The personal statement is often something prospective applications find quite challenging, but it’s an important part of the application which can help to secure you an interview and can be made a bit easier by following some guidelines.
Primarily, the personal statement is there for you to tell them about you and your experiences (work experience, sport, music, volunteering) and the skills and attributes you have gained from these experiences. You should then relate these experiences to traits that will make you a good doctor (see below) or things you witnessed in other healthcare professionals which you think make them a good doctor.
The MSC has a great info sheet here which gives a list of attributes which medical schools look for in prospective applicants. Each university’s MBChB/MBBS application page will also list qualities they wish to see in their medical students. Be sure to read these carefully and try to relate you experiences to some of the traits. Remember – you don’t need to tick off every single one!
Experiences to talk about can include:
A job: working while in high school, even if unrelated to medicine, shows that you have good time management skills, reliability and team working skills
Work experience: allows you to witness other people in work, and see their communication, problem solving skills and team work in action
Volunteering: gives you experience of working in a team, builds you communication skills
Extra-Curriculars (Sports/Music/Drama/Other): demonstrate motivation, teamwork and personal organisation as you fit this in around your studies
Having some structure to follow can be useful when writing your personal statement. We recommend a ‘What, Why, and What did you learn‘ structure if you’re struggling to talk about a particular experience.
- What did you do: Brief description of the experience
- Why did you do it: Why was it useful?
- What did it teach you or How did it make you feel: either skills/attributes the experience has helped you to develop, or skills and attributes you have witnessed in others, which make them a good clinician.
The third aspect is the most important part because the interviewers/panel members aren’t as interested in what you did, but more interested in why you think your experience has helped you develop the skills to become a good doctor, or how someone’s behaviour has shown you an example of what you think a good doctor should be. Here’s an example from one of our own personal statements (from nearly 10 years ago – eek!):-
“”Work experience at a local hospital provided me with chance to gain excellent insight into both the benefits and challenges of working as a hospital doctor. Shadowing medics during rounds in a GM ward exposed me to the difficulties of working in medicine, as some of the elderly patients were hostile and unfriendly to the doctors. Despite this, they were always treated with patience and compassion, something I found very admirable. “”
Other key tips for personal statement writing:
Get someone to check it over for spelling + grammatical errors before you submit it – this could be your parents, your head of year or your English teacher. Sometimes if you’ve been looking at it for so long you won’t be able to spot even simple errors!
Make sure you are honest. If you exaggerate or write about experiences that didn’t really have a great impact on you, this will show up when you’re asked to talk more about it in your interview. The panel will be able to see your passion if you’ve been really inspired by someone you’ve met or an experience you’ve had, so write about things that impacted you
Keep it personal: the panel want to know about who you are, and why the things you’ve done have made you want to do medicine. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ throughout, and reflect on how the experience made you feel or what it taught you.
There are lots of examples available on the Student Room! Looking through these can give you a rough idea, but remember to keep the statement personal to you – it’ll be clear if you’ve just copied.
If you require some inspiration, The Student Room Medicine Wiki page has a section on personal statements where users have “donated” their personal statements for use. There’s over 100 freely available examples on the website.
We are also really happy to look over your personal statement at YouCanBeADoctor – please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll happily read through your personal statement, or give you advice if you are struggling to relate your experiences to being a medical student.