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Choosing Universities 

📋 5 UCAS Choices

📝4 Medical Schools to Apply to.

🏆 Find the perfect fit for you.

Factors to Consider

 

Remember there is no such thing as reputation when working under the NHS as a doctor. When you apply for your junior doctor positions, they don’t know your university.

🏆 Teaching Style

Although all medical schools teach the exact same content, the way they deliver this content differs. Choose a university whose teaching style matches your learning style.

📖 Course Structure

Universities differ in their course length as well as how early on students are exposed to clinical placements. Additionally, some universities may ask you to complete a compulsory intercalated degree. Keep these factors in mind while researching universities!

💻 UCAT/BMAT Weightage

Check which test the university accepts. Additionally, some universities may only consider UCAT and predicted scores until giving interview invites - after which, they solely focus on interview performance. Other universities may consider these factors throughout the admissions process. Apply to a university that suits your strengths.

💡TIP: Search for the average entry exam score (UCAT/BMAT) for the university in question by utilising Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests

📍Location

Since medical school lasts for 5-6 years, make sure you live in a place that suits you and your personality. Do you think you'd enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city more, or the communal feeling of a town? Perhaps you'd like to move to a beach to swim in the ocean, or up north to experience the cold!

💸 Fees

Although the fees for home students is capped, international student fees varies largely between universities. Make sure to apply to universities you can afford. For home students, different universities (and colleges within those universities) offer varying amounts of financial aid, which may be a factor you'd want to consider while applying!

🤸‍♂️ Student Life and Experiences

You want to be a university where you feel supported and can find a support system. Make sure to check student support, mental health, cultural and religious student groups at the university before applying to them. Additionally, try contacting seniors currently studying at the university to get a better idea of what a day in their life looks like. 

🏫 Open Days

Open days are a great way to learn more about the university and visualize whether you'd be a good fit there. Due to COVID, most universities have switched to virtual open days and also offer virtual tours of their campuses. You can find links to them on our website!

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Mythbusting

 

❌ Medical school is incredibly tough and everyone is always behind on work.

Yes, medical school is tough to get into, however, it is NOT hard to stay on top of things. If you've been accepted into med school, the faculty believe that you have the academic capabilities to do well there. Of course, it's completely reasonable to expect to be behind in some odd week - maybe you had some personal or family issues, or it was a friend's birthday so you went out more than usual. This is completely acceptable - just make sure to catch up the next week.

tl;dr it all comes down to self-discipline and time management. For more information, check out our Study Skills page.

❌ I will have to spend most of my time studying so I won't be able to maintain my relationships with family and friends once I'm in medical school.

Again, this all comes down to time management and prioritizing tasks. Planning your day/week in advance may help you prioritize time to Facetime your friends and family. 

❌ I don't know how to cook and I'm going to be busy studying so I'm going to order food everyday and have an unhealthy lifestyle.

Moving to university is tough - you're going to have to live independently - do laundry and cook for yourself. While this may seem daunting, there are tons of easy recipes and ready-to-cook meals available online and in stores. 

❌ Most accommodations offer small rooms and the good rooms are expensive. This is going to make me feel even more homesick.

University accommodation can be a bit expensive at times, however, halls are a great way for you to get to know other students in your university - especially those ones who aren't doing your course.

Alternatively, you can rent out a flat with some of your friends. In some cases, this may be cheaper. 

Additionally, if you are from a low-income background, your university may provide discounted housing to you. E.g. KAAS at KCL

❌ Medical school is a huge jump from A Levels and I won't be able to cope up.

If you've made it past the interview stage, the university believes in YOU. Your application and skills have showed them that you can and will cope up in university. Just have some faith in yourself :)

Additionally, universities understand that most students come from A-Levels and so ensure that the first year (or at least the first semester) is a very smooth transition from school to university.

Lastly, if you face difficulties coping up, talk to a professor or your personal tutor. They will be able to help guide you much better.

❌ I come from a non-competitive school so I won't get into medical school.

This is just a misconception. The Aspiring Medics was created to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds still have the resources to apply to medical school. Consider using our free resources or applying for our scholarships. You may even want to get in touch with us or apply for the Aspiring Medics Programme!

Additionally, medical schools such as King's have special programs for students from non-competitive schools. (Research these programs in other schools)

❌ If I don't get into medical school on the first try, I can never get in.

This is absolutely false! There are so many medical students and doctors who didn't get into med school in their first attempt. There are a number of non-traditional routes into medicine such as taking a gap year or graduate entry medicine. 

 

Life at Medical School

🏥What is a 'placement'?

A 'placement' is when you as a medical student will work in a hospital/GP practice for a certain period of time. This can either start early on i.e. in your 1st or 2nd year as in integrated medical schools or later on in your 4th or 5th years as in traditional curriculums.

Either way, the aim of placements is to expose you to clinical scenarios that you've learnt the theory about in university lectures/seminars. You will either be shadowing a consultant in an out-patient clinic or assisting junior doctors on ward rounds. You can also have a GP placement where you will be shadowing a GP.

During placement, you will get the opportunity to work with an MDT (multi-disciplinary team). You might also get the opportunity to practice some clinical skills you've learnt in medical school such as taking a history or taking bloods. The doctor you will be shadowing will act as your 'teacher', taking you through procedures and quizzing you along the way.

👩‍⚕️What is the difference between 'dissection' and 'prosection'?

Dissections and prosections are 2 common ways that medical schools aid your anatomy learning.

In a dissection, students would be assigned to groups (usually anywhere between 10-30 students). Each group would be assigned 1 cadaver that they would dissect i.e. cut themselves. Conversely, a prosection is the dissection of a cadaver by an experienced anatomist in order to demonstrate an anatomic structure to students. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, but overall aid anatomical learning.

Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most schools have restricted dissections and/or prosections and have instead moved to online resources such as 3D body images.

📝What is an intercalated degree? Is it important?

An intercalated degree is when a medical student takes out a year from their education to get another degree. The degree takes a year to complete. Often students do intercalated degrees in medical subjects, such as anatomy or women's health, but you can also do something else such as global/public health, economics, business and so on. While most students do iBSc's, some also secure intercalated masters degrees.

Intercalated degrees are not mandatory in most universities. Doing or not doing an intercalated degree does not affect your chances of getting into your top choice placement once you're a junior doctor. We'd recommend doing an intercalated degree only if you're really passionate about that subject. 

🏊‍♀️Can I get involved in non-academic activities in medical school?

Getting involved in extra-curricular or non-academic activities in medical school is entirely possible and highly recommended! These activities help you meet a community of like-minded students that can help you find your support group. Additionally, they offer stress-relief and teach you important life skills.

Remember your entire life shouldn't just revolve around medicine! Try your best to explore other activities that make you happy as well.

📚Would you say everyone is helpful in med school or the environment is very competitive?

The journey into med school is pretty competitive - with UCAT, predicted grades and interviews. Unfortunately, sometimes this competitive attitude carries on into med school. However, this does NOT describe every medical student. There are loads of students who are helpful and caring - make sure to surround yourself by a supportive friend group! We'd strongly encourage you to organize study groups and share notes with your friends. At the end of the day, we're all becoming doctors and we should help each other through this long, daunting process. 

Timeline of a Doctor

 
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Important Terms

Who is a foundation year doctor?


A Foundation doctor (FY1 and FY2) is a grade of medical practitioner in the United Kingdom undertaking the Foundation Programme – a two-year, general postgraduate medical training programme which forms the bridge between medical school and specialist/general practice training. This is a compulsory 2 year training period.




Who is a junior doctor?


Junior doctors are qualified doctors in clinical training. They have completed a medical degree and foundation training, and have anywhere up to eight years' experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years in general practice.




What is FY3?


Approximately half of Foundation trainees choose to take a year out of training. There are any number of reasons that people make this decision from exciting travel plans to CV enhancing opportunities. FY3 is an extra foundation year - before starting specialty training.




What is CT?


CT stands for Core Trainee and refers to doctors in the first few years of an “uncoupled” specialty training programme. An uncoupled specialty is one in which doctors have to apply to a Core Training programme first, and then apply separately to higher specialty training. Most Core Training specialties are 2-3 years in duration.




What is ST?


ST stands for Specialty Trainee. ST1 and ST2 are doctors in the first couple of years of a “run-through” training programme. In a “run-through” programme, the doctor only has to apply for ST1; entry into higher specialty training is automatic. Higher specialty training usually starts at ST3, but for some specialties it starts at ST4. Doctors at this stage of training take on much more responsibility in the medical team. They are often the most senior doctor on site for that specialty, particularly on nights and weekends.




Who are consultants?


Consultants are senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine and are listed on the GMC’s specialist register. They have clinical responsibilities and administrative responsibilities in managing SAS and junior doctors. They usually work in hospitals or community settings. After graduating from medical school, it takes around six to eight years to become a consultant.




Who is a SAS doctor?


SAS doctors are experienced and senior doctors in permanent posts. They have at least four years of full-time postgraduate training, two of which have been in their relevant specialty. SAS doctors work in hospitals and have a very ‘hands on’ role with a lot of patient contact. There are SAS doctors in every hospital specialty and also in community hospitals (eg psychiatry and paediatrics). Some hold jobs in both the hospital and the community (eg gynaecology and sexual health). Some SAS doctors also work part-time as GPs. SAS doctors therefore work across primary, community and hospital care.




What is SpR?


Specialty registrar in a hospital specialty




What is GPST?


Specialty registrar in general practice




What is SHO?


Senior house officer





Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Choosing Universities

Should I apply to 4 or 5 universities?


Keep in mind that UCAS only allows you to apply to 4 medicine universities. Your 5th choice has to be a non-medical course (however, it can be in one of the same universities as your 4 medicine choices). Applying to a 5th university is entirely your choice. If you don't get into any of your 4 medicine choices, are you willing to do a non-med degree for 3 years? Would you rather take a gap year and apply again, or do you want to apply after 3 years? Would you even want to do medicine after 3 years? Keep these questions in mind while deciding whether or not to apply to a 5th non-med university. For more information on your 5th choice check out this document by the Medical Schools Council - https://www.medschools.ac.uk/media/2367/msc-infosheet-fifth-choice.pdf




Is it 'risky' applying to all BMAT universities? Should I even apply to BMAT?


The BMAT normally happens twice a year - September and November. (Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the September BMAT has been cancelled). It is important to note that the University of Oxford only accepts the November BMAT. This means that you will do the BMAT after you have submitted your UCAS application and made your choice of 4 universities. This is slightly risky since we normally recommend tailoring your 4 UCAS choices to your UCAT/BMAT score. However, if these universities are your dream universities, then go ahead and sign up for the BMAT! Also keep in mind that the BMAT isn't only for Oxbridge, but also other universities, including - Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Imperial, Lancaster University, University College London (UCL), University of Cambridge, University of Leeds, University of Oxford, Keele.




How do I find the average entry exam score for a given university?


Search for the average entry exam score (UCAT/BMAT) for the university in question by utilising Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests. For example, you can search up - 'Average UCAT score 2020 King's College London FOI Request' - on Google. If no results show up, you can always email the school with your query - quoting that this is a 'Freedome of Information Request.'




Can extended/foundation year medicine programs be the fifth UCAS option?


"Your fifth choice is to apply for anything except medicine." (Medical Schools Council) An extended or foundation year medicine programme is still considered a medicine degree and can therefore not be your 5th UCAS choice.




What does 'deferred entry' into university mean?


"Deferring means applying for a course then taking a year out before going to university – for example, you could apply in September 2020 to start university in September 2022. Usually, you can only defer your entry by one year. Some universities and colleges do not allow deferred entry for some subjects, such as medicine, but will consider applications for deferred entry for other subjects and courses. Make sure you check with the university or college that they're happy to consider an application for deferred entry – they may not be offering the course the following year, they could be changing it, or may prefer students not to have a gap in studying before they start their degree. You will still need to meet the conditions of any offers in the year that you apply – for example, if you receive a conditional offer in 2020/21 to start a course in 2022, you must have the exam results/grades to meet the conditions of your offer by 7 September 2021 (unless the university or college tells you otherwise)." (UCAS Website)




How do I know if a teaching style will be for me?


A good place to start would be the VARK test - https://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/ The VARK test can help you identify your most dominant learning style - visual, auditory, kinesthetic or read/write. Also ask yourself if early clinical contact is important for you? (a feature of integrated schools) Are you comfortable writing essays going in depth about academic concepts? (a feature of traditional schools) Are you a problem solver? Do you like investigating? (a feature of PBL/CBL schools) It's also useful to contact seniors and ask them about their experience in these teaching styles. Don't be afraid to reach out!




What are "easy" universities to apply to?


No university is 'easy' to get into. Some universities have a lower A-Level entry requirement and thus may be considered 'easy' - however, most schools expect As. Some have lower competition ratios i.e. number of applicants per place offered. This, however, can be a misleading statistic. For example, Cambridge's international student competition ratio is 10 which is quite low. This doesn't mean Cambridge is easy to get into - the fact is that not many students apply to Cambridge in the first place. These statistics aren't important. Do your research and apply to schools where you can picture yourself for the next 5 to 6 years.




How much of a difference does the reputation of a medical school make?


Absolutely no difference. All medical students, regardless of their medical school, get the exact same degree from the GMC. All medical students are taught the exact same content because we can't have doctors from some schools being more qualified than others - medicine is universal. The only differences between medical schools are their teaching styles, location and so on. Again, only apply to schools where you can picture yourself for the next 5 to 6 years. School reputation also doesn't affect where you're placed for your Foundation Years - all medical students from across the UK are ranked based on (i) grades in medical school, and, (ii) a standardized exam - the SJT (Situational Judgement Test).




Is it possible to retake the UCAT/BMAT?


Unfortunately, no. The UCAT and BMAT can only be taken once per application cycle or once a year. This is why it's important to be well prepared before taking these tests. Remember, you can reschedule your UCAT test once without having to pay any additional fee.





Open Days

Open days are a great way to learn more about the university and visualize whether you'd be a good fit there. Due to COVID, most universities have switched to virtual open days. We have compiled a list of teaching styles, open day links and virtual tour links of all medical schools across the country. 

Image by Vadim Sherbakov