University of Southampton Medical Student Applicant Story - current Southampton University Medical Student Megan tells us about her experiences of applying to and achieving a place at medical school 

 Everyone knows that getting into medical school is no easy task. So what happens when you don’t get in? 

My name is Megan and I am a medical student at the University of Southampton. I’ve settled in well to life at university but getting here in the first place was somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. I had to apply twice before I received an offer to read medicine. 

First attempt

The first time round everyone was confident. My friends, my parents, my teachers and I all assumed that at least one of the Universities I applied to would give me an offer. The waiting was excruciating. It was weeks before I heard anything, in which time my friends applying for other courses had already received offers from most of their applications. Finally! A letter!

Unsuccessful. Who would have thought so much disappointment could be brought by one word? Slowly but surely the rejections all came through. When I received that fourth rejection it felt as if my whole world was falling apart. It seemed that my dream of becoming a doctor would never be realised and I was distraught. 

After I was over the initial shock it was time to sit down and have a hard think about what I was going to do next. Giving up the pursuit of the perfect career was not an option. The only other choice was to keep on trying. 

There was still a small glimmer of hope that I would get a place that year; one of the universities I had applied to had written to say they could not offer me a place at that moment but they had placed me on a waiting list. More waiting. Very frustrating - all I could do was throw myself into my studies, hope someone with an offer was slacking off and wait. I knew that the chances were slim but I had still been hopeful and so was disappointed when I found out that despite getting straight A’s, I was definitely not going to medical school that year.  

Second attempt

My options were to either accept an offer to take a biomedical degree and then try graduate entry or to take a year out and apply again. I had already thought about intercalating my medical degree and so graduate entry would mean 3 years biomed then 4 years medical whereas trying again would be one year gap year, 5 years medical and 1 year to intercalate. Either way, I was looking at graduating roughly the same time, assuming of course I got in on my next applications. However, undertaking a biomedical degree would mean not going to medical school for at least 3 more years compared to possibly going in only 1. It would also mean an extra year’s worth of university fees and living costs whereas, by delaying, I could have a gap year to do whatever I wanted.  

So, that was that; I applied again to medical school. I scrutinised every aspect of my application to determine where other applicants could have exceeded me and where I could improve. 

1. Grades – predicted grades aren’t the same as actual grades. On my second application I already had my grades so I figured universities would see it as less of a gamble.

2. UKCAT – whilst my score was above average, it was nothing special. Although the UKCAT website says this isn’t a test you can revise for, I found that by practicing and developing strategies, I greatly improved my score by over 100 points.  

3. Work experience – whilst I already had both paid and volunteer work experience in care environments there is always more that can be done. I’d worked serving food at a care home so in my gap year I trained as a carer. I contacted my local hospital and arrange more shadowing work. I also volunteered at a hospice and got a certificate for completing over 100hours of volunteer work. 

4. Recommendations – the first time, the universities I applied to only received a recommendation from my head teacher as part of my UCAS application. The second time I asked two professionals I worked with to write letters of recommendation to the universities I applied to.

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