Hello everyone! My name is Marianne, and I am a medical student at Imperial College Medical School in London. I’m currently in my 5th year (penultimate year of study).
Imperial was my first choice university when I applied to UCAS, so I was really delighted to get into this university on my first try! In this article, I will chat a bit about my medical school application journey, with some tips for those who are thinking about applying to Imperial for Medicine.
Checklist of getting into Imperial
Step 1: Work experience and volunteering
So, the first few steps to apply to any medical school involve building a little bit of your CV with some different experiences, such as volunteering, teamwork or leadership experiences, and work experience in the health sector.
I was already involved in some youth groups in my town and a sports team, so I made sure to talk about the experiences in terms of teamwork and leadership. Then I went to seek some opportunities to do work experience in the summer of year 12 at a local hospital with a doctor who knew my family.
I was very lucky to shadow an orthopaedic surgeon for a few days and then spent a week with an ophthalmologist, seeing outpatient appointments and eye surgery. I was also fortunate to participate in a volunteering trip in India organised by my school and a partner charity in year 12.
This experience really changed my vision of the world. It made me so motivated to get into medical school and help people and make a difference in their lives. I think this volunteering experience and how I reflected on it in my personal statement and interview made a big difference in my application.
Regarding this step, I would encourage everyone to think about these experiences early! When you first decide to apply to medicine, I would say to look at the experiences you already have and see what you are missing or what could complement them.
And remember, don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Your experience is unique!
And it’s not about accumulating lots of crazy, fancy or impressive experiences. What’s most important is how you reflect on your experience and how you put it forward to show what these experiences have taught you!
Step 2: Research the universities!
Next, I moved on to researching the medical schools I was interested in. This is important because depending on which universities you want to apply to, you need to sit different entrance exams.
The two entrance exams for undergraduate medicine in the UK are the UCAT (It used to be called UKCAT when I was applying) and the BMAT. I looked at different universities I wanted to apply to, and I decided to sit both exams (the BMAT is the exam required for Imperial College).
Try to make a list of the universities you are interested in, ideally a mix of different competitiveness, so you spread your chances. Remember you have until you submit your UCAS decision to make a definite decision on your 4 choices, so you can refine your list as you go.
I would suggest going to open days to find out more about different aspects of the university, teaching and curriculums, and student life.
Also, make sure you very carefully note the requirements for each university: you don’t want to waste a choice if a university requires something that you don’t have!
UCAT Crash Course
Live and interactive UCAT teaching from expert mentors
Step 3: Entrance exams
Revising for these exams requires lots of hard work and dedication! I found it quite challenging because no one in my class was sitting this exam, so I felt a bit isolated during my revision. Nevertheless, people around me were supportive.
I encourage everyone to study during the summer because it gets a bit overwhelming to study for the entrance exams and normal school work when the school year starts.
I sat the UKCAT in the summer between year 12 and 13, at an exam centre on a computer. It is a timed computer exam with randomly selected questions on logic and reasoning topic! For this exam, my tips would be:
- Start long in advance
- Do a bit every day
- Do lots of practice questions and practice in the exam setting.
The BMAT is an in-person exam, very different from the UKCAT, with biology, chemistry, physics and maths questions and an ethics essay at the end, which can be tricky. I think what made the difference for me was practising writing those ethics essays!
I sat my BMAT in October, and I fully remember the pressure I felt and my emotions sitting in this hall with all the candidates. On results day, I saw I had gotten good results in Part A and C, but just above the threshold for part B to be considered for Imperial- it was a close one!
This is to encourage everyone reading to not give up even if your results are not as good as you hoped. Be proud of yourself and your work, no matter the results!
Also, nothing is a fatality, so if something doesn’t go as planned, it’s not the end of the world! There are other universities on your list and other options, so don’t feel hopeless!
PRO TIP: To get professional help with your UCAT preparation, check out our UCAT Crash Course.
Step 4: Personal statement
Around the same time as the BMAT, I had to write my personal statement. Writing your personal statement is a crucial part of the application process.
I started by brainstorming all my ideas on paper, then thought about the story I wanted to tell through my personal statement and organising my ideas. From a mindmap brainstorming format, I built a structured plan with bullets point for each paragraph, with ideas that flowed nicely.
I presented my academic achievements as well as my volunteering and work experience. Importantly you also have to answer the question: “why do you want to study medicine/ become a doctor?” I took a while to reflect on this and made sure my answer was truthful, interesting, and not cliché.
You can bring in elements from your personal life and work experience to really build your ideas. I also made sure to emphasise what made me unique in my personal statement, what makes me stand out. For example, I grew up in 5 different countries and how that makes me an international citizen and open-minded individual.
Step 5: Interview
Then started the most stressful time of my life at the time: waiting for answers.
It is a really strange time because everyone is getting answers around you. They come at different times, and you’re always waiting, so it can be very stressful! Make sure you take care of your mental health during these times! This may involve stopping email notifications so you can choose when to see the answers or telling your peers you are not ready to discuss the outcomes with them yet.
In my case, I got rejections for all the universities lower on my list. I only got an interview offer for Imperial, my top choice and the most competitive university on my list- again, a bit of a strange one.
I prepared for my interview, practised answering the most common questions, talking to myself in front of a mirror, and planning out concise and structured responses. I also did lots of background reading on health topics in the news and hot topics in the research field, and I looked into how the NHS works and the roles of doctors in this structure.
The interview was a panel interview, and it was terrifying to be facing 4 examiners in front of me. I was shaking, and I felt my heart racing as I walked in.
The 15 minutes went by very quickly, and I remember thinking at the end, “that’s it? That was so short!” I felt like this wasn’t enough time to convince the examiners that they should choose me. I was trying very hard to convey my passion and enthusiasm, but I felt the amount of time given to me was very short.
This was probably also because I only had 1 interview offer, which felt like my only chance. But as you probably guessed, the end of the story is a happy one as I am here now: I got an offer after the interview, and I felt so over the moon.
Step 6: Meeting the offer
My offer from Imperial was conditional, meaning I had to meet certain targeted grades (my predicted grades). Indicative A level grades for entry to Imperial are shown on their website if you want to get an idea for yourselves.
This time it was just about putting the work in, and I felt very motivated yet undeniably exhausted from this long and eventful year. I revised in a very organised and thorough manner and put honestly so many long hours of work into this.
After everything, the hard work paid off, I was incredibly happy to achieve above the grades I needed. Scoring 100% on my biology paper remains one of the achievements I am most proud of today.
I held the paper in my hands, and I couldn’t believe I was finally done. At this moment, I was so proud of all my hard work and so grateful for the help and support I had received along the way from my peers, teachers and my family. I felt very grateful for the trust Imperial was putting into me!
The greatest adventure of my life was about to begin!
VIRTUAL HOSPITAL WORK EXPERIENCE