Why I Chose Medicine
That’s always a tough answer to formulate. I guess, I like a challenge. Firstly, the challenge of getting in. Then there is the issue of understanding and remembering everything. Then finally, leaning to join the dots to come to an end diagnosis. All in the space of a 4-year degree.
What I Overcame
I am now 23 and have spent most of my adult life mentally gearing myself up to attempt the GAMSAT (the entrance exam needed for my course). It took two tries. This is the first major hurdle a lot of graduate students would have to overcome as we do not have our A-levels taken into consideration. And it is a beast of an exam.
I remember someone on my 2nd sitting saying this was his 8th attempt at the GAMSAT, but he was not going to give up – which really shows you how much people want this. I walked out of that exam thinking I would have to apply for a 3rd sitting and was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t have to. I think the relief of not having to do the exam again was greater than the relief of meeting the cut off score for an interview.
“It’s OK to fail (trust me). But most of us (especially graduates) got into med school because we didn’t give up.”
Remember, rejection at any stage of the application cycle is not on you. Not met the GAMSAT cut off? You work on your weaknesses and sit that exam again. Rejected at the interview stage? Spend some time practicing with people you know, work on not getting flustered. It’s OK to fail (trust me). But most of us (especially graduates) got into med school because we didn’t give up.
There is also a lot of self-doubt I had to (or rather, still must) overcome. I sent my application off with zero confidence, walked out of interviews with zero confidence – even got to medical school thinking, ‘wow everyone here really has their stuff together, how did I get here?’
That’s just something I’ve learned to deal with, but truth be told, as the year progresses and you get to know more people, you realise more often than not people are in the same boat as you and no one really knows what’s going on. Many seem to follow the old adage of ‘fake it till you make it’, so don’t let it get to you!
Finally, some tips for you!
1. Get that work experience in. Do something regular over a reasonable period of time and keep a diary of reflection highlighting your experiences and what you have learned from them (it will definitely help you come personal statement and interviews).
2. Play to your strengths – whether you are applying straight from A level or a graduate, there will be a university that you will prefer because it caters to you as an individual (whether that be their entrance exam, interview method, or even teaching style). Make sure you do your research beforehand.
3. Make sure this is what you really want. It sounds silly, and most of you wanting to go to medical school may scoff at this, but I cannot tell you how surprised I am by the amount of people who are miserable and verbally express how much they don’t want to be there – and I don’t mean ironically. It’s a massive, life-changing step so please be certain this is what you want. Talk to people doing medicine, junior doctors or anyone else who can give you an insight into what it’s like. It’s a tough degree for anyone, and if you don’t want it from the start, then I’m afraid you will struggle.
1. Organisation is your new best friend in medical school. Make sure you have a coherent filing system; you keep up to date with everything you’re being taught and that you’re understanding as you go along. But also make sure you have downtime. If you do all day uni study days like I do, have some friends with you and schedule breaks. If you work alone, watch something or call someone. Just make sure you’re not doing work for hours in end because it’s a) tiring and b) pointless.
2. It’s OK to feel like you’re behind or not getting anything done because that’s natural. If you do the accelerated course, this is amplified but remember, you’re not the only one. One of the most helpful things I’ve found is firstly, making good friends who study in a similar style to you. I personally find working with other people motivates me and keeps me productive. Secondly, speak to people in the year above – don’t be scared to talk to them! I’ve made a couple of friends in second year and they’ve been extremely helpful.
And finally, once you’re in med school, that is your biggest hurdle dealt with. I’m not saying it’s plain sailing once you’re in but you’ve made it, now try and enjoy it 😊
Best of luck and feel free to ask me anything about medical school, whether it be applying or studying or anything else in between.
Rosie – The Female Medic
I totally agree that organisation and motivation are key when it come studying medicine. I wrote a blog on this topic, check it out here