If most medical school applicants are top students academically, how can universities choose successful applicants? After all, many come in with hours of volunteer work and shadowing experiences.
Well, that is where the personal statement comes in. It allows students to, in their own words, mention why they should be selected and what is unique in their application.
This is a 4000 character (around 500 words) essay spread over 47 lines that will get sent to all 5 of the universities you’ve chosen to apply to. In it, you have to essentially explain why you want to do your chosen course and what you’ve done to show your interest in it. UCAS doesn’t really allow you to showcase what you’ve done outside of school, so here’s your chance! (Prep Zone College Admissions)
When to Start Writing?
You’ll want to start writing by July (yes, you’ll have to do work in summer) in order to get more revisions done on multiple drafts. The earlier you start, the better, as your final year gets hectic once you approach exams and standardized tests in October. Starting in August means you can comfortably get your final version done by the end of September (the UCAS deadline for medicine is October 15 2020).
Medicine personal statements are slightly different to others- you’ll want to make sure academic information makes up around 85-90% of the personal statement, with extra curriculars making up the rest (so no, you can’t go on about that one Duke of Edinburgh trip you made in Year 9). There isn’t a ‘set’ structure, but a generic one is as follows:
- Introduction- this is an essentially ‘why medicine’ paragraph. Try to make it as engaging as possible and avoid cliches like ‘I’ve always wanted to help people’. Really think hard about why you want to do medicine. Remember, admissions officers read hundreds of personal statements every year- make yours memorable.
- Academic Paragraph(s)- show off what you’ve done beyond your school course. Have you done any extra courses or read any medical books? (Atul Gawande and Atom Kay are excellent authors) Your academic passion for medicine needs to be seen here, are you interested in any niche topics like leukemia? (this section is really just a brain flex)
- Work Experience- an important, even if not compulsory section compared to other courses. You don’t have to shadow a doctor at some high tech hospital – volunteering at your local care home is perfect as well. Medical schools want to see that you’ve made some effort to learn about the practicalities in medicine. What’s most important is to explain what you learn rather than just list what you did. ‘I shadowed a GP for a week’ should become ‘I was able to grasp the problem-solving aspect of medicine by shadowing a GP’.
- Extra curriculars- a small section on non-academic activities you’ve pursued. They can be any activities- the key thing to get across is what skills and qualities you developed from them that will help you in a career in medicine. For example, you might have learnt discipline from the Boy Scouts.
- Conclusion– a final wrapping up to a (hopefully) solid personal statement. This should feel like an ending; many candidates also acknowledge that medicine is a difficult career here. For international students, it may be useful to add what about medicine in the UK in particular attracts you.
- Really take your time with your personal statement. You should have at least 5-6 drafts by the time you’re done editing.
- Ask your teachers for help! Chances are they’ve done this sort of thing before, getting their opinion is invaluable. Asking 2-3 teachers (preferable at least one science and one humanities teacher) to read your personal statement is extremely useful- this way you’ll get a range of different views. But remember, you don’t have to act on all their advice- carefully compare the advice and edit your personal statement accordingly.
- Show your statement to family and friends. It helps to get a fresh perspective and see if your writing flows.
- Use a professional tone, with no flowery language – get to the point in a clear and concise manner.
- Ensure it reads like a medicine personal statement – do you have a passion for medicine and understand its realities?
This article is written by Rayyan, a prospective Imperial medicine student who hopes to start university in September 2020 and scored in the 99th percentile in the 2019 UCAT.
Need help with your UCAS Personal Statement?
One of the most important things you can do is have other people look at your Personal Statement during stages of editing, brainstorming, and finalizing. If you need any advice, you can always reach out to the Prep Zone Admissions Team for help.
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