Summer exams may be cancelled but you can still be using this time effectively, whether you already hold an offer for this September, or you are looking to apply in the future.
If you are an aspiring medic, do your research and get a good understanding of how the application process for medicine works – this will help you plan what you are going to spend your time on.
There are loads of really great resources on The Medic Portal website that can help you with your research.
If you already hold an offer, check online that there aren’t published reading lists for your university. If you can, maybe get in contact with a first year on the course you will be joining in September. Ask them for some advice on what they wish they had done to prepare before starting – that way you can learn from them and get ahead making your first year, or at least the first couple of weeks, that little bit easier. Make sure you finish all of your relevant A Level content first though!
Planning your time will help you to get the most out of it but, to begin, you need to know what you want to achieve.
If you’re not sure what you want to get out of this period yet, skip to below to find some inspiration. The important thing is to set realistic and measurable goals.
Consider your long-term goal – you want to become a doctor – you’re going to need to study medicine first, and to do that you need to explore a career in medicine so that you know what you are applying for, make an application, and get the necessary grades.
Could you be working on any of these things now?
How about arranging a virtual meeting with someone you know who is a current medical student, or who is a clinical practitioner, who might have some time to speak to you about what it is like and what you should expect.
This, at the very least, demonstrates that you are capable of problem-solving around potentially not being able to get physical experience this summer.
Once you know what you want to use your time for, you can decide how much time you are going to spend on each thing, and allocate rough chunks of time to each thing throughout each week.
This is where individual preferences come into play. If you are someone who prefers rigid structure and that is how you get stuff done, go ahead and make yourself a fully structured timetable, planning out your time each day for the next few weeks.
If, on the other hand, you prefer more flexibility, so that you can grab a coffee and video call a friend, or go out for your daily walk, allocate tasks roughly for days of the week according to how much time you think each task will take.
Planning breaks into your schedule is really important and right now is a strange and uncertain, and potentially quite stressful time.
If you feel like you need a complete break and to just do nothing for a little while, that is absolutely okay and justified. Equally, you don’t want to look back in twelve months and feel like you wasted this time.
Whatever you are feeling right now, super driven or like taking a backseat, it is really important to take breaks, get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and get regular exercise – even a 10 minute YouTube video home workout would be enough.
A personal statement can take considerable time and effort, requiring many revisions, so if you are in year 12 and you want to apply to medicine this October, don’t ignore your personal statement now.
Even if you won’t be applying in the next admissions cycle, if you are considering applying in the future it is worth opening a blank word document and making notes on how you can demonstrate the key attributes of a doctor. You can also include reflections on your work experience and wider reading, and any extracurricular activities and awards that you might want to mention.
At the moment, the news can be a little overwhelming but it’s still important to stay reasonably up-to-date on what is going on, even if you mainly ignore the headline stories of death tolls and miracle stories, knowing about the shortage of PPE and the evolution of the government responses is important. Plus, there might be health-related news stories about things that aren’t the COVID-19 outbreak that you might find interesting and want to read into further.
As well as staying up to date on current news topics, developing your understanding of the ethical issues surrounding medical practice such as confidentiality and capacity could be a really excellent use of your time and a really great way to prepare for any interviews you might get.
Reading the General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines on Future Doctors and any guidance on what the medical schools you wish to apply to want to see included in your application.
Knowing what the key qualities and attributes of a doctor are, and how you can demonstrate them through your own actions and experiences, will help you to put together a convincing and compelling application for medicine.
Finally, and this is the best reason for wider reading in my opinion, you can read just to explore your own interests. After attending a talk by the neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh, not long after the publication of his first book “Do No Harm”, I bought his book, got it signed just like everyone else, and then I went home and read it overnight leaving myself sleep deprived for school the next day – probably not like everyone else and not something I would necessarily advise.
That was the first time I really even considered medicine as a career and even then it was only a fleeting thought. Since then, my passion for science and more recently still, my desire to become a doctor, has led to a small but not insignificant collection of books relating to the various aspects of science and medicine that I find interesting.
I think there are about eight or nine in total, but that isn’t some magical number, and it doesn’t represent the extent of my reading, it’s just a brief overview that mirrors the similar topic selections I choose when I read scientific journals and articles online.
If you vaguely know where you want to apply, you can find out which admissions test you will need to take, and you can consider beginning your preparation for them now. There are so many resources on the internet for this, including this website for advice and practice question banks.
Finally, consider tutoring your younger siblings. Not only will you be doing your siblings, and your parents, a huge favour by being on hand to help out with all the maths and science topics they might become stuck on, but you will be simultaneously demonstrating your passion for your subjects.
A key attribute for any aspiring medic is a passion for studying the sciences, and if you have clear examples of how you can demonstrate this, through wider reading, work experience, and tutoring your siblings, this could be a really great thing to mention on your personal statement.
In addition, tutoring could demonstrate a level of maturity, responsibility, and taking initiative that medical schools will be pleased to see.
Words by: Nea Sneddon-Jenkins
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