Having submitted my UCAS application, and eagerly awaiting a (hopefully positive!) response from the universities I applied to for Medicine, I thought I would share some tips for younger students who are considering this as a potential career.
You may be a Year 12 student who is fully committed to the idea of pursuing medicine – but what next? It is no lie to say that applying for medicine is a very tough process; there are a multitude of things to balance including work experience, volunteering, extra-curriculars and most importantly, EXAMS. However, it is only the start of the year, you may think there is little to worry about – but is best to start early. Down below I’ve illustrated some points that many of you will want to start thinking about:
This is an important one that can not only inform your choice to pursue medicine, but can also provide an accurate insight into what a day-to-day life of a doctor really entails. It is best to start applying now due to the competitive nature of these placements. For me, personally, shadowing doctors was an extremely valuable experience, confirming my aspirations to become a doctor. It was a chance for me to admire the hard work that doctors undertake for their patients and the community, as well as enlightening me to the truly breath-taking and innovative science of curing people. But it can also open up your eyes to the challenges of medicine, allowing you to make an informed decision of whether this is the right career for you. Not only that, Medical Schools love to hear about this in your personal statements and interviews. It is very important to reflect upon your experiences – try to keep a diary! What you learnt and any skills gained out of it is far more important than what you actually did. It is also best to search the requirements of any universities you are considering, as some require a minimum amount of work experience.
Another thing to start this year is volunteering – whether it be at your local care home or the hospice. However, if you are really unable to get hold of any care-related volunteering opportunities, then it is ok to talk about any other jobs you have as long as you can relate the skills and experiences to medicine. Volunteering is a rewarding experience as you can apply the skills you learnt from work experience, such as empathy and communication. It is a chance to develop these skills further, and see how they impact you as a person and future medical student. Medical schools emphasise on the need for long-term commitment (on a regular basis) to show that you are a motivated and determined individual – so it is best to start applying now if you aren’t already volunteering. Again, you should try to keep a diary and reflect upon your experiences. It will also be helpful for you later on when you start writing your personal statement.
Choosing you Medical School
This is probably one of the most difficult decisions I have every had to make in my life! Perhaps the most priceless advice I can give is to start attending open days as they can give you a reliable idea of what the university campus, course style, accommodation and student life is like at the university. I also highly recommend looking into the style of teaching – PBL, Integrated, Case-Based Learning and Traditional. Enjoy the concept of lectures and a highly scientific course? Go traditional (eg. Oxbridge). Prefer more self-directed learning and group work? Try any problem-based learning course (PBL). Want early clinical exposure? Time to do some research! Another aspect to account is the admissions process – different universities will weigh up your GCSEs, UKCAT/BMAT and personal statement differently.
Start looking into which admissions test you might need to take – currently most medical schools require the UKCAT. The UKCAT may seem quite difficult to revise for – but try to start looking into the types of questions and techniques on how to master them within the time limit. The key is to keep your revision slow and steady so that you can build up your preparation. The BMAT is more scientific on the other hand, so you may want to dust up your GCSE/AS knowledge (including GCSE Physics!) as you get closer to the time. There is still a long time though till these exams, so don’t panic if you haven’t started revising.
Just some final advice is to keep up-to-date with the current news (Reliable websites such as BBC Health and BMJ are good). Also, do you have any hobbies or interests? Any wider reading or achievements? Try to start thinking about these.
Hopefully that was quite helpful and kept your interest despite being a long read! I hope that this has inspired or been of any value for Year 11/12 students currently unsure on how to tackle the next stage. Please rate and comment on your suggestions below and good luck!