Personal statement

Your UCAS personal statement is an important part of your application, and it can often be the most difficult part.

Nearly all applicants to medical school have exceptionally high grades, which makes it hard for schools to distinguish between candidates. A good personal statement can make you stand out from the crowd, and starts to convince the admissions tutor to pick you! The aim of your personal statement is to demonstrate that you are a potential asset to the medical school and, once you’re qualified, to the medical profession.

Different universities use the personal statement in various ways, so make sure you are aware of the selection procedure and how they use the personal statement before you apply.

Personal statements can be hard to write, so start with a list of things you want to mention and work from there. Remember that it must all be relevant -- you need to be able to justify why you have included something!

Preparing a good statement takes time. With application for medicine being early entry (October), you should really be writing a draft in the summer before year 13. It may take several drafts to perfect your statement, and the earlier you start, the more time you have to make improvements.

Structuring your personal statement

Introduction and why you want to study medicine
  • Explain your motivation for medicine.
  • Talk about any ideas or concepts that you think are significant or relevant.
  • If you've had any personal experiences of health services, you might want to include them.
  • Try to avoid anything that will make you come across as 'creepy'!
  • Be original and memorable! The admissions team read a lot of applications, so yours needs to stand out. Try to avoid clichéd opening phrases, like these yawners from recent HYMS applications:
    • "From a young age I have always been interested in…" (309 times)
    • "From an early age I have always been interested in…" (292 times)
    • "For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with…" (196 times)
    • "For as long as I can remember I have been interested in…" (166 times)
    • "Academically, I have always been a very determined and…" (138 times)
Related work and voluntary experience
  • Outline medically-related experience. Remember to give timescales ("every Sunday for 6 months").
  • Reflect! What did your experience teach you about yourself and the medical profession? Summarise what you contributed and give specific examples of any care you gave.
  • There's no need to mention specific places ("York Hospital").
  • Pointing out that you organised something yourself is a good way to show drive and organisational skills.
  • Include some reflection on the pros and cons of being a doctor, acknowledging the difficulties they can face, based on your experience.
Non-medically-related experiences
  • This is an important part of the statement, so don’t leave it out! You can start to show that you have the key attributes and skills of a doctor (leadership, teamwork, communication, self-motivation, etc) by referring to your other experiences.
  • You shouldn’t just list things you've done or what skills you have. A skill should be backed up by evidence from an activity: part-time job, involvement in the community, any extracurricular activities.
Other interests

Talk about any hobbies you have that aren't directly related to medicine, and explain how regularly you take part and what level or standard you're at. Try to explain why it's useful and interesting. Choose hobbies and interests that show different different skills -- don't just list many examples of one skill.

Conclusion
  • Summarise the reasons why you'll be a good doctor.
  • Sound confident but not arrogant – don’t assume they will offer you a place.
  • Don’t address a university by name, as the same personal statement will be sent to all of your choices!
  • Keep your conclusion punchy -- maybe three lines.

Pointers from a HYMS admissions tutor

  • Try to start and finish your statement using a stand-out phrase. It could be a quote, a personal experience or something unusual about you. This grabs the reader's attention at the beginning and will make your statement more memorable.
  • Don't waffle or include quotes just for the sake of it.
  • While writing your statement you should be thinking about all aspects of yourself as a person. You want to show you're a well-rounded individual with a varied life outside of study.
  • Check, check and check again! Get as many people as possible to check your finished personal statement. This helps to avoid silly grammar or spelling mistakes, and ensures it all makes sense.
  • Be relatively formal. Do not use abbreviations -- for instance, "don't" should be "do not".
  • Avoid endlessly repeating words ("interest", "interested", "interesting").
  • Be concise and structured. Avoid just stringing together lots of connectives ("also").
  • Don't reel off lists when writing about your work experience. Instead, give a few examples and then reflect.
  • A word of warning: do not lie or exaggerate! Some universities do check up on your work experience, so be careful fabrication and exaggeration could cause you to lose your place.