Makeen Baroudi

22nd June 2020

How Do Universities Use Your Personal Statement?

  • How important is my medicine personal statement?
  • Do universities read my personal statement?
  • What are red flags for university personal statements?
  • What makes a good personal statement?

1. Introduction

First of all let’s establish something. Medicine is different to other courses. If you are applying for medicine, universities will most definitely read your personal statement.* This is unlike some courses where not much weight is given to the personal statement. Now that this is established, the difference is in the way different medical schools use your personal statements.

* Very important note: Brighton And sussex is the only medical school that does not use the personal statement at any stage in the application process, for UK applicants.

2. How Important Is Your Personal Statement?

The true answer for this question is that it depends on the university you are applying for.

Some universities use personal statements purely to look for evidence for your enthusiasm to study medicine and your understanding of the role of a doctor. This is where the medicine-related extracurricular activities and volunteering helps. For example, Birmingham University looks for evidence that you have done extracurricular activities and have had an exposure to healthcare settings. In other words as an example, things that Birmingham look for would be sports that you do in your free time, work experience and volunteering that you have done.

Other universities look for evidence of other things in your personal statement. For example, Oxford and Cambridge focus heavily on academia and academic achievements in your personal statement, compared to other universities that focus less on the academic aspects and more on certain personal attributes, such as Lancaster University.

    As mentioned above, Brighton & Sussex Medical School do not use personal statements at any point throughout the application process for UK applicants.

Some universities choose to quantify your personal statement and give it a score. For example, Nottingham University Medical School gives it a maximum of 16 points. The ‘points’ system is more common in universities where all aspects of the application are quantified to make it more possible to determine candidates to be invited for an interview

In some universities, the importance of a personal statement changes from one candidate to another. For example, Oxford University Medical School mainly uses GCSE grades and BMAT scores to invite candidates to interview. Nevertheless, if one of these two things isn’t as high as the Oxford standard then the applicant’s personal statement will be of increased importance. The reason for this is that admission staff will look for any extenuating circumstances that may have put the applicant at a disadvantage. It is, therefore, important to talk about any extenuating circumstances in your personal statement.

There is a huge variety in how different universities use your personal statement. As you can see above, each university is different. We, therefore, highly advise that you visit the universities’ you are thinking of websites to learn more about how they use personal statements.

You can learn much more about the BMAT, how to revise for it and our top tips by having a look at our BMAT guide.

3. What Makes A Good Personal Statement?

Overall, we can split the personal statement into two parts: written English and quality of content. (Have you seen this classification somewhere?!). Therefore a good personal statement is one that covers both aspects coherently.

To cover your written English coherently you need to focus on your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Using sophisticated terminology also helps. Though don’t overuse this! Basically tips that apply to good English in normal essay writing also apply here.

To cover your quality of content coherently is the part of your personal statement where you need to be specific. For example, specificity about the sort of work experience that you did and what that taught you. You have an opportunity here to make your personal statement tailored for certain universities you have applied to.

For example, looking at the information above. Lancaster University look for personal attributes. Therefore, you can cover your personal attributes in this section.

You can write something like, “When I was shadowing my local GP I noticed the vital importance of communication between healthcare staff. The GP’s language was noticeably different when he talked to the surgeon compared to when he talked to his patient”.

4. What Makes A Bad Personal Statement?

You should start thinking about your personal statement at the beginning of A-levels if not before. Make sure that you have evidence or certificates of all the extra things that you say you have done. Did you do that one day course thats related to improving your team work? Add it in.

A week before you write your personal statement should be enough time to spend on planning it. This is assuming that you had thought about writing your personal statement in mind for a while. Jot down all the things that you think will make your statement look good and will make you stand out. You can also think of any events that you attended which made you want to study medicine.

5. Writing Your Personal Statement...

When it comes to writing your personal statement you will most definitely need a draft to start with. You will make tons of changes if not more to that initial draft, so don’t worry too much about how much editing you do. For the sake of making your statement personal and grabbing the attention of the reader: start off with the reason you want to study medicine; end it with why you think that you are a good applicant and why the university should make you an offer. Make sure these two paragraphs in particular are as coherent and well-written as they can be. (of course, you don’t have to follow this rule, but, this is our recommendation). FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE VITAL!

Paragraphs in the middle should show your interest in the course and discuss your attributes: skills that you have; awards that you won; books/journals that interest you etc. Make sure that you back up with evidence when you make a statement.

For example, don’t just say that you’re a good leader - explain a situation where you’ve had to use your leadership skills and where others have benefitted from your experience/skills. DoFE is perfect but not everyone does this. Group work at school is perfect, or any extracurricular that you did, that involved: 1) A team 2) A common goal 3) You delegating/assigning roles, is perfect to add.

You can learn about the UCAT, how to revise for it and our top tips by having a look at our UCAT guide.

6. What is the hardest part of writing a personal statement?

We believe that staying focused and concise, whilst describing you at your best will probably be the most challenging part. However, you still always have to consider the word limit. Moreover, don’t think about the word limit when writing your draft. Only when editing your personal statement, remember that it has to be a maximum of 4000 characters.

At TheMedicalGeeks we understand how difficult writing a personal statement can be, especially if this is your first time doing such a thing. This is why we provide a brilliant personal statement service where we offer you multiple feedback, on your personal statement, by medical students. Find out more here!

7. When should you write your personal statement?

In order to stay in a safe area, and to avoid the risk of running late, we recommend that you start a month before you decide to send in your UCAS application. So around August-September. Then you have enough time to work your way through any editing and corrections. Be careful not to over edit or change things that don’t need changing!

Makeen Baroudi

Product Manager

Hi guys, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog page. We at TheMedicalGeeks try and pass on the lessons we learned whilst getting into medical school.

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