My name is Ronan, and I am currently 18 years old, attend a state school and have applied to study medicine. This journey has been fairly long, probably starting around year 10 – and building momentum through the years. I won’t bore you with the ‘what sparked my desire’ introduction – save that for the personal statement. What I can do is make an attempt at describing the process as best I can, including the failures, the successes and everything in-between.
You’ll all have your own reasons for wanting to study medicine – that’s something personal and unique to you. Because of this, I’ll begin with the first steps of my journey immediately after that. Google is the first port of call – I did a lot of research into the profession itself, as well as the process of applying to medical school. At this stage, it was pretty overwhelming. The common perception is that it is nigh on impossible to gain a place (and it was almost enough to turn me away). I was bouncing around the idea of studying law, and had still not chosen my A levels – and so I needed something to act as a deal-breaker between the two. A bit more googling took me to Medic Mentor and, more specifically, the National Healthcare Weekend (NHW). This seemed like the talk I needed to make an informed decision on my career path – so I attended. The weekend was long and tiring, yet I can attribute that event to be what solidified my choice. Such a variety of doctors, medical students and those in positions similar to mine all relaying their experiences was extremely useful in getting a realistic gauge of what lay ahead. I signed up for the summer school that weekend, and officially applied to be an ambassador for MM. From that day I didn’t look back. I chose my A levels – Biology, History and Chemistry (the latter being quite the struggle), and set about following the advice I was given at the NHW.
Following numerous ambassador meetings aimed at improving medically relevant skills, as well as my beginning of year 12, I felt reasonably assured of where I was in terms of application progression. Our school medical society was great in terms of sharing contacts and advice – and I tried to take up any opportunity that would, however crude, ‘make me look good in an interview’. Work experience is essential – and I was lucky that, after sending numerous emails to different care homes, I found one that would take me on for a couple hours a week. Through the medical society I was able to find a consultant in a local hospital, and found another (after emailing every department!) a few weeks later. If you take one piece of advice away from reading this, it’s that you need to keep a diary of your experiences. This is the ultimate resource when it comes to applying to medicine. My diary enabled me to bring up numerous experiences at my interviews and honestly made writing my personal statement a lot easier. That and the summer school, which pretty much de-procrastinates the experience of writing your PS and provides all the support and peer review you’d want.
After attending the summer school, which I thoroughly enjoyed (Knowing at the end of that week that your PS is finished and you’ve had intensive interview training is truly satisfying, believe me), the next step was the UCAT. You may be sitting the UCAT, BMAT or both – and I can only speak for former, but the best method I found was using Medify (free with the summer school) as much as you can. I think all of the revision I did in the year 12 summer was for the UCAT. It’s a pretty tough experience – but revision for it isn’t awful. I personally enjoyed some aspects, as crazy as that sounds. I feel the best time to book it is late summer, but definitely before term starts as I hear juggling admissions exams and year 13 isn’t particularly fun.
Finally, interviews. Possibly the most anticipated and nerve wracking aspect of the process. Every university has a different way of holding them – so there’s no ‘one size fits all’, but I found that if you’re relaxed and prepared (not overly rehearsed) it’s not as bad as you think it’ll be. The best thing to do is read what the med schools say about them on their website and practice with a willing (or unwilling and exasperated) family member/friend. I did a speech at the NHW and wrote an article for the Medic Mentor Magazine – both great personal experiences but also excellent ammunition to fire at interviewers.
So that’s it – a long process made a lot easier by Medic Mentor and a little mental elbow grease. I’ll finish with this: get involved with any opportunity you have to improve your application. MM is perfect in that you can engage with it as much as you like, and I’ve found that the more you do, the better the outcome. Make use of the excellent resources the organisation has and the process will be a breeze… well… maybe a moderate wind.