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Applying to university
I left school at 17 and began working as a support worker which I did for several years before applying to medicine as a mature student. After returning to sit my A levels I then had to face the horror that is the UCAT. In revising for this I’d say the only thing I had to incorporate in other than working through some of the question books (four in total), I took the week off before the test and sat two mocks every day and scored around 790 average.
There is something nobody tells you about the UCAT, especially if you’re not coming straight from school as in my case. The test is inherently unfair, some private schools offer prep for the students and all of the resources cost money, you can pay to go to in-person courses, use online tests, subscribe to question banks or use textbooks.
The next stage was the interview, being older and having spent several years working in a hospital made this fairly straightforward, If you don’t have any relevant work experience or volunteering in a health care setting make sure you get some experience in a health care setting. Being an adult applying for the course is helpful but will not get you through an interview without the ‘basics’. I was lucky enough to get an unconditional offer from Newcastle and started in September.
I didn’t really get involved in any of the “freshers” events in the first few weeks other than in one of the sporting societies, this was great for meeting people of varying ages from more than just your course. Despite not going out to a single club night in my first year, I made a good group of friends, this can be even more daunting as an older student.
What I would say is that whilst a lot of people on the course will very much still a little immature, the spectrum of maturity amongst 18-year-olds is very large so make sure to engage with everyone, not just the older students. I’ve managed to make a group of friends ageing from the very youngest to around my age and older
Academic studying after a 5+ year break from study
In terms of examinations after a long break from academia, this can be a little intimidating. I think in this instance it can be easier to overdo it and exhaust yourself. Once you have one exam under your belt it becomes much easier to gauge just what the university wants from you and after that, you can relax into your stride a bit more. In summary, try not to overdo it for your first exam.
How I stay in the black
In terms of financial concerns during university, I was fortunate in that I qualify for a bursary from my school, even if you don’t it’s worth looking around as often charities have bursaries for a multitude of circumstances e.g single parents, or those returning to university after doing a degree. I don’t have children but a few of my friends with young children have managed to balance the course reasonably well and receive special exemptions for things such as childcare to help manage their studying. This is something to ask about early in your course. The universities are required by law to make the course accessible for you so don’t be shy.
Medicine as a mature student, especially if you’ve come from full-time employment is fairly straightforward. I generally worked between 9-5 on weekdays sometimes going to the gym in between and that was sufficient. It may be difficult but it is significantly less difficult than full-time work and juggling everything else in life. I’ve also managed quite easily to work between 13-26 hours per week throughout the course without much difficulty, that being said this is doing 1 or 2, 13hr shifts per week. I think splitting this time over several days of shifts would be an issue.
Why I think it’s not a bad thing to start medicine a bit older and what’s my future?
Possibly the most beneficial thing about coming to medicine as a mature student is a much better understanding of what you want from your job and life and your priorities. Initially having wanted to be a consultant in A/E over the years I’ve come to realise there are multiple paths in medicine, often involving excellent pay with a much better work-life balance e.g associate specialist doctors (or SAS doctors), this is especially relevant if you’re planning children soon into training or already have them. As an SAS doctor, you work at a consultant level but you often get to pick your rota and still come home with 80k per year. It’s without some of the prestige to some extent but something worth considering if you want to have time with your family and avoid night shifts in your forties!
Although I still have financial concerns, I have been lucky enough to
receive additional funding as well as managed to continue working part-time as a health care assistant in hospitals.
Making friends and having a good social life as a mature student in medical school is more than doable as there are many different types of people at medical school.
I initially had difficulties adjusting to exams, I was able to get through them and achieve well good results.