Do you dream of studying medicine in ‘the city of dreaming spires’? Or training to become a doctor at one of Cambridge’s prestigious riverside colleges? Oxford and Cambridge may be two of the best schools to study Medicine, ranked second and fourth in the world respectively, but they are also two of the most competitive universities to get into. Both have highly strict academic entry criteria and extremely low acceptance rates.
No, getting into Oxbridge isn’t easy, but it’s certainly possible. The personal statement is a key part of doing so, and is not to be underestimated seeing as it’s the very first thing Oxbridge will see from you. Here, you will need to prove you have the core values and attributes necessary to study medicine, can demonstrate unapologetic passion for your subject, and possess a raw understanding of the UK healthcare system. You have 4,000 characters — nearly two pages of A4 — so you’ll also have to be economical with your words to meet Oxbridge’s tough selection criteria.
But how do you make your personal statement stand out among the crowd? We have the answers.
- Communicate what makes you unique
A personal statement is your opportunity to show what makes you stand out from the thousands of medical applications Oxbridge receive each year. Your personal essay should be just as the name implies: personal, reflective and unique to you.
Your academic achievements should take up the majority of a personal statement, however it’s important to also demonstrate extracurricular activities and interests. Reference to your participation in a club or association will show your broader interests outside of school, and where relevant, prove your ability to work with others.
However, if you’re struggling to write a killer statement, don’t panic, for there is lots of help out there. 6med, for example, offers a digital personal statement masterclass, covering what content should actually go into your statement, and how to establish a narrative, providing you a “solid foundation for your personal statement writing.”
- Explain your motivation for Medicine
In your personal statement you will need to demonstrate your genuine enthusiasm for medicine, why you want to follow this path, and touch upon insightful career aspirations.
Here, it’s vital to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. As Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division explains: “you won’t prove that you have the motivation for medicine by simply saying that you do: it is what you have done to inform yourself about the career — and the views that you have formed — that will convince us that you really know what being a doctor is like and that this is what you want to do.”
Instead of over-dramatised descriptions of a revelatory moment or lifelong desire to become a medic, look to weave in thoughtful and reflective examples of what made you want to enter the field. For example, relevant volunteer work, work experience placements, personal healthcare experiences, or whatever it was that sparked your interest.
- Demonstrate understanding of the subject
“I told them the truth,” Adam Kay writes in ‘This is Going to Hurt’, the author’s brutally honest assessment of life as an NHS doctor, “the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible […] but there’s no better job in the world.”
Despite the dramatic nature of Kay’s experiences, medicine demands a great deal of dedication and is constantly evolving. In your statement you should acknowledge that you understand the challenges, problems, and strains of being an Oxbridge medical student and one day, a qualified doctor. In order to do this, you might offer a real-life situation that supports your assertions, such as how you deal with daily stress, how you grow from mistakes, or how you proactively work toward a better future.
Where possible, you should tie in knowledge of current affairs and news that relates to the field of medicine, or evidence that you have read up about your subject. There are numerous insightful non-fiction books to read related to medicine, like Kay’s aforementioned recount, as well as essential literature from the General Medical Council on good medical practice and ethical guidance for doctors.
We wish you all the best with writing your personal statement — the first step towards your future career in medicine. Remember that the deadline for all Oxbridge applications is October 15th (the same date every year), and you must have submitted your application, reference, and enrolled for the BMAT by this date. Good luck!