Medical School Success for Year 13 Student Natalia

Here at Montsaye Academy, we are still celebrating Natalia, who has been offered a place at Medical School in September 2021. She has had to work incredibly hard to get to this stage, and we could not be happier for her. I spoke to Natalia to find out more about the process she has been through so far to get to this point...

What made you decide to apply to Medical School?

I always knew I wanted a job in healthcare, as I liked the idea of combining scientific knowledge with caring for people. I investigated lots of different roles, such as dietician and physiotherapist, but they are very specific roles, and nothing really stood out for me. This led me to think more about Medicine; it is academically challenging, and you continue learning throughout your whole career, which I love the idea of. There are so many different career options within Medicine, all involving looking after people. For example, I could do medicine and become a GP, or do medicine and become an anesthetist. It leaves my options wide open after my degree.

Which Medical Schools did you apply to?

I applied to Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester and Keele. As we couldn’t visit, I focused more on the course structure. Nottingham and Lincoln were my favourite two, because they do something called a BMedSci, which is a mini degree in a different subject in your third year. I thought this would be very interesting and it can also give you points when applying to work as a junior doctor. Leicester and Nottingham offer full body dissection which is quite rare...I thought that would be a good opportunity! All the Schools I chose have integrated courses, meaning you learn the scientific knowledge alongside clinical placements.

Talk us through the process you have had to go through to get your place...

The first step was to complete an exam called the UCAT, which tests skills such as problem solving. You do it the summer between Year 12 and 13, in the same place as you might sit driving theory tests. You get your score immediately after taking the test, so you know straight away if it is worth applying to Medical School, as you can look at the previous years’ cut off scores.

I then wrote my personal statement, and from then on it is similar to the process as for other university courses. The only thing different is that I had an earlier deadline than other courses, so I had to be prepared with my personal statement and application a lot earlier than some of my friends.

Once I had submitted my application, I had to wait for any interview invites. I got mine in December and January for Nottingham, Lincoln, and Leicester. Most medical schools are moving away from traditional interviews and now do MMIs (multiple mini-interviews) where you move around stations. It is a lot more activity based, such as breaking sad news in a role play, or watching a consultation and saying what you think was good and bad about it, alongside traditional interview questions too. All my interviews tool place online and, once I’d done them, I just had to wait for replies like with any other course.

What would you say has been the most challenging part of the process?

The UCAT exam was the hardest part. I bought a practice book around this time last year, had a go at a practice test to see what my starting point was, and scored so badly that I put the book away for a good month before daring to go back to it! There are five sections to the test, and it is two hours long. Part of the test is your time management and knowing when it’s time to skip a question. For example, the first section is reading extracts and answering multiple choice questions, which sounds like Year Six SATS! However, you only have two minutes to read the whole extract and answer four questions. Another section involves noticing patterns and problem solving, which felt impossible at times.

What advice would you offer to other students who may be considering Medical School?

UCAT advice – start early and treat it as another A Level to study for. Buy a book with lots of advice and practice questions in. You can spend hundreds on online courses, but I didn’t do them, and I did fine. There is a free resource called PassMedicine and the UCAT website has more practice questions too.

Interview and personal statement advice - If you don’t have lots of work experience in hospitals (I didn’t) people say you won’t even get interviews, but you will. I would say look at what you do and see how you can apply that to being a doctor. For example, I work in a restaurant where there’s no medicine in sight, but it is a fast-paced environment. I must work in a team and treat all the customers equally even if it’s right at the end of my shift and I’m tired! Use any hobbies or work that you do and think about what qualities you have gained and why they would be relevant to being a doctor.

Picking a course - All courses vary slightly so I would say just decide how far you are willing to travel away from home and then look at the courses and see what you think would complement your learning style.

So, what happens now?

I have currently received two offers, and I am just waiting to hear back from Leicester before I make my first and second choice. I’ve been looking at other aspects of the universities now, such as accommodation, to help me decide where I would like to go. I will also be focusing on the assessments I have coming up at school. Hopefully, I will get the grades I need, and be off in September!

Natalia, huge congratulations from everyone at Montsaye Academy. We are all incredibly proud of you!

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