Applying to medicine? 5 questions to ask yourself before and after you submit your application

Time is ticking for students wanting to apply for medicine for 2023 entry in the UK. It’s a competitive course and no doubt you’ve done your homework and spent time on your application. To give yourself an even better chance, take a few minutes to ask yourself these five questions: 3 before you submit your application, and 2 for afterwards.

3 Questions to ask before you send your application

1. Are you focusing too much on ‘soft skills’ in your personal statement?

By this stage you probably know by heart a list of personal qualities universities are looking for when it comes to medical admissions – empathy, social skills, teamwork, communication, reliability and resilience. However, if you focus on these too much in your personal statement, you might forget to include evidence of your ability to cope with what is actually an intensely academic course.

Don’t forget to devote a large section of your personal statement to showing evidence of your academic strengths. Have you completed a project or given a talk that required extensive reading beyond your A Level subjects? What scientific or technological aspects of medicine interest you – have you read about some recent research or attended a talk or workshop?

Top tip: running out of space? Ask your teacher to include something in your reference if you don’t have room for it in your personal statement.

2. Did you make informed choices?

There are loads of things to think about when choosing a university – what style of teaching do you prefer? Where do you want to live? Although these factors are important, it’s also important to be realistic and not waste the chances you have. The entry requirements for A Level are generally pretty similar, but you should also consider your GCSE grades and BMAT/UKAT scores.

You can find information on university websites about the typical UKAT or BMAT scores for successful applicants. These are often used to narrow down the field of candidates so should be considered carefully. This website provides a useful comparison tool to help you compare relative success rates, how candidates are ranked and the typical grades for successful candidates.

Top tip: remember to declare any additional educational needs such as dyslexia, ASD or ADHD. Some students avoid this because they think it might put them at a disadvantage – far from it! This shows the university what you have achieved despite educational barriers so you should always mention access arrangements and other relevant information.

3. Did you use your fifth place?

…And if not – why not?

You have nothing at all to lose by using your fifth option to apply for a course in a related discipline such as biomedical sciences or biochemistry. You are under no obligation to accept the offer if you receive one, and it can provide a sense of security.

There’s a lot of snobbery among medical applicants when it comes to the fifth place option, but it’s really not deserved as biomedical degrees can open up a huge range of interesting career options. Not to mention the fact that you might actually change your mind about medicine during the year in between applying and going to university!

Top tip: If you’re not sure you’ll get the A Levels you need but are dead set on pursuing medicine, look for universities that allow transfer from biomedical sciences to medical degrees in your first year.

Questions to ask after you send your application:

4. Have you been neglecting your A Level subjects?

It’s time to get realistic. You’ve spent a lot of time gaining work experience, perfecting your personal statement and preparing for entrance tests. You likely also worked hard before mock or end of year exams to get those predicted grades you need – but you need to remember that they are still predictions. In 2019, only 21% of applicants accepted to university actually met or exceeded their predicted grades and 43% had a difference of 3 or more grades.

Time to get organised and back on track. Use a diary or planner to make sure you put in enough extra time to each A Level subject during the week – don’t leave it all until just before a test or exam. Divide your time between going over notes, retrieval practice and exam practice – and stop avoiding those topics you find hardest!

Top tip: If you want some help with your chemistry practice and haven’t already joined, check out my free revision club.

5. Have you thought about preparing for interviews?

For the reasons discussed above, it’s also likely you haven’t put a lot of thought into interview preparation yet. Although they might seem a long way off, time will probably seem to move quickly this year!

Medical interviews are challenging, so like any challenge it’s best to start yourself off small and build up. Research typical questions and continue to read around the subject to keep yourself informed in these areas. Practice talking through these ideas on your own first, especially if you’re shy or anxious. Then ask friends and family to help by asking you questions in an informal setting. Once you’ve had some experience with this, make sure you book a proper practice interview – most schools and colleges will help you with this.

Top tip: ask for feedback, even from friends and family. All information is useful, so try to always see it as a learning exercise and not take it too personally.

Claire Costello-Kelly

Claire Costello-Kelly

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