Medical school applications : do's and don'ts

June 30, 2017 - Aisha Chowdhury

The personal statement is a crucial part of your medical school application. It is an opportunity for you to show medical schools why you are passionate about studying medicine. It is used by different medical schools in different ways. For example, some universities read the personal statement before interview and rate it, this has an impact on whether you will be called for interview or not. Other universities base their interview questions on your personal statement.



Reflection is the key to a good personal statement. Not only should you write about what you have done, you must also write about what you have learnt from it. Write about what you have witnessed on work experience or during volunteering and think about how it will affect you as medical student and doctor. For example, in my personal statement I wrote about how I did work experience in both Bangladesh and in the UK. What I noticed was that in Bangladesh only the rich could afford good medical care, which made me appreciate the NHS and how it allows free access to all.

Show examples of initiative

There are many important attributes that a doctor and medical student must have, for example, leadership, communication, teamwork, empathy, time management and interest in science. Try and link in any extra-curricular activities or work experience with these different attributes. For example, you may have seen a particular patient with an interesting disease on work experience. After your work experience you decided to do some more research into this disease and you read an article about it in the Student BMJ. This shows that you not only have a keen interest in certain aspects of medicine, but you also went further and beyond by researching it.

Keep a diary of your extra-curricular activities

This is not only helpful when writing your personal statement, but can also be really helpful when preparing for interview.

Talk about non-medical experience

Any volunteering you have done that is not directly related to medicine can still show that you have vital skills. I volunteered at the library over one Summer and spoke to children doing the Summer Reading Challenge. The experience was invaluable, as I had to use simple language to help the younger children understand. It helped me develop my communication skills and taught me that you must use different communication styles for different age groups.

Write concisely

Do not write complex sentences. This is because the people who are reading your personal statements are reading hundreds of personal statements a day! Keep your language simple and to the point. I’d also recommend not including jokes, puns or sarcasm in your personal statement because the person reading it may not have the same sense of humour as you.



UCAS screens all personal statements for plagiarism using similarity detection software. If the software detects any copying, the universities that you have applied to will receive an email regarding this plagiarism and it will have a big impact on your application.


This goes for all aspects of your medical school application, including the rest of your UCAS application and interview. When I applied to St George’s they wanted a signed letter on headed paper from each of the places you did work experience and volunteering. They wanted evidence that you actually did what you said in your personal statement.

Write your personal statement directly onto your online UCAS application

It is better to write your personal statement on a word document first and then you can copy and paste the finished piece onto your online UCAS application. This way you can easily redraft it and ask family members and teachers to proofread. Remember that your personal statement has a limit of 4,000 characters and 47 lines.

Make grammar mistakes

Not only must you make sure that you use spell-check on word, you should also read your personal statement out aloud. Asking family and teachers to read your personal statement is also advisable. Asking a non-science teacher to have a look at your personal statement is a good idea because they can give you advice on the structure and language of it. For example, I asked a history teacher to have a read of my personal statement and she gave me some great advice.

Name particular universities

Remember that the personal statement you submit is seen by all of the universities that you apply for. Therefore, it is not advisable to mention a specific course or module at a certain university as it could mean that the other universities you apply to look at you less favourably.

Kaplan also provides recorded and live broadcasts of medical school application guidance in the brand new Future Doctors Channel.


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