July 7, 2017, by studentcontributor
How to utilize your summer holidays before Year 13
Hey! I’ve currently just finished my 2nd year of medicine. Three years ago, I was stressing about applying for medicine. There were so many questions; Where to apply? What entrance exams to sit? And not to forget, which “relevant” extra-curricular activities to do?
The application process is, in short, daunting. Balancing an application to medical school while studying for A levels/IB and extra-curricular activities is extremely challenging. The important thing to do is to take a breather from time to time and remember what has driven you to apply for medicine.
Here are some tips on how to make your summer holidays useful:
Step 1: Try and do some work experience
Before you start writing your personal statement, it might be worth getting some medically related work experience in. I’ll admit that it is difficult for every hopeful medical student to shadow doctors at hospitals or GP practices, but there are a lot of other things you can do. Volunteering at a nursing home, disability centres, youth clubs and even pharmacies can teach you invaluable lessons about healthcare!
Step 2: Devise a first draft for your personal statement
Devising a first draft requires patience. You’ll need to think about all the experiences you have had over the years, all and any of the work experience you’ve had- no matter how irrelevant! Work experience at an industrial firm? Any experience is worth it! They call it “transferrable skills”– team work, time management, communication- these skills aren’t unique to medicine, you can learn them anywhere! But of course, it is desirable to have some medically related work experience to show your interest.
Having one is good as long as you show what you have learnt about medicine and yourself from it. It is also important that you show them you are knowledgeable and have put in the extra time to research about the NHS and recent medical developments.
The most important part of your PS are the first and last lines. The first line needs to stand out and catch the reader’s attention immediately. The last line needs to leave a lasting impression, making you stand out from the general crowd. Fill your personal statement with interesting facts about yourself, all the while relating it back to your passion for medicine. Try and be as unique as possible They’ll have gone through plenty of PSs which have the same old “I love working with patients”, “I like the clinical aspects of medicine”, “It’s hands on”. You need to sell yourself in a positive light while boasting about your achievements modestly.
Step 3: Shortlist your universities
Think about the different things each university offers and what you want to gain from your course:
- How do you learn best?
- Which university’s course layout do you like?
- Do you think you will enjoy problem-based learning?
- Do you want early clinical exposure?
Choose universities which are realistic in terms of entry requirements. Look at rankings with a pinch of salt. It might be a good idea to go for open days if you can.
Each university has quite specific entry requirements and give different weightage to certain aspects of your application. For example, Bristol likes it if your 3rd A level/IB HL subject is an art, Sheffield likes an extremely strong personal statement while Nottingham and Cardiff look at your best 8 GCSEs. Another question is whether the university expects you to have done Physics at GCSE level.
Step 4: PS Draft #
Once you’ve shortlisted your universities, make a second draft based on your final university choices and structure your personal statement towards them. Don’t praise any one university because the same PS will be shown to every university you’ve ranked.
Step 5: Prep for the entrance exams
You might be applying for both UKCAT and BMAT universities, so you’ll have to start practising! There is an abundance of practice questions for both. For BMAT, you will need a good knowledge base about medicine because there will be an essay type question to attempt. The UKCAT on the other hand is purely MCQ based and split into Quantitative Reasoning (Maths), Verbal Reasoning (English- Comprehension based), Abstract Reasoning (Non-verbal Reasoning type questions), Decision Analysis and Situational Judgement which presents you with various scenarios and asks you to choose the best course of action.
These five steps should be plentiful to get you through the summer. You may also want to think about starting your EPQ at this point, so it doesn’t interfere with interviews and studies. Plus you will have something to talk about in the interview if you’ve done the EPQ during the summer!
The key thing about interviews is that you should sound confident and if you don’t know or understand something, be honest and tell them. Interviewers usually appreciate that rather than guessing your way through the questions!
Contributor: Shreyashi Verma, 2nd Year Medical Student
(WAMS Committee 2017)