How I Swallowed My Self-Doubt and Applied to Oxford

By: Hana Ahmed (Offer holder for Medicine at University of Oxford)

When I thought of what I needed to be to apply to Oxford for medicine, I thought of a veritable genius, someone able to hold a conversation on any topic under the sun. Someone who could effortlessly play a musical instrument, or sport of their choice. Someone who had volunteered at underprivileged areas around the world and already had half an idea to cure cancer.

But that person wasn’t me. I honestly didn’t consider myself to be worthy of an offer.

So, why on earth did I apply?

I think everyone assumed that I would apply to Oxbridge after achieving good grades at GCSE. After all, I was without sounding too conceited, a good student: I revised and worked as much as I could, managed my time well with extra- curriculars, and was always happy to take up more. But, as great as that sounds on paper, I was at the end of the day, just a ‘good student’. Nothing special.

I was always drawn to Oxford though. I wanted to apply there. A lot. I wanted to satiate my lingering obsession with Hogwarts and, more importantly, to learn.I wanted to experience the tutorials and the libraries and be around leading scholars. Lacking the correct amount of self-confidence though, I told everyone around me that I wasn’t going to apply (I then said I would, and then not again, in a convoluted cycle until I finally said I wouldn’t). I didn’t want to waste one of my precious four places on a farfetched dream. As much as I loved the university, I loved the subject more and I would have been devasted to not study medicine post Sixth Form.

Summer went by; I thought about other choices, sat the UCAT, revised for mocks, wrote my personal statement. Then, on the first day of year 13, I received my UCAS predicted grades. It’s a little funny how after all that debate, I instantaneously changed my mind after hearing those three letters. A* A* A. They, almost magically, gave me the confidence to realise that I had as much a shot as anyone else. I remember feeling giddy with excitement as I half-ran to my friends with the news who only shook their heads in amusement, proclaiming that they knew I wouldn’t be able to resist in the end.

Hence, I applied, sat the BMAT and was overjoyed to get an interview. I tried not to think about an offer after that though. In fact, I walled off the possibility in my mind so I wouldn’t be too devasted if I didn’t get in. But, against all those negative thoughts, I woke up (at around 7:45am) on Tuesday 14th January, blearily opened up my emails and saw the words that still bring an enormous smile on my face today. I will unashamedly say that I read my acceptance letter from time to time due to the pure joy that courses through me.

Retrospectively, I find it difficult to imagine why I would not have applied. Perhaps it’s because I now safely have an offer, or the anticipation for the end result is a more distant memory. But I do remember the feelings of doubtfulness and the fear of rejection. Thus, I would implore you, dear reader, to evaluate your situation wisely. If you believe that you have the right GCSEs, a convincing personal statement, are willing to persevere for BMAT and interview preparation, and genuinely want to do medicine at the best university there is, swallow your self-doubt for 15 minutes it takes to apply and simply go for it. The process will be difficult: my brain screamed from reprieve every night after BMAT practice and I had medical articles coming out my ears for the interviews. But fear will not get you anywhere. Hard work and passion, however, could get you to Oxford.