That Medic Life's Journey
In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine.
My journey into medicine was quite different to a ‘typical applicant’ (if one exists)
Throughout my time in high school up to choosing A Levels - I was set on studying engineering. I even went to as many free STEM summer schools focused on engineering that I possibly could.
Medicine, to me, seemed rather unattainable as I had never been one of the best performing students at my high school.
My GCSE results came as a huge surprise. I somehow managed to get 9A*s and 1 A. It was then I realised the importance of doing every single past paper you can find for the subject - as many times as you can before your exam! This way of revising and testing myself is also what got me through A Levels.
Choosing my A Levels was quite difficult and as the indecisive person I am - I chose 5 subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths. I convinced myself that this was the only way to keep my options open and a career in either engineering or medicine would be possible from these choices.
Of course, looking back, it is absurd to think that doing 5 A Level subjects is the only way to ‘keep your options open’.
My AS grades also came as a huge shock to me. I got straight As in all my subjects. (I was thinking that if I completely failed one – the decision of engineering or medicine would be made for me.) During the summer before Year 13, I changed my mind nearly every day. I still kept thinking that I shouldn’t pursue medicine because I would never make it. I dropped Further Maths in Year 13 and decided to do an EPQ.
My school environment wasn’t exactly supportive. My teacher told me that I had no experience and was sure I would never get in - ‘best to choose an easier degree’. I think being told you can’t do something, motivates you even more.
I began volunteering in a care home and emailed countless GPs for work experience.
I applied online to do work experience at my local NHS hospital despite knowing that this takes months. By focusing on all this I almost forgot about the UCAT. I’m pretty sure I was one of the last people to sit it and only had a month to revise. I managed to get an above average score with a Band 1.
A GP finally contacted me saying I could do a week of work experience and another said I could do two different Mondays - I was honestly so grateful for this. I was writing my personal statement and doing my work experience on the week of the UCAS deadline for medicine. I did, however, submit on time. Do you want to know what my non-med option was? Engineering. I kid you not. (Biomedical engineering, but still, it seems quite funny to me now.)
I first got my non-med offer and then the interview emails started to come through. I distinctly remember at my first interview students casually chatting to each other about the various courses they paid for to get some interview prep, as well as all their school doing all it could to assist them. I mainly prepared using ‘The Medic Portal’ and various other online sites.
I cannot stress enough that if you cannot afford fancy courses you can still ace your interviews! There are so many free resources out there now and this is why I spend so much of my time answering every question that is sent to me on Instagram, YouTube and by younger students at my school.
Maybe I’m going off on a tangent, but I believe that everyone should have equal access to education regardless of where they come from. Sites like The Aspiring Medics that offer bursaries and so much free information are key to bridging the gap.
I think most students, despite what subject they studied, remember their last A level year of sixth form being quite disordered? It’s hard to explain - there is just so much to do in terms of studying and applications.
The memories of studying are just fuzzy. But, as I mentioned before, a key part of revision is doing past questions and spaced repetition. You must have heard this over 1000 times by Ali Abdaal/any other studytuber. (But, hey, that’s spaced repetition.)
A level results day was frantic. I had actually gotten into medical school and just couldn’t quite believe it.
From thinking that I’m not smart enough to get in to… well, still sometimes thinking like I really shouldn’t be here. But almost every medical student has imposter syndrome!
I really do love what I study and any moment I think I’m not good enough - I have to tell myself that I did work just as hard as everyone else to be here.
My advice to all aspiring medics out there is take time to sit down and think things through. It’s a tough question for a 17/18-year-old but what do you actually want? Not what anyone is saying you should or shouldn’t do. There are so many online resources out there to help you, so please take advantage of it. And finally, if anyone tells you that you shouldn’t pursue medicine- do it anyway.
I run an Instagram blog and YouTube channel that goes by the name: That Medic Life. I have just finished my second year of medical school and am very excited to start clinical years.
That Medic Life