10 Tips for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science Personal Statements

Carl is a tutor with Owl Tutors


Owl Tutor

January 27th, 2020

10 Tips for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science Personal Statements

Applying to study Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science at University can be incredibly competitive. Chemistry tutor Carl sets out how best to showcase your relevant skills and experiences in your Personal Statement, and how to justify exactly why you want to study that particular course and why you should be offered a place.

1. Show your motivation

Why did you pick this subject?” will be one of the foremost questions in the admissions tutor’s mind, so ensure you have a credible answer. Use a lively tone that communicates your passion and enthusiasm, but keep it professional.

If you have a personal story that has inspired you to follow a certain path, tell it matter-of-factly, avoiding dramatic statements and clichés.

Don’t go overboard either. If you’re applying for the ultra-competitive veterinary medicine, opening with “I just ADORE kittens!” isn’t going to go down well, but equally you don’t need to have founded three tiger sanctuaries whilst trekking across Bangladesh…

2. Be well-informed

Demonstrate that you have researched and are engaged with your subject, and that you understand what is involved with studying it at university level and working in the profession. Your work experience will have given you insights on the essential skills you’ll need, and the intellectual and emotional challenges you’ll face. Writing about these from experience will demonstrate commitment and that you are realistically informed.

Show that you’re also aware of any current issues facing your profession and don’t be afraid to voice an opinion on them – the reader will already know about the issue, what they care about is what you think about it.

3. Show intellectual curiosity

Remember that your personal statement is going to a university – a centre for learning and innovation. Demonstrating your academic qualities is therefore paramount. Write about your passion for science and love of learning, giving examples that are specific but not too technical. Consider the following:

  • Which subjects have you enjoyed studying at school and why?
  • Do you enjoy reading about science – if so, which authors?
  • Do you write or blog about science?
  • Are you a member of any science clubs?
  • Have you attended any scientific events (e.g. summer schools, university open days) or taken part in any science projects or competitions?
  • Which course modules are you looking forward to studying and why? This also helps to show you’ve done your homework.

4. Show your suitability for university

University study can be demanding. It’s also a very different style of learning with more emphasis on self-motivation. Think about what you’ve done that demonstrates you have the necessary ‘smarts’ and the ability to stick with a course that, in the case of medicine, could be up to seven years long. Your GCSEs and predicted grades will say a lot about your academic ability, but also mention any awards or commendations you’ve received.

As you’re applying for a research-based field, demonstrating you have research skills will add value to your application. Key research skills to mention include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Finding and managing information
  • Analysing data
  • Organising your time and workload
  • Complying with ethical requirements
  • Academic writing
  • Presenting scientific information

Any of these that you developed from an EPQ, IB coursework, or other relevant projects should certainly be included.

5. Think ‘STAR’

When writing about your skills, you must evidence them through credible examples. Also, remember that what you learned is more important than what you did. A common mistake is to describe a situation but leave the reader wondering exactly what you contributed and gained from the experience. The STAR method (commonly used for CVs and interview preparation) enables you to contextualise your skills and ensures the emphasis is on your personal qualities:

  • Situation: in just a few words, describe the situation you were in.
  • Task: what needed to be done and what was your role?
  • Action: what did you do and what skills did you use?
  • Result: what was the outcome and impact? What did you learn? How did the experience change you?

6. Demonstrate transferable skills

You should showcase your transferable skills because often, it will be these that set you apart from another applicant. Here are some of the most-valued transferable skills:

Skill   What it means
Reliability Good time management, excellent attendance record, punctuality, meeting deadlines, going the extra mile.
Professionalism High standards of work, high expectations of self and others, calmness under pressure, building constructive relationships.
Problem-solving Use analytical and planning skills to develop a solution to a problem.
Communication Skills  Using written and verbal skills to persuade, influence, educate, present information, build relationships, write reports etc.
Responsibility Showing discretion when dealing with sensitive or confidential information, working in a position of trust, working ethically and with good conduct.
Adaptability Taking the initiative, coping with change, willingness to learn, taking on different roles.
Team skills Working in a team, managing and motivating others, listening to others

Pick the 2-3 skills that are most relevant to your chosen subject and describe them using the STAR method.

7. Show you have a long-term plan

What do you expect to get from your degree and where is it going to take you? Do you want to specialise in a certain branch of medicine? Do you want to do a higher degree and go into research or even academia? Are you wanting to pursue this career because you want to make a difference? If so, write about how.

8. Show you are a rounded person

Extra-curricular activities (music, sports, hobbies, clubs etc.) show that there is more to you than your studying prowess, which is more important than ever now that there are so many students with top grades competing for the same place. They also show that you have healthy work-life balance and are therefore more likely to fit in to university life.

Musical ability is well-regarded because it demonstrates discipline, perseverance, confidence, focus, cultural-awareness and self-expression, as are sports, which add qualities like leadership, organisation and teamwork to that list.

In terms of balancing your personal statement, aim for about 75% academic and 25% extra-curricular (remember, you’re applying to university, not for a summer job!)

9. Get it proof-read

I recommend you get at least three people that you trust to give you frank and honest feedback on your personal statement. Ideally, these would include somebody suitably experienced (such as your school’s career adviser), a teacher or tutor that knows you well, and if you can, somebody with intimate knowledge of the course you’re applying for. This could be a professional you formed a relationship with during work experience, or a family friend. They will be able to help you ensure you’ve demonstrated understanding and suitability for the course and profession.

10. Give it the “so what?” test

Your personal statement is a marketing document with one purpose: to secure you an interview. Competition is steeper than ever for places and admissions tutors will have to read through many personal statements from high-achieving applicants with excellent work experience.

Make sure every word counts by giving your personal statement the “so what?” test. Put yourself in the admissions tutor’s shoes and read through it critically. If you encounter sentences that leave you thinking “so what?”, you’re either missing the necessary detail that gives it impact and sells you, or it’s just an empty sentence that you can remove.

Carl is a tutor with Owl Tutors

More about Carl

Carl qualified as a teacher in Chemistry in 2013, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

Carl is a highly-qualified tutor, teacher and examiner of chemistry with an outstanding track record of helping students to achieve top grades in science.