In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Amrita is an undergraduate medical student studying at Barts and the London; she is intercalating in Biomedical Engineering and Clinical Materials at QMUL.
During school, I always had medicine in the back of my mind, but I was not 100% sure it was right for me until Year 11/12.
I knew I wanted to work in healthcare and that medicine would open many options for me. It excites me that I can choose to work in so many different fields and places throughout my life. The endless opportunities that come with medicine is another factor which made it so appealing.
For me, I think making these life decisions at 17-18 years old can be so daunting, but you will definitely regret it if you don’t put yourself out there and challenge yourself. I would say to always push yourself to achieve better and the progression will never stop.
At GCSE I achieved 8 A*s and 6 As. I also felt like I managed to continue hobbies and interests outside of this. I was working towards piano exams, music recitals and playing in sports teams.
I have always felt it is key to try and continue these interests throughout your life and have these creative outlets where you can clear your mind no matter how busy you are.
As well as this, I had been volunteering a lot and trying to get hold of as much work experience as I could. I wanted to explore every avenue in an attempt to find out if Medicine was right for me.
After this, I entered sixth form at the same school and went on to do my A levels. I chose Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and dropped Maths after sitting an AS level. I managed to achieve 3 As. During this time, I had a lot on plate. I continued volunteering, finding work experience, completing my final piano grade, getting my driver’s licence, all whilst applying to medicine.
It was a challenging time to say the least, but I can safely say now I’ve become so much better at time management and juggling so many things at once.
Getting Work Experience
I was lucky in that I managed to find a lot of work experience and volunteering. Without this, I don’t think I would have made up my mind that I wanted to do Medicine.
I made the effort of reaching out to as many places in my area as possible, whether that be by phone, email or just showing up and asking. I think by doing this, you are maximising your chances of getting some response back and I would definitely recommend it.
I volunteered in a care home, spent a week in radiology, shadowed different team members in a chest clinic, carried out patient surveys at a hospital, worked in a hospital café, and even did admin work for a local practice. Having such a broad range of experiences made me appreciate which ones I was more interested in and where I could see myself within the healthcare setting.
It is difficult to know how to make the most of your work experience at that stage. I would recommend networking as much as you can and really throwing yourself into every moment. This is your valuable time to decide your future, so don’t be afraid to make the most of it.
Writing Your Personal Statement
Some might find this strange, but I found this aspect of the process the most enjoyable. After having completed so much work experience and done all my research, I had a clear idea of why I wanted to do medicine and why I thought I was a worthy candidate. I was so ready to share all of this at this point.
Saying this, I know how much difficulty can come with personal statements. To sum up everything you have done in the past few years into a few words can seem impossible.
For me, finding an opening sentence and concept was the most difficult. I would advise getting as much inspiration as you can through your experience, reading, speaking to health care workers, or even podcasts and shows. Knowledge and insight are vital when it comes to things like this. I would also say to get one person you trust, for me it was my mentor, to give you your main feedback. There is nothing wrong with getting other opinions from colleagues and friends, but sometimes too many views can leave you feeling conflicted.
Which Medical School is Right for Me?
This is one of the most important steps. If you are going to spend at least five years somewhere you want to be happy there. I made sure to do my research and go to as many open days as I could. I also wanted to apply to universities which I knew I would have a greater chance of getting into.
One of the best decisions I made was not doing the BMAT. I recognised that I didn’t find any of the BMAT universities to be right for me. Instead of adding another exam to my workload I focused more on everything else.
At the time, this was a bold move, but it showed that doing what was best for me instead of being influenced by others paid off. I have no regret in choosing Barts and I can confidently say I would have it no other way. I really hope this is the same for every medical student, wherever they study.
My Interview Experience
Interviews can be one of the most nerve-wracking things. Luckily, I had an amazing mentor at school who helped me prepare and gave me the confidence I needed. I think being as prepared as possible is key. Try to practice as much as possible and speak to as many different people as you can. After I had my first interview, the rest felt much easier. However, I think almost everyone has that one interview that didn’t go so well. It’s important to remember that that is completely fine, and it is more about what you learn from it and take with you to your next one.
Take Home Messages
Make sure medicine is right for you. Do your research and get as much experience as you can early on. You can never be too prepared for the process; the earlier you start, the better.
Once you know it is for you, really trust in yourself that you have the ability to succeed. It is an extremely competitive field, but as long as you focus on your journey, you will get there.
Finally, ‘rejection is protection!’. If things don’t work out, this is completely fine. It may not have been the right time or place for you at that moment. Reflect, think about what you have learnt, and take it with you, as there will be greater opportunities lying ahead.
In my spare time, I run a page with my colleague on mental health, mindfulness and wellbeing. You can find this at @_all_in_the_mind_ My DM’s are always open for advice, questions, or anything at all really, so don’t hesitate to ask!