In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Yath is an undergraduate medical student at University College London.
Hello, I’m a final-year medical student studying at UCL in London. I applied to medical school in 2015 and received 4 of 4 offers, including 3 top London medical schools. I’m a big advocate for digital medicine and remote consultations.
I first decided to pursue medicine when I realised I had two strong interests. I really enjoyed science and was academically very strong. Secondly, I very much liked the idea of career flexibility.
When you become a doctor, there is so much you can do: you can get stuck in on the frontlines as a practising clinician, pursue academic interests, even found amazing startups and companies. Furthermore, the ability to have a considerable amount of impact on someone’s life sold the career to me.
All of this occurred around Year 10 and as soon as I had this realisation I got cracking on maximising my chances - I was able to attend Cambridge Summer Schools and complete research at the KCL Diabetics Group right before even starting Sixth Form giving myself more confidence.
The single best thing you can do to maximise your chances is to take on every opportunity that comes away and don’t shy away from submitting tens and hundreds of applications to various programmes and initiatives - you’ll thank yourself later.
I achieved 8A*s and 3As whilst balancing this with a number of extracurricular activities as aforementioned to get my head in the game with the application process.
One other thing I did was to begin deeply reading into the application process and understanding the process inside out - this helped me map out what exactly I had to do at each time milestone from GCSEs through to interviews in Year 13. For example, some key steps include attaining work experience, some form of voluntary work, and extracurricular stuff e.g. sports, music, prefect duties, SJA cadet, etc. This list is neither prescriptive nor exhaustive, just a few important considerations I made when preparing my application.
I went on to achieve 2A*s and 2As at A-Levels. During sixth form my time was focussed on gaining the right work experience, building regular extracurricular activities through prefecting, SJA cadets, volunteering weekly at the local charity shop and keeping up my sporting interests through tennis.
This is always a tough step. I’d say it’s a pretty crucial step not only in the eyes of medical school (although occasionally it is fine if you cannot gain some - they do understand it’s a difficult opportunity) but also in forming your own opinion on whether or not applying to become a doctor is the right thing for you. I was fortunate enough, after making way too many phone calls and applications to receive two work experience opportunities at a hospital and GP practice. I was also able to volunteer at a care home for a few months.
My best advice would be to start searching early, and when you do get it work experience use it wisely. Ask questions to doctors and consultants, try to keep tabs on what you get up to each day and most certainly reflect and keep a journal of this for your personal statement later.
If I could time-travel, the single further thing I would have done with my work experience would have been to try to have a quick 1-on-1 chat with an F1/F2 doctor on how they found medical school, even better if there are medical students already there on your work experience, speak to them. They know best about studying medicine and can help you form a realistic insight.
This takes a lot of time and iterations to perfect, start early and start during the August before Year 13 starts. Initially just assemble a bunch of sentences or lists under various headings from work experience, extracurricular, through to your events/books, then try to piece some of these sentences together. Leave the starting and ending sentences to the last step but try to form variations or concepts for how you might want them to be early on so you have some choice when you get to it. The five main areas to have covered in this order would be your starting sentence or two, work experience, events/books + other relevant medical type stuff, volunteering and extracurricular, and finally your conclusive sentence or two.
Your main word or priority is reflection.
Each sentence should try to bring about some aspect of being a doctor or studying medicine that is reflective. E.g. not only saying you shadowing a GP consultation but acknowledging the importance of communication and empathy in a doctor’s ability to professionally and comfortably assist a patient in their worries and needs.
Choosing Medical Schools
This is a tough step, work at it with some of your peers if there are others applying to medical school. I created a spreadsheet with all the UK medical schools at the time and had columns for each of their requirements for the interview in terms of UCAT/BMAT scores, grades, extracurricular activities, format, and other factors. I then used these against my own achievements to form a traffic-light style assortment of medical schools I stood a great chance at receiving interviews. I think considered other factors like the medical school itself, it’s ranking and academic prestige along with location, teaching styles, and current medical student opinions. Using this I then selected two medical schools that I stood a great chance at receiving interviews and two that I had a decent chance but was still a risk. Luckily using this technique, I received 4 interview offers and 4 medical school offers.
I won’t spend much time speaking about these as I can write entire essays on what you should or should not do or how you should or should not prepare. I would recommend practising with peers straight after 15th Oct. (of course give yourself a break and begin preparing for the BMAT if you are doing that) but start thinking about interviews even before you have interview offers - a little bit of self-confidence and backing yourself to achieve great things goes a long way.
Know the process inside out. Start early. Don’t fall short on any aspect, give yourself the maximum chance by doing absolutely everything in your ability. Don’t apply to medical school if it’s not your thing, especially if you think it pays well, it doesn’t.
Finally back yourself, if you are doing all the right things and can handle the interviews, there’s little room for error. Applying to medical school is actually a pretty straightforward and enjoyable process once you work out how to hack the system and put yourself ahead of your peers.
In my spare time, I write a weekly newsletter which is now 450+ members strong at the time of writing this article and I’m starting out on YouTube making videos about self-improvement, productivity, and medicine. Feel free to check out both of these at yath.substack.com and youtube.com/yathprem respectively. I also mentor anyone wanting to get into medical school, often offering free support via message - hit me up on my socials if you have a question.