Extended Project Ucas Personal Statement
The challenge of spending my working life immersed in the fascinating, ever-evolving world of the medical sciences, and the opportunity to use this knowledge to benefit others, has drawn me to seek a career in medicine. I have always had an open and enquiring mind, and regularly read about topics which interest me beyond my A-level syllabi. I find topics such as immunology fascinating as they allow me to utilise skills and knowledge from all of my subjects and have a wide scope for future development. To expand my scientific knowledge further I founded a student group to discuss recent developments in biomedicine and medical ethics, and am completing the Extended Project Qualification; evaluating the impact of recent public health awareness campaigns. These activities have allowed me to develop independent research and critical thinking skills and an ability to analyse a wide range of evidence-based data. They have also given me a greater appreciation for the academic and ethical challenges of a medical career.
However, it is not simply the academic challenge which draws me to medicine, but also the unique set of challenges presented by patients through clinical practice. On work experience placements I organised in two local GP surgeries I was fascinated to learn how physical ailments can be complicated by social problems and mental health issues, and enjoyed watching doctors employ a wide skillset in order to find solutions to a broad range of conditions. One such case was that of a pregnant woman suffering from severe anxiety; struggling to cope with the uncertainty of pregnancy. I was interested to learn how the doctor was able to improve her situation using a combination of different treatments, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, therapy and specialist ante-natal care. This case highlighted the importance of treating patients individually; tailoring treatment to each patient’s needs and weighing up the risks and potential benefits before making decisions. The consultations I witnessed also stressed to me the value of trust in a patient-doctor relationship and the importance of effective communication, particularly in difficult circumstances. My ability to communicate under pressure has been significantly enhanced since I qualified as a member of the British Red Cross Event First Aid team. Through this role I have developed an ability to communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds in challenging situations in order to provide appropriate and effective treatment. I find it is vital to empathise with patients; to be patient and to try to understand their situation.
On a recent placement in my local hospital I was able to observe the roles of various healthcare professionals and how they work together to manage patient care. I witnessed a consultation which a member of a multi-disciplinary team failed to attend. This clearly frustrated the patient and delayed treatment, demonstrating the importance of teamwork in medicine. The opportunity to work in and at times lead such an integrated team is a major draw of a medical career, as it is within a team environment that I perform best. On a recent expedition in France I worked as part of a team to overcome the challenges of living independently in a foreign country, such as the language barrier and a limited budget. I have also shown on many occasions my ability to lead a team, and enjoy the challenge of doing so. In recent years I have led several successful scout and sailing teams in competitions, and have recently qualified as an RYA dinghy instructor. These achievements clearly illustrate my commitment to others and my ability to solve complex problems and make important decisions under pressure. Through these activities and others I have now fulfilled all of the requirements for the Queen Scout Award, demonstrating a high level of commitment and motivation; qualities required to succeed in the competitive world of medicine.
Think carefully about how you want to structure your personal statement. If your argument flows naturally and follows a logical order, this will impress admissions tutors and show them that you will do well on their course. After all, it’s a skill that will come in very handy when it’s time to write your essays and sit your exams over the next three or four years.
Basic personal statement structure tips
- Use paragraphs. This can be tricky as it will eat into the 47 lines available to you so don’t use lots of paragraphs but try to have a few. This will make your personal statement easier for the admissions tutor to read than one large block of writing.
- Have a clear beginning, middle and end. This will make help your personal statement flow naturally. For help with how to begin your personal statement, read our article on writing your opening sentence and, for help with the rest of your personal statement, read our article on what to include in your personal statement.
- Use the ABC method. When writing about each experience, use the ABC (action, benefit and course) structure. What is the activity, what skills and qualities have come from it and how does it relate to the course?
- Keep it short and sweet. You’re limited to 4,000 characters (47 lines) so use short, concise sentences and delete any unnecessary words.
Structure your personal statement to best show off your examples
There is no one set way to structure your personal statement. However, consider putting the most relevant and unique examples of your skills and experience towards the start of your personal statement. This can be more effective than working through all your examples in chronological or reverse chronological order.
For example, if you’re applying to study history you’ll probably want to make sure the school trip you went on to Auschwitz in year 12 has centre stage, rather than feeling you need to start with examples from year 13 or from when you were doing your GCSEs.
Read our article on what to include in your personal statement for more help on what to write about.
The three section approach to your personal statement
If you’re still not sure how you want to structure your personal statement, you might find it helpful to loosely split your personal statement into three sections. Jonathan Hardwick is a former head of sixth form and now a professional development manager at Inspiring Futures, a provider of careers information, advice and guidance to young people. He explains: ‘Your personal statement should cover three things. These are:
- why do you want to study the course?
- what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
- what else have you done that makes you somebody who will contribute to the course and to the university?’
Section one: why do you want to study the course?
You need to explain to the admissions tutor your reasons for wanting to study this subject. If it’s a vocational course, such as nursing, think about what you like about this profession and why you think it’s the right career for you. If it’s an academic degree, such as geography or chemistry, why do you want to spend a long time studying this subject in detail? Think about what you’ve enjoyed so far and what you want to learn more about.
Section two: what have you done that makes you suitable for the course?
This is the biggest part of your personal statement. You’ll need to draw on your experiences to explain why you think you’d be a good student on the course and how you’ve developed the skills and knowledge needed.
If it’s a vocational course, think about what you’ve done that shows you’re engaging with the profession. Now is the time to mention any relevant work experience or voluntary work that you’ve done.
If it’s an academic subject, show that you’re going beyond what your teacher is telling you to do. If you’re doing an EPQ (an extended project) or you’ve done lots of extra reading, for example, tell the admissions tutor what you’ve done and how this has prepared you for the course. Or if you’re applying for a creative course, such as drama or music, write about what you’ve done outside the classroom. For example, for a creative writing course you could mention your blog or the poetry competition in which you were shortlisted for a prize.
Section three: what else have you done?
‘As a rule of thumb, 75% of your personal statement should be about your studies and your justifications for applying and 25% should be about your extracurricular activities,’ says Emma-Marie Fry, an area director at Inspiring Futures. Emma manages the careers guidance team in London and the south-east and goes into schools to deliver support to students.
A quarter of a personal statement is 1,000 characters (around 11–12 lines), so aim to roughly devote this amount of space to what else you’ve done. This is your chance to write about what you’ve done that perhaps isn’t so related to the course but makes you an interesting and well-rounded person. This could include any hobbies you enjoy in your spare time, paid employment or volunteering.
‘It’s important that you demonstrate why these interests and experiences are relevant to your application (for example, to show that you are able to balance your studies with your commitments) rather than just listing them,’ says Dr Helen Moggridge, a lecturer in geography at the University of Sheffield. Use your examples to show that you’ve developed important skills that will help you thrive at university. Good skills to highlight include independence, time management and organisation. So, for example, a Saturday job as a waitress may have improved your communication skills as well as your ability to work under pressure and prioritise urgent tasks. These skills will help you communicate with your lecturers and peers on your course, as well as juggling your coursework and exams.
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