writing a personal statement
Personal Statements give you the opportunity to demonstrate your motivation and suitability to study medicine in under 4000 characters (or 47 lines in UCAS). Don't be afraid to spell out your achievements and explain why you would make a very good medical student.
Make a note of your key qualities & skills
Start making a list of all the qualities and skills you think make you suitable to study medicine. Under each skill try and find an example from a volunteering/work experience placement or other role when you have effectively demonstrated this skill. The more specific the example, the better. For example: 'I was able to demonstrate my ability to show empathy and compassion whilst volunteering in a nursing home. I helped an elderly resident with painting classes, listening to his concerns and helping him to feel comfortable by talking about his interests and hobbies'.
Consider your motivations
You should also consider you motivations to study medicine. Why are you interested in medicine? What have you done to come to this conclusion. What experiences have helped inform your decision? Remember to avoid being too cliché (you probably didn't decide on medicine the moment you were born)!
Demonstrate other passions and interests
Don't forget to show that you are a rounded individual too. You should try and demonstrate other hobbies/interests aside from medicine whether that be participation in a particular sport/club/society/D of E. Make you sure that these aren't just a list at the end of your statement though, try and tie in the skills which you will need as a doctor to each example. Being captain of a netball team might have taught you leadership and teamwork qualities and consider why these are important skills for doctors. The more specific the examples the better - it's best to avoid blanket generic statements. Don't just regurgitate your skills and experiences but reflect upon the value of those experiences and what they have taught you. Remember to keep it personal, it's your statement and so your experiences should be unique to you.
What steps did you take to decide that medicine was for you
Wherever you apply you should be explaining the steps you have taken to explore a career in medicine to demonstrate that you understand the realities of what will be expected of you as medical student and doctor. You should demonstrate a real motivation and interest in medicine, you want to convince the reader that you have made the right choice and that they should choose you to admit you onto their medical course.
Writing an introduction
Don't worry about writing your introduction straight away. It will probably be one of the last things you write. Avoid a lengthy introduction but set out clearly why you want to study medicine and what makes you a suitable candidate. You can elaborate on these points later on but many people suggest that your reasoning to study medicine should be underlined in your opening paragraph.
Refining your statement
Once you have a draft of your key points and relevant evidence to explain these, you can start drafting an initial copy of your statement. Try to establish a coherent order for your points, your statement should flow from point to point so try and put similar points close to one another, finding ways to tie one experience or skill into another. Your initial draft will probably far exceed the word limit but don't panic because this happens to most people and you will be able to shorten your statement without too much alteration. Watch out for unnecessary filler words or sentences, remove anything which doesn't add weight to your arguments and explanations. You can reformulate phrases in much more concise ways to save character space.
Most of all don't stress too much about your personal statement. Yes, it's important but it's not the be all and end all of your application!
If you plan to apply to Oxbridge your personal statement should take a more academic approach. You should focus on your interest in the science behind medicine as well as your other experiences which demonstrate your suitability for taking on a caring role. There's no harm in mentioning those extracurricular skills but be sure to demonstrate interest in medicine beyond your school curriculum. It might be worth mentioning a project, book, lecture or podcast that particularly interested you but be honest about your experiences and motivations.
Common pitfalls to avoid:
describing what medicine is (the reader probably already knows and doesn't want to be told)!
listing skills without evidence to show when you have demonstrated these
describing what you did/saw in volunteering/work experience but not what you learnt
failing to understand the realities of a medical career (there will be long hours, it will be stressful and challenging at times and the work won't always be glamorous)
lots of fancy, verbose language (you want a good level of fluency but don't take it too far or it will sound unnatural)
listing the same information twice in your statement (this suggests you're struggling with things to say
overly generalised statements which don't relate specifically to you
Don't be afraid to ask for advice! Ask a trusted family member, teacher or friend to look over your statement. You don't have to take their advice on board but you should keep an open mind. Just be mindful and avoid sending your statement to too many people because everyone is likely to have slightly conflicting views and this might make your job a lot harder! First and foremost your personal statement should be your ideas and not anyone else's. You want to come across as genuine, and this should show through if you stay true to your own motivations and experiences.