What makes a good personal statement?
Welcome, welcome, welcome…to the world of personal statements 🌍
Let me guess – you’re on a hunt, trying to find out how to write a good personal statement, but don’t know where to go?
Well, you’re in luck because Medology has your back again. This guide will give you the artillery, step by step to bang out a statement that will impress any medical/dental school in the UK.
So let’s get into it 😋
The Basics 🐣
Let’s run over some logistics first. Do you guys know the rules around the personal statement before you have to adhere to? There’s a few key pointers:
- It should be written within 4000 characters (not words!)
- You must submit it by 15th October on UCAS Apply
- It should be no more than 47 linesSide point: when you submit your statement, you don’t actually need to put paragraph line breaks which helps you reach the line count much easier!
Cool. But why is this document so important?
Universities might use the statement when assessing your application! They’ll use it in one of two ways:
- Used as a small part of the procedure to select you for an interview
- Used as the basis of questions in interviews later down the timeline
Now this might blow you away, but the reality is that most universities won’t read your personal statement at all in the entire application 🤭
But does that mean we can brush it to the side? Absolutely not!
The statement is the tone setter for your application. It’s a chance to collate your experiences and come to terms with…
- The story behind how your passion for a career path was born
- How your work experience/reading has informed your understanding of Medicine/Dentistry
- Reflection on your own qualities that make you a well-suited to a patient-centred, healthcare career
From experience we’ve seen students who put effort into their statements do well in the rest of their application, so give it your 100%.
‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’ 🚀
At Medology, we like to employ the Early Start Mindset.
Eh, what’s that?
We believe the work starts 6-12 months prior to putting ‘pen on paper’. In the lead-up to writing your statement, pour your energy into one supercurricular, extracurricular, voluntary and work experience activity that will serve to:
- Develop your skills
- Expose you to a caring environment
- Learn how to interact with people from all ages and walks of life
- Allow you to appreciate the realities of your chosen career
- Note: virtual work experience is acceptable and deemed just as worthy as in-person due to COVID-19
Well done! You’ve now got these activities lined up and you’re grinding through them every single week. But is that enough? Not quite. Every old applicant will do that, so you need to separate the wheat from the chaff 👀
“Guys, don’t be heedless on this journey into healthcare. Learn to become thinkers!” – Me.
That means you need to pay attention to how your experiences are developing you! And we’ll show you a case study of a student who did this well.
Let’s take the case of Shan, a Medology Lion, who aced his application to Medicine/Dentistry. If we dive into the notes he took whilst on his care home placement in Y12, we can see why he did so well in his application – he was introspective with how his interactions were developing him:
- “I overcame hearing difficulties with an elderly patient”
- As a result, I began to appreciate the importance of displaying responsive body language and listening attentively if you want to form a bond with someone
- “I had numerous conversations with residents who felt lonely”
- As a result, I learnt that empathetic conversations stem from you asking open-ended questions to get a person to open up about their emotions
- “I regularly helped the nursing staff prepare meals for the elderly residents”
- I learnt to organise with people from different age groups and personalities, it taught me that respect is an integral part of team working
You need to take this same introspective approach as Shan. Because if you reflect like he did, you’ll build the ultimate firepower to sell yourself to medical/dental schools.
“Applicants who consciously challenge themselves to critically analyse how their experiences are enhancing their skills tend to give off the best reflective accounts in their personal statements” – A Medology Application Consultant (A fancy way to say me, again 😅)
Don’t fall into these traps 🕳️
Too often we see applicants trying to cram their statement with every little thing they’ve seen or achieved in their life. Let’s be real though, do you have the space to write so much? No. So if you want to synthesise a masterpiece, don’t do the following:
- Act like Mr/Miss PerfectPlease don’t write your personal statement with the tone/vibe that you’re perfect it sounds arrogant 😞It’s better to actively acknowledge that you aren’t perfect, but you appreciate that life’s a journey of improving on yourselfLet me show you an example of how 2 applicants opened a paragraph:Applicant 1: “My great communication skills were developed as I did one year of volunteering at a charity shop. I am a very sociable person, so I find it easy to talk to new people which makes me great at building a rapport with others.”
Applicant 2: “As a charity shop assistant, I initially struggled to bond with new customers, but by pushing myself out of my comfort zone I learnt the value of adopting a friendly aura to establish rapport.”
Open your paragraphs like Applicant 2.
They come across as far more modest, and have the maturity to recognise that experiences develop you, but they don’t make you perfect! Consequently, they sell themselves far better.
- Write a shopping list of skills you’ve developed“Doing X work experience taught me why doctors need to be good communicators, team workers, leaders, empathetic individuals, resilient and more importantly honest”Woah, woah, woah! Hold your horses.This is a classic problem we’ll see in statements – bombarding your reflections with too many skills, at once.It’s good that this applicant wants to show their insight into medicine through focussing on the skills doctors need to possess. BUT REMEMBER 2 THINGS!
- You don’t need to prove you’ve seen every skill – exploring 2/3 with heart is better
- One skill + one reflection at a time, whether you’re talking about yourself or your insight into Medicine/Dentistry
- Getting your statement reviewed by 10s of peopleA lion is decisive, efficient and loyal – apply this mindset when you get your personal statement checked. Guys, you only need to show a good draft of your statement to 2/3 people who you trust – that’s all.We recommend going with:
- A teacher who can check SPaG
- A reliable doctor/dentist or medical/dental student
- A close friend you trust, who’s also in the loop with the application process
Khalas. Close the chapter and move on 😴
The secret ingredient 🍛
Reflection – the main principle underpinning a strong statement.
We’ve touched on this word a lot in the guide, but what is it?
If we were to define reflection in the context of your personal statement, it’s about adopting a style of writing that shows you take lessons from every experience you face. There’s 3 key departments which you need to reflect on:
- Your own behaviours towards othersE.g. what mistakes were there in your behaviours when you started your volunteering that you had to correct over time?
- The caring environmentE.g. how specifically did your work experience teach you about how dentists communicate effectively with patients?
- Those being cared forE.g. how did you notice what true empathy towards a vulnerable person entails through the actions of a healthcare professional?
Do you know one thing that ties all 3 of those questions together?
It’s this notion of being able to show you learn from those around you, and by evaluating your own actions. And if you can convey reflection properly it shows modesty, a growth mindset and the thinking you need to be a good healthcare professional.
Now to wrap things up, let’s look at a reflection masterpiece so you can see this skill in action:
“Observing a doctor deal with an anxious patient on a hospital placement opened my eyes to the power of empathy. Whilst words struggled to relieve the patient, adopting a sensitive and gentle approach created manifested a comforting dynamic. This helped the patient feel visibly relaxed, prompting them to openly share their emotions to the doctor. From here, I noticed how the doctor put the patient’s concerns at the centre of their attention to show true care. This taught me that connecting with patients is an art that stems from emotional intelligence.”
This is beautiful guys, 10/10. But what makes it so good? It’s the emphasis this student has taken on picking out minor details about the doctor’s actions, but sharing their own, well-thought out learning points.
A final note… 😊
The take home message I’ll end on is… write with heart, and be yourself.
The personal statement is personal. Let your voice shine through, and always back your own judgement 💙
Take things step by step, and you’ll start to see a beautiful story emerge.
Happy writing people, and DM us if you have any questions, okay?