Should I apply to medical school?
Getting into medical school is tough – and what comes afterwards is no walk in the park either! So, if you’re thinking of applying for medicine at university, it’s worth taking some time over the decision. Here are a few questions you should be asking yourself.
Do I have a chance of getting in?
Sadly, there’s no point applying if your grades don’t meet a medical school’s minimum requirements. Nearly all of them have some sort of GCSE specification by subject and/or grades. On the A-Level front, too, most universities have subject requirements (usually Chemistry), and the standard offer is AAA or A*AA.
Some candidates who narrowly miss their offers may still be accepted, of course, but if your predicted grades are below the standard offer, getting into medical school and making it out the other side may prove too great an academic challenge.
Earlier in time, too, there’s the question of admissions tests – universities that ask you to sit the UCAT or BMAT will inevitably count a low score against you and some may reject you without further consideration.
Do I want to go to medical school?
Medicine is a five- or six-year course, which represents a considerable commitment in terms of time and money. Even with student loans and NHS subsidies, that’s time you won’t be able to spend earning money (not that it should matter in the longer term) or exploring other career paths if doubts start to creep in.
What’s more, medical school is hard work! Whether you’re on a traditional, problem-based or integrated course, you’ll be faced with many more contact hours a week than most of your peers from other subjects, from lectures and seminars to practical classes and clinic time. Exams, which you’ll be faced with at least once a year, are must-pass, allowing for re-sits.
If that level of academic dedication sounds like your worst nightmare, you may wish to reconsider your options.
Do I want to be a doctor (for the right reasons)?
If you’re reading this, some part of you probably wants to become a doctor. Clichéd though it may be, your motivations likely include an enjoyment of science and a desire to help people – which is no bad thing.
But if the academic side is what draws you most, you might be happier studying a straight science degree and pursuing a career in research. Conversely, there are many other professions that involve helping people, from nursing and midwifery to jobs in the charity and public sectors. Would these appeal to you more?
There are many other great aspects to life as a doctor: the privilege of helping people at significant moments of their lives as well as opportunities to travel, conduct research and assume managerial responsibility. Further down the line, there’s prestige and a healthy pay packet, too. Even so, this should certainly not be your main motivation – many other lines of work offer an easier and shorter route to a big salary.
Through all of this, the best way to work out whether you want to commit to becoming a doctor is to throw yourself into plenty of work experience, both medical and non-medical.
Do I have the appropriate skills?
One last point to consider is whether you have the appropriate skills to become a good doctor. Academic ability and the right motivations will play a large part, but there’s more. You need to be an excellent communicator, organised, teachable, comfortable working in teams, empathetic and resilient in times of stress.
If you’re someone who vastly prefers working alone or can’t stand following instructions, perhaps, you might find your personality at odds with the demands of sound medical practice, which could greatly reduce your job satisfaction. Not that you should necessarily feel daunted by all this: doctors build on these abilities over years of training and the wide-ranging demands of the job are what make medicine so special.