With 33 undergraduate medical schools in the UK, it can be difficult to know which ones are right for you. From entry requirements, to teaching style, to the age-old ‘campus vs. city’ debate, it’s easy to find the whole selection process completely overwhelming. So grab a cup of tea, a notepad and pen, and let me break it down in a way that you might find helpful.
Firstly, write or print out a list of all the medical schools (you’ll find one here) Now look at the entry requirements and see if there are any that you aren’t eligible for, whether that be because of GCSEs, UKCAT, AS grades or even A level subjects. Cross out anywhere you don’t meet the basic entry requirements. Be honest. Be brutal. If you don’t meet the grade requirements, don’t chance it. You may be a lovely person, you may have done tonnes of work experience and volunteering, and you may have the potential to be an excellent doctor, but medicine is a notoriously over-subscribed course, so grades are an easy way for medical schools to discriminate candidates on – don’t risk it.
That was the easy bit. Now you need to have a think about where you want to live. Do you want to live in a big city? Can you cope with the expense of living in London? Would a campus based university suit you? Would you like to live somewhere quiet for 5/6 years? Look at prospectuses. Go on as many open days as you can. If you can’t make an open day, many universities offer virtual ones online. Cross off any of the ones you don’t like the feel of – 5 years is a long time, so you need to like where you live. Are there any which are too far from home (or too close)?
Importantly, look at the teaching style. Do you think that you are focused and self-motivated enough to cope with PBL? Would you cope having lectures from 9am-6pm? Do you want to experience dissection or could you live without? There are all sorts of different ways to pick universities, so try and figure out what is most important to you and what your priorities are. Different universities will have different arrangements for accommodation – most will guarantee it for first year only, some for 2 years, some may for the entire course – is this important to you? Is sport a priority for you? Or music? Or transport accessibility? Or societies?
At the end of it all, try not to hedge your bets all in one place. If you are set on getting in the first time you apply, be clever about it. Try not to pick all BMAT universities because you don’t know your score when you apply. If you don’t think you will fare well with MMIs, try and pick a variety of different interview styles. If you are worried that your ukcat score might not quite make the cut, don’t apply to universities which all have very high cut-off points and place a lot of importance on a high score.
But as cheesy as it sounds, if you are truly passionate about medicine, and you get in, you’ll be pleased regardless of where you end up, and you’ll learn to love your university even if it wasn’t necessarily your first choice.