Some people may start the application process by picking their four medical schools. Some people, like me, might wait until the end to decide. Here are the most important things to consider when choosing a medical school.
Most medical schools want students to have a 5 in English, Math, and double-award Science, but different universities have different GCSE requirements. On each school’s website, you can find out what they need from you. This is a great way to start narrowing down universities because it lets you eliminate the ones you don’t meet the requirements for.
Which Admission Test?
In the UK, students who want to attend medical school as an undergraduate must take the UCAT and the BMAT. There is a lot of difference between these two tests. You can read my posts about the UCAT and the BMAT to learn more about each test and decide which will be better for you.
Since the UCAT is given in the summer, before the October 15 deadline, and the BMAT is given in November, after the deadline, I recommend that students take the UCAT, even if they plan to apply to universities that require the BMAT.
If you do well on the UCAT, you might change your mind and apply to UCAT universities. If you do badly on the UCAT, you might try your luck on the BMAT. Need help with your admissions tests? Use the Contact form to ask a question.
Where the University is located.
Some people go to college or University to get away from their childhood homes, get physically away from their parents, and learn how to live independently. Some people don’t like moving away from home as much, and staying close to home lets them enjoy college while still spending time with their families or taking care of other responsibilities.
Undergraduate programs in medicine are at least 5 years long. There are, however, courses that take 6 years because they have a year in the middle. Intercalation lets you take a year off from medicine to get a BSc or BA in a different subject, do research, or even get a Master’s degree.
Intercalation is usually not required at medical schools.
But it is now required at some medical schools, so if you aren’t interested in doing an intercalated year for some reason, that may help you decide. There are also 6-year programs for first-year medical students, including a foundation or preparation year.
Students from widening participation backgrounds who didn’t get the insanely high grades needed for 5-year courses or didn’t take the required A Levels can take these courses.
Type of Course
Generally, medical courses will be one of three: traditional, problem-based, or integrated. On the BMA website, you can learn about the different medical courses and try to decide which one is best for you.
All medical schools will talk to applicants before giving them a spot. In general, medical schools use one of two types of interviews: the traditional panel interview, in which a group of interviewers talks to one medical student at a time, or multiple mini interviews (MMI), which is like speed dating for interviews.
Different candidates will do better or worse in each type of interview. If you are very charismatic and like to talk for a long time with a small group (1-3) of interviewers, you may be a good fit for the more formal panel interview.
On the other hand, MMIs are made up of many short (5-10 minute) stations that each have a specific goal or task. In this type of interview, each station can be seen as a chance to start over and compensate for any mistakes made in the past. I did much better than the panel did in my MMI interviews.
The Kind of University
Most medical schools in the UK are part of either City Universities, which have campuses and school systems spread across the whole city or a part of it, or Campus Universities, which have all their facilities in one place. Each of these kinds of universities has its pros and cons.
On a university campus, all buildings are in a little bubble that can take care of themselves. It’s almost like a small town. Most students will probably live on campus, so there won’t be much reason for you to leave. This can be very relaxing for some people and help them concentrate on their work.
It also makes it a little bit easier to make friends, since everyone at the University is in the same place. There are pros and cons to going to a university in a city. The buildings of the University will be spread out over a larger area, and sometimes they will be across a city.
This can make the time it takes to get to work longer and mean you meet many more individuals. It also means you can enjoy everything your city has to offer. To name a few things, it has great restaurants, nightlife, culture, and public transportation.
Ratios of University Competition
Different universities use different parts of the application in different ways. Some schools, like Newcastle, put a lot of weight on the entrance exams, like the UCAT. Others, like the King’s students I’ve met with UCAT scores under 600, don’t care about them.
You can easily find out how competitive each University is by quickly searching the Internet. I would keep that in mind and maybe add a slightly less competitive school to your list of four.
This may be hard to do this year, with online open days and days for people with offers, but try to get a feel for the universities you are applying to. Some universities, like Imperial and other London medical schools, are known for being nerdy and competitive. Others, like Plymouth and Bristol, are known for being less busy. I’d suggest getting in touch with a student at each school you’re trying to apply to and asking how they like it.
Possibilities for Research
Some medical schools in the UK are doing a better job than others of getting their students involved in research while still in school. Some universities make it easy for students to do academic research and even s. King’s, UCL, Empire, and Cambridge are known for helping their educators get published. This is an additional excellent question to ask during the interview and to question present healthcare students at each school.