Hi I’m Anusha and I’m Matthew and we are your wellbeing officers on the VMS Student Committee. We will be posting blogs up about different topics related to mental health and wellbeing as well as discussing some in the weekly Virtual Medical Society meetings. We know that applying to medical school/dental school/ veterinary school can be very stressful and are here to help you all achieve the shared dream of becoming a qualified doctor, dentist or vet! We would love it if you could get involved by asking questions or suggesting topics you would like to see in future blog posts in the comments section at the end of each blog post. Please be respectful of each other- everyone is entitled to their own opinions even if they are different to some of yours!
This week we asked all the VMS Committee a series of questions and got their honest answers anonymously as well as adding in our own responses. Both of us have also provided some solutions for some of the questions to combat how you are feeling.
VMS Committee: Eleanor Martin (President), Arnav Rustogi (Vice President), Poppy Macmillan (Vice President), Charlie Cunningham (Education Officer and Publicity Officer), Jade Moosan (Education Officer and Fundraising Officer), Beth Wilkinson (Research Officer), Queen Tanimowo (Oxbridge Officer) and Zoya Soni (Secretary and Fundraising Officer).
Please note we are also running a segment in the VMS Meeting on this on Tuesday 16th March 2021 so try and give this a read before then if you can!
- How did you first feel when you decided you wanted to become a doctor?
Initially, I felt relieved that when I found out I wanted to go into a career in medicine as it eliminated the “what do I actually want to do with my life” problem. It did however, create what appeared to be an endless list of requirements that would need to be met. On attending my first Medic Mentor ‘Get Into Medicine Conference’ I was quite overwhelmed with all that needed to be done in what seemed such a short period of time, along with the minimum grades required to have a successful application to medical school. This is when Medic Mentor really helped out. They have and continue to provide me with reassurance through endless opportunities that are provided and mentoring. It is very natural to feel concerned or even overwhelmed when looking at all that is required in an application to university. Just remember that there are so many other people who were once in the exact same position as you and are now saving lives on a daily basis!
- How important do you think academic grades are in applying to medicine/ dentistry/ veterinary science?
Grades are important to a degree as they allow you to take the simplest and most ‘standard’ route into medicine and without the adequate grades you do not get the opportunity to show off all of the other CV boosting activities which you have undertaken. Instead of viewing them as a hurdle, look at them as a chance to show your ability to universities! They are there to show your academic ability and that you are capable of keeping up with the heavy workload when you get to medical school. Universities want to make sure that you will be able to cope with the course as it is in your best interest that you feel happy doing the course and they definitely do not want you to be struggling through your years of further education. However, that being said, if you do not get the grades required for this, rest assured that your dream isn’t over and there are plenty of different pathways to reach the same destination.
- Especially this year, have you felt like you haven’t been doing enough whether that be extracurriculars, revision etc.? Describe this experience.
I regularly feel as if I’m ‘slacking’ or being ‘lazy’ and have to remind myself of all the things I do that others don’t! This is mainly around things like revision – I find it so easy to compare myself to others. When someone is saying they are revising, I feel like I should be too and that if they are working, I should also be working as well. In addition, coming out of every exam season, I always feel as if I could never ever achieve good grades again and that it was just a ‘fluke’ or a one time thing that would never happen again even though past evidence contradicted this.
Extracurriculars have also been hard to keep up with due to Covid- most clubs and work experiences/volunteering places have had to be cancelled. This is quite worrying for someone applying to medicine as it is usually something that could be quite valuable on a personal statement and allows you to discuss how your insight into medicine has improved.
- Was this as a result of other people around you? Describe an experience you have faced if you can.
I have moved to a more competitive school and academic excellence is expected, and everyone strives for the top grades/Oxbridge or something along those stereotypical high aspirations. It is hard going from the top at GCSEs to just average at A-Levels due to the competitiveness of others around you and the shared aspiration of wanting to do really well.
- Have you felt more anxious this year? Why?
Yes I have definitely felt more anxious this year. I like to plan for things so that I know that I am properly prepared for them but this has been impossible over the last few months, it makes me feel that I have a lack of control of what is going on in my life. It seems that all the hard work I have previously put in, has been put to waste when deadlines get moved yet again. The way I deal with the anxiety caused by the inevitable uncertainty is to work to deadlines that I have been set and then adjust from there.
- Do you ever feel that you will not achieve ‘the high grades’ needed to get into medicine/dentistry/veterinary science due to the academic ability of others around you. Describe this.
Occasionally. Often when I am struggling with all that I am currently doing, yet see others are doing so much more than me I feel as if I will never be able to compete with them. Additionally my friendship group does not prioritise grades as much as I do which means that I often have to decline opportunities to spend time with them, to which I feel really bad. They are very nice and understanding about it and it makes the times that we do spend together a really enjoyable break from working. Upon speaking to others I have discovered that others who appear to be doing so well are actually struggling themselves and may actually think that you are the one who has it all sorted! Instead of looking on others as threats, I find it best to support one another which results in everyone being a lot happier and relaxed.
- Do you feel supported by your friends? In what ways?
I think that my friends are always there for me and checking up on me, though I often feel that that I don’t do as much for them as I could as I feel exhausted and simply don’t have the energy. I also think that I tend to keep my personal and friendship life a little too separate. The thing that I remember is no matter how “poor” of a friend I may think I am, they always want to see me and enjoy my company- I think I am just too harsh with myself about it.
- Do you feel supported by your family? In what ways?
Yes my mum especially. Originally she struggled seeing how much work I was doing and was afraid that I would burnout but now has seen that I am able to cope very well and and understands that I can’t join in with everything due to school and tries to be flexible around my crazy schedule of balancing A-Levels with extracurriculars, other commitments and even leisure time.
- Do you feel uneasy when you see pretty notes people have made?
Yes, I love pretty notes and I get jealous- I know this sounds silly but yes I get jealous sometimes of seeing all these pretty notes displayed especially on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. However, you have to have confidence in how you revise and know that it is good for you. Whilst pretty notes are sometimes nice, they are not always effective.
- When you see pictures or videos of how to study are you influenced? In a positive or negative way?
Recently, I started seeing videos on “Perfect” ways to study and get an A* in my final exams and end of topic tests. I would always try out their method, thinking the way I had been studying for years was inferior and was limiting my potential. Every time without fail I would end up finding that this new way of working didn’t work for me and I had in fact wasted my time. This made me start questioning the credentials of the people posting these methods. ‘Just because they appear on your social media feed does it mean they have the credentials to tell you how to work?’ What I have found is that teachers’ advice on how to work is always best, as they are experienced in their field and know the best methods for people in your position to get optimum results. Remember that everyone revises differently and there is no ‘Goldilocks way’ of doing it. Don’t reject new suggestions on how to work, but equally don’t feel like you need to try every new method.
- Have you felt happy this year? How come?
I actually think it’s made me happier as I’ve learned to appreciate the small things in life and not to take things for granted. Moving schools gave me a new, fresh perspective and a healthy change even though I did enjoy my previous school. However, sometimes I have felt anxious but I am lucky to have always had the support of my friends and family. Not seeing them however, has made me feel a little sad but we are lucky in this generation we have things like Zoom and text messages. Most of the time, I have managed to get my work done and take regular breaks but it has been a lot more difficult especially during online school and a global pandemic. I feel I have made the most of challenges and turned limitations into opportunities such as participating in virtual work experiences instead of in-person work experiences as an alternative.