How to get the most out of medical school

Starting uni is an exciting, but scary time for many. Everything is a bit new, and a bit different and it can be hard to adjust and you may feel like you’re not getting the most out of your time at uni. Here are some general pieces of advice that might help you make the most of your 5 years of studying medicine:

1) Get involved early

It took me until around third year to start to get involve with student societies at university. If I could take this back, I would! Get involved early and you’ll be able to rise up the hierarchial ladder much faster and also, you’ll make your extra-curricular activities part of your normal routine. Believe me, if you don’t start early, you’ll struggle to do it later! The same applies for sports teams, music practice etc. etc.

2) Stay organised

Again, if you don’t keep your notes organised from early on, it’ll never happen and you’ll be kicking yourself for the next 5 years when you can’t find anything! There are a number of ways to keep your notes organised, each of which has its own pros and cons. I think I’ll make a separate post about this topic a bit later on.

3) Drs are real people – talk to them!

Again, I wish I had realised this a bit earlier on in life and it’s only recently I’ve managed to stop talking to my supervisors like teachers and started speaking to them a bit more like colleagues. Networking is a really important thing in medicine – it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. Networking can help you to set up SSCs, 4th year projects etc. etc. which will be of interest to you, and, if you get on well with your supervisors, it’s much more likely to end up in publications and presentations which obviously looks great on your CV. Generally, if you show that you’re interested, tutors will be much more likely to be interested to you.

4) Plan Ahead

More so now than ever, students are being told to consider their career choices early, because before you know it, you’ll be choosing the career path that will be yours for the rest of your life. Medicine is no different. As you go through the course, think about what you enjoy and what you don’t. Even if you don’t know what you definitely want to do, ruling out the specialities you definitely DON’T want to do is, in my opinion, much more important than anything else!

5) Set time aside for fun!

Goes without saying really, but enjoy your time at Uni. You don’t want to look back on your time at uni and think that you didn’t have much fun, so get out with your friends!

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Review: UniReq

Vulpes recently posted on the Questions part of this site to ask if I could review his website: UniReq. I have no personal associations with the site.

The basic premise of the site is to assist in ‘tactical’ applications to university. At present, there are a few courses available in the database: Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy. Personally, I didn’t really choose which Unis I applied to tactically, I just based my decisions on which courses I thought sounded best. Regardless, for those who are particularly worried about whether they will get in or not, this may be a useful tool for you.

First off, the appearance of the site is, quite frankly, brilliant, especially the home page. The tabs in the top right corner feel pretty natural and make navigation around the site easy.

The useability of the site is extremely simple also, which is a strength of this site. Simple type the course you want to know about into the search bar, pick the one you want to know about in more detail, enter your examination details and then it’ll tell you which websites you can apply for from the Unis within its database.

Once you’ve done this, there is a list of crosses or ticks down the left hand column which tells you where you could potentially be accepted or rejected. Overall, this is an extremely useful site which you could use to help guide your applications to medical school.

Potential Improvements

Perhaps the author could answer a couple of questions about the site, as I have a couple of questions and comments about it (the author has replied to this review, and so I will post his reassuring responses in brackets!):

1) Including Scottish school qualifications would help to widen the scope of the site. Also, international qualifications could perhaps be included at a later date. (We are currently designing a new backend system for UniReq which will enable us to easily add more courses. We aim to release a version for Scottish Qualifications by late August this year)

2) At the ‘results’ page, the colours are very striking. Perhaps they could be used on the left hand column to indicate whether or not you would be accepted to the university instead of the crosses or ticks. This is obviously the most important information, so would be great to draw attention to this first. Then, you could mark the breakdown for reasons why they passes or failed the criteria by green or red font on a grey background. I think this would really improve how easy the site is to use. (Regarding the results page, I will take a look into it and try to gain more feedback from current users)

3) I also worry slightly about the credibility of the criteria. For example, the UKCAT cut off scores aren’t always published by the university. I may be wrong, but some of this might be a bit of guesswork – perhaps the maker of the site could shed a bit of light on this? I would therefore just exert a bit of caution when using the site and don’t use it alone to decide on where you apply to medical school – use your own brain and if a course appeals to you, go for it! As I say, I wasn’t tactical and just checked the prospectus of the Unis I was applying to, to check I was elligible. (You may have noticed the “Click to Display More Information” button at the bottom of the results table. This will display all the requirements used to calculate eligibility. The data on the site is collected from various sources, including university websites and student forums, although I have made it a point to email as many universities as possible to find out about their exact cutoffs. Where UKCAT cutoff scores aren’t published / known, the system simply marks it down as “UKCAT required”. The data on UniReq is updated regularly as new information gets released. Starting this year, UniReq will also be introducing a team of contributors, responsible for checking, and cross-checking data on UniReq to ensure that we provide the most up-to-date and accurate information.)

All in all, a useful site! Well done to Jeremy, the maker for setting up this great resource!

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1st Year Survival Guide

Another one in the ‘Starting Medical School’ series – This was a topic suggested by Simon.

 

Do’s

Do learn to cook – This I could not emphasise more! Learn from your parents, or look something up on youtube, or buy some recipe books and give some recipes a bash before you come to uni. I find it amazing the number of people who don’t eve know how to cook pasta when they first arrive at uni. Having a bit of experience cooking might save you a bit of money as well, as it might give a bit more life to some of your pots and pans, and any extra money left around at the weekend will never go amiss! I would definitely try and figure out quite a number of recipes you like as you’ll start to get sick of the same ol’ meals every… single… day!

Do learn to wash clothes/iron – Again, could save you ruining all your clothes

Do stay up to the wee hours of the morning – You’re at uni, and the friends you make now will be with you for at least the next 4-5 or even 6 years. Might as well make as many as you can, right? How better to do this than out and about. To give you an idea, I went out two or three times a week in 1st year and still did well in the end of year exams, so it is possible. However, you do need to work some of the rest of the time. If you go out a few times a week and don’t study, you won’t do well, but if you work a bit, continuously throughout the year, you’ll do fine!

Do go to lectures and tutorials – Even if you’ve only had 5 hours sleep, you should try your best to roll out of bed for those 2 lectures. All you have to do is get the general messages, and can then make more sense of them later on when you’re feeling a bit more human after a nap.

 

Don’ts

Don’t leave all your studying to the last minute!!! Although, in saying that, some people never learn. Although you might have been able to get away with it at high school, you won’t at uni. Seriously. Nobody gets away with it. There’s too much material to cover, so if you manage to do 2 or 3 hours of work a day, you’ll be onto a winner!

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Things to take to Med school

This was a post suggested by Eva. Ask and you shall receive!

Here, I thought I’d post a few things that might be useful to bring to uni with you when you first start medicine.

1) Stethoscope

Some people say not to buy a stethoscope before coming to medical school, but at Dundee, its a must. There are very few people without their own stethoscope at Dundee. There are many different types, but most people go for the Littman Classic 2SE stethoscope. You can buy this through the university or can buy it yourself, but I think you might be able to get a discount if you wait until you arrive at uni. You can also get your name engraved on it, which is quite useful if you’re prone to losing things!

2) Clothes

For first year, I would bring at least one or two sets of smart clothes for wards and for clinical skills where you are expected to dress as a doctor would (shirt with sleeves rolled up, smart trousers for guys and your interpretation of smart for girls). Smart shoes are also must. For a night oot on the toon, you should maybe bring a few outfits with you too. Also, don’t forget about dress up outfits: School disco, UV/full moon, halloween, etc are all big themes in Dundee, so be prepared!

You will also need a lab coat for anatomy dissection. Medics now don a dark green dissection jacket – you can buy these from the uni once you arrive at medical school.

3) Books

For Dundee, Clinical Medicine by Kumar and Clarke is a must – it basically covers the whole curriculum. A clinical anatomy textbook of your choice is probably quite useful and will serve you throughout your university life and Macleods clinical examination textbook will definitely be used throughout your time at uni.

Also, at the Freshers fayre, you sometimes get some freebie books e.g. Oxford medical dictionary (which is actually quite useful) and a Oxford handbook of clinical medicine (which you could buy on your own, if you don’t get it for free at the fayre).

Another thing to mention is that the Medical School sometimes send out a list of recommended books. I know a lot of people who bought a bunch of these books and have never looked at them. Don’t make that mistake!!! Wait until you’re at uni and see which ones you borrow from the library often and then you can consider buying those ones. You could also try to buy some books second hand, but again, make sure you’ll actually use the book before you go splashing your cash on them!

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Exams are over!

Exams finished as of yesterday! After a 2 hour anatomy theory paper and a 100-mark anatomy spot check exam, it’s officially the summer holidays!

Despite feeling a bit sorry for myself today, the sky just seems that little bit bluer…

Anyway, I’ll be making some posts relevant to those starting medicine sometime very soon, and I’ll also try to make a post on the updated curriculum at Dundee for those applying in October this year.

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If I had done a…

If I had done a normal degree, today might have been my last day of studying! Last essay exam tomorrow on anatomical variation.

Given that the normal anatomy can be a bit tough at times, knowing the rarer deviations from normal should be no problem, right? Right?!

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Dundee Medical School Open Day

As far as I know, there’s an open day for those applying to medicine this year on the 20th of June.

Come alone to see what Dundee’s like!

Check out this web-page for other open day dates

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