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The Mental Battle when Applying to Medicine

What should I do when I just feel like giving up?

April 2022
Fateha Khawaja
UCL - 1st Year Medical Student

My Application Journey

It is no secret that applying to medical school is a gruelling process. Despite there being physical hurdles, I found that my application process was made difficult by the mental hurdles and self-doubt that followed me through each stage of the process. My brain was always clouded with the worst possible outcome for each situation and uncertainty about whether I would make it to the end of the year with any offers for medical school.


The day before I received the results for my BMAT, I also received my first rejection from medical school. It is natural to face rejection when applying to university, but I had seen this medical school as one of the ‘safe’ options that I had applied to, assuming it would be easier to get an offer from there than my top choices. Receiving this rejection really knocked my confidence; maybe I just wasn’t good enough to become a doctor. I had been rejected by my safe university, so what chance did I have of getting in anywhere else?


I remember having a conversation with one of my friends and explaining that I didn’t think I would be going to medical school this year since I hadn’t heard back from any other university, and frankly wasn’t expecting good news. A few hours after this conversation, I received my first interview invitation and after 3weeks of preparation, I held an offer from one of my dream medical schools. I realised that I gave up on myself too soon, and the minute you approach anything with a defeatist attitude, the more likely you are to fail. If I had approached my interview with the attitude that I probably wasn’t going to get in – chances are, I wouldn’t have tried as hard or cared as much. But me putting in that work and genuinely believing I had a shot and was deserving of a place in medical school is exactly why I am now in medical school.


Although having some moments of uncertainty and self-doubt are natural, I found there were certain approaches I took to overcome this.


How did I stop myself from giving up?


Revisit my goals


It might seem cliché, but it’s important to sit down and remind yourself of why you want to become a doctor as this will ultimately serve as the biggest motivation to push through any hurdles you face. After I did this, I found myself watching day-in-the-life medical student YouTube videos and vlogs that inspired me and excited me; it reminded me of my goal and where I wanted to be, making the whole process seem worth persevering for. It’s easy to forget why you have to practice abstract reasoning or what the point of the kreb’s cycle is int he moment, but this served as a reminder for what it’s all about.


My personal favourites are Faye Bate and Journey2Med because both channels give a realistic view on life as a medical student whilst also motivating me to work hard.



Have honest conversations with people I trusted


We are our own worst critiques, and we will always highlight our worst traits, and underestimate our best qualities. Having open conversations with people who really know you in moments of doubt and sharing your struggles about why you think you might not be good enough will help you get things off your chest, and hopefully gain some insight, reassurance and advice from the other person.Sometimes we just need someone us to tell us that we’re in a much better position than we think, and we actually can do it.


Get support from teachers


The application process is tough, and it would be completely normal for you to feel stressed about it all. The medicine application process can absolutely have a negative impact on your mental health, and it’s important that you’re able to identify if it’s impacting you, your social life and relationships, your emotional well-being, your sleep, your diet, your academic life and everything else you value. It’s important you check in with yourself, and if you find it’s affecting you, it’s probably time for you to reassess your approach and look for some help. If you talk to your teachers about this, they can hopefully guide you towards additional support. This might come in the form of helping you manage your time or giving you allocated time to revise for your UCAT and BMAT, supporting you in finding resources/courses that can help, seeking a guidance counsellor to support you and so on.


You’re not alone in this process, but it is your responsibility to share the burden.  


Take a break


If you’re feeling exhausted or burnt out by the application process, it’s a sign that you’re not dedicating enough time to yourself and the things that make you happy. So, when you’ve reached this point, it’s time to do something you enjoy, be that sports, baking, painting, talking to friends or retail therapy. You might think you have no time, and fair enough, you might not have a lot, but I promise this is worth making time for. You’ll come back feeling recharged and refreshed.

How to prepare for the 'worst'


Now, whilst you should not admit defeat in the application process, there is certainly no harm in having a strong back up plan to study or do something else that excites you. And if medicine is what you’d like to come back to, you can always apply after having done a gap year, or a first degree. You can also apply to Medicine through clearing if you don't get any offers in your application cycle. Click the links to find out more about these pathways. Remember, it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go smoothly the first-time round, and it’s not a reflection of your worth or potential to be a doctor.

The application process for Medicine may be one of the first times you really believe you aren’t good enough, or that there are other people far more capable and competent than you. Unfortunately, this feeling will come and go many times during medical school and as a doctor, and it is normal. However, it’s important you start early in building your confidence in yourself, and believing that you can do this. Put in the work, try your best and see where it takes you. Overcoming these hurdles is difficult but you will get to the other side- so don’t give up!


Author: Fateha Khawaja & Dr Latifa Haque

Editor: Dr Latifa Haque

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