I like to think I’m fairly experienced at writing personal statements. When I was in year 12, I was so unsure of what I wanted to do that I ended up writing personal statements for Neuroscience, Medicine and Biomedical Science. I didn’t go to University that year as I wasn’t convinced it was the right time, but I did receive offers to study Biomedical Science, which was what I decided to apply for after much deliberation. The following year, I applied to study Nursing and received offers from all 5 Universities, following 5 interviews. I started studying at King’s College in London (worst decision I ever made, but I’ll save that for another post!). I subsequently dropped out and finally began studying Biological Sciences in Exeter 2 years ago and am about to complete my final year, starting in September. So, there we go. I think that totals 5 different personal statements, for 5 different subjects (which seems crazy when I write it down!).
Personally, the most important thing to do before I started writing my personal statement was to write down why I’d like to study dentistry. A mind map is a really good way to jot down ideas – try making notes of:
- Why you want to study the subject
- What skills you possess that would make you a good dentist
- What experience you have gained, that has made you certain you want to be a dentist
- What it is about being a dentist that you would enjoy
- An understanding of the difficulties faced by a dentist (stress, time pressures (particularly within the NHS), difficult patients etc etc. As convinced as you are that you want to be a dentist, to say that there is nothing you wouldn’t enjoy, is a bit naïve!)
For your first draft, I would advise splurging everything and anything you want to mention onto the page, without considering the character limit. Think about work experience, clubs you’re involved with, any volunteering/charity work you’ve done, any academic achievements you have etc. Once you think you’ve got everything down, start to prioritise what is most relevant. It’s important for you to draw upon your experiences and talk about what you’ve gained from them, and make this relevant to dentistry. It’s no good listing the 493921 achievements you have, and having nothing to say about them, because this just provides the reader with a list of the things you’ve done, which anyone could do!
In terms of structure, this is how I was taught to do it and it seems to have worked so far:
- Paragraph 1 – An introduction briefly explaining what it is that appeals to you about dentistry, why you think you’d enjoy being a dentist. Don’t write about how you have wanted to be a dentist since you left the womb, and be very careful if you are going to mention family members being dentists, as you could very easily come across as being ‘mummy’s a dentist so I want to be too’. The decision needs to be one that you have come to yourself and whilst it’s great if your parents have supported you (dentists or otherwise), you don’t want to seem as though dentistry was the only possible option for you since being a child.
- Paragraph 2 – This paragraph should summarise what you gained from your work experience. Talk about what you enjoyed and also things you thought might make the job stressful/hard work at times (missed appointments, anxious patients, the constant need to meet targets etc).
- Paragraph 3 – I have used this paragraph to talk about my current degree subject, and what skills I have gained that will help when studying dentistry. This could easily be swapped out for A – Level subjects though, and how studying your current subjects has inspired you to become a dentist.
- Paragraph 4 – I have used this paragraph to talk about my experiences in a caring role. I am a volunteer at the local hospice and so talked about this, and how it has developed my caring nature, and how this will help in dentistry. If you have any voluntary experience, now is a good time to talk about it!
- Paragraph 5 – This is where I have talked about my hobbies. It is good to try and talk about one hobby that requires you to work as part of a team (important for being a dentist) and another that requires manual dexterity, to show that you have the ability to work with your hands.
- Paragraph 6 – A wrap up of what it is that appeals to you about dentistry, and why you want to engage in the subject. Try not to repeat yourself too much, this can be difficult but really try and emphasise what it is that you can’t wait to get stuck into, and leave the finishing line as something that the person reading will remember.
Remember that you have a 4000 character limit, and it can be quite difficult to squeeze everything you want to say into 4000 characters. It will take more than one draft to write a personal statement you’re completely happy with. Make sure you start early so that you can get as many people as possible to read it, the more people the better. If you have a friend or family member who is good at English, get them to check over it for errors in grammar and punctuation because when you’ve read something so many times, you often can’t see the small errors anymore.
I hope this is of use, I know how hard it can be when you’re first starting out with your personal statement!