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5 Top tips for Medical School Applications

July 27, 2017 in Kaplan

Blog by Piriyanga Kesavan, a Kaplan UKCAT teacher and Medical School student at Imperial College London

Applying to medical school can be a daunting process but here are some top tips to help give you a better idea of how to go about things.

1) Get your experience

Whilst medicine is an extremely rewarding career it is also highly demanding and draining. The hours can be tough, the workload can be stressful and not to mention getting there requires 5 or 6 years of medical school. For this reason, universities look for students who have clearly done their best to experience and understand the reality of medicine and whether they are suited to it. That doesn’t mean you need to have months of work experience at various major hospitals but that you have at least undergone some experience in the healthcare sector. There are 2 types of experience which you should aim to do: the first to gain an insight into the life of a doctor and the second to gain some experience working with people.

Whether in the primary care setting or at a hospital, a few weeks shadowing various healthcare professionals, including nurses, occupational therapists etc. (not just the doctors!) will help you to understand what a career in medicine involves. Moreover, you will be able to see what skills you need to work on to become an excellent doctor. In order to build the skills you need and truly find out whether you’re suited to working with people in such a personal environment it is valuable to do some long term voluntary work. Putting in at least an hour a week over a long period of time to work with charities, at care homes, at schools etc. will be both rewarding and valuable.

Gaining experience in these two areas will also give you a better idea of what to include in your personal statement to help make you stand out from the crowd. Your experiences and more importantly, how they have affected you and what you have learnt, are exactly what universities want to hear about.

2) Prepare for your tests
Most medical schools require you to sit either the UKCAT or BMAT but place varying importance on the scores. The advantage of the UKCAT is that you can choose your universities based on how well you have scored and their requirements. The BMAT, however, until very recently with a new September test date, is more of a gamble as you only sit the test after submitting your application so preparation is vital. You may have heard that one cannot revise for aptitude tests. There is some truth to this in that you cannot revise in the way you would for your school exams but you can learn techniques to help tackle questions more effectively and most importantly practice to help improve your efficiency and in turn your score. Small differences in scores can make a big difference in your chances of receiving an interview and offer so give yourself the best opportunity for success by preparing to ensure you perform to the best of your ability. Kaplan, for instance offer UKCAT and BMAT courses to revise master these strategies.

3) Choose carefully
Choosing universities is no easy feat with a wide range of medical schools to pick from, and it can often be quite confusing. What is important is to look into which universities you are best suited to and figure out where you think you will not only thrive but enjoy your time. Medical school is a long haul and can be rather stressful at times so you want to make sure you’re in an environment that brings out the best in you. Going to open days can help give a feel for what it may be like and researching course structures and extra-curricular opportunities will give you an idea of how well you may fit in. This will also come in handy in interviews as most, if not all, university interviewers ask ‘why do you want to come here?’. After all, they aim to pick students who will succeed at their institution.

4) Tick the right boxes
Universities look for a range of qualities and skills in their students, so give yourself the best shot at an interview by targeting your personal statement to tick the boxes of the universities you are applying to. Often, you can find this information on the medical school websites so have a look around and make a list of what you need to and want to include. Knowing what they like will help you to decide what to focus on in your personal statement and give an idea of how to structure and balance the statement overall. Remember that the key to the personal statement is keeping personal so be sure to relate the skills you have developed to your experiences and vice versa. You need to show them what you have done, what it has taught you and thus why they should choose you.

5) Know yourself and your field
Medicine requires both knowledge and interpersonal skills so this is what universities look for in their applicants. Whilst you can do your best to sell yourself on paper, the interview is where you really get a chance to shine so make sure you are prepared. Do your research into key topics such as the NHS, ethics and medical advances to show your interest and understanding of the field. Know your personal statement back to front as many interviews are focused around the personal statement. Finally, know yourself – your strengths, weaknesses and most importantly your motivation to pursue a career in medicine. You will almost definitely be asked why you want to study medicine. Think carefully about how you want to address this question to avoid sounding like the people who have just gone before you.

Remember that medical schools are looking for future doctors. All you need to do is show them how great a doctor you will be one day.

Good luck!