4 interviews for medical school – wow.
4 offers for medical school – naaa, that only happens to a handful of people – not me.
^The thoughts I had at the back of my mind throughout the whole process of applying to medical school. Turns out I was wrong; it is possible if you believe in yourself, push through obstacles and work hard for what you want. Success is only a hop, skip and jump away!
I had a ‘person’ (as Meredith and Christina would word it), or a few for that matter that have helped me along the way to reach the point in which I am today – from my parents always being behind me no matter what, to my best friend (Miss Sophie) making me see the good in everything and always being there to help when I was feeling deflated, to the amazing current medical students, junior doctors and, consultants that have allowed me to shadow them in clinics and theatre, and been on hand to read through many, many personal statement drafts. The success in my life cannot be put all down to me – there are many people who have helped me to believe in myself along the way and for that I will be eternally thankful! That being said, 110% of me has gone into my application process to get to here, I have worked for 12+ hours on countless days, given up being able to go out and party and even let friends and family down time and time again to put my dream of being a doctor as my priority – something I would do again and again!
For those beginning to think about starting the journey I have made, welcome to the best and most stressful times of your life!
To make sure you make it to the other side with your head held high and offers in hand, I have put together my tips and tricks to keeping sane and being the best version of yourself.
Getting the interview:
• This is one of the biggest hurdles to jump over, but to me not the biggest – that’s yet to come! It is a time in your life that will possibly feel like it never ends. You spend all your spare time between classes and revision writing draft after draft after draft of your personal statement, only to hate the way it reads or be told by someone reading it that it is ‘bland’. So you start again. The cycle progresses for a few weeks before you hit the jackpot and write the perfect personal statement that really does show off your character, and all the work experience you have undertaken. Bingo! Now you are half way to getting that place at medical school.
• That is, once the dreaded UKCAT/BMAT/GAMSAT test has been taken – another daunting and stressful time to say the least. You can practice, practice, practice and still feel underprepared. It’s a test like no other and it really can be down to luck of the day and the pick of the questions that can make or break you succeeding. BUT, I have a secret weapon to ensure success – alongside the months I spent revising for the UKCAT, I was fortunate enough to have the funds to take part in the ‘Kaplan UCAT® (UKCAT) Course’ in Manchester. A course that was the saving grace and a real game changer in getting my scores from 650 up to 830! The course is pricey to say the least, but if medicine is really what you want to do and you cannot see yourself doing anything else then my advice – save up and do it! It will be the best investment you make for a very long time!
• All this being said, there really is no point in doing any of this if there is any doubt in your mind that medicine may not be for you. You have to love your volunteering and work experience placements, want to make a difference to peoples lives and enjoy learning (because let’s be honest, the hard work has not started at all yet). If you can’t truly say to yourself I will be a doctor because that is all I have ever wanted to be and all I care to do, then I say think carefully about your decision. Medicine is a long degree, and it doesn’t stop there. Make sure it is what you really do want!
Securing an offer:
• So, you have the interviews and you’ve set a date for them – at least 2 weeks away from the time you get them is the best advice I can give – now it’s time to get yourself into gear and be prepared to show off yourself and what you have to offer and make the schools see that you are a student they want!
• Interview season can be beyond stressful; trust me I have been there, got the t-shirt and my parents can vouch for this. It’s a time of uncertainty and of unease, and that’s for the ones like me that have been preparing all their life for this. The fear of not being known what in the world you are going to be asked can make your mind run away with you – from planning out answers to ‘why medicine?’ all the way to worrying that they will ask you on the current situation in Bermuda and they way in which this affects healthcare worldwide. The best advice for this? Look at past questions ANY and ALL medical schools have asked, and the ones that scare you think of answers for – do this as bullet points only though. You don’t want your answers to sound rehearsed.
• For my personal interview preparation (which has appeared to work), I made myself a folder and divided it up into sections for each medical school interview, Good Medical Practice and the NHS Code of Conduct and then a section which included me looking at all the question types on the ‘The Medic Portal’. From this I felt beyond prepared to answer anything the interviewers threw at me, with confidence and self-worth.
• Remaining yourself throughout the whole interview process is key, and if you are only to take home one thing from this blog this is it! Losing yourself in the process is a possibility – there is potentially a lot of travelling, very different interview styles to prepare for and the chance that you are putting everything on one or two interviews going well. Of course, you are going to try and present yourself as the best version of yourself – but this can go wrong and you can fall at the hurdle of making yourself appear as a robot when being asked about yourself and why you want to study medicine. That’s the worst mistake an applicant can make. If you can’t remain 100% yourself throughout, then you fear being changed all the way through your time at medical school and beyond – an ‘ideal’ that you have created of what the perfect applicant looks like; something that doesn’t exist. We are all different, all offer different attributes to the school and to the medical vocation, and this is what encompasses this profession. Being yourself is what got you to the interview, so why change?!
• Finally, something I can say have been victim too – pondering on ‘bad’ answers. This is a mistake of colossal size, which can cost many an applicant a place at medical school, sleep and their sanity. Once you have answered a question and moved on, then move on. You can’t go back in time, you can’t take words back and worrying about it will not help anyone in anyway. Instead, learn from it. You didn’t know about the Junior Doctor contract? (may not be the right profession for you, but..) Research. You struggled to answer ‘why a doctor and not a nurse?’ Write down all the reasons for and against both, look into the ways in which you can progress within each profession and any major differences between both that have been critical in your decision. Interviews are all about being prepared and constantly learning. It’s a skill that develops the more you practice and the more you have interviews. AND the interviewers know this. We aren’t all born with the gift of confidence, but we all have the ability to learn and that’s what the interviewers will see. The determination you show to get the place that you deserve.
I guess it sounds easier said than done, but I’ve made it to the other side and been lucky enough to have my hard work and dedication pay off, so I know that it is possible. Sticking to your gut, being yourself and working to reach your goals are the difference between being able to sit and study knowing you’re going to medical school and being left disappointed. It’s that’s simple. My tips may not work for all, but the generic theory behind them all is something I believe can work for everyone applying to medical school. Maybe it’s about all the work you put into succeeding, or maybe it’s about the amount you believe in yourself. Maybe it’s both. Either way, I’m saying a little prayer for all of you who will begin embarking on this journey soon – embrace the challenges and celebrate each success. It really is an adventure. One that I will never forget.
Love H. x