Parents – here's how you can help your children get into medical school
Most parents are extremely proud and supportive when their child announces that they’d like to train for a medical degree.
Whether the ambition is to work in general practice, research or consultant surgery, applying to medical school in the UK and medical training requires huge commitment, and takes years of intense study.
Only the very best will be successful in their endeavour - so if your child is determined to take this path, what can you do to help?
5 ways to help your child to get into medical school
1. Be honest with yourself
Is applying to medical school in the UK your child’s decision, or yours? Is medicine a career you would like your child to have so they get a good job, achieve universal respect and earn a decent salary? Are they fulfilling your dream, or their own?
Most aspiring medical students have a longstanding interest in – and a gift for – the sciences, but if medical training is announced out of the blue, be sure to ask why they’ve come to this decision.
It might be that they simply want to please you, in which case they’re less likely to succeed. Are they on track to get excellent grades in their A Levels, which include at least two sciences?
If not – and this is harsh but true – they might be better off looking for degree courses in less demanding subjects, or thinking outside the box towards healthcare careers that do not demand as high A Level results, such as clinical support workers and paramedics.
2. Be supportive...
Medical training is exceptionally hard work. It can take seven years to achieve a license to practise and many more to qualify for a specialism. Expect five years at degree level plus a further two years at foundation level.
It’s not simply about having exceptional A-Levels – doctors require many skills. Does your child have them? Maybe take them to a hospice to see the reality of end of life. Can they cope with illness and death? Do they have compassion?
Talk to them about what doctors face in their careers. If your child is having doubts, listen, but try not to push them one way or another. If they do change their mind, support that. It’s better they alter direction now rather than drop out years down the line.
3. … But not pushy
If they’re determined to apply, be encouraging but not overly so. Don’t push them to study more or burden them. Don’t nag or use comments such as ‘You’ll never be a doctor if you don’t work weekends.’ If they’re locked in their bedroom, with no social life studying day and night, it is not healthy.
Check for stress. Are they sleeping and eating well? Are they more worried than usual? It’s natural for young people to become anxious in the run up to exams or before university interviews but excessive anxiety could be harmful to their health and lead to burn out.
4. Set rules and boundaries
Set down rules about work and boundaries (such as no work on Sunday afternoons and no computers in the bedroom) and encourage them to take time off just to have fun, catch a film and see friends.
Ensure your child spends time on their interests and hobbies, such as sport, music, drama, art or gaming. Not only do they get a well-earned break from studying but medical schools – which are inundated with identical results – like to see evidence of well-rounded characters with passions outside of the classroom.
5. Help them find work experience opportunities
When applying to medical school in the UK, some form of work experience or shadowing is essential, and whereas universities won’t expect your child to have passed the scalpel in an operation, they want to see that they’ve sought out available opportunities.
Maybe they could volunteer at a local hospice or care home? If you have a family friend in the medical profession, ask them to have a chat and explain what their job entails.
Take your child to careers fairs (often run by local colleges) so they can see what jobs are out there and chat to medical professionals. They might find work experience that way, either now or later down the line.
Applying to medical school requires huge commitment and hard work
Parents can help by being encouraging – but not overbearing – and keeping an eye on workload, excessive pressure and anxiety.
Sometimes it can be the small things – making your child their favourite dinner or taking time out to watch a TV programme together – that can stop them feeling overwhelmed and isolated. And if they don’t get on to a preferred course, comfort them and support them with their Plan B.
Here at William Clarence, our consultants are knowledgeable and experienced in medical applications, and will be able to provide you with the very best advice and support if your child is hoping to apply for medical school. For more information, get in touch with us today.