Skills Development 1: What practical steps can I take to improve my chances of securing a place at a medical school

As the statistics would have it, in 2015 there were 82,034 applicants for 7,424 places to study medicine in the UK with some schools reporting as many as 1000 applicants for 50 places. Those odds look daunting. Whilst getting high grades and demonstrating academic aptitude is a prerequisite (the expectation is at least three As -chemistry, biology and either math or physics would keep most Med Schools open to you), in this blog we focus less on the academic requirements and more on what else a young person can do to improve their chances of getting into Medical School.

According to the industry professionals we spoke to, the key is to demonstrate a breadth of interests, deeper understanding of what is involved in working in medicine as well as the ability to empathise. So start by getting some hands on experience. Many hospitals and medical schools have developed programmes that help perspective students to get a better flavour of what it is like to work in medicine. For example, UCL runs a mentoring scheme that matches teams of volunteer UCL medical students with sixth-form students from London and Hertfordshire- based non-selective state schools, who want to study medicine . It also runs a Summer School for Year 11 students Applications are currently open for the latter until 9am on 10th of April.

Some hospitals provide work experience - an unpaid, short-term placement - normally for a few weeks. An example is Royal Free, which while does not offer structured centralised placements, allows clinicians and senior staff to support a few placements per year. Another example is Brighton and Sussex University Hospital - which has more of a centralised application process.

Other routes to demonstrating interest and experience is to volunteer. At MyPocketSkill, for example, we currently have a listing to volunteer with St Francis Hospice and another to work as coaches with children with learning disabilities for Special Olympics. Nursing homes is also a good option.

Overall, it is important to understand that medical schools won’t expect a lot of hospital work experience, as the sixth-formers are under 18 years of age and it is difficult to gain meaningful employment. However, ability to reflect on what has been learned through placements is important.

We thank Dr Rachel Jones of West Middlesex Hospital for her help and contribution to this blog. Note: We will be updating this blog with more contacts and volunteer listings.

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