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DSS' medical school ambitions

(27 Posts)
Guyropes Tue 20-Jan-15 15:06:04

Hi there,

I'm wondering if anyone can give any advice.

My bf's son wants to study medicine, and is now in year 12. He chose 2 science, maths and a humanity for AS level, which he is taking at the local FE college. I don't think he realised how much harder A level maths is than gcse, so despite the grade A at gcse, he is not managing to keep up with the work and is considering giving up maths now. He is doing well in all other subjects.

I feel he has been badly advised, and that his school should have emphasised the importance of doing further maths gcse if you want to go On to do A level.

If he gives up maths now, will be be significantly narrowing the medical schools he will be able to apply for? Our nearest one asks for AAA, with no consideration given ( in the admissions criteria) to AS results. Is this standard?

Also he has not yet started to do the volunteering he plans to do in support of his application.

Neither of his parents seem to be well informed about the level of competition, and the level of work each candidate needs to put in to be succesful. I want to be supportive to my bf, as he supports his ds through this process. While I don't want to be unnecessarily negative, I worry that there is going to be a crushing disappointment further down the line unless everyone is better informed about the process and requirements.

I would really appreciate any words of advice and any links to sources of information.


titchy Tue 20-Jan-15 15:52:22

I agree with you. If he's struggling now he doesn't stand a chance. Dropping a subject now and only having three AS will be a red flag.

What were his GCSE grades? Is he likely to get A or A* in his other subjects? Is he doing chemistry? What about UKCAT or BMAT? And he really should have started work experience by now. Does his college have any experience of oxbridge or medicine applications?

However not sure what you can do at this point....

titchy Tue 20-Jan-15 15:53:58

Sorry that sounded really negative... One way round if his grades are good enough is to apply after his A level results assuming he also has decent work experience.

Theas18 Tue 20-Jan-15 16:07:37

Consider applying with grades in hand and a gap year with relevant experience.

TBH he was probably badly advised if he did AS maths with " just " an A. IIRC AS/A2 maths is pretty tough and whilst you can do it from an A at GCSE it'll be hard and you are not going to be looking at the A/A* grade at AS without a huge amount of luck and and graft.

Getting a tutor for maths might work but he's clearly go lots of ground to cover /get up to speed

I assume he has the usual string of A/A* at GCSE ?

peteneras Tue 20-Jan-15 17:27:46

You may find this site useful. Please ask the lad to join The Student Room. Information found on the forum are generally quite accurate. He can learn much and ask questions about anything but please get confirmation from the universities on anything which is vital including entry requirements.

Please be aware it’s a very, very competitive and tough course and excellent grades in GCSEs and A-levels are vital. Getting into medial school is only just the beginning. There will be yearly tough battles for the next 5 or 6 years and many do give up the ghost along the way either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Decorhate Tue 20-Jan-15 17:28:12

The most crucial subject is Chemistry. If he's not doing that he will find it difficult to get his application even looked at. Most med applicants do maths & biology to A2 as well. But most unis don't make them compulsory. I wouldn't worry too much about work experience as long as he gets done before he applies. My dd only started in the Sept before her Oct application (though she had been doing other relevant voluntary work for a while). There is still time & universities realise it can be hard to arrange. I would say he needs to see how his AS exams go & providing he gets all As then do the UKCAT in Aug/Sept & take it from there. It is a very convoluted process & IMO parents need to be very involved & help with researching individual unis entry requirements.

Guyropes Tue 20-Jan-15 17:37:04

Hi titchy and theas, thanks so much for the responses. Don't worry about negativity: I want a realistic picture.

I'm not sure how experienced the college are at getting people into medical school, but I can try to find that out. To be honest I can't remember his exact gcse grades, but it was mostly a* and a's with one b.

It's unfortunate that he has talked to our nearest medical school, who have said 'AAA' with no reference to other academic qualifications... Am I right in thinking this is quite unusual? He seems to think its not going to notice that he's dropped an AS. He might well get great grades if he does drop maths and really focus on his other 3.

Thanks for the advice about getting the grades and them applying: he's mentioned a year out already, and I think he's still got a bit of growing up to do before going off to uni, especially if he's going to do such a demanding course.

Thanks again

GRW Tue 20-Jan-15 17:42:06

My DD is in year 12 too, and has wanted to study medicine since she was 12. It is hugely competitive, and the head of sixth form has discouraged her because she doesn't have 5 A*'s at GCSE. As she is at a grammar school we have been told the 2 A*'s 8 A's and one B she got isn't good enough. She is doing the 3 sciences plus Religious Studies AS level, but is finding some aspects of Chemistry difficult. She is volunteering at a drop in for homeless people and in a care home, and in the summer will do a 2 week work experience programme through the Hospice I work for. It is also worth asking the local hospital, as here they have a work shadowing scheme- you can apply before your 17th birthday, but placements aren't offered until they turn 17. All the best to your DSS.

Guyropes Tue 20-Jan-15 17:45:56

Hi pete and decor, thanks for your posts.. Pete, I'll look into that link with my bf.. Thanks for that.

Yeah... Getting into medical school is just the start! The personal resilience young people must need to succeed must be phenomenal. Are 'mature' applicants considered favourably?

Decor.. Thanks for the reassurance about the work experience. I hear what you're saying about parental involvement... Tbh I think neither parent fully realises this yet....

Whatthegeoff Tue 20-Jan-15 18:03:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IDontDoIroning Tue 20-Jan-15 18:15:02

You need to research the medical schools as soon have higher requirements but it is very hard and without excellent GCSES and As levels plus volunteering and a show stopping personal statement he will be unlikely to even get called for interview.
My ds has 6a* and 5a grades and was told by school not to bother to apply to certain universities as they require 10 plus a*.
Since then he got 4 Bs at As and his school told him to not bother to apply at all for medicine as he would be likely to be rejected.
However there are several unis who do transfers from biomedical science or medical pharmacology etc to medicine and my ds has just had an unconditional offer from one of these unis.
Cardiff and a number of other unis also allow graduate entry into medicine, and they do a medicine entry for non scientists but I think this requires no science A levels and sn extra year catching up.
Alternatively he can go all out to get 3 As and then take a gap year to beef up the volunteering/ work experience, and apply with known grades.

Decorhate Tue 20-Jan-15 18:25:59

Some unis will look closely at GCSE results but not all. Some will look at AS results. Most will at least go on predicted A2 grades & whatever additional assessment exam that uni uses (either UKCAT or BMAT).
So even if GCSE grades are not all A* there is still a chance for a late developer. But it is crucial he aces his AS or otherwise his school won't give him high enough predicted grades.

DaCapoAlFine Tue 20-Jan-15 18:54:23

My DD is studying medicine. During her application, she was told by almost all the med schools , that they don't look at AS results at all, but they do look closely at GCSE results, the reason being that not everyone takes AS exams. So dropping the Maths AS might not be disastrous, but with a good tutor maybe he could still do it? My DD thought she was beyond hopeless at Maths, predicted a C at GCSE. Her tutor helped her achieve A* at both GCSE and A2. The work experience is very important, the sooner the better, as med schools prefer to see a long period of regular commitment, rather than an intensive burst of experience just before applying.

Decorhate Tue 20-Jan-15 18:56:20

Oh & re dropping a subject - most young people just carry three forward to Y13 & I don't know of any unis that ask for or look at more than three at A2 level. He needs to check if they will care which subjects are kept on though

Guyropes Wed 21-Jan-15 15:38:21

Decor: So even if GCSE grades are not all A* there is still a chance for a late developer... I'm not convinced he IS a late developer really, but he definately has a chance of getting better grades if he drops maths and focuses on the other 3.

Given that he is interested in taking a year out, I think it's worth encouraging him to do his best, and then apply if he gets 3 A's for his A2.

Btw, that student room page is REALLY useful, pete. Can anyone clarify what the lower case letter signifies in the offer.. I understand what A*AA means, but what does AAAb mean? Sorry for being thick!

Thanks all for your input, it's been really useful.

titchy Wed 21-Jan-15 16:00:00

The lowercase letter refers to the required AS result.

Decorhate Wed 21-Jan-15 16:12:32

Yes it depends on the university & how they assess applicants, which is why you have to do lots of research. For example, my dd got an average score in the UKCAT exam so didn't apply anywhere that had a high cut-off. You have to be very strategic & apply to where you fit their entry requirements. I know Oxford, Cardiff & Birmingham look at GCSEs but, for example, Cambridge look at AS marks.

GRW Wed 21-Jan-15 20:49:55

Thanks for this useful information. My DD is looking at other options and is realistic that she probably won't get good enough grades at AS level, but hasn't totally ruled it out.

Guyropes Thu 22-Jan-15 09:59:08

Hi GRW, glad you're finding it useful too, sounds like your dd is sensible... I'm hoping my bf's ds starts thinking like that; a bit more realistic! Calling him DSS is a bit misleading really: I have very little role in his life, I can just help my bf to be informed and cope with things as they come up.

Decor; clearly the most appropriate plan for the moment is to plan on taking a gap year, and deal with each hurdle successively: it must be less stressful to concentrate on getting theA level grades, THEN do the UKCAT / other thing, THeN deal with Ucas, THEN with any interviews. Doing all those things whilst studying for a2's sounds like a total nightmare!

Thanks again for your input, it has been so helpful.

ManyMayhem Thu 22-Jan-15 12:00:20

Perhaps you could suggest he books himself on some medical school open days. They get booked up really early (it might already be too late for some). Even if he is not eligible to apply to the one he visits it would give him a better idea of what it's all about.
It might put him off or it might enthuse him to pull out all the stops and make sure he meets the entry requirements.

I second the advice to do lots and lots of research. Unfortuantly there is a lot of poor advice given - each uni has different entry requirements and the best way to find out about them is to go direct to their prospectuses. If there is any thing you are unsure about then it's worth contacting the admissions staff - they are usually very helpful.

Dad got into a UK medical school with no gcses (or equivalent qualifications) and no AS's as she was overseas up until 16 and then came back to the UK to do the IB. Her offers were based solely on her PS, her predicted grades, her interviews and her UKCAT - she got three offers -- but only because we had done our research and she had applied to the right places.

ManyMayhem Thu 22-Jan-15 12:05:11

Guyropes. Even if your DSS is thinking of taking a year out it might be an idea to do the UKCAT thus summer as practice and to give a rough idea of how he will do. If he did incredibly well or extremely poorly it might help him with his planning for the following year. Obviously he would have to retake it if he has a gap year.

Libra Thu 22-Jan-15 12:13:56

Another poster agreeing that he will need to do a lot of research around the subject and he really does need to demonstrate commitment. DS1 is in his third year at medical school at the moment and I can assure you that it does not get any easier!

Medical schools will not just want excellent A levels /Highers results and evidence of a commitment to the career through work experience but also evidence of a wider commitment to the community (DS had been a scout leader for some years thank goodness) and also an ability to excel at things other than academia. I remember one school's guidelines re the UCAS form suggesting that only leisure activities where the student competed at national level be discussed - again thank goodness DS was in the national youth jazz orchestra.

I spent time then (and time now) ranting to anyone who would listen that, in my opinion, medical school entrance is skewed towards middle-class families who spend a lot of time and effort trying to support their children into medicine from about the age of 13.

And, to be frank, it does not end there. DS is unable to work during term time because of the heavy commitment of the course and the studying. He has worked at a local pub in the holidays so far, but I can see that ending soon since he will have only a few weeks of summer holiday after this year and on into the fourth and fifth year. Of course, that is not surprising because there is so much for the students to cover in those years, plus all the attachments to different hospitals, etc. However, it does mean that the student loan does not fully cover living expenses and the family needs to be aware that they need to commit to supporting their medical student child into his twenties.

Guyropes Thu 22-Jan-15 12:14:49

Mayhem... Well done to your dd (or dad? I think dd!) and I think that's a good idea. I think I'll suggest it when this years registrations open.

Guyropes Thu 22-Jan-15 12:25:10

Hi libra... Thank you so much for your frank post. As an 'outsider' to the family, I can see quite a mismatch between the reality of who this (delightful, clever and in many ways exceptional) young person is, and what is expected of the medical school applicant. However, as you can imagine, if I comment on this, it could easily be seen as unfair, overly negative and inappropriate coming from me. I hate seeing young people being set up to fail. These aspirations have been universally supported, yet little has been done to ensure that the reality of the process is understood.

Thank you for describing the long haul!

DoingTheSwanThing Thu 22-Jan-15 12:32:49

Was a good few years ago now, but after getting A* GCSEs maths, I really struggled with AS - decided to drop it and picked up a different AS (environmental science, bizarrely!) and caught up in my own time. Admittedly it was slightly earlier in the academic year, but was quite easily do-able. Would that be an option? I then kept all 4 on to A level and came out with AAAB - at that time chemistry (my B!) was the only compulsory subject, so having the extra probably went in my favour.

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