University of Sheffield Medical Student Application Story - here Kayleigh Smith describes how she got into medicine at Sheffield University -and her tips for the UKCAT test, work experience and more!

 My journey to study medicine has certainly not been by the usual route! I studied at a state comprehensive secondary school and the thought of studying medicine at university never crossed my mind. I did however have an interest in studying science. I achieved BBC in my A-levels in Maths, Psychology and Biology respectively and went on to study Applied Biology at Newcastle University. I was a little disappointed with my A-level grades but made up for this by obtaining a first class degree with honours. I thoroughly enjoyed the research aspect of my undergraduate degree but at this time had not considered medicine as a possible career. In 2008 I was awarded the prestigious Gordon Piller PhD studentship by Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research at Newcastle University. Within a few weeks of starting my PhD I knew that medical research was what I wanted to do as a career. During my PhD I chose to focus on attending clinical conferences and also requested to spend some time shadowing haematologists and nurses on hospital wards and in clinics. I also attended a clinical skills course at a local NHS hospital which was for sixth form students (but I persuaded them to let me go!!). At present I work as a post-doc at Newcastle University and volunteer one afternoon every week at a local hospice which I absolutely love.

When it comes to applying for medicine my advice is to research very carefully where you apply to. If you don’t have a very high UKCAT test score then make sure you apply to universities that either don’t take UKCAT test into account or universities that only look at it partially rather than as a cut-off when deciding who to interview. If you are unsure then e-mail the university admissions departments before applying. I think I e-mailed nearly every university in the country to see which ones would only look at my A-levels and which universities would consider my degree. This is important as a mature student as my A-level results do not meet the general cut-off for medicine. When writing your personal statement it is essential to be REFLECTIVE about any work experience you have undertaken rather than just listing what you have done. Say what you learnt from it and be honest if there were certain parts you found difficult or that surprised you. Also start the statement with a sentence that will leave a lasting positive impression on the admissions team as this will increase the chance of them remembering your application among thousands. When it comes to the interview try and enjoy it! If you have got to the interview stage then the university in question must want to give you a place, so refresh your memory as to what is in your personal statement and be willing to expand on it. I start studying at Sheffield University in September 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed my interview experience at Sheffield. 

If you are a student applying from school and don’t get the grades to study medicine then don’t give up at the first hurdle…this does not mean that you will never study medicine. There are a so many different routes to getting into medical school so make sure to equip yourself with the necessary information i.e. gap years, biomedical science conversion courses, widening access and partner programmes. If you are a mature student thinking of applying for medicine then use all of your life experiences to make your application stand out! I was amazed by how many graduate/mature students are studying medicine, many of them on the undergraduate standard course. So don’t necessarily assume that all graduates study the graduate entry course. Good luck to everyone applying to study medicine… will get there just keep going and never give up!!

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