Never giving up! How to get into med school eventually (after applying 3 times)
Why did you apply to medical school?
Around the age of 13 I developed a fascination with medical conditions. At the weekend I would sit on the computer reading the NHS website (I was an odd kid). It was then I realised a career in medicine might be interesting.
How did you get into medical school?
There was only 1 problem with pursuing a career in medicine – I was by no means an A* student. Whilst I loved school and learning (I did say I was an odd kid) I was a distinctly below average student in the bottom set for maths and English and headed for a very average set of GCSE results. In spite of this and despite my careers teacher telling me I might want to re think my career choice I continued to pursue a career in medicine. I organised work experience in a local GP surgery and then in our local hospital. After obtaining for me amazing GCSE results but in comparison to other medical school applicants a distinctly average set of GCSE results. I went on to do Biology, Chemistry and Physics at A level. After re sitting almost every AS and A level module during my final set of summer exams somehow managed to get ABB in my A levels.
In spite of knowing England had more chance of winning the world cup than I had of getting into medical school I applied any way using half of my UCAS choices for medical schools and half for Neuroscience courses (A topic I had taken and interest in and one that then had much lower entry grade requirements!). Unsurprisingly I didn’t even get interviewed for any medical courses and went on to study neuroscience and pharmacology at the University of Nottingham.
I had a great 3 years at university and whilst neuroscience was challenging I had finally found something I was good at. For the first time rather than working hard and getting rather average grades I was getting good grades!
In my last year at university I again applied to medical school, this time applying to the Graduate entry courses. Despite now being predicted a 1st class honours degree I was once again unsuccessful, not even managing to get an interview. Held back by my GCSE and A level grades as well as an inability to get an anywhere near decent mark on the UKCAT (average 330!) and obtaining a rubbish mark on the essay writing section of the GAMSAT.
I went on from university to work as a support worker in a Neuro-rehab home for people with acquired brain injury and challenging behaviour and applied to medical school for a third time. This time I had more luck and was interviewed by Birmingham and Liverpool and was offered a place on Liverpool’s graduate entry medicine course!
How did I choose which medical schools to apply to?
If you are the brightest button in the box who can score strait 700’s in the UKCAT then pick a university based on its course, location, extracurricular activities etc.…. However, if like me you do not have the luxury of excellent exam results and outstanding aptitude then apply tactically. Compare the entry requirements and play to your strengths applying to universities that favour qualities, qualifications and experience that you do have. For me Liverpool (at the time I applied) did not use aptitude tests and favoured applicants with good work experience.
What advice would I give to someone before an interview for medical school?
Be yourself. Having talked to numerous members of staff at Liverpool who interview prospective students the one thing they repeatedly say puts them off a student is someone who is “giving the answers they think they should” medical interview preparation books are good but don’t quote out of them in the interview just be yourself.
Do I regret doing medicine a bit later in life?
My 18 year old self was gutted she didn’t get into medical school. Now I wouldn’t do it any other way. Starting medicine age 22 gave me 4 more years of invaluable life experience. I wasn’t learning how to save lives whilst also learning how to cook, clean and wash my clothes! Doing a “normal” degree first allowed me to do university properly, get involved in lots of societies and not have to worry about getting up at 6am for placement (It’s much easier to survive a lecture than a ward round after only a few hours’ sleep). I also think that the more life experience you have the easier medicine is. As an 18 year old who had just fallen out of the school bubble I would have struggled to empathise as well with people with jobs, children, elderly relatives….. Working in neuro-rehab not only gave me experience in dealing with patients and their families it also meant I made friends with colleges from all walks of life and I feel this had made me much more empathetic.