How to Stand Out as a GEM Applicant

Safe to say, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed when planning your first steps in a Graduate Medicine Application. With over 10,000 applicants each year, it’s natural to wonder how you’ll stand out amongst them and – comparison being the thief of all joy – certainly doesn’t help that! That is not to say that you should ever feel you aren’t good enough to apply, and don’t let the statistics demoralise you. With a strong motivation and passion for studying medicine, I can safely say you should absolutely pursue your goal.

Having been in this position myself before applying, hopefully these tips will help break it down and make things feel more manageable.

Importantly, this is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it’ll help.

1. What’s your first degree?

As part of this, you need to carefully consider where best to apply to given the qualifications you have. Some universities will accept non-science degrees whereas some won’t so be careful to make selections based on these criteria!

What is your degree classification? Did you get a 2:1? In order to apply (with minor exceptions in rare circumstances) you need a 2:1 classification or a 2:2 and a masters. It is important that if you are applying whilst still studying for your undergrad that you aim for as high a result as possible. Obviously not a necessity, but having further qualifications such as a Masters or a PHD can help you to stand out beyond just having an undergrad.

One other thing is to think about how the teaching experience you have had will best suit the teaching style of the medical schools you’re applying to. This can show you have really done your research and have figured out how you’ll fit the school well. This isn’t something that will necessarily come across in your personal statement but can come across really well at interview.

In order to really stand out here you could also consider any appropriate further academia. This for example could be a prize you won for something during your undergraduate, a top mark in an exam, a published paper or a presentation of your work at a conference. These certainly aren’t things that every candidate can say that they’ve done so are absolutely worth talking about in your personal statement.

2. First class admissions test results

Whether you’re going for the BMAT, UCAT or GAMSAT – it sounds obvious but your scoring here will be the one of the first things that universities use to decide whether to proceed with your application.

It feels tough that a score like this can be the make or break but it really does go to show that setting aside enough time to prep does give you the first leg up you need.

Having said that, each university has different average score cut offs and decision processes regarding the scores so doing specific research on each university you want to apply for is 100% worth it. Read the admissions statements with a fine-tooth comb!

Aiming high in these exams, ultimately helps you to get to the interview stage (fingers crossed) and that’s where you can prove who you are face to face.  

3. Not all just about the studying!

A couple of things to say here so we’ll split it into chunks:

  • Extra-curriculars: When writing your personal statement, it can feel like there isn’t enough scope word wise to demonstrate your involvement in things such as sports, special interests or societies. It is however important to note that something such as an active committee role in a sports club or society, competing in a sport at a high level or a community role that you have are all key to mention. Involvement such as this brings to light your teamwork and communication skills in a setting that isn’t oriented around academia and can show the admissions team what you could then contribute to the medical school. Perhaps also there’s something unique that you do or a society that you run already which you could set up at the university – this can come across very well.
  • Work experience: There is no one size fits all approach here. Work experience in a clinical environment can often be hard to obtain and whilst exposure to a hospital setting is important there are many other transferable skills from paid work or careers that you may have had which are equally as relevant so don’t worry!
  • Some of you may well have been working for a few years as a health care professional e.g. nurse, physiotherapist, dietitian and this is invaluable experience and provides the most unique insight into the world of healthcare as it is today.
    • That is not to say that if you haven’t had a career in healthcare like this you don’t have a chance. One way to stand out in terms of clinical work experience is to consider applying for a paid bank or part time role at a hospital as a Health Care Assistant for example. This demonstrates a very clear motivation to care and a desire to seek clinical exposure.
    • Demonstrating a variety of clinical exposure, especially if that involves shadowing doctors in several settings helps to show a determination to get relevant experience. Being able to talk about time spent in primary, secondary or tertiary care can bring interesting conversation to the table especially at interview.
    • It is worth noting that if you are struggling to find any in person hospital experience there are some online opportunities such as with Brighton and Sussex Medical School
    • If you have had any experience with charitable or voluntary work, be that abroad or in the UK that can also come across very well. This shows a willingness to commit your time to a cause, often close to your heart and often demonstrates a strong community spirit.

4. Interview – practise, practise, practise!

Once you hit the interview stage understandably the stress ramps up a bit but so far you’ve shown that you’re a worthy candidate. It goes without saying here that practice makes perfect, but really, there is no limit to the value that going over and over questions and scenarios can have. Whether that be with a friend, parent or just recording yourself answering – keep going! Making sure to avoid generic or pre-rehearsed scripted responses is crucial. Whilst it is important to have your information bank of NHS hot topics, ethical issues, doctors’ roles and responsibilities etc., it is also vital to ensure that you haven’t just learnt responses in parrot fashion. They’ll be looking to see flexibility in your mindset and whether or not you can think on your feet.

Remember that ‘on the day’, the interviewer will have already met with lots of candidates. Refining your technique and making your answers precise, understandable, and well-structured leaves little room for interpretation and signposts information neatly for the interviewer. Finally: watch for the fidgeting, avoid the filler words as much as possible, and take time to think after each question – don’t be afraid to ask for a repeat of the question!

If you want help getting into your dream university then also be sure to check out our Coaching Programme. As part of this programme, you will get in-depth help with the entire application process from whatever stage you join at till you get into the medical school of your choice. This is done through 1-on-1 mentoring, and the founder of the course, Dr Ashley Hilton is always available for any questions. You can find out more about the Elite Programme here.

Written by Issy Buchanan

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