Acceptance to medical school is the dream of many sixth form students, but unfortunately, this dream only becomes a reality for a lucky few. The allure of a career in medicine makes entry onto any medical programme a highly competitive experience. In order to stand a chance during the admissions process, certain requirements need to be fulfilled. Below, I will discuss what I believe to be some important tips for receiving that much-coveted place at medical school.
1. Be certain that you want to study medicine and be sure of the reasons why you want to study medicine. If you aren’t sure about medicine, it will be evident in your personal statement and during interview. Admissions staff are on the lookout for those slightly hesitant applicants. If you know your reasons for studying medicine well, you will be able to convince your interviewers that medicine is right for you.
2. The personal statement is your gateway to success. You can have perfect grades, completed endless hours of work experience and be head of the medical society at school, but if your personal statement is not well written, you will be rejected straight off the bat. You need to demonstrate 1) Why you want to study medicine, 2) A realistic understanding of what a career in medicine entails (i.e. through work experience), 3) An intellectual curiosity (books, journals, and societies). The list can go on and on but be sensible with what you include in the limited space available for your statement – make yourself stand out!
3. Work experience is crucial. Competition for medical school places has escalated to the point where students are undertaking work experience simply for the sake of being able to say they have completed work experience. The reason medical schools want applicants to have experience in healthcare environments (hospitals, hospices, community volunteering) is to ensure that would-be students have a good idea of what working in healthcare entails. Therefore, when discussing your hospital placement in your personal statement or during interview, be sure to convey what you LEARNT during this experience and not simply what you observed.
4. Prepare well for the UKCAT and BMAT. Acceptance to medical school can be thought of as a series of hurdles. There are many hurdles that need to be overcome but unfortunately you can fall at any point. The UKCAT and BMAT are unlike any exams you will have taken before and many promising students fall flat on their face at this hurdle. Buy the practice books, become familiar with the exam style and do sufficient TIMED preparation.
The checklist for medical school entry is long but make sure to tick most of the boxes. In addition to the above, good grades and extracurricular activities are also vital. The process may seem daunting at first but a step-by-step approach should make it a little more manageable. Good luck!