“You all look very similar on paper” – every recruitment session I have ever attended.

We are suffering the byproduct of the great expansion in medical school intake. Heralded as the panacea for the Australian doctor shortage and rural-urban divide, we are instead faced with junior doctors coming to a bottleneck when it comes to obtaining specialist training.

With supply of prospective trainees outstripping demand, it is vital to differentiate yourself from the pack.

It helps to sow these seeds early, as a medical student.

There are the obvious ways, but it wouldn’t be a very insightful blog post if I told you to get the University Medal, a Churchill Scholarship and a Rhodes Scholarship. There are so many other ways to set yourself up for success, you just need to know where to look.

Here is a collection of low(er)-effort, high-yield activities that you can start working on today.

I compile this collection on the proviso that you continue to cherish your student years. They can be some of the best years of your life (even though they may not always feel like it at the time). You are still devoid of work pressures, your holidays are guaranteed.

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans, after all.


  • The University of Sydney offers Summer Research Scholarships in a broad range of medical specialties. If you have a summer to spare, this looks like an amazing opportunity and a stepping stone to bigger things.
  • The Rural Doctor’s Association of Queensland awards a Medical Student Academic Prize  for submitted case reports. They will provide funding for you to attend and present at their annual conference (one of the most fun in Australia!) if you’re picked as a finalist.
  • The Australian Medical Student’s Journal is a fantastic initiative, providing Australia’s only peer-reviewed journal for medical students. You don’t have to have original research to submit to the AMSJ – they accept feature articles, book reviews, conference reports and opinion pieces.

Essay Competitions

If you are disciplined enough to actually write something for an essay competition, you have already beaten most of your competition – they just never get around to doing it. Start now, you have nothing to lose!


Think of these early investments in terms of compound interest. The earlier you invest, the bigger your return will be. Winning an essay competition may lead to a research opportunity, which may lead to publication – all of which builds reputation. Suddenly, everything will begin to snowball from those key early investments.

But remember the caveat – enjoy your students days, they’re gone oh so quickly.

Please tweet me @LukmanAnderson if you have any questions, or can think of any that I’ve missed. I know there are so many more out there!