General advice for wannabe medics/dentists?

(95 Posts)
cardamoncoffee Sun 28-Jul-19 11:43:41

Dd has just sat her GCSE's and is thinking of applying for medicine or dentistry. To date they have had little to nothing wrt careers advice, so wanted to ask what the general expectation is now for applicants? I know experience in a care setting is essential, should I be advising her to sort out some voluntary work from now, or is the 5 day work experience considered sufficient?
Any general advice greatly appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
jayritchie Sun 28-Jul-19 12:10:33

Honestly, go to the student room website. In between the youthful arrogance and wild speculation there is a lot of good advice.

titchy Sun 28-Jul-19 12:40:24

Both are hugely hugely hugely competitive. Most universities place a lot of importance on voluntary work (not all though), so yes she needs more than a few days.

She also needs very good GCSEs, Chem and Bio A Level (again for most places not all), plus good scores in admissions tests (UCKAT, BMAT).

And to be realistic about her chances. Read uni websites. Thoroughly.

cardamoncoffee Sun 28-Jul-19 18:49:35

Thank you both, will do those things.

OP’s posts: |
mumsneedwine Sun 28-Jul-19 19:11:23

Read a few Uni on line prospectuses. Each one wants different things and teach in different ways so good to start having a look. Volunteering in any area is good (my DDs was at a riding place), and get some medical work exp. A lot of GPs will take and some hospitals - google your local ones with work experience in search (that's what my DD did and got 3 fab days). Don't need masses, just an idea what you're letting yourself in for ! And look for outreach programmes and taster days. If you are at a state school an hour from London or in Wales then Bristol have a fantastic outreach. But lots of other Unis do them too. If you'd like to PM me I'm sure my DD would be happy to have a chat. State school kiddie now at Nottingham. Oh and my user name gives you a hint of what's it's like as a parent !

fiftiesmum Sun 28-Jul-19 21:52:34

Volunteering in any shape or form is useful especially if on a regular and long term basis as it shows commitment and need to demonstrate what you have gained and learnt from it. The medical experience is a way of seeing if you actually would enjoy the job (as well as helping to get a place). I would suggest a year out post a levels working somewhere related to medicine. It gives that extra maturity - when DD first arrived at medical school she wishes she had not been fresh from school quite a few of the others had worked for a year. Also she needs to be sure she really wants to do the job - 12 hour shifts, nights, weekends and bank holidays, short term contracts, years of study, body fluids, having to give bad news to families. However DD thoroughly enjoys the work and ten years down the line would choose exactly the same path.

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 10:20:31

Oh and lots of places like the kids if they've had a part time job. Several mentioned they'd prefer a job at McDonalds to masses of doctor shadowing ! Also good for the kids confidence and people skills. And the money comes in useful once they get there too.


AldiAisleOfTat Mon 29-Jul-19 10:22:22

Don't do it. Go and read the medic thread on AIBU. Massively increased rates of suicide and alcoholism in both professions.

Needmoresleep Mon 29-Jul-19 15:10:50

First, second, third and fourth.....grades.

There are lots of things Universities will be looking for, but a good crop of GCSEs is both an important preparation for A level, but used as a selection tool for some med schools.

Fifth and six. The right A level choices. Read student room and relevant University websites. Some want two lab subjects, most want chemistry, not all want biology, and some won't consider double maths as 2 A levels etc. Then your daughter should match with her interests and abilities, again leaving as many doors open as possible. is all an awful lot easier if you get good aptitude scores, so plan your summer holidays before yr13 around time for revision/practice. (UKCAT is a timed test so speed is of the essence.)

Eighth. Spreadsheets. Cut and paste a list of medical schools and then complete columns. What are they looking for? DD had strong academics but no BMAT and a poor UKCAT so that cut out quite a lot. She did, though have good shadowing and volunteering, which gave her an edge in a couple of places. Once we filtered out the ones who did not offer what she was looking for (city, possibility to intercalate etc) there were not many left. You can only apply to four anyway, so as long as you apply to your strengths, you really don't have to tick all the boxes.

Ninth..see it as a two year process. The main aim of Yr13 is to get the grades, as without them you won't be going anywhere, and plenty get places on reapplication.

Shadowing and volunteering are valuable, but as much for the student themselves. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the process of applying to medical school without re-checking that this is what you actually want to do. (PP seems to be regretting it, and each year there will be several in each medical school trying to find exit routes.) DD spent a summer cleaning, waitressing and kitchen portering in a care home. She loved it, but was never asked about it at interview. However she knows now that she would be happy in geriatrics, whilst paediatrics - she worked for a family holiday company in her gap year, would probably be quite challenging. The more you know why you want medicine as a career the more enthusiastic/informed you are likely to be at interview.

And don't get worried about the state/private school thing. People make a big thing of it on MN. DD is at a University known for a high intake of affluent private school kids from the South East. The medical school demographic is very different. DD went to a private school but none of her close friends did and very few are from the South East. My theory, I could be wrong, is that the NHS wants to train a lot of GP's especially for hard to recruit areas, so want to recruit a good mix of students from across the country.

Bimkom Mon 29-Jul-19 19:14:40

@needsmoresleep or anybody else out there who has been through this. Would it be possible for you to share the spreadsheet? Not your final conclusions or any of the ticks or crosses, but the columns headings and the list of universities that have medical schools etc that you started off with.
DS having just finished his GCSEs now has his heart set on medicine (he is in fact doing his first day of shadowing today in a paediatric A&E - I guess we will see if he still has his heart set on it by the end of this week!). Assuming he comes back positive about continuing, it sounds like we should get going on this exercise, and as I didn't grow up in the UK, and have been in London since I married DH, I don't have a clue about universities (I know Oxford and Cambridge have a medical school, and I even have some vague idea where they are located in the country, but besides London, I am afraid I am still struggling with geography, so I may well have to go look up on Google the locations of anywhere listed). A list to start off with as a basis to whittle down would be really, really, helpful.

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 19:29:53

Hi. I'd be a bit wary of sharing my DDs spreadsheet as, even though it's only 2 years old, things change. Bristol for example used to use PS a lot but now don't even read it as did Notts but now don't look at it. Best thing to do is get the list from the BMA of all the medical schools (lots of new ones this year at Lincoln, Kent etc) and then read the prospectus about course structure and how they select for interview. NOT minimum requirements as everyone will have these. Most have a FAQ but where they explain their selection process.
Then look at things like full body dissection (my DD says it's an amazing way to learn anatomy), what type of learning (CBL, PBL, Integrated) and what type of Uni (campus, city, London). Make a short list to visit next year. Then do the UCAT and see where you fit. And decide whether you want to do BMAT for those Unis.

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 19:31:41

Couple of helpful websites

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 19:34:38

Last one

It's a tough process but oh so worth it when they get in. DD has had a wonderful first year. Worked hard but played very hard too. She is working as an HCA this summer which is proving to be fantastic as she's getting lots of practice for her OSCE things (practical stuff !).

Bimkom Mon 29-Jul-19 20:34:36

Thanks mumsneedwine.
Of course for DS we would be looking at a 2021 entry (or 2022 if a gap year), so the entry criteria might change yet again! When are they likely to update them for 2021?
DS says, at the moment, that he would want to sit the BMAT as well as the UCAT, as he thinks he would be interested in research (an incalcated (sp?) year) and apparently the universities that ask for the BMAT tend to be more research oriented (is that true, or is that a myth?)
We don't even have the GCSE results yet, so can't say whether the GCSEs will be a strength or a weakness. And while I gather from reading mumsnet that for last year's cohort, they are not distinguishing between 8s and 9s, and treating them all as A stars, by the 2021 entry some of them may decide that actually, 9s are much more desirable than 8s (and not having the results, we don't know if he has gotten either).
That was why I wasn't after what was in the spreadsheet boxes - I fully understand that one university might rate the PS one year and drop it then next. What I was really after was a list of all the universities down one side, and a column list across the top, with things like "PS important", "BMAT" etc, not whether the box inside the spreadsheet is ticked or crossed. With the information you have given me I can have a much better stab of generating one myself than I could before, but somebody who has done it, and had to update it after open days after they realise that they didn't include an important variable, would probably have a much better iniital spreadsheet than the one i would generate starting off now.

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 20:43:15

Lots of shiny new medical schools for your DS to apply to by 2022. If you go to the open days in the spring before applying then you'll get the most up to date info. And it will be on their websites about the same time.
All Unis do research ! Very few now using BMAT but as it's very different to UCAT it's possible to do both. Hopefully you can find the info you need from the medic portal but also the UCAT website is helpful. Here's the current list :

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 20:46:19

Here's the current list :

My DD knew no one Medical but did get some help from her school thankfully. But I learned so much from her during the process and I like to pass it on. So many of her peers have medical families !

HostessTrolley Mon 29-Jul-19 22:29:54

My d didn’t do any volunteering in care homes etc. She did have a part time job in the catering team of a sports club where she took food out to tables, cleared tables, restocked, wrapped cutlery and later worked on the bar. Which she described as working as a team member, dealing with challenging members of the public, training new staff, effectively managing her time and prioritising tasks etc etc etc - plus earned enough cash to buy, insure and run her car. And fitted it around her A levels and sports. The bit of voluntary work she did was coaching at her sports club. She had a very small amount of shadowing but was very reflective and read around what she’d seen and the conversations she’d had - it’s not how many hours they do, it’s what they learn from it.

Academically get GCSEs we’re good but not great due to her health at the time - I think she got 5/6 A* grades, a couple of As and a couple of Bs. She did far better than she expected on the ukcat - medify is the way to go, then decided out of the blue to apply to imperial which required the BMAT, again, better than expected results.

She ended up with 3 med school offers and was waitlisted for Kings, but decided to withdraw as they were taking such a long time to decide and she wanted to press the button on ucas and settle down to the business of actually getting the A level grades.

I’d say don’t be tempted to start 4 A levels - the unis aren’t interested, it’s better to get three top grades than sacrifice a few marks to get an irrelevant 4th subject - plus the application process is so time consuming and stressful, it’s almost like a 4th A level in itself. If your child is interested in long term voluntary work then of course support it, but there are different ways to learn and to demonstrate the personal skills they’re looking for.

And even at 16 get them to read around it. My d enjoyed Adam Kay’s book - we saw him at the theatre too, along with others. The selectors want students who are informed and realistic about what’s involved in a medical career, and who are going to stay the course, as well as top A levels x

CherryPavlova Mon 29-Jul-19 22:41:11

For my daughter it was
Subject choices and grades at A level
UKCAT and BMAT scores. She did some tuition courses and practice books that helped enormously. Kaplan I think was course provider.
Research specific admission and selection criteria and apply to strengths.
Get decent support for personal statement from someone that’s been successful recently. It’s not a litany of what she’s done but more a reflection of what she’s learnt from her experiences.
Interview practice. State schools are generally rubbish at this. Ask GP friends or other credible interviewers to give tough feedback.
Read around the subject and don’t put things in statements you don’t understand. Borrow recent copies of BMJ. Ask your GP practice if you don’t have medical friends.
Voluntary work and work experience that widen understanding of what a career in medicine means. Understand training pathways. Try and get work experience in GP practice, an undertakers, local hospital, hospice etc.

Bimkom Mon 29-Jul-19 23:04:40

Thanks mumsneedwine. We are not a medical family, in the sense of having people having done medicine. But we are acquainted with a lot of doctors and other medical professionals, because the DS who wants to become a doctor is actually DS2, and DS1 has a random genetic mutation that results in him having a life limiting condition, complex special needs and a need for inumerable medical interventions. DS2, by virtue of being 18 months younger, has therefore met, as a sibling, a very large number of doctors (that is how he got the work experience he has at the moment, he asked the doctor who volunteers at a charity that supports children like DS1, when not volunteering for this charity she is a consultant in paediatric A&E) - he also knows how to draw up medicine, use hoists and feeding pumps, change nappies on an adult (which DS1 now is!) is not phased by epileptic fits and is trained in manual handling (as in, we were trained as parents and DS2 was trained by us, when you need two people to roll or hoist, you need to use the hands that are available). So he has got a pretty good idea of the sharp side of medicine, but all he knows about actually getting into medical school comes from chatting to doctors, mostly those who are seeing his brother, or from the internet. (Also why we haven't ventured out of London much, travelling anywhere with DS1 is not practical).
I guess not surprisingly DS2 would prefer to not study in London (although I am kind of hoping he might change his mind). I guess it is one way of me seeing the UK, by going to open days!

mumsneedwine Mon 29-Jul-19 23:09:30

Your DS sounds amazing and very well prepared already for applications. He knows more than most what being a Dr involves at such a young age.
Any help I can offer please just ask. We learned on the job ! And DD got 4 offers somehow

Bimkom Mon 29-Jul-19 23:15:56

DS is already reading around. I gave him the Adam Kaye book in the hope of scaring him off, but he loved it! I also gave him When breath becomes air. He also bugged me to buy, and has been reading a range of books recommended by some of the doctors including Gene, To be Mortal and Do No Harm.

Bimkom Mon 29-Jul-19 23:26:39

Thanks mumsneedwine . I do think that DS's experience ought to ultimately lead him to be a better doctor, because he has some idea of the impact of it all on real people. But we need the academics to come through as well, and we need to find our way through the system. Sounds like the first step is drawing up a spreadsheet.

fiftiesmum Tue 30-Jul-19 09:29:37

The medics I have worked with have had such wide ranges of experience beforehand - couple from the army, clinical trial practitioners, pharmacists plus a few straight from school. The only common thread I have seen is boundless energy - the sort of people who can do their studies and fit in loads of other stuff as well (5:30 am runs etc) and just that right amount of self confidence

Needmoresleep Tue 30-Jul-19 11:10:10

Bimkom, the Wellcome Institute near Euston has a really good bookshop as well as some good exhibitions and a good cafe. Good place also for small doctorish gifts and cards.
On line shop here:

As fifties mum says, medics are a mixed bag. You do need the A level grades, but after that it is a case of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and applying to the right places. DD is a natural scientist, likes people/patients (some don't!) and has a good memory but is dyslexic with very slow processing speeds. UKCAT was always going to be a challenge. She has a lot of energy so managed five A levels, playing two sports at high level and had plenty of volunteering, which helped balance out the poor aptitude score.

She has found herself on a very practical course with placements from the first week. However one which should allow her to take a year out to intercalate elsewhere in something scientific (and where the extra A level subjects will help). Quite a lot of her friends won't intercalate as they want to get on and become GPs. Many of her school friends headed for more obviously academic courses at Cambridge, UCL and Imperial. (Oxbridge is six years and I don't think you get much patient contact till year four.)

There is a wide variety of jobs within medicine, and so a need for medics with different skill sets.

We found all sorts of different criteria for our decision making spreadsheet. (Failure rates was one - some were quite high.) An important one for us was intercalation options. Intercalation is not allowed everywhere, and quite a lot of places require you to stay within the medical school/university. A lot of people talk about the importance of whole body dissection, but DD seems happy with pro-section which she says saves a lot of time. The course is five to six years, so somewhere you want to live, with interesting and varied placement and clinical options are important.

mumsneedwine Tue 30-Jul-19 14:32:23

Last thing. When they apply for their F1 positions no one knows what Uni they went to. So there is no hierarchy or snob value. It's all done by a points system. So go for the course your DS likes - learning style and wanting early patient contact are probably the biggest differences. Dissection/prosecution is another personal taste. And intercalating option too (Notts do a degree in 3rd year so get extra points without the costs of an extra year - was a factor for DD).
Most of all, get advice but don't take it as gospel. We were told so many wrong things and was so nice talking to Admissions tutors who were so helpful and down to earth.
My medic is currently glued to Raul Paul's Drag Race - very intellectual. Well I suppose Love Island has finished 😂

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