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How Do I Help My Child Go To Medical School?

By Dukes Medical Applications
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This blog details how how parents can support their child’s dream of becoming a doctor.

The Road to Medical School - A Parent's Role

If your child wants to become a doctor, you should be incredibly proud. This choice means fundamentally that they want to give care to people in need. It also means they will need more support than students who choose other less demanding paths. In this blog we will address some of the simple ways in which you as a parent can help your child when they are considering studying medicine.

Make sure it is definitely their decision (and not yours)

A medical degree is widely respected, and deservedly so. Naturally a lot of parents would love their children to become a doctor. Unfortunately, this means that many parents try to force a medical career path for their child.

Students wanting to become doctors will have their commitment pushed and tested, with stressful tests, long revision hours and lots of dense information to process. If the reason that they are studying hasn’t come from their own conclusion, then this will prove to be a far tougher process to justify, and may cause students to question their decisions, and potentially drop out from their course.

If your child suddenly announces that they want to be a doctor, make sure you ask them why they have come to this decision. If their reasons seem logical and sound, they have thought it through, and it seems like a viable option, then you can be safe in the knowledge that it is their decision. Also it would be wise to check regularly through their journey whether they are having doubts. Sometimes these doubts will just be nerves or stress, but sometimes they may stem from an underlying fundamental flaw that they actually don’t want to study Medicine anymore, and that is okay. They should feel open to change their mind.

Encourage the characteristics a doctor would need to employ.

Doctors need a strong set of characteristics to deal with the challenges and stress of a medical degree. These characteristics include determination, resilience, diligence and compassion. Whilst parenting should naturally encourage these traits, parents whose children want to be doctors should try and find extra ways to cultivate these skills. Take your child to a local hospice to improve their compassion, or get them a good quality planner or diary to help them with organisation. Simple practical things can go a long way, and are often underestimated.

Work experience/Career fairs

Work experience is integral for an application to medical schools, and therefore anything that a parent can do to help acquire work experience will be very useful. If you have a friend of a friend who works in a hospice, or you and your local GP go dog-walking together, try to utilise these relationships. Even if it is as little as asking if they have any advice about the best places to try for work experience, you will most likely get some valuable feedback. Also remember that Admissions Tutors will not mind if your child has not had the chance to watch brain surgery, as long as they have taken the opportunities which were available to them.

Similarly Careers Fairs are great places to start thinking about your child’s future. Whether it comes to course selection or university selections, you will have access to lots of useful information at these events. Have a look and see if there are any local schools or community buildings which are hosting careers fairs in the near future.

Encourage good scores, but also other activities

Whilst academic results are vitally important to a medical application, you should make sure that your child is a well-rounded individual. If your child has other activities such as learning an instrument, reading literature or playing in a sports team, then as a parent you should encourage your child to carry this passion on, and make sure it isn’t superseded by the medical application. Having an outlet, whether it be creatively, physically or intellectually stimulating, will only make your child a better candidate, as it shows that they aren’t just studious, they are a passionate individual in all walks of life.

Be on the lookout for stress

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analysed 129,000 medical students in 47 countries. They found that 27% of medical students had depression or symptoms of it, and 11% reported suicidal thoughts during medical school. The increased workload and day-to-day stress can be a very tough thing to cope with, so make sure that your child isn’t buckling under the pressure. Easy things to spot are them being quieter than usual, not sleeping enough, not going out, not eating enough, however other symptoms are not as easy to spot. Something as simple as taking them on a walk or running them a bath will give them the fresh air and a break from studying.

Let them make their own journey

Ultimately this should be your child’s journey, and whilst you can facilitate them, you can’t study or apply for them. If they have decided to study Medicine, then it is something that they must undertake themselves, and this should start when they are applying for the course. You can help them in the process by giving the opportunities where you can, and encouraging the right behaviour, but you will only serve to hinder their application if you are too involved.

Sometimes the small things are the most effective, take their empty coffee mug from their revision-strewn desk, make sure they’re eating and sleeping enough, find interesting medical articles in academic journals that they might want to read and fold the page down. Knowing that they have a parent who is willing to be there as a supportive influence will make this stressful and demanding time in their lives a lot easier to comprehend.

A career as a doctor is challenging and requires dedication and perseverance. There will be hurdles along the way, but remember you have a very exciting career ahead of you and that is the ultimate goal to aim for. Good luck! If you want to talk to one of our consultants about your options, we will be happy to talk to you. Ring us on +44 (0) 207 399 1990.