The MSAG at PotMed 2016, Imperial College London
6.30 am on Sunday morning. Dedication must be blind. The car is packed with MSAG Marketing materials including lap tops and tablets, our beautiful new banner, multiple copies of our best-seller guidebook to get into medical school for Undergraduate and Graduate students, our new business cards and other goodies.
Dr Jiva, our founder and CEO, and myself are on our way to meet with the PotMed 2016 organisers from Muslim Medics* at Imperial College in London. The PotMed conference gathers experts in Medical school application and selection process in the UK and welcomes prospective medical school applicants currently in year 13 and 12 for a full-on day, combining lectures in plenary session and Interview practice in the afternoon. The day aims particularly at providing advice on Personal Statement, Interview and Communication skills as well as UKCAT and BMAT tips to Medical school aspirants. It also provides an opportunity to discuss essential work and voluntary experience.
08.00 am: Our beautiful stall is all set up in the main foyer area to welcome and engage with young prospective applicants. While quite shy at the beginning, most of the year 12 or 13 students we engaged with seemed really eager to tell us where they were in their medical school application process and share with us their main concerns and doubts. We advised them with great tips on how to maximise their chances of successful admission to medical school.
A significant proportion of students confessed their fear of a lack of work experience while others appeared to misunderstand the clear distinction between a regular voluntary activity and a practical clinical experience or healthcare shadowing. All medical schools in the UK indeed value experience in a hospital, GP surgery, or an outpatient clinic setting. An average undergraduate applicant in the UK usually has a minimum of 1 week of healthcare shadowing. The best way to gain healthcare experience is by getting in touch with your school and check if they are planning to offer placement opportunities over the year. If not, select a good amount of hospitals, surgery, community centres in your neighbourhood, contact them by phone or email and go to their HR department to introduce yourself explaining your request. It is not an easy road but a great way to test your motivation for Medical School too!
Many students told us that they were struggling to highlight their extracurriculars (non-medicine) activities in a UCAS personal statement and link them to Medicine. Almost any extracurricular activity, e.g. Sport, music, art, can allow you to gain transferrable skills relevant to a Medicine degree. For example, if you play in a local basketball team every Sunday for the last 5 years, it demonstrates that you are a committed team player, reliable and ambitious, all skills and qualities potentially relevant in a medical setting. Regularly volunteering in a charity shop could also show social awareness, organisation, leadership and communication skills. It is always easier to start from a small and practical example and build from it.
Lunch time: MSAG reinforcements gladly arrived before the students came back in the foyer for a deserved break before practising interviews, reviewing their personal statement and learning basic clinical skills. A great opportunity for the MSAG team to get in touch with them, explain what we offer, how we can help and give away our beautiful corporate pens.The perspective of medical school interviews is a great concern for the vast majority of students we spoke with. There is no secret. Interview practice is the only way to learn, improve and gain enough confidence to shine during your real Medical School interview. The MSAG also offer Medical School interview small group practice led by doctors - 2 to 3 doctors for 9 students. The day includes a full mock MMI-style interview, written and videoed feedback. We also look at the marking scheme for each of the medical schools to which you will apply to target your individual practice.
We loved this student fair so much that we are back on the road again in December. The MSAG will indeed rebuild its flamboyant stand in Liverpool on Monday 19th December for the Year 12 Medical Institution Conference 2016. This two day meeting will advise year 12 students about where and how to apply (or not), what it is like to be a medical student and a junior doctor and what life is like in hospitals and in general practice.
*Muslim Medics is a society that provides social and educational support to all medical students at Imperial College.