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In2Med

The summer of Year 12 - Don't waste it

This blog explains how important the summer of Year 12 is in preparing for your application to medical school and goes through the advice that I would give to students on how to get the most out of their summer. 

You might be able to relate to my journey and use the advice to really maximise your chances of getting into medical school.

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Why am I writing this blog?

The reason I am writing this article is because the summer after Year 12 is arguably the most important summer of your life. I like to think of it as the calm before the storm come September/October. When I was in this position 6 years ago, I found it very difficult to organise my time. There were so many things to do that it all started to feel very overwhelming. For example you have to write your personal statement, revise for the UCAT and BMAT, think of universities to apply for, do work experience etc. Thinking about all this even now makes me question how I managed to do it. I think the key thing for me was the picture on the right. That summer I went to an open day at the University of Cambridge – seeing the medical school and colleges really inspired me. Whenever I was tired or thought of giving up, the memory of that open day would push me on and help me overcome the various challenges as I thought, “I have to do this.” 

I realise that there must be several students in a very similar position to what I was. So, I wanted to give some advice from my personal experience on how to use the summer after Year 12 to its maximum potential to ensure you are in the best position to apply to medical school, all whilst ensuring that you do have a rest and recharge your batteries for Year 13. If you try to do too much, you will burn out. If you waste your summer, getting into medical school will be very difficult. So, how can you find that balance?

Tell yourself, these are not normal summer holidays

As hard as it might seem, you need to convince yourself that this summer is not a normal holiday. You have to train yourself into thinking that this is a working summer which will potentially influence your life trajectory (sorry if that sounds scary). 

The majority of students who are successful in gaining offers will tell you that they worked really hard over the summer of Year 12, doing all those things that I mentioned above. And those that say otherwise, I can pretty much guarantee that they are lying. So the first, and most important piece of advice is to acknowledge that you will be working this summer. The summer of Year 13 is the one to really enjoy. And from personal experience, it is much easier to enjoy a summer with an offer to study medicine in your hand as you will feel like you really have deserved a good break. 

Make a timetable to organise your summer

It seems almost absurd that you need to make a timetable for your summer holidays. Timetables are something that you would be following at school everyday, so surely you should be throwing your timetable out of the window during the summer right? However, the way that you will get the most out of your summer is by making a timetable. This will let you organise your thoughts and prevent you from getting overwhelmed. 

A word of caution. Making a timetable is easy, much like is making a diet plan. However sticking to it is the difficult thing. Therefore, the key when making a timetable is to be realistic and ask yourself, “Knowing what I know of myself, will I actually be able to follow this?'” Personally, I never revise more than 4 hours a day, so making a timetable where I am working 6 hours daily would be futile. Therefore, tailor your timetable to your needs, working style and itinerary. But once that timetable is made, you should become like a robot in following it. 

Below is the timetable that I used for my summer of Year 12. For me, the key was consistency as I like routine. I wanted a simple timetable that was easy to follow and that let me enjoy my evenings (as I am an evening person). It worked very well for me so I’d encourage you all to give it a go.

Monday:

Morning – 11am to 1pm –> UCAT/BMAT revision

Afternoon – 2pm to 4pm –> Personal Statement Preparation (Reading my book)

– Tuesday:

Morning – 11am to 1pm –> UCAT/BMAT revision

Afternoon – 2pm to 4pm –> Personal Statement Preparation (Work Experience)

– Wednesday:

Morning – 11am to 1pm –> UCAT/BMAT revision

Afternoon – 2pm to 4pm –> Personal Statement Preparation (Reading my book)

– Thursday:

Morning – 11am to 1pm –> UCAT/BMAT revision

Afternoon – 2pm to 4pm –> Personal Statement Preparation (Volunteering)

– Friday:

Morning – 11am to 1pm –> UCAT/BMAT mock test

Afternoon – 2pm to 4pm –> Personal Statement Preparation (Writing up my weekly experiences)

I hope you can see that the total time that I was working a day was only 4 hours. In addition, I still got to keep my daily lie-in, and being finished by 4pm gave me the opportunity to meet friends in the evening (before COVID times), go out for dinner, play some sport and just relax. However, unlike a lot of my friends who supposedly work 8 hours and just procrastinate, I was able to get so much more done. I managed to revise for the UCAT/BMAT and do all the components for my personal statement without even noticing. 

Get everything done before September

The next ultra-important piece of advice is to try your best to get everything completed before September. The picture on the right is me presenting my EPQ project on chess after school. This is just one of the number of extra-curricular activities I had to do, whilst at the same time finishing my homework, preparing for my interview and the BMAT and unfortunately also having to commute 1.5 hours to my school there and back everyday.

Therefore, to avoid being in a situation where you feel like drowning in the autumn, I would set an artificial deadline in your minds of September 1st. Try to get your first draft of your personal statement complete by then, and ensure that you have got your UCAT out of the way.

In order to do this, one of the key messages is to start your preparation early. There are many students who say, “I’ll start next week” but that week never comes. Especially when it comes to the personal statement, write your first draft early. For a couple of months, I had a mental block about writing the first draft of my personal statement. I was so scared that it was going to be useless (and indeed it was). It was only after 42 revisions that I finally submitted my statement to UCAS. But that initiative itself provides a lesson. The first draft will not be good, so get it written as soon as you can (even before you have finished all your work experience) so you can get over the nerves and start developing it much earlier than I did.

Make a note of everything you are doing

Whilst this may not seem that important, I would highly recommend keeping a diary and recording everything that you are doing in it. If anything, it just gives you a space to jot down your thoughts and clear your heads. When I was applying, I kept a black diary in which I wrote up notes about all my work experience, volunteering and reading, as well as tips and tricks for the different sections of the UCAT and BMAT. I kept this book with me at all times, so much that my family started referring to it as the book of the Half Blood Prince.

Keeping a record like this will motivate you as it will show you the amount of work and things you are actually achieving in such a short space of time. In addition, it is an invaluable source of information when you reach your interview. 

Summary

I hope that you take on board some of my advice. Whilst I know that my way may not be the right way for you, the general principles that you need to work hard, start your preparation early and make a timetable are consistent components for most students that got offers to study medicine. The key point is that even if you are very nervous and stressed about your application (of course you will be), there are countless other students who were and are in the exact same situation as you (myself included). But now that you have decided to study medicine, give the application your all. You don’t want to be sitting there next year asking yourself, “If only I had done more” – it really is a year that could change your life forever, and hopefully, you’ll avoid making the mistakes I made in your journey. Best of luck!

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