Published on 13th March 2019 by lauram

5 Questions to Ask Before

So you’ve done it! After all the hard work of writing your personal statement, preparing for the UKCAT and BMAT, submitting your UCAS application and preparing for interviews, you’ve finally received some offers and, in doing so, have reached the summit of the mountain that is medical school applications. Congratulations – the hardest part is over! 

If you’re lucky to have more than one offer, you might be struggling to choose between medical schools. Having been in the same situation, I know it can be difficult to decide what university to choose, especially knowing you’ll be spending the next 5 or 6 years at that medical school!

Here are my top five tips for what to consider when making your decision.

1. What kind of course structure would suit me?

Researching the course structure of your chosen medical schools is really important to help you choose a university that uses teaching methods to suit your learning style. Every university will use lectures to teach material in your first two years.

However, some will also use Problem Based Learning (PBL) while others will use small-group teaching or seminars. Some courses, such as Barts and Birmingham, will introduce patient contact very early on in the first year of your course, as part of an integrated course.

Others will introduce it in your third year of medical school to divide your pre-clinical years (Years 1 and 2, and 3 if there is a compulsory iBSc) from your clinical years – Years 3, 4 and 5 (or Years 4, 5 and 6 after a compulsory iBSc)). This is the format of a traditional course, such as those at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.

2. Where do I want to go to med school?

For some of you, being close to home will be really important. Not only will you get the pleasure of your mum’s cooking every weekend, but you can live at home and commute to university if you wish. On the other hand, some of you will want to get as far away from home as possible! 

It’s also worth considering whether you want to study in a big city or somewhere with more of a countryside feel and what activities are available near the university to get involved in.

3. Are there specific academic opportunities I want?

In terms of academics, you might want to consider whether you will want to do an intercalated BSc (iBSc) as part of your course. This is an opportunity to do an extra degree for one year, and course titles range from Neuroscience to Management to Medical Education.

At some universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, it is compulsory to complete an iBSc after your second year of medical school. Other universities offer a more flexible approach, allowing you to do an iBSc if you wish after your second, third or fourth year of medical school.

As well as this, some universities offer special academic opportunities that may not be offered elsewhere. For example, Barts offers a select few places each year on its competitive Prehospital Care Programme (PCP), which allows students to do shifts with London Ambulance Service and London Air Ambulance. Some other universities have also developed a PCP, based on the one at Barts.

4. Are certain clubs and societies really important to me?

Clubs and societies may seem like a minor consideration, but if you really want to keep up your sailing or rock-climbing skills during medical school, then make sure you choose a medical school that either has these societies or is close to the appropriate facilities.

For most of you, clubs and societies won’t be a major consideration but it’s often interesting looking at the societies each medical school has. If they don’t have a society that you would really enjoy, remember you could always start one up!

5. What’s the student experience like?

No matter how much research you do, there is no substitute for what students at the medical school tell you. They can answer any specific questions you have about the course, discuss specific opportunities at that university and the student support available, and you can often get a sense of how passionate they are about their medical school!

If you can, it would be ideal to visit the medical schools again and have a chat with the students before making your choice, and some medical schools will invite you back for an offer-holders day to do this. If this isn’t possible, think back to your experience at the interview and any previous open days.

If you’re still unsure about what medical school to choose, follow your gut instinct and go with what feels right for you. Remember that whatever medical school you choose, you will still have an incredible time, make fantastic friends for life and become the best doctor you can be. The best five years of your life await! 

Words: Maria Ahmad

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