Three golden rules for your Medical School Personal Statement
As I sat down, way back in the summer of 2013, to write the first line of my personal statement I was filled with dread. I wanted nothing more than to flee the horror of the UCAS application, the smell of hospital wards and the endless admissions tests that had plagued me since I began Sixth Form.
Luckily, I did not.
I speak to you now as a proud member of University College London Medical School and although the university rumour-mill changes almost daily, I know my personal statement was a huge contribution to where I am now. So, I am going to give you hopeful applicants my top three golden rules when writing your Medical School personal statements.
Firstly, before you even put pen to paper or finger to iPad, think about why you want to be a doctor. Remember that becoming a physician is the main outcome and what the university ultimately wants you to achieve. As a vast proportion of the faculty are doctors themselves, they want to know you have a sound reason for choosing this challenging career. I’m afraid ‘liking both people and science’ will not stand up in a fight between the brightest young minds in the UK. Was there a significant moment that led you to medicine? If you became interested in science, how did that arise? For example, you could have stumbled upon a science library at a young age, your natural curiosity pushing you to read book after book. This is without a doubt the most important part of your personal statement and as such, should be the introduction.
Your work experience and volunteering is of almost equal importance to your reason for wanting to become a doctor. You need to show how you have investigated the role of a doctor further in different situations and contexts. Compare different hospitals you visited, exploring how the NHS varies and indeed, the physicians themselves, when placed in contrasting situations. However, this part of your personal statement is nothing without your reflection on what you did and saw. Even the most stoic among you will have to say how you felt when you spoon fed an elderly lady, watched staff deal with a back-breaking work load, observed a doctor breaking bad news to a patient’s family member. This is what gives the reader a real sense of the person behind the application.
Lastly, we have to acknowledge how this experience; applying for medical school, has changed you and how you will continue to change. It is very possible that spending time observing real heath care workers brought to light some flaws and strengths in your own character. This is really a subtle version of the old ‘I work too hard, care too much’ speech from job interviews. Personally, I found myself to become upset when working with those who were extremely depressed. Of course this shows my empathetic nature, a definite tick in the box, but I acknowledged that the doctors I saw worked hard to contain their emotions in front of patients and that I must do the same. This gives your personal statement a perceptive, self-reflective element that will elevate you above the rest. This is also a perfect opportunity to talk about any of your extra-curricular activities. If you found you struggled to work in groups and collaborate, joining the school football team is an excellent way of showing how you’re working on those team building skills as well as having a life outside your studies.
So, those are my top three rules for writing your personal statements. Although this article targets medical school applicants I’m sure there is a lot that students of any discipline can take away. For further advice, help editing your personal statement and interview practise feel free to contact me, Roise, via Tavistock Tutors. Good luck and happy writing!