But fear not! Help is at hand. Dr Rosie Kakkar, senior lecturer and admissions tutor for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program at the University of Central Lancashire, shares her top 10 pieces of advice for those applying to UK medical schools.
1. Check the entry criteriaThe first step, Dr Kakkar says, is to visit the websites of the UK medical schools you’re interested in, and check through the admission requirements. These will typically include academic qualifications, proof of language proficiency (such as the IELTS), references, a personal statement, work experience and a UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) score.
As an international applicant, you’ll need to ensure your academic qualifications are accepted. UCLan provides country-specific guidelines to make this easy, but if in any doubt, contact the admissions office. As work experience is such an important factor in medical school admissions, there may also be guidelines to help you ensure you meet expectations. For the MBBS at UCLan, you need to have spent at least two weeks’ working or job shadowing in a medical setting, or have completed at least six months’ community voluntary work.
If you find you’ve missed the deadline to take the UKCAT before applying, don’t panic; it may be possible to take the test after submitting your application.
2. Start your application early – and be meticulous!For your own peace of mind and to give yourself plenty of time to fulfil all the criteria, start your medical school applications as soon as possible, and check them thoroughly before submitting. Paying careful attention to the guidelines provided is important for all university applications, to ensure you make a good first impression and to prevent delays in your application being assessed. If possible, ask a friend, family member or teacher to proofread documents such as the personal statement before you click “send”.
3. Use your personal statement wiselyAn important part of your application is the personal statement; this is essentially a short essay in which to outline your achievements, ambitions and reasons for applying. The statement has a limited length (4,000 characters), so it’s important to use this space wisely. The UCAS site offers resources to help, and UCLan also offers guidelines specifically focused on writing a personal statement for medical school admissions.
You should show your understanding of the medical profession; highlight relevant work or voluntary experience; demonstrate your ability to work in a team; show good communication and presentation skills; and highlight extracurricular activities and achievements. Try to include evidence to support your claims, such as awards you’ve received, challenges you’ve overcome, or projects you’ve helped to organize.
4. Make sure you have an academic referenceYou may be asked to submit one or more references (similar to letters of recommendation) to support your application. Here, Dr Kakkar says, it’s essential to ensure at least one of your referees is a former teacher or academic supervisor, even if you’ve taken some time out of education. Additional references could come from people you’ve worked with in a professional or voluntary context, but an academic referee is a must.
5. Ensure your references and personal statement match upDr Kakkar notes that admissions tutors will be more impressed by applications in which the personal statement and references are well-matched. References should reinforce and validate claims you’ve made in the personal statement, providing evidence and examples of your commitment to studying medicine, reliability and perseverance, good communication and team-working skills, ability to empathize and readiness to help others, and your intellectual potential. If there are any mitigating circumstances which may have affected your academic performance, this should also be mentioned.
To ensure your referee covers all the necessary points, show her/him a copy of your personal statement and any guidelines provided by the UK medical schools you’re applying to.