Not getting into medical school can feel like the end of the world. When applying, very rarely do we consider a Plan B so if we are not successful in getting onto a course it can be all the more soul crushing. You can feel like a complete failure, letting down those around you. However, an unsuccessful application is not the end of the road. After getting rejected, if being a doctor is still what you want, then you can achieve this.
If you have been unsuccessful, it’s important to reflect on why you haven’t got into medical school, as this will determine your next step. Broadly speaking, three of the most common reasons for not getting into medical school are being rejected before an interview, being rejected after an interview or not meeting the academic offer. To find out the exact reasons for your unsuccessful application, don’t hesitate to contact each medical school you have applied to in order to get feedback.
If you have been rejected before an interview, it is likely you either haven’t performed well enough in the admissions test or you haven’t ticked all the boxes on your personal statement. If you haven’t performed sufficiently on the admissions test, it’s worth noting you are likely to improve on the second time of taking the test, as you will be more used to sitting the exam. Contrary to belief you can do a lot of preparation for test as the UCKAT: fully utilising practice resources (practicing under timed conditions) as well as attending courses such as the 6med UCAT crash course are ways that are very likely to improve your score.
If your personal statement hasn’t shown enough suitability, it is likely you haven’t undertaken enough relevant experience. If you are taking a year out, you will have plenty of time to get an array of experiences. Consider working as a Healthcare assistant, sitting in on GP consultations or even volunteering at a local hospice. Once you have these experiences, when communicating these on your statement it is important to express what you have learnt about the profession from it and how it has made you realise that you are suitable for this career path.
If you have been rejected after an interview, most medical schools will give you specific feedback should you request it. If you were too nervous, if you struggle to get your ideas across in a short time or if you found the questions difficult to answer, the solution is the same: practice. If you reapply and are invited to interviews, do as much practice as you can before hand. Learn your personal statement (as the interviewer most likely hasn’t read it), read Medical school interview books (such as this one) and make sure you know as much as you can about the interview process (e.g. will there be stations, what is being assessed at each station, etc). Everyday, practice saying aloud your responses to common interview questions in front of someone else who is comfortable to give you feedback. Strategies such as these will boost your confidence as well as your performance.
There are a few options to consider if you do not make the grades. If you would like to resit an A-Level, be mindful that not all universities will consider your reapplication and those that do will generally expect you to do better that what they normally ask for (e.g. you may need an A* instead of an A in the subject you resit). It’s very important to ask yourself if you feel you are capable of getting these sort of grades.
If you decide resitting isn’t the right choice for you, you may want to consider doing a degree other than medicine at university and then applying as a graduate. For people that choose to take this route, common courses of study (such as Biology, Biochemisty, Biomedicine) will include subjects such as physiology and pharmacology, which feature on medicine course. This means if you do well on your first degree, you can show prospective Medical schools that you will hit the ground running in an academic sense.
It’s important to note that graduates can apply for two types of medical courses: graduate entry level course and normal undergraduate course. Graduate entry level courses are generally shorter than the traditional course as they combine the years of pre-clinical teaching into a single year. You need to know that if you apply as a graduate onto an undergraduate course, you are not eligible to apply for a student loan for your academic fees and as such must find an alternative way to pay for them.
Answering the question: What will you do if you don’t get into Med school this year?
- Acknowledge that due to the competitive nature of being a doctor, every physician will experience some kind of failure in their career
- Emphasise that Medicine is definitely for you regardless on if you get the offer, so you will reapply
- Explain you are an adult, professional learner. You will ask for feedback and you will use this knowledge to improve your application such that you are more competitive the next time you apply.
Speaking as someone that didn’t make the grades for their offer in sixth form, it can feel enormously disappointing and as if the door to becoming a doctor is closed forever. It is of course understandable to feel this way for some time. However, if Medicine is really for you, if it’s the only thing you see yourself doing in ten, twenty even forty years time, then you need to make it happen. Even if you succeed in getting in on your first attempt, there will be struggles in every career (failing exams at Medical school, not getting the speciality training placement you want as a doctor) so it’s very important to have a determined mentality.
Photo from Andrew Neel.