Updated: May 4, 2020
By Ahmed Al- Shihabi
Based on the fact that you are sat reading this, I imagine that you are a bright-eyed prospective medical applicant. You know that you want to be a doctor; the question facing you now is where to study medicine. You probably have a lot of factors being weighed up in your mind: the teaching style, location, the attached hospitals and social life, amongst other things. No single person can give you all the answers to the questions you may have, but what I hope to do, is give you an idea of what it is like to study medicine at UCL. So, why did I end up here in the first place?
The biggest, most in-your-face reason is in the name: London. Clichéd as it is, there really is nowhere else like it in the UK. A melting pot of people from all walks of life, I can practically guarantee you that there is something and somewhere for everyone and anyone in London. Cosy book shops tucked away in tree-lined side roads, at least a dozen sizeable concert venues, the West End, several large Royal parks, some of the most famous museums in the world, hundreds of pubs, bars and clubs creating the most vibrant nightlife in the country. These represent only a fraction of what London has to offer.
“But we’re here to find out about studying medicine!”, I hear you say. Fine, fine, I’ll give you my honest opinion. Wherever you go, you’ll come out with a medical degree, so choose the medical school that best suits you, not the closest or most prestigious one. So, who does UCL best suit? UCL employs a fairly traditional curriculum layout, with a clear divide between preclinical and clinical education. If you want to get stuck in seeing patients in your second week, that’s not something UCL does (though there is patient contact in the preclinical years, it is nowhere near as much as many other medical schools). However, if you love your science, UCL is the place for you - its aim is to produce science-literate doctors, well versed in using the latest evidence to guide their practice. If you are interested in research, UCL is the place for you - one of the best ranked research universities in the world. UCL is a centre of excellence for biomedical research, particularly in neurology and cancer, and you can find medical students taking part in projects and studies throughout the university. If teaching appeals to you, there are dozens of opportunities to teach younger students and to run workshops in schools and colleges on topics, such as mental health and basic life support. This is a medical school that really values creating the next generation of medical educators.
With over 20 options for intercalating, you can pursue an area of interest for a year. You are often being taught by experts in their field and completing a research project in the lab of academics, who have their own Wikipedia page. Things only get better for the clinical years, with UCL being attached to some of the biggest specialist centres in the UK, sometimes in Western Europe. These include the Great Ormond Street, The Royal National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square, The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital: all some of the places you can end up doing your placements in. Furthermore, the chances of you being taught by the best doctors in their speciality in the UK are sizable.
But the most important thing, in my opinion, is the people you meet. UCL calls itself London’s global university for good reason, since we have the most international students of any university in the UK. Whoever you are, there will be a society where you will feel at home in and be able to meet people from a wide range of cultures and countries. UCL is a full faculty university, teaching everything from law to mathematics to philosophy. Sick of hearing about the brachial plexus and your medic friends complaining about pharmacology? No worries, go have a chat with your friend studying English Literature about the concept of madness in Shakespeare. The friends I’ve made have been the best part of being at UCL, and I wholeheartedly believe that I wouldn’t have met such a wide variety of personalities anywhere else in the country.
Hopefully, I’ve made you think about applying to UCL (please do, have I said that it’s great here?) - if you are, these bits of information might be of some help. UCL likes holistic individuals, so if you’ve got a completely non-science related hobby or interest, put it in your personal statement! If you get an interview, remember that it means that UCL wants you as a medical student. They just want to make sure that you're a friendly person, who is passionate, driven and will be a safe pair of hands. In terms of interview tips:
● Don't jump into answers - give yourself a few seconds to think up what your response will be. Not only does this benefit you, it also demonstrates thoughtfulness to the panel.
● Keep an open posture (arms and legs uncrossed) and aim to have eye contact with all of the panel members. Mainly hold eye contact with whoever asked the question you’re answering,but give a second or two of eye contact to the other panel members every now and then (say every 10-15 seconds).
● When you get your BMAT essay in the waiting area, ask yourself what questions they can ask. Based on that and make sure that you have some sort of an answer prepared.
● Read up on your personal statement and your work experience, in anticipation of questions on those, because they are likely. If you did an EPQ, prepare to be asked something about that.
● If you are particularly worried about the use of filler words like 'um' and 'like', practice pausing in places where you would usually use a filler word, since that comes across better.
● Finally, let them see how passionate you are about medicine! If you're smiling, when you talk about a particular event during work experience that inspired you or made you sure that you wanted to be a doctor, for example, that reflects well on you!
I hope that you’ve learned something useful from here - remember to choose a medical school that suits you, which may not necessarily be the most ‘glamourous’ one, and not to let go of your passion for medicine. Good luck!