With this personal statement, the student received interview offers from St George’s University of London, Keele, Hull and York Medical School, and Exeter. They got admission offers from Exeter and St George’s, and chose St. George’s.
Here we break their personal statement down into parts, analysing each section so you can learn from their experience.
Be aware that not all medical schools use a personal statement in the traditional way. Make sure to read the course pages and entry requirements before you start writing your personal statement.
In my role as an emergency medic with an event ambulance company, I have seen the importance of a calm, scientific approach, relying on knowledge of clinical skills - especially trauma management - as well as learning from advice from my seniors. Whilst assisting a paramedic move a patient with an incomplete injury of the lumbar spine, I realised just how important that clinical knowledge is, having to rely on it in emergency situations to correctly diagnose a patient and use equipment accurately. It is also clear to me the wide range of skills needed to treat physiological problems in emergency and non-emergency situations.
The opening of your personal statement should make your reasons for choosing this subject clear. You don’t need a big, show-stopping opening line. Instead, focus on key examples that evidence your passion for your subject, like this student has. You should show that you have experience in medical roles, and demonstrate that you appreciate and understand the realities of medicine. Talk about the skills necessary for medicine, and show that you have them by using specific examples to back up your points. Be sure to use medical terms correctly.
If you have done independent research or training in the field, write about what you did and - more importantly - what you learnt. This shows not only your natural curiosity in the subject, but also your dedication to learning about the subject beyond the walls of a school classroom.
When I shadowed a GP on call with the local ambulance trust, it became obvious how diverse a doctor’s skill set must be to rapidly gain control of an emergency situation and lead the team. Watching the crew deal with a cardiac arrest, the importance of teamwork was clear as each member carried out their roles instinctively, communicating correctly for the best outcome of the patient. The urgency of this setting contrasted to a GP surgery where a doctor employs a more holistic approach due to a relationship built up over time. This led me to read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay to explore more long term experiences of being a doctor. Kay’s humour showed me the importance of managing your own mental health and resilience as a doctor; something I didn’t see in person during my work shadowing.
You should write about your medical work experience placements. Whilst you should mention briefly what you did to provide context, it is much more beneficial to talk about what you learnt. Reflect on a situation where you saw the necessity of a critical skill e.g. teamwork and why it was important.
You should also reflect on how you have seen something of the real world of medicine and the stresses and difficulties of it to show that you understand what you are applying for. If your work experience led you to research anything further, point this out too, again, to demonstrate your interest and curiosity in the subject.
I also took part in a voluntary placement in a care home. I had taken a MOOC in geriatric care and used that with my findings with the ambulance trust, to make a concerted effort to build an empathetic relationship with the residents. I had learned that this was a key skill when working with an aging population and was amazed by how much of a difference simply talking to the residents made to them. I had also learned about the complexities of managing pain - both physical and psychosomatic - and talked with the medical staff at the care home about their aims for patients and how they were going to achieve them, and the more complex procedures they were performing. These experiences exposed me to some of the difficult realities of medicine especially when there is little to be done to help a patient.
It is good to reflect on current issues in modern medicine, such as the elderly crisis. This shows you grasp the issues facing you and the realities of a career in medicine.
If you have done extra reading or studying that is relevant to your work experience, it’s important to share this and to be as specific as possible about what you learned and how you applied this either during or after your work experience. It shows that you have taken the time to research something that particularly interests you. Independent learning is also a key part of studying medicine so it’s vital you demonstrate this skill in your personal statement.
I enjoy learning and have studied beyond the school curriculum through a MOOC on the digestive system which allowed me to discover the role of the reticuloendothelial system in immune response. A case study in the MOOC also highlighted the value of this system in relation to liver failure which I researched further in articles from the New England Journal of Medicine. I am looking forward to studying the finer complexities of issues like this and using this to further my understanding of different specialisms and how they are connected.
You should demonstrate your skills in self-directed learning. Write about what you have done to learn more about the subject for which you are applying, and why the subject particularly interests you. Give a specific example using technical terms to demonstrate what you have learnt and why it was interesting. You don’t have to have taken lots of MOOCs: reading journals and non-fiction books, and listening to podcasts also shows your dedication to learning. Be aware, though, that whilst you may be interested in this field, you are not yet a doctor, so don’t overestimate your knowledge. You can show this by acknowledging that while what you learnt or read was interesting, you understand that there is a greater complexity to what you have touched upon.
At school, I have taken part in Biology and Physics Olympiads in which I gained gold and silver. I am also a member of the Science Society where I have engaged younger students by talking in assemblies about upcoming trips to local science museums. I also co-founded the school’s Medical Society, inviting a GP and the Executive MD of SWAST to talk to Year 9s-12s interested in studying medicine.
Bring in any other academic activities that you have been involved in like clubs, societies, working with younger pupils, and so on. You are demonstrating both your commitment to the wider community and your academic conscientiousness. If you have been involved in creating something relevant to your future degree - like a medical society, or medical related book club - you should write about it to show that you have taken the initiative to start something.
Outside the curriculum, I am a keen musician, playing piano at grade 6 and singing in two school choirs. I also enjoy sports, particularly swimming and playing rugby, having represented Devon at U16 level. Performing sport and music both as a solo and in a team has helped me find the balance between being independent and being a strong team member. I am much more confident on the rugby pitch as a result of being solely in control of my success as a swimmer. As a monitor and Deputy Head of House, I have developed my leadership skills, and my responsibilities require me to relate empathetically to help younger children with their problems. I would like to continue to play sport and be involved in other activities at university to further develop my skills and interests.
Save your extra-curricular activities to the end and make sure to give examples of how you have gained or used key skills, rather than listing them. Although you are applying to join a university community, it is not necessarily true that admissions tutors place a higher value on applicants who want to be involved in wider university life. What they want to see instead is your overall skill set and interests as these will also contribute to you being a great student. Talk about your outside interests and hobbies, and relate these to the skills you will need to be successful in medicine e.g. teamwork, communication, caring for others, etc. Be careful not to repeat skills that you have already demonstrated though - doctors need a range of skills, not just one or two that they are really good at.
There is no conclusion to this statement. Although you can write a closing sentence, it is not necessary to write any kind of conclusion. Conclusions don’t tend to add much to a personal statement, particularly if your other sections have enough depth and detail; in fact, you will probably just find yourself writing a summary or repeating yourself. It may be better to write nothing, especially if you are struggling with your word count.