This is a follow-up article on the earlier article below on whether your child should study medicine or not.
Now that you have decided your child has the passion to be a doctor and you are able to afford his university fees, the next challenge is how to get into the medical school.
There are very limited places for students who are interested to study medicine in Singapore. At the moment, there are only 2 universities which enrol students to study medicine in Singaore, which are Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, NUS and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical school. Together, both of them takes in around 300+ students a year.
Thus there are very limited positions which are available locally. Of course you can try overseas universities but the cost are much higher.
To get into medical school, your child needs to have good academic grades and good attitude and demonstrate passion to be a doctor. For academic grades, you need not have straight As, as I have seen many of them with one or more subjects having B grades. But it is important to have good results as the academic study for medicine is fairly tough. If your academic foundation is not strong, you may not be able to survive in medical school.
There are one or more interviews for your child to go through after being shortlisted based on his academic results. Many parents have ask me what the interviewers ask during these interviews and my answer is “Anything under the sun”. Yes, seriously, the interviewers can ask your child anything, based on what his interest are, his previous CCAs in the school, his hobbies, his families etc.
What the interviewers are interested is mainly to assess if the person is suitable to be a doctor. A doctor is expected to work very long hours, have compassion to help the unfortunate and have a good and rational thinking. These are some of the criteria the interviewers will try to elicit from the candidates. My advice to parents whose children are going for these interviews are:
1. Be genuine. Do not tell lies as the interviewers (especially those senior doctors) are good at picking up whether the person is telling a lie or not. As doctors, we encounter patients everyday and we have developed the skills to pick up inconsistency in people’s behaviour, especially if they are lying.
2. Be passionate about what you want to do. If you want to be a doctor to help people, please say so. But do not try to over exaggerate your passion. If you want to be a doctor to develop a new type of treatment to help a particular group of patient, please say so. The interviewers are looking for passionate people to be doctors.
3. Good communication skills. This is very important for a doctor. Your child should learn to maintain eye contact with the interviewers, speak in clear and confident sentences, greet the interviewers and thank them after the interview. It is very important for doctors to have soft skills as they are required to be able to communicate well to their patients.
4. Answer rationally. If you do not know the answer of a question they pose to you, say you do not know. If you know the answer, try to answer it in a logical manner and not confusing to the listener. It is important for a doctor to think rationally in his job, like how to make a diagnosis and treat a patients and not to have their thinking all jumbled up.
Some students have actually done some voluntary work during their school days with the hope that their chances of getting into medical schools are higher. My opinion is it is good for the child to do voluntary work, but please do it because you like to volunteer and not to do it as an ulterior motive to get into medical school. This is because you need to be genuinely like to help people, otherwise you will be very miserable as a doctor in the future because you may not like the sacrifices you need to do to help people as a doctor.