We had a lovely talk with Alfie from Hammersmith Academy. He shared their experience working with the Student-Led Project "UCL Next Top Doctor".

Can you briefly describe the activities that the volunteers and students were involved in?

The volunteers worked with a group of our year 10 students, which was more broad, and a group of our year 12 students, which was made up of students who had already said they were interested in studying medicine. Each year group had four sessions each.

The year 10 students did a lot of activities that helped them find out a bit more about medicine and healthcare careers, such as online quizzes, role play and that type of things, which were really nice.

The year 12 students mostly know a little bit more about it. They are already thinking about applying to university next year and thinking about medicine, so for them it was a little bit more of a detailed look at the application process and different aspects of preparing for this. As a result, their sessions were slightly more informal, and had quite a nice chatty element with lots of questions and students sharing their experiences, which I thought was really nice.   

We found the volunteers were really engaging and friendly, really prepared to have one to one conversations with the students when they ask questions. Obviously they are presenting to the group, but quite often they wouldn't just pack up and go home once their session had finished. They stayed and talked to some of our students who had maybe slightly more specific enquires or particular issues that maybe didn’t really concern everyone, and they were happy to do that.

I got the sense that they really wanted to be there and wanted to share their experience and their knowledge, that was really nice.

What impact did UCL Next Top Doctor have on the students and school?

This is the first year that I’ve worked with the Next Top Doctor project, but I know that they’ve visited the school in previous years. It’s always been quite a big part of the school careers calendar, in terms of really getting those volunteers in, who are doing the things that our students want to be doing, and having those nice interactions. Hopefully it gave quite a realistic idea of what studying medicine is like. They got to speak with people who are actually doing it, as well as learning the challenges of the application process.

It was just nice for them to see this, to see these people who are doing what they really want to do, and read a lot about. It’s just nice to have that early awareness of the things that are out there, particularly with a course like medicine, where it can be dependent on things that start when you are in year 10 and 11, like GCSE and A Level choices.

So it was good to have that early stage knowledge, and hopefully sow the seed for some students about what they need to do and what things they might think about doing in the future. 

Why did your school decide to host one of our Student-Led Projects?

As a school we’ve always had a lot of students who are ambitious, interested in studying at universities like UCL and studying courses like medicine. So I think we just want to give our students that option and hopefully help them think that they can definitely achieve this and that it is an option open to them. 

We try to give our students as many opportunities as possible to do things outside of the curriculum, and obviously UCL is a university that a lot of them have heard of and are interested in.

What advice would you give to another school considering whether to host one of our Student-Led Projects?

Definitely go for it. It’s a really nice experience, the volunteers are really nice and enthusiastic, keen to give back and listen, so if you give them suggestions, they take them on. They are just generally looking to support.

Also, the programmes are well designed, clearly a lot of thought has gone into them, so I would say yes, definitely consider. 

Your school or organisation is interested in partnering with one of our Student-Led Projects? Find out more information here!