The exams are now over and those of you planning to apply to medical school next year should begin thinking of writing your Personal Statements. You will probably come across areas in which you seem lacking. The summer holidays is a good time to ‘plug gaps’ in your Personal Statements and do the work experience/ charity work/ team working activities that will make them more impressive.
Now is the time to look up the and visit the open days of] the medical schools you want to apply to and list ‘key words and phrases’ that come up in their prospectus such as ‘appreciation of the human story’ ‘proven commitment’ and the ‘knowledge of the reality of becoming a doctor’ and bear these in mind when you write your personal statement.
My advice is to put everything you can think of down on paper at this point. You can edit and summarise and precis everything later. It is important to get started.
- Introduction –Why you want to be a doctor. The hardest bit. Try to write something original but it is so hard to say something that is not a cliché as admissions staff see thousands of applications. Do not hyperbolise the virtues of doctors. Statements such as ‘Medicine is the only career that combines a love of science and caring for people’ are just not true and denigrate other professionals. Graduates should describe a “eureka” moment that made they decide that they wanted to medicine.
- Work experience – don’t list places or procedures. Remember they are most interested in what you learnt ‘from you experience not what you did. Medical schools say that they are looking for students with the ability to reflect and learn. Did you notice that doctors required any special qualities such as ‘courage’, ‘good communication skills’? Do you have these and are there any examples that prove that you have these? Perhaps mention the downsides of being a doctor and why that does not put you off. Remember doctors are dealing with human beings- it is no longer considered correct to refer to patients by their disease such as ‘the diabetic’ in bed 4 or the ‘asthmatic’ in bed 6 – it dehumanises them. Remember the ‘patient story’ is important. Referring to this shows empathy.
- Voluntary work; Again be brief about what you did and write mainly about what you learnt. It is probably good to mention a few of those ‘key qualities’ such as good communication skills, any leadership skills teamwork etc in this section as well as the next.
- Extra curricular activities. Universities are looking for people who excel in non academic fields in addition to getting good grades. What ever your passion or hobby always relate it back to how the skills you have learnt will help you in a medical career.
As in the previous paragraph mentioning how you demonstrated ‘competence skills’ such as teamwork, leadership skills, coping with stress or challenging behaviour, compassion and empathy.
They also want to know that you are sociable ‘well rounded’ person who knows how relax and ‘de-stress’. It is always an advantage if they think you may be able to contribute to University life eg the rowing team or drama society.
5. You may want to write about something you studied and enjoyed. It is not necessary to list every subject. Again focus on one or two points and avoiding listing. Perhaps mention books [or journals] you have read and why you found them interesting.
6. ‘Love of science’ it may be important particularly for Oxbridge entry to refer to this. Say what it is about science that interests you – ‘scientific logic’ for example.
7. The Conclusion . Sum up and try to end with a flourish.
NEVER DISPLAY A HINT OF ARROGANCE BUT NEVER PUT YOURSELF DOWN!