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Grumpy Biomed

Updated: 2018-04-01T13:29:29.199+01:00


You say goodbye...


Wow, who'd have thought I'd get writer's block over the final entry on this blog? I certainly didn't, I thought it would be the easiest thing in the world to write, but believe it or not I've been putting this post off for weeks now, and now that I'm actually writing it, it's only after four or five drafts and abandoned attempts!

Throughout my time writing on here I always imagined what writing the final entry would be like, when exactly it would be, whether anyone would still be reading my ramblings, etc (answers: surprisingly sentimental, a year later than originally planned and apparently yes!). One thing I definitely did know however was that I'd only stop updating this blog once I got into medical school...I knew that if and when this happened, I'd no longer be a biomedical sciences student (obviously) and that I'd no longer be grumpy. Well, no longer grumpy about my course anyway. So in a way, this entry is all that I've been aiming for and looking forward to for many years now. And as I now look back, I think this blog has been extremely helpful in allowing me to destress over the past few years. All throughout the bad times (end of second year), good times (third year) and unexpected times (leaving my masters), it's been a space where I can let it all out, both the positive and the negative and it has definitely helped me to unwind, which has been really great and just what I needed at times. I've also received some really sound advice and kind words over the years which is also something else I'm very grateful for!

I moved to Warwickshire 10 days ago and about a week ago I went back down to London for the day to visit some friends from undergrad. We were due to meet in the evening, but I arrived a few hours earlier because I needed to do something I'd been avoiding for a while: I needed to go round each of the campuses I'd lived and studied in over the past four years and have a final reminisce and look around. QMUL and Barts and The London, like most universities in London, have several campuses (in Mile End, Whitechapel and West Smithfield), but what makes QMUL/BL unique is that all of the facilities for each campus are hosted on-site. That means the library, halls, classes etc on each campus are all self-contained and not spread throughout the city. This was definitely one of the things I liked most about QMUL/ was very easy to feel at home on each campus. And since I lived in halls throughout my time at both institutes, it really did feel like home and each campus and locality holds a lot of memories for me. It felt really good to wander around one last time and relive those memories before heading off to somewhere totally different. Warwick will be where I spend the next four years of my life, doing my dream course, which is something I'm very excited about but I'll always remember the good times I had at QMUL/BL too.

So if you're interested in following my journey through med school, please follow me HERE (and if I'm on your blogroll I'd be very grateful if you updated it to include this new page as this blog won't be updated any longer).

Grumpy Biomed (over and out!)

Grumpy Biomed's inspiration: a long overdue thank you


Currently listening to: The Universal - Blur

So, why did I get into blogging a few years back? There are plenty of other ways of stress relief: talking with friends, listening to good music, going out, walking scenic routes in London, etc. And yes, I've done and continue to do all all of these things, but none of them have been as effective as blogging. It is extremely therapeutic and cathartic to come on here, release my thoughts as a stream of consciousness and a few days, months or even years later to look back and see where I was, what I was going through and where I am now. It helps give me a real sense of perspective and clarity.

But that doesn't really explain why I blog. I could just as easily have kept a diary. But I chose to put this stuff on the internet. This was for two reasons, the first was because I really appreciate the help and advice given to me over the years by readers who leave comments. And I've said thank you for that at several points over the years, but you can never say it enough, so cheers again! But there is one other reason too.

When I was a first year (i.e. a year before I started writing here), I stumbled across a blog written by "MS", a third year biomedical sciences student at UEL and prospective medical student, and at the time applicant. "MS" was quite a different category of student to me: his grades were consistently excellent, he showed up to his classes, and generally seemed very together and organised. But he was not content with being a biomed, he wanted to do medicine. As a first year biomed faced with the seemingly infinite biomedical sciences degree in front of me, I found this anonymous third year's blog to be simultaneously comforting and inspirational in its own way...reading his old posts from the beginning of his course, leading onto his volunteering experiences, UKCAT scores, and finally the submission of his UCAS form provided me with something of a light at the end of the tunnel, a sign that in a few years time I too might end up doing what I truly wanted to do like he had.

As it happened, "MS" got a first and ended up studying medicine at Barts and The London where he is now (presumably) about to go into fourth year...but unfortunately he deleted all his old posts (which were here), however I do remember just how helpful they were to me. So even though he's not likely to ever read this: thank you. You really helped me to maintain some focus and persevere through first year. I hope medicine's just as fulfilling and enjoyable as you hoped it would be.

So, in the middle of second year when I ended up making a blog myself, I deliberately chose to put it in the public that in case there are any other annoyed and stressed out biomed students out there, they can see that the story can indeed have a happy ending. To that end, I do hope this blog has been as useful to someone else as MS' blog was to me.

(Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I'm moving blog sometime next week - just needed to say this final thank you before I ditch the Grumpy Biomed alias!).

Acceptance Afternoon


Currently listening to: Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five - Paul McCartney & WingsWow okay, so, during the past few weeks I've been going through some minor administrative and financial crises. Firstly, there's the student finance issue which I detailed a few days ago, which means I will be penniless come September unless SFE sort themselves out, and also the fact that I still haven't found a flat to live in. Bear in mind I'm supposed to be moving in about 5 weeks. This is not due to lack of effort, indeed, a few weeks back I decided to go for a flat, only to be told that the agent had given it to someone else during a period when their office was supposedly closed. Lovely. Anyway, la lutte continue.So in the spate of all of these incidents, it's been quite easy for me to forget I'm actually about to embark on what has been a dream since childhood for me, namely going to medical school and training to become a doctor. Fortunately, today I was allowed to forget about my lack of money and lack of housing for a while as I went off for the course acceptance afternoon: the first official event I've been to as a soon-to-be medical student at Warwick.I must say, there is nothing quite as nerve-wracking as walking into a room filled with a hundred strangers who are all chatting...and you're alone and looking flustered as your bus turned up later than you expected. Very nerve-wracking initial thought was, "how do they all know eachother?!". Then I realised that if I'd turned up 20 minutes earlier, I'd have been able to get chatting in a less intense environment before the room became packed. I wasn't late by the way, I arrived at 11:20 and the day was kicking off at 11:30. But I was sufficiently late to walk in and look awkward. Anyway, I managed to talk to some people (not people - classmates now!) for a few minutes, before we all went to the lecture theatre. Anyway, the most amazing feeling ever when I went to register and there was my name. Me! As a medical student! On the list! Finally!The first talk was an introduction to Phase I of our course (roughly: the mostly pre-clinical phase). All seems very interesting and a wide range of different modules, none of which include labs! Yay! The lecturers went through the timetable for our first three terms, which is 9-5, Monday to Friday. Feels less like university, and more like a job! Then again, I'm going to be doing a 5 year degree in 4 years, so I wasn't altogether surprised at the intensity of the timetable really. The molecules professor was very lively and animated indeed, and I think, succeeded in successfully scaring most of the class into actually committing to read the biochemistry reading list over the Summer. I'll be looking through my old notes for sure. I've covered all the topics on the syllabus during undergrad and postgrad, though I could do with some revision.Lunch followed, more chatting with random people for five minutes at a time (felt like the interview day all over again), and then more talks. This time on less academic things and more practical affairs such as accommodation, student finance, the disability service, occupational health etc. Then a final talk by the MedSoc reps and a few words from the Phase II (wholly clinical part of the course) director. Again, very interesting. Can't believe in 18 months I'll be a clinical med student (you know, if I pass exams and all).The next time I go back will be in the first week of September when I officially start the course. All I can say is bring it on, I really can't wait! Even the long talk on occupational health was more interesting than every biomed lab I've ever had simply because it's not irrelevant to who I am and what I want to do. To be honest with you, if I'm beginning to find occupational health talks interesting, then it's only a short period of time before I fully evolve into the Painfully Enthusiastic Medical Student:Anyway, I'm sure I've said this a lot, and I will say it a lot more over the coming weeks and months, and you can [...]

Student Finance, please do your job


Currently listening to: She's a Rainbow - The Rolling StonesIf you go on any medical student forum or graduate entry medicine Facebook group, there's one topic which is guaranteed to make every graduate medic roll their eyes in utter exasperation and annoyance. This being Student Finance England, which is, for those of you unfamiliar with the UK system, the branch of the government in charge of deciding who gets how much student loan and then paying this throughout the academic year.Of course, the student loans people don't just annoy graduate medics, and indeed I've heard grumbles from students across the academic spectrum. However, as graduate medics we are already entitled to less funding than "ordinary" non-graduate students. We don't get any grants or university bursaries, just the maintenance loan and tuition fee loan. Not even the full tuition fee loan I might add. So bearing this in mind, you can understand why we're pissed off at constantly being screwed around by this particular government body which doesn't even deign to fund us well.The problem is basically this: the average graduate wishing to go back to university to study for a second non-medical undergraduate degree (BA, BSc, BEng, etc) is not allowed any further funding in way of student loans as they've already been through the university system once. However, it has long been understood that graduate entry medicine (MB ChB or equiv) and dentistry (BDS) are exceptions to this rule, so we receive the tuition fee loan, maintenance loan and the NHS bursary from years 2-4. All good so far. The NHS knows this, the Department of Health knows this, the people know this, even the hallowed BMJ did a piece on it for crying out loud. Except it appears that no one bothered to tell the Student Finance people about this rule. Since they're the ones who control the metaphorical piggy bank, it would have been good to include them when it comes to executing these kind of policies. Talk about a total lack of joined-up government.So, prior to sending off my form (well before the deadline), I decided to pre-empt any chance of Student Finance idiocy by double-checking with them that they know what I'm entitled to as a graduate medic. A bit of confusion at first as the nice man on the phone didn't know what I was talking about, but he went off to talk to his manager and when he came back he assured me that I would be entitled to the tuition fee loan and maintenance loan. All good. A month later, I get a letter informing me that I am entitled to the princely sum of...£0.00. No tuition fee loan or maintenance loan. Obviously their system isn't aware of the exception made for graduate entry medicine and dentistry students.To say that I was not a happy bunny would be understating it. Because now I have to write a letter and make more phone calls to correct what should really be something very easy for a massive organisation to do. The fact that forums and Facebook groups are FILLED with graduate medics writing about how they've repeatedly had to call Student Finance to ask them to correct this issue (and they usually do - they just need a lot of reminding), should suggest to Student Finance that perhaps it would be more efficient and effective if they were simply to fix their damn system so it doesn't implode when a graduate medic's finances need to be assessed.It's really quite worrying that year on year a government department manages to screw up by assessing people incorrectly or paying them late and nothing is done about it. Why does this happen? Because students are a minority and graduate medics even more so. So no one cares. If the tax system or pensions system was to balls up in such a monumental way constantly, there would be an outcry. But as it's students, no one's really that bothered.So, to get away from the rant, I am including some links below which may be of some use to graduate medics and dentsists in need of evidence of our entitlement to funding:Official Dept of He[...]

Just in case you're reading this


(This post will be meaningless to all but one person)

How are you? Happy birthday! I can't believe a whole year's passed since I last saw you. A lot's gone on which I wish I could have told you about. I especially wish I could have told you about getting into medicine, as I think you - more than anyone else - understood just how much that means to me. I have no idea if you ever looked at that scrap of paper upon which I scrawled this blog's address, or indeed, managed to decipher my rubbish handwriting, but if you did, and on the off chance you're reading this, I hope wherever you are and whatever you're doing, you're happy and well. You know I don't believe in fate, but I do hope some day our paths cross again by some fortunate coincidence or another.

Thank you and all the best!

Olive branch


Currently listening to: Sea of Heartbreak - Johnny Cash I generally have a very good relationship with my parents. This wasn't always the case. Until the age of 18 I didn't really feel that close to them. Of course, I always loved them and they me but it wasn't a great relationship. This was mostly because I used to get in trouble a lot at school (why and whether or not it was justified is a whole other story) which didn't really impress them. But after moving schools at 16 (had a great time at my new school) and eventually moving out at 18 to QMUL, my parents and I gave eachother the necessary space for a proper grown--up relationship to develop. As such, our relationship nowadays is great and I can talk to them about nearly anything.However, all through uni as our relationship was improving and maturing, there was one subject which was always guaranteed to cause an argument...and that was my desire to do medicine. I, of course, was set on medicine since childhood, had been denied it at 18 and embarked on my biomed degree with "med school" as my only plan for after graduation. My parents weren't happy with this. They considered it a waste for me to do one degree then chuck it all in and do something else. They were convinced that I'd be too old if I qualified as a doctor at 25 or more. That medicine was too stressful, demanding and emotionally draining for me anyway. That I wouldn't be able to afford it. That it was just too damn competitive and I would be one of the unlucky many not to get a place. Ignoring my constant reminders about how I hated the lab, they would repeatedly tell me about how I would do better at a career in biomedical research anyway. Needless to say, I largely tried to avoid the subject of post-degree options with them throughout my BSc, especially since during years 1 and 2 when my grades didn't seem good enough for medicine anyway, as I didn't want to constantly be reminded about how I was indulging a pipe dream and how I could do great with a 2:2 and a masters followed by a PhD (I was given this particular piece of advice a lot). I'm fairly certain they would tell me this stuff out of a desire to not see me get upset about not getting into medicine and because they wanted me to feel more confident in my other abilities rather than get hung up on medicine. They're certainly not spiteful or discouraging, so because of the fact that they were doing it out of love, I didn't really feel angry at them, just slightly weary everytime the subject was brought up.However, fortunately, this time last year I got a 2:1 for my degree, and then two months later did well in my UKCAT. Last summer, my parents realised that I was good enough to apply to medical school, and maybe even get a place. So they began taking an interest in my med school choices, giving me advice, and even better, listening to me and trusting me when I would tell them that I'd done my research and it doesn't matter if I qualify at 26, that there would be loans available, and that I would be able to handle the course. It was really great to see them taking an interest and not stubbornly continuing to tell me I should do a PhD. So, credit where it's due, this past year they've been very helpful and supportive indeed and were really happy when I got my offer in March. They still do occasionally tell me that I must be mad for wanting to go into a career which can be very depressing/exhausting at times, but again, I think that's said out of concern rather than actually thinking that I'm not going to be good enough for it. And to top it all off, they got me a stethoscope as a "well done on getting in" present:I had originally planned to buy my own stethoscope at the start of term (had heard discounts would be available)...but it was really nice of them to surprise me like that, and I suppose, it's an olive branch of sorts. Hopefully no more arguments, it's a bit too late now anyway because with less than three [...]

To Warwick


Currently listening to: Touch Me - The DoorsShort version: I'm amazingly happy, it's slowly beginning to sink in that come September I'm going to be a medical student at Warwick!Long version: It would be pretty fair to say that in the weeks between having my interviews and getting my Warwick offer, I felt progressively more and more disillusioned about the whole UCAS process. My bemusement continued when I (with justification) got rejected from the Barts and The London A100 course after that awful interview. I say with justification, but that didn't make the rejection any nicer to deal with, so for nearly three days I was in the most depressed, mopey, anxious mood I've ever been in, even worse than during the darkest days of my biomed degree. The irony of the matter is that I shouldn't have been depressed over this rejection at all. This is because a few days ago Barts and The London emailed me to say that whilst I haven't been successful for their GEP, as a consolation they'd like to make me an offer for...their A100 degree! My precise reaction to this..?Because quite frankly, it meant that I put myself through three days of pure hell for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Admittedly, my anxiety isn't BL's "fault", but all the same I do wish they could have made up their mind properly instead of jerking me around for a week. Ah well. So with that, UCAS 2012 is over for me, and I finish with two offers: Warwick GEP and BL A100 and two rejections: Southampton GEP and BL GEP. A brilliant result, and what I'd been hoping for since October.The decision as to where I'm headed next September is therefore very easy to make. Because of the fact that GEPs are shorter and come with tuition fee loans and A100 degrees don't, I'm off to Warwick.I think a large part of me will be very sad to leave BL, QMUL and the East End. I came here when I was 18 and I lived in QMUL halls for all four years so I feel a pretty deep attachment to the university and the campus. I had a lot of unique life experiences, experiences I'll never forget here, made many good friends both amongst students and staff, and for that BL and QMUL will always retain a special place in my heart. Whilst I have got into BL and can choose to stay on here, the fact that fees are now £9K a year instead of £3K makes it a largely worthless offer, especially without a tuition fees loan, since I just don't have that kind of money lying around. So it's time to close the QMUL/BL chapter in my life and start the Warwick chapter.And I'm very much looking forward to Warwick. At the moment it seems new and unfamiliar, a bit like when you leave a primary school you feel safe and warm in and go to a massive, mysterious secondary school. But very soon you settle into it and have a good time. I'm sure Warwick will be exactly the same. The interview was lovely, the staff and current students were incredibly friendly and the medical school looked really nice, and I did say last month that I could definitely see myself there. So whilst I feel sad that my time at QMUL came to an end last year and my time at BL will come to an end shortly, I feel very happy because where I'm headed next seems just as nice. Roll on September 3rd![...]

The beginning of the end of the Grumpy Biomed


Currently listening to: Let It Be - The BeatlesI was in a bad place when I wrote the previous post, I felt like everything I'd been working towards since the beginning of my BSc was slowly crumbling away at the final hurdle. Matters were not improved when I logged onto Track this morning and saw I had a rejection from Southampton. But as they say the darkest hour is before the dawn...and in that dark hour yet again I saw my future as either continuing as a bored Grumpy Biomed...or taking a year out and reapplying which would mean having to redo my personal statement, resit the UKCAT, go through interviews all over again...the very thought made me feel exhausted. I just wanted it to finish.Real life pulled me away from these thoughts however, as I went into uni to meet a potential project supervisor. I went through all the motions, but in reality my mind was elsewhere. Got on the bus, went back home, logged on, not expecting anything else except perhaps another rejection and saw the best email subject in the world: "Warwick offer for Joint Degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery"!Opened the email and read: "We are delighted to inform you that the Course Selector for WMS, Education & Development has considered your application and recommended that you be made an unconditional offer of a place on our Joint Degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programme"...but in reality all I saw was the words "unconditional offer". In that split second my heart stopped and then the adrenaline rush began as I began to fully comprehend exactly what this means. It means no more sleepless nights from UCAS stress, no more faffing around with Western blots, no more doing what I dislike, and most importantly: no more being a Grumpy Biomed. It means that all that obsessing over the UKCAT, pulling my finger out to get a 2:1, preparing for the interviews etc has paid off. And because it's a GEP it means I get a tuition fee loan and won't have to be totally destitute. It means I get to finally be totally contented and begin training towards something I've wanted to do since childhood. All I can say is roll on September!I opened the email two hours ago, but I'm still grinning like an idiot. It hasn't quite sunk in that I'm going to be a doctor. I, the grumpy, incompetent, thoroughly pissed off and demotivated biomedical scientist will finally be able to hang up my lab coat and start doing what I want to do. To the best of my ability and with no resentment or dislike whatsoever. Of course, it will be difficult, it means four more years of uni, lots of debt and no doubt stress...but being stressed out or working hard has never been an issue for long as it's for something I want to do. And this most certainly is something I want to do.I've still to hear from Barts and The London's GEP, but in all honesty, if I got a rejection, I would still be totally ecstatic because tonight, for the first time in a very, very long time, I will be able to sleep with total contentment. And nothing can change that. Getting into medical school was the objective, and I've done that. That's all that matters.This post wouldn't be complete without a thank you. I've said before that I blog for myself, and not my readers, and that's still true. But the very fact that I post on an open forum like Blogger means that I'd like to get a response and input from others. Over the years lots of people have left kind, encouraging comments and words of wisdom, both med students and fellow applicants. So for that I'm very grateful and would like to say thank's always nice to rant and rave on here and know that in a few hours someone can write something that makes me feel a bit better. So cheers, you guys are amazing, and you won't have to put up with my grumpiness for much longer!I still can't believe I'm free from biomed purgatory. Getting a 2:1 wa[...]



Apparently it's not enough for me to have hated my BSc, immensely disliked my MSc and to have encountered several health problems over the past few months. A less resilient person might have thrown in the towel by now, but I get by by telling myself that compared to 99% of the world I have it very good indeed (which is still true), and of course, there was one thing which seemed to be going well and that was my medicine application. I got a UKCAT score on the 90th percentile and invites to all my interviews. I told myself that the hoop jumping, endless waiting and putting my future and career in the hands of the admissions tutors would all be worth it in the end.

Or not. After 5 months of umming, and ahhing, falling behind in my MSc due to interview preparation and of course, endless amounts of continued chronic stress and anxiety (which I've long been advised to cut down on), Barts and The London have rejected me for their 5 yr degree. To some extent, this is no great surprise since the interview did not go well at all, but all the same, I was secretly hoping that they would see beneath my nervousness and that in fact their grilling was some subliminal technique to see how I'd react to stress, and that maybe by some fluke, I'd land an offer. Clearly I was wrong. My nervousness got the better of me, and their grilling was just that, and I failed to live up to their expectations.

When I opened Track and saw "unsuccessful", there was a split second of physical pain in my chest, which quickly subsided, only to be replaced by a dull, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach, which still hasn't gone away. So now my chances of getting into med school have now dropped quite significantly, I would do what I normally do which is to get roaring drunk and try and forget about it all, but of course, I have a massive pile of boring, pointless MSc group work still to do. Joy of joys, I get rejected from what I want to do, and forced to do what I hate. What a fantastic life the Grumpy Biomed has.

In my previous post I said "I can't keep up the Grumpy Biomed gig for much longer without a glimmer of hope, a sign that possibly things might be improve soon"...well it looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is getting fainter, leading me ever closer to going off the rails at my complete frustration at life and how utterly crap it's becoming again.

I really do hope that the next few days bring better news, but let's be realistic, if I get rejected from Warwick, I'll almost certainly be rejected from the BL GEP too (interviews were joint and BL has less places), and my personal statement is hardly Pulitzer Prize winning material so that's probably Southampton out too. And that's the lot. One rejection isn't the end of the world, but when two of your other choices are linked together, and the other has a highly arbitrary selection procedure, it's a bit hard to feel optimistic. In short: I'm screwed.

Endgame: What do I want?


I haven't been feeling too good lately. This is surprisingly not due to my medicine application (though of course that has its role to play); the medicine application is a symptom of the broader underlying problem which I've been dealing with for quite a while now. Put simply, my masters degree is the problem. My bachelors degree was the problem. Being a Grumpy Biomed is the ongoing problem I'm dealing with.These thoughts have been going through my head for a while now, but yesterday they finally crystallised. As part of my course, we have to complete a project. The projects are 12 weeks long and start in May after Term 2 exams. Once you finish the project you get the MSc. Yesterday the list of MSc projects was released. Five minutes after looking through the list I had a moment when I saw things in total clarity.Five minutes before, I was looking through that list of available titles, supervised by some of the most brilliant minds in medical science at a world renowned medical school, and I was actively seeking the least boring one to put as my first choice.I'll repeat that: I was looking for the least boring project to put as my first choice. Not the most interesting. The least boring. This is what my life feels like at the big quest to try and be as unbored as possible. The use of Newspeak is entirely appropriate here as I've never really been interested in what I've been doing during the past 4 years. Sure, there's the odd module which is really interesting, the occasional coursework which I can manipulate to become palatable, and of course, through my own hard work eventually everything becomes slightly interesting...but its no longer enough. I'm reaching my saturation point of completing tasks I have very little interest in. Getting good marks isn't even enough anymore...the satisfaction it brings is just not long term or deep enough. It is no longer enough for me to simply be unbored: I want to be interested.But I can't be. From now until the end of term (three weeks or so), I have nine assignments to do. Each more boring, long-winded and pointless as the last. I had 11 to begin with, but I completed two last week. I felt utterly spent and exhausted. And then I remember I still have 9 more to go, and it's all I can do to stop myself screaming with frustration at how much I hate working towards something I couldn't care less about. Always during these past 4 years I am left with the feeling that this not what uni is supposed to be like. In an odd way, the only thing I can compare it to is the feeling you get when you're exhausted and yet you're still running and functioning on caffeine. You're getting things done and going through the motions, but you constantly feel that this is just not genuine. Lately, I find myself fantasising about dropping out on a near daily basis, sometimes even several times a day. To just cut ties abruptly, leave it forever, forget about it all, never go into a lab again, or hear about PCR or Western blotting or mass spectrometry...frankly it sounds amazing. But simply leaving something doesn't solve anything, there needs to be a more fundamental change to how things are done.So I find myself fantasising about a time in the future when I don't skip most of my lectures because I just end up falling asleep in them out of boredom. When I'm not up at 4AM writing on a blog, but I'm sound asleep, having been totally satisfied during the day. When I can turn up for all my classes, be enthusiastic, maybe even ask the odd question or two. Get to know my lecturers and what they teach rather than seeing them as taskmasters inflicting boredom on me.Of course, no one held a gun to my head and forced me to do an MSc. I chose to do it of my own volition BUT, only because the alternative i.e. being unemployed in my parents' town, checking Track fift[...]

Diary of an interviewee: Part 2


Currently listening to: The Way Love Used To Be - The KinksThe story so far: I came back home from my Barts and The London A100 interview feeling deflated, disappointed and sensing a real grump coming on. Luckily my mother came to visit and she brought some cake with her so things didn't seem that awful and we went out and talked, or rather I moaned about how much I hated the applications process and she very kindly listened. Slowly I began to feel that the interview wasn't that terrible and that even if it was, there was nothing I could do about it except use it as a learning experience and move on.Wednesday 15th Feb 2012 - Joint interview at Warwick Medical School for WMS and BL GEPs.00:00: I go to bed, telling myself that however bad yesterday had been today is a new day and a chance to make up for previous mistakes.01:00: The clock in the hallway chimes and I realise I've been awake for an hour thinking about random rubbish. Shut eyes and tell self to sleep.02:00: Clock chimes again. For god's sake man, if you carry on like this you're going to feel like a wreck tomorrow. Go to sleep!03:00: Still awake. Thinking thoughts you do not want to think the night before an interview: What if I balls this one up too? What if interviews are my fatal flaw? What if I'm stuck being a grumpy biomed forever? Why can't I sleep?!?!04:00: The clock's chimes now begin to feel as welcome as a death knell. I realise that as it stands I'm going to get a maximum of five hours sleep. Feel utterly hopeless.04:30ish: I presume that I finally fall asleep.09:00: I jolt awake after less than five hours sleep. Words can't describe how annoyed and pissed off I feel at the fact that when I needed my sleep most, I couldn't get it. I am not a happy bunny.10:23: The train leaves from Euston. I listen to some music and thankfully the adrenaline has kicked in so I don't feel particularly tired.11:45: I arrive at Warwick Medical School courtesy of a taxi from the station. Meet with some other applicants in the school canteen and begin chatting. Slowly feel less tense and relax as I realise everyone else here is in the same boat as me.12:15: The selection centre officially begins with document and ID checks in the medical school common room. I must say, I really like this campus. It's very new, but it has character and a very friendly vibe. The staff are all very nice and friendly too. The selection centre has three parts: an interview, a writing exercise and a group exercise.The InterviewWow is all I can say. If for no other reason, I love Warwick Medical School because their interviewer was so affable and easy to talk to. That and the fact that I'd already had a hellish interview the day before meant that I'd adopted a resigned attitude of "whatever it is, it can't be worse than what I've just had".Then the most amazing thing happened...when he asked me the first question, everything came flooding back. All my experiences, all the things I'd reflected on, and the points I wanted to cover. I felt like a blindfold had been lifted from my eyes and I could see clearly again. So I began speaking and very soon it felt like I was having a chat with one of my lecturers from uni. Of course, I was still treating it very seriously, but what I'm trying to say is that it didn't feel like an awful grilling. By the end of the interview the interviewer and I were talking about The Kinks and that whilst they're no longer a band, Ray Davies still does the occasional concert. The interview finished, I shook the interviewer's hand, gave him a big (and very genuine) smile and headed off for the next part.The Writing ExerciseI can't give away specifics here, but the point of the writing exercise was to get you to justify what you were writing. I felt I managed to do this but (and this is ever so annoying),[...]

Diary of an interviewee: Part 1


Currently listening to: Why - ElefantWow, what a hectic 48 hours it's been, quite possibly the most significant 48 hours of my life actually.As I've written before, I blog to release stress and feelings. I don't feel like I can cover both the A100 interview and the Warwick/BL selection centre in one post. So Part 2 will come tomorrow once I've had more time to reflect on the experience.Tuesday 14th Feb 2012 - Interview at Barts and The London for the A100 5 year degree.09:30: Roused awake by the harsh sounds of my mobile's alarm. Surprisingly I'd had a very good night's sleep. Went to bed at 12, woke up once in the middle of the night and promptly fell asleep again. Feel refreshed, confident and ready to go.10:30: Wearing my suit and feeling ever so slightly uncomfortable, I leave my flat and begin walking to the Tube station. Listen to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the way to the station.10:40: Yay, the Tube arrives within a minute and what's more it's on the right branch of the Northern line. Get on and check self in carriage windows. Looking suave and debonair. In my mind anyway. Listening to Coldplay, Eno to the max for epicness.11:15: Arrive at Whitechapel, breathe in the scent of fried chicken. Feel slightly nauseous. Go to the Garrod Building where I had my Nutrition & Metabolism classes during second year of biomed. Listening to Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets.11:20: iPod switched off. Taken upstairs to the old London Hospital Medical College senior common room by a smiley fourth year medical student. Everyone else is there with their parents. Begin wondering if I've done something wrong by turning up by myself. Have a glass of water.11:35: Taken back down to the Old Library by the same medical student. Sit down on a row of seats with four other applicants, all of whom look worryingly young. Or perhaps I'm just worryingly old.11:40: I'm the first to be called up. The interview begins. Butterflies in my stomach doesn't even begin to cover it. My interviewers are a clinician and one of the tutors from the med school. And so the questions begin, starting with some fairly obvious ones (I'm not allowed to reveal details - but use your imagination, it can only be about work experience, why you want to do medicine etc, the usual stuff found in guidebooks and so on).11:43ish: Realise that I'm fumbling my words and being awkward. Interviewers stare at me impassively as I try my best to explain what I'm talking about. Butterflies in stomach are replaced by a vague sense of foreboding and panic. Desperately hope we'll move on.11:45: We move on, thank Christ. We turn to the article (can now reveal) and I begin discussing it at length. Again, impassiveness from the panel. I conclude my thoughts and the questions begin. Interview slowly begins to turn into an intensive Q&A on my views on public health.11:50: This is now a full blown debate on public health. Feel seriously out of my depth but continue to attempt to express myself eloquently and clearly. Not sure if attempt is working. Still have the sense I'm coming across as fumbling.11:55: We move on again onto questions about the medical school. I feel I managed to answer this part well. To be honest it would be pretty disgraceful if I didn't, I was at QMUL for three years and I'm a current Barts and The London student. Interviewers still don't appear impressed. Either this is all part of their interview strategy or I've managed to talk utter cack for the past 15 minutes (more than likely).11:58ish: A final personal question. Feel like I manage to answer it well, but by this point feel that it won't make up for my earlier weak performance.11:59: "Any further questions?"..."No, I don't think so, all of my questions have been answered by the prospectus and th[...]

Term 1 results and "anxiety saturation"


Currently listening to: I Saved the World Today - EurythmicsThere's been a considerable shift in the ethos and content of this blog lately. When I started this blog just over two years ago, it was very much the grumbly grumbles of a grumpy second year biomed. Certainly this is no longer the case, the biomedical sciences degree, SBCS, QMUL and all that has been consigned to memory lane. This is a new era for my blog, charting the anxieties surrounding UCAS and medical school admissions, rather than being a life sciences student.But I am a life sciences student, so I do still deal with much of the same things I dealt with last year: coursework, deadlines, the occasional skipped lecture and inappropriate hangovers. And of course, exams. The one difference being that as a postgrad I have the joy of experiencing exams in January and in April. So, results day were released today, and here's how things look. Pass mark's 50 by the way:Research Skills and Sciences - 53Basic Molecular and Cell Biology - 62.5Basic Pathology - 72.5 (distinction)Overall mark for Term 1: 60.3Initial thoughts: relief that I passed, and passed well. Happy with getting a distinction in pathology (my favourite subject), slight annoyance at being so close to a merit for BMCB (needed 65) and indifference to the RSS mark. It was my least favourite subject, something I have zero talent for and zero interest in. There are those in my class who can run an amazing gel or use SPSS to perfection. I am not one of those people, I have never claimed to be. I am however someone who is genuinely interested in the intricacies of disease, healing and adaptation, hence my decent pathology mark. Apologies to all you scientists out there, I'm not snubbing your discipline, but at a certain point every man or woman needs to figure out exactly who and what he or she is. I am not lab scientist material, and in all honesty, that doesn't bother me either. Hence why I'm not grumpy about my RSS mark. I take solace in the fact that I will hopefully never have to care about Western blots again. So really, a good set of results which I'm pleased with. So that's the PGCert done, now for the PGDip and MSc, then, with any luck, I can hang up my white coat for good and finally don my stethoscope (please!).Here's an interesting way of dealing with (nay - eliminating) exam anxiety. Simply replace it with anxiety over something else, say, for example, medical school interviews. Seriously, you would not believe it, I slept fine last night. Absolutely fine. This morning when I woke up, I didn't even think about results. This was most certainly not the case in June before my BSc results day. Why the change? Because I am currently undergoing something called anxiety saturation (a revolutionary new psychological concept thought up by myself). My mind is so filled up with thoughts about interviews, ethical scenarios, etc that I just don't have any more space for exam stress. Hence why I managed to sleep fine last night, and why I didn't feel a jot of nervousness today until right before I opened the results envelope. I'm pretty sure there's a Nobel prize winning psychological theory in here somewhere.So with just over a week left til my interviews, I'm making little bullet point notecards. I am not someone who enjoys readily talking about their personal life with strangers (this blog is very much the exception), so I need to get used to hearing the sound of my own voice talking about why I want to do medicine, when I've displayed empathy, why I'm a decent team player or any of the other extremely relevant questions medical schools invariably ask. I try to be a fairly modest person, (though hopefully not in a Uriah Heep way), so whilst I'm fine with discussing ethical scenario[...]

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.

One month to go


Currently listening to: Maxwell's Silver Hammer - The BeatlesSo 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) 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! 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).[...]



Currently listening to: A Hopeful Transmission/Don't Let It Break Your Heart - ColdplayHow 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 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.[...]

Interview #2


Currently listening to: Torn Blue Foam Couch - Grand Archives

Wow, the past five days have been so sweet, it finally feels like everything is falling into place. Got an email this morning saying that at the Warwick Selection Centre I will also be considered for Barts and The London GEP...which is my first choice! I'm so happy and relieved that my nightmare didn't become a reality! The selection centres are joint, but the decisions are separate, you can get accepted by both, accepted by one or rejected by both. An offer from either would suit me very well! I can't believe this time last year I was despairing over whether I'd even be able to apply for medicine...and now I've got two interviews! This is just so amazing, the minute my exams finish (in the first week of January), I will be able to devote a whole five weeks to getting totally prepared for these interviews.

On such a high right now that even this lab report which is due tomorrow doesn't feel totally awful and horrible!

What an amazing finish to the final week of term.



Currently listening to: Light My Fire - The Doors

After the unpleasant nerve wracking experiences of the past few weeks, I'd been feeling pretty desperate for contact from the medical schools, any contact, even a curt email telling me to stop calling them several times a week asking when they're sending out interview invitations...but Warwick went one better today and emailed me an invitation to their Selection Centre in February for interview!

I'm still feeling slightly speechless from it all, but at the same time ecstatically happy because I was worried I wouldn't get any interviews before Christmas meaning that I'd be stressing all through the holidays when I'm supposed to be revising for exams...luckily now I can breathe a little easier knowing that I have at least one...and it's two months away giving me plenty of time to prepare for it.

I'm telling you, if getting an offer for medical school feels half as good as getting an interview, I can't wait to experience it...the true definition of a natural high! The past few days have been pretty tough, I had two essays and a presentation to hand in yesterday, and I'd had very little sleep...but this has made it all better!

Unreal rejections


Currently listening to: My Body is a Cage - Peter Gabriel

So today began like any other Tuesday. Being one of my "days off" I wasn't obliged to get up for a 9AM start like I will be tomorrow. So I awoke comfortably from my golden slumber rather than to the harsh sounds of my mobile's alarm. Wake up. Brush teeth. Wash. Open curtains. Stare out across the mid morning London skyline. Turn on computer.

That's been the daily morning ritual for a fair few years now, though since October when I sent off my medicine application, after turning on the computer I immediately check the Holy Trinity: email, UCAS Track and New Media Medicine. Like any other morning for these past six weeks, I log on. Two new emails from Barts and The London. Heart stops for a minute. Open them:

"Dear Grumpy Biomed

We regret to inform you that your application to our A100 and A101 programmes for MBBS medicine will not be considered any further at this stage. Thank you for considering Barts and The London SMD and we wish you every success with your future applications.

Yours sincerely,


Numb. Shocked. Crushed. Hopeless. Some of the words to describe how I felt reading those cold, unfeeling words in that email. This was my first choice and it had rejected me after only 6 weeks. But something doesn't feel right. My mind is telling me that this can't make sense, and that I can escape from this nightmare.

I jolt awake. Daylight is streaming through my curtains. My radiator is on full blast as I forgot to turn it off last night before I fell asleep. I feel sluggish and stupid but I start my computer immediately. No new emails. No Track updates. I haven't been rejected.

I don't usually have nightmares. I tend to have a lot of lucid dreams so I usually manage to transform any dream which feels nightmare-ish into a happy one. I couldn't do that last night, so in a strange way I've just experienced the feeling of a first rejection...but luckily it wasn't real.

I suppose I'm a bit surprised that it's taken 6 weeks for the first symptoms of stress to manifest...but lately I have been having sleep problems, incessant thoughts about interviews, rejections, acceptance etc. I just hope that I don't have to experience any more mock rejections in my sleep, because in that split second when I awoke and opened my eyes, I felt totally panicked.



Currently listening to: Carry That Weight - The Beatles

So it's November...which is apparently when the first letters from Barts and The London are sent out for interviews for the 5 yr degree.

Things just got slightly more real. An email from Warwick Medical School a few days ago informed me that they would pick who to interview and who to reject by the end of December, so just under two months to go now. Again, things got more real. But after three weeks my overwhelming feeling is...


I can't believe there's still another five months left of this waiting game. Christ.

Also, I swear I didn't deliberately pick the just came on shuffle on my iTunes, but it's very appropriate, isn't it? Only a minute and a half long but that chorus sums everything up. This whole application is one goddamn weight on my mind...and I just can't wait for it to be lifted.

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.



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!


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.

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.

The dilemma


Currently listening to: Country House - Blur

Not much to report so far this academic year. MSc induction went well, I've met some cool new people and also several fellow QMUL biomed grads who are now studying a related course (Cancer Therapeutics) at Barts and The London which shares a module with my course. Also met a few of my old lecturers from my final year biomed cancer biology module, who'll be teaching me this year. In short, it's been fun but also very busy.

In addition to my MSc, I've also been thinking a lot about my application to medical school which is due in just over two weeks, and I've reached a bit of a dilemma regarding my final choice. I am now 99.9% certain I will be applying to Barts and The London for the 5 yr and 4 yr degrees, and also to Warwick's 4 yr degree. And I was happy to pick King's College's 5 yr degree as my fourth choice, until they informed me that if I were to get an offer from them it would be conditional upon getting a Merit for my MSc...even though I have a 2:1 for my BSc, which is what their prospectus says their requirement for graduates is! Very annoying!

Well there's no point arguing about it, that's their rule so I can either accept it or find somewhere else to apply to. I thought back to Southampton GEP but realised they're just too risky. I've been reading a lot of the old threads on New Media Medicine and other forums, and Southampton rejected a lot of promising applicants, and since they don't interview you have no chance to prove to them face to face how good you are. So I then began considering five year degrees outside of London, in Leicester for example, but realised it's just too damn expensive. Thank you Tories and Lib Dems for succesfully commercialising education and ensuring only rich public school kids can afford studying medicine as a graduate.

This brought me back to Newcastle GEP, which I'd toyed with earlier but rejected as I believed my UKCAT wouldn't be high enough (697.5). I rang them earlier today, and I was told that their GEP cut-offs for the past three years have been 690, 685 and 682.5. Which was surprising since I'd always thought their cut-offs were in the mid 700s. To be honest with you I'd love the chance to study in Newcastle, the city looks amazing!

So as it stands I'm now seriously considering Newcastle GEP instead of King's College London. I can't guarantee that I'll get a Merit for my MSc (even though, of course, I'm aiming for top marks)...and I also don't want to go through the stress I did during my BSc. I've already done my three years of killing myself with worry about getting the grades, I actually want to be able to enjoy my MSc, and get a nice unconditional offer for medicine (if I get an offer at all, that is). But on the other hand, my UKCAT score is only 7.5 higher than last year's if it rises drastically this year I'll have wasted one of my choices. Ahh, decisions, decisions.