Studying alongside working a full-time job before the age of 18 is an almost impossible task. Unfortunately, the responsibility of a Young Carer does not leave much of a choice. Having achieved the lowest grade to continue from A1 into A2 Chemistry and now in my third year of Medicine at university, I can confidently say that grades do not define your future.
As a Young Carer, I had little time to myself when I was at home. We had no external help and my dad worked away. If I wanted something done, I had to do it myself. Maybe this gave me independence, but spending my evenings helping with my mum’s therapy instead of studying did not lead to successful performance in school.
My careers advisor suggested I consider another career when I received my GCSE results. After all, attaining no grades higher than B does not indicate the academic excellence that’s needed to become a Doctor. I persisted, but then my A-Level results made me think that the careers advisor might have been right. DDD in Biology, Chemistry and Maths does not a Doctor make. After taking the year out to resit A-Levels, I finished with CCD. This finally affirmed to me that I would not be getting into Medical School any time soon.
From this point, I was unsure what I wanted to do. I had spent the year working as a Support Worker, in addition to my caring responsibilities at home. So I considered working my way through the care industry and potentially going into management, or leaving healthcare completely and looking for something utterly different. However, after using the year to figure things out, I decided to apply for Biomedical Science at university – and somehow I received a place. At this point, I no longer had caring responsibilities and could finally put time into studying… Or at least this is what I should have done! In my first year, I achieved 57% and started thinking that perhaps even university wasn’t for me.
All being said, I did manage to find routine and pull my grades up to graduate from university with a 2:1 – a grade that finally presented a slim opportunity to study Medicine. Now I needed to figure out where to apply and determine which universities would even consider me with my previous academic performance at school. The number may have been small, but there was a select list of Graduate Entry Medicine programmes that I could apply for.
I took a year out after finishing my degree, working nights in a learning disability complex, so that I could prepare for the GAMSAT exam. But again, circumstances were not helping, and working nights did not offer me a great opportunity to study. The lack of study led to my anxiety building so much that I didn’t even attend my first GAMSAT sitting. It’s a long exam and the prep can be overwhelming. Resources often make the science section sound never-ending in terms of the content that needs to be learned. For the second sitting, rather than trying to study everything, I changed my mindset and resolved to be ok with knowing that it would be impossible to cover all of the revision material. This change made the exam seem more manageable, and I found a way to incorporate studying into my work schedule. I ultimately managed to score well enough to be invited for interviews at three universities.
The interviews turned out to be where I felt most comfortable. I no longer felt like I couldn’t do it because of my exam performance. It felt achievable. And my experience as a Young Carer finally felt like it could be helpful instead of a hindrance to getting into Medical School. I had experience with healthcare, I understood how disease impacts a family, and I had developed empathy and other skills relevant to being a Doctor that can’t be taught at school. I had an interview and the next day received an offer. I couldn’t believe it, and even called the university to double-check that it was real. I was finally going to study Medicine!
Now I am doing clinical placements, and nobody cares what I received in my A-Levels. Often people share stories of getting into Med School with ‘low A-Levels’ of AAB. I hope that sharing my journey of getting into Med School really affirms that Medicine is achievable – just not always via the traditional route.
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