Irfa Ahmed, a first year medical student at the University of Manchester, gives her perspective on applying to medicine and life as a medical student! 

 Getting into medical school was probably the toughest challenge I have had to face so far in my academic career. I applied as part of the 2013-entry cohort, so began my application in summer of 2012.

Having to balance work experience, volunteering, UKCAT/BMAT revision and A level work was a massive challenge. On top of this, I was also making sure that I was doing some extra reading around the subject at least once a week to prepare myself for a potential medical interview, which came along in late December.

I applied to the following universities: Manchester, Sheffield, Kings College and the University of Oxford. In the end, I had one interview, which was at the University of Manchester. That interview soon resulted in a conditional offer (2nd January to be exact). It was probably one of the best days of my life. At this point, A levels had become really stressful but I pushed myself to make sure that I made it all the way, especially after coming so far. I committed myself to meeting coursework deadlines and making thorough revision notes, even if it meant working “overtime” way into the night!

In August, when I received my results, I was genuinely over the moon. As cliché as it sounds, I had dreamt of this moment for as long as I could remember!

Now I am reaching the end of my first semester at medical school, I can honestly say that it is worth every minute of stress and graft. I have had such great experiences already in terms of anatomy (we are one of the very few medical schools who still get to do full body dissections), early clinical experience and learning how to communicate (it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds). The course itself is immensely interesting and I feel that Problem Based Learning (PBL) is the best method of teaching for me.

I admit, it has been a real challenge to get used to PBL. You have to be very self-motivated and your time management has to be spot on. The transition to being spoonfed a lot of information to having to know what/how much to learn all on your own has been difficult. But just as with everything else, you learn to adapt. The medical school itself is always trying to make the process easier for students and this year, we have a lot more lectures that are amazing in terms of setting the mark of how much detail and depth we should have in our research. We also have personal tutors who are incredibly helpful in dealing with student concerns.

My advice to budding medical students is pretty simple – work hard and do not give up! There will be times when you doubt yourself and wonder if you actually are capable of becoming a medical student. But, it’s natural! Meet deadlines and revise way ahead of exams. Ensure that you make use of past papers and past questions – they are so valuable! Don’t forget to get your head out of the books and find some things to de-stress. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hobby, it could simply be going to the cinema and having a laugh with your friends! Also try and keep up with medical advancements and news. Interviewers love it when you show a genuine interest in the subject. It will be a massive part of you for the rest of your life after all! Don’t fret about how many interviews/offers you get either. One is more than enough! Most importantly, people will try and put you down along the way and there will be times when you feel as though maybe you’re going overboard. Do not let anything deter you! It will be SO worth it in the end and I hope there is a time where you all feel as blessed as I do as a medical student



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