!