Applying for AFP - Top Tips

The Academic Foundation Programme (AFP) is an exciting opportunity for newly qualified doctors to develop their interests in leadership, medical education and research. The programme provides dedicated time to focus on academic work. This may involve gaining another qualification, taking part in research or simply working towards a better health care system.

What exactly does the Academic Foundation Programme involve?

Each foundation school has its own Academic Programme and it’s important to understand that the programmes can vary hugely. The key AFP pathways are:

  • Medical Education
  • Leadership and Management
  • Research.

 Most of the “academic” time takes place in F2, allowing new doctors to live an F1 life in a very similar way to their colleagues. As an F2, academic trainees may have a four month academic block. Alternatively, academic days may be set aside throughout the year. It really does depend on the specific programme.

Why should I consider it?

Some new doctors leave medical school with a particular career in mind. If this is the case, the AFP can allow dedicated time for CV enhancing activities in preparation for this specific career. For example, if you’re considering surgery, completing some research in your early years can take a lot of the pressure off later in life. In a similar way, if education is something you enjoy and you’re considering gaining some qualifications in this area, getting the ball rolling as an F2 can be great (and often these qualifications are funded, saving money too).

The AFP can also be a fantastic option for those who simply do not know where they want their career to take them. It offers the chance to gain research experience or gain more exposure in a specific specialty without a lifelong commitment. There are so many higher academic training opportunities; an AFP can help you to figure out if this is right for you and give you an advantage in the application process for these higher training programmes.

Is it the right thing for me?

So you’re thinking that this programme sounds fantastic- But is it actually right for you? Here are some key considerations to keep in mind before applying:

  • The application process- Applying takes time. There are questions to answer, interviews to prepare for and you need a certain level of academic ability.
  • It’s a commitment- AFPs are generally associated with individual projects or qualifications. These require time and effort.
  • There’s lots to do- As a foundation doctor, there are mandatory assessments that you need to get done. With four months out of clinical work in F2, you need to be organised and efficient to get all of your portfolio content in order.

I really want to do it! How do I apply?

The Academic Foundation Programme is competitive but any final year UK medical student can apply. As with the Foundation Programme application, there is an online application form. Overall, you will submit one application for the Foundation Programme and up to two for two different foundation schools for the AFP.

The AFP application contains a more detailed section about other achievements (such as other qualifications, prizes and publications) and the famous “White space questions”. These are a set of questions specific to the AFP foundation school you are applying to and are similar in content to your personal statement. Generally, you are asked about why you want to complete the AFP and what experience you have.

If your application is successful, you will be invited to a face to face interview. The structure of the interview varies depending on the foundation school. You may be asked to deliver a presentation, talk through a clinical scenario, answer questions about a research paper or discuss your white space questions. It is likely that the interview will consist of two or more stations assessing a variety of your skills.

If your application or interview is unsuccessful, you will be entered into the allocation process for the normal Foundation Programme. However, you will have gained an insight into how your CV looks and developed your interview skills along the way!

Ten Top Tips for the AFP Application

1. Start a mind map. Write each of the white space questions down and brainstorm what experiences you have had that are relevant to each question. Don’t leave this to the last minute. This is something you can come back to over several days and continue to add to.

2. Check, check and check again. The white space questions should not be submitted as a first draft. Write a draft, read it and edit as required. Then get someone else to read your application and give you advice. It’s like your medical school personal statement all over again!

3. Being an undergraduate with no other degrees or intercalation does not rule out the AFP.Having another degree certainly makes your application more appealing but it’s not essential. However, if you are applying with just your medical degree, you need to make your application stand out. Your only “prizes” may be medical school certificates- these still count! Include every achievement that you can evidence.

4. First impressions are important At your interview, make sure you are dressed appropriately and comfortable. Practice your presentation in your outfit. Try sitting and standing in the clothes you want to wear. Are you relaxed and comfortable? At the interview, you will be asked to bring evidence of your achievements. Having an organised folder with your evidence of achievements can make you feel confident and gives a good impression.

5. Get in contact with current AFP doctors. If you know the AFP doctors in your trust, it’s worth getting in contact with them. They are often more than happy to read your application, conduct a mock interview with you and give you some general advice.

6. You don’t have to attend preparation days! There are a range of AFP application preparation days that you can attend but they do cost money and range hugely in their quality. If you have no one at all who can do a mock interview with you, then these are potentially a good option. However, there is plenty of self-directed preparation that you can do without attending these courses. Borrowing a book from your medical school library about how to approach a research paper is a good idea if your research skills need improvement.

7. Be location specific. When answering your white space questions and at interview, try and be specific about why you want the AFP post in that particular location- is it because of the research they offer? Are there educational projects that you are already involved in? If you have a reason for wanting to work in that particular place, mention it!

8. Include experiences from throughout your life. Medical school is busy enough, even without extra-curricular and CV boosting activities. Often that means that your white space questions are a little difficult to fill with recent achievements. However, if in school or college you took part in something relevant then you should absolutely include it in your application. Evidence of a ‘lifelong passion’ for research or leadership can really enhance your application.

9. Express your personality. Throughout the application process, there are opportunities to show who you are as an individual. If you have an interest outside of medicine, try to include it somewhere and highlight any transferrable skills you have learnt. This may be an academic application but interview panels love talking to an interesting person, not just a walking textbook.

10. Remember: You have nothing to lose. Applying for the AFP will give you a chance to get your CV in order; something often neglecting in medical school. If you are invited to interview, you will have the opportunity to have a professional job interview and receive feedback on your performance. If things don’t work out, you will automatically be re-entered into the F1 application process. There really is nothing to lose!

Good Luck!

Written by Dr Cassie Brewer – Thank you for your contribution.