This is a question I was asked a few weeks ago, via my formspring page. I thought it might help those students starting 6th Form, or about to start thinking about the dreaded UCAS (University and College Application System).
As a second year student, what advice would you give to anyone considering the same career path that you have chosen?
Think VERY carefully about whether this is REALLY what you want to do - you will be devoting your entire life to this degree for 5 years. You will lose your social life, and it will be hard to make and keep friends. Discuss it with your adults, your tutors, your friends, your family, ask questions to people like me who have already been through this (I'm happy to answer emails from anyone about this - firstname.lastname@example.org). It is hard, physically, emotionally and mentally.
It's a rewarding career but if it's not right for you, it will wear you down. Also - pick the right type of degree for you. PBL doesn't suit everyone, nor does a traditional course, nor a course with clinical placements from the word go.
Get lots of experience - being a doctor isn't glamorous like on Casualty or ER, it's hard graft and very demanding, and can often be very unglamorous - particularly when you're examining stool samples or putting maggots into leg ulcers! It's incredibly demanding, tiring and stressful. It can be upsetting, it can make you angry, get you frustrated. You'll experience more emotions in your first few weeks of clinical placements than you ever thought possible. It's a lot of hard work, and won't be much like you expected it to be. Do some work as a healthcare assistant or something in a hospital, do lots of shadowing.
If you're serious about it, go on lots of open days, ask current students about the courses and what they think about them, work hard at your A levels and GCSEs, and pick the right subjects for the courses you have in mind - DO your research. If you don't think you're going to get the grades, look at Access to Medicine courses, or Medical Schools that offer lower grades depending on what school you're at, or Medical Degrees with a Foundation Year.
Do lots of practice interviews, find out what they're like at the universities you've applied to - they vary a lot. For example, UEA is an OSCE style interview, whereas St George's University in London is a traditional interview with 3 consultants and a medical student firing questions at you.
But ultimately, do what YOU want, and what you think is going to make YOU happiest.