4th year Bristol medical student Salma Aslam gives her perspective on applying to medicine and life at the University of Bristol

Hi everyone, my name is Salma and I am a 4th year medical student at Bristol. I just discovered this website a few days ago and was so impressed by it that I wanted to contribute something myself. When I was applying to medical school I didn’t have much guidance from anyone and I think it really makes a difference if you do, so I’m here to share what I know with you all!

I decided to apply for medicine quite late on in the game compared to most people; between the summer of AS and A-levels. My as levels were Biology, Chemistry, French and Drama and Theatre Studies (my favourite subjects). This didn’t give me much time to get work experience together, but I was super keen and made sure that I learnt as much as I could from each experience.

Remember, it’s not what you do but what you learn from your experiences. I kept a diary of every placement/charity work/summer school that I attended not just documenting what I did but what I discovered from each experience. Having a resource like this to draw on made writing my personal a lot easier and having to think about what you learnt makes you reflect. For example, a diary entry could read: “Monday-: sit in a neurology clinic where patient was really anxious. Even though the doctor told me it was a simple tension headache, I saw how the doctor’s outlook can often vary from the patients and the importance of gauging the patients concerns and expectations and addressing them’. Short of reflection on the colour of the clinic walls, I tried to reflect on every experience and asked myself “what did you just learn from this?” My diaries really helped me a lot when it came to personal statement and interview time.

Currently I am a 4th year and that means that I am in the clinical years of medicine. The first two years at Bristol are pre-clinical where you spend most of your time in lectures and labs learning anatomy and the basic sciences. Years 3-5 are spend in the clinical environment in the hospitals surrounding your university. In Bristol we spend time in different hospitals across the South West of England (this is being written from Bath where I am placed at the moment).

As an extra part of your medical degree, some universities offer the chance to intercalate. This is where you are allowed to take a year out from medicine and study for another degree and you graduate after a year, so essentially after medical school you have two degrees!

Last year I got a BSc in Bioethics from Bristol and wrote a dissertation on ‘financial incentives for organ donation’. It was nice to have the time to read around a topic and do in-depth research. We also had lectures with law students as part of a module on medical law which was one of the highlights for me. It has given me lots of skills which I wouldn’t otherwise have and I recommend that you all intercalate if you have the opportunity or at least consider it. You can also go to other medical schools and intercalate which I may have done if I had planned it better, so if you want to intercalate, then look into option early on so you don’t miss any deadlines.

In the clinical years you spend time in a range of different specialities which is really good fun! You get to do medicine, surgery, paediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, emergency medicine...a bit of everything. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for what you like and whilst it’s good to keep an open mine there is no harm in thinking about future career planning. Although I still don’t know what I want to do, there are some specialties that I have already ruled out. The great thing about medicine is that there are so many specialities and sub-specialties there you are sure to find something to suit you. We are well and truly spoilt for choice, a privileged position to be in.

As a final word from me, I would like to say don’t let anyone put you off! I had a teacher tell me that I had no chance of getting into Bristol and I did. Medicine is competitive to get into but someone has to get a place so there is no reason why that shouldn’t be you. Best of luck to you all!

If you have any questions feel free to tweet me @SalmaAslam1

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