Graduate Entry Case Study 3
Anissa studied Biochemistry at Imperial before applying for Graduate Entry Medicine. Read all about her experiences and application tips below…
What was your pre-medical school experience?
I studied a BSc in Biochemistry at Imperial College London for 3 years before starting graduate medicine. I didn’t take a break or time off and went straight into medicine after I was done with my first degree.
What made you want to do graduate entry medicine after your first degree?
Unusually for a lot of graduate medics, I didn’t primarily want to do medicine as an undergraduate. I had considered medicine initially at school as I was doing all the sciences and maths for A-Level, but eventually my interest in molecular biology pushed me towards applying for Biochemistry.
During my Biochemistry degree, I came to realise that I was really passionate about learning about human disease processes and therapeutics, which sparked my interest in medicine once again. In particular, a module I studied about the molecular mechanisms of cancer really drove me to think about a career in medicine. I did some research and work experience and then decided to apply in my final year.
How did you prepare for the graduate entry application process?
I bought the UKCAT and BMAT question books and did a lot of practice with those, which involved quite a bit of repetition and pattern recognition. I also spoke to some people who were doing graduate medicine about their experiences and any tips they had. I wrote a draft personal statement and asked friends and family to critique it.
Most people are happy to help with reading through applications, so I would advise anyone applying to talk to current medical students who will be able to help with application or UKCAT/BMAT advice. I also sent my application to one of my referees (one of my old lab supervisors from biochemistry) who gave me very useful pointers on how to improve my personal statement.
Why did you choose the schools you applied for?
I wanted to be in one of the top medical schools because I’m naturally quite a competitive person, so I applied to UCL, Oxford, Imperial and King’s College London. I received an offer from UCL and have really enjoyed it! Location was also an important factor in determining where I applied, as I wanted to stay in London ideally.
I applied for a mixture of 4- and 5-year graduate courses (UCL is 5 years), and although initially disappointed at having to study an extra year, in retrospect I think I made the right decision, having spoken to some people on an accelerated 4-year course, it does not sound pleasant!
How many times did you have to apply before you were successful?
I was very fortunate to get a place the first time I applied. I honestly don’t think there’s any trick, and I have friends who had pretty much the same credentials as me who had to apply multiple times before receiving an offer.
I think it just depends on the cohort of students applying each year, your test score and your interview. It is so important to get some interview practice as this is the one time the universities get to meet you and it is important to make a good impression.
If you don’t get an offer on your first go, don’t be disheartened, as sometimes it comes down to luck – and there’s always next year! People who have an extra year to apply often find it so valuable as they are able to get more work experience, hone their skills, and ultimately build a more impressive application.
What is the best part of your course?
My favourite part of the course was when we transferred from a pre-clinical to a clinical environment. Working in a hospital every day, being part of the team, getting bedside teaching with real patients – it was such a great experience and really brought everything we learnt in pre-clinicals together.
It is so different learning something in a lecture theatre compared to actually experiencing it and seeing a patient with a certain condition. I loved being given real responsibility for examining a patient or taking a history and having to present it to the team on a ward round. It’s scary at first but it is such good practice.
I also loved being able to do practical procedures on patients such as taking bloods or cannulating (sounds odd but it’s actually really fun)! I felt like, having spent so long in university I was finally ready to be in a professional environment and put all my studying to the test.
What is your least favourite part so far?
This is just personal preference- but I hated dissecting cadavers in the anatomy lab. Some people absolutely love it but I just did not like the experience at all- not helped by my loathing of anatomy (needless to say, I won’t be becoming a surgeon).
Although I disliked the experience, I do understand how privileged we are at UCL medical school to be able to do dissections ourselves- most universities just teach anatomy from specimen pots or the demonstrator doing the dissection as a presentation.
Another thing I didn’t like was the pre-clinical years, just because I’d already spent three years of my undergraduate degree in seminar rooms and lecture theatres and I was really impatient to get some hands-on experience working with patients during my clinical years.
How do you relax?
During the first few years of medical school, I would relax by going out on the weekends with my friends. Although I still sometimes do that, in later years the workload does get quite cumbersome, so there’s less time (or desire) for partying.
I find exercise really beneficial in combatting stress so I try and make it a priority. Otherwise, just normal stuff like seeing friends for dinner or brunch, and hanging out with my family and boyfriend.
I also really enjoy going to art galleries and exhibitions – and being in London is the perfect place to take advantage of all the cultural offerings.
What do you see yourself doing when you have completed all your training?
Since that one cancer module in my Biochemistry degree I have been really passionate and interested in cancer biology and medicine. Although I came to medical school with an open mind, Oncology has always been up there with something I’ve been very interested in pursuing.
Having now completed my entire graduate medicine course, Oncology is still a firm favourite. However, added to the list is Cardiology, Obs & Gynae and Emergency medicine. The great thing about medical school is you get to experience so many specialties which you can either add or cross off your list – and you don’t have to decide until a few years after university what you actually want to specialise in.