Currently listening to: Ocean Drive - Lighthouse Family
Warning: long post!
As forecasted by Tofu two months ago when I got my degree results, "the 'where should i apply' post is inevitable". Well she was right, so here it is, if rather late in the day. The reason for the late appearance of this post was that I didn't want to get really keen on my choices, only to do really badly in the UKCAT and have to bitterly give them up. My attitude towards my application (and life on general) is probably best summed up by Harold Macmillan: “I'm an optimist, but an optimist who carries a raincoat”. Which probably means I'm a pessimistic optimist and therefore not really an optimist at all. But no matter since I got 697.5 in my UKCAT which would have been above last years cut-offs for most places, so now I finally feel like I can make this post without it just being pointless talk.
Where to begin? Probably some history about me: I didn't get amazing A-levels: ABCBC (A in biology, C in chemistry) and a lot of places expect BBB with a decent grade in chemistry. So that excludes the likes of Bristol, Liverpool, etc for me. I have done three shadowing placements and spent this summer volunteering as a teaching assistant at a learning centre for brain damaged adults, but two months isn't really major or long-term...so that excludes Leicester. My UKCAT is good, but it's not outstanding, so that would exclude Newcastle and KCL. When all is said and done, the only 4 year GEPs I stand a reasonable chance with are Barts and The London, Southampton and Warwick. Which are fine, but that's three choices out of four.
Originally I had planned to pick three GEPs and one standard degree. The GEPs would obviously be Barts and The London, Warwick and Southampton and the final choice most likely Kings College London (my UKCAT would be good enough for their 5 year programme I think). But the more I think about it, the less sure I am about Southampton. In fact, I really want to replace it with Barts and The London's five year degree.
The reason for this is simple: Southampton's admissions process is a total enigma. They don't interview so it's only judged on the contents of your personal statement (UKCAT has a very insignificant role for them). And judging a personal statement is such an arbitrary thing, I might think I've written what they're looking for, but how do I really know? Looking through last year's Southampton threads on New Media Medicine, an unbelievable number of well qualified applicants were rejected and they were completely perplexed by this. But at the end of the day, Southampton have to pick 40 top personal statements from over 1000 to make offers to so many people will end up disappointed...and I'm not confident enough to say mine will be that outstanding.
I don't want to be one of the many rejected, I'd rather be cautious even if it means going for another five year degree. I don't want to be writing in August 2012 without an offer and kicking myself for not applying to Barts and The London (getting an interview for A100 is based on UKCAT score and mine is reasonably good. Last year's cut off was 642.5.). I'm trying to be prudent and pragmatic, because this time next year I don't want to be starting a forced gap year, a PhD, or a job I dislike.
But applying to two five year degrees has its own drawbacks as theoretically it means you have a half chance of ending up with no tuition fee loan (assuming you get the offer in the first place). My plan for this is a) hoping I get a GEP offer and b) if I do end up with a five year offer, using my maintenance loan (£~7600 p.a in London) to pay for the fees...and moving in with my grandparents (they live in Zone 2, reasonably close to both BL and KCL) to eliminate living costs.
Not the coolest thing for a 22 year old to do, but medicine requires sacrifices. I guess this would be my one. Luckily my grandparents are really nice and let me do my own thing, so moving in with them wouldn't be bad at all. But it's either that, or working as a rentboy, which I did consider briefly, but on the whole I've concluded it's not really the right student job for me.
Some people have told me it would be a "waste" if I apply to or study for a five year degree. That my BSc and (by 2012) MSc would have all been in vain and I'd be back to square one studying in a class filled with 18 year old freshers. I don't see it that way. Medicine is what I'd love to do and I won't deliberately reduce my chances of gaining an offer because of misplaced pride. Not to mention, the skills I've gained in my BSc and MSc would prove just as useful in a five year degree as a four year one. Would I prefer to be a doctor in four years instead of five? Of course. Would I reject a five year offer if it were a choice between that and nothing? Not a chance in hell.
So I guess as things stand, currently I'm seriously considering the following choices:
Barts and The London 4 year degree
Warwick 4 year degree
Barts and The London 5 year degree
Kings College London 5 year degree
That said, being the pessimistic optimist that I am, most days I feel like I have a greater chance of getting into Katy Perry than of getting into medical school. So in reality even after all this strategising I could still end up with no offer come this time next year. But I really, really hope that doesn't happen!
All advice and words of wisdom are very much appreciated :)