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Thinking of applying to medical school?

By Kelly Hewinson

Applying for medical school becomes harder every year. Many would-be doctors are discouraged by mounting competition for places, achieving A* grades, spiraling student fees, and negative headlines about the National Health Service (NHS). If you’re reading this then you presumably haven’t been put off yet. But you probably do have a lot of questions. Should you apply at all? If so, which medical school is best? How do they differ? How likely are you to win a place? How much will it cost? Which medical schools to choose?

Medical students learning about stitches
Medical students learning about stitches. Tulane Public Relations. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons.

Of course there are so many decisions to make and factors involved, and there’s only so much you can learn from a website.

The forthcoming Medlink Conference is a great way to answer a whole host of questions that you might have about applying to medical school. It’s a unique opportunity to speak with admissions tutors, current students, fellow applicants, and representatives of various bodies offering a career in medicine, including the armed forces and volunteer groups abroad. You will attend sample lectures to experience first-hand a ‘day in the life of a medical student’, meet real patients, and have a go at some of the skills you’d be expected to learn at medical school.

The conference is held over three days and can be an intense experience; although that’s something you would have to get used to at medical school. As a veteran of more Medlinks than I can remember, both as an attendee and a speaker, here are my tips:

  • Plan your trip in advance. Think of what you want to find out at Medlink. What are the questions that you need answers to before you apply? Look at the Medlink programme, and make a list of relevant questions that you want to ask each speaker.
  • Talk (and listen) to as many admissions tutors as you can. After all, who better to tell you how to get into medical school than the people who make the decision? Find out about their style of teaching, class sizes, unique features about their clinical curriculum, and anything else about their course that they particularly want to emphasize. These are important details for tailoring your personal statement and answering ‘why this course?’ at interview. Specific details about entry requirements (appropriate A-level subjects, grade requirements etc.) are better identified on institution websites but, if there is ambiguity, this is a good time to clarify.
  • Many medical schools will have current students manning the stand. Make sure you ask them about their experiences of the course, what they particularly like, and what they find difficult.
  • Try not to be overwhelmed. There will be thousands of other people there, and this year’s Medlink is even bigger than before, with more exhibitors and more sessions. When speaking to admissions tutors, keep in mind (or in your pocket) your list of ‘things to find out’. Don’t be put off by the seemingly dazzling academic careers of those around you, remember your own strengths and achievements and use this unique opportunity to find out as much as you can about a career in medicine.
  • Keep an open mind. There are so many alternatives presented at Medlink, from working overseas to working outside of clinical medicine in pure bioscience, so ask questions and find out.
  • Remember that Nottingham has a medical school too. If Nottingham is in your top five, try and squeeze in some time to see the university and the city.
  • Are you a parent accompanying your child to Medlink? Check the conference programme as there are numerous parallel sessions designed just for you, on topics such as funding and how to get into Oxbridge (a.k.a. Oxford and Cambridge Universities).
  • Finally, make friends and have fun! Other Medlinkers are your competition and ‘fellow travellers’ who can offer a combined wealth of knowledge (and opinions, not all of which are correct all of the time!), which can help you make your decision about applying to medical school. You might even end of on the same course together, so get chatting. Keep a look out for Medlink’s Facebook and Twitter pages too — it’ll be a great way of keeping up to date and finding out about the evening’s socials too.

Additionally, David Metcalfe, author of So you want to be a doctor?, will be hosting a tweetchat during the conference. Follow the hashtag #AskDrDavid at 7:00 pm GMT on Thursday, 19 December 2013 to discuss medical school questions with @AskDavid2013.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Kelly Hewinson is a Senior Marketing Manager for Medical Books at Oxford University Press.

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