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How I got into Medical School

The journey that Steph took to medical school and beyond
Published 16th Sep 2018

Deciding on medicine

When I was a kid I thought I wanted to be an author! When I started to get a bit older I realised that this wasn’t a very easy thing to do – you don’t apply for a job as an author, and part of your success in this field is down to luck and opportunity. The idea of spending my days writing fiction and then not even getting published was enough to put me off!

Then when I was 12 years old, my Grandad was chatting with me about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told him that I didn’t really know, having ditched my old idea of being an author. I remember him suggesting that I become a doctor. I hadn’t really considered Medicine until this point – it just hadn’t crossed my radar as a possibility. 

Secondary school

I started to look into how someone became a doctor and was immediately confronted with the requirement to have the highest grades in Science subjects. This was a barrier for me – I was in the 2nd set in Science at the time (Year 8). I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to study Triple Science at GCSE if I wasn’t in top set by Year 9, and that would hamper my chances in Medicine. I worked harder in Science for the rest of Year 8 and was moved up to the top set for Science in Year 9.

During Year 10, my school encouraged us to complete a week of work experience. I was keen to use this opportunity to find out what being a doctor was really like – I come from a non-medical family so I didn’t really have much of an idea about what the day-to-day life of a doctor involved. Other students who came from a medical family just went to work with their parents for the week of work experience, but I didn’t know any doctors and therefore had to apply formally for work experience at my local hospital. I was turned down straight away because I was only 14 years old at the time, and the hospital policy was a minimum age of 18. I remember wondering how on earth I was supposed to get work experience in a hospital before applying to Medicine if this age limit was in place. I was frustrated that other students (of my age) were allowed to do work experience in the hospital just because their parents worked there – this seemed an extremely unfair advantage. However this didn’t put me off, and I searched for work experience elsewhere. I landed a placement in the rehabilitation department of a small hospital, and shadowed the physiotherapists for a week.

I worked hard for my GCSEs and on results day was over the moon to receive nine A* and two A grades. I went on to study Biology, Chemistry, Art and Maths in Sixth Form – and dropped Maths after my AS-Levels.

Sixth Form and volunteering

During Sixth Form I started working at my local pharmacy every Saturday (which at the time only paid £4 an hour – it was 2010-2012). I also completed another week of work experience in a different hospital and then spent my summer holidays helping with a research project at The Royal Holloway University. All these experiences combined with my hobbies and ongoing volunteering with St John Ambulance formed the basis of my personal statement.

Applying to medical school

I spent countless hours working on my personal statement. I knew that it was my one chance to get to interview at Medical School and I was determined to give myself that chance. My strategy was to write a draft, edit it myself, have it reviewed by someone, make the changes that they suggested and then get someone different to review it. I went through the cycle of reviewing and editing for weeks, and by the time I submitted my personal statement through UCAS I was on my 17th draft. It had been read by anyone who I thought could give me valuable advice – both my parents, my form tutor, each of my subject teachers, the Head of Sixth Form, the pharmacist who I worked for… This process was extremely time-consuming. I want to help simplify the review, feedback and editing process for you by offering a one-stop professional personal statement review. You can get your personal statement reviewed here for in-depth analysis and suggestions for improvement.

Around the same time I was also wading through huge amounts of information in an attempt to decide which four of the Medical Schools I should apply to. I had a stack of prospectuses from about 15 of the Medical Schools that I was considering, and I visited nine of these on Open Days. I drew up huge lists and charts to compare each Medical School to try to make sense of it all. .

I breathed a sigh of relief once I had chosen my four Medical Schools – Brighton & Sussex, Nottingham, Leicester and East Anglia – and submitted my application. This relief was soon replaced by anticipation and nervousness while I waited to find out if I would get any interviews. I was amazed to be invited to interview at all four of the Medical Schools that I had applied to!

I wanted to do my best at each interview, but I didn’t really know how to prepare myself. My school offered two mock interview sessions for students applying to Medicine and I thought that this would be sufficient preparation. I went to the first mock interview and had to muddle my way through the session, having not really thought in advance about how I would answer even the most obvious questions. After that disastrous first mock interview, I found a list of example questions online and thought about how I would respond to each of them. I also made sure that I brought myself up-to-date with current issues in the NHS and read a couple of health articles so that I could discuss them at interview if needed. The second mock interview at my school arrived, and it went much more smoothly. Investing some time in preparation had been worthwhile, and this increased my confidence for the real interviews (although I was still a bundle of nerves on the day). Medical School Interview Success provides you with a downloadable list of example interview questions, advice about how to formulate a great answer and how to manage nerves before your interview. You can also book a 30 minute 1-to-1 mock interview with me over Skype with individual feedback on your performance and advice.

Now

I was lucky enough to receive an offer from three of the four Medical Schools that I applied to, including my top choice which was Brighton & Sussex Medical School. I started studying at BSMS in 2012 and graduated in 2017. I now work as a Junior Doctor in the South East of England, and am excited to help new students through the application process to begin their journey in Medicine.

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