I think it’s safe to say that it is a total and utter surprise to just about everyone, that I am sitting here writing this as a medicine offer holder. To put it bluntly, I don’t come from a background typically associated with medical students. I was definitely not particularly bright, and I hated school with a passion!
Throughout secondary school I suffered with obsessive compulsive disorder that got so severe that I found myself in loops of compulsions and where sometimes I would burn myself on the oven or drop a glass on the floor on the kitchen floor. Even then, I found my interest in the healthcare field growing, especially around medicine. Throughout year 11, biology and chemistry where my favourite subjects and I knew I wanted to do them for A-level no matter what branch of healthcare science I decided to peruse.
In March before my exams I unfortunately suffered a seizure as a result of falling down the stairs and hitting my head. I was very lucky and came away with just a concussion and so only missed a few weeks of school. I found a tutor to work with me most days of the Easter holidays and then once a week in the run up to exams so that I didn’t fall behind. My head injury did however exacerbate my mental health and my OCD spiralled; I was having panic attacks most days and began to develop a disordered relationship with food. When results day came, I couldn’t help being disheartened, whilst I got okayish grades, it wasn’t what I wanted, and it really knocked my confidence.
My mental health continued to decline, and I started with the child and adolescent mental health services. I was contemplating not even going to sixth form, but my psychotherapist helped me realise that I had nothing to lose if I go and study subjects I’m really interested in. Ultimately, I decided to go and to study Biology, Psychology and Sociology. At first, I found it really hard to balance my studies alongside the challenges I faced every day as a result of my poor mental health. I was consistently achieving Ds across my subjects and had absolutely no clue what the point was as I didn’t have any plans for after A-levels.
‘I have been lucky enough to meet inspirational doctors and students who have taught me that this process is difficult for everyone, there is no medical student who found it easy. I am still battling my mental illnesses, but I have I learnt that it is okay to struggle, we all do!’
I researched possibilities for the future and medicine was what excited me the most! I set my heart on going to medical school but first I had to figure out how to get there. Unsurprisingly, my career counsellor shot me down as I didn’t have the right GCSEs or the right subjects at A-level and gave me a list of other ideas to look at. She sent me to the med/vet tutor anyway and luckily for me he believed that anyone who wanted to become a doctor as passionately as I did would get there, even if it involved a few extra steps. We came up with an action plan. I got involved in extra volunteer work, but I already had some work experience behind me, so our main focus was preparing for the UCAT and my personal statement. We agreed that I would try applying for 2020 but to be realistic and plan to pick up chemistry and stay for a third year at college then apply again. The 15th of October came and went, and I was rejected from two of my choice’s pre-interview. I was disappointed but at least I had two interviews! It was a start! I messed up my first interview and so was placed on a reserve waiting list. My second interview went a lot better (thankfully this was my favourite medical school) and so I received an offer for medicine with a gateway year! I am so pleased I was patient with my treatment and decided to go ahead and apply despite the stress of it all, especially as all the odds were against me!! Now I just have the terrifying wait to see what grades I will come out with before knowing if I will be going to medical school in September. Obviously I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get the grades, but either way I will eventually go to medical school. I have been lucky enough to meet inspirational doctors and students who have taught me that this process is difficult for everyone, there is no medical student who found it easy. I am still battling my mental illnesses, but I have I learnt that it is okay to struggle, we all do!!!
My Tips for You!
Firstly, make sure you still pursue a hobby you enjoy. It is really important to have an escape from it all. A-levels are intense enough as it is, let alone applying for medicine alongside them. I know time is precious but if you have an escape, it means that when you go back to the task at hand, you will be fresh faced and probably complete it 10x better than you would have whilst occupied with 20 other things to stress about! From talking to students and lecturers at open days I also learnt that medical schools like to know that you can compartmentalise and that there is more to you than the grades you have achieved.
Secondly, I would say put yourself out there and get involved in as many different of experiences as possible. I know the thought of writing to your GP or joining a new group of volunteers can be terrifying but it really helps build your confidence. Eventually you will start to get better at reaching out and communicating. This will really help when it comes to the terrifying experience of interviews. But even if you are scared, often the enthusiasm of wanting to get stuck in will come across and this will allow you to build a holistic experience of the medical field and give you lots of genuine experiences to discuss at interviews and in your personal statement. Most of the time people in the healthcare environment are thrilled that others want to get involved and love to help out!