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How To Choose Which Medical Schools To Apply To

This article takes you through the steps to help you decide which medical schools to apply to.
Published 13th Oct 2018

Making decisions

Deciding which medical schools to apply to can be very difficult. It’s a very important decision because you could be studying there for the next 4-6 years.  You need to consider which medical schools you are most likely to get into as well as which are best-suited to you. Read through this guide to help you with making these important decisions. We’d recommend writing a list of all of the medical schools and then going through each of the things in this article and crossing off medical schools which are not suitable. 

Academic entry requirements

Check the minimum academic entry requirements for each medical school first. If you don’t meet the minimum entry criteria for a particular medical school, cross it off your list. For example, there’s no point applying to a graduate-entry programme if you’re an undergraduate because you won’t get past the first stage of the selection process.

Admission test

Next, check which admission test each of the remaining medical schools use. If you’ve done the UKCAT but not the BMAT, cross all of the BMAT universities off of your list. If you haven’t yet booked your admissions test(s) you have more choice here and you can decide which admission test to do (or do both) depending on which medical schools you plan to apply to. 

Selection process

Hopefully there will be lots of medical schools left on your list where you will meet the minimum academic entry requirements and you have done the correct admission test. Each medical school use a different selection process when deciding who to invite to interviews. So even though you meet the minimum criteria, you will stand a greater chance of success at some medical schools compared to others. It is important to look at the selection process for each medical school and try to pick ones that play to your strengths. If you’ve got fantastic GCSE grades but your UKCAT was below average, consider applying to medical schools that focus more on GCSEs. Be tactical when you are choosing which medical schools to apply to and you will increase your chances of being invited to interview.

Course type

There are a few different types of courses and this may help you to decide which ones to apply to. The main course types are:
  • Traditional – two years of scientific lectures, then three years of clinical medicine. Examples: Oxford, Cambridge
  • Integrated – patient contact from the beginning of the course, although there will typically be more lectures in the first couple of years and then the balance will shift to more clinical work later on. The majority of medical schools run an integrated course. Examples: Aberdeen, Birmingham, BSMS, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds
  • PBL (problem-based learning) – this involves learning with your peers through small group work and discussions, facilitated by a member of staff or a clinician. Examples: Manchester, Sunderland, Warwick
Different course types suit different people depending on their learning style and whether they prefer to learn individually or in groups. Think about how you would like to study when you are trying to decide which medical schools to apply to.

Location

Once you’ve got a list of medical schools which you are likely to get into, consider the location of each of them. Some people prefer to be relatively close to home, while others want to take the opportunity to explore a new area of the UK. Also find out about the location of the medical school in relation to its surroundings – is it in the middle of the city or a little further out? This comes down to your personal preference. It’s important to choose somewhere that you will be happy to live and study in for the next 4-6 years of your life. 

Year group size

Some medical schools have very large cohorts (year groups) of students while others have relatively few. This is also personal preference – you might like to be in a busy environment with lots of people (such as Imperial, King’s, Birmingham and Manchester) or you might prefer the small year groups (such as Aberdeen, BSMS, Exeter, Southampton, Swansea and Warwick) which allow you to get to know everyone within the first term.

League tables

Prestige is more important for some people than others. World-renowned universities might have better opportunities to get involved in research during your studies and are more likely to attract experts in each field of medicine. However, once you have graduated it is not important which medical school you went to – it will not affect your application to jobs. Make sure you pay attention to satisfaction scores – this information can be found from the National Student Survey.

Atmosphere

If you attended the Open Day, did you like the feel of the medical school? Did you feel at home there and could imagine yourself studying there for the next 4-6 years? Each medical school has its own vibe and it’s good to get a feel of this if you can. Attending the Open Day and speaking to current medical students there is a great way to do this, but if you can’t go or have missed all the dates there are other things that you can do. Lots of universities will run additional campus tour dates, or you could visit the campus in your own time. If it’s too far to travel for you, many universities have virtual tours on their website which can be helpful. Any opportunity to speak to a current student there is also useful – this might be a friend of a friend or online.

Intercalation

Intercalation means taking a year out of the medicine programme to complete another degree in a year. This is usually done mid-way through the medicine degree, for example between Year 3 and Year 4. At some medical schools intercalation is a mandatory part of the course (such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial, Nottingham, Oxford and St Andrews) and at others it is optional (most other medical schools). If you’re not sure about intercalation, avoid medical schools where it is mandatory. Bear in mind that in medical schools where it is optional, there may be a limit on the number of students who can intercalate so you may not be guaranteed the opportunity to intercalate (for example, only 10% of the year group, or only those achieving the top 25% of medical school exam grades).

Social life

Social life shouldn’t be the main thing that you use to decide which medical schools to apply to, but it is worth considering if you have gone through all of the other steps and there are lots of medical schools that you are likely to get into and suit you in terms of their course type, location, year group size, atmosphere and intercalation opportunities. Find out what societies and sports are available at the university and what else there is to do. But don’t worry if your favourite society or sport isn’t on the list at the medical schools that you want to apply to – you can always start a new society or sports club once you’re a student there!

Conclusion

There are lots of things to think about when trying to decide which medical schools to apply to. The first three steps will help you to work out whether you are likely to get into a certain medical school, and the remaining steps will give you an indicator about how well-suited the course would be to you. If you’re not sure which medical schools to apply to, you can ask for help and advice on our Facebook.



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