So Nabila, tell Aawaz a bit about yourself…
I’m a Kings College London science graduate and now a Graduate-entry Cambridge Medical student. I get actively involved in a ridiculous amount of extra-curricular activities from volunteering, delivering revision classes. One of my most recent endeavors which was setting up the Acts of Random Kindness Project; an outreach program to tackle issues experienced by vulnerable groups in the community. My future ambition resides in academic medicine where I get the best of both worlds; clinics and being able to teach and conduct research and recently published my first paper! In my free time I bake and run a cake business we recently started up called The Little Bakes Co. with my big sister.
Coming from a “non-traditional” medical background do you think getting into medical school was more of a challenge? And if so, how did you overcome them?
If you see it as a challenge then yes it is! The reality is medical schools will accept you provided you tick all the boxes i.e. Good grades, personal statement, reference and a good interview. It’s all a case of doing your research and applying to universities that play to your strengths.
However, grammar/ private schools are better equipped at preparing students for competitive courses such as Medicine and knowing someone from a medical background helps to gain an insight and relevant contacts for work experience. Hence why I opted for the Graduate-entry route as I had no contacts and felt frustrated with the lack of support services in place within my school. Whilst it was more difficult to get into Graduate-entry, I know whole-heartedly that I wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting into Oxbridge at 18. However, don’t let that throw you off, hard work and perseverance pays off in the end! Trust me, I regret not having faith in myself and reapplying for undergraduate Medicine.
What enabled me to get into Cambridge in the end was when I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on how I was going to utilise my knowledge and experiences to achieve my career ambitions. When I started to focus on myself and was grateful for what I was blessed with (which is more than most) then life became so much easier!
Do you have any tips for anyone with no links to medical profession who is interested in applying to medical school? For example, getting people to read your personal statement and work experience? Did you find any websites particularly useful?
My top tip is to realise that people with the same background as you have gotten in. Some people may get more support than others but individuals whom come from “non-traditional” backgrounds are equally supported by other means, e.g. by the Social Mobility Foundation. Students from “non-traditional” backgrounds are also able to apply to access programs such as the Extended Medical Program in Kings College London. This is not available to students whom come from selective schools, so utilise the opportunities available to you!
Few pointers I would suggest is to have a select few people to read your personal statement whom are able to critique your work e.g. Your referee, a teacher whom knows you well, a medical student (if possible) and that friend who is amazing at punctuation and grammar. There are university students who also run interview workshops and provide personal statement support within Universities such as U.CAN, PotMed and Mission Medicine. Professional organisations such as ICS Medicine also run interview workshops, however they are a tad more expensive but worth it if it gets you in! As for work experience, hospital experience isn’t the only experience you can get! You can volunteer in a hospice, a care home, one friend of mine even used their customer service experience in Laura Ashley in their Medicine personal statement. She is now in her final year of Medical school, so I can safely say her personal experiences helped her. However, perseverance is key! I had to wait over 6 months to volunteer in a hospital and had more than 15 rejected phone calls from hospices before one finally said I could volunteer in their admin department! Therefore take whatever opportunity you can get, it’s all about what you learnt from it that counts!
Getting into Medical School is tough. But you did it at Cambridge too! What do you think gave you the edge?
It’s actually no secret, the interviewers were very friendly and wanted you to do well. Oxbridge interviews tests more the way you think as opposed to how much you know and expect you to be able to justify your answers. Don’t get me wrong it was a tough interview and I researched extensively on anything and everything Medicine-related from practicing clinical and ethical scenarios, keeping a diary of what I learnt during my work experience to revising my A-level textbooks. During the interview I answered the questions as best as I possibly could and I added in some light humour.
Are you happy for people to contact you for advice or tips?
That’s fine with me. My twitter is @rehnnuma so you can message me on Twitter if you have any questions and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.
However, a word of warning I won’t be able to provide details of my Cambridge interview for confidentiality purposes and I tend to zone out of social media when I have exams!
Aawaz would like to thank Nabila for taking the time to be interviewed.
For more information on The Little Bakes Co: https://www.facebook.com/thelittlebakesco