5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making Your Medical School Choices
Getting into medicine can at times seem so challenging that we overlook the luxury of being able to choose. Although the attitude of “I’ll go wherever gives me an offer” is completely understandable, it is much more exciting to think, “I’ll go somewhere I want to go” instead!
The ideal situation is to apply to four medical schools that you really want to go to. So with a range of medical schools to choose from, read on for my five top tips on deciding which ones are for you via five key questions you should ask yourself!
Regardless of your feelings towards leaving home, location is important.
Firstly, remember that you normally only live in uni accommodation for the first year, so have a look at the area you’ll be living in for the other four years too.
Secondly, five years is a long time and there will be times you will need and/or want to go home. If catching a train home takes half a day and will break the bank, you probably won’t be going home too often.
Distance from home has a big impact and it is important in the long run, so take it into consideration.
Visit. Visit. Visit. I cannot stress this enough. I thought I would love several universities until I actually visited them. Attending open days is essential.
How a university feels is personal and unique to you, plus it’s common sense to visit somewhere before you potentially spend the next five years there!
From open days alone, I discovered I preferred campus to city universities and I found some universities felt like home and others really did not! Now is the time to be looking at when the university open days are, so get researching.
Are medical school rankings important? No. What is important is the type of medical school it is. Medicine is medicine at the end of the day, so rankings shouldn’t influence your decision too much. Look more at the teaching methods of the medical school.
If you’re the type who is able to sit in lectures all day and stay awake (not me), then traditional courses may be more up your street. If you want more independent study and less lectures, PBL may be for you. Other important factors to think about:
When clinical placements start (would you prefer to learn “on the job” or learn all your anatomy/physiology before you start placement?)
The size of the school (smaller schools tend to mean you are closer to your peers and tutors, bigger schools means there’s more people to get to know!)
How anatomy is taught (Think about what dissection really means and whether you want to do it. Many fall into the trap of thinking dissection is a superior way of learning anatomy – not true! Don’t dismiss schools simply because they don’t provide dissection.
Strategy is key. If you have a stellar UCAT score USE IT and apply to the universities that score UCAT highly. This applies to BMAT, your academic grades and your personal statement too – use them wisely!
Personally, I looked at all the websites and ranked the medical schools from my top choice to bottom. Then I highlighted the ones I had the best chance of getting an interview and visited them. This really helped in my decision-making!
5. Do you know which questions to ask on the open day?
Not knowing what you don’t know – a common scenario during an open day. The day can feel wasted if all you hear is what you’ve already read on their website! You want to find out what it’s really like! Here are some of my top questions to ask at open days:
“Do you feel supported by the medical school, what type of support do they offer?”
“What is your accommodation like?”
“Is there anything that has surprised you about the course, or that you didn’t know before you started?”
“How is anatomy taught here and do you like how it is taught?”
“How do clinical placements work? What is a typical day on placement?”
“What is a typical week in first year like?”
“Why did you choose to come here?”
“If you could improve the course in any way, what would you do?” (Putting them on the spot a bit here, but the answers are actually very interesting and real!)
“If I’ve never done anything like PBL before, how do I know it’s for me?”
Katie is a second year medical student at Lancaster Medical School who also documents her experiences of medical school on her personal blog.