In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Teddy is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Nottingham.
I only seriously started thinking about medicine when I was in Year 10/11. Before that, I thought I wanted to go into Law.
With my love of science growing, my teacher recommended I check out medicine as a career path. I did a little bit of research online and really liked what I saw, and that’s how I decided! I’d really recommend doing your own research and looking at different university courses to see if medicine is right for you!
I stayed in the same school for both my GCSEs and A-Levels. I really loved all the friends I made while at school, and I did well there during my GCSEs, so I decided to stay for sixth form. I took Biology, Chemistry, Maths and German. I wasn’t expecting the transition to be so difficult, but going from achieving high grades to getting Es every other test was a hard pill to swallow. Also finding new ways to study was quite difficult, but eventually, I found my stride with it. My AS levels didn’t actually go as well as I wanted, and it did leave me feeling quite discouraged from applying to medicine, but back then retakes were possible so I thought I could do that to bump up my grades.
All throughout GCSEs and A levels, I was an Army Cadet, which took up most of my extracurricular time. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, some weekends, and 2 weeks of summer was spent there. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it gave me a lot of great leadership skills that I still use today!
I would highly recommend doing something outside of school that makes you happy. I also volunteered at a local stroke daycare centre during the summer of Year 10, and it was such a good introduction to caring for other people. I did do a surprising amount of admin work too though. Once I turned 18, I started working as a barista/bartender till I was in third year of medical school. It was a really flexible job where I could do lots of shifts during the holidays, and it didn’t interfere with my studies during the term.
I found it really hard to get work experience. I know it can be really hard to get work experience, but a lot of medical schools now have schemes to help, so check out if your local medical school does anything! That and email as many consultants as you can.
I managed to get 2 weeks in a GP practice shadowing the doctor. I found it really useful to see how many different things are dealt with in general practice, as well as all the teamwork that goes into dealing with each patient. If I could go back in time, I wish I’d taken notes while I sat in! There were so many interesting insights I got, but never wrote down that would’ve been great for my personal statement.
I started writing my personal statement in the summer after Year 12, and I found it quite hard to keep under the word count! If I could go back, I would definitely tell myself to focus on quality, not quantity. I had 2 different people read through it before I took it to my teacher (thanks Mum and Dad). I was really happy with how my personal statement turned out in the end, and it only took 3 drafts!
Choosing Medical Schools
When choosing medical schools, I have to admit I had tunnel vision. I had only been to Nottingham’s open day and was happy to go there from the jump, and the other universities on my list were just from researching them online. If I could go back, I would definitely tell myself to actually visit all the universities to check I actually like them.
It’s a good thing Nottingham was my favourite because it was the only place that gave me an interview! It was an MMI interview, and it was actually less nerve-wracking than I was expecting. Plus with all the stations, everything just flew by. My biggest tip with these interviews is to be honest with all your answers, even if the answer us you’re not sure. Interviewers want to see your thought process as well as your answers - two think out loud!
To all the prospective medical student out there: please believe in your own ability to succeed! And don’t be discouraged by failures and rejections - they are great learning opportunities, and sometimes the redirection is just what you needed!