Applying for Medicine

I'm currently in my fourth year of studying medicine at The University of Nottingham having studied A levels in Chemistry, Biology, Maths and ICT at Moulton Sixth Form. I'd always really enjoyed science lessons, although Biology could be a little bit boring because it was all about plants! During GCSE Biology we started to learn more about human biology and in particular I found it fascinating learning about the heart - I think it was at that point I decided I wanted to be a doctor.

Getting accepted on to a medical course is difficult and having evidence of some relevant work experience is crucial. Importantly, its the quality of your work experience just as much as the amount that you have that matters. I was lucky enough to obtain a week long work placement at Northampton General Hospital and three days shadowing a GP. Alongside work experience, showing a long term commitment to anything is good, especially any voluntary work, which does not need to be medically related. In my personal statement I mentioned that I was in the Boys' Brigade and had reached grade 8 on the guitar. These both showed that I could commit to things.

If you're considering studying medicine, you've probably heard of the UKCAT, the importance of which varies between universities. Some don't use it whereas some incorporate the mark into their selection process. I would advise you to find out how important it is to the universities you are considering applying to.

I got interviews at three of the universities I applied to and they were all really different. At Leicester I had to write an essay on an ethical scenario and at Nottingham they hold muliple mini interviews with several different people. At every interview I was asked "why do you want to be a doctor", so make sure you have an answer! A lot also asked me to comment on things I'd mentioned in my personal statement, so be prepared to elaborate on what you've written. Another common question at interview required me to explain what I'd learnt during my work experience. A question that did take me by surprise was "what would you do if a consultant started shouting at you in front of patients"?

During my first two years at university, my schedule wasn't much more demanding than students on most other courses. We had lectures most days, sometimes all day, but we still got plenty of time off and had dissections one morning a week. We had to spend about eight days in each year in a hospital or a GP's surgery but we still got the same five months of holidays as the other students.

In my third year, I spent half the year working on a dissertation and the other half in a hospital. We spent time on the wards, in clinics and in surgical theater and we only got three weeks holiday before starting our fourth year, when we began to specialise in more specific areas of medicine, such as paediatrics and psychology. I've really noticed the workload increasing in my fourth year. I have to be in hospital most days alongside revising for exams and attending lectures.

My advice to other students considering medicine would be not to leave things to the last minute. Even if you're not 100% sure about medicine, start looking at universities' entry requirements and start planning work experience early on. I left my work experience too late and luckily obtained my hospital placement becaue someone else droped out. 

The two most important hurdles to getting in to medical school are your personal statement and the interviews. Get anyone and everyone to read your personal statement and give you feedback, but also find out what kind of things the medical schools are looking for in your statement. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get an interview at every university you apply to, very few people do. If you've got a good personal statement then you should get a couple of interviews.

When preparing for interview, get lots of people to practice with you - parents, teachers, siblings, friends, perhaps even the doctor you did your work experience with. You can always give them a list of questions to work through if they're not sure what to ask.

Getting on to a medical course is difficult and it is hard work, but I get a lot out of helping other people, so doing a job where you get to do that every day is a real privilege.