More on Personal Statements

By now, you should probably be starting to piece together your personal statement, or you should at least be thinking about making a start.

But how do you actually write a personal statement? It’s not really an essay, and there’s a tendancy within the british population to shy away from opportunities to sell yourself in fear of bragging or being big headed, making writing a personal statement a significant challenge to a great deal of applicants in the UK. If this applies to you, my advice would be this: Forget you’re british, just for this one form. None of your friends are going to read it, and it could be the difference between getting into medical school and not.

When I wrote my personal statement, I started by writing out a list of absolutely everything I’d done in my life. This included work experience, clubs I’d joined, committee’s I’d been a part of, sports and hobbies etc. etc. (See the Personal Statement page for more information) After listing them out, I removed some of the irrelevant or less impressive ones e.g. learning to play keyboard at grade 1 when I was like, 7 years old, and then started to sort the remaining ones into categories. Being a keen swimmer, I had a paragraph on my swimming achievements and other things which stemmed from my time in swimming. I also had another category on my medical work experience.

Once you’ve got the main body, you should work on your intro and outro. Your intro should probably contain something about what made you want to do medicine and, for post-grads, why you’ve chosen to do medicine after your first degree. For an outro, it’s sometimes quite nice to talk about the personal qualities you think make you suitable to be a doctor.

After you’ve done all this, it’s a case of fleshing out the text and making different points link together. At this point I would say that it’s probably a good idea to give the greatest detail for your most impressive achievements/skills/attributes.

The next thing, which I cannot stress enough is to get people to read it over. When I wrote my personal statement, I got my mum, sister, guidance teacher, another teacher who was friends with my mum and my english tutor to look over it for me. And then I got some of them to read it over again. I ended up having about 9 different versions of my personal statment from it’s transformation to an ok-ish essay with spelling mistakes to something a good deal better.

Coming towards the end of the writing process, I would keep an eye on your charater limit. From the UCAS website, it says you’re allowed 4,000 characters (this includes spaces) or 47 lines of text (this includes blank lines), whichever comes first. As a side note, it says the system removes any italics, bold or underlining, so don’t use those to highlight points.

Dos and Don’ts
Do spend a long time on it – very little separates you from other medical students for selection for interview – you all have virtually the same grades, the use of UKCAT varies between universities, so your personal statement is an opportunity to show your enthusiasm and experiences of medicine to date.
Do get lots of people to read it – especially somebody who has written one before, and especially medical students – who better to advise you than somebody who has done it all and succeeded at it?
Do jot down lists/mind maps of things which could be included and categorise them.
Do check punctuation – and not just with a spellchecker – get people to look it over
Do try to be succinct – every word counts in your small character limit! Personal statement isnt a test of your english literature skills. However, in saying that, bad spelling and grammar won’t impress people.
Do only write about relevant details – this saves words which you can use to write about other things
Do be careful about putting in jokes and quotes and other eye-catching statements to make your personal statement stand out – I personally think they seem tacky and don’t like them, but it might work for you. If you do use them, don’t over do it, otherwise it might go against you!
Do say explicitly that you want to apply to medicine – despite saying I wanted to study medicine, I still was accepted for my non-medical course option with an unconditional offer – I’m sure many other medics will have had the same experience.
Don’t talk about medical diseases – personal statements aren’t a test of medical knowledge – its a chance to show why you feel you are suitable to study medicine and to show that you’ve made attempts to find out what a career in medicine is like i.e. you know what you’re getting yourself into!

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