Hi everyone, my name is Megan and I’m in my first year of medicine at the University of Bristol. The wait for my interview invitations, offers and exam results led to a panic-stricken year for me, as I’m sure it has many others. I jumped at the opportunity to write about my experience of ‘the waiting game’ in the hope that my story offers both insight and the peace of mind that the wait really is worth it.
About a year ago the most anxiety-inducing email header in my inbox was ‘UCAS status update notification’. Typing this into my email search bar, when I was thinking about writing this blog, brought back all the emotions of knowing the wait was finally over. When I submitted my UCAS application, I remember the feeling of relief that everything was finally out of my hands, followed by a feeling of despair, because, well, everything was out of my hands. The weeks leading up to my interview offers went really fast because I was still prepping for my BMAT so I feel as though the waiting game really began for me after my interviews at the University of Bristol, and Plymouth. However, I still had an interview at Cambridge left at this point, but my other interviews had happened about 4 weeks before and I had no sign of offers/rejections.
My favourite pastime was scrolling through The Student Room and trying to work out when I would hear from the universities (I don’t recommend this; I definitely should have been revising instead). I refreshed my emails obsessively until it actually became a reflexive thing – which I’m sure anyone who put in a UCAS application can relate to.
In the weeks leading up to my Cambridge interview, I kept thinking ‘Whatever you do just don’t get ill for the interview day’. Lo and behold … I ended up with a raging cold. The train journey up to Cambridge was seven hours long and the seats around me remained largely empty because I was so full of cold. I felt incredibly sorry for myself. The next morning, we got completely lost. It was pouring with rain and I had only brought a coat without a hood because I hadn’t factored in the weather when I put together my ‘smart interview look’. In hindsight, drenched and uncontrollably coughing is not a great interview look either. I was thankful for the jumper my mum had snuck into her bag that I had told her I absolutely wouldn’t need.
I really wasn’t happy with how the interview went and spent the train journey back to Devon deflated and drinking lots of takeaway coffee. The interview had offered a distraction from waiting for my other two offers, so I was surprised to refresh my email, only to see ‘UCAS status update notification’. It was an offer from Bristol. The wait was over, and I had finally got into medical school! I loved Bristol as a city on my open day and had gone home incredibly excited: it was a firm favourite. The timing was uncanny and I knew Bristol was the place for me.
I still had a few hurdles to get through after exams were cancelled. Results day was undeniably hard. I was downgraded and devastated – as many of us were. Despite this turmoil, I decided to be proactive: apply to a local sixth form and retake my A levels. The news started rolling in over the next few days that Scotland and Wales were overturning the original grades, opting to use teacher assessed grades instead. The few days that followed felt unbearably long and slightly reminiscent of waiting for offers, but instead of refreshing my emails, it became BBC news. My family and I had heard that there would be an announcement, so the TV had been on all day and I had been pacing the floor. A ten second countdown came onto the news and it was finally confirmed that we’d receive our centre assessed grades.
After this, I found myself waiting to find out what medical school I would be going to and whether that would be a deferred place or not. It did all work out in my favour: I write this from the University of Bristol as a well experienced player of ‘the waiting game’. If I were to offer advice to anyone waiting to hear from Medical, Dental or Veterinary schools, first and foremost, I would say be kind to yourself. Waiting is incredibly hard and it’s so easy to get into the negative spiral of ‘I’m definitely going to be rejected’. Go easy on yourself over these periods of time.
I found it useful to concentrate on an end goal. For me, this was the feeling of finding out that I was going to be a medical student, (although I guess that is a beginning rather than an end!). I focused on this throughout the stressful wait periods and thought about how great it would be when I finally got in.
Positive distraction also proved useful, a short-term volunteer role or getting involved in something new are both good ways to focus on something else. I presented at one of the Get into Medicine conferences and found this a really useful way to distract myself because I felt I was doing something beneficial for myself and others.
Ultimately, waiting for any kind of news is really hard and sometimes it feels as though there’s not much anyone else can say or do to provide relief, but it’s helpful to focus on all the people who are rooting for you. Whilst this past year has been turbulent, to say the least, I’m overwhelmingly grateful for my experiences as they taught me how much I want to be a doctor and the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to make that happen.
Written By Megan Richardson
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