๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“ How Clearing led to a PhD at the University of Plymouth ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“

After four years leading up to that morning, it was a shock for me to wake up on results day and find out that I hadnโ€™t achieved the grades to study Medicine. I knew almost as soon as I opened my eyes, discovering an email in my inbox stating that my offer conditions had not been met, though at that point I knew nothing more. It felt like a long car ride to school as my dream career dissolved before me while I didnโ€™t even know what my A level results were โ€“ or if I could get into any university at all.

 
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I had wanted to be a doctor since before I even started my GCSEs, attending medical school open days years before I was eligible to apply just because I was so hungry to reach that goal. I did well in my GCSEs, finishing with 8 A*s and 5 As, making it into the local newspaper with my picture beside smiling faces from grammar schools and ambitious kids looking to get into Oxbridge. But the transition to A levels hit me hard, and while I maintained my vision of studying medicine, my motivation waned, and my focus scattered. Again, I did well during the application process and many thought I had it in the bag โ€“ of 4 medical schools, I got 4 interviews, followed by 4 conditional offers. I was in a strong position to choose where I wanted to go, and my choice was Plymouth. Its modern ethos appealed to me, and I could see it would best prepare me for a world of research and evidence-based medicine.

 
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After experiencing 2 years of A levels, not to mention the exams, I think part of me was unsurprised by the result. My results day morning was frantic and worsened by the fact that I had become โ€œthe future doctorโ€ to both students and teachers, and I could see it was difficult for them to know what to say. I had achieved A*BBB โ€“ in hindsight, a good set of grades, but at the time nothing more than โ€œnot good enoughโ€. I started to discuss the options, vaguely praying for a miracle but mainly just hoping for a solution. That solution came over the phone from a clearing advisor at Plymouth University โ€“ I could study Biomedical Science, a more purely academic subject with little to no clinical aspects, but which offered me options and career prospects in line with my interests. It was a degree I hadnโ€™t even considered, but nevertheless I felt that it fitted me, and I accepted.

 
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Four years later, I have followed up my degree with a masters, also in Biomedical Science, and have developed an interest in infection science. In October 2018, Iโ€™ll be embarking on a PhD, also at Plymouth, in microbiology and nanomaterials โ€“ combining my love for infection science with an unexpected mix of engineering and materials science. At the end of my PhD Iโ€™ll have several paths open to me: academia, industry, jobs in the NHS or in Government. Plymouth University has given me options, the opportunities Iโ€™ve needed for progression, and ambition for a career path I never saw myself following. In my mind, the future is bright, and I donโ€™t regret my choices one bit.

 
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My one piece of advice would be to embrace the opportunities that come your way; life rarely plays out the way you expect and of course itโ€™s difficult to come to terms with what you perceive as failure. More than anything, I think Iโ€™ve learned that if you have a drive to succeed, to push through difficulty, and a willingness to work hard, youโ€™re already halfway to reaching your goals. I donโ€™t know if Iโ€™ll ever feel like Iโ€™ve arrived, or โ€˜succeededโ€™, but I think itโ€™s a major victory to know that you have a long career ahead of you โ€“ and for that to be a source of excitement!

Read my very professional, serious tweets: @JMButlerSc