medical school personal statement
Applying to medical school requires you to write a personal statement. Source: Punit Paranjpe/AFP

If you want to study to become a doctor in countries like the UK, you have to go through the process of writing a medical school personal statement. 

Your personal statement can and should include more than what you’ve done to prepare for medical school.

The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that isn’t conveyed elsewhere in your application.

It’s your chance at a first impression to explain why your chosen medical school should sit up and take notice and why you are a great choice for the course.

For medical students, being able to articulate your answer to the question “why medicine?” is crucial.

Crafting an impactful personal statement involves a lot of personal reflection and knowing your goals.

Doing so will help you write your medical school personal statement with intention and purpose and will set your goals into perspective. 

Can’t decide what to write about? Below are some suggestions:

  • an experience that challenged or changed your perspective on medicine
  • a relationship with a mentor or another inspiring individual
  • a challenging personal experience
  • unique hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your educational pursuits
  • your motivation to become a doctor
medical school

To write a good medical school personal statement, dig deep and reflect why you want to spend over a decade to become a doctor. Source: Frederick J. Brown/AFP

Here’s how to write a medical school personal statement that’ll stand out: 

1. Start writing early 

As with everything, it’s always best to start as early as six months to give yourself a head start.

Director of Health Professions Advising at Princeton University, Kate Fukawa-Connelly shares that “the personal statement is something between a reflective, analytical narrative, and an argumentative essay.”

“You want to reveal something about yourself and your thoughts around your future in medicine while also making an argument that provides evidence supporting your readiness for your career,” she advises.

Starting early gives you the time to get your essay in submission-ready shape. You have more time to set your draft aside (for a minimum of 24 hours), review what you’ve written, and re-work your draft.

2. Don’t overthink and just start writing

While writing an essay may be intimidating, the key is to just start writing. You may be a perfectionist who wants to get everything right on the first try but avoid overthinking it and start. 

Rachel Tolen, Assistant Director and Premedical Advisor at Indiana University shares that writing is a way for you to think and reflect while letting the theme grow out of the writing process.

“What makes the essay stand out is the writer’s unique insights and ability to reflect on these experiences,” Tolen adds.

When considering what to include in your medical school personal statement, reflect on the events in your life that led to your decision to become a doctor.

“What set you on the path toward medical school?”, “What made you stand your ground even at times it was challenging?”, “On the day that you retire, what do you hope you’ll be able to say you’ve achieved through your work as a physician?” — these are among the questions to consider.

3. Embrace the five-point essay format

Here’s a trusty format that you can make your own:

  • The hook or first paragraph: This section should be short and sweet with four or five sentences that’ll “hook” the reader in.
  • Include three to four body paragraphs: Use these paragraphs to reveal who you are. Ideally, one of these paragraphs will reflect clinical understanding and one will reflect service.
  • A concluding paragraph: The strongest conclusion reflects the beginning of your essay. It should give a brief summary of who you are, and end with a challenge for the future.

4. Avoid the cliches

Let’s get real. The admissions staff have hundreds and thousands of applications to go through and they’re going to be bored reading about your love for science and wanting to make a difference.

Instead, get personal and specific.

The trick is to invoke emotion in your reader by giving them an insight into how you are as a person and what you value.

Dana Lovold, a Master of Public Health graduate and career counsellor at the University of Minnesota shares: “By sharing your thoughts on these aspects of your preparation and motivation for medicine, the reader has a deeper understanding of who you are and what you value.”

“Then, connect that insight to how it relates to your future in the profession. This will convey your unique insight and demonstrate how you will use that insight as a physician.”

Still unsure if studying medicine is for you? Read this before deciding.

International students, if you’re looking to pursue medicine in the US, watch the video below on how to get into Harvard Medical School.