Sometimes life doesn’t quite go as planned and we end up having to alter our chosen path. This may seem disastrous at the time but can ultimately lead to new opportunities for growth. We spoke to Bromley High School alumna and former Head Girl, Tara Bhatnagar, who found herself having to rethink her options when she received her A-level results in 2022.
We asked Tara how she felt this in the moments before receiving her results:
“I remember feeling a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. At the time I was only holding an offer to study biomedical sciences as my fifth choice. I had performed very well in each of my subjects until I noticed a B grade on the results sheet. In that moment, I froze. I didn’t know how to react. All I could think of was that I had perhaps lost my chance of applying to medical school.”
“I was tearful, but tried to hide my disappointment from my friends because I felt embarrassed to share grades that I wasn’t completely proud of. I felt broken.”
Tara called up many medical schools over the next few days, despite knowing the very small chance of being accepted, and was unfortunately unsuccessful in UCAS Clearing. A week after results day, she made the tough decision to decline her biomedical sciences offer and take a gap year.
“It was important to me that I didn’t give up trying to achieve something that I’ve always dreamt of doing.”
Gap year nerves
“I was initially quite apprehensive about starting a gap year because it wasn’t something that I had planned. I was unsure of how I would make the most of my time and started to feel out of place knowing that my friends were starting university and I wasn’t. I started to question whether I was doing the right thing by sticking with medicine but…
“.. if I didn’t put my heart and soul into trying again then I would be disappointing my 7-year-old self.”
A woman clearly wise beyond her years, Tara went on to bravely admit:
“During my gap year, the first battle was not the exams. It was with myself and inner doubts. Overcoming the fear of rejection, disappointing others, and potentially making things even worse by wasting a year if rejected again, were all challenges that I knew I had to overcome.”
Work experience and volunteering
As well as reapplying to medical school, Tara put her gap year to good use and gained work experience in three London hospitals. There, she had exposure to a wide range of medical specialties including Paediatrics, Respiratory medicine, Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine. She told us what she learned:
“Each of my work experiences provided me with a great insight into the cooperation between members of multidisciplinary teams and the importance of developing strong interpersonal relationships between healthcare staff and patients. I also gained a better understanding of the resilience, knowledge, and compassion that it takes to pursue a career in healthcare.”
Tara is also proud to have volunteered with ‘Rain On Me’ during her gap year, a charity supporting individuals with mental health difficulties.
UCAS – the moment of truth
“The day I got my fifth and final track UCAS email is a day that I’ll never forget. I asked my brother to film the moment because deep down I had an inclination that my hard work would pay off. I had butterflies in my stomach because I knew that the outcome of the next few seconds would shape a huge part of my life.”
“There was a part of me that was still fearful of rejection.”
As Tara gathered her family together to open the email, she told us:
“I was so used to seeing the message that I’d been rejected from medical school positioned in the top left corner of my laptop screen. There was a part of me that was still fearful of rejection. This fear was overcome by tears of joy from the moment that I saw I’d been given an unconditional offer.”
Support from Bromley High School and the GDST
Tara benefited from the standard support given to medics at Bromley High School: one-to-one advice on her personal statement, mock interviews by staff and by external experts, and advice on which courses to apply to.
The school continued to support Tara during her gap year. Lawrence Potter, Head of Careers, shared:
“I think the real difference we made was in (Tara’s) second round of applications. We advised her to look at Lancaster University, as she had the grades to apply there. She interviewed and was offered a place.”
“It is very special being part of the GDST family”
Tara also received support from the GDST, to which she commented:
“It is very special being part of the GDST family because we’re given the opportunity to connect with students and alumnae from other GDST schools who can share their advice and experiences on a wide range of topics.”
Mrs Christina Bird, Head of Sixth Form, spoke on behalf of BHS:
“We are immensely proud of Tara’s resolute commitment to fulfilling her dreams to study medicine. Her unwavering determination stands as a shining example of dedication and perseverance. We wish her every success in the future!”
A message from Tara
“Be the most resilient you’ve ever been and don’t look back.”
“I know how it feels to repeatedly be rejected from universities. It stings and makes you feel like you don’t deserve the chance of trying again and that you’re not as good as everyone else that has secured a place at university.”
“It’s okay to feel lost, frustrated, and unmotivated but keep your chin up. The disappointment and rejections that you may have faced in the last year will only make you stronger and better prepared to embark on the next steps in your journey.”