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What should you not put in a personal statement for medical school?

The Medicine Personal Statement Portal

1

Avoid mentioning personal stories. Many students will focus on a particular memory that they deem to be important to their narrative – for example, they might begin by saying that they spent a lot of time in hospital over the past ten years with their mother, who was going through chemotherapy, and then had further health difficulties after, through their later teenage years. This doesn’t tell the admissions tutor anything about your drive for Medicine or the proactive work that you have done. It could give away that you’re focused on the wrong things, and that you haven’t centred your focus on recent experiences.

2

Don’t explain that you want to be a doctor because you want to help people as your starting point. Of course, you should want to help people – that’s part of being a doctor. However, a mature and sensible applicant will realise that this opener will raise more questions than it answers – why don’t you want to be a nurse, for example – and not show that you have a realistic understanding of Medicine. This links to the next point…

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3

Don’t paint a rosy picture of Medicine. Medicine is difficult, and a medical degree is no different. If you want to focus on Medicine, focus on the challenges that it poses and show an awareness of them, and that you are ready to face them.

4

Avoid seeking pity from the admissions tutors. Your goal should be to demonstrate your resilience, your ability to face adversity, and your drive. The worst thing you can do is use past experiences or events as an excuse; admissions tutors are looking for students that they can trust will be able to make it through five or six very tough years, in which they’ll need to balance their studies and their personal lives. If something difficult has happened to you in the past, frame it as a learning experience which you have grown from, and which demonstrates your resilience.

5

Don’t try to convince the admissions tutor with promises of future performance. No admissions tutor will believe a student’s statement that ‘I can guarantee to work harder than any other student, and to ensure that I do my best throughout the degree.’ Anyone can write a guarantee of future performance. Instead, evidence your potential through the things that you have already achieved. Show that you have worked hard through achievements, or show that you always do your most for any project through a particular example.

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6

Don’t focus too much on science. You’re applying to be a doctor, not a scientist. You should focus on empathy, resilience, interdisciplinary working, etc. Whilst taking a small part of the statement to focus on research is sensible if you’ve got good research under your belt, focusing too much on science or academia will paint you as someone less suited to be a doctor, and more suited to be a researcher. You need to ensure that you come across as an all rounder who’s ready to work with, and on behalf of, patients. 

7

Focus on the positives of what you’ve seen in your work experience when looking at individuals – focus on negatives when looking at the wider context. To explain this, think about a statement in which someone explains that they shadowed a ‘lazy’ doctor or a ‘mean’ nurse. This doesn’t add anything to the statement, makes the interviewer naturally question your assessment of others and thus your personality, and could make you seem either arrogant or lacking understanding of others. Instead, try to praise the work of those that you have followed, but acknowledge the negatives of the profession or situations which doctors now have to work – e.g. you could comment on how overworked the junior doctors were, and how they’d explained that they were concerned this could lead to their performance suffering.

8

Don’t waste time with pleasantries. That means you must avoid wasting precious characters on unnecessary, but polite, phrases like ‘To whom it may concern’ at the start, or ‘Thank you for taking the time to consider my application’ at the end. The university will find out that you’re polite when you get to interview – this is a personal statement, not an email or a letter!

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