Personal statements for medicine
Firstly, we should probably explore what a personal statement is. You are probably familiar with the personal statement from job application forms and possibly your CV (if your doesn’t have a personal statement, it really should). The personal statement is probably the first item on your CV, and should be given the most attention.
Personal statements are a brief summary of, well, you and is there to help those reading it get a better overall picture of you and the kind of person that you are.
This is important because it is your chance to ‘sell’ yourself, and really get across what it is that makes you perfect for the world of medicine.
In short, it is one of the most important aspects of your application and mean the difference between candidates being accepted, or rejected.
How to make your personal statement the best that it can be
Given that the personal statement is possibly one of the most important things that you will ever write, how do you make sure that you do it properly and don’t churn out the same boring tat that medical schools see thousands of times a year?
The thing that you need to understand, before you write a single word, is that medical schools are looking for candidates that are going to make great doctors. Seems obvious? Well, yes but it’s how the qualities of a potentially great doctor are quantified that counts so how do you show them what they are looking for?
These are the four main points that are being looked for, and you should do your best to cover each - honestly. That said, try and avoid the shopping list approach:
● I am committed to medicine because…
● I showed perseverance when…
This kind of thing is just plain lazy, and it’s going to show. Instead, you should think of this as a writing assignment (just try not to be blase about it) and break up your statement into three sections.
● Main body
Most people agree that the first section should be written last, with the second being written first. This way you can draw from the main body and the conclusion for inspiration, as the first paragraph, the introduction, is very often the weakest part of the statement
Saying something like, “I sawed off a man’s mangled leg, with nothing but 2 inches of worn dental floss, as bullets and shells rained down all around us”. Even if it was true, admissions desks are full of applications that have this kind of story in the personal statement. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it’s all been seen before.
Personal ‘violin’ stories are best avoided too, “I want to be a doctor because my Nan had [insert terrible disease here], and I want to be able to help others”. This kind of thing might work on certain television talent shows, but not here.
Do, however, include personal interests. If you were the captain of the school football team, for example, then talk about that. Even though it has nothing to do with medicine, it does show leadership skills, teamwork, commitment and determination - exactly the kinds of qualities that are being sought.
Make sure your statement is well structured, honest and free from sensationalism - but try and make it personal too, without attempting to pull heartstrings (it will do far more harm than good) and you will be fine.