Medicine is one of the most competitive and over-subscribed courses to study at university, so your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd.
You need to showcase your skills and abilities. Don’t be shy about your achievements, but do be honest.
1. Do your research
Most universities will give you facts and figures on what to write in your personal statement or at least tutor advice on how to apply for the course.
Your one personal statement has to cover all your university choices, so aim to write for the highest level of requirements across your choices.
Alternatively you can try and pitch it specifically at your first and second choice but this is riskier as it may not appeal to your other choices.
2. Use examples
In the 4,000 characters (47 lines) limit you have to write, include examples of what you’ve done outside of school which are directly relevant to the medical course you’re applying to.
Although it would be great to put 6 months’ work experience at your local hospital, or work shadowing a GP/hospital doctor, this isn’t possible most of the time.
However volunteering at your local nursing home (where your great uncle Arthur is a resident), first aid training with your local St John’s ambulance or caring for a family member or neighbour who has health/disability issues may be more realistic.
Medicine requires hard graft, long hours, coping with stressful situations and oodles of teamwork. Make sure your examples demonstrate these key attributes as well. This could be a Duke of Edinburgh award or leading and encouraging young people at your neighbourhood youth club.
Write specifically about what you’ve achieved, not just that you’ve been there and ‘got the t-shirt’.
3. Think about the selection criteria
When putting together your personal statement, it’s important you base everything you talk about around the selection criteria for becoming a doctor.
The GMC provides admissions guidelines for all medical schools in the UK and recommends universal traits and qualities to look for in applicants. To convey these in your personal statement, you should:
- know what these qualities are
- find examples from your experiences to confirm you are realise they are important traits in a doctor.
- give examples of possessing these characteristics yourself, e.g. extra-curricular activies, work experience, hobbies, etc.
Some of the qualities medical schools are looking for in applicants include:
- Empathy - the ability and willingness to imagine the feelings of others and understand the reasons for the views of others
- Motivation - a reasonably well-informed and strong desire to practice medicine
- Understanding of a medical career - here, it is important you understand the realities of being a doctor
- Communication - an ability to make knowledge and ideas clear using language appropriate to the audience and good listening skills.
- Professional attitudes - these include honesty, integrity and humility
- Ethical awareness
- Intellectual curiosity - demonstrating an awareness of current scientific and medical affairs
- Teamwork - admissions tutors want to see you are able to work with others
- Leadership - can you demonstrate you are capable of leading or managing a team of people?
- Ability to cope with a large workload - remember that being a doctor is an intense, busy and sometimes stressful role
- Individual strength - these might include social, musical and sporting interests
- Problem-solving - you need to be able to think critically and take an analytical approach to problems.
These cover most, if not all, of the characteristics medical schools are looking for in a candidate. There won't be room to fit all of these in, but you should cover as much of it as possible, which is why it’s important to be concise in your writing.
You should also have an alignment of values and behaviours with those of the NHS constitution. Your understanding and appreciation of these values must reflect in your personal statement, as well as during your interview.
4. Be specific
Don’t generalise or waffle.
If you’re in an after school science club, say how long you’ve been in the club for and what exactly you’ve been learning.
If one aspect of medicine fascinates you and you’ve been researching it and contributing to online student forums and discussion groups, explain the detail, don’t just say ‘I read about medicine as I like it’.
If you’re going to use medical quotes, make sure they’re from books and papers you’ve properly researched and understood, not just ones you’ve skim read ahead of writing your personal statement. Remember you’re more than likely be asked about your personal statement at your university interview.
And finally, it’s worth noting that admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements year after year. Yours needs to be the one they remember for the right reasons: well written and researched, choc a bloc full of relevant examples and with your commitment and passion to medicine shining through.
5. Ask for advice
Do you know any friends or family who have studied medicine in the last few years? If so, ask them to read your personal statement and give you suggestions and feedback to make it even better.
If not, it may be worth using social media to talk to the students’ union at your university or chatting online to existing students on the medical courses you’re applying to. Their advice could be invaluable.
Just ensure your profile settings aren’t ‘public’ - you don’t want your great ideas given away for free!
Your school/college tutor will be writing your UCAS application reference. Ask them for feedback and guidance on your personal statement. They’ve no doubt helped many students over the years gain places on medicine courses.
6. Talk about what you learned
Not what you did! Admissions tutors want to know what valuable (and relevant) skills you have learned from your experiences, both inside and outside of school/college.
Remember to include any new knowlege you picked up, particularly anything that you found interesting or exciting, and is linked to the course.
Again, always be specific and give examples - don't just list the qualities you have to become a doctor. Tutors want to see some evidence too!
To get an idea of how previous medical students gained a place on a medicine course, take a look at our medicine personal statement examples.
7. Write a well-constructed statement
This means having an attention-grabbing opening, a solid middle, and memorable conclusion.
A well-written statement that has had lots of thought and effort put into it is more likely to stand out than a waffly, poorly constructed one.
Your medicine personal statement should flow naturally, and be devoid of any grammatical errors, such as misuse of commas.
If you need a little extra help with structuring your statement, Studential offers a range of editing and review packages to help you make it perfect.
8. Revise, revise, revise
Following on from the previous point, you should redraft your medicine statement as many times as you need to in order to get it right.
After each round of feedback, incorporate the suggestions you feel will make it a better statement, and then ask people to look at it again.
Most students will redraft their statement at least three times before submitting it on their UCAS application.
It can help to concentrate on one aspect of the statement at the time, e.g. one day focusing on the individual sentences, the next looking at the arrangement of the paragraphs.
For more tips and advice on applying for medicine at university, please see: