What should you not write in a personal statement for medical school?
Advice & Insight From Personal Statement Specialists
University admissions tutors can recognise common style and content pitfalls straight away. A cliché phrase or wrongly used quote can turn an excellent personal statement into a clumsily written or pretentious one. We know how hard you have worked so far, gaining work experience, and persisting with you’re a-level studies – knowing what not to write can help you to present these talents producing a well-worded statement. Admissions tutors may be reading through thousands of personal statements. They will be intolerant of common mistakes and able to identify plagiarised untrue statements immediately. You do not want your admissions tutor rolling their eyes at that ineffective joke.
What phrases/ words/ writing techniques to avoid in your personal statement:
- Lies – plain and simple stick to the truth. There can be an inordinate amount of pressure to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Remember even believable exaggerations can come to haunt you further into your application journey.
- Overly altruistic or excessive thesaurus- sourced words – you want your personal statement to be easy to read. Aim for a concise style which presents your achievements and goals with clarity. Most medicine degrees will involve assessments based on extended writing, show you have the skills to write well and maturely. Clear, specific examples and rigorous analysis is what you are aiming for.
- Negative statements: keep it positive and back up your points with specific examples. You will have plenty of positive achievements and skills you can talk about in your personal statement, take the time to think long and hard about what content you want to include.
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What not to include in the introduction of your personal statement
Writing the introduction of your personal statement can seem like the most daunting task. Although we can’t tell you exactly what to write we can advise you what to steer away from.
- Quotes and sayings – Be aware that quotes may lose their effect where they are taken out of context. The word “personal” in personal statement is indicative that admissions tutors want to hear YOUR ideas and views rather than what somebody else has to say.
- An anecdote to add a personal touch and tell your story. The general advice is to stir away from personal / family related health experiences as motivations for studying medicine. Your interest in the career wants to come across as genuine and factual, admissions tutors will have no emotional appeal to sob stories so avoid looking for sympathy.
- An introduction beginning with “I” – Although it is ok to use the first-person narrative in your personal statement active sentences read better.
- Keep cliches out – It may be true- you really have dreamt of being a doctor for many years. However you must remember, young children do not have a proper insight into the roles, responsibilities, and challenges of a doctor. Your true understanding of your suitability for the role is unlikely to have been developed until you did work experience. Admission tutors don’t want to know about the occupation of your inspirational parents. Other age-old cliches to avoid are “ Ive always been fascinated by…” and “ I have a deep enduring admiration for doctors.”
What not to include / do in the body of your personal statement:
- Lists and excessive referencing of achievements – In the body of your statement it can be tempting to want to reference every achievement and experience you have had. Managing to squeeze in all your extracurricular, super- curricular and work experience roles can be challenging as well as referencing the diversity of skills you possess. Remember your personal statement is only a 4,000 character overview of yourself. Most universities will give you the opportunity to explain your experiences and explore your skills during the interview stage. You are better to develop a few examples adding value to your writing then simply telling admissions tutors what they already know. Remember they have access to your UCAS form and application so there is no need to state any grades or exam results you have achieved.
- Showing off – It natural to try to come across as intelligent and knowledgeable but remember you are writing to an expert in the field. Names of complex surgeries or procedures will not impress the reader, they want to know what you learnt and took away from the experience not just objectively what you saw. Avoid going into depth about medical procedures or theories unless they influenced your worldview and motivation to study medicine.
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What not to write in your Personal Statement Conclusion
- New points and ideas – Your personal statement conclusion should pull together all your key points. You’re aiming to advance the understanding achieved so far in your personal statement.
- Exclamations and statements such as “thank you for reviewing my application” or “ I appreciate your consideration” – this comes across as immature and ignorant of academic culture.
- A statement to state that this is your conclusion: Avoid statements such as “in conclusion, to conclude in summary” – You want your conclusion to have focus and direction so shouldn’t need to remind the admissions tutor that you are concluding your personal statement.
Avoiding all these mistakes we’ve listed above will help you produce a strong and well-written Personal Statement. Remember to keep it personal and truthful avoiding these pitfalls in the process.