These are my thoughts and experiences around writing personal statements. This is not a guide to writing a personal statement. For guidance on writing personal statements please refer to the links at the bottom of the page.
If you’re anything like me then you will not rest until the task at hand is done properly and done to the best of your ability, if a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well.
A personal statement is an integral part of the application for any university course, especially for medicine. University’s and medical schools will base their first impressions of you from the personal statement. Many medical schools base their interviews off of the personal statement or will have allocated time and questions just to probe further into the personal statement. It’s very common that you’ll rock up to the interview and the interviewer will have read the personal statement just a few minutes before speaking to you or they will even read it in front of you (this happened to me once). As daunting as that is (not to mention off-putting) it highlights the importance of a well written personal statement.
The art of writing a killer personal statement is a skill and if you master that skill it will serve you well for the rest of your life. You will be writing personal statements throughout university and long after graduating when you apply for positions or jobs. Often the relevance of developing personal statement writing skills is not given value or emphasized enough by schools.
So when it came to writing my personal statement, I made several drafts and spent many hours perfecting it. In all honesty, the end product that was my personal statement was full of so many clichés and cheesy sentiments, it was almost vomit inducing.
As human beings, I feel that we have a pathological urge to use clichés to convey our feelings. It’s difficult to know how to convey your passion without a cheesy cliché but I think it’s all about striking the right balance. Having clichés in a personal statement isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as they’re few and far between.
It’s very rare that people don’t write enough in their personal statements, usually people write too much and need to cut down. Therefore, everything that is written in a personal statement should be given consideration as to why that particular experience is significant enough to mention. A personal statement should be a reflection on what motivated you to want to apply to medicine and if you’re writing from a place of genuine passion it will come across to the reader. When you write something in your personal statement, think about why you’re writing about it. If your answer is ‘because that’s what the medical school wants’, you are probably not coming across as passionate. If you write about work experience then also write about what you learnt from that; how did it make you feel and why this was important to you?
You should reflect on every experience you have. Why? Reflecting on your experiences is what makes you grow as a person. You don’t learn by doing but by reflecting on what you have done or as Confucius put it, “Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflecting without learning is dangerous.”
Reflection is a skill in itself and it’s difficult to develop these skills, especially at 16/17 years of age. This is a skill that people generally pick up over time so it may seem very difficult to do at first. Girls reflect all the time, even without knowing that they’re doing it, but guys are terrible at it. That’s probably because most guys don’t like thinking about their feelings (apologies for the stereotyping).
What I found very difficult was getting the tone of my personal statement right. What is the right tone for a personal statement? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. I think that the tone should be a reflection of the kind of person you are. An informal tone may help the reader to relate to what you’ve written and gets the sentiment across better (that does not mean that you should refer to the admissions tutor as dude or mate).
It’s also very important to get feedback on your personal statement from someone who knows you well, usually this is a form tutor. A personal statement should be a representation of you and who knows you better than your parents? Regardless of whether or not they’ve been to university, their input is valuable.
Personal statements should be the trailer to the movie that is you, a good friend of mine said that.
Take home message of the blog: Reflection is important to grow as a person. Learn from your mistakes but also from your successes. Life’s a journey, it’s not about where you end up but how you got there.
These are some good links which will help in writing a personal statement: