Dr. April Diviney
5 minute read
Our resident Doctor, Dr. April Diviney, describes her journey from college to Medical School – the ups, the downs and the experiences.
Queue the stereotypical aspiring medical student. Recently appointed head girl of her school as well as Netball captain, Grade 8 in Flute and many weeks of work experience shadowing Consultants under her belt. Come October, she felt she was finally ready to submit her UCAS application to follow her dreams of becoming a Doctor.
This was me in 2009. Looking back now, I feel I was very immature, unprepared and would have gone about the application process to medicine far differently. That year I did get one interview from Bristol University but received straight rejections from my other four choices for Medical Schools.
My interview with Bristol did not go well, to say the least. Very nervous, shaking all over, I stumbled over my words and failed to answer even the simple questions like, ‘why medicine?’ and ‘why Bristol University?’ I was not prepared for how hard the process of applying to Medical School could be. Unsurprisingly, I did not get an offer from Bristol.
When you go through secondary school being told by family, friends, and teachers that you are going to be a Doctor and they also expect this, the blow of not getting in the first time was heavy. I struggled with that feeling for many months. I think, because you truly believe you are going to get in the first time around, it becomes a greater shock when you don’t.
“The blow of not getting in the first time was heavy.”
Considering my qualities as a person, I never thought a different career path would be more appropriate. Due to this, I made the decision to reject my 5th UCAS choice (natural sciences in Birmingham) and reapply to study Medicine the year after. It obviously wasn’t the original plan but reflecting back now, 8 years later, taking a gap year was the best thing I could have done for me.
During my gap year, I worked as a play-worker in a before and after school club, as well as volunteering at a hospice on Sundays. The experience I gained in both of these roles was invaluable.
Most importantly, I shared experiences with dying patients and their family members in the hospice. I spent many days chatting to people, keeping them company and simply making them cups of tea. This is what I feel changed things for my UCAS application the second time around. This unwritten rule of having a caring role experience was never shared with me until after my year of rejection. As well as my job and volunteer roles described above, I had driving lessons, continued to play Netball and went travelling around Europe for 5 weeks.
Upon entering Medical School, I realised it’s actually quite common to have taken a gap year (planned or unplanned). Many students don’t go straight to Medical School. Some students find themselves in the same situation as myself, some students defer entering Medical School straight away, some students study another degree first – and other students have jobs first and enter Medicine later in life. Discussing my situation with other colleagues, it seems that people who were in the same situation as myself had a very similar year. Most worked through their gap year, went on holiday, visited friends at their universities and mainly improved their UCAS application for the second time around.
“Many students don’t go straight to Medical School.”
Writing this, I wanted to reflect on my experience so that others in my situation know that it’s not just them, and how they can look towards the future.
There are a couple of points of wisdom that I would like to pass on:
- No matter how much you feel you have prepared… prepare even more
- Don’t underestimate the importance of the UKCAT or BMAT – universities can put a lot of emphasis on these scores so PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
- When considering work experience, you need to actually have good quality work experience that gives you a true insight into life as a Doctor and the team in the NHS – as well as having a caring role. This is far better than pure quantity of work experience. You also need to be able to reflect on your experiences, saying what you learnt and how it made you better equipped to become a Doctor
- You can never practice too much for interviews – research questions, practice questions and get anyone and everyone you know to test you
- My last one is: don’t be disheartened if you don’t get in the first time. It’s a stressful and hard process and there are many routes into medicine nowadays. Sometimes the best Doctors are those with a bit of extra life experience.