Induction & Freshers Week

NUS-Card
My NUS Card!

At freshers fayre I made the classic mistake of joining every club and society going and believe me there are many, almost anything imaginable. I felt guilty about receiving all manner of freebies, so the least I could do was handover my email address in return for USB drives, medical books & dictionaries, bags, lanyards, pens and chocolates galore.

I’m positive however that I didn’t sign up for the “Harry Potter Society.” Maybe the clubs and societies trade email addresses with each other or maybe they acquired my email by magic? Anyway I’m still getting emails from ‘Dumbledore’ and I’m suspecting a few admissions to A&E (ER) from faces smashing into platform 9 and 3/4.

Enrolling was pretty painless and I’m now a proud owner of an ID card which has my name, my photo and the words “medical student” written underneath – physical proof! I’ve also received an NUS card which entitles the holder to student discount at lots of shops – brilliant!

The head of school gave a talk about “Professionalism” and how we all have to be more responsible than other students so the less said about the Freshers Week antics, the better…

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Too Old for Medical School?

‘How old is too old?’ and who can determine that? I came to the conclusion that ‘only you know if you’re too old’. My logic was that, assuming I worked till 65, I’d still be able to practice as a doctor for more than 20 years which is not insignificant and more if I worked till 70 – which looks likely considering what the UK government are doing to the NHS.

However, being twice the age of the usual applicant and with medicine being so competitive, I also worried what admissions tutors and interviewers would think.  Although there’s no upper age limit ‘officially’, I thought there might be hidden or unofficial discrimination.

I felt that the odds were stacked against me. In the end I worried needlessly. If age related discrimination exists in selecting candidates for medical school then I seem to have bypassed it. I hope the offers I received can reassure other mature grads and “oldies” who are thinking of applying. Age shouldn’t stop you applying. Finances, family commitments, what stage of life you consider yourself at or perhaps a loss of job status maybe, but not age. At one medical school interview I was asked a question indirectly related to age: “How do you feel about studying alongside people who might be much younger than you?” but that was it. In fact it was only the admissions tutors at some Access to Medicine courses who were less positive and who thought I was too old whilst no eyebrows were raised or eyelids batted at any of the medical schools.

In short, if you can show that you’re: 1) committed & motivated 2) realistic about the consequences involved and are not going through a “mid-life crisis” and obviously that 3) you have the potential to make a good doctor, then you’ll have a good chance of getting in. Age just won’t be an issue.

How I thought medical school admissions would see that points 1 – 3 were met:

  1. Long term voluntary work and/or healthcare experience and/or shadowing in a caring environment. I think this is important as the experience will; show you’re committed, help you to write a better personal statement, help you construct convincing answers in interviews as well as giving you access to members of the healthcare profession so that you can ask all the questions that you really should have. It will also show that this isn’t a career change made spontaneously and that you made the effort to place yourself in a healthcare environment to experience it for yourself. It takes time to build up experiences with patients and even to arrange volunteering so start early.
  2. Think about how you’ll finance the course, loss of earnings, what it means to immediate family, partner & children. You may currently hold a position of seniority, how would it feel to give that up and start right at the very bottom? It’s pretty scary you know! Consider how you feel about working notoriously long hours, that not all patients get better and how you might deal with making mistakes. Ensure you know the career pathway well and all the steps involved in becoming a doctor. Why not become a nurse?  How would you answer this question in a medical school interview?
  3. Craft an original but honest personal statement, communicate well, be shiny and charming at interview

Obviously there is the academic side plus you need a good score in entrance exams but otherwise don’t waste time worrying about age.

Here’s a nice report about Equality and Diversity in UK Medical Schools by the BMA. I’ve also put a few links to blogs from older medical students and news articles here

If you’re thinking of applying but haven’t –  what’s stopping you? If you’re a current medical student who is older than average I’d love to hear about your experiences!

10 Days Left Until Medical School

Just over a week to go before registration and freshers week. I’ve enrolled online and I’m even able to download timetables and lectures already. Amazing! We didn’t have this when I did my first degree! We didn’t even have internet or email. Can you imagine that? Looking forward to seeing further advances in university education compared to 20 years ago!

Through the wonders of social networks I’ve met a few of my classmates already, both online and in the pub (well, several pubs. Actually many pubs to be truthful). Most are graduates and some have first degrees in areas as diverse as music, architecture, physics, business… so we’re a random bunch. It’s great to talk with people who have gone through the same experiences as you to get into medical school. I’m the oldest so far though.

Whilst we grads are mostly stressing about funding and maintenance loans, the school leavers are talking about which events to go to at Fresher’s week. I’m not sure I’ll keep up with the youngsters on a 3-legged pub crawl dressed in a toga.

I keep thinking about whether I’ll really be able to keep my head above water in a sea of 18-year-old geniuses? I hope this will help:  Survive Medical School – Top Tips for Tomorrow’s Doctors ” from the Student BMJ. (1)”

1) Malik S, Zarsadia P, Walker J, Mead-Robson A, McCann K. Survive Medical School, BMA, 2009.