In our previous Hangout (here it is if you missed it) we discussed the personal statement in detail, as yet another hurdle in the medical school application.
The thing is though, for the tutors assessing your application it isn’t a hurdle- it’s more like a jigsaw.
Each stage of the application builds an overall picture of you, the student, and as the process continues they get closer to the final impression. The personal statement is therefore a golden opportunity to fill in your own personal jigsaw with a surprisingly large amount of information and set yourself up for interview success.
Personal statement basics
|Requirements||Do Include||Don’t Include|
|4000 characters and 47 lines|
You must stay under both limits!
Submit to UCAS before the 15th October deadline
|Reasons for medicine|
Interests and reading
Hobbies and wider interests
Awards and achievements
|Anything that is not true!
Exaggerated language and stories
Spelling and grammar mistakes
How might the personal statement be used in the interview?
Anything you mention in the personal statement can come up at interview.
For this reason, we’ll repeat the obvious mistakes that, despite their absurdity, students still make every year:
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t exaggerate.
- Don’t mention anything you didn’t do/read/experience.
With that being said, here are the main sections and how they may be used.
This is a classic headache for students and we suggest an honest approach – most students don’t have a “eureka!” moment.
In fact, describing a reasoned approach to the decision is probably far more sensible.
If your reasons include a particular disease that you, or a loved one, experienced then this is valid and they may ask you to go into more detail about the disease itself, the way it was managed and/or what insights you got into the profession as a result.
Remember this isn’t the X Factor and they’re more looking for reflections rather than an emotional literature piece (although empathy is good!).
They may also ask the “classic” questions leading on from it, such as;
- “If you enjoy science why not natural sciences/a straight science degree?” or
- “If you want to help people why not nursing/pharmacy?”
They aren’t trying to trick you – they want to see you’ve thought about the profession and why this one in particular is good for you.
Preparing for these questions in advance is the best way because you should be thinking about these questions in general, to make sure it really is the best choice for you.
If the interview is the first time you’ve considered this, you might not present yourself as the strongest candidate!
Mentioning specific interests is a great way to demonstrate passion for the subject, especially if you’ve read up on it or done any projects (e.g. EPQ) on it.
Be prepared to answer questions on any aspect.
For example, if you mention a specific disease you may get questions on the cause of the disease, similar diseases, how you manage it etc.
This won’t be anything unfair (even for Oxbridge!) unless you claim to have studied it to an exceedingly high level. If it genuinely interests you, reading up on it should be something you want to do anyway, so as long as you’re being honest this part should be, dare I say it… fun?
6MED TOP TIP
With reading, the best way to prepare for follow up interview questions is to reflect and take notes as you read. Nothing too detailed, just jot down your thoughts and impressions and anything particularly interesting or striking. This is especially important for books on medicine as a profession, which is a great way to show you’ve looked into the profession and whether it interests you.
Writing about work experience was difficult enough, but with Covid-19 there is now an added difficulty in getting work experience in the first place!
This is something we addressed in our hangout (check it out here) but essentially don’t worry- they will understand you may not get a placement in a hospital.
Questions about work experience will focus on reflection.
- What did you see?
- How did it make you feel?
- Was there anything particularly good or bad that you saw the doctors doing?
- If so, how would you do it differently?
6MED TOP TIP
Ask one of your seniors to regularly “debrief” with you on work experience, to discuss your experiences and reflect on how they made you feel (especially anything particularly challenging or interesting). This will make it far easier to write about your impressions in your personal statement, and when quizzed at interview it’ll show an active interest in what you were doing.
Although a minor afterthought for many students, this is a great way to show off a personal (do you see what we did there?) side, to make you less of an application and more of a well-rounded human!
Applications tutors will genuinely take an interest if you have anything particularly interesting here, and may use it as an icebreaker or something to encourage discussion about the University (e.g., if you mention you’re a keen rower and your University has an active rowing scene).
Remember that they want applicants who are clever and will suit medicine, but also will be good to teach and interact with.
If you’ve got interests outside of medicine, it’ll make you appear much more approachable as a student!
As you can see, being proactive about your personal statement can set you up for interview success. It’s important to remember the analogy of a jigsaw, because each student has their own overall picture and you should be aiming to build yours up as accurately as possible.
Also, it’s far easier for them to discount a jigsaw with missing pieces rather than decide between two very good, very similar pictures. In other words, get the basics right and build a solid foundation to your application, otherwise you’ll stand out and find yourself less likely to be considered!
Make sure you don’t miss our next Hangout – the next one is on the BMAT Section 1 and 3. Sign up for a reminder here.
Struggling to make headway with your Personal Statement?
We felt the same way. That’s why we created the Personal Statement Bundle – all the tools you need to craft the perfect Personal Statement in one place!
We’re biased, but it really is pretty great.
If money is an issue – this need not be the case. We offer very generous bursaries to level the playing field for everyone – don’t let money be the thing that holds you back! Look at our bursaries here.