Coming into medicine at an older age usually means that you have already developed the confidence and assertiveness it takes to be a good student and doctor.
If you’re on a course where you spend lots of time integrated with the undergraduates, you’ll be surrounded by 18-year-olds who have just left school. Remember back when you were 18 – just finding your feet, less self-assured and confident than you are now.
Being older as you embark on your medical career means you have built these skills already, so you can get straight into the action!
Following on from the above point, older age usually correlates with greater maturity. Not only does this have an implication on your studies – you’ll probably call it a night at 2am instead of 5am – but it particularly comes in useful when you start your clinical placements.
Being more mature than your undergraduate colleagues often translates to dealing with patients better and interacting with doctors in a more confident manner. You more quickly become part of the team and are seen as an asset instead of just a medical student.
Although everyone (us grads included) gets nervous the first few times we encounter a patient, having that added maturity compared to the undergraduates is definitely advantageous.
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We hear countless stories of people who entered medical school because they were pushed and weren’t sure they actually wanted to be a doctor. The danger with medical school as an undergraduate is that you have to make the decision to become a doctor at 16, and this is such a young age to make an incredible important and difficult choice.
I definitely felt the pressure to apply for medicine during school and am so glad I didn’t, because during my undergraduate degree I was able to explore the full scope of my scientific and medical interests, and over a number of years was able to make an informed decision about wanting to be a doctor.
Those years were so invaluable in helping me become certain that medicine was the right choice. And remember, it is not only a (very long) degree, it is also a vocation and hopefully a life-long career, and these decisions should not be made in a rush.
You have a degree (sometimes multiple) under your belt and have been through the process of university before. The skills you pick up in your undergraduate degree are invaluable in helping you excel at medical school.
Having been through revision, university exams and finals before stands you in good stead to tackle the workload and pressures of medical school. You will know the hard work and dedication it takes to plan revision months in advance, the stress of coursework and how different (and much harder) university exams are to A-levels.
You will have developed revision and study skills over the years which the undergraduates have not had time to develop. You will have your own revision style which you know works for you- and you won’t have to waste time figuring it out!
Although people, and their hobbies and interests, are constantly fluctuating, by the time you’re in your mid-twenties you have a better idea of what your likes and dislikes are, and the type of people you like to spend time with.
This is after years of exploring friendships and extra-curricular activities, and eventually fine-tuning what works for you and what you find enjoyable. This comes in handy when you’re bombarded with clubs, societies, and the pressure of making new friends in fresher’s year of graduate medicine.
Of course, one should make the most of this opportunity, but you have the added advantage of knowing who you are and what you like. This saves you a lot of wasted time exploring things which you know won’t be of interest to you, or pursuing friendships with people just because you’re on the same course/sat next to each other in a lecture that one time. Embrace the new experiences, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you know who you are!
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Words: Anissa McClelland
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