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An intercalated degree can be a great opportunity to take a year out from clinical training as a medical student. With a wide range of subjects on offer, extra points to gain towards your Foundation Year application, and the chance to meet new people and learn fresh skills; it’s not difficult to see why intercalating is a popular choice for many.
The course at Imperial College is a hefty six years, but includes a year of intercalating whereby everyone is guaranteed a place on a BSc course in their fourth year. The process of choosing what we wanted to study this year gave me a small sense of déjà vu from our pre-university UCAS days. Some of my best friends opted for courses such as Gastroenterology, Cardiovascular Sciences and Respiratory Science – but I decided to break the medical-specialties-mould and spend my year at Imperial College Business School intercalating in Management.
As the new academic year approaches, I’m excited but a little nervous so I decided to pick the brains of some older and wiser students to hear their thoughts on intercalating and hopefully take away some helpful advice.
“Enjoy it! I met so many great people and loved what I learnt, it was one of my best years at medical school,” was something I was pleased to hear more than once; the majority of students seemed genuinely happy with their choice of BSc and really enjoyed their intercalation year. Not everybody though, one student said: “I wasn’t keen on intercalating – I used the year to get involved in lots of extra-curricular activities and didn’t mind too much about my results or research project at the end.” A prevailing misconception seems to be that intercalating requires research of some kind; Imperial certainly offers other short courses to undertake if medical research isn’t your cup of tea!
“The number of skills you gain in one year is incredible,” said one fifth year medic, a sentiment echoed by virtually everyone else. This included writing skills, critical analysis, presentation skills, collaborative working, and plenty more. “But be careful you don’t forget too much medicine,” a fifth year student warned me. It’s true that a year away from the wards and clinical life can potentially make your examination skills and knowledge a little rusty. I made a mental note to try and open a textbook or two at some point in the year. Another great way to keep your knowledge up to scratch is to tutor younger students for their own exams.
One piece of advice, that was surprisingly reassuring to hear, was this: “go in with an open mind and you’ll learn a lot more than you thought possible. I loved my BSc and it showed me what I want to focus on after medical school – though some people did come away from it having decided that they definitely didn’t want to specialise in that field! That’s not a bad thing either, both outcomes are actually quite helpful in planning your future career path.”
The idea of securing two degrees was very attractive to me and influenced my decision in applying to Imperial – a place where I knew intercalating was a compulsory part of the course. You should definitely weigh up the pros and cons of spending an extra year at university when making that decision. I am, however, really enthusiastic about starting my BSc and am keen to learn lots in a brand new environment. After everything I’ve heard, I’m excited to see what this year has in store!
Mariam Choudhry is a fourth year medical student and MSC representative at Imperial College London
Very well written!
Whilst at VQ cafe we stumbled across this, really good read!