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What needs to be in there?

To be able to answer this question, we must ask another question – what is the point of a medical/dental PS? Well, it’s a collection of reflections on your UCAS form that gives universities an insight into your character, your drive for the career and a bit of your insight into what it means to be a doctor or dentist. It’s a bit like a contents page of a book, giving that initial overview. Okay that’s a bad analogy maybe, but you get it 🤣

Now, most of you guys probably haven’t written anything similar to a personal statement before in your lives – but not to worry! We have outlined a structure in this guide that we think is one of the best ways to lay out the contents of your statement in a way that’s easy to follow, yet holistic and diverse.

To start us off, here’s a quick summary of the UCAS personal statement structure:

  • Intro
  • Work experience
  • Volunteering
  • Extracurriculars
  • Supercurriculars
  • Conclusion

Let’s delve into each of these and really unpick what they’re about! 🔎

Introduction

This is, of course, the first paragraph of your statement and is usually 4-5 sentences long. It’s your opportunity to show off why you want to do medicine/dentistry. A common and useful way to do this is by talking through a personal experience you had that opened your eyes to the career or got you thinking THIS is what I want to do. It’s then really important to show how that links with the impact you want to make through your role as a doctor/dentist!

The intro is probably the hardest paragraph to write, so don’t worry if you spend ages tinkering with it or even changing it completely. Just try not to be cliche in your wording and make it sound as genuine as possible – that level of realness is what makes it shine, regardless of what the experience is you talk about.

Work experience

Following on from your intro, the work experience paragraph comes next, and is usually one large paragraph. This is one of the most important sections, as here is where you show your understanding of the role of a doctor/dentist. This includes the important skills and qualities they have and WHY they’re important along with some realities of the career e.g. the difficulties. The admissions teams want to see that you have a realistic insight into the career and what it entails.

You mainly do this through reflecting on individual cases you saw from your work experience, giving a brief account of what happened in the case and what you learnt from it (e.g. what skill the doctor/dentist showed and how it was useful in that scenario and therefore in medicine/dentistry in general).

It’s important to try to have 2-3 diverse experiences where you reflect on different things. Pick experiences that really stood out to you or stuck with you as well – that way it will sound more personable and unique.

Volunteering

This section is where you show your altruistic side alongside personal development of skills relevant to a medical/dental career – these will most likely be interpersonal skills, most notably empathy. Whereas work experience was your chance to show where you saw doctors or dentists exhibiting skills, the volunteering section (along with extracurriculars, which is next) is your chance to show where YOU have these same skills. This section is also usually one large paragraph like we outlined in the initial structure.

One important point is that getting volunteering in Covid times will be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be in a traditional setting like a care home or hospital! For example, you can volunteer as a telephone befriender or in your community with social action projects – anything where you get to show your caring side alongside a regular commitment to something.

Extracurriculars

Here is where you show off your range of skills and interests outside of school. It lets your personality shine through along with allowing you to show a skillset that’s transferable to medicine/dentistry. This section varies in length – sometimes it’s one paragraph, sometimes 2. Sometimes the extracurricular experiences are interwoven with other paragraphs. Remember that even though we gave a recommendation of structure, there’s still creative freedom!

You can include any sort of extracurriculars here so don’t be shy! Anything ranging from award winning projects to simply just hobbies you do in your free time. They want to get a flavour of who you are and this is part of it. Once again, they don’t care about the specifics of the contents of your personal statement, but rather what you learned from it – which we’ll touch upon elsewhere!

Supercurriculars

This section is all about the extra academic activities you’ve done outside of school. This can be reading books, doing an EPQ or MOOC, entering essay competitions etc. These allow you to show your interest in any area of medicine or medical science you’ve looked into.

Your reflections from these supercurriculars should be focussed on what you LEARNT from doing them, e.g. briefly summarising the point of your EPQ, or on the other hand a research skill you developed

This section is usually a lot shorter than others for a lot of statements – it’s more there to add diversity as ‘icing on the cake’. But for others e.g. those applying for Oxbridge or those who are more inclined towards the science of medicine, their supercurriculars section is longer.

Conclusion

This is the final and shortest section of the personal statement, 2-3 sentences max, where you finish off your statement on a passionate note.

Use it as a chance to reaffirm your decision to study medicine/dentistry, despite the difficulties and to show determination in pursuing the career. Linking the conclusion back to the intro is a good idea as it creates that cyclical structure that was such a big deal in GCSE English. 😉

The key to a good conclusion is to be humble and show your passion for having an impact and helping others!

To finish off…

DO NOT WORRY about following this structure strictly – you’re all different so have differing numbers and types of experiences – that’s the beauty of the application! Some of you who apply to Oxbridge will have a more detailed supercurriculars paragraph whereas others who do a lot of different extracurriculars and volunteering may have some mixed paragraphs containing bits of both – IT’S NOT THAT DEEP. The contents will vary and that’s calm!

As we’ve kinda said already – you can mix around your reflections if they fit better in other paragraphs e.g. if you have a work experience example where you saw effective teamwork, you could follow that up with an example of where you’ve shown teamwork in your own life, rather than having it in the extracurriculars section. Do what sounds natural and flows nicely. 😄

The difficulty you may face with your personal statement is more from the UCAS side of things, with the character constraints they place on you. We’ll have more content on this soon 😜