How to Stand Out in Graduate Entry Medicine UK

Applying to Medical School  · April 22, 2019 Miss Caroline Olabisi

Caroline is a Graduate Medical Student at Bart's & the London School of Medicine. She is a contributor to theMSAG's Get into Medical School Guidebooks

So we’ve all heard that medicine is really hard to get into. Is it easier for graduates?

Long Answer: This is an interesting topic and I suppose this depends on the university, but one might consider that it could just be harder. 

Short Answer: No.

Every year over 10,000 graduates apply to study medicine via the graduate entry route and the caliber of applicants is always going to be high. So given that all applicants will at least meet the minimum entrance requirements of the universities they apply to, how are you meant to stand out from the crowd?

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I’ve been there myself, so I know of the trials and tribulations you will be putting yourself through by taking this route. However, I’ve come out the other side and I’m here to tell my tale and give you some key pieces of advice! If you are thinking of applying to Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM), continue reading to find out seven ways, in which you can stand out from the crowd when applying to graduate entry medicine. 

1. Do your research

Research experience is valued in the field of medicine at every stage of training and it is not something every medical student or doctor actively pursues – which could be the perfect opportunity for you to stand out if you have acquired some! If you are at all interested in medical research, showing a passion for this early on and mentioning this on your personal statement as well as your interview can go a long way to make your application stand out. However, don’t just say it – prove it. Get involved in any active research that may be available to students at your university and have a look at any summer opportunities either at your own current university or elsewhere. After all, actions speak louder than words.

During your first degree, if you had the opportunity to complete a dissertation in your final year or to contribute to research, this should also be mentioned. 

However, quite a lot of applicants will have this, so in order to stand out from other graduates, having a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal or having conducted an audit will make you a competitive candidate. Seek out those opportunities and make your interest known to your supervisors.

Even if there are no current opportunities available for you to get involved right now, by establishing those connections and showing your passion, you can put your foot in the door and the next time they have a similar project they need help with they just might think of you to contact. The possibilities can be endless if you just know where to look for them. 

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Furthermore, if you are yet to complete your dissertation or have recently completed one, do not be afraid to approach your supervisor to find out if there is an opportunity to publish any of your research findings and become a named author. Don’t be shy! If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Research experience and publications can look incredibly impressive on your CV and will not only help you with getting into medical school but will always be a useful addition to your portfolio to further assist with getting junior doctor posts in your foundation years in the UK. 

2. Ace the admissions tests

Most universities will require admission tests when it comes to applying to medical school. Of course, scoring highly on them is a good way to make you stand out to your university of choice. To make this just a little more complicated, each university requires different admissions tests with the main ones for graduates being the UCAT, GAMSAT and BMAT.

You need to do some prior research and find out what exams the universities you’re interested in require and, as they can be very different in content they examine from each other, how best to prepare for the ones you decide to take.

Also, make sure you start your preparation early and set aside time to practice and study for these exams to ensure that you get the best score possible.  

3. All-round excellence

“It is important to study hard during your first degree and to get the grades required to meet the entrance requirements.” – Every Mum 

So what advice can we give you that mother dearest may not know about? Well, it is also important to make the most of your university experience and manage your time efficiently. When writing your personal statement do not neglect to mention any sports clubs or societies you joined at university.

Having an active role in the committee of your favorite society or sports club will also help you to stand out and give you ample opportunity to demonstrate your time management and communication skills, as well as showing the admissions team how you may contribute to their medical school if accepted. The more interesting and unique your hobby or sport, the further it goes to helping you stand out, so don’t be afraid to mention anything you do in your spare time – from flame throwing to scuba-diving, it may just help you get into medical school!   

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4. The first degree

Each GEM course has different requirements regarding which first degrees they will accept. While some universities consider all degrees, others will only accept particular science degrees. Despite this, a large majority of applicants will usually have a degree in Biomedical Science or related degrees such as Biochemistry. If you do have a degree in something different e.g. French, Engineering or Accounting, there is no doubt your application will stand out in this respect, but make sure you’re applying to the right place. For instance, Oxford would accept an Engineering degree but another university may not.

Having a masters degree or a PhD is also seen as favorable to some universities and can help you stand out. For more information about which GEM courses you may be eligible for, have a look at our Graduate Entry Medicine: United Kingdom 2019-20 Guidebook, which discusses this topic in great detail. 

5. Be creative with your work experience

Work experience can often be difficult for some students to obtain, however, if possible, use any contacts you have gained during university to obtain unique and interesting opportunities. 
Shadowing doctors and other healthcare professionals, whether in a teaching hospital or general practice, as well as volunteer work is invaluable, however, if you have already done this in the past, it could pay to think outside of the box. This is especially relevant for candidates applying a few years after graduating who have had full-time jobs. You might already have some clinical practice, in physiotherapy, nursing, paramedicine, etc. which means that you have a unique insight into the healthcare system and dealing with patients, so be sure to mention this on your application. 

Work experience does not always have to involve patient contact or clinical skills and if you have had experience working in an area of quality improvement, research, journal editing, healthcare commissioning etc. this is all relevant interesting work experience that is different from the usual hospital shadowing. Be sure to include anything different and interesting to make you stand out. You can find more information on work experience from BMA's work experience - advice for students. 

6. Prizes

Did you win a prize at any stage of your undergraduate degree? Perhaps you achieved the highest mark in an exam or came top of your year? Maybe you won an award for an essay you wrote? Or perhaps you competed on a high level in you university sport team and won a medal? These are all amazing achievements that not many applicants will be able to say they have and so definitely worth mentioning in your personal statement in order to help you stand out.

7. Conferences

 Have you ever attended a specialist or undergraduate conference? Have you ever presented your research in the form of a poster or an oral presentation at a national conference? If you have, be sure to mention this when applying for medical school, as these are things that are impressive at any level of training, from medical school to consultancy. If you have already done these things before medical school, you will be ahead of most of your peers and it will really make your application stand out.

Please note that this is not a checklist of things you have to do in order to get into GEM but a list of ideas/tips on how you can stand out when applying. When I was applying, I found that these points were pretty important to consider.

Always check the entry requirements for each university you apply for and ensure you meet them before applying. Visiting open days and speaking to staff and current students is another great way to get an understanding of what the school of medicine of your choice is expecting of its applicants. Lastly, you might not be sure whether GEM is the route for you - while it provides benefits, such as shorter length of programme (typically a four-year course) and options for tuition fee sponsorship, this is not the optimum for everyone and each year, plenty of graduates apply for the undergraduate programme, too.

We hope you found this information useful. If you want some further information on the different routes for medicine available to graduates, you can also have a look at BMA’s applying to medical school for graduate, mature and foundation students. 

If you have any questions or you would like more information on graduate entry medicine applications, email us at hello@theMSAG.com.






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