4th Year Peninsula Medical School Student Abigail Carey talks about her experiences when applying to medical school and her time so far at Peninsula

When I first decided to be a doctor, I was 10 years old. I studied at the average, local community school, whose claim to fame was having a pig give birth live on webcam – cool but not entirely useful! My GCSE & A-Level options were chosen with medicine in mind. At GCSE I focused on core subjects & chose triple science, fast track maths, French & child development, as well as the compulsory options. By the time I reached A-Level, I knew I had to choose Biology & Chemistry. I chose English Lit so I could develop my essay writing skills, plus it was a subject I loved. I continued with Maths, as I’d already gained an AS Level.

In September of year 12, we started having careers lessons. The deputy head of year admitted that she knew nothing about applying to medical school, but that she was looking into it & suggested I went on a course designed to answer all your questions. It was expensive but my parents & school helped out with the costs. And there my eyes were opened to the many hoops I would have to jump through to get to medical school. I’d had no idea about half of the things they were talking about, or the competition I would be facing. The way I deal with worry is to plan, plan, plan. I made a list: “How to get into medical school”. Get voluntary work. Get work experience placements. Practise for UKCAT. Write personal statement first draft. Take UKCAT. Write personal statement second, third, fourth… draft. Fill in UCAS form. Choose unis. Get interview offers.

Except that last one didn’t happen. I’d done 2 work experience placements in clinical environments, volunteered with younger teenagers in many different groups, passed the UKCAT well, passed all my AS Levels, written a good personal statement. I’d jumped all the hoops & I had four straight rejections. I was crushed. But again, I turned my worry into action. I rang up the unis & asked for feedback on my application. And without fail, every one of them said my grades weren’t good enough. I’d been predicted four Bs by my teachers.

I went to each of my teachers, trying (& failing) to hold back tears, & asked why they had lowered my grades. “So it looks good when you beat them” & “So we don’t get told off if you missed them”. With a shaky voice, I asked each of them if they realised I needed at least AAB predicted to even get an interview. They didn’t.

For the next few months, I focused solely on my A2 exams. I would prove them wrong. I would get As & I would do it on my own. I studied harder than I ever had before, & harder than I’ve ever needed to at med school! I decided that if I got A grades, I would apply one more time, but if I missed the grades, I would take my backup place for medical science at Birmingham Uni. Results’ day 2008… I got AAAB (the B in Maths was inevitable; even my teacher said I was “the slow one” in class). I sat down in disbelief & cried out of relief (you might have guessed it, I was pretty emotional at this point of my life)! Time for more plans & lists! Get a job. Plan a volunteering trip to India. Write a new personal statement. Take the UKCAT again. Fill out another UCAS form. Choose unis... Get interviews?

This time I swapped one of my original choices for Peninsula Medical School. Although I had wanted to go here when I was 10, I changed my mind as I got older in a bid to move further from home. However, it was back on my list because another choice wouldn’t accept a second application. And thank goodness I put them down! 1 interview, 1 offer… I’m now a 4th year Peninsula Medical School student!

There are few direct school leavers in my year. A lot of us are gap-year students, post-grads or people who worked in another field before applying. I had a brilliant time on my gap year, working in a care home for the elderly & then in an Indian orphanage. Both these things taught me a lot about people & I discovered new things I’m passionate about. I also learnt that you shouldn’t give up on something you really want. I could have given up many times but because I was passionate & hardworking, I got where I want to be. I am now the president of Plymouth’s branch of our widening access society, doing school visits to students like I was. We tell them all about getting into medical school from backgrounds which have barriers – such as disadvantaged families or schools that have never sent anyone to medical school. And we do it for free! No expensive courses required! All three campuses – Exeter, Plymouth & Truro – run these events, so contact Peninsula if you’d like a visit! If one more person a year applies because of something we’ve said that gives them the belief that they can do it, then I’m happy. I think it makes an even better doctor if you have to fight for it!

Copyright 2012 Get Into Medicine. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2012 Get Into Medicine