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10 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Med School

A group of students walk down a hallway at university together

Choosing a medical school is the very first step of the long journey of applying for Medicine. Whether you have already given this some thought or you’ve not yet started, choosing the right one for you requires careful consideration.

Not only do you want to make sure you pick a university where you’ll enjoy the course, but you also want to strategically apply to maximise your chances of getting in. Here are some things for you to consider.

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1. Current grades and subjects

The first thing you’ll probably use to start eliminating universities will be based on what subjects you’ve taken at A-level. The majority require Chemistry, whereas a few ask for Biology.

Some also request two science subjects, whilst others ask for three. You can also use your GCSE grades to filter through the options further.

Read 7 Tips for Keeping on Top of Your Workload in Med School

2. Admissions tests

Next, you’ll want to start ruling out universities based on whether you want to take the BMAT and UCAT, or just one of them. The majority of medical schools require the UCAT, however a few of them use the BMAT.

These universities are: Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Lancaster, Keele, Imperial, Leeds and, Brighton & Sussex.

Read 5 Things You Need to Know About the Medical School Application Process

3. Test results

Once you get the results from the admissions test back you’ll want to fine tune your choices by using your BMAT or UCAT score to guide you. Choose the places where you have the greatest chance of getting an interview.

For example, if you get a very high UCAT score you’d be better placed choosing universities that rank you based on your score.

Whereas with a lower score you might want to apply to places that either use a threshold¬† (that you know you’ve surpassed), or look at the UCAT score in conjunction with something else e.g. GCSE grades.

Read 4 Pieces of Advice to Aspiring Medics

4. Course type

There are three different types of course: PBL, Traditional and Integrated. You will need to read up and research each different type of course to find out which one might suit you the best.

Talk to students, go to university experience days and consider the pros and cons of each type. The more you ask questions, the better your understanding will be of what each different type of course would involve.

Making sure you’ve selected the course type that suits you best is what will make or break your university experience, so it’s really important to do your research and get it right, so you don’t have regrets further down the line.

Read 3 Signs You Might Suit a Problem-Based Learning Course

5. Course length

Medicine is a five year course across most medical schools. Some make an intercalation year compulsory, so in those universities it is six years. This may sway you depending on whether intercalation is something you think might be for you.

If you’re unsure at this stage you might want to pick universities that offer intercalation opportunities without it being compulsory.

Some medical schools also offer a foundation year if you don’t have the required grades before applying, so that will also add on that extra sixth year to your course. Additionally, some graduate entry courses offer a four year course that you can complete.

Read Myth Busting: What is an Intercalated Degree

6. Type of university

There are generally two types of universities: campus and city. Campus based universities have all the university buildings and usually accommodation in a little “university town”. They tend to be calmer, offering a greater sense of student community.

City based universities have their buildings dotted around the city centre. The area won’t be bordered off just for university students, so there’ll be other people around the area making it a little busier.

Most people find that one type of university appeals to them over the other. By asking the right questions and researching in advance, you’ll be able to work out whether a campus or city university experience is for you.

Read 5 Things to do to Prepare for a Medicine Open Day

7. Types of interview

Medical school interviews are either panel-based or MMI (Multiple Mini Interview). A panel-based interview is more of a traditional question and answer session, with a couple of interviewers that will usually last for a reasonable length of time.

MMIs, however, require you to rotate through different stations where you’ll be asked to perform different tasks, such as talk to a patient, interpret some data or talk through an ethical scenario.

For MMIs you’ll usually only have one interviewer at each station and each station will typically last for about five to eight minutes. These interview methods are quite different and you may find that there’s one type that you’d excel at over the other.

Read Preparing for Medical School 101

8. Competition ratios

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. You may have a really good personal statement, but not feel so confident about the interview.

Looking and comparing competition ratios will show you what weighting different universities give to different parts of the application.You’ll then be able to pick those that match with your strengths.

Read Top Tips on Preparing for Medical School

9. Location

It’s not all about strategy, you can include your own personal preferences to help you to decide. Some people want to stay close to home, whereas others want to go to the other side of the country.

You might want to look at just Northern or only Southern universities. Having good transport links to home might be important to you, so find out about that too.

Read 3 Things You Might Not Expect in Your First Year of Med School

10. Atmosphere

As much as you may read up on different universities, you won’t get a true flavour of what it’s like until you actually go there. This is why it’s important to visit as many open days as you possibly can to get a feel for where you could end up studying.

There will be some universities that you can picture yourself studying at for years and others where you just feel like you wouldn’t fit in. You can trust your gut with this, at the end of the day you do want to enjoy your time there as well.

Masumah is a 2nd year medical student at the University of Manchester. She runs a blog in which she shares her journey through medical school and also gives advice to students applying for Medicine. 

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