Friday, 28 October 2011

The god's honest truth about being a scientist

Currently listening to: Charmless Man - Blur

By night I may be a med school applicant obsessively scouring NMM for new info (nyet), but by day I'm just another lowly postgrad trying to make it through my MSc.

Earlier today I stumbled upon this image which I think sums up life and relationships in science and academia very well indeed...current and ex science students will probably appreciate just how true it is:

I'll give you three guesses to work out which of the above images is how I see myself!

Hints: It's not Einstein or Chuck Norris.

So far nothing to report from the med schools except for those three acknowledgements. Birmingham and BSMS have apparently started interviewing people, but no word from any of my choices so MSc may be difficult and tiring, but at least it's a distraction. Hope you're all well.

Monday, 17 October 2011


Currently listening to: Don't Look Away - Joshua Radin

Like I said a few weeks ago, lately it feels like life is moving at a really fast pace. In the three days since I've applied I've figured out my Track details and received acknowledgements from Barts and The London for my applications to their A100 and A101 programmes. Very quick! The downside to knowing my Track details is that I'm checking the damn thing twice an hour...even though I know there is ZERO chance of receiving an offer, or even a rejection, at this early stage. In the space of about 24 hours I've become a full fledged Track addict, and things haven't been helped by the initial high of receiving those acknowledgements either!

Whilst on my way to Whitechapel Library earlier, I walked past the Garrod Building (the administrative hub of Barts and The London SMD) felt so weird knowing that inside that building which I've walked past several times a week for over three years now and had classes in, someone could potentially be looking through my application and deciding my future. So, so, so weird.

Anyway, this is what my Track screen looks like...I'm just hoping I see one "unconditional" there by September 2012, please!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

And so begins the most stressful six months of my life

Currently listening to: Corporal Clegg - Pink Floyd

During my time at QMUL, I had only one thought going through my mind whilst attempting to get to grips with my Biomedical Sciences degree: "it will all be worth it when I apply for medical school". Having wanted to study medicine since the age of about 9 or 10 (I wanted to be a forensic pathologist back then - I was an odd child), but not having had the grades to apply during school, my degree seemed like an opportunity to atone for my rubbish chemistry marks during sixth form. Happily, it paid off, I graduated in July and sent off my UCAS application for medical school two days ago. It feels like all those plans which I made back when I first started university are slowly being realised, which is a pretty good feeling indeed.

So...after all the indecision surrounding my final choice over the past few weeks (see earlier posts), where did I pick? The results are in, and the following choices made it onto the UCAS form:

Barts and The London A101 GEP
Warwick University A101 GEP
Barts and The London A100 5 yr degree


Southampton University A101 GEP

Surprising no? I seemed dead set against it didn't I? So what made me change my mind? Given that Newcastle's UKCAT cut off last year was 702.5, and this year it will almost certainly rise, I would have had a 100% chance of rejection had I applied there. I still have an overwhelming chance of rejection with Southampton, but it's less than 100%, at any rate. And without wanting to sound completely arrogant, by the time I finished writing my personal statement, I thought I'd actually made quite a good job of it. I'm not trying to say that I'll definitely meet Southampton's standards, but I do think I've given myself a decent shot so I don't feel totally hopeless for applying there.

So, what now? By the time my birthday rolls round (in March), I'll be one year older and also have a very good clue about what I'll be doing come September 2012. It's so strange to think that in just under six months everything will be way or another. At the end of the day, these past three years (and counting) have all been focused on one goal: getting into medical school. To that end, I really hope that my hard work during my degree, my UKCAT score and my personal statement will land me an interview or two, because words really cannot describe just how much I want to do medicine.

In the mean time, I know there will be a lot of nervous waiting, sleepless nights, and endless pessimism. So I'm glad that my masters degree will give me something else to think about during this time. Thanks to everyone who's commented these past few weeks, the advice has been much appreciated. Particular shout out to "A Fresher" for very succinctly summing up why Newcastle would have been a bad choice for me.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The curse of the fourth choice

Currently listening to: Songbird - Oasis

Getting into medical school as a graduate is all about hoop jumping. You spend three years (and £27K) doing a life sciences degree at which nothing is acceptable but a 2:1 or above. You kill yourself with stress over a subject which, let's face it, isn't even your first preference. Having got through the degree with a satisfactory grade, you then shell out £75 for the pleasure of taking the UKCAT exam, which pretty much takes up all Summer with preparation. If you've successfully negotiated that hurdle, you're then in a position to actually begin your application, which must, amongst other things, contain an excellent reference and a brilliant personal statement detailing why exactly the medical schools ought to be interested in you. And then you have to pick your choices.

But here's the catch, even after all this hoop jumping, endless exams and even doing a degree which wasn't your first choice, apparently it's still not enough as lots of GEP courses still have A-level requirements. So, for example, I can't apply to Bristol because as a 17 year old I screwed up my chemistry A level. Never mind that over the next three years I took FOUR university level biochemistry modules (one of them optional), nope, that still doesn't cut it, meaning that a fair few med schools are still out of my reach.

So back to the point, I'm feeling utterly screwed about my final choice. I'm very happy with my first three choices: Barts and The London 5 yr, Barts and The London 4 yr and Warwick 4 yr, but it seems like everytime I pick a fourth choice, something crops up which makes it seem like I'll get an automatic rejection.

First I wanted to go for Southampton GEP, but no-one knows exactly on what basis they make offers, since they don't interview. So basically your personal statement has to be amongst the top 10% or so, out of a total 1000 applicants. Very long odds.

Then there was Kings College London's 5 yr degree. No A level requirement, my UKCAT is probably high enough, really decent university in central London. Seems like a perfect choice right? Until they told me that if I were to gain an offer from them, it would be based on my MSc and not my BSc. I don't fancy another year of stressing over my grades, so that's KCL gone.

Finally I thought I'd made a breakthrough with Newcastle GEP. A brilliant university in a really cool city and the cherry on the cake was that I was told on the phone that their cut off last year was 690. I emailed them just to be sure and got a totally different reply that the cut off was 702.5. The cut-offs rarely go down, so with my 697.5 if I applied there I'm almost certain I'd be rejected.

In short, I'm completely stuck. I feel like I'm effectively throwing away one of my choices if I apply to either of these three but I genuinely have nowhere else to apply to (I've checked all the unis here). I probably will go ahead and risk it and apply to Newcastle GEP but I'd bet anything that they're going to reject me straight away.

I have just over two weeks to make up my mind, but it feels like I'm genuinely at a dead end. Any advice is much appreciated.