Writing a personal statement may seem like a daunting experience. Trying to fit your entire high school achievements and accolades in 4000 characters, plus work experience, volunteering and so forth could be seen as potentially impossible. But don’t worry! I’m going to run through how to create the perfect personal statement for any medicine or dentistry course!

Tip 1: Get all your information together

Getting started on writing a personal statement can be difficult if you don’t know where to begin!  With so much to include, it's best to start by writing down everything that you can think of that could potentially be included. Don’t worry if the list is long or short; this is just the beginning. Note down work experience, extracurricular activities, significant anecdotes, life skills and anything else of importance. This way you will have a hard copy of everything when you come to write your first draft.

Tip 2: Look over examples of personal statements

Read as many personal statements as you can! Successful and unsuccessful personal statements are both of equal use! Example personal statements for any course can easily be found online and are super useful for giving insights into the language and structure a personal statement is written in. A personal statement is unlike any piece of written work you have done before as it is all about YOU. This required a specialised type of writing skill which can be easily picked up through looking over example statements.

Tip 3: Find your balance

Once you understand the style of writing which is required, look at the sort of things that other candidates have included. Look at ratios of work experience : academic accolades : volunteering : life skills that candidates have used to give the full picture of their lives. There is no one perfect ratio that works however universities sometimes put a bigger emphasis on work experience than things like Bronze DofE. If you start with an idea of how much of each element you want to include, it will be much more useful when it comes down to editing your drafts.

Tip 4: Know what your universities want to read

Before an interview, your personal statement is one of the only insights into you as a person that a university sees. As most people applying to the course will have very similar predicted grades to you, for possibly the first time, grades at this point are not helpful! You need to tell the universities you are applying to why you are the perfect candidate for a caring-centred, hands-on course. Unlike other university courses, to obtain a place on the programme, you will be valued on your personality and traits that are required in the profession.

It may be useful to include a couple of anecdotes in your personal statement, usually one from work-experience, and one from any volunteering or hobbies. Universities like to see reflective statements where you analyse a situation and talk about how that made you feel. For a personal statement, you can put a spin on it and say how what you saw or experienced made you more enthusiastic about becoming a doctor or dentist. It's all about showing insight and retrospective reflection as those are qualities that will make you a good practitioner and are what universities are looking for!

Tip 5: Get started!

The best way to start your personal statement writing journey is simply to start it. Worrying about it is much more painful than sitting down and making that first draft. Bear in mind that your first draft is far from the final copy and no one is expecting it to be perfect! A lot of refining will need to be done both to perfect the content and to get it below that annoying character limit. However, once you have that first draft, you then have your scaffolding of which to work! My personal statement took at least 15 drafts before submission so keep on going back to it and make it a little bit better each time

Tip 6: Get it checked and keep a clear head

Staring at the same words on the page over and over again can make you go a bit bonkers! Always look over changes with fresh eyes and get your supervisor, teachers, friends and family to look over it and especially check it for spelling mistakes!

Tip 7: Don’t forget why you’re doing this

The entire university application process is hard, and it can be easy to lose track of your motivation on the way. Don’t forget that all the hard work you are putting in now is the key to entering an amazing professional degree that will set you on a career path where you’re set for life! Include your motivation for wanting to study the course in your personal statement and every time you read it over, remind yourself you are at the start of an amazing journey.

Words by Tamara Kwartz (Dental Student at UoB)