To start, write a list of what you want to include in your statement and then get everything down into a draft. Don’t worry about the character count, the flow or the nitty gritty details just yet.
If you’re a slight perfectionist like me, the product of a first draft can be disheartening and a bit all over the place. A good personal statement takes time and many drafts, so it’s not perfection that we’re striving for at this stage. The key is to have something solid that you can start to work with!
The most important aspect of a personal statement is not what you’ve done, but what you’ve learnt from it. Play to your strengths and focus more on the experiences that you’ve gained the most from.
A basic but effective rule of thumb is: describe an experience, explain the skills you’ve gained, and explain why that skill is important for medicine. If you can, also explain how you know that skill is important, e.g. because of something you’ve seen in a clinical setting.
The only waffles we like are the kind with bananas and syrup on top! Put simply, your personal statement needs to flow whilst also being to the point. Once you’ve got everything down, go through every single sentence and ask yourself:
Is this sentence necessary?
Could this be more efficient, could I tie it in with another sentence?
Could this sentence sound better?
This way, you ensure that every bit of your statement is fighting for your place, without boring your reader with lengthy, unremarkable sentences. The ultimate goal is to “wow” your reader.
Finally, it is tempting to show your personal statement (AKA your pride and joy) to everyone under the sun, just to get opinions and advice.
Of course a fresh pair of eyes is always useful (especially for proofreading), but too many opinions can mean you’ll end up changing a perfectly good personal statement for the worse! Choose a few people who you trust to be your spelling checkers, inspiration and thesauruses for the next couple of months.
I hope this has been useful. Remember it’s a slow and long process, but the reward at the end is having something that you are proud to send off to the medical schools (and fingers crossed an interview or two as well)! Good luck with your applications!
Words: Katie Burrell
Katie is a third year medical student at Lancaster University. She also documents her journey through medical school on her personal blog – hopefulmedic.wordpress.com
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