Thousands of students across the country prepare their UCAS applications each year, many of whom will have their hearts set on medicine. With competition for places stronger than ever, we’ve asked Anita Saha, a current student at Manchester who went through the medical application process a few years ago, to provide an insight into the medical application process for all of you prospective medics…
The medical application process is very tedious, long and detailed. The application deadline is also much earlier in the year compared to other courses. Hence, it is essential to know what to expect and how to best prepare for the application process.
Having gone through the process myself and secured offers for medicine, I have compiled a list of things that I wish I was told earlier and some ways to improve your application, based on my mistakes.
Start planning early
There are a lot of steps to get the perfect application. Since the medical application deadline is much earlier in the year (in October), it is crucial that you start thinking about applying for medicine early on. The perfect time would be before you go back to college/sixth form, so if you haven’t started preparing yet, then now is a good time to start.
Find out whether your passion lies within medicine
To find out whether Medicine is your passion, it is important to get a first-hand experience of the day-to-day lives of doctors. To do that, the best way is to take up work experience where you shadow a medical practitioner.
The hurdles I faced, especially as an international student, is that in India you cannot easily find work experience in a healthcare environment unless you are in your final year for medicine. Most applicants got it through internal connections. Regardless, I still tried my luck and was successful in securing work experience. I went to the individual hospital lists of doctors to get hold of their contact information and then personally requested to shadow them, attaching a CV alongside my email.
However, if not work experience, you can also take up voluntary work in a care-giving setting such as an old-age home. That will help you realise whether helping and serving people gives you joy.
Start your aptitude test preparation early
Although it is technically an ‘aptitude’ test, there is yet still a lot of practice involved in getting a good score. The mistake I made was that I underestimated the amount of practice that would require me to reach my peak. The ideal time to start getting your resources sorted is after/during the summer.
The resources for UCAT are many timed practice question banks that are available online. There are also UCAT question bank books available such as the ISC 1250 questions etc. The key hack here is to book your test slot much earlier in the months so that when it is nearer to your test date and you still think you may need more time, you can shift your slot to a later date.
Effectively planning your personal statement
A personal statement is a one to two-page summary of your motivation, inspiration and achievements that make you suitable for the chosen course. If you think it is just a page long and you can write it within a week before the deadline, here is where you go wrong.
Although some universities do not have a high percentage weightage for the personal statement, it can often be a make or break factor between you and another candidate. Hence, it is as equally important as any other aspect of the application. I’d say around two months before the application deadline is a good time to start your personal statement, so get cracking!
Further tips for a strong personal statement
Do not give any cliché motivation/points. University admission officers are probably tired of reading the same cliché points and may straight away discard your personal statement. Think of something unique about the reason why you chose medicine. Write about the aspect of medicine that ignited a spark within you and sometimes gives you butterflies when you think about it. It is very important to be passionate about medicine to come across as a strong candidate.
Through your work experience, look out for and observe certain character traits and qualities of a good doctor/medical practitioner. Then reflect on how you have shown evidence for or demonstrated these qualities. For example, a senior consultant has a strong sense of leadership; you may have demonstrated leadership skills by being a team captain.
To get the perfect statement, after you write your first draft, keep improving on it with fresh eyes every five or six days and eventually you will cut down to a well-structured personal statement. Sometimes, give it to other family members and friends who are not in your batch to read, take their feedback and improve on your personal statement further.
Making the right choice
Lastly, it may seem tempting to just apply to the top UK universities but your university choice is crucial. Research each university, how they select candidates and play according to your strengths. Apply to the universities in which you are most likely to be accepted to and be practical and rational in making your choices.
I hope my advice comes handy to all the prospective applicants out there. Good luck with your applications!