In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Charlotte is an undergraduate medical student at Sheffield University.
It’s always a hard one to think about what made me first want to do Medicine. I’ve always been one of those keen people that has been interested since a young age. But I think what made me sure Medicine was the degree and career for me was after volunteering at a Specialist Blind School in Pune, India at the age of 16. It was here that I was immersed in the field of Public Health and Ophthalmology.
I was and still shocked that 80% of World Blindness is preventable. With two of the biggest causes being Trachoma and Cataracts. As someone with severe short-sightedness, I can’t imagine how my life would be if my sight loss couldn’t be fixed.
It was when I was at this school that it made me appreciate that medicine is not only about curing disease it’s about preventing disease as well. If there is a bigger focus on Public Health, we could help reduce this 80% statistic. It was the experience that I had at this school that confirmed that I wanted to do medicine.
I wanted to make changes to individuals and communities. I wanted to help people when they were at their most vulnerable and ultimately increase the awareness of eye healthcare and preventative medicine.
I did my GCSEs in 2014 so this the new grading process wasn’t in place. I found GCSEs quite hard as there was such a broad mix of subjects you had to study even if you didn’t have an interest them (+ so much work to do and balance!). I particularly struggled with English Literature and Language and had to put a lot more work and effort into these subjects to try and bring up my grade. When I was completing my GCSEs I did a range of extracurriculars. At the time I was working toward by Grade 5 in Piano and my Grade 7 in Ballet. I also volunteered as a young leader at my local guide group. I was also lucky enough to participate in the National Bar Mock Trial, Regional Debating Competitions and Silver Duke of Edinburgh.
When GCSE results day came around, I was so shocked to see and receive the following grades:
English Language (A)
English Literature (A)
Media Studies (A)
Religious Studies (A*)
After a few disastrous exams for English Literature, English Language and French I was expecting a lot worse grades. So as you can imagine I was so relieved and happy to see my grades for these subjects and my other subjects!
The comprehensive school I was at from Year 7 to Year 11 had a sixth form so I decided to stay on for my A-levels. I think this helped me with the jump from GCSEs to A-levels as the environment was the same as what I was used to and we were taught by the same teacher as in secondary school. For A-levels, I decided to take Biology, Chemistry, Maths, History and General Studies. I found the step from GCSE Biology and Chemistry manageable. However, this wasn’t the case for Maths and History. The step-up was massive in my eyes and took a couple of months to acclimatise to. For AS-level, I achieved 5 As and decided to drop History and continue the other 4 to A-level. On A-levels result day I got my results which were an A* in Maths and 3 As in my other subjects.
When I studied my A-levels I continued with the extra-curricular previously mentioned. I also became a prefect, GCSE science tutor and House Captain for the secondary school. Due to living in quite a rural place, it was hard to get a part-time job alongside Sixth Form. So instead I tried to focus on developing my range of work experience. I arranged all of my work experience by myself.
I was fortunate to get granted a 1-week work experience placement at my local hospital in the Paediatric and Neonatology Wards. This was a great experience for me and confirmed I wanted to do a career in medicine. I also arranged 2 days at a GP practice to contrast the difference between primary and secondary care.
Whilst also volunteering weekly at a care home for 4 months. I would say each of these work experience placements was useful in different ways and I was lucky to have such a range of opportunities.
My Personal Statement
I started my personal statement in August of Year 12 just after receiving my AS results. Personal Statement writing was such a stressful experience. If I could give myself some advice in hindsight it would be to not worry about it as much and not feel pressured and influenced by other people to include certain things and as such lose the individuality of it.
When it came to choosing Medical Schools I attended each of their open days to look at the wider university and city to see if I could imagine myself being there. I made sure to talk to some students at each of the universities to learn a little more about what life is like there. I also put a lot of emphasis on the support networks in the medical school and see how supportive the staff were to student wellbeing and having a life outside of medicine. This allowed me to shortlist my choices to Sheffield, Hull-York Medical School (HYMS), Liverpool and Nottingham. If I could go back and give myself some advice it would just go with your gut on which ones you like the most and apply to the ones you can imagine yourself at.
I received interviews from Sheffield, HYMS and Liverpool. Each of the interviews was different from one another. HYMS interview consisted of two-panel interviews and one group ILA style interview. Whilst Liverpool and Sheffield were MMI but had a different range of stations.
If I go back and tell myself some advice it would honestly just be to remain calm and be yourself. You’re good enough to be there because you got an interview so don’t think of any of the applicants around you. You’ve got this.
The medical school application is tough. So always keep in your mind why you want to do it and this will help to inspire and motivate you. Most importantly remember anything you put your mind to you can achieve.
Feel free to contact me via the Instagram account @medicbotanist. Where I post tips on how to get into medical school and for once you’re there.