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How to Successfully Reapply to Medical School: Learn From My Journey of Overcoming Rejection

First Application

During sixth form I had decided to pursue a career in medicine. I knew I wanted to work in healthcare, and I loved science throughout school. Through various experiences and research, I had decided to become a doctor. I wrote my personal statement, sat the UCAT in early September of year 13 and applied to four medical schools with my predicted A level grades. Unfortunately, by Christmas, I had received three rejections. I was beginning to feel defeated, but I then received an interview offer from the University of Liverpool. Although I was incredibly grateful for this opportunity, I felt pressured as I saw this as my last chance to get into medical school.

I prepared by looking at tips online, doing a few mock interviews and speaking with an older medical student. After I sat the interview, the nerves got the better of me and I finished the online call feeling disappointed. As much I tried to stay positive, I had also prepped myself for a rejection and began to distract myself with A level revision. After a few months I received an email saying I did not receive a place. Instead, I was put on a waiting list. So I had to think, What if I don’t get into Medical School?

I had to decide whether I wanted to continue pursuing this career or if I should accept my offer to study biomedicine. I was overwhelmed with A level exams quickly approaching and decided to focus on achieving the required grades to study medicine. Rather than dwelling on the rejections I received, I was able to make sure that I had a plan in place to still achieve my goals. I achieved my A level grades and was unable to obtain a place through the waiting list and clearing. Naturally, I felt upset as any opportunity of going to university in September had disappeared. However, as I had already planned to reapply to medicine, I felt excited to begin my gap year.

Reapplying

The next few months were when I began to doubt myself gain. I was disappointed when I received rejections from the schools I applied to. However, seeing my friends going to university brought back these feelings. I felt frustrated that I had worked hard throughout the year and was still unsuccessful in securing a place at medical school. Shifting my focus to concentrating on my plans for the future has allowed me to become more confident in myself. I was able to reflect on my previous application in order to submit a stronger one and was able to make the most of my gap year.

During the summer I first began writing my personal statement. I was happy with the initial one from my first application, so, rather than rewriting it, I decided to expand on the existing content. I added detail on my plans during my gap year to highlight how I plan on further developing certain skills. I also made sure to emphasise what I had learnt from previous experiences and why this is important in medicine.

Resitting the UCAT

Having sat the UCAT before, and having access to a complete guide to the UCAT, I was able to look back and see where I could improve. I focused on sections where I previously struggled and completed more mock tests to improve my time management. For example, I devoted more time to improving my speed in the decision-making section and my mental maths skills. One of the mistakes I made in my first test was when I had time to go back over some of my answers. I second guessed myself and made a lot of changes. This time I made sure to only change those answers that I was confident were wrong or not the best choice.

I also changed the way I scheduled my revision. The first time I sat my UCAT, I would revise everything at once and would then feel overwhelmed. This time I took regular breaks. In fact, I was on holiday and had just finished my A levels, so I made sure that I still enjoyed myself. This was more efficient, allowing me to achieve my goals throughout the day whilst also giving myself time to relax.

Walking into the test centre for the first time was nerve-wracking. It was a new environment, and it was the first big exam I had taken in recent years. The second time I sat the exam, I knew what to expect and during the test I felt more confident in myself. As a result, I came out with a higher UCAT score making my application much more competitive.

When choosing medical schools to apply to, I used a more strategic approach. With a higher UCAT score and knowing I am not the best test taker, I made the same decision as the previous year, to not sit the BMAT. This meant I could apply to universities that held more weighting on the UCAT score. 

During the summer I first began writing my personal statement. I was happy with the initial one from my first application, so, rather than rewriting it, I decided to expand on the existing content. I added detail on my plans during my gap year to highlight how I plan on further developing certain skills. I also made sure to emphasise what I had learnt from previous experiences and why this is important in medicine.

Interviews

I was very grateful to receive four interview offers. Although I felt more confident with my new application, knowing that I struggled with my interview in the previous year made me feel anxious. However, similar to the UCAT, I could see what areas I needed to focus on for my interview by analysing the aspects I did well in and where I could have improved and I had access to a guide to medical school interviews. 

During my unsuccessful interview the year prior, I messed up on the first question and this made me incredibly nervous. I began to focus on what went wrong, and this impacted the way I portrayed myself during the rest of the interview. This time I made sure to move on to the next question with a clear mindset. This was easier to do during my MMI interviews as physically moving to a new station with a different interviewer felt like a fresh start. However, I had to remember to do the same during my panel interview. This included not allowing the neutral expressions of the interviewers to throw me off. By ensuring that I was making eye contact and smiling, I was able to focus on the task at hand.

After many mock interviews, it was helpful to discuss the questions in detail rather than practicing the answers repeatedly. I was able to form loose structures to common questions to make sure I hit all the points I wanted to address. It was useful to practice mock interviews with people who knew about the application process and what was expected of applying students at interview. However, I also practiced questions at home with my family. This allowed me to put the structures I prepared in practice. I also remembered to always link the questions back to my personal experiences and, most importantly, reflect on them.

Gap year

I had begun the reapplication process but also needed to plan what to do during my gap year. This was an opportunity to gain a deeper insight into medicine whilst also enjoying the time away from school. Brainstorming a few ideas was helpful as it allowed me to set myself some goals and made sure that I would make the most of this opportunity. However, I was confused on where to start. I did not know what to do during a year of no studying and I was even more uncertain about how to pursue the experiences I was interested in. I saw how helpful it was to speak to people who have had similar experiences, when talking to a chief mentor from Medic Mentor. We spoke about the benefits of taking a gap year and how to make the most of it. I was also reassured that I would receive help in reapplying in the upcoming year. 

Working at a pharmacy showed me the importance of accuracy and efficiency in healthcare. I also improved my communication skills, and this was further developed when I decided to continue volunteering at my local hospital. I was able to work in different departments and interact with patients from different backgrounds. I learnt to adapt my communication skills according to a patient’s emotions and personality.

I also had the opportunity to travel. I joined a medical camp in Iraq for two weeks where I assisted a variety of healthcare professionals with several tasks. I recognised the importance of working as a team and observed effective leadership skills to ensure we cared for as many patients as possible to the best of our ability. I was able to develop key skills to possess as a clinician, but most importantly it was a rewarding experience and made me more appreciative of the resources I have access to. 

This gap year was also an opportunity for me to enjoy some time away from school and utilise the free time I had. I stayed with my grandparents in Florida for a month. This gave me time to relax and spend quality time with my family abroad.

Reflections

I received three offers with my achieved A levels and decided to go to the University of Sheffield. The main thing I learnt was to always be confident in myself. I constantly felt disappointed and defeated seeing my friends gong to university. I also felt ashamed to tell people that I was reapplying. However, I am now reaching the end of my first year and could not be more grateful for my journey. Although it did not go the way I intended, I was able to participate in incredible opportunities that I otherwise would not have been a part of. It truly was a blessing in disguise. By focusing on myself and my progression I believe I have developed skills that will be vital to have as a doctor.

The jump to university can be difficult, especially when it comes to revision. It is important to realise, however, that not everyone studies the same. Focusing on yourself and what methods work for you is important. This may require trying multiple methods of revision to see what works best. I initially decided to annotate slides from lectures to save myself time when making notes. However, I now make notes using a combination of the lecture slides, the university’s peer teaching society and online resources. You may also find that some methods are effective for certain aspects of the course but not others. The main thing to remember is to not compare yourself to your peers. You may not study the same as them or think that you are not doing enough in comparison, but if your methods of studying are working for you then that is all that matters. 

This experience taught me the importance of reflection and adopting a growth mindset. Using challenges as an opportunity to look back on allowed me to develop various skills and apply with a stronger application. This has been an important attribute to have a medical student. Recently, with exams approaching, I have been feeling anxious and less confident in myself. Although I have been studying, the pressure of exams has made me feel uncertain in how prepared I am.  Speaking to friends and family has reminded me to focus on my progression and find ways to revise that work for me. It has also highlighted the importance of a support system. Being away from home in a new city can be difficult, especially when I am feeling stressed. However, calling my family or giving myself time away from work to spend with friends allows me to calm down and come back with a fresh mindset. Medicine is a challenging career and there will constantly be occasions where I feel overwhelmed, so it is important to ensure I know how to cope with this and remain motivated.

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How to Successfully Reapply to Medical School: Learn From My Journey of Overcoming Rejection

The next few months were when I began to doubt myself gain. I was disappointed when I received rejections from the schools I applied to. However, seeing my friends going to university brought back these feelings. I felt frustrated that I had worked hard throughout the year and was still unsuccessful in securing a place at medical school. Shifting my focus to concentrating on my plans for the future has allowed me to become more confident in myself. I was able to reflect on my previous application in order to submit a stronger one and was able to make the most of my gap year.

Read More »