I want to be a Doctor! What to do?
The process of becoming a doctor is a serious commitment. In order to decide if medicine is the right career for you, you need to follow a few basic steps. The first phase involves deciding if you want to do medicine at all. This involves the following steps:
Being a doctor is a serious commitment and highly demanding. The first challenge for every doctor-to-be is the application process. Before you apply, you should decide if medicine is what you really want to do. If the answer is “YES”, you can start working on your application. In the following we will guide you through the decision-making and application process.
Is Medicine for me?
In order to find out whether medicine is the right course for you, you must gain work experience in some sort of medical environment and seize the opportunity to observe the way doctors communicate with patients, and with other staff.
Work experience in a hospital gives you the opportunity to see medicine practiced in its classical form. You will see all grades of doctors working as a team, as well as the way they interact with other professions. Work experience in a clinic or at a general practitioner’s is also potentially useful, as you can certainly observe appropriate methods of medical communication. However, it offers little in the way of multidisciplinary teamwork experience. Try and get a taste of a range of medical environments. Hospices, hospitals, community clinics, and nursing homes are all useful experiences.
Apart from working in a medical institution, it is also advisable to take the time to speak to somebody in the medical profession, and get their views on what their career has meant for them.
Hands-on experience will definitely help you to compile a competitive application. If you do not know what a doctor does, and what the job involves, it will be difficult to make your application convincing.
Make sure you understand what practicing medicine means for you and your life. Read newspaper articles, online pieces, and get hold of any other forms of media that can give you an insight.
Once you are completely sure that medicine is the right career for you, you can start thinking about your application.
You also need to gather information about the universities you are applying to. You should understand the basic structure of their curricula, the main way they teach, and know about several outstanding features of the university e.g. if they have cadaveric dissection in their syllabus, or whether they offer the opportunity to complete student projects.
If your application is strong, it is likely you will be invited for an interview, and they will almost certainly ask you about why you have applied to their university, and why you want to attend there and not anywhere else.
Take the time to volunteer at a nursing home or charity shop, or have a part-time job. These activities will show that you are capable of managing more than just an academic career, and also that you have a genuine interest in caring for people. If this is a long-term activity, it will bolster your integrity. Especially for the more academically minded universities, extracurricular work is not necessarily a prerequisite for a competitive application, but it may give you an edge.
Playing sports or being involved in any kind of team activity is also beneficial for your application, as you can mention it in your personal statement.
In order to study medicine, you obviously need to be of a certain mindset. You don’t need to be an Einstein, but you do need to be getting straight A grades or close to straight A grades. This will make your application a lot easier. I am not saying that unless you are top of your class medicine isn’t for you, but the more you are struggling with school academic work, and the lower your grades, the more difficult it will be for you to get a place to study medicine.
Some universities may prefer candidates with a certain set of results. Do not apply to these institutions if you do not have the required grades. It will waste both your time and theirs. Be pragmatic. The aim is not to win a place at a prestigious university. The aim is to win a place to study medicine. Make that your objective.
Personal statement/reflective essay
The personal statement or reflective essay is a core element of most applications and thus should be a showpiece of what you have to offer. You need to highlight your qualities, and what you can offer to the university.
You must focus on why you would be a great student, and why you should get a place. A lot of candidates become overly focused on why they want to study medicine, or what medicine involves. Don’t make this mistake. Be confident and write about why you deserve a place. If you write about an experience it is important to emphasize what you gained from it and not to retell the story in extensive detail. The university will be interested in what you learnt from each of these experiences, but not in which hospital you were, or what you spent your time doing.
After completing your statement , you must read and reread it many times. Do not send in a statement with spelling errors, or other silly mistakes. Some universities have stated that they throw applications with spelling errors directly into the bin!
If your application is strong enough, you will be invited for an interview. Well done! This is a strong indication that the institution you have applied for likes your application, and that you have a good chance of winning a place if you perform well in your interview. The medical school interview is the last step before you find out whether you can study medicine.
What a lot of candidates confuse is the purpose of the interview. It is NOT to find out if you are a future Nobel prize winner. Only a very few elite universities ask their applicants academic questions as a way of differentiating at the time of the interview. This is, however, not the policy of most universities, who will most likely focus on your personality, your tone, your attitude and your ability to remain composed under pressure.
On the day of the interview arrive early. DO NOT be late. Aim to arrive at least 30-40 minutes early and make plenty of allowance for horrible traffic, delayed flights, non-running trains and losing your way. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast. Maintain your energy levels and enthusiasm on the day.
In the interview itself, you should be aware of your posture. Don’t slouch, or lean too far forwards. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so pick your clothing carefully. Men should wear a suit - preferably a dark one - and a tie.. Make sure any facial hair is well groomed, your hair is neat, and your shirt is ironed properly. Women should dress smartly as well. This means no low-cut tops, short skirts or very high heels! You will not be criticized on the day of the interview, but being dressed inappropriately may cost you your place.
In the interview you need to be positive. Make sure you come across as a positive person. You should project your voice well. Make eye contact with whoever you are speaking to, and do not look away when you’re asked a personal or difficult question. Answer your questions with confidence. Do not mumble or shout. Smile after each answer.
If you follow these steps, it will increase your chances of winning a place for medical school. Good luck!