The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme

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Getting into medical school isn’t easy. Not only do students have to demonstrate high levels of academic potential, but the high costs associated with studying medicine and prolonged length of study has meant traditionally, medical school has been seen as fairly elitist. In the past many medical students have come from the highest social groups and too few have come from lower socio economic backgrounds. Having a profession where the majority come from privileged backgrounds is not good for either diversity or the ability of doctors and other medical professions to relate to patients, many of whom will come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. To encourage a wider diversity from different social backgrounds, many medical schools partake in the Widening Access to Medical School Scheme, which aims to promote diversity, make medicine representative of the population it serves, and ensure entry to medical school is based on aptitude rather than socio-economic background.

The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme is designed to help those schools that are not the typical place where entrants come from, and their students, achieve access to medical school. The schemes, often run by existing medical students, visit state-run schools and provide talks and assistance to students wishing to pursue a career in medicine. A free service, The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme centres on those schools, which in the past, have sent only a few students, or none at all, to a medical school

The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme offers assistance in several ways. By visiting schools, medical students give talks on how they qualified for their course and the steps they took. The talks also include tips on such topics as finding work experience, strengthening UCASapplications and what modern medical schools are looking for in potential students. Often, students running The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme mentor students and provide tailored one-to-one assistance, answering sixth form students’ questions and offer personal advice.

Because existing students are involved in The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme, they can provide first-hand knowledge of their experiences in both applying and attending medical school. Too often, in areas where people come from lower socio-economic groups, medical school is seen as elitist and expensive. The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme helps dispel this myth, and provides advice on attaining bursaries, loans and grants, to ensure wealth is not an obstacle in applying for medical school.

While The Widening Access to Medical School Scheme centres on sixth form students, some schemes run initiatives from earlier ages by visiting primary schools and encouraging younger children to look to a future career in medicine. Quite often, the view that medical school is only attainable to the wealthy is instilled at quite a young age, so by talking and giving presentations to younger people, it is hoped it will encourage more children to think of a career in medicine when they are older.

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