Applying to the STP is daunting, with multiple parts to the application process and places being extremely competitive. I was told most people apply several times, and the majority of successful applicants have Master’s, PhDs and/or experience working in healthcare. Although I was still studying for my undergraduate I thought it was worth applying and managed to get through with an offer first time.
I went into the final year of my undergraduate Genetics degree, after a year-long placement in a research lab, unsure what I wanted to do. Like most people, I was considering a Master’s degree with the hope of pursuing a PhD. I heard of the STP around Christmas time and began considering the different specialisms and if it was right for me. I initially gravitated towards genomics, as it was most closely related to my degree area and my main interests, but then after attending an open day at Sheffield, I realised Clinical Bioinformatics (Genomics) was more suited to me. My computational undergraduate project hooked me on wanting to develop computational solutions to biological questions and being able to solve problems by analysing biological data. Although I had no “real” bioinformatics experience, and no Master’s degree I thought I might as well apply in my final year. If I got in the first time then great, if not I would just treat my first time application as experience for applying again once I had graduated and hopefully be on my way to completing a Masters in bioinformatics.
Once I had decided on my specialism, I began to pull together how to answer the application questions, although most of the writing ended up being left to the night before the deadline and hoping for the best. After completing the psychometric tests (again the night before the deadline) and scoring high enough to pass them, the wait for interview offers to be released began. After several weeks I received an email saying I was on the interview reserve list, meaning I could still receive an interview offer if someone else did not accept theirs. Then just over 2 weeks later I got a direct offer for an interview, leaving just over a week to prepare, and only 3 more days after for writing my dissertation. This was further than I ever expected to get and knew I needed to prepare for my interview, but I didn’t let it get in the way of my project and revising as I could always reapply next year. After a few hours of reading through the NHS values and trying to read up on my specialism, I went to Birmingham not expecting much and trying to just focus on making the most of the opportunity. Although the interviews were nerve-wracking and I managed to spill water all over the first station, I left feeling I had done better than I expected but would be back again next year. Then after 4 weeks, I received an email with a conditional offer for my 2nd choice at Cambridge University Hospitals. Amazed I had received an offer, I concentrated on getting through my final exams and graduating with a 1st.
Advice for applying:
- Although it is competitive having a Master’s or PhD is not essential, don’t be put off knowing other people have more experience, as your motivation for working in healthcare science and being able to show it is what matters.
- Know your specialism and your motivation for wanting to work in the area.
- Put as much into your application questions as possible, this is what decides if you get an interview offer, and 250 words are not very much.
- Make sure you understand and can explain what the programme is about and how you will fit into the broader picture of healthcare
- If you get through to interviews then you have done brilliant, remember to keep calm and if one station doesn’t go well you have time to pause afterwards before the next. The interviewers have not seen your application, and you are only scored on what you say in those 10 minutes.
Disclaimer: leaving everything to the last minute definitely wasn’t ideal, and preparing more for the interview is definitely recommended but it is possible to get through the application with little experience and not enough time