Applying to university: becoming a medical student

If you have spoken to any professionals about your ambitions to pursue medicine, they have undoubtedly told you that it is not for the faint-hearted. After spending 5-6 years at university, years of training await you not to mention the long shifts, scattered holidays and little work-life balance. So why should you become a medical student?

I was determined that medicine was for me. I wanted a career where no day is the same and where I could make a difference to ordinary people’s lives.


If you are considering studying Medicine, there are additional elements that universities will ask for. These can take time to get in order, so I recommend starting early. You need to demonstrate to potential universities that you have the skills required by doctors. Including communication, teamwork, leadership and empathy, as well as commitment to medicine as a career. Many students organise and take part in long-term volunteer work.

I chose to focus on children as I have always wanted to specialize as a paediatrician. I volunteered with my local GirlGuiding groups, mentored primary school children and children with special needs. Other ways to show leadership and teamwork could include:

  • Duke of Edinburgh Scheme
  • Young Enterprise
  • Being involved with sports and societies

The most important thing s do something you enjoy and pursue it to a higher level – whether that’s playing football, taking part in choir or developing your own website.

Knowledge and experience

Another thing universities are looking for is knowledge about medicine as a career. The easiest way to do this is through work experience. This can be difficult to organize but you must persevere. I would recommend emailing as many doctors as possible, especially if they are conducting research that interests you, as well as checking if your local hospital runs a work experience program.

These experiences will make or break your decision to study Medicine – you may decide you hate the hospital environment or you may love the exhilaration of problem-solving different cases every day. Another way to learn about medicine is through books; Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, Stephen Westaby, Paul Kalanithi and Henry Marsh are all good places to start.

Entrance exams

Finally, you will need to take the UKCAT or BMAT. 8 universities require the BMAT (including Oxbridge) and all other universities require the UKCAT. You sit the UKCAT and receive your scores prior to submitting your application so you can tailor your university choices to your score however you do not receive your BMAT scores until after the UCAS deadline. Hence, I was always advised to only apply to one BMAT university given you only get four choices.

To prepare for the UKCAT, I personally would recommend Medify which contains a huge online bank of practice questions. For the BMAT, have a thorough understanding of all three sciences at a GCSE and A-Level. Also, read up on medical ethics for the essay portion.

Good luck! For everything else you need to know about making a UCAS application download The MyTutor Guide to UCAS 2019/20.

Written by Shivali J.

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