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Is it worth applying to medical school?

Is it worth applying to medical school?Darren Leaning, a medical student, describes some of the challenges he went through applying to university and explains why he’s glad he made it.

Why medicine?

Sitting down with my mum and watching the first ever episode of 'ER', I was exhilarated by the fast-paced, heart-stopping (and for the patients, hopefully re-starting) action that was going on.

Ok, it is only a programme and yes it is just a little bit sensationalized – from my experience of working in a busy accident and emergency department, you don’t get the tense background music when you intubate (insert a tube into) your first patient – but it did make me consider a career in medicine.

Having no family in the medical profession, watching TV programmes was the only real exposure I got to the medical world. I got no useful career advice from my comprehensive - they just told me how difficult the application would be and to realistically consider my options, so it was hard to stay inspired.

Negatives become positive

Unsurprisingly, I never thought that I would make it to medical school. It seemed at the time to be unattainable and for a ‘different class’ of student. I knew that no one from my school had got onto a medicine course so I thought that my chances of success were slim.

In hindsight some of these setbacks might have been a blessing – the determination I needed to get me through the application and exams turned out to be one of the personal attributes you need as a medical student, to help you cope with the long training programme.

Does background matter?

For me some of the main worries were that I found it elitist, didn’t think I could afford to pay for the course and I didn’t know anyone who had become a medial student. I felt that this was a goal reserved for students from a more privileged background.

However, when you get put on the spot by a consultant, wanting you to tell him how to manage an acutely ill patient, all that matters is your ability to think quickly and apply the skills and knowledge you have gained both from studying medicine and your own common sense. No one is interested in what school you went to or how much money you have.

Hard work pays off

I am not going to lie and say that it was a piece of cake getting into medicine. When I applied through UCAS, I never thought that I would get an interview, let alone an offer from the University of Manchester. I still needed to work hard and to achieve the grades, but once I made it, the hard work certainly paid off.

Admittedly cash has been a bit of a problem and through sixth form college and the first two years of university I had to hold down a job at McDonalds, which was hard to balance with studying and socialising, but it is possible, trust me!

Student life

The main problem when starting the course was a feeling of inadequacy; I lacked confidence amongst other students who I immediately thought were better than me because of their schooling. I blinded myself with stereotypes, which is not something I would recommend.

I have many medical student friends from all backgrounds – you soon learn that you are all in the same boat together and the majority of students quickly begin to help each other cope with the trickier subjects on the course.


During the last two clinical years, I found that with my upbringing I have the ability to relate to a wide range of patients and other hospital staff.

Understanding a patient is a very important skill – if they trust you, they are more likely to confide in you, revealing information which may lead to the correct diagnosis.

I am now taking a year out of medicine to complete a degree in biomedical sciences and working at the Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester. I’m conducting a research project with the ambition to become a clinical oncologist.

Go for it!

Medical student friends of mine agree that some of the qualities you need to successfully study medicine are resilience, enthusiasm, an enquiring mind and determination.

Medicine is a career open to anyone who works hard and is driven to succeed. Good luck!

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