Camille: My medicine application
Hello! Today I’m going to talk you through my process of applying for medicine from choosing it as a career to going for my final interviews. My name is Camille and I’m a second year medical student at the university of Birmingham.
It’s well known that a career in medicine is very different from other non-vocational courses. You will need to do most of you work experience and extra entrance exams before getting to medical school.
Therefore, the application process can seem rather daunting, but once you’re in medical school you only need to focus on passing, and you practically have your job lined up ready-
in comparison to other courses where students will have to get further work experience, internships etc whilst at uni. So you just need to be aware that you will need to juggle the application with you’re A levels in upper 6th year.
So, I first thought about doing medicine in year 11. I was at a school career information evening and a medical student gave a talk about medicine and I thought maybe I could do this! I emailed and called countless hospitals locally and in London, asking for any shadowing or work experience I could possibly do.
I don’t have doctors in the family so we didn’t have all that many contacts who might be able to get me into hospital. But through constantly trying to get in touch, I managed to get two days in my local hospital and 3 days in a GP practise. So, if you’re struggling, don’t give up! It can be difficult but some hospitals offer student work exp programmes that you can apply to!
I did my hospital placement during October Half term of lower sixth, so year 12. I know of many people who managed, somehow, to watch exciting surgery during their work experience but I was only in orthopaedic clinic.
I know some people might love this but it wasn’t so much for me! So after a day here (and after learning a decent amount) I asked if I could go onto the wards and I was permitted to follow a nurse and junior doctor on a post-op ward.
I definitely knew I wanted to do medicine after my second day, when on the ward. So do make sure you take initiative and ask to see different things if that’s what you want to do! Make the most of your work experience.
A top tip here is to write down everything you remember, how doctors communicated with patients and anything that stood out to you as soon as you can! I did this in my lunchbreak and then on the bus on the way home. This will be invaluable when writing your personal statement and in interviews.
I then did my 3 days in a GP practice. I got to sit in with different doctors and help with vaccinations with the nurse. Again, make sure you ask to do whatever you’d like to see to make the most of your work exp.
So, I had previously volunteered in a care home for DofE for 6 months, so I made sure to put this on my personal statement. However, I wanted to get more volunteering of a different kind. So I got in contact with a school for children with special needs and severe learning disabilities, in my town.
I went through an interview and vetting process (DBS check) before being accepted to support the children’s learning once a week for two hours. I started this in the summer following lower sixth (year 12) and continued every week in upper sixth (year 13).
It can be long to apply to these sorts of opportunities, but it is so worth it. Obviously, I had initially applied for UCAS, however, I genuinely learnt so much and it was such a special experience to be able to go every week, so I’d definitely recommend getting involved in whatever you can.
I’ve been doing theatre, piano, singing, various choirs and netball throughout my time at school, and obviously these are all great things to mention in your application as you learn so many vital skills that you’ll use at medical school. Time management is a good one to drop in if you do a lot!
I will go into more detail about why its so important to look into the extra-curricular opportunities when choosing universities later on! As far as more academical extra-curriculars I was a member of my school’s medical discussion group, where we would talk about current medical news and issues to have a better understanding of medicine as a career.
We would also hear about past students’ application processes which was so useful- if you don’t have this system at your school, definitely get in touch with any medics in years above you or in the family etc. as this is so useful!
I also attended a weekly student-led science talks, where I gave a presentation on Infant amnesia. And although not science related, I also attended my school’s politics/ethics weekly talks, which were equally as interesting!
I was a school prefect, year 7 mentor, GCSE tutor and a member of the Performing Arts Council which involved organising theatre/music events. All these leadership roles are great examples for your application, so if you have anything similar, definitely include these!
I also had a part time job at a coffee shop where I learn a lot of communication teamwork skills. Don’t forget to mention your jobs! As far as reading, I read medical news and the student BMJ, as regularly as I could. I also read a handful of books on universities recommended lists.
I remember feeling really overwhelmed at choosing universities! There are so many. I did a huge research session and wrote down all the important stuff about as many universities as I could do to brainstorm.
One of the first things I did to narrow them down was to cut out all London unis and ones too far away (Scotland basically). As then, I thought I wanted to be close enough to home and I wanted to be on a campus uni, so not London.
These are valid points, however after starting uni and after vising London uni friends I soon realised that I actually loved the idea of studying in London, and I found out more about Scotland that was all great- so basically, your opinion can change all the time so don’t rule unis out too irrationally!
However, something I still stand by is that I know I’m not great at self-motivating myself to learn. So I knew to avoid unis that are PBL heavy. A big thing for me to look into was clinical opportunities. I wanted to get involved from the first year.
I wasn’t too bothered about prosection vs dissection as I knew there were pros of both. There was random points that I found out about some medical schools, like how at Exeter you can be moved to a different campus in year 2 (this might be different now) but it wasn’t something I wanted.
I also looked at how universities offered places. I had strong GCSEs, so chose more unis that favoured those. I had an average UKCAT so took that into consideration and cut out Newcastle because they had v high UKCAT cutoffs.
I also looked into how strong the medsoc community was and how many societies and sports they offered, as well as the uni societies.
I looked into music and theatre quality especially as this is something that is important to me, so definitely look into what interests you. Birmingham has great opportunities for all of these which is what attracted me to apply!
So after narrowing down my choices, I visited seven unis (Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff, Oxford and Bristol) for open days! I was super keen to see all the unis in real life to see for myself and talk to people. I do think this is really important but I know lots of people that didn’t go to any!
I cut out Leeds here as it was the only uni I couldn’t see myself at. I also knew that I wanted to give Oxbridge a shot, So I applied to Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff and Oxford for medicine and Bristol for biomed.
So I started my personal statement before breaking up for summer holidays after lower sixth, and edited throughout summer and finished it in early October of year 12 before the medicine deadline.
I included pretty much everything I’ve talked about so far!! I gave my personal statement to so many people, teachers, medics etc. to read through. But I only took on changes that I agreed with, this is so important when writing your personal statement!
UCCAT and BMAT
I booked my UKCAT (as it was called then) for the end of summer but got ill and couldn’t take it so had to re book it for September when I had started school again which was such a mistake and I didn’t do as well as I could have.
So moral of the story: get it out of the way early in summer or at least before the end! Then you can also enjoy the rest of summer as otherwise it is such a bore.
Definitely put a decent amount of time aside to revise for this as you need to have mastered each section before taking the test. Check the description for more information on the UCAT.
I also took the BMAT in half term of upper sixth, for oxford. Again, there is more information on this below.
I got two offers for interview: Cardiff and Birmingham. Both interviews were very different, Cardiff was my first in January.
I remember the Cardiff interview being very friendly and were given a period before the interview to relax and try some clinical skills, which was exciting! The MMIs were challenging but not awful, the interviewers would push you but the questions were fairly expected.
I remember There was an odd question which was used previously where they would just show you a picture of the welsh hills and you had to describe it.
Definitely ask older year students etc what they had at their interviews as they often repeat questions. For Birmingham, they seemed to be very serious from arriving at the medical school, especially as a contrast from the friendly greeting at Cardiff!
Again, they repeated a lot of questions here from previous years! Classic questions, again challenging and the interviewers did push you. If you’d like more information on how to do well at interview, make sure you check out the description!
I ended up only getting the one offer from Birmingham, but at the end of the day, you only need to get into one medschool!
So, thank you for reading my process from choosing medicine to the interviews! I hope this gives you a better insight into what you might expect when applying to medicine.