How I Got Into Medical School - My Journey

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On the 9th of August a lifelong dream came true.  And here is how.

This story features a lot of ups, downs, and bad grades.  It is a very real and raw account with no sugar-coating.

I was never the smartest individual but I was always a big dreamer.  I wanted to be a million things at once but most importantly, I wanted to become a physician.  I moved to the UK the summer before Year 9 (8th grade).  The new culture and academic style of teaching and testing took some getting use to.  During my 'end of year finals/exams' in Year 9, I performed well/average in some subjects (sciences, languages, and english literature and language) and poorly in others such as maths, history, and geography.  You can only imagine the talks I got from my parents regarding my grades.  It was very disheartening.  I felt like my desires and dreams were slipping. I felt average.

Come Year 10 and 11, I did my GCSEs and performed exceptionally well. My confidence, self-belief, and motivation to learn increased.  Unfortunately, when it came to deciding my A level subjects there was tension so all those positive vibes vanished.  If you are planning to choose your AS and A2 level modules: do not pick subjects you know you will not enjoy or will struggle with.

Personally, I did not enjoy Biology A level a fraction to how much I enjoyed it at undergraduate.  Undoubtedly, there are subjects we have to take to pursue our interests.  For medicine, it is mandatory to take Chemistry and Biology.  Most end up taking the three sciences or chemistry, biology, and mathematics.  Ideally, I wanted to take Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Spanish with intention to drop Physics at AS if I was really struggling.  However, I was told to take Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths.

Totally not what I planned. Maths and Further Maths were difficult.  Numbers made me feel uncomfortable. It was near impossible to understand all the concepts at the speed we were meant to.  On top of that, Physics A level was nothing compared to GCSE Physics which I got 100% in which was, quite frankly, peanuts. I was really struggling in Physics AS+A2 and it was taking up so much time to the point that it affected my Biology and Chemistry A levels.

Hence, my AS marks were very pitiful.  I got a strong B in Physics which showed no hope of turning into an A at A2 no matter how many times I retook my EMPA/ISA/Practical.  As we know, it is a must to have three As at A2 which included Biology and Chemistry in order to get into medical school.  Had I taken the subjects I wanted to, i.e Spanish instead of Physics, I could've given myself a better chance at excelling in Biology and Chemistry whilst enjoying Spanish.

Eventually, I managed to convince my parents to let me drop further maths and just do maths AS.  I got a B in AS maths by the skin of my teeth.  This really knocked my academic confidence.  Truth be told, I was putting in the hours of work: no TV, social media, phone, or even extracurriculars.  Thats why it is so vital to choose your A levels (beyond Biology and Chemistry in case of medicine or dentistry) carefully to ensure you don't have a domino affect like I did.

Quick note to mention.  At the time of applying for University in 2013,  I was classified as an international student.  That means my fees for clinical courses were significantly higher compared to UK/EU applicants.  I would be paying anything from £36,000-£45,000 a year.  Therefore, I would be paying at least £210,000 for my degree.  On the other hand, I was encouraged to apply and go to India to study because they train you to take the USMLE and pursue residency in America.  That costs an NRI anything from $150,000-$207,000 per YEAR for 5-6 years.  Finally, I need not mention tuition fees in America despite being an American Citizen.  Thus, although my route to medical school is not traditional, the financial strain is significantly less and I have more qualifications under my belt that I can utilise to broaden my horizons.  This is especially with regards to research wherein I have an avid interest. 

I managed to secure a BSc (Hons) at the University of Bristol to study Cellular and Molecular Medicine.  Lab work and research was a huge driving force and motivator for me to study medicine because of the research opportunities it opens up.  In my desi family, my father showed quite little support initially as he saw it as a 'failure to get to med school' course.  I was teased and made fun of a lot for my degree during my time at Bristol amongst the South Asian community (by doctors, lawyers, and engineers).  I didn't give myself the amount of attention and care that I deserved which showed in my third year marks that brought my average down.  I was so caught up in what everyone else wanted, I lost my sense of self. 

Remember everyone: it is okay to be selfish and work on you.  No one else will support you and encourage you as much as yourself.  I was in a very bad place mentally and physically but I came out with an Upper Second Class Honours which allows me to apply to a majority of UK universities for graduate entry medicine bar some that prefer students with a first and opens the door to every job.  Instead of going straight into medical school, I decided to go on and do a masters in public health at Imperial College London which a lot of my previous posts would explain.

A masters in public health really set me up for medical school, especially with regards to my personal statement and interviews.  I was able to bring in real-time experiences, situations, and current topics I studied for my answers.  On top of this, my masters has acted to strengthen my quantitative skills which were non-existent before.  I was someone who would get D's, E's, and even a U in Mechanics during A level math, and turned a corner and managed to achieve 91% in a masters-level statistics exam.  It eradicated my fear of math completely.  A majority of medical school interviews are MMIs which means they are multiple mini interviews, and some stations have a quantitative station that assesses your ability to answer math questions quickly and efficiently.  18 year old me would've peed myself at such a thing.

Come July 5th 2018, I decided to sit the UKCAT.  I did a whole in-dept post about my experience here but my mark was 680 Band 1 which was competitive enough for undergraduate medicine applications.  I was disheartened initially as it meant that many graduate entry medicine courses were out of reach.  Nevertheless, I managed to come across a few universities that were going into clearing for medicine.  I was really surprised as such a thing was unimaginable when I was taking my A levels. 

I applied to two universities.  One university got back to me quite quick saying I was ineligible for the lack of Anatomy and Physiology in my undergraduate degree.  This was a new university who was taking their first cohort of applicants for 2018 so perhaps its for the best.  The second university took many weeks to get back to me.  I received the invitation for an interview on July 31st Tuesday and my interview was on August 3rd Friday.  So I had little notice but that was better than no notice!  I revised a few of my public health lectures, re-read my favourite research articles, and brushed up on some speedy math skills for my MMI.

I didn't feel too stressed because I knew that this wasn't my only option.  I do believe that really helped me to perform well.  Knowing in the back of my head that this was a spur of the moment decision, and I could still apply for 2019 entry whilst having both a bachelors and a masters under my belt gave me reassurance that I can pave a future for myself if medicine doesn't work out.  I had a plan B unlike my A levels.  In addition, depending on your situation, I advise against informing many people about applying.  I didn't inform my parents or family and that did wonders for me: if I didn't get in, no one will ask about it.  That eradicated a lot of fear.  Nevertheless, if you have family and friends that are genuinely supportive from the get-go and could potentially help in the process, do not hesitate to let them know. 

We were told that results will come August 16th so you can imagine the shock when I received my offer August 9th.  I was in disbelief and cried litres of tears.  Since not getting into medicine in Year 13, I was told I wasn't good or smart enough to become a physician, I was never going to be good at math, and that I was really bad at science (LOL).  Supposedly, I am 'struggling' in life because I applied for a masters instead of getting a job straight from my bachelors despite it being at a world renowned institution.  If getting into medical school means I am 'struggling' then that individual is in a parallel universe.  I was told I cannot even take one simple test properly despite getting the highest mark in math section for my UKCAT (which I've discussed in a separate blogpost) which we all know is one of the most time-pressured and stressful exams created. 

I proved all the disbelievers wrong- whether they use their sense to accept the truth or not.  You cannot dispute the fact that I got into medical school.  Silently, I rose from the ashes.  I can not only take exams, I have excelled in them.  I can not only do maths, but I can do it well whilst understanding concepts and theories. I have gotten into prestigious institutions and my dream course under my own merit without loopholes. 

I proved that I can, I will, and I have.

Be your own cheerleader, be selfish, and reach your goals.  Do not let anyone, no matter who they are, put you down and belittle your self-worth and self-growth.  No one expected me to become a doctor when I was 18 and now here I am writing this- something I never imagined before.  If they are not ready to see and accept your growth, then their words are worthless. 


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2 comments

  1. What an inspirational post! Congratulations on achieving your dream despite all the pitfalls. You really deserve it!

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