Offers, Waiting Lists and Rejections

It’s that time of year where most of the universities have finished their interview cycles and are sending out their results. Statistically, around 5% of GEM applicants and 20% of Undergrads will have offers.

If you have an offer, congratulations! You’ve made it through the dreaded cycle, now it’s time to get your DBS and contracts signed. Don’t delay on this, don’t give them a reason to reject you after you’ve come this far.

Step 2: Get your student finance application started. Even if you haven’t got all your offers you can change this before you submit it, but get the rest of the application sorted. If you’re a GEM offer holder, I suggest making a decision early as student finance hire temps you do not realise there is funding for GEM as a second degree. If it gets really troublesome, ask for Tier 2 – Graduate medicine department.

Step 3: Attend the open days. These are put on especially for offer and waiting list applicants where you get to judge the university instead of the other way round. You also get to meet your new potential course-mates and jaded medics from years above. There’s normally free food and workshops as well.

If you’ve been put on the waiting list, do not despair. Last year, every single GEM school used up every single place on their waiting lists. This actually extended beyond the waiting list with people getting called up for an offer during the first week of term. Similar to the offer holders, sort out student finance application (but don’t send it until you have the offer), attend the open days and keep an open mind. Make a back up plan for the next year if it happens that you don’t get an offer but make sure it’s not set in stone until you know for sure. It is hell, every single email from that uni will make you jump. I should know, I was one of the waiting list applicants. I ended up getting the offer while working in July (I was 19th/29 on the waiting list), so keep the hope.

If you’ve had the unfortunate situation of being rejected, it’s not the end of the world (cliche, I know). Take the rejection as a lesson, sometimes a uni just doesn’t feel you’re right for them, sometimes you had a bad day, sometimes you just happened to come up against the cream of the crop. Take a step back, think about your next move. Is medicine right for you? Do you want to apply again? What are you gonna do in the meantime? These are big questions but don’t rush to answer them all at once. If you’re a GEM applicant, you have the GAMSAT score for another year (if you did it) and it was obviously good enough to get interview this time so you’ll have a chance to get another the next year.

If you are going to apply again. Ask for the feedback from the interview. They won’t be able to give you the answers but they can send you the reasons why they didn’t accept you. Spend the next year working on that aspect, be it work experience, communication skills or just interview technique. Remember though, most medical schools only allow 2 interviews per applicant but there is infinite amounts of times you can apply (as long as you don’t exhaust the interview limits)

 

Regardless of your decision, I wish you all the best in your careers. Maybe one day we’ll cross paths but you’ll never know we did…

Interviews

‘So why do you want to do medicine?’

This is the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years time?’ question of all medical school interviews.

As I speak, universities are sending out interview offers to hopeful candidates. Interviews are scary, especially since you’ve spent the best part of a year applying. On the plus side, this is the final hurdle. So to help you, I have some tips to try and calm some of those pre-interview nerves.

Type of Interview

Know the type of interview before you start preparing. Most universities prefer to use the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process as this is able to test the applicant in many areas during a short period of time. Needless to say, these interviews tend to me more stressful as you have to be able to know a little about everything (a bit like medicine). However, they are short. Most stations are between 5-8 minutes depending on the university.

The other type of interview is the Panel Interview. Panel interviews are generally easier to prepare for and allows the interviewer to gauge an accurate bearing of the applicant. Unlike MMIs, you generally can’t mess up. A mess up in an MMI may affect your score for that station, but there will often be 6/7 more stations to make up for the mistake. Panel’s are slightly less forgiving and a mistake can haunt the interview. If you think you are more of a chatty people person, panel’s tend to be stronger where as MMIs test your ability to be succinct and think on your feet.

Acting

Most MMIs for now contain an acting station. This is based around breaking bad news. As part of the GMC guidelines, they have recognised this is something all medical students should be able to do.

My advice here is to be sincere. The actors will often have a basic script which enables them to respond to what you say and your body language. I have known full-blown arguments to break out in this station.

Accept the fault. Don’t try to make an excuse for what happened, this looks bad. Apologise (throughout) and come up with ways in which you can fix this. The scenarios are non-medical (so no knowledge required – you’re applying to do medicine, not doing it already), often a pet which died while you were looking after it or a missed dinner reservation. If you are doing well the actor may accept your resolution or may make the scenario more difficult (e.g. the pet was brought during their kids cancer treatment).

You can move heaven and earth to come to a resolution. This doesn’t mean jump straight to the most erroneous option, but means you can be a bit creative along the way.

Preparation

Look into the university; what do they offer? what teaching style do they use (PBL or seminars)? what is the structure of the course? how do they teach anatomy? Show them you’ve researched the place at which you want to study, but don’t list reasons, show how this relates to you and your decision.

Ethics. There will always be an ethics question from euthanasia to organ donation to homeopathy. My big tip here: Look up the 4 pillars of ethics and apply these to your answer.

Work experience. Most of your questions will about why you want to do medicine or what drove you to this decision? Whenever using work experience as an answer, reflect on what you learnt and how this affected you.

How much medical knowledge you know will not help you. You’re applying to go to medical school, it’s pointless if you know most of the information before starting!

Finally, DON’T LEARN ANSWERS!!!

Have a template in your head which you can use but it is so obvious when someone has simply recited an answer. Most MMIs now will ask the basic questions in slightly modified way to see if you simply recite or actually answer the question.

Nerves

Nerves are a big part of any interview. There will always be the person who is relaxed and wants to chat beforehand. There will also be the one boasting about which surgeon they shadowed for experience. The only person who determines the outcome of that interview is you! Take deep breaths, you’ve come this far therefore, on paper, they want you. Most interviews will have a warm up question to get you going.

The interviewers know how stressful the environment is at interview. They will understand if you draw a mind blank, or mess up some words. It shows you’re human and will rarely affect the outcome.

 

I wish you all the best with interviews. If you have any specific questions regarding interviews, visit the contact page.

Work Experience

The one thing every medical school wants from its applicants.

Work experience can come in all shapes and sizes.I will run through some ideas for work experience and personal statement boosters to try and get your application near to the top of the pile.

Shadowing

The staple work experience of most undergraduate applicants. Shadowing shows that you’ve been in a clinical environment witnessing medicine first hand. Yet, personally, shadowing means nothing unless you’re using it to determine if medicine is right for you. Name dropping consultants or procedures into interviews and personal statements won’t help, if anything, it’ll just portray you as a show off. As usual, if you are putting shadowing into a personal statement make sure you reflect on it. Think back to things like ‘how did the multidisciplinary teams help to make the patient comfortable?’ and ‘what does being a doctor really entail? e.g. paperwork, multiple patients’.

Volunteer Work

Probably one of the most sought after work experience personal statement boosters there is. The longer you do it, the better it looks (depending on what you did). It shows you are willing to give up your free time, without compensation, to help others. If you’re able to clinically applied voluntary work (e.g. St John Ambulance, British Red Cross) it looks even better as you will often have patient contact and some clinical experience before even starting. As with any experience though, it’s the reflection that counts. What did you learn from the experience (other than you want to do medicine)? What other roles did you have (e.g. committee)?

Paid clinical work

I realise this is more likely for those going for graduate entry medicine or those taking a gap year. Hands on clinical work such as healthcare assistants, nursing home or even portering can help you get a real feel for the career you have in mind. In addition to this, you also get paid for it! Many healthcare providers require you to be at least 18 to work due to the type of work and insurance purposes.

General paid part/full time work

Just because something isn’t clinical doesn’t mean it’s not applicable to medicine. Many jobs require team participation, communication skills and time management, all valuable skills that are highly sought after in medicine. Working for a long time can help (even if it’s one/half a day a week) as it shows commitment. Once again it’s all about reflection. Mention roles you undertook and how this can help you in a career in healthcare. However, make sure you don’t fill up too much of your personal statement with non-relevant material. You have limited space and they do want you to show some clinical experience.

Hobbies

Often over-looked, hobbies are vital. If you play sports, or dance, or paint, or play musical instruments; put it down. Med schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, not just book-worms who get good grades. Make sure you can link to a career in medicine (e.g. first aider for a sports team) but is less important to do so as they know you need to unwind somehow!

 

Lastly, don’t rush your decision to do medicine. Get the right experience and know you want to do it. In addition, don’t leave writing your personal statement to the last minute, the best ones have thought and effort put into them. If you don’t get in first time, don’t be disheartened, you’ll have more life experience come the second application cycle. Good Luck!

A little extra reading..

For any of you wanting to get in to the world of medicine, make sure you want it. If you’re fortunate to apply, work experience won’t be the only thing universities will be looking for.

As a suggestion, read some books and/or journals, watch the news, watch videos (Ted talks are fantastic). Some books that med schools love are those that not only look at the amazing world of medicine but also the ethical and sometimes terrible side.

Here are some of those books, all of which fantastically written.

Do No Harm – Henry Marsh

One for those of you who wish to go in to neurosurgery/surgery. Delves into the depths of some of the most difficult decisions a doctor can make.

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

A neurosurgeon with an english literature degree who was diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer who passed away in 2015. His book accounts his journey after diagnosis through being a patient as well as a surgeon. Paul died during the writing of the book which is perfectly concluded by his wife, Lucy.

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

Another practising surgeon who fearlessly reveals the struggles of the profession as well as looking at its limitations and failures as live draws to a close. Atul explores the difficulty doctors often experience in dealing with death, including the anxiety of families, false hope and treatments which shorten lives in a hope to save those patients, all while that families go along with it.

The Patient Will See You Now – Eric Topol

Eric Topol looks at the modern day advances in technology and how these affect the daily lives of doctors. How the advance of smartphones can give rise to a new personal medicine to allow people to get tests and diagnoses without having to wait for a GP appointment. He looks at the difficulties such as security and the longstanding medical establishment but also envisions a new, cheaper, more accessible health care system.

When looking to apply/applying for medicine it’s important to remember the ethics and dilemmas facing medicine on a daily basis. Open your mind and you’ll achieve great things!