Medicine: Does the shoe fit?
Children are asked to choose careers around 16. This is a very difficult stage and you have so much going on. Sometimes, one path seems attractive; at times, another. It is so hard to know which one to pick – it will be one you’ll either enjoy all your life, or one you’ll be stuck with. Yes. It does look so glamorous in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘E.R.’, doesn’t it? However, the road you traverse before you get the initials Dr. before your name is long and arduous.
Have you considered the following?
- Extensive content to study and memorise on the course
- Long 5-7 years before you graduate, followed by residency and specialisation
- Long working hours on the job, all round the clock
- Radical shifts – The system doesn’t care whether you’re a lark or an owl. You’ll just have to turn up and be alert when you’re required to be. This is true when you’re a student doctor, as well as later.
- The pressure that comes with holding another life in your hands, sometimes literally!
What subjects should I pick?
Whether you’re following the IB program or the A levels or the IGCSE, ISC, ICSE or SSC, taking medicine means you need at least two sciences (three if you’re taking the Indian system) at a higher level. Every university has slightly varying requirements but you will need a good combination of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics, depending on the options available to you at your school.
Admission Tests: Which ones? When?
In the UK, you will need to apply through the UCAS. Some universities need you to take the BMAT test, others don’t. The research for this should begin early. How early, you ask? Well, I’d say if you knew you wanted to be a doctor, you should’ve started researching this with your parents in Grade 8 so that you knew what subjects to pick in Grade 9, then Grade 11.
Which University is for me?
Every university in the UK is well known for a different type of pedagogy and specialisation option. You need to figure out which one would work for you. This is where experienced advisors can help. With a team of experts based in the UK, you can avail of first-hand information and resources that you need at every step. Alternatively, start listing the colleges you want to attend and read up on them.
Internships and Shadowing
Through high school, maybe even before, doing some volunteering with hospices, nursing clinics, pathology labs and shadowing your local GP can all help you gather valuable work experience and expose you to the reality of practising medicine. You
will soon see that behind the prestige and glamour of being a doctor lies stress, pressure, fatigue and sometimes, organisational politics.
Getting a few internships under your belt before you apply can show college recruitment officials that you are passionate about your career choice and have committed to showing this over several years.
Your Personal Statement
A Personal Statement is a great means of showcasing yourself to a medical school admissions official. Practise drafting, writing, reviewing and rewriting it till you achieve your goal – To really stand out from the pool of other med school applicants; to wow the recruiters with your commitment and drive to be a doctor. Get professional help if you need it. It is always a bonus to hire an expert to go over your statement and make relevant suggestions that align it to their selection criteria.
Listing likely questions, talking to experts in the field and actually getting your hands into the whole field of medicine in your high school, and earlier, all help with interview prep. Keeping a regular journal when you intern or perform community service can be a great resource for preparing interview answers. Get someone to ask you these questions. Practice your answers in front of a mirror to eliminate any speech fillers and rambling. Don’t memorise answers, just go with the flow. Keep your tone low and interesting… remember, it’s supposed to be conversational!
For international students taking the UCAS for UK med schools, remember there are deadlines for taking certain tests. The BMAT is required by certain competitive colleges while others do not need it. Keeping track of what tests are necessary and the dates is critical. Get a schedule sorted a year before you expect to take the tests. Pre-order testing material, sign up for prep classes if you need them, form study groups with others who plan to study medicine too. Every day counts!
All the best! You have now a good roadmap to tackle your journey to med school!