Structuring your Personal Statement

The Introduction

Scary. The introduction is the grabber of the piece. It determines the first impression that the reader gets of you as a person. Some of the main things to avoid are words like “passion” and “relish” are the two main ones, but “intrigued/fascinated” are quite cliché too although a bit harder to avoid. They are really really overused and they don’t bring out your ‘passion’ for the subject at all. Another thing to avoid is bad attempts at humour, as they’re generally out of place in a professional personal statement. Other pitfalls include quotes starting off your introduction (as these are not your own words and hence not personal at all) or sentimentality as to why your pony was shot and how this made you want to be a vet. The right situations can be linked back well such as the pony being shot, but only if you’re clever about it. The first paragraph is the key one. You need to tell them why you want to do the veterinary course, what motivates you, what do you find interesting about the topics you’re going to study. So it needs to sound professional, strong and unique. The opening sentence needs to leave an impression. All the paragraphs should flow and not sound disjointed. Think of it as a bit of an essay you need to perfect; sentences or paragraphs cannot stand out like a sore thumb.
As a general introduction a few people may include a number of things such as, but not limited to; animal welfare, scientific interest, their background etc. Make sure you mention statements that can be attributed as to why you want to make veterinary medicine your sole career. Generalist statements such as ‘love of animals’ and ‘love of science’ could be said of a degree such as vet nursing or zoology. Make your points as specific to a medicine career as you can.

The Science Bit

You may or may not include this in your personal statement. This should ideally encompass what you find interesting in your current scientific courses, or topical scientific issues you find interesting. The most important thing is there needs to be links back as to why this shows your aptitude to be a vet/how this random topic at A level will be further put to use at university.

The most important bit – WORK EXPERIENCE

Should be at least 60-70% of your personal statement. If not, you’re doing something wrong. Rather than listing every single placement, pick a few and elaborate. Another thing names of farms or whatever are not needed and take up un-necessary space, same as exact dates. It can be as simple as ‘ When I spent x weeks at a dairy farm I learnt, saw, etc.’  You need to have a balance to show the staples. Bristol gauge your work experience from this. Therefore you need to have covered to some degree (you might weight it differently or whatever):

  • Vet Work
  • Farm Work
  • Equine Work
  • Small Animal work- kennels, rescue, catteries, etc.
  • Other-labs, abattoir etc.

The other places such as vet lab, abattoir, work abroad, wildlife should be mentioned as slightly less priority, although it’s a wide known fact universities like to see vet labs and abattoirs in the work experience list. The reason you need those four staples- they’re the main industries you will be working in, the unis want to know what you learnt, the others are generally niche areas of work. Make sure you cut the work experience into sensible paragraphs. Remember to write about what you learnt, do not list what you did.
You need to make sure that you can talk at length about everything mentioned in your PS. Don’t mention an operation you observed, then not know anything about it! Don’t make this a list, its better you mention a few ops you witnessed and be able to talk about them than reel off a lot of ops but be able to talk about none of them. Throughout this section, you should be reflecting on how this has helped you reflect on the life as a vet.

Future Booked Placements

You can also put in the personal statement as an extra sentence: ‘I have x and x booked for the forthcoming year’. If you are a reapplicant you may want to expand on some of the things you are doing in your gap year, although you should have a lot more to talk about from the summer after application.

The Achievements Bit

Extra-curriculars and achievements should be about a reasonably sized paragraph or two max. The bulk should be your work experience. Remember that every tom, dick and harry these days has Duke of Edinburgh, Grade 7 piano etc. Try to find something unique. Also, this is NOT the place to list your high UMS or science awards. Your reference by your tutor can do that. This also includes hobbies, part time job etc. All are important in the roundness they create. Also, in my opinion, anything on vetsim, vetcam or whatever those residency courses are shouldn’t be mentioned. They don’t give your application any credit because people from less well off backgrounds can’t afford it (like when I applied) so the unis cannot take these kind of courses into account, and a lot of people go to them so it isn’t very unique either. Also don’t just list achievements or qualities… link back to how they are actually useful for a vet degree if you can.

In this section you need to tell the admissions department what you do in your spare time. Remember it has to relate to your application. You may enjoy going to the cinema but what does that actually bring to your personal statement? This paragraph is very important. It shows the reader that you can balance an academic life with extracurricular activities. If you mention a hobby that doesn’t relate to veterinary medicine, don’t try to relate it. It’ll be obvious to the reader your clutching at straws. Its up to you if you want to relate everything to vet medicine. Some things will have an obvious link so your wasting words explaining everything.

The Conclusion

Three or four lines max (preferably three). This should sum up why you’re the perfect applicant and why they should choose you for the course. Don’t introduce anything new and try to sound confident. You should briefly tie everything you have said so far together; try not to be too vague.


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