The personal statement is the black sheep of the medicine application. While other university courses might only use a personal statement to assess their applicants outside of grades, medicine has plenty of other hoops to jump through (from work experience to UCAT) that may seem more relevant than a short written document. Then there’s the difficulty of writing it. How do I structure it? What do universities want to hear? How much detail do I go into? In this guide, we’ll try our best to answer some of those questions as best as we can.
What is the personal statement?
Once you’ve decided which medical schools you’re applying to, you have to fill out your UCAS application to inform those universities of your interest. As part of the UCAS application, you will be asked to provide a personal statement – This is a short written statement where you will explain why you’re applying to medicine, and why you’re a good candidate for the university place. The personal statement is capped at 47 lines of text and 4000 characters – that’s roughly 1 side of A4 paper. You’re only asked to write 1 personal statement to send off to all 5 of your university choices.
Since you may be applying to non-medical degrees (you can apply to up to 4 UK medicine courses, with the 5th course being your “backup” option) there would be no issue in contacting the admissions team for any other courses you’re applying to and asking if they want a personal statement written for their course in mind instead. Luckily, a lot of biomedical science courses are happy to accept medical student personal statements, so you may well not need to draft another!
Why is the personal statement important?
You might think that because the medicine application has so many other ways of assessing you, the personal statement is less important than it would be in other university applications. As in all things when applying to university, it actually depends on where you’re applying. Some medical schools, such as Newcastle or Hull, will not assess the personal statement during your application unless you are a borderline applicant for an offer or interview. In this case, borderline means that you are close to the cutoff for being given an offer and are in competition with other applicants who otherwise have roughly the same scores, grades, interview performances etc.
Other med schools, such as Lancaster or Keele, may use them at interview and ask you about things you mentioned in the personal statement. It’s for this reason you should never lie in a personal statement. Imagine being asked about a book you’ve never read, or work experience you never had! Some medical schools will also use the personal statement (usually as well as other factors) to select candidates for interviews.
When do I need to write my personal statement?
You need to submit your personal statement with your UCAS application. The deadline for this is usually around mid-October in year 13. That’s several months earlier than most uni applications, so don’t get caught out! A silver lining of this is that if you’ve got a staff member at school who will read your personal statement, they aren’t going to be swamped under by other people’s PS, so use that opportunity well!
Keep in mind that there is no definitive right answer on how to make a personal statement. The clues in the name – it’s personal! You should make it a brief overview of YOUR motivations and experiences. That way, it won’t sound cliched or manufactured. You should also remember to promote yourself! It can feel weird to hype yourself up as much as you do in the personal statement. Remember this: nobody is going to be your own advocate but yourself in the application process. If you don’t tell universities why you’re a great applicant, they’re not going to know about it!
As to what you should be writing about, most people usually include these three things:
– Why you want to be a doctor
– The things you’ve done that helped you decide on medicine (work experience, volunteering, reading etc.)
– What makes you a good candidate (non-medical extracurricular stuff)
How do I write about my experiences?
Some people struggle with how to put down their experiences into words. Others might waffle on for sentences without saying anything of note. A good workaround to this is using a structured approach to your paragraphs. The PEE paragraph structure (Point, Evidence, Evaluation – you may have used these in GCSE English) keeps your writing short without cutting corners. The ‘point’ is what you’ve developed during your application (IE clinical experience, leadership, medical knowledge). The ‘evidence’ is how you’ve achieved that (Your work experience, volunteering, the book you read). The ‘evaluation’ is thinking about what you gained from your experience. You can use other structures to your writing if you’d prefer, whatever keeps you on point! Here’s an example – the point is blue, the evidence is green and the evaluation is yellow:
I was interested in medicine, but I needed more first-hand experience. Thus, I managed to take part in a week of work experience at a GP practice, shadowing GPs as well as other healthcare professionals. I learned a lot about communication skills, doctor-patient relationships and teamwork in healthcare. More importantly though, I really connected with the staff and the positive effect their work had on the patients. I knew then that medicine was for me.
Any final bits of advice?
– If you’re struggling, write a list of everything you’ve done to prep for applying to medicine, then a list of extracurricular stuff you do. That’s a great starting point for things to include in the personal statement!
– If you need to cut down on your first draft, you should first get rid of sentences that seem repetitive or don’t actively promote you being a good candidate. Then, try to find shorter versions of phrases you’ve used. For example “due to” is shorter than “because of”.
– Get others to review each draft. This can be your family, a school teacher, friends etc. Getting a fresh pair of eyes can be really helpful!
– Talking about extracurricular activities that aren’t related to medicine is really important! It shows you’re a well-rounded person with lots of interests and a work-life balance.
– Don’t use colloquial language or jokes. You don’t want anything you’ve written to be seen as inappropriate.