This was the moment everything I had done built up to, this was the moment I had had multiple nightmares and dreams about. A moment I could honestly never fully anticipate a reaction to. A moment I feared almost as much as I craved. I had completed my first degree, I had applied for GEMP and successfully passed the WAPT, I had done everything I needed to do, I just kept hoping it would be enough. I knew final decisions were sent out in December so my stress levels doubled when the month started.
Now I’ll go a little bit into the actual process as I’ve understood it over the last 3 or so years. Final decisions are communicated to applicants from mid-December (after the examiners meeting) to mid-January (about a week into the academic year). Generally thousands of applicants all with the dreams of becoming doctors one day apply for the 80-120 available spots in MBBCh III or GEMP I, the numbers vary per year as it is dependent on how many second year students pass and how many third year students are repeating but it has being increasing every year since I got here (there was about 60-80 GEMPs in my group, roughly 100 in the group after mine and there is about 120 in the current GEMP 1 class).
Out of the thousands a few hundreds successfully complete the WAPT (remember this isn’t a guaranteed acceptance), from that group a list is generated ranking the applicants from the highest to the lowest mark based on the composite index (CI) score which is the average of your last two academic years. Those applicants are then further divided into 3 groups. Group 1 & 2 will receive communication during December; the first group are the top applicants that have been accepted into the program, they receive their acceptance letter and they need to secure their position by making a deposit of R3000 by a certain date. The second group are at the bottom of the list and their applications have not been successful. This group can try again the following year I wouldn’t advice this unless they improve their academic portfolio by furthering their studies with a postgraduate degree or just upgrade their results. Some people start a new degree from scratch all in the hope to apply for GEMP after that; it’s really up to you but again I wouldn’t advice this. Realistically doing medicine in 4 years instead of 6 is appealing to all graduate but it isn’t the only way to do medicine. Piece of advice if you want to study medicine, if becoming a doctor is the absolute dream, don’t just apply for GEMP, apply for first year entry at all the medical schools within your reach. I’ve known people that were so fixated and desperate to do GEMP, that it took them 4 years to get in but they refused to apply for first year spots because 6 years is too long. They had spent 4 years upgrading marks, doing different honors courses just so they could get into GEMP. Had they applied to a different universities they could have been in their 4th or 5th year by the time they had gotten into GEMP.
Reminder that this group of applicants had all past the WAPT therefore they will not need to rewrite it for 3 years.
Then there’s the third group which is made up of about 10-15 students that make up the waiting list. These students will be accepted if the expected numbers of students due to return is lower due to rejection of an offer, inability to secure a spot, financial exclusion of an already medical student etc. This list is absolute, no one can be added on to it, even if there’s 16 spots available and only 15 students on the waiting list. These applicants will receive their response letter in the first week of the academic year once registration have been finalized.
I, however, was part of the fourth group. One I do not know enough to comment too much about or generalize. Back to my story; December 2014 started off on a high for me, my first nephew had just been born, I had just graduated from my B.Sc so everything was looking up for me; I was feeling quite hopeful and happy. I wasn’t sure as to when or how communication from the university will be sent out so that kept me quite anxious as a baseline. I didn’t know anyone else who was waiting on a response so I felt quite in the dark about the process in general. The wait was mentally abusive, I’d often sit and daydream about the day I’d entered my GEMP class, how I’d feel, what it would mean, other days I’d daydream about how my family would react when I got the news. I tried staying positive through the process. It wasn’t easy but it needed to be done. Also I prayed about it, every day.
We were now halfway through the month and I hadn’t heard anything. On December 19th, I woke up from a nightmare about GEMP and so my anxiety got the best of me as I decided to try get ahold of the faculty. I must have called close to a dozen times without getting a response, I wasn’t sure if the faculty had already closed for the festive season or if I was just being ignored. So I decided to email the person who had sent me my WAPT results. A few hours went on without a reply. It was around 7pm on my way home from work that that I realized that I had emailed her with my old account and that she had in fact replied but my email’s app was heavily delayed. Her response broke my heart, as I was told that my application was unsuccessful, I hadn’t made the CI cut off mark for 2015, I was short a percentage and that final decisions will be emailed to us the following day. I don’t cry often, but that day I wept like a toddler, I was so disappointed, so defeated, so ashamed, I had done everything I needed to do and I was being told that it wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t enough, that I was not smart enough to make it through the program. How would I tell my family? I had only ever imagined positive scenarios. I told my mama first, she’s a strong believer that everything happens for reason, she sat and prayed with me. Offer all the comfort mothers do and motivated me to not give up on my dreams. My entire family was similarly supportive. This however forced me to reflect on how much this meant to me, on how much I wanted it, on the fact that I was now 23 and that I couldn’t be uncertain about this anymore.
In the following days, I had fallen victim to depression, I couldn’t eat, sleep or function optimally. I become quite isolated and quiet. Most people would try motivate me and say things like ‘better luck next time’, or ‘it’s only a year’s delay’ but here’s the tricky part, I was that person who had said it was “GEMP or nothing” I had no back up plan, no second choice. So all I could think about was what am I doing my life next year, deeper into the depression I sank. But look at God though, a random email from my third year Human Biology course coordinator came in, asking me what my plans for next year was, I had applied for the honors course for 2014 but finances hadn’t allowed me to register and since I was one of the top students in the course for 2013 she really wanted me to carry on with the honors course. After a few back and forth emails inquiring about the course, I accepted the offer. My plan was to now improve my academic portfolio. It wasn’t GEMP, but it was something. I prayed about it and managed to sort out the registration fee; I was now registered as a postgraduate student. I was ready for honors, I was still feeling a little low but I tried staying motivated as I had promised my mama I would.
I had made a list of things to accomplish in 2015 and right at the top was getting accepted into GEMP or (medicine anywhere else – I was a little wiser, hungrier and determined). GEMP was still the goal but I wasn’t thinking about it anymore, I had a new objective I was excited and ready for it. The honors course was due to start on the 26th of January 2015; again I had organize with work to start my leave on the 15th of Jan, I had figured 10 days rest would be enough.
On the 16th of January 2015, my first day of leave. I had woken up earlier than I had wished, I had a load of laundry to do and my plan was to relax after with a good movie. I had neglected my phone for a few hours while doing laundry, so as I was passing through the lounge I took a quick glance at it, a few WhatsApp texts, more Facebook candy crush emails, a couple twitter notifications and right there at the bottom an email with the title ‘RE: GEMP I FINAL DECISION’ I had almost missed as I had to pick my phone up a second time before I really saw it, I was a little puzzled as I opened to read this;
I almost fell down, I turned to my sister that was sitting across the room in shock, I was confused, I couldn’t believe it. She quickly asked what was wrong. I had dreamed about saying this my whole life “I got accepted into medicine.” She jumped up and hugged me tighter than ever before as we celebrated. I was in such disbelief I tried calling the faculty again but to no avail. I also realized that they haven’t been able to reach me because I had temporarily changed my phone number. I quickly made my way to campus, I had to be sure, I needed someone to tell me what was going on. I had two emails from the same person telling me two different things. After making my way to campus I was told that I had in fact gotten in, this wasn’t a joke or a mistake, look at God though. I was the last one chosen, the last person to join the GEMP 1 class of 2015, I was two weeks late but I didn’t care, look at God though. Through all this the one person I wanted to tell was my mother, I got home and there she was and I finally said the words as tears of joy rolled down my face
“mama I got into medicine! God created a spot for me.”
(Look at God, though)