Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, and Oxford and Cambridge Deadline 2019

The October 15th application deadline is fast approaching, and it should be clear why these courses and universities require you to apply early. Competition is intense, and you will have to take a BMAT or similar test, perhaps submit essays or other work, and likely attend an interview. Like every course, however, the UCAS statement is the first impression the university will have of you. It’s essential for it not only to present you at your best, but to prove that your application is worth taking forward to interview and, hopefully, an offer.

Wider reading and research:

For these highly competitive courses, the typical UCAS offer is A*AA (or even higher), but there is no shortage of applicants with not only stellar predicted A Level grades, but a crop of A*s or 9s at GCSEs already behind them. It’s essential to demonstrate that you are going well beyond the course.

Being able to show evidence of wider reading and research is an easy way to pique an admissions tutor’s interest. Perhaps an aspect of one of your A Level courses has inspired you to research it further. Particularly for arts and humanities, you might also have independently researched an area not covered in your course, such as a different literary or historical period. For areas that do not continue directly from a particular school subject – such as medicine and law – it is useful to demonstrate you have already done some ‘pre-reading’, to get a sense you really know what the course entails. The most important thing, however, is to avoid falling into either of these most common traps:

·      “Through reading publications such as ‘The Economist…’, I have discovered that…” – too vague. Given that this magazine has a readership of over a million people, this sentence does not make the candidate stand out. A better approach would be to name a particular article, interrogate its assumptions, and make a link to a particular academic concept or another aspect of your reading.

·      “I have read a variety of works to enrich my understanding of the biochemistry behind medicine, including “Molecular Cell Biology” (Lodish), “Biochemistry” (Berg et al), and “Molecular Biology of the Cell” (Alberts et al).” An impressive list – but this reveals nothing about what the candidate, as a burgeoning academic, has actually gained from this reading.

 

Work experience:

For medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine, you will already know that work experience is an essential part of your application. Universities need to know that you already have a strong understanding of how these courses, leading to professional qualification and potentially a life-long career, differ from a purely academic degree in the sciences.

Your statement should go beyond just listing where you worked and what you did.

Some suggestions could be:

·      Individual patient cases you found interesting;

·      A particular surgical procedure you observed;

·      Your reflections on how a condition was diagnosed;

·      Any comparisons you can make between different settings.

Voluntary work can also be highly useful, especially if you are working with vulnerable people to whom you have had a duty of care, and would have had to demonstrate the professional and ethical values required of professionals.

Finally, you can often integrate this nicely with your academic strengths. Observing a particular condition may well have led you to read some of the relevant medical literature or investigate current research and development; equally, you may have had the opportunity to see a biological concept in a new light.

The most important thing is that you prove yourself to be far more than a passive observer. No-one excepts you to have had direct, hands-on experience working alongside a leading expert, but you do need to show that you have been able to reflect on and evaluate the experience, and demonstrate how it has influenced your choice of course.

Overall:

Your statement overall should convince the admissions tutors to take your application further. Your past achievements are important, but remember to be selective. Although your hobbies and activities can demonstrate what you are like as a person, you need to be realistic in whether you feel they should form part of your UCAS personal statement. They are best included when you are performing or competing at a high level – such is in sport, drama, or music – or contributing to your community. If you’re not able to demonstrate this, it might be better to concentrate more of your statement o