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How to Write Your Medical School Application

You’ve made the decision: you’re destined for life as a doctor. However, there are a few hurdles to cross before embarking upon this exciting new chapter – one being your medical school application.

Want an exclusive insight from someone who’s been in your shoes? Keep reading today’s blog for our guide on how to write a stand-out application for medical school.

Medical school application

Medical Schools Don’t Want Doctors

Whilst it might be tempting to try and convince your dream university that you know more than anyone else about medicine, medical schools aren’t looking for doctors. A student that knows how to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis is just as desirable as a student that has never heard of it. Willingness to learn and a genuine interest in medicine is all medical schools are looking for at this point, and your personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate that.

Discuss what interested you inside and outside of school, and how you explored these topics further. Finally, don’t be put off by people that have eight months work experience shadowing a consultant cardiologist. While work experience is important, it’s about what you learnt from it and not how many hours you can list on your UCAS form. Exposure to the hospital environment is great, but if it was your part-time job waitering that helped you develop effective communication skills then talk about that instead.

Your Medical History

Reflecting on clinical experience is a requirement of both medical students and qualified doctors, but also medicine applicants. Place emphasis on what you learnt from work experience, not just what you did. “I saw a coronary artery bypass graft” might sound impressive to friends and family but means nothing to your medical school. What did you learn from that experience? Did it inspire you to pursue surgery? Alternatively, did you realise you prefer the day-to-day ward care in hospitals over invasive procedures? Either are great.

Also, provide specific detail; rather than simply stating what you have done, elaborate on what it taught you. “Witnessing a coronary artery bypass graft procedure emphasised the importance of teamwork within theatre, relying on every member of the surgical team and not only the most senior clinician” will score you more points on your application than a list of your work experience. This applies to all work experience: change “I had a part-time job in a café” to “My part-time job in a café developed my communication skills and highlighted to me the importance of working with people as part of my future career”.

Show Your Enthusiasm

Medicine is one of the most interesting careers to pursue, so show it. Move away from talking about what you “did” or “completed” to what you “enjoyed” or are “enthusiastic about”. However, be careful of your wording in a medical setting. It may be appropriate to say that you “love” playing football, but not that you “love” seeing patients. The reader of your personal statement wants to see that you found work experience exciting, rather than a box-ticking exercise.

Medical student in lecture

People, Not Robots

Hospitals are full of machines and medical schools aren’t looking to add to that. Doctors are people, and medical students should be no different. It’s okay if you didn’t come from a family of doctors, plan to become a doctor from the age of four or get 100% in GCSE Spanish. Academics will only get your application so far and when reading your personal statement, universities are looking for more than just UCAS points.

Achieving a grade eight distinction in piano is a fantastic achievement, but so is overcoming your fear of public speaking or teaching yourself embroidery. Your hobbies won’t make you a better doctor but being human will. Don’t be afraid to be honest (but appropriate) when discussing your interests. After all, if patients want their doctor to be personable, then so do medical schools.

Do No Harm

Medical applicants only focus on whether they get a place, not whether they want one. Make sure medicine is truly for you. It is easy to be swept up with the UCAT exam and university applications, especially with teachers and family encouraging you every step of the way. However, medicine is a five - or six-year commitment - one that is far from easy. If you decide medicine is the right choice, consider if you will be happy where you apply. Obtaining a place to study medicine in London is great, but if you hate big cities then spending five years in Bethnal Green might not be the best choice for you.

Medicine Has Side-Effects

If you devote your every waking moment to studying, you will make a terrible medical student. Medicine is incredible, but stressful. Your university will want to see that you can maintain balance with your work, whether that’s by chatting to friends or binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Medicine is not always for the faint-hearted. Part of the reason work experience is essential, is to avoid giving places to students who base their view of doctors on House MD or discover their irreparable fear of blood halfway through the degree. Unlike many other university courses, medicine requires a sense of maturity and appreciation for what being a doctor actually entails.

Witnessing life-saving surgery and examining patients with rare conditions are all aspects of medicine to look forward to, but admin, safeguarding and audits are just as important. Show your medical school you know there is more to being a doctor than saving lives, yet you still want to become one.

Medical students training

Rejection is a Hard Pill to Swallow

Only 30% of medical school applications are successful in the UK. Whilst this might seem demoralising, don’t be put off if you don’t get a place the first time around. A huge proportion of registrars and consultants didn’t get a place when they first applied and are now experts in their field.

Medical school applicants tend to be very high-achieving people. As a result, “failure” feels devasting, whether that’s not getting your expected A level results or passing your driving test at age 17. Realistically, this means very little in the long run. You can choose to complete a related degree and apply to medicine as a graduate or utilise the next year to retake exams, gain more work experience and develop your interview technique. Either way, this setback will mean nothing by the time you are a medical student and be a distant memory as a doctor.

Look at admission statistics for your universities to determine which aspect of your application needs improvement. The vast majority of hard work has already been done, all that is left for you to do are months of minor adjustments for a lifetime of your dream career.

Finally - Good luck!

I hope this blog has helped ease your nerves somewhat – particularly as one of the key takeaways is that you should be yourself, as that’s what the top medical schools are looking for. If you’re still panicking about the main things you need to include in your application, don’t fret. In true TV presenter fashion, “here’s one I made earlier”...

1. A brief summary of who you are and why you wish to pursue medicine

2. Clinical work experience, more importantly what you learnt from it

3. Volunteering (this doesn’t have to be clinical)

4. Academics: awards and additional qualifications you have received (not just grades)

5. Hobbies and interests

6. Conclusion: why would you make a great doctor?

If you’ve got any more questions, our trusty team at Titanium Tutors are here to help. If you’re looking for a tutor to guide you through the process – get in touch today!


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