Updated: Aug 7, 2022
Writing your personal statement can feel extremely daunting for many, as it is the first time writing a professional piece of written work centering solely around yourself. It can in many ways feel as though you are having to sell yourself to your medical school of choice. This in itself makes the task at hand feel awkward and even slightly uncomfortable.
How does one write 47 lines about how amazing I would be as a medical student, without sounding cocky, and full of myself?! At the same time what is there about me that will enable me to stand out?!
Speaking personally, these questions circulated in my head several times a day when trying to write my personal statement. With that in mind this article is all about what to write about in the dreaded personal statement to emphasise all the personal qualities that you have to become a future doctor. For the most part, your personal statement should include information about your personal qualities and why you would like to apply these to medicine. Accompanied by evidence of how you have developed these qualities.
To simplify this try following this structure when piecing together your personal statement:
1. Why do you want to study medicine?
2. Any relevant work experience/volunteering and part-time jobs you have.
3. Any extra reading/study on medicine you have done.
4. Any personal extra-curricular activities you have done/are a part of.
5. A personal summarisation.
Lets look at these in more depth.
1) Why do you want to study medicine?
The dreaded question, so simple and yet it is so easy for the mind to boggle at the expectation of your answer. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed in feeling as though you must have an in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of doctor life when answering this. But that is far from the truth. The best advice I can give for this part of the statement is to be truthful about your journey to making this decision. Perhaps acknowledging it wasn’t an easy process but what gave you the push to pursue it? Did you have an experience which made you passionate in wanting a medical career? Did you find passion in the nature of combining science with communication with people? Detailing the steps that took you to this decision whilst highlighting a few skills and attributes you have, both academic and social can be a great introduction to your personal statement.
2) Work experience/volunteering and part-time jobs.
Having hospital or community medicine based work-experience can be an excellent way of showing medical schools that you have seen doctors working first hand and therefore are still passionate about pursuing medicine as a career. If you have had this experience including it in your personal statement; what you saw during your work experience and the emotional impact on you will highlight the empathetic and social skills you are developing to become a great student doctor. To really make your statement stand out be sure to include something you saw and then discuss the research you then decided to do on a condition/procedure. Be sure to maintain patient confidentiality at all times.
However hospital work experience is not essential for a good personal statement. Including any volunteering which you can then apply to how you have developed good skills and attributes that you can use at medical school will also allow you to show your desirable traits and significantly highlight your passion to help others, a key need in the medical field. For example if you did some volunteering at a care home you may express how you were able to develop skills such as communication, empathy, organisation; all of these things you can then use to express how they will help you in medical school.
Also including any part-time work you may have had during school/sixth form should not be overlooked! If anything, it was this aspect of my application that interviewers were most eager to talk about. Showing you’ve had a part time job in any field is already highlighting your time management, organisation and determination whilst being in full-time education. Perhaps your job has enabled you to gain experience in team-work or working in pressured situations? Mentioning this and re-iterating how this has helped you develop the critical skills you will need in your medical education will help your application to stand out.
3) Extra reading/study on medicine.
Although you may have covered some human biology whilst at school or sixth form/college it can be really impressive to show the medical schools you apply for how passionate you are about medicine outside of the compulsory study. This may be linked to your work experience or volunteering as you've researched what youve seen. Or it can be through reading books on medicine or particular conditions. If possible at your education establishment, writing an EPQ is a great way to earn extra qualifications whilst also highlighting to the medical schools that you have taken extensive time studying a particular medical topic. Ways of showing your passion and determination to study medicine through your extra-curricular study will not only be good for your CV but also can help yourself in deciding if medicine is truly right for you and your passions.
4) Personal extra-curricular activities.
By this I am referring to any hobbies or interests you have outside of your education system. At first this might not seem relevant discussing any sports teams you play on or crafts you enjoy. But each hobby or passion will allow you to discuss skills you have been able to develop such as patience, perseverance, team work and more, all of which you can link back to how it will make you a perfect candidate for medical school. Just as importantly this highlights to the schools that you are able to balance work and home life as well as having ways to release stress. Both are important when developing a medical career.
Extra-curricular activities may include: - Reading - Sports - Crafting - Socialising - Music - Films - Photography - etc.
5) Personal summarisation.
Once you have completed the above it is time to conclude your personal statement. In my opinion a good way to approach this is to discuss how you are aware of both the positive but importantly the negatives in the medical field (i.e. stress, pressure, time management). Explain this but also highlight how you believe the skills you have stated will put you in a good position for these challenges. I also feel being humble in your situation will serve you well, by this I mean explaining how you are not already the perfect student but how there are still aspects you wish to learn and develop and also how excited you are to put your all into accomplishing this at medical school.
To conclude, writing a personal statement is not easy, as stated it can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but being honest and truthful about yourself goes a long way. Providing your strengths with evidence whilst also being humble about where you need to improve will show you are a well rounded individual aware of both your strengths and weaknesses with a passion for excelling in a medical field.
For examples, please refer to our personal statement bank under the resources tab for aspiring medical students!
Good luck for the future, Leah Brooks.