University of Sheffield medical student Anna talks to Get Into Medicine about how she found the application process and life as a 4th year medical student!

Applying for Medicine

My application story is a fairly ‘normal’ one, as I applied straight from school. I think this comes with its own challenges, largely due to being so young - I have an August birthday which meant I’d been 17 for less than 2 months when I sent off my UCAS form. The key thing when applying for medicine is to convince the medical school that in 5 years’ time you will make a good doctor, and the best place you can do this is in your interviews. Year 13 was one of the most stressful years of my life (and my Mum’s!) as I had no backup plan because there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do apart from medicine. So here are my reflections on the process and some tips for the application.

Work Experience

Being able to demonstrate what you learnt from your work experience will show the medical school you’ll be a responsible doctor when you graduate. I found it hard to get work experience, mainly because I was so young. I did get some experience in a care home, but I didn’t find it very useful, and I didn’t learn much because I wasn’t allowed to get involved. However, I was lucky enough to get asked to work as a carer for a gentleman in my village – I learned so much, not only the medical side, but about working with people (patients and professionals) and the communication skills which are so necessary for medicine. I was able to refect a lot on the process, and through the various experiences I had saw both good and bad care, which was great to talk about in the interview. Like mentioned in many other people’s posts, reflection is key, and recognising your limits is important. So it’s quality not quantity for work experience, I think.

My Personal Statement

I had a genuine reason for wanting to be a doctor, which was that a family member has a medical condition, so I was exposed to the world of hospitals for as long as I can remember and became interested in medicine at a young age. Being able to talk about it in my interview and really explain my reasons was very useful, and a good ice breaker at the beginning. Saying “I like science, I like people” is not good enough! Everything you do can be used to show the skills you have gained. Sport, music, or anything which shows that you are a “normal person” with broad interests who can switch off from their studies, and will also be able to contribute to the medical school, is useful.

Where to Apply

Those 4 choices are very important, and I made a bit of a mistake with mine. I didn’t have the required number of A*s at GCSE for Edinburgh, but applied anyway (my school didn’t really explain that it would be pointless!) so that was an automatic rejection. My advice is to properly check the admission criteria regarding grades and UKCAT scores and anything else, to make sure you’re in with a chance. I also found it really useful to meet medical students – if you can’t imagine yourself as one of them then the medical school is probably not for you. Sheffield had the nicest students on the open days I went to, and I instantly wanted to go there. (Bristol wasn’t bad either and was my second choice!)

Once you’ve applied

The wait for the UCAS emails was horrible! All your friends will start getting offers within weeks of applying, and you have to wait. I didn't hear from Sheffield until March, and Bristol still hadn’t got back to me after I had my offer from Sheffield so I rejected them. So my advice is don’t worry! It takes a long time to process all of the applications and start interviewing, and they will get back to you. Once you’ve applied, just keep going with the A-levels and forget about the application. Keep up with what is happening in the news, especially stories relating to current medical issues and ethics so you are well prepared for any questions that come up in an interview, as you might be called for interview at short notice.

The Interview

My first interview was a complete shambles. I came from a normal state school so didn’t get any interview practice, so went into it with an answer for “why medicine?” but no idea about what else might come up. My second interview (at Sheffield) was so much better because I knew how to handle myself, and I had spent a lot of time on the internet finding out about the type of thing I could be asked. My advice – get someone, either at school or a family member, to properly quiz you. The harder the better. Questions you are likely to be asked: why medicine, why the city, why the university, and about current ethical issues. Read the prospectus back to front so you know the course structure well, reasons for studying in Sheffield might include great dissection or the early clinical exposure (neither of which I knew about for my interview!) Overall, you need to come across in interview as a responsible person, who can think for themselves and is genuinely interested in medicine.

Life as a Student

I’m now a 4th year medical student and have loved every minute of my studies so far! I was pretty nervous about moving from a small village in Northumberland to the big (ish) city in Sheffield, but it is honestly the nicest city I’ve been to. I didn’t know what to expect in freshers’ week, but I have written a post about what you might need to be aware of, click here to read it! The jump in terms of work load wasn’t too hard – but you definitely have to be more self-motivated to get things done at university as no one checks up on you. However, I’ve loved student life so much that I’ve decided to do an extra year at university to get a BMedSci. The experiences you have as a medical student and the people you get to meet are definitely worth all the exams and the UCAS process… so good Luck!

Anna (@AnnaPeerMedEd)

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