Personal Statement Mistakes To Avoid

Here are common Personal Statement mistakes many students make... and how to avoid them. Find out what they are here.

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Sure, there are many mistakes students make every year, but without a doubt, there are three that will seriously harm your chances, even if you’ve done the necessary work beforehand.

After spending so much time and effort building up a database of experience and jumping through the medical hoops, the last thing you want to do is not tell the admissions tutors exactly how good you are!

So read on for our top tips on mistakes you should avoid at all costs.

Mistake 1: It’s a personal statement

Okay I admit, this one seems really obvious on the surface. However, think about the “ideal” personal statement structure, which has a finite amount of topics to discuss. Chances are you’ve heard the same sequence of topics being quoted as the most effective approach- which is true.

The problem is, this doesn’t really give you room to be personal. Remember that the admissions tutors have a collection of letters and numbers up to this point- you may as well be a colour of paint to them.

So if the structure doesn’t allow personality, then it must be the content.

The key point here is to inject your personality by telling them your personal, specific impressions.

This is true even if your reasons for studying medicine don’t extend beyond “liking science” and “wanting to help people” (don’t worry, in a 6med poll, these were by far the two most popular reasons). However, the key point is to communicate this in a more personal way.

PS

Mistake 2: Description addiction

What’s the reason for getting a reference for your work experience? It’s because a certain proportion of students are randomly asked to provide evidence (names, places, who you were with etc.) just to verify.

So why would you waste precious characters and describe this in your personal statement? The value doesn’t come from what you do, but instead from what you gained from it. To visualise it, let’s develop the idea of “getting into the admissions tutor’s head”:

What ARE They Assessing You on?

  • Have they demonstrated motivation and interest in medicine?
  • Have they demonstrated insight and reflection?
  • How have they broadened their interest and knowledge?
  • Can we discuss their interests at the interview?

What Are They NOT Assessing You on?

  • Stated reasons for Medicine.
  • Have they done work experience?
  • Have they done reading?
  • Have they mentioned their interests?

So, by simply stating what you did, you’re not answering their questions. This means:

Mistake 3: Clean it up

The personal statement is a professional document, which does demand a certain level of formality and professionalism.

Unfortunately, many students see this as an opportunity to whip out the synonym function and write long, convoluted sentences. The difficulty of the personal statement is getting everything into the line/character limit and communicating the information you want.

So as a golden tip:

This necessitates aggressive editing and removing messy, clunky sentences for clearer ones that make the point. Here is an example of what I mean:

EXAMPLE #1

“My unyielding motivation to pursue a medical degree was underpinned by two weeks’ work experience in the bustling corridors of a local hospital. I was astounded by the brevity of interaction in Accident and Emergency, where the overworked doctors would navigate ever-growing patient lists and administrative constraints.

The juggling act of time and patient care was admirable, with the doctors demonstrating impressive fortitude and resilience in the oppressive NHS environment. I will endeavour to attain such professional proficiency along the course of my studies and medical career.”

(87 words, 590 characters)

EXAMPLE #2

“To gain further insight into medicine, I shadowed junior doctors in A&E. I saw first-hand the need for strict organisation and documentation to cope with the time constraints.

However, I was surprised to see that the doctors still maintained compassion and demonstrated empathy. One particular patient, an upset mother whose son had injured his ankle, was very thankful to the doctors for explaining everything they were doing.

This demonstrated to me the value of attending to patient needs at the core, even when time may be limited.”

(87 words, 537 characters)

Notice that the second paragraph is the same number of words, fewer characters, and tells you much more about the student. There is more reflection, and personal experience and it reads a lot cleaner.

The first paragraph may seem like hyperbole, but I have read and seen many student statements like this. Also, the second paragraph is by no means perfect, but demonstrates the principles of making clear statements, not going for stylistic adjective overkill and giving personal reflections.

5 things to avoid on your personal statement

1. Templates 

Your personal statement is exactly that, yours. Don’t be tempted to use a template online. Universities and UCAS screen each and every statement through a plagiarism service. So, if you and a friend both use the same template personal statement online, you will both be caught out. If you can find it online, so can they!

2. Very Junior Awards

Whilst your parents would have been very proud of you for gaining your swimming badges, don’t include them in your personal statement. Instead, showcase your relevant, recent achievements and what you have learnt from them and why they make you the perfect applicant for medical school!

3. Clichés

Medicine personal statements are littered with cliches, particularly in the opening paragraph. If you use a cliche, you are effectively wasting some of your 4,000 character limit, so avoid them at all costs. Keep your statement unique and straight to the point. Leave an impression of the person marking your statement and make it as memorable as possible.

4. Poor Grammar

Each letter in your personal statement is precious, so use them wisely! Also, have someone proofread your statement to ensure that your grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct.

5. Specific Medical Schools

You might think that personalising your statement towards one university will stand you in good stead for that university, as you are going the extra mile to show your commitment. However, name dropping your reasons for wanting to join a specific medical effectively means you will get three rejections before the other universities have had a chance to finish reading your statement. Keep your personal statement general and only mention particulars if you are applying to similar universities, such as all PBL universities, as you want to appeal to as many universities as possible.

Final Considerations

With so much to think about for the personal statement, it can be easy to fall into one of these pitfalls. Hopefully, now you can evaluate what you’ve done, whether you’re virtually finished or yet to start. If you find yourself getting lost, always go back to basics:

  1. Think like an admissions tutor.
  2. Be reflective and clear.

Are you feeling stuck with your personal statement? You’re not the only one.

6med’s Complete Personal Statement Bundle gives you all the tools you need to craft the perfect Personal Statement. You’ll get a place on our Crash Course, 5 x edits from us, and our Workbook which will give you tons of examples and advice. 

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