Staring at the blank page, wondering how to impress the admissions tutors, is an experience many medical students have gone through.
Below we share some strategies, tips and insights to get started- whether you’re feeling writer’s block, haven’t even thought about what to put in your personal statement, or have finished it and just want to check you’re on the right track.
How to write an effective opener
There is one 6med top tip you need to remember when writing your opener (and actually, the whole personal statement) – the admissions tutors are human. This means:
- They are vulnerable to human biases and human emotions- they will remember certain phrases and will subconsciously make judgments when reading (both good and bad!)
- They will get bored!
Bearing this is mind, your opener should be eloquent, succinct and convey the necessary points. If you write it in a particularly clumsy way, it will be an effort to read and will make your points less clear.
Also, if you put something particularly controversial or try to write way, way outside the box then this could backfire.
Focus on clear wording, with every word having a purpose; you don’t need to demonstrate a masterful command of the English language. It goes without saying that spelling, punctuation and grammar should be good (for all parts of the Personal Statement).
In terms of a strategy, most students will write their introduction and then tweak it as part of the overall editing process.
This is completely fine and should enable you to assess it as part of the bigger overall picture.
Alternatively, you may find leaving it to the end will give you an easier task of “summarising” yourself.
What to include
To some extent, you can include anything in the opener. However, you want the tutor reading it to gain a picture of a motivated, diligent future doctor, so most students opt for two main areas, shown below:
Motivation for medicine
Why do you specifically want to do medicine?
The best approach here is to be honest- what really drew you to medicine? If you find yourself unable to pin down the reasons, think about what you wanted to do pre-GCSE, at GCSEs and at A-levels to see when you started to consider it.
You can use examples from your reading, work experience or personal life to provide evidence.
Interests in medicine
What about it specifically interests you?
This can overlap with motivations but can also demonstrate independent research and insight- particularly good for Oxbridge and other more “academic” universities.
Use examples of particular specialties, scientific topics or non-scientific areas (such as education, ethics or public health) to make the opener more interesting and personal to you
You can focus on one of these areas or a combination of the two, and can drop in work experience or wider reading to add strength to your points.
As with all sections of the Personal Statement, there are some key pitfalls to avoid:
- Don’t open with a cliché– either a fantastical story about a childhood epiphany or the ever-so-boring “I’ve always wanted to do medicine”
- Don’t reveal bad motivations! If you’re in it for the money, “fame” or to please your parents, you shouldn’t mention this and should actually seriously reconsider whether to apply. It’s a stressful process and requires a ton of internal motivation
- Don’t plagiarise an opener– even if you’ve read one that is great. Instead, think about why it is good and try to apply the principles to yourself
Should I mention Covid-19?
This is a tricky one, but the golden 6med top tip is to only include it if you had a personal experience beyond the average person, or if it genuinely did add to your motivation. Remember that there will probably be many students mentioning it in their Personal Statements, so without something original you run the risk of falling into the middle of the pack.
I have a creative idea in mind- should I do it?
As much as we love a creative idea, we would advise against this. The main reason isn’t necessarily because it may “backfire” (although this is true). It’s actually because the Personal Statement is supposed to be a professional document and if you try to be too creative with a novel approach you may come across less serious.
Can I use a personal illness or an illness of a loved one?
Again, this is a tricky one but the usual advice applies: if it is a genuine reason for you wanting to study medicine and you can provide personal reflection on it, then it may be a good way to demonstrate insight and interest in a way unique to you. Just make sure it’s relevant, not too much of a stretch (your brother’s nosebleed may not be a particularly strong example) and you’ve reflected on the experience.
Always remember the aim of the opener: you want to present yourself as a professional, motivated student who has a personal reason/s to study medicine. If you don’t provide any unique insight then you run the risk of appearing poorly-informed. They want to see you’ve looked into the profession, thought about it in detail and explored why it is the profession for you.
Next up, I’ll cover Work Experience and Reflection
This is one not to miss!
Struggling to make headway with your Personal Statement?
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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.