I studied a BSc in Biochemistry at Imperial College London for three years before starting Graduate Entry Medicine. I went straight into GEM after I had completed my degree.
Unlike a lot of students who apply for GEM, I didn’t primarily have a future in Medicine in mind when I was doing my undergraduate degree. I had considered Medicine initially at school, because I was taking sciences and maths for A-Level. However, my interest in molecular biology ultimately pushed me towards applying for Biochemistry at university.
During my Biochemistry degree, I came to realise that I was really interested in learning about human disease processes and therapeutics, which re-sparked my interest in Medicine. In particular, I studied the molecular mechanisms of cancer and this really drove me to think about a career in Medicine. I did some research and work experience, and then decided to apply for GEM in my final year.
I did a lot of practice for the UCAT and BMAT, which involved quite a bit of repetition and pattern recognition. I also spoke to some GEM students about their experiences and any tips they had. I wrote a draft Personal Statement and asked friends and family to critique it.
Many people are happy to help with reading through applications, so I would advise any applicants to talk to current Med students and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I also sent my Personal Statement to one of my referees (a lab supervisor from Biochemistry) who gave me some very useful pointers on how to improve it.
I wanted to go to one of the top Medical Schools because I’m quite a competitive person – so I applied to UCL, Oxford, Imperial and King’s College London. Location was also an important factor in determining where I applied, as I wanted to stay in London ideally. In the end, I received an offer from UCL.
I applied for a mixture of four-year and five-year GEM course. UCL is five years, and although I initially felt disappointed at having to study for an extra year, in retrospect I think I made the right decision. Having spoken to some people who are on accelerated four-year courses, it sounds very intense!
I was very fortunate to get a place the first time I applied. I honestly don’t think there’s a trick to getting in first time, 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 really depends on the cohort of students applying each year, your admissions test score and your interview. It is vital to practise for your interview, as this is the one time when the universities get to meet you so it’s important to make a good impression.
If you don’t get an offer on your first go, don’t be disheartened. It often comes down to luck – and there’s always next year! People who have an extra year to apply sometimes end up finding it valuable, because they are able to get more work experience, hone their skills, and ultimately build a more impressive application.
My favourite part of the course so far is 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 has been such a great experience and really brought everything we had learned 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 love 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 enjoy being able to do practical procedures on patients such as taking bloods. It felt like, having spent so long in university, I was finally ready to be in a professional environment and put all of my studying to the test.
This is just personal preference, but I don’t enjoy dissecting cadavers in the anatomy lab. Some people absolutely love it, but I didn’t like the experience at all. Needless to say, I don’t plan on becoming a surgeon.
Although I disliked the experience, I do understand how privileged we are at UCL to be able to do dissections ourselves. Some universities just teach anatomy from specimen pots, or the demonstrator does the dissection as a presentation.
I also found the pre-clinical years of my GEM course less enjoyable than the clinical years. Because I’d already spent three years of my undergraduate degree in seminar rooms and lecture theatres, I was impatient to get some hands-on experience working with patients.
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 this, 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 to make it a priority. Otherwise, just normal stuff like seeing friends for dinner or brunch, and spending time with my family and boyfriend. I also really enjoy going to art galleries and exhibitions – and London is the perfect place to do these sorts of activities.
Since that one cancer module in my Biochemistry degree, I have been really passionate about cancer biology and Medicine. Although I came to Medical School with an open mind, Oncology has always been up there as something I’m very interested in pursuing.
Throughout my course, I’ve also become interested in Cardiology, Obs & Gynae and Emergency Medicine. The great thing about Medical School is that you get to experience so many specialities which you can either add to your list or cross off – and you don’t need to decide until later (a few years after university) what you actually want to specialise in.
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