All applications to university pose a certain degree of challenge to them. Even if you are not applying for a Russell Group University, there are people who will want to have the same opportunity that you are aspiring to secure. But, to paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘All applications are competitive, but some applications are more competitive than others.’ When it comes to difficulty of achieving an offer, there is one discipline which stands head and shoulders above all others. That subject is medicine. This is not that surprising. It is a vocation which is fulfilling, paid well above the median salary in any country you care to mention, and a calling which almost automatically commands the respect of your peers. That also means that thousands of applicants try to persuade admissions tutors across the country that they are deserving of an elusive offer.
Indeed, in order to try filter out the pool of applicants, many schools have put a number of formal requirements, and our work with clients has also allowed us to uncover a few unwritten rules as well. One of the formal requirements of medicine which places it in the minority of subjects is the insistence by the General Medical Council (GMC) that all eligible applicants have some form of work experience. The criterion is that the work experience should provide an insight into what life as a medic would be like. The GMC gives all kinds of far fetched examples of what they would consider to be relevant work experience, including working in a cornershop. In reality, do not expect to be called for interview if you do not have any examples of where you have worked in a care environment where the welfare of individuals can be impacted significantly. Much the same approach is taken to standardised testing for medicine. The number of schools which conduct medicine admissions without the BMAT (BioMedical Aptitude Test) or the UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test) can be counted on one hand. Even more restrictive than that, many schools have now taken to publishing the minimum scores that they expect in order to consider an application.
The other thing which it is crucial to remember is that there are very few subjects in which the personal statement becomes more important than in an application to medicine. You have to look for originality in a way which means that of the hundreds of scripts which are read in the space of week, yours is the one that stands out. This means making sure that you have pursued the right super-curriculars, and developed a personality outside of the context of their academic. It is also so important to make sure that you further a narrative which is both authentic and believable. The number of times that members of A&J Education staff have read the phrase, ‘I have always wanted to do medicine’ is not worth counting. What would be far better is to show admissions tutors that you have made a conscious effort to develop the skills which would make you a good practitioner, and someone who would be comfortable with the mass of theory which defines the first two or three years at Medical School.
It is by no means impossible to manage to achieve an offer from one of these top institutions. But it requires a lot more planning than most other applications, and you need to accept that you may well face failure before you end up succeeding. International students face an even greater challenge as they are often not given a fair playing field.