In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Ashton is an undergraduate medical student at Glasgow University; she completed her pre-clinical training at St Andrews and then came to Glasgow for her clinical years.
I first looked into studying medicine when I was in Year 10
I lived near Edinburgh, and my school put me in touch with the Pathways to Medicine programme there, which is a widening participation scheme. Their events covered really helpful topics such as a day in the life of a medical student, interview technique, UKCAT advice, and tips on how to get work experience. I got some work experience through a programme called Medic Insight, which runs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, and aims to help high school students find clinical placements to aid their application. I was also fortunate to have a family friend who works as a nurse in a general practice, and I was able to get a couple of days of insight into GP too! Something else which greatly assisted me in applying to study medicine was the Sutton Trust Summer School, which I attended in St Andrews. They run all over the country and are a fantastic way of visiting a uni, trying it out, and getting tips for application, interview, and UKCAT etc.
Deciding on Medicine
My school was very supportive in trying to help me apply to medical school, but schemes such as Pathways, Sutton Trust, and Medic Insight made all the difference, as my school didn’t have many students applying to medicine so didn’t have much experience, and these schemes offered very valuable advice.
I’d highly recommend researching and then making the most of any local schemes such as those that may be running in your area!
It can be tricky to get work experience, and formal programmes often have useful information to offer, as well as being good to include on your personal statement. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity of working and volunteering with these organisations as a medical student, and it's so nice to be able to give back and help out future medical students in the same way that I was helped, and as many were before me!
Most of my UCAT information came from these schemes, and I used the tips that they had given me alongside the official website and app to practice. I didn’t even know that there were books! I got a strong score which really boosted my application, as my grades weren’t perfect.
You should not underestimate the benefit of spending a few extra hours on UKCAT prep - it really can make all the difference.
I’m currently in the process of applying for foundation jobs and parts of the UCAT come up again, and once again it’s helped my score! I wouldn’t recommend paying for courses, as these are not endorsed by the UCAT organisation. Stick to the stuff on their website and app, and if you’re really keen to try another resource, maybe try a book, but remember that they are not ‘official’. If it helps you to have extra practice, then go for it!
Writing your personal statement is a tough job, but it’s really important to spend good time on it and really hone in on the key points.
Mention work experience, but don’t just list it. Make sure you reflect on the things that you learned so that you are showing and not telling
Include relevant volunteering, sports/music achievements, and things such as Duke of Edinburgh, but try to relate this back to why they will make you a better medical student. You don’t have many words, so use them wisely. Be concise but try not to be too blunt!
When choosing which universities to apply for, I was choosing between the medical schools in Scotland, of which there are five.
You can only choose four medical schools, and your fifth choice has to be another degree.
My backup was Biomedical Sciences at Edinburgh. I ironically applied to all of the medical schools in Scotland apart from Glasgow, and have now ended up here to graduate as a doctor! I had interviews at Aberdeen and St Andrews, but decided on St Andrews as it was closer to home and I preferred the course. I had also loved my time there on Sutton Trust and was keen to go there for my degree.
Some people are put off of the course at St Andrews due to the fact that it is only three years and you have to then move, but I’d really recommend looking into it. It’s a beautiful place to live, and the small size of the medical school makes the teaching great. You get a BSc when you graduate, so it’s like intercalating at another medical school, but the bonus is that you still get to to do placement and clinical teaching whilst writing your dissertation, so you don’t have to miss out on ‘normal medicine’ for a whole year while you intercalate.
In summary, try to find out about local schemes that are keen to get people into medicine, and make the most of them! And when choosing your universities, it’s definitely worth visiting to get a feel for the place, both the location and the teaching styles. Good luck!
Glasgow Medical Student