Monday, 24 July 2017

Next steps

Hello again! I hope the summer is good for you and that you have been able to think about some of the questions I posed in the first blog as well as ‘testing the waters’ by getting some voluntary work or work experience in your chosen field.
Keeping a journal in which to jot down thoughts from your work is invaluable.  Admissions departments for Medicine, Dentistry and Vet Science are keen to know not so much what you did in these times, but what you learned about the career and about yourself.  A good question to ask yourself after you come home each day is ‘how did that make me feel?’.  It’s good to be honest and acknowledge revulsion, fear and anxiety as well as the wow! that was fascinating/so interesting. Also, jot down the hours you’ve done and the location as some universities ask for these after application and may check-up that you have in fact done what you say you’ve done!
The journal is also a good place for recording interesting books, articles or documentaries that have made an impression on you. Hopefully, when you come to write the all-important personal statement on your application form, you will have a journal full of things to draw upon.  The Student BMJ  is a good source of articles and a great book to begin your reading on Medicine is ‘The other side’ by Kate Granger,  
Dentists might like to consider doing the free, on-line course on Dentistry hosted by Future Learn

and Vets – there is a Future of Farming Future Learn course 

Now to A level choices……..for Medicine, most universities require Chemistry and it seems odd (to me, at least) if you don’t do Biology, although not everywhere requires this A level.  Which leaves the third choice to consider.  If you are super-bright, ambitious and considering OxBridge, then you need to do Maths or Physics as these universities really want strong scientists.  Otherwise, pick a subject you like and in which you will be able to get a top grade of A or A*.  There’s a lot to be said for doing History, English, a Modern Foreign Language or similar as evidence shows these candidates tend to interview better than the traditional scientists.  For Dentistry, both Chemistry and Biology are required and the third subject could be anything – Psychology and Business Studies are two popular ones here.  Vets – Chemistry and Biology are given and the third should be Maths or Physics please.
A word of caution:  Further Maths is not advisable, many universities require three A levels to be achieved at the same sitting so doing Maths in a year is a disadvantage as you will then have to get three different A levels in your second year.  If you are keen on Maths, take four subjects in the first year to avoid this pitfall and leave your options open.

So, come September you will be enrolling into a sixth form somewhere and looking forward to a different kind of study and hopefully some privileges compared with the younger kids.  Please make sure you take advantage of the extra-curricular stuff offered by your provider.  The Duke of Edingburgh’s Award scheme, various sporting activities, music, drama, debate, MUN, subject societies, charities, to name but a few.  All these will show you are a well-rounded person and not just a hard worker in academic matters.  You will also gain confidence, meet new people and develop leadership skills.  All these things are important and have to be commented on by your referee.    It’s also good, of course, to continue with things you did before A levels and to have outside interests.  Music, sport, NCS, Scouts/Guides, community action and suchlike are all great things to add to your CV.  Don’t forget to continue with and broaden your voluntary work and work experience for your chosen career as well.  Universities like to see commitment to these; six months minimum shows this on your part and is really helpful to the organisation for whom you work.

Enough to be going on with…..I will chat again in September to see how you are getting on.  Please feel free to comment/ask questions and I can get back to you.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Starting out to become a doctor, dentist or vet.

Hello, I am here to help you in your quest to get into university to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science.  My blog is based on experience in sixth forms over the past 30 years, successfully guiding many students into these careers and, most recently, students from widening participation backgrounds.  Future posts will take you through the stages to achieve a successful application. 

Great careers and definitely worth considering carefully as there will always be a need for such roles.

I hope I am talking to you when you are about 16 years old and somewhere near Year 11 at school.  If you are older than this, I can still advise but the content will be a little different.

The big question to ask yourself is 'How do I really know I want to be a doctor/dentist/vet?'.  In other words, how have you tested this vocation, is it really your decision and is it realistic?  So, what experience have you had of these fields? Who is encouraging you to pursue this career? Have you got the academic potential to make this a feasible aspiration?

Around the age of 16, you should be able to get some work experience dealing with vulnerable people (children or adults) in a clinical setting OR observe a dentist at work OR work with a variety of animals.  Some young people do this and quickly discover they can't cope with blood and gore or watching people/animals suffer and not being able to make them better.  Job well done!  Others find the experience to be energising and enjoyable.  Also job well done!    If you are just about to finish your GCSEs, there is still time for you to get some work experience over the summer holidays if you act quickly.  Be warned, it's tough going and I've known students who have tried 40 dentists, for example, before finding someone who would take them on.  Hospitals have websites with Volunteer pages.  Google for Care Homes near you.  Animal Sanctuaries and Pet Zoos often want volunteers.
Put on a smart outfit and take a CV with you to visit - with a smile to impress and offer your services.

If you are under the expectation of your family to become a doctor or dentist then you need to think carefully about whether this is something you actually want and would be good at doing for the rest of your life.  Neither career is particularly good at making money these days and there are plenty of other jobs which make more.  Status is an oft-quoted reason for qualifiying as a dentist or doctor but do remember that these people are increasingly sued as well as working very long and unsocialble hours.

Academically, you need to be strong to pursue the 'straightforward' pathway into these careers (ie from sixth form to university at 18 years):  6 or so A or A* grades (7,8 and 9s in new money) are the order of the day at GCSE.  You will also need at least a B grade in English GCSE.  You need to be honest with yourself and your parents on results day.  If you have worked your socks off and not got these grades, then it is not impossible but also not likely that you will gain the top grades needed at A level in two years time.  And if you got less good grades because you did not work hard enough, then what does this say about your motivation?  These are hard questions!  But an honest answer now could save you and your family a lot of heartache later.  There are lots of careers, in the NHS and in research, which use caring and science to good effect and you should not rule these out if you are genuinely concerned with helping people through scientific skills.

All for now....good luck with exams and I will catch up with you in my next post.