Your personal statement is the perfect tool for medical schools to see whether you would be a great candidate for their university. It is a 4000 character piece of text where you tell a story, describing yourself and evaluating why you would be a good doctor, while also showcasing your motivations for the vocation. As you can imagine, this is quite a daunting task, however if you follow some of the simple framework below, it will become a lot easier.
A medical personal statement usually has 6 sections however there can be some overlap particularly between sections 2-4 which make up the bulk of your personal statement. The sections are as followed (advised character length):
1) Introduction (Up to 500 characters)
2) Work experience (Around 1000 characters)
3) Voluntary work (Around 800 characters)
4) Wider reading (Around 750 characters)
5) Extra-curricular activities (Up to 700 characters)
6) Conclusion (Up to 250 characters)
Here you outline your motivations to be a doctor, giving the key reasons why you decided to study medicine. These reasons could be due to how you were inspired by your work experience, your interests in science or why you think you would be a good doctor. However, you must ensure that your motivations are unique, as this is your “personal” statement. To make it unique you need to answer why your work experience inspired you, or why you are passionate about science giving a specific example, and finally say why this makes you want to be a doctor.
This section is extremely important as it allows you to show your insight and evaluation of your hospital experiences. When recalling your work experience you must be clear in what you did and reflect on it, outlining what you learnt from it. It is also important to provide examples of your work experience where you could clearly see the key qualities of doctors (leadership, teamwork, communication, empathy etc.) Something that may help you standout is by also talking about the healthcare settings you experienced and linking it to your wider reading to show further insight and reflection that others may not have thought about.
Here you can convey your desire to help others and talk about personal experiences from a care home or charity shop for example that allowed you to develop key qualities that a good doctor requires. It is important here to be unique and recall your personal interactions with specific people and how that affected both parties. A doctor will have to talk to patients and other medical staff all the time, therefore requiring them to have good interpersonal skills so it is important to mirror similar skills in this section.
Here you convey your motivation in medicine by doing independent research into a range of topics, and by reading medical themed books and journals. Independent research is an important skill for a doctor as they will need a sense of scientific curiosity throughout their profession when writing papers and doing further research in their field. It is also a good skill to have in university, as it is a lot more independent compared to 6th form. Finally, reading medical themed books like those by Atul Gawande (a popular choice for many) is important as it highlights your motivation to go into medicine, however just reading those books is not enough. You have to be able to reflect on what you learnt from it and how it may apply to your future life as a doctor.
This section is your opportunity to show that you're an all-rounded person with good time management, while also conveying you have developed key skills that apply to a doctor (e.g. teamwork and leadership from playing team sports or being part of a band.)
Finally the conclusion is just a short summary of your personal statement to explain why you want to study medicine and be a doctor.
It is important to remember that this is just a guideline for a structure, and that as long you contain these key sections and make your personal statement coherent, then you will be headed in the right direction for success.
Main tips when writing a personal statement:
Be reflective and evaluate
Be patient, as you will have many drafts
Be direct and concise with your language to keep within the character/word limit
Understand that there is more to medicine than being a doctor (e.g. research)
Don’t use clichés
Ensure your language is neither too complex or colloquial