1. Volunteering trumps shadowing – the more work experience the better
Grasp every work experience opportunity you get. The more you see, the better equipped you will be when it comes to writing your personal statement and going for your interviews.
However, it’s important you don’t get carried away with shadowing, as I found out halfway through my applications.
Shadowing isn’t regarded nearly as highly as volunteering work. This is because, when volunteering, you are actually doing something and demonstrating you possess key qualities. For a more comprehensive understanding of why work shadowing is sometimes disregarded by medical schools, head over here.
2. You don’t need the highest in everything to secure a place
A medical school application consists of many different parts. These are:
The UCAT or BMAT (or both, depending on the medical schools)
Something I wish I’d known when applying is that you don’t need the highest possible UCAT score, a flawless set of GCSEs or a perfect 9 in the BMAT to be successful. If I understood this properly I would have saved myself a lot of undue pressure.
In order to receive an offer, you just need to pass the criteria that a particular university has laid out. Most application processes operate with a threshold mark.
So, once you pass the threshold for your GCSEs, universities will not look at them again. No matter how much your marks exceed minimum requirements, you won’t be at more of an advantage than the applicant who’s sitting on the threshold mark.
Medical schools don’t demand perfection in everything!
3. Organisation is key
Your A-level years are going to be very challenging. Not only because of the content of A-Levels, but also because you’ll have so many things to focus on with regards to preparing your application.
In hindsight, neglecting your A-Levels for part of the year and then sparing time for revision only after interviews were over is not the right way to go about things!
The best way to handle all these things is making sure you’re super organised and disciplined right from the beginning of your application journey. The chaos of having so many things to juggle at the same time is almost equivalent to what it’s like to have so many things to do all at once in medical school.
The best thing to do would be to get yourself into good habits now to carry you forward.
4. Interviews are so much more relaxed and friendly
Hearing medical schools describe MMIs as similar to the OSCEs was something that terrified me.
OSCEs are known to be brutal medical school exams, so that instilled a fear in me about what the interviews may consist of.
Of course, soon after my first interview, I was able to immediately pick up my misconception. Yes, MMIs are structured in stations similar to the way an OSCE is, but they would never be anywhere near as tricky or harsh.
The interviewers were so much more relaxed and friendly and the people were so nice. You could see straight away that they weren’t designed to try to trip you up. Having known this would have spared me from a lot of worry.
5. Keeping up with current affairs is so important
I strongly recommend that you keep an eye on the medical world from start to finish – not just before your interviews! From now on, you need to pay the news some attention.
The more you read, the more confident you’ll feel when it comes to interviews and the more informed your personal statement will sound.
You stumble upon anything to do with Medicine – read it! There’ll be positive articles, sad articles, critical articles – read them all to build your awareness.
As well as supplementing your application, the news and other people’s experiences of the career will be a crucial part of helping you decide whether this is indeed the right career path for you.