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Working class kids getting into medicine - tips

(47 Posts)
Bakingnovice Tue 12-Mar-13 15:01:33

I volunteer with a fab group of youngsters. They set up
And run their own youth group. They all derive from one of the most deprived areas in the country. Amazingly, despite very poor schooling, no support at home, no access to extra curricular activities, no money etc some of them have achieved great gcse and a level grades. What I have been asked, and what I want to ask you, is how does a kid from this kind of background try and fulfil a dream of studying medicine?

Bear in mind that these kids have no adequate advice network at school, they don't have gap year exploits on their cv, but they have achieved top grades against all odds. I've told the boy who asked me about it that medicine is highly competitive and is not simply about getting the best grades. How can he optimise his chances? He currently leads the youth group and works at tesco to help his single mum put food on the table. Any advice anyone has would be much appreciated!!

Can I just add that this boy is delightful. Well mannered, kind, enterprising, compassionate.

pipsy76 Tue 12-Mar-13 15:09:32

They need relevant work experience in health care , at our hospital we have someone who is head of workforce development who will offer hospital work experience placements to those over 16.

Scrazy Tue 12-Mar-13 15:13:15

A medicine applicant will need some work experience relating to a medical field, e.g. helping/volunteering at a care home, write to the local hospitals and ask for some work shadowing placements too.

Also lots of interests outside of school.

It is possible, providing you meet the criteria, which sound fine in this case, to apply for either access courses or foundation years with less than 3 A grade A levels. The access courses I can think of are Bradford for Leeds Uni and Lancaster/Liverpool Uni. They don't guarantee you a place but an interview, if passed. Foundation years are Nottingham Uni, Southamption, East Anglia. The foundation years bring the students up to speed and are guaranteed entrance to the 5 year course provided they pass the year. Leeds Uni do an access to Leeds which requires extra work rather than an extra year. There will be more that I don't know about.

Of course if a student has 3 A grade A levels they can apply anywhere.

You can buy a book cheap book to practise for the UKCAT and such like entrance exams.

Scrazy Tue 12-Mar-13 15:15:55

Sorry ignore most if my post if he has achieved top grades already. It's just a question of getting relevant experience, practising for UKCAT and doing a great PS. With top grades nobody, no matter what their background should be at a disadvantage.

Copthallresident Tue 12-Mar-13 15:17:35

I would suggest he actually contacts the Admissions Officers for courses he is interested in. They may well run outreach courses or have mentoring schemes to help pupils like him. I am involved in a mentoring scheme, but I am not a Scientist / Medic but know that when Science / Medic mentors have accompanied pupils on look / see visits to Oxbridge they get a lot of practical advice on how to maximise their chances of success. His grades will be viewed in the context of the overall performance of his school and the med schools will take any other contextual information, like supporting a single mother, into account.

LondonMother Tue 12-Mar-13 15:26:19

Good luck to them! I have little to offer except that King's College London, which has the biggest medical school in the UK, has a fantastic extended medical degree scheme for young people with potential but who don't quite have the grades normally required:

There are 50 places a year and applicants must have been in non-selective state-funded education since the age of 11 - up to 5 places will go to applicants from outside London, the rest go to applicants from Greater London.

The students on the scheme take 6 years to get a medical degree rather than 5. I think there's quite a bit of financial support available as well to those from lower income families. There should be more schemes like this. There's one at KCL for dentistry too.

Scrazy Tue 12-Mar-13 15:54:26

Do kids need to support single mothers? confused

Mine worked in a shop to help with her expenditure as do to lots of other students but the amount I earned or the benefits I would have claimed if I hadn't worked were to support us.

Bakingnovice Tue 12-Mar-13 16:13:47

Wow. Thank you to everyone. The kids I help do have to support parents in many ways sadly. Either financially, or by acting as babysitters for parents to work evenings and quite a few of them are carers for parents/ siblings. The area they live in is one of huge deprivation, high levels of underachievement, very poorly performing schools and no funding at all.

I posted the question as I felt I had to try and find a way to help very able young people break through constraints and enter professions which to them appear to be unattainable. The advice given here is amazing, thank you amazing mnetters. I will relay the info back, and will get them to ring local hospitals.

It breaks my heart that some youngsters literally have to crawl their way out of poverty.

boomting Tue 12-Mar-13 16:54:46

Manchester also has a medicine foundation scheme, and an excellent widening participation department. If you're in the Greater Manchester area, then I would suggest contacting them to see if they can offer anything.

In fact, wherever you are in the country I would suggest contacting the widening participation department of the nearest university that offers medicine. These departments are entirely separate from the medicine departments, and their entire remit is to help kids from backgrounds like the one you describe into good universities (often their own, but actually they're invariably equally happy if they go on to another university)

However, medical work experience is a must for all applicants to medicine. I would suggest trying to get some sort of paid work in the sector - being a healthcare assistant in a hospital, or a domiciliary care worker (the latter only if they have access to some sort of transport, though a bike would probably do it) would both be good options.

Also, get them to sign up to The Student Room. There's a lot of dross on there, but the medical forums are actually quite good.

alreadytaken Tue 12-Mar-13 17:15:54

If they already have 3 A grades, including Chemistry, at A level then they apply through UCAS in September. Meanwhile they ask their gp if they can offer work experience (could be in reception) and they contact their local hospital and ask them for work experience. They need to take the UKCAT exam in August, there are bursaries for those on low incomes and they need to apply for that in advance - details available in May. To help prepare for the exam they need the 600 ukcat questions book. The test will change next year but old copies of the book may be on ebay, in public libraries or on Amazon. If he got really good marks (all A or A* at GSCE and over 90% in all AS modules) he should be considering Oxford or Cambridge. Both offer better than average bursaries.

He doesn't have to have lots of extra-curricular activities. He does need a good reference and to really understand what medical schools look for. Leading anything is good so he should put leading the youth group on his personal statement. He can get help with writing that through the Student Room website - if he doesn't have internet access at home he should make friends with his local librarian as libraries offer some free net access. He also needs to carefully chose medical schools to reflect his strengths. We were told by someone from Nottingham that Sheffield has a reputation for widening access. Birmingham introduced a scheme this year to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

If there are students who have not yet completed A levels they should look at Sutton Trust summer schools

If you want to post more details of grades then we can try and be more specific.

Yellowtip Tue 12-Mar-13 17:38:34

Good grades against those odds will make this boy a highly sought after applicant. He'll almost certainly have the edge over other more standard applicants. Of course he still has the hurdle of the UKCAT and/or the BMAT depending on uni choices. He should contact admissions tutors of any unis which catch his eye and they should give him all the encouragement he needs.

Where are his teachers in all this?

Yellowtip Tue 12-Mar-13 17:45:05

And tell him not to worry too much about the medical work experience. Universities understand the difficulties that some students face and they'll be able to ask him questions about the work he does at Tesco and his youth group work which will be every bit as good as shadowing a consultant, probably better. Don't let him be deterred from pursuing what sounds like an eminently realistic ambition! (as opposed to a dream).

Scrazy Tue 12-Mar-13 19:12:57

I've got a copy of the UKCAT 600 if anyone wants it. PM me and I can post it.

Bakingnovice Tue 12-Mar-13 20:03:34

Again thank you. I am humbled by these responses. He is on course for 3 A at a level and as we wasn't expected to get to uni he didn't apply for uni through ucas. He has decided to have a gap year and following advice from he has been down to his library and sent some email enquiries to a local uni and two local hospitals. I have rung the local council (who are aware of his work in the youth group) and asked if they would act as a referee on applications and they agreed. Can't believe how much progress has been made in one afternoon!

The teachers at his school were no help. But then he told me that they seem to have their hands full with very large and unruly classes and he felt they never had the time to properly teach and advise.

I cannot tell you how fabulous this group of young people are. They inspire me, and I am really proud of how they have turned their fortunes around. So often these days we hear of teenagers hanging around in gangs and involved in crime. We forget there are so many young adults who work hard with very little support.

alreadytaken Tue 12-Mar-13 20:03:44

not for the first time I'm going to disagree with yellowtip. Universities say they understand the difficulties but they don't. I've known a number of medical school applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and they managed to get relevant work experience. Universities know this happens and therefore expect it to be possible even for the more seriously disadvantaged. Of course what those students had were good schools and/or good friends and a great deal of determination. One spent a long period volunteering in a hospice, some did Nuffield bursaries, some volunteered on holidays for the disabled.

This young man is delightful but is he also determined, hard-working and creative in his approach to problems? If he is he'll get a place.

He will also need smart clothes for interview (charity shops?) and money to get to interviews. I'm not sure if there is any charitable funding that might support that but he may be able to cut costs by getting a 16-25 railcard and/or looking for cheap fares on The cost of getting to interviews can be substantial as schools don't give a lot of notice.

Bakingnovice Tue 12-Mar-13 20:15:15

Already - he works PT so should have a few pennies. Luckily he told me that when researching he found there seem to be a lot of jobs at HA at the moment. Visiting people at home. He only has a bike so the geographical limits will apply. Hopefully he can get some relevant experience in his gap year.

Bakingnovice Tue 12-Mar-13 20:15:34

*As HA

VinegarDrinker Tue 12-Mar-13 20:25:52

Very good advice here. Not much more to add. I think Barts also do an access course but with his grades he should be fine to apply for a traditional 5 year course. Work experience can be anything caring, care home, working as a HCA (personally I think this should be compulsory for all medics), volunteering with younger people etc although anything actually medical would probably be more interesting for him. No reason he can't do both.

When it comes to writing his personal statement he shouldn't be shy about mentioning Tesco etc, and think about what skills he will have developed that can help him in medicine (time keeping, team work, reliability or whateve).

Good luck to him! Keep us updated smile

alreadytaken Tue 12-Mar-13 20:30:05

HA would be good experience but they may require NVQ so nursing auxiliary might be worth considering. I know you said he worked part-time but you also said he helped his mother. He needs to be able to apply to schools most likely to take him and they may involve expensive journeys. He may even need to stay overnight - the YHA is probably the cheapest place to stay. How were his A levels as some schools like a lot of A* grades?

alreadytaken Tue 12-Mar-13 20:36:25

sorry meant A* GCSE

renaldo Tue 12-Mar-13 20:44:04

What subjects are his a levels? Where is he? Nottingam has a good foundation course if hes anywhere near I'd be happy to show him round the UNi, and his own GP practice should let him shadow a GP for a day.

rotavirusrita Tue 12-Mar-13 20:52:04

I think actually getting your hands dirty in a hospital or as a carer/ befriender/ long term volunteer looks much better than a week "shadowing" a consultant somewhere.
And remind him that although medicine seems popular at the moment it isn't all it cracked up to be and if he's bright and ambitious there are plenty of other things he can do

VinegarDrinker Tue 12-Mar-13 20:58:26

It certainly isn't a quick or easy way to plenty of money and "respect". It's a vocation, and immensely rewarding. But for money or status, go elsewhere for more of both and less of the crap!

Scrazy Tue 12-Mar-13 21:51:20

If he doesn't meet the 3 A grades then he should definitely apply for medicine with a foundation year as he will meet the disadvantaged criteria.

I remember when we looked DD's GCSE results were too high, being mostly A* and A grades, for Nottingham and each school takes a different approach to who qualifies to apply so homework needs to be done on how he fits.

Yellowtip Tue 12-Mar-13 22:06:53

already I'm aware we have differing views as you made that clear under your former name, but I'm not sure how you can say categorically that universities claim to understand the difficulties of obtaining medical work experience but in reality don't. You're not a university admissions tutor I think? Nor a doctor? Clearly you're well informed on the standard admissions guff but I think you may lack a certain lightness of touch. This boy, as described, would most likely have the admissions guys purring.

I don't know why everyone keeps banging on about foundation courses since the boy is on track for AAA from an evidently rubbish school. And MN is at its patronizing best on giving advice to the 'poor'. This boy appears to have plenty of brain and oomph all of his own. I expect he therefore knows how to get from A to B by the cheapest possible method. The thing is he probably has far, far more potential (a good part of which appears to have been realized already) than the mollycoddled middle class private schoolers with their clutch of starry results and their research for med schools (UKCAT/ BMAT/ work experience etc) done years in advance by their overbearing and ambitious mothers.

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