writing a competitive 

PERSONAL STATEMENT

5 tips

1. Tone

Most students remember to try their best to avoid being monotonous or boring, but remember that there is a fine line between selling yourself and sounding arrogant. Make sure you present yourself confidently and enthusiastically, but also acknowledge that there is room for improvement – after all, you are going to medical school to learn; not to join an army of already-perfect human beings. To display your intellectual curiosity, try to mention instances in which you have explored Medicine or Science beyond the scope of the syllabus in school. Show the universities that you are aware of the challenges that you may face as a medical student or doctor, and this will show them that you have a well-informed and realistic view of medicine – not just a naïve desire to pursue Medicine for it’s prestige and competitiveness.

2. Evidence & Reflection is key 

Everyone can claim to be hardworking or resilient, but actually providing real life examples of when you displayed these attributes will make your claims much more convincing to the reader. When you write about your volunteer work or work experience, don’t just mention what you did and leave it at that. Always reflect on your observations, stating what you learnt from them, how they have affected you, and how this changes how you view Medicine. When you claim to have a particular skill like good teamwork, always provide examples of why or how you developed the skill. Remember that not all the examples you give have to be perfect, positive, experiences – it is perfectly acceptable to reflect on experiences that went badly. When you do this, state why you think things occurred that way in retrospect and how you will do things differently in the future. 

3. Avoid clichés

If you are planning to start off your personal statement by claiming that you have “always wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember”, let me congratulate you for being one of the thousands of personal statements with the same opening line. Even if you really have wanted to be a doctor for as long as you remember, this is a terribly common opening line and should be avoided at all costs. The last thing you want to happen is for the admissions tutor to classify your personal statement as one of the generic ones that lack originality. It is natural for skepticism to creep into admissions tutors’ minds if you present them with what the University of Oxford describes as “exaggerated descriptions of a revelatory moment or lifelong desire to become a doctor”. Admissions tutors already have to sift through so many personal statements every day, so make it your utmost priority to avoid blending into a blur of a pile of personal statements with generic statements and anecdotes. 

4. Avoid overly bombastic/flowery language 

It is definitely very tempting to write a personal statement with an impressive selection of high-level vocabulary, and there is certainly nothing wrong with doing this. However, if used excessively, your sentences may sound artificial and meaningless. There is absolutely no need for you to impress the admissions tutors with over-inflated language; most people would much rather read a clear and direct personal statement. Try not to beat around the bush – if you can say the exact same thing with fewer words, do it, because you will appreciate the characters you save later on. 

5. Be open to advice & get multiple opinions

The best personal statements are interesting, meaningful, and tell you a lot about the applicant. Let your parents, teachers, friends, and relatives read your personal statement and ask them for constructive criticism. Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes and make sure your sentences flow in a logical and meaningful sequence. Avoid mentioning any controversial topics! Offering feedback on personal statements can be a very subjective task, and often you may find comments from different people that contradict each other. Thus, it is worth noting that different admissions officers think differently as well, and there is no “single best way” to write a personal statement. Take all advice with a pinch of salt, and make sure you stay true to yourself – in other words, don’t let your personal statement become someone else’s. Ultimately, make sure to let your personality shine through what you write.

by Cheh Juan Tai Justina

Medical Student; University College London

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References

  1. UCAS. How to write a personal statement [Internet]. UCAS Advice. 2017 [cited 18 August 2018]. Available from: https://www.ucas.com/connect/blogs/how-write-personal-statement

  2. UCAS. How to write a UCAS Undergraduate personal statement [Internet]. UCAS. 2018 [cited 18 August 2018]. Available from: https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/applying-university/how-write-ucas-undergraduate-personal-statement

  3. Statement A. Anatomy of a Personal Statement [Internet]. Medsci.ox.ac.uk. 2018 [cited 18 August 2018]. Available from: https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/study/medicine/pre-clinical/applying/anatomy-of-ps

  4. The Princeton Review. 15 Tips for Your Medical School Personal Statement [Internet]. Princetonreview.com. 2018 [cited 18 August 2018]. Available from: https://www.princetonreview.com/med-school-advice/medical-school-personal-statement

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