Reflection is absolutely crucial when it comes to writing your personal statement! Reflection simply means the ability to learn from what you have seen and done. You may have completed ten times more work experience than the next candidate but unless you can communicate what you learnt from it, it is almost pointless. You need to start seeing the skills used by the Doctors you are shadowing. You need to start writing down how certain situations make you feel and why it inspires you to become a Doctor. For example:
"I have completed two weeks work experience at my local GP where I saw a variety of medical cases"
With reflection becomes:
"Whilst shadowing at a local GP practice I saw first hand the variety of cases a Doctor can see on a daily basis. I was fascinated by the breadth of knowledge the Doctor demonstrated and it has been a huge driving force in my decision to apply to your Medical School. The ability to help such a large number of people, whilst encountering a wide variety of cases, reinforces my passion to work with people and my interest in the broad field of medicine."
Although both statements are describing the same period of work experience, the second has demonstrated how to draw out the skills from the experience and reflect upon it. You need to be able to do this with each case you write in your statement.
Medical School is tough! Admissions Tutors need to know you are 100% committed to the course and you are going to stick at it. You need to be able to demonstrate you have shown commitment in your previous work, work experience or extra curricular activities. A common mistake students make is not to mention how long they have been doing their extra-curricular work for. For example:
"I am a member of my local Guides group where I run sessions for the under 8 age group."
With commitment becomes:
"I have been a member of my local Guides group for 8 years and have also been volunteering twice a week for the past 4 years. Each Tuesday and Saturday I help co-ordinate the sessions for the under 6 age group where I can practice my organisation and time management skills."
Simply by adding a timeframe to the extra-curricular activity automatically demonstrates the commitment. Anytime you mention something extra-curricular, make sure you mention howl long you have been doing it!
3. A Realistic View of Medicine
A medical degree is a minimum of 5 years hard work, long hours and stressful exams. But ultimately the hard work provides you with one of the most rewarding careers anyone can do. You need to be able to demonstrate you have a realistic awareness of the challenges when completing a medical degree, and pose some ways you can counter the challenges. You can mention times when you have spoken to current medical students above life at university. If they mentioned the stressful exam periods or strict revision schedules you need to set, then talk about these! It shows you are aware of the reality of medicine at university. The students who have excellent personal statements also mention how they will deal with these challenges! For example:
"I have spoken to many current medical students to try and understand as much about the course as possible. It was mentioned several times how stressful the exam periods can be. At first this worried me, but I realised I can use my planning and time keeping skills from my volunteering to create a revision schedule that balances out my revision and relaxation time. I believe this organisation and balance will help me deal with the challenges of the exam periods."
Do the groundwork for this one. Make sure you speak to as many medical students and doctors to find out what they found/find challenging and it will help you understand what you may find challenging too. It is highly impressive to hear a student who fully understands what studying medicine is all about. Make sure you're one of the impressive ones!
4. Work Experience
With over 100,000 applications for only 10,000 spaces each year for UK medical schools, competition is fierce. Each student needs to demonstrate how they have proactively explored medicine as a career. The best way to do this is through work experience. There are several ways to find work experience, of which this site has several options. In this section, we are more interested how to use your work experience to boost your personal statement. The key is to pull out the skills you are seeing being demonstrated. There is a big difference between watching a Doctor and seeing what the Doctor is actually doing. For example:
"I spent a day shadowing a Consultant Paediatrician where I joined her for ward rounds in the morning and a clinic in the afternoon."
Drawing out the skills, it becomes:
"Whilst shadowing a Consultant Paediatrician on a ward round I was able to witness excellent communication skills. Introductions were presented to the children and their parents separately, with additional non-verbal styles used for the younger children. The consultant would kneel down, use a higher pitched voice, more animated hand movements and exaggerated facial expressions when talking to the young children. Watching the Consultants rapport with the children really affirms my passion to become a doctor."
Here you can see how the skills are more important than the fact you joined a ward round. You need to be able to draw a range of skills from your work experience and use them in your personal statement.
Writing about your work experience in your personal statement—case examples
By: Alison Walker
All applicants need to write about their work experience in their personal statement to demonstrate why they are a good candidate not only for a place at medical school but also as a future doctor. How have successful medical students done this? I asked four students at different medical schools to tell me how they got their work experience, what they did, and, most importantly, how they put into words what they learnt from it all.
My main work experience placement during sixth form was volunteering at a care home for elderly people for almost a year. The application process was straightforward: I called the care home, was sent an application pack in the post, and was then interviewed by the manager a few weeks later. The placement involved visiting once a week for a few hours to provide company for some of the residents. Although this was not work
To read the rest of this article log in or subscribe to Student BMJ.
If you're not ready to subscribe yet you can access News & views for free or register with us to receive free updates on our latest content.