Career disaster 1: “Poor GCSEs are killing my chances! Can anything be done?”
We’re getting lots of emails lately from people with unorthodox career and education histories who are desperate to do medicine. Who can succeed? Who should give up? Is there something simple that can fix or cover up a major CV disaster en route to medicine?
We will endeavour to research each query fully and post a comprehensive reply here under “career disasters.”
This is the first in the series and it features a common problem in our inbox. As always, comments are welcome.
Please help me Doc eat doc, you’re my last hope.
I want to apply for medicine this year but am afraid of getting rejected again. I want to know if there’s anything easy I can do to strengthen my CV. My A-level grades are one grade off most requirements but worse still, I have Ds for GCSE maths, science and English (A’s and B’s elsewhere).
Should I be retaking those GCSEs and perhaps one A-level, or taking a different degree and then going for graduate entry?
I have done plenty of work experience, including in the developing world with aid programmes etc, and can demonstrate my commitment to medicine well. Ultimately I want to do public health or development medicine / tropical medicine.
Oh and I’m 22. I worked abroad and travelled a bit!
Can I ever become a doctor? Help!
We think the UK medical school system is too rigid to see the value in candidates like you. Sadly you you will have a tough time getting in. The main factors against you are those science, English and maths GCSE grades and to a lesser extent your missing A-level grade.
You say you want to do public health or something related. It’s a shame, because if you did get in to med school the public health docs would love to have you – they’re crying out for trainees at the moment.
The way we see it you have THREE options.
1. Take a year out and fix those GCSEs and that A-level too before you even think about applying.
Your work experience sounds unique and if your personal statement can reflect that, you will stand out against the competition. Follow the personal statement advice closely and the doc eat doc template on this site and ensure you spin your story in the best way possible. Retaking GCSEs is indeed looked upon negatively, but if that’s the only problem you have in a years time, we should be able to help you ease your way into a med school place.
2. Study public health or international development NOW
Do it as a separate degree and forget the fixation with medicine for now. Yes, you may be able to apply to medicine afterwards but those GCSEs will still be an issue for graduate entry even if the A-level is not.
If you are genuinely interested in public health and development work you may find that you’re doing what you love and the struggle for med school won’t seem so worthwhile. Your work will be largely similar to that of public health doctors anyway. It’s easy to get too fixated on one thing.
Remember that if you speak to doctors they’ll tell you that medicine is slowly being deprofessionalised in the UK (and elsewhere) and at the same time other allied professions in public health, psychology and even podiatrists are gaining more autonomy and more variety to their work.
3. Apply abroad
In our view this is a serious option that is overlooked too often. It needn’t be expensive or difficult, it can be enjoyable and you can practice as a doctor anywhere if you play your cards right. There is an upcoming article on this very soon.
In short, do something decisive and don’t waste time sending off a useless form that has no chance of getting looked at seriously.
And 22 is young, but do have something clever to say if asked what you’ve been doing!
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- The multiple mini interview guide for medical school interviews