Our first interviewee is a fabulous young lady called Amalia Morris - aka as Lily. I've known Lily for 2 years now, but she has known us for a little while longer as we visited her school when she was in year 10!
She showed great initiative in looking for work experience and a job, by contacting us directly when she finished her A-levels. We were a little dubious at first because we had never employed a school leaver before. All of our team were at Uni or had graduating. However, our decision to bring her onboard paid dividends and she become an integral part of our team that we could trust with any project.
Here's the first part of her Med School story. Part 2 will follow next week.
What did you study at A-level?
I Initially took, Chemistry, Biology, Geography and Maths. I took Maths as I thought I would need it to go into any STEM type of degree or career. I didn't enjoy Maths that much, I wasn't bad at it, but it wasn't my strongest subject and only took it because I thought I needed it. By Christmas in Year 12, I dropped it as I was never going to get an A, plus the work I had to put in would have damaged my chances of getting the grades in needed in the other subjects. You also don't need Maths for Medicine. In the end I got three A*'s in my other subjects.
In addition I also did an EPQ which is an Extended Project Qualification. I chose the topic of Ibuprofen, looking at the history of it and even making a version of it in the school lab! We even managed to send into a university to get in analysed to see how accurate it was! I got an A for this project too.
Did you go straight to Med School or take a year out?
I took a gap year because I wanted to apply to Med School with actual grades and not predicted grades.
In my gap year I worked for Medical Mavericks travelling all over the country delivering their workshops and talks to children and young people about the careers in the NHS and showing them how to use really cool medical equipment such as an ultrasound. I think I visited every county in the UK!
I worked as a phlebotomist on the bank for my local NHS trust. (A bank in the NHS is a group of people who can come in and work different shifts as and when they want. It is not a permanent position, but gives you some flexibility on when you want to work!)
I also worked in a residential home for children with autism and special needs in a school not far from home.
In the summer I also worked at the Commonwealth Games working as a chaperone on the anti-doping programme! I helped perform drug tests on the athletes that were selected.
Away from in person experiences, I also completed lots of online courses to help with me Med School application.
Why Medicine & what other careers did you consider?
I started to make my decision by first of all looking at what jobs I didn't want to do. So I knew I didn't want to have an office job but wanted to work with people and I found the human body fascinating. This led me to roles healthcare including Paramedics, Nursing, Pharmacology, Physiology & Medicine. I then had to think really hard about where I wanted to go in life and what did I want my job to enable me to do. I wanted the option to be able to specialise in lots of different areas so that removed the Paramedic role. I really wanted the know the depth of science and have a leadership type role in the multi-disciplinary team and be the final person make decisions. Medicine gave me all of those aspects.
What work experience did you have when applying to Med School?
I had a week's work experience at a hospital, but I think the best experiences I had were outside of a hospital! This is because I could work on and develop the key skills Med School looks for in your application. Things like team work, leadership, active listening and communication. I developed all of these working with Tom, especially communication where I'd have to change how I explained scientific principles to children of different ages and abilities.
That role also helped learn about all the different roles within the NHS and how they are all as important as each other in caring for a patient. The practical element of working for Medical Mavericks also let me use amazing piece of kit such as an ultrasound which fed my clinical skills bug as did my phlebotomy course. You only have to be 16 and have an English GCSE to attend!
Working in the school for autistic children I learned to communicate in ways that were not just verbal and learn the importance of that.
The Commonwealth Games was a great exposure to sports medicine too.
The online courses I completed help show I was going the extra mile to broaden my knowledge during my gap year as I was obviously not studying throughout this period.
How did you find the UKCAT?
I hated it, really didn't like it! I don't think I know any one that enjoyed it! UKCAT stress is a thing that is very real and you will experience if you do take it. At the time I didn't understand the logic to it, how these questions were going to prove I was going to be a good doctor. But now, in hindsight, I do get it. I can see that you are presented with something that is so foreign that you don't understand but have to persevere, problem solving and critically analysing answers and data. You also have to know when to move on with the questions as they are all worth 1 mark, but some take 30seconds to answer where as others will take 5 minutes.
To help with this I did a 1 day course, but what really makes the difference is consistent daily practice!
Which Universities did you apply for?
Dundee, Newcastle, Exeter & Leicester. I got interviews from all of them, but only attended Dundee, Newcastle and Exeter because Leicester was a tactical back up application as it wasn't in my top 3. In the end I chose Newcastle.
What were the interviews like?
I had a mixture of panel interviews and MMI, (multiple mini interviews). MMI is very rapid with very little personal rapport building as you only have 6 minutes. Panel interviews were very traditional type interviews with time to get across your personality and the questions were the more common type such as 'why medicine?, strengths, weaknesses... there weren't any role plays in these interviews.
I did a lot of prep for my interviews. I created a document with different sections including GMC principles, the NHS hot topics, strengths and weaknesses, work experiences, why medicine? why me? And most importantly I did a 'why them' section for each university as they want to know why you want to go there over all the other universities. I wrote all my answers out and then practiced them out loud, because it is really important to be authentic and real. I got my Mum to ask me the questions, had friends chip in too and I also videoed myself answering the questions too.
Thanks for these amazing answers Lily. There are some really valuable nuggets in here, especially around work experience, UKCAT prep and interview practice. We'll have more from Lily next week when she tells us about her 1st year at Uni!