10-Step Checklist for Your Medicine Personal Statement
Got a finished draft of your personal statement for medical school? Proofreading and editing is key to making it perfect! Here’s our ten-step checklist to work your way through to make your personal statement the best it can be before sending off your application.
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1. Does your opening paragraph give an insight into why YOU want to do medicine?
The first paragraph of your personal statement should give the admissions tutor an idea about what motivates you to want to study medicine. Generic is not what is required here – you should make this paragraph about your personal reasons for wanting to become a doctor…don’t just say what every applicant will say (ie. the satisfaction of helping patients, teamwork, making a difference etc.) but talk about what initially sparked your interest – this could be a particular event in your life, for example.
2. Have you reflected on what you learnt from each of the experiences that you mention (eg. volunteering, work experience etc.), rather than simply listing them?
It’s incredibly important that you don’t just list every experience that you’ve done, without showing some effort of reflection. Medical schools are more interested in what you learn from your experiences, than what these experiences are. To illustrate, it’d be better to properly reflect on a regular GP placement than to simply state that you volunteered at some rural medical camp in Africa without any proper effort of reflection. It’s not about what you’ve done, but about what you’ve learnt!
3. Does your personal statement include a sentence or two about your hobbies/outside interests?
This is often something that’s easily forgotten about, but is a vital part of a good medical personal statement. Medical school is stressful – admissions tutors want to know that you have ways to relax and will not burn out under the pressure of the course and career. Hobbies and outside-of-medicine interests also show that you are a well-rounded individual and not just simply an academically-able person.
This point probably sounds silly and I’m sure most people will have used correct grammar in their personal statements, but it doesn’t hurt to double check before the final submission. Look out for things like whether you have put spaces between full stops/commas and the subsequent word and whether you’ve used apostrophes (eg. in words like can’t) – I know it’s tempting to miss them out for the sake of character count, but you shouldn’t!
5. Do you demonstrate (preferably with specific examples) that you have the qualities required in a doctor?
You should refer to the qualities needed to be a doctor in your personal statement and should demonstrate that you possess these qualities using specific examples (ie. from your work experience, volunteering, DofE). Be careful not to simply list these qualities or state that you possess them. Instead you should make what you say more believable by using examples that demonstrate that you do indeed possess these qualities.
6. Are you able/willing to elaborate and justify everything that you’ve written in your personal statement?
You should go through each sentence of your personal statement and think about what you could be asked about at interview. If you are able to talk more about something that you’ve written, keep it in, but if you find that you are unable to do so, maybe consider removing it from your personal statement – you don’t want to be asked about something at interview and then get stuck!
To see whether you can elaborate further on all of your points, give a copy of your statement to someone who’s not read it before and get them to ask you questions about it and see how well you’re able to answer.
7. Have you included an indication of the timescale you’ve been volunteering for?
Medical schools want to see a long-term volunteering commitment, and not just a day or two here and there. Ensure that you state the amount of time you’ve been volunteering for (eg. six months) so that the box of ‘long-term volunteering commitment’ can be ticked!
8. Do most of the sentences you’ve written ‘add something’ to your personal statement?
Characters are limited and you don’t have much space to sell yourself when writing your personal statement, so you must use your characters wisely! What I mean by whether a sentence ‘adds something’ to your personal statement is: does it tell the reader something about YOU, or about something YOU have learnt – if not, consider taking it out.
There’s no point saying something like ‘I observed the GP in a few consultations, she referred a patient with diabetes to a specialist in the hospital’ without then following it up with something that this particular event taught you. You should systematically go through all the sentences in your personal statement and check whether they ‘add something’ to your personal statement.
9. Do you demonstrate that you know what the realities of being a doctor really are in your personal statement?
In your personal statement, you should acknowledge the fact that you understand that a career in medicine is NOT as glamorous as it is often portrayed to be, and is often stressful and challenging. This will show the admissions tutors that you can appreciate the reality of working as a doctor and are prepared and well-informed about the challenges that you may face along the way.
10. Does your final paragraph sum up why you think you are well suited to the course and career?
Your final paragraph/conclusion should sum up why you think you’d be a suitable candidate for the course and if you have enough characters, to reiterate your motivation and desire to pursue medicine. Try not to include any new examples here, but rather summarise what’s already been said/refer back to what you’ve already said previously.
Words: Tahmeena Amin
Tahmeena is a first year medical student at the University of Manchester. She also has her own blog: www.diaryofanspiringmedic.wordpress.com where she shares her journey to and through medical school, as well as advice for aspiring medics!
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