Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Advice for Prospective Medical Students II

When I applied to medical school in October 2011, my university choices were limited to the five medical schools in Scotland. This meant that it was pretty easy for me to decide which 4 medical schools to apply to. However, I understand that it is a lot harder to decide which universities to apply to when you have to consider every medical school in the UK. So, hopefully this post will help answer a question for you: which medical schools should I apply to?

Entry to medical schools in the UK is very competitive, I have heard that approximately 60% of all applicants receive four rejections. I don't have a source for this figure but, judging by the sheer number of unsuccessful applicants that I know myself or have read about, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was accurate. Therefore, I believe it is very important to apply to medical schools that you have a greater chance of being accepted into. That isn't to say that certain medical schools are easier to get into, but different medical schools put more weighting on different parts of your application (personal statement, BMAT, UKCAT etc.). Thus, it is important that you apply strategically to schools which highly regard the strengths of you application or put less weighting on your weaknesses. 

For example, the UKCAT can be a big deciding factor. If you happen to score below average in the UKCAT (e.g. <600avg) it would be foolish to apply to schools such as Glasgow who don't consider applicants with a UKCAT score lower than a certain cut-off, usually around 650avg. A better choice would be to apply to schools that put less emphasis on the UKCAT or those that don't use it at all to decide between applicants (e.g. Liverpool). 

I remember reading an interesting article on "The Student Room" not long ago in which the writer addresses some of the points I have mentioned. I think it has some quite useful information so I will post a segment here:

"As I began my university application process last year, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where I should apply. Having zero experience in the UK, I was a complete layperson and pretty much lost. Going through all the schools and checking out their pros/cons seemed like a logical first step, so that's where I began. I made a giant list of potential schools to apply to and everyday I would cut a few out of that list to arrive at a master list of 4-6 possible candidates.

Then I wrote my UKCAT. Everything changed. I realized that all but one of the schools I had selected placed heavy emphasis on that useless test. I was in panic mode, and the realization that I had just wasted a bunch of weeks researching stuff only to have it destroyed completely freaked me out. 

It was then that I decided on a different approach; one that many applicants easily miss.

Applying to strengths versus applying to preference.

So far in my search, the schools I had compiled were those where I felt I'd be most comfortable, most successful. They included heavyweights like Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. Well established, easily recognizable institutions with great teaching styles, in nice cities, etc. It was all great, but I had forgotten to consider a very important aspect: these schools were great for me...but how great was I for them?

What possible reasons did these schools have for accepting me? What was I offering them? This perspective of me being an ideal to the school as opposed to the schools being ideals to me, was a very important realization.

From that point on, selecting schools was easy. Main criteria became: my suitability for their teaching style, my academic/ukcat scores meeting requirements, how they look at my experience/extracurriculars/etc, what parts of my application do they focus on.

Before this, I had focused more on how great these schools were for me and I keep searching for the benefits they could provide me. However, applying to super competitive programs like medicine requires a reversal in thinking, you have to start seeing things from the opposing perspective.

Hope this has been helpful. It's especially intended for new applicants from high school/internationals who don't necessarily have an idea where to begin. Good luck on your apps!"

The full article can be found here, some of the comments may be of use to you too.

Another important thing to consider is this: no matter which medical school you go to in the UK, the medical teaching is always of a very high standard. Even though some schools have better reputation and, arguably, better teaching methods, at the end of the day they have all been approved by the GMC. Even after graduation when you have to apply for jobs as a foundation doctor, it doesn't matter which medical school you attended. There isn't even a space on the application form to disclose this information. Having said that, there is no harm in aiming high and applying to more "prestigious" universities as long as you are sensible about it. It may have been your life-long ambition to study medicine at Oxford or Cambridge, but make sure you read their entry requirements closely to determine whether you have a realistic chance of being accepted.

And that brings me to my final point–research each university that you are thinking of applying to and find out exactly what they are looking for from their applicants. This website, created by the same people that wrote the "600 Questions" UKCAT book, offers a quick overview of each universities entry requirements. Clicking each university gives more in depth information. TSR Medicine Wiki is also very helpful and should provide a lot of information about different aspects of the application. However, the best way to get the most up-to-date information is to check each medical schools website individually. If you have any additional questions, emailing/phoning the medical schools' admissions department will get you the most accurate information.

1 comment:

  1. This has been really helpful! I never thought of it like this before! It is quite difficult deciding which medical school to go to. Especially in such a short time.