Personal Statement: Language and Tone

Tamsin Dyer

Tamsin Dyer

Senior Writer at Medic Mind

Introduction

The personal statement is your opportunity to show the admissions tutors why they should give you a place. In a perfect world, each personal statement would be read, analysed and re-read by universities. But this is simply not feasible. Therefore you have to stand out and make your personal statement interesting. Of course you should cover all the important points, and keep it formal and to the point, but you should aim to add a ‘wow’ factor whilst still keeping it academic.

The language and tone of your personal statement is very important, try to think of it as a written job interview. You don’t want to be too casual with your tone of voice or use of language, but it’s also important to come across as relaxed as opposed to forced or fake. So, what is the right balance?

How to get the right tone

  • Use punchy and short sentences – there is no point in using extra words, it only distracts from the meaning and point of your sentence, as well as taking up that valuable character count. Try to make the language interesting and exciting – admissions tutors have thousands of personal statements to read, so make yours stand out in a good way. 
  • Avoid negative language – no one wants to read a negative piece of work, especially not when you are trying to say you are the perfect candidate to study medicine. 
  • Don’t use words you don’t know – if you haven’t used a word before, you may not use it in the correct manner. Using a thesaurus is great in principle, but it can remove the whole meaning of your sentence without you realising.
  • Reflect on your experiences – when describing things like extra-curricular activities, work experience or academic projects, reflect on what you learnt and emotions you felt instead of just listing what you did. 
  • Make links – it is good to link your academic experiences to your work experience, or vice versa. If you attended a lecture on chemotherapy, try to do some independent research and do a talk yourself. This shows that you are proactive, keen and intellectual. 
  • Use perfect grammar – it is crucial to check your personal statement for grammatical mistakes. Get your teacher and parents to check it too – a second eye can spot something you may have missed. 

Worked Examples

Poor Tone
“I have read seven medical journals, set up my school medical society and have attended many debates on scientific advancements”. 
“I have grade 2 piano, and I like to play football every week”
“I saw how the GP was always rushed due to the number of patients he had to see, and how stressful and challenging a job medicine is”
Good Tone
Making links: “Setting up our school medical society has given me a platform to debate and research a diverse range of topics, such as the implications of the development of resistance in cancer cells on chemotherapy.”
Making links:“I have a passion for creative projects, so being part of a Young Enterprise company enabled me to nurture my skills and explore into the world of business. I learned invaluable lessons on teamwork and leadership, and it has also helped complement my role as Captain of the School Football Team.”
Positive tone: “I appreciated the GP’s skill in time efficiency and management, which enabled him to see so many patients in a day”

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