Updated: Sep 27, 2020
By Lucy Hong
Just to emphasise that these are my personal thoughts and experiences ,as a medical student, and definitely not a generalisation of students’ views at my medical school.
Tips and advice on application
Medicine is one of those subjects , where there are just a lot of hoops to jump through in order to apply, so the best advice I can really give in this context is to be organised! I would definitely recommend doing your research in advance, for example about UKCAT and/or BMAT entry and exam dates (prepare earlier rather than later!!!), when interviews are, planning how you’re going to fit in some volunteering and/or work experience and/or paid work etc. I think I had a folder, where I kept all the relevant paperwork for the 4 medical schools I applied to, alongside the however-many drafts of my personal statement and other UCAS-related bits and bobs. You’d be amazed at how much you can accumulate over time!
Even if you’re an amazing candidate with the potential to be a splendid clinician, the competitive nature of getting into a medical school means that your studies (A-levels, Scottish Highers, IB or equivalent) really do have to take priority. Setting aside time to properly go through the content you’re taught, asking your teachers if you get confused about anything, rather than letting things slide by and slowly build up over time. Most of all , staying motivated throughout those key final years are all so important! By keeping (relatively) on top of this stuff, you’ll be at greater ease in setting aside some time for those additional entrance exams and interview prep, as well as maybe a role in school, in the community (e.g. voluntary work). Also please don’t forget that you are a human, who needs time to themselves, time to rest and recuperate, so do things that make you happy and relaxed. 😊
What I would have wanted to know before applying
I think it’s quite easy to ‘romanticise’ the idea of getting into medical school, studying the course, graduating and becoming a junior doctor – yes, that is the goal for many of us,. Nevrtheless, the process itself takes a minimum of 5 or 6 years, depending on which medical school you study at. There’ll be many, many stressful hours of revision, during those years! If I could speak to my younger self, as I was in the process of applying, I think I’d emphasise just how much stuff there is to memorise. The sheer volume of information you’re expected to learn and be able to communicate/explain/build on in your future practice is something that can’t be under-estimated, and often (at least for me) can be quite overwhelming! Due to the amount of content in any medical course (which is very similar at a fundamental level), I’d probably advise myself that approaching learning at university in exactly the same way as my A-levels isn’t the best idea. Being willing to try out new methods of learning, using different resources and asking for help when you need, are all really important aspects of being a flexible learner. This mentality will help in the adjustment to the traditional/PBL/integrated course you’ll be starting on. For me, the transition to the ‘traditional’ medical course at Cambridge took quite a bit of time, so I’d also give myself a hug and talk about the importance of not letting medicine becoming ‘all-consuming’. There’s so much more to life than just study, and the many crises of confidence I had throughout first year are all indications that being organised, but also going with the flow. Being a bit more easy-going, and having nice stuff to occupy yourself with outside of medicine are vital.
What I like best about my medical school
This is a bit of a conventional answer I suppose, but the medical course I’m studying is really so extensive and detailed. It’s absolutely awesome if you’re genuinely interested in learning the intricacies of anatomy/physiology/ biochemistry/pathology/neurobiology/pharmacology/reproductive medicine and so forth. As you can imagine , it’s also really tough! The course at my medical school has both breadth and depth, with three pre-clinical years and three clinical years, which sets students up for their clinical studies rather well (I hope!). The latter three years of the course are essentially clinical applications and lots of revision of what we’ve been taught in the first three years. I guess we all start out feeling a bit like, we’ve been thrown in the deep end when our clinical studies begin – at least I know I’ll be feeling like this come fourth year!
To be honest, regardless which of which medical school you apply to and get into, you’ll come across so many awesome opportunities and people, who you can share lots of experiences and memories with. This is definitely true for the university I’m studying at! Please try to make the most of your time as a medical student and just as a young adult. These are some funky years ahead, and I would highly recommend spending time cultivating great relationships and establishing the way you balance your life and work.