The first big decision that I had to make on my journey to medicine, was whether to study Chemistry, Biology and Maths at A-level which would lead me down the medicine pathway, or whether to do what I was naturally good at, languages. If I chose to study Spanish, French and Maths at A-level I would have applied to Oxbridge which is what my college was extremely pushing for. However, if I chose Chemistry and Biology there was no knowing whether I would achieve the grades even at AS level to consider applying to studying medicine, never mind at A-level, if I managed to hold down an offer for a place at medical school. Chemistry is something that I found extremely challenging! I was torn questioning whether I should study the subjects that would ultimately lead me to my dream job or choose the sensible route and opt for languages.
Despite my chemistry teacher’s opinion, I chose to take the harder route and study the subjects that would allow me to consider applying for medicine. In hindsight I am so glad I chose to challenge myself and push myself to choose these subjects as I wouldn’t be where I am today otherwise, having just completed my third year of medicine.
‘Those with the best grades and who perform well in exams do not necessarily become the best doctors’
My second hurdle, as someone who struggles with many traits of perfectionism, was a lack of self-esteem and confidence. What if I don’t get good enough grades? What if I don’t get in? Am I really good enough for medicine? Am I really good enough to be a doctor? What if I let my family down by not getting into university? I don’t want to pretend that once I got into medical school that these doubts suddenly disappeared. It has taken me 3 years of medical school to appreciate that those with the best grades and who perform well in exams do not necessarily become the best doctors.
As well as my lack of self-confidence, during my sixth form years I also battled with anorexia nervosa which consumed much of my life at the time. Instead of revising or resting the morning of an important AS level exam, I would force myself to run ten kilometres every day. Not only was this extremely draining physically, but mentally it led to some of my darkest days. I would sit in an exam and find it extremely hard to focus on the question in front of me as my mind would wonder off to thinking what I would allow myself to eat next and wonder how many calories I had specifically burned during my run in the morning.
I was very fortunate to achieve good enough grades to be offered a place to study medicine straight after completing my A-Levels. However, some of my most passionate and hardworking colleagues and who I genuinely believe will make some of the best doctors have taken up to five cycles of applying to study medicine. How good a doctor you will be is not determined by whether you are rejected from medicine ten times or whether you get into medical school the first time that you apply.
My Tips for You!
My biggest tip for applying to study medicine is to choose a university that suits your strengths! The UKCAT was something I really struggled with. The thought of verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning still gives me nightmares to this day. I knew, therefore, that I should choose a university that weighted other aspects more heavily, such as your personal statement and AS level grades. At the end of the day whatever university you choose to study at, you will become a doctor after five or six years.
My second tip for applying to study medicine is to do with work experience! If you are like me and have no family members working within the health care profession, it can be extremely hard to find work experience in a hospital! But let me put it bluntly, it is not about where you did your work experience, it is what you learnt from the experience. I decided to email every GP surgery in my local area and eventually one replied to me saying they would be happy to have me to do my work experience there. I learnt so much from sitting in with all the different members of the health care team.