Hi! My name is Jess and I recently got into Keele to study Medicine. In the following blog, I share my insights into the medical school application process.
The best way to describe my journey getting into medical school is as a series of hurdles, each of which you must clear successfully to reach the finish and, hopefully, gain an offer.
First comes the UKCAT, which I found particularly challenging compared to previous exams due to the extreme time pressure; half the battle is staying calm and knowing when to move on. Practice helps greatly and enabled me to achieve a much higher score than without revision.
The next hurdle for getting into medical school is writing an excellent personal statement; this is more difficult than it sounds. The hardest part is striking a balance between arrogance and understatement when outlining personal achievements and experience. This, together with a very restrictive word limit, meant my finished personal statement bared little resemblance to my first draft and took around two months of editing.
Next comes a nerve-racking period of waiting until the penultimate hurdle: interviews. The time scale depends on the university, you may only wait a month or until late March as I did for my final interview. The styles of interviews also varies with some being time pressured MMIs, which I preferred, and others more traditional, panel discussion. Like the UKCAT, preparation here makes all the difference; it doesn’t have to be extensive and you don’t have to prepare answers to every conceivable question; often this is counterintuitive making people monotonous and impersonal. Simply prepping bullet points for the most common questions, such as “Why do you want to be a doctor”, allowed me to give a more confident, assured answer. Hopefully, if the interviews go well, you will have an offer by late March/early April and then comes the final hurdle of A level exams.
First off, I looked at this as the easiest step and thought getting my offer was the end, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Getting AAA or higher is much harder than it’s made out to be, especially as my exams were tougher than expected. I was convinced I had missed my grades and with the offer in my grasp, failing here would’ve been devastating. Thankfully I got what I needed and can’t wait to finally start medical school in September. Any successful candidate will tell you what a relief it is to be finally accepted unconditionally. I’m sure it will feel like being thrown in at the deep end for the first few weeks, but learning to cope with the new surroundings and studies will be all part of the experience.
Looking back on my application, I have two key pieces of advice that helped me getting into medical school:
1) Be prepared and organised. Lack of proper preparation can mean the difference between success and rejection. However, preparing mentally is just as important as doing so physically. Being rejected is really disheartening, but the nature of medicine means that one or two rejections pre-interview is normal. So, don’t let this affect your performance in other areas. Being organised by knowing your deadlines, dates and timings will reduce stress before key events and boost performance.
2) My most useful piece of advice: Apply strategically. Every medical school has different criteria and put emphasis on different achievements. I’m still yet to find two medical school looking for exactly the same criteria, but don’t look at this as a negative – it can be used to your advantage. You may even be able to guarantee yourself an interview by choosing universities who select for interview based on areas which you have excelled. Strategic applications can mean forfeiting a medical school you love, but if you don’t meet their criteria then you will be wasting precious places. Many people don’t appreciate this enough despite it being a one way ticket to a quick rejection.
Medicine is extremely difficult to get into and those applying are lucky to receive one offer, as everyone says. Only once was it highlighted to me that someone has to receive a place, so don’t let competition phase you. Equally, if you haven’t been successful the first time, don’t give up. Use it as example of your commitment and a chance to gain more experience. Most people who take a gap year or another degree find it actually helps them in the long run and may be advantageous later. There’s a lot of information on applying successfully, but I think the key is to work hard and be yourself. Clearly you need good grades and medical aptitude, but what will really get you the offer is passion and commitment.