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7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to Medical School

1. There are many different pathways to medicine

When applying for medicine, I put a large pressure on myself to “get it right the first time”. I approached each of my admissions tests and medical school interviews with the view that if I messed up, that would be the end of my medical school journey. Although this limited thought process served as extra motivation; I now understand that there are many pathways to medicine. Some people take gap years, some apply multiple times, some apply after doing a different degree. Each pathway is valid.

2. Comparison is the thief of joy

A piece of advice I would give to my younger self is not to be intimidated by the vast amount of work experience, or extra opportunities that other people may have listed in their personal statements. Comparison can lead us to forget the unique experiences that have led us to become the people we are today. Each experience, form of work experience is of benefit, especially if you take time to reflect on what you have learnt and the skills that have been developed. You do not need to have done the most extravagant, jaw-dropping work experience placements to develop the important skills and qualities expected from a future doctor.

3. You don’t have to get the highest score in everything to secure a place

There are many different parts to the medical school application. While each part is important, universities vary in the emphasis that they place on these different parts. Therefore, when applying it is essential to have an understanding of how universities use the different parts of the application to short-list applicants. This allows you to play to your strengths and apply to universities that are most likely to grant you an interview.

4. Choose a medical school that suits your style of learning

There are 37 different medical schools in the UK. Although all medical schools produce Doctors, each of them have different teaching styles. Therefore, it is important to do adequate research to ensure that the medical school you apply to aligns with the way you learn. When applying to medical school, we try to prove to the universities that we are the right applicant to be offered a place. But we also need to ensure that the university is right for us.

5. Don’t try to conform to what you think a ‘model’ medicine applicant looks like

There are many articles highlightinh “Books every medical applicant should read” or “Things to read/do/watch if you're considering medicine”. While these articles are well-meaning, it can be easy for applicants to feel that unless they have ticked all these boxes, they do not fit the mould of what an ‘ideal’ applicant looks like. Throughout the whole medical application process, it is important to value your individuality, embrace it and use it to stand out from other applicants. Don’t force yourself to do things that you do not genuinely enjoy, to try and tick boxes.

6. Medicine is a long road

When I started medical school, I was shocked to discover that others already knew what specialities they were interested in. However, at this point in my medical career, I understand that saying “I’m not sure what speciality I am interested in” is valid. There is still so much for me to learn and there is no rush for me to pick a set path for myself just yet.

7. Have hobbies and interests outside of medicine

Since entering university, I have learned the importance of having hobbies and activities that bring you joy. I often found that those in my year group that had the best time management skills were also doing a sport, learning a musical instrument and performing in plays at the same time. Although this level of activity is not feasible for everyone, having interests outside of medicine allows you to take a break and forces you to become more productive with your time. I often found that when my to-do list only consisted of “studying” or “writing an essay”; I could spend up to 6 hours scrolling on my phone or staring at the ceiling because I thought I had the whole 24 hours to complete this single task. When I had to structure my work around my other commitments, I was able to focus more intently on the task at hand and complete it a lot faster than I would have done previously.


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