Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Interview #3

Currently listening to: Celestial Voices - Pink Floyd

Being a medical school applicant basically means signing away a year of your life, mind and sanity to the medical schools in the hope that you can get an offer by the end of it all. During that year you are constantly preoccupied with thoughts regarding your application. This does not only affect those of an obsessive or neurotic disposition, but rather is a result of the entire applications process and how complicated it's become in recent years. It starts off during the summer with preparation for entrance exams then slowly but steadily builds up over the next few months until finally, nearly a year on, you reach the end of the applications cycle. You can't not think about it, it is constantly at the back of your mind (and as I've discovered - in your nightmares too), a perpetual source of stimulation and a sort of low level attrition warfare on the rest of your psyche.

Which is why when things go right you really have to cherish it, because when so much of your time is spent imagining the worst case scenario over and over again, getting good news is a sign that you're doing something right and may be inching ever closer to your ultimate aim. Hence why I'm very pleased to announce that I've just been invited to interview for the 5 yr degree at Barts and The London next month. I've been sent an article on an aspect of medical ethics which I will be asked questions on, as well as on my personal statement, so I shall be doing a lot of reading over the coming days and weeks. Online medicine forums indicate that the interviewers for the 5yr degree at BL are supposed to be friendly and nice, so let's hope that it goes well. The interview is on Feb 14th, which is the day before I go to Coventry for the Warwick Selection Centre. Needless to say, it's going to be a very busy two days!

It's amazing really. All through sixth form and my BSc I would have killed for just one interview, now I've been invited to 3/3. It's really fantastic how things can (and do) sometimes change for the better. So on a similar note, what I want out of this process is just one offer. So as always...keep calm and carry on and let's see what happens.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

One month to go

Currently listening to: Maxwell's Silver Hammer - The Beatles

So here I am, nearly a week after finishing my first set of postgraduate exams, and still recovering. Sadly the SMD calendar is so tight that we finished exams on the 9th and we were back for our new modules on the 11th. I spent the whole of Christmas revising, the new year doing exams and only got one day off before starting all over again. Happily enough, I feel that the exams mostly went well with the notable exception of Research Skills and Sciences Paper 1 (I dislike practicals and I dislike exams about practicals even more), which can only be summed up by the term "FUBAR".

Aside from that paper however, RSS Paper 2 went as well as can be expected for a subject which I a) hate and b) have no talent for, so hopefully that and my coursework will make up for paper 1. The Molecular and Cell Biology and Basic Pathology papers went well, so here's hoping I managed to pass Part 1 of my MSc. Speaking of, some marks from last term have begun trickling in, and I am pleasantly surprised:

Basic Pathology - essay on mutliple myeloma: 90%
Molecular and Cell Biology - essay on angiogenesis: 70%
RSS - SDS PAGE and Western Blotting: 65%
RSS - Statistics viva: 62.5%

All in all a good set of marks which I'm very pleased with. The final two don't look particularly impressive, but when you bear in mind that I'm god-awful at labs AND maths, they become fairly decent. As always, it seems I do best in essays, because I like extended writing, especially when I can pick the topic according to my interests, and not have to feign a fascination for electrophoresis FFS. The essays are worth 25% of the total module mark, so I hope they'll make up for any booboos made during the exams. Results should be out by the end of the month.

Wow, such a long time since I made a "grade-whoring" (as one of my friends kindly puts it) post...it almost feels like I'm back at QMUL SBCS angsting over biomedical sciences. Though in actual fact I could bomb my MSc exams and still be okay for medicine, which is not something I could say last year!

Medicine...so in exactly a month (and a few hours), I will be boarding the train to Coventry for the Warwick Selection Centre (where I'll also be considered for the Barts and The London GEP). It hasn't quite hit me yet, perhaps because I'm still quite drained from exams, but I'm sure as it gets closer to the date, I'll start feeling the nerves more and more.

In the meantime, I've been preparing by reading the BBC's health news section, trying to get clued up on MMC and NHS politics and I've also bought two interview preparation books (this and this) which are proving to be good reads. Admittedly some of the advice is pretty common sense (like, erm, don't be an arrogant twat in your interview) but there's a lot of decent stuff in there about the NHS, ethics, etc. In all honesty, like most other things, the Selection Centre will probably be nothing like what I imagine it to be, and there's only so much books will be able to help. Ultimately, it's all down to how I perform on the day. So I guess all I can do is continue preparing, try to stay positive and just see what happens. Keep calm and carry on, which, now I think about it, has pretty much been my motto since last April.

Hope you're all well and enjoying the new year.

P.S. All interview tips and advice are very much appreciated.

P.P.S. No news from Southampton or Barts and The London (for the standard 5 year degree).

Sunday, 1 January 2012


Currently listening to: A Hopeful Transmission/Don't Let It Break Your Heart - Coldplay

How times change. When I compare New Year's Eve of 2010/11 to New Year's Eve of 2011/12, it really shows just how different life is now...or in some cases how much it's stayed the same.

Then: Quietly getting drunker and drunker on the champagne my aunt's husband had brought for the family gathering at my parent's house.
Now: Revising feverishly all evening in preparation for first set of exams, 20 minute break at 23:50, back up at 00:10 after watching the fireworks on TV.

Then: Anxious third year still recovering from awful set of second year exam results, trying not to think about finals.
Now: Stressed postgrad recovering from harrowing first term which was twice as much work as the whole of third year, trying not think about impending exams starting on Jan 3rd.

Then: Feeling hopeless about chances of getting into medicine.
Now: Feeling slightly less hopeless about chances of getting into medicine.

From reading that, you might assume that I'm not particularly happy...but that's not true at all, it's just the exam stress speaking. So let me explain. 2011 was without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, year of my life. It finally felt (and I'm fairly certain that I'm beginning to overuse this expression) like everything had finally fallen into place. I finally sorted out my grades, got my degree, got a good score for my UKCAT, started my pathology MSc and to top it all off, got some interviews for medical school. The latter was without a doubt the most amazing thing to have happened this year, as it has been something I've been aiming at for four years now...simply to have the chance to prove, face to face, just how much I want to do medicine. So that was definitely the cherry on top of the 2011 cake.

Like I mentioned, I am definitely tired and stressed. I've had two and a half weeks of holidays to revise for four postgraduate exams. Having never sat exams at this level before, I have no idea what it will be like and on what basis you get good or bad marks. But simply knowing that these exams will not affect my chances of being able to study medicine makes coping with the stress just that little bit easier because I know that should the worse happen, my ultimate ambition will not be endangered. But because I am also a workaholic type, I really have been trying my best to revise effectively so I can pass these exams. So here's hoping that they're not too awful!

Aside from anything else, 2012 is a year of massive potential for me. It has the potential to be the most amazing year ever. I could finish it a medical student with a MSc. Alternatively I could mess up my interviews, not get in and have to go through all of this again. I suppose only time will tell. It's literally only ten weeks from now really, and then everything will be clear, one way or another. And from this side of 2012 it seems a lot closer.

Last year I got my wish of finishing my BSc with a 2:1...this year I only have one wish...to get a med school offer to go with it.

Happy new year to you all, hope it's an amazing one for each and every one of you.