I don’t think I could start this blog post without saying that applying to medicine can be stressful. It can be very stressful. The main thing I’ve learnt since then is that the degree itself can also be very stressful (the fact that’s the main thing I’ve learnt probably tells you all you need to know about my procrastination skills). Luckily, that’s not the only thing I learnt from the process or else this would be a pretty depressing blog! I learnt three key lessons that have helped me to keep ongoing. Hopefully, they may help you survive the medicine application too! So, without further ado…
1: Take every opportunity – and PRACTISE!
At school, I dreaded any and every participation in-class debate. Sometimes it was fear, sometimes it was laziness and sometimes it was just because it’s what I’d always done. As I started to approach the interview stage of applications, it became clearer and clearer that I was comically bad at speaking in front of others. I was cursed enough as it is with a strong Mackem accent (if you don’t know what a Mackem accent is then trust me that ignorance is most certainly bliss) before taking into account that I talked so fast I’d be gasping for air after every sentence. Not exactly an awe-inspiring combination. So, answering questions in class became my practise. At first, I was terrified every time. But slowly and steadily I got better and better. Not only was my confidence growing, but I was also getting regular feedback on how much I knew. It was great.
It worked so well that I started to take every opportunity outside of college I could find. I’d sign up for anything remotely medical-related. Some were amazing and some were like getting teeth pulled out by a wrestler. It didn’t matter though because there was no way of knowing what would be useful until I’d done it. I don’t think I would have had any chance of making it into medical school without a lot of the information I’d gleaned from different events – even if it was just a single fact for a single MMI station. And, my personal favourite, everywhere you go you get the chance to meet more new people and learn from what they’ve learnt. Some of the friends I made then are some of my closest friends still.
2: Find the Silver Lining
Not all experiences are made equal. You may find a lot of places you go to feel like a waste of time. They don’t have to be though. Reflecting on every single thing you do will very soon become the bane of your life at med school. But this means that they absolutely love it when an applicant can show they’ve been reflecting on experiences already. I found that if I reflected on even the most seemingly pointless experiences, I could always find a silver lining. Sometimes, you can pick up one or two useful facts which may come in handy down the line. Or, you may learn what you definitely don’t want to do in the future! Best of all, you may come away with a funny story or two. If you can find the good in even the bad experiences then you’ll be even more motivated to keep pushing yourself to take every opportunity you can. A not-so-vicious cycle if there ever was one!
A good way to try to keep up with your new reflections is to try and write a reflection diary for anything medicine related. It doesn’t have to be long (up to 500 words) and you can use it as evidence for all the opportunities you’ve taken!
3: Be Kind to Yourself
Unfortunately for me, I’ve always been a huge supporter of Sunderland. Painful, I know. So, I thought if anyone could handle the odd setback, then it would be me. And yet I still found myself struggling at times with the application process. This came to its fore with my Oxford application. Due to what I can only guess was a whopping clerical error, I managed to get an interview there. In that interview, I was asked to describe a model of a bone on the table in front of me. Panic set in. My brain raced. I scrambled to try to think of some great scientific response. I came up with… ‘it’s yellow’. I imagine you’re as utterly shocked as I am at the fact I didn’t get an offer.
I was really tough on myself. But I knew I couldn’t change anything. So I tried to find the silver linings: I got great experience at my interview manner, I got a free overnight stay away and, best of all, I got a great story to tell people. I look back now and I couldn’t be happier with how the interview went. I learnt so much from it and I also wouldn’t be where I am now without it. And I love where I am now.
I wouldn’t say I believe that everything happens for a reason; I would say that it’s always worth trying to find a reason why something has happened. It’s cheesy but true that it’s how we respond to setbacks that matters in the end. The main thing I learnt when applying to medicine is how stressful it is. But the most important thing I learnt was to be kind to myself; being able to survive the medicine application is hard enough without you being hard on yourself.
– Applying to medicine can be stressful! Managing this involves finding ways to mitigate the stress and improving yourself.
– Practise is key, especially in areas your weak at. Find opportunities to improve yourself and gain experience along the way!
– Finding the best things out of a bad experience can make it a productive experience and prevent you from catastrophising afterwards!
– Never unfairly put yourself down, you’re only limiting your future abilities
– Being able to survive the medicine application is hard, but not impossible. Believe in yourself and be constructive in your experiences.