Are you thinking about applying to medical school? Having been through the application cycle twice, here are some hints, tips and things that I wish I'd known earlier.
It's no secret that medical schools are heavily oversubscribed in the number of applications they get each year. Many prospective medics are therefore very panicky and nervous when it comes to starting their application. Excited too, but nervous nevertheless. While getting into medical school is no easy task, there are a number of things that you can do to increase your chances.
1) Apply to places that want you - not just to the ones that you want
While you don't want to apply to a medical school where you don't think you'd be able to spend five or six years of your life, you also don't want to apply to medical schools that don't favour your strengths. If a medical school says that they give preference to candidates with a large number of A*s at GCSE, only apply there if you have a large number of A*s at GCSE. If a medical school says that they give preference to people with a strong personal statement, only apply there if you're confident you have a strong personal statement. This may sound obvious, but every year a large number of candidates are rejected simply because they didn't apply to schools that value their strengths.
When I first applied for medicine, I didn't apply to my strengths and didn't receive a single interview. When I next applied, I made sure to apply to my strengths and lo and behold, I managed to secure four out of four interviews.
2) Prestige does not matter in medicine!
Many people seem to be under the impression that there are such things as 'top' medical schools, when in reality league tables and prestige mean very little. It's important not to dwell on the prestige of medical schools when deciding where you want to apply. It's far more wise to apply to your strengths as mentioned above. Applying for medicine is a very long and tiring process - by the end of it, prestige was the least of my concerns and I did not mind where my offer came from. Many people will also find the same when they apply.
3) Be wary of advice your teachers give you
"I think you should apply to both Oxford and Cambridge."
That was the advice one of my teachers gave me before I applied. Teachers want the best for you and are usually very helpful - there is no denying that. However, many teachers will only have helped a small number of students wanting to apply for medicine (and Oxbridge) so some of the information they give you may be completely incorrect. It's best to research information for yourself instead. The TSR Medicine forum, for example, is a good place to start.
4) There's no need to dish out hundreds of pounds on courses
There are differing opinions on whether or not it's worth spending so much money on going to courses that are designed to help you get into medical school (UKCAT courses, BMAT courses etc). My personal experience is that the courses give no information that you couldn't have otherwise found for free online. In fact, when I did go on a BMAT course the second time I applied, I ended up doing marginally worse in two sections of the BMAT compared to the first time. This was despite me not going on a BMAT course the first time I applied. It would be unfair to suggest that it was the course itself that made me do worse - the point is that going to the course didn't really help me at all.
5) Applying to more than one BMAT uni is risky
In my first application, I applied for three BMAT universities (two medicine, one biomedical sciences). Unfortunately, on the day, some outside factors meant that I couldn't perform as well as I'd hoped and, just like that, I had lost half of my medicine choices. The BMAT, unlike the UKCAT, is done after sending off your application so applying to more than one BMAT uni can be very risky in case you can't perform on the day. My suggestion is to try to avoid applying to more than one BMAT uni and to only apply to a maximum of two if you are confident that you can do well.
Good luck with your application!