In this blog post, I’ll be talking about how I fell into Medicine. This involves exploring the reasons I had for studying Medicine, deciding on medicine, and what challenges I encountered on the road to receiving an offer.
🔍 Skip ahead to the following sections:
Deciding on Medicine
The wrong reasons
Deciding on Medicine is not easy. I didn’t dream of doing medicine from before I could walk, and I don’t remember saying ‘I want to be a doctor when I grow up’ to any of my teachers. My family love to remind me that, at the age of 6, I told the checkout lady at the supermarket that I wanted to be a pop star like Hannah Montana because ‘university sounded like it would be too hard’ (the fact I am completely tone-deaf and have zero musical talent soon popped that dream!). Even when starting sixth form, applying for medicine wasn’t on my radar – and that’s okay!
When writing my personal statement, my college tutor warned me about a common pitfall. This is to say that you have dreamed of being a doctor since you were a child. No, you have not been aspiring to be a doctor ever since you went to your GP at 18 months old. You were not a child prodigy that was reading Grey’s Anatomy at eight years old, and you are not going to be the next Gregory House (who really isn’t the kind of doctor you should be aspiring to be anyway).
Medical schools will be able to smell this nonsense from a mile off, and it’s not what they want to hear. Yes, they do want you to have a keen interest in medicine, otherwise, why would you be applying? However, such narrow-mindedness (even if it was true) isn’t compatible with a degree that requires problem-solving, so wider interests are very much encouraged.
The right reasons for me
I rotated through many subjects before settling on Medicine. I’m sure you will have considered remarkably similar options if you chose STEM subjects for A levels as I did. I contemplated Biology, Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, Human Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and more, but none of these felt right for me. Sure, I was interested in them, but I wanted a clear career path following the degree. Dedicating three years to a subject that I wasn’t entirely sure would fascinate me seemed like a good way to come out of university with a lot of debt and a disappointing 2:2.
In attempting to near a decision, I attended evening lectures at my local university; this is something I would highly recommend to provide you with fodder for personal statements. Facebook event pages are a great way to find talks that are open to the public and usually free!
Reaching a decision
I considered all the options I had dipped my toes into. I then reflected on what I had enjoyed in each and what had put me off. For example, I loved the interdisciplinary aspect of Human Sciences but wanted something that required more problem-solving. The clinical applications of Neuroscience offered me this, but I wanted something more people-focused. Clinical Psychology gave me the opportunity to work closely with patients, but sadly lacked the Biology that I adored. Finally, I landed on Medicine, which offered me the perfect balance.
This journey is the focus of my personal statement. I added material from the events I had attended to back up my discussion of each subject. Any applicant can talk about why Medicine is right for them – but a better question to answer would be ‘why not anything else?’. Why aren’t you considering Biomed, Pharmacy, Nursing, or Midwifery? What, in your opinion, sets Medicine apart from these degrees?
Receiving an offer
Once I had decided I wanted to study Medicine, I ran into some problems. At the time, I was far from an ideal candidate. Given that only 10 percent of applicants receive offers, I felt as though I had finally found the train I wanted to be on; only I didn’t have a ticket. Plus, said tickets are notoriously difficult to obtain.
Studying for A levels
My grades were not where they needed to be. I was getting Es and Fs in all my Maths tests. I received my offer for Newcastle on the same day I was awarded a fat ‘U’ in my Christmas mocks. This forced me to get my head down and, slowly, my grades began to creep up. My first A in Maths came on results day, even though I left that exam in tears feeling, that frankly, I had fucked it. I appreciate that my experience is far from unique. There are many medical students who weren’t always academic highflyers through school.
Undoubtedly, work ethic is far more important than natural ability. Having a good work ethic sets you up to deal with the rigours of the course. Widening Participation (WP) programmes also recognise that some applicants receive greater support to achieve higher grades than others. WP schemes help those who have not had the same hand up.
Gaining work experience
My lack of clinical experience worried me. Having only decided to pursue Medicine at the start of Year 13, I had little time to get experience before the October deadline. For some universities, this stands you at a disadvantage. However, many universities are now recognising that this doesn’t allow for a level playing field. This gives an unfair advantage to applicants who know friends and family in the medical field. It also financially benefits those who can take unpaid volunteer roles; in doing so, cutting off a large portion of people from poorer backgrounds. Instead, they want to hear about how you have learnt from and demonstrated the same skills in other areas of your life. Examples could include:
- – Working with people in a retail role
- – Caring for elderly relatives
- – Playing in sports teams at school
- – Taking on roles around the house e.g. cooking
Want more advice for work experience and volunteering? Explore this and much more with our Medicine 101 Guides…
- – You don’t have to be the perfect applicant (in reality, there is no such thing!)
- – Everyone has a journey when deciding whether Medicine is what they want to do
- – There is no textbook answer to the question ‘why do you want to study Medicine?’
- – Just be honest and be you!