23rd March 2021
On any UCAS application, you can apply to five Universities at a time – but only four Medicine courses. Professor Phil Newton, Director of Learning and Teaching at Swansea University Medical School, shares his tips on how to help your students with the difficult fifth choice.

What Are The Options For A Fifth UCAS Choice?

Your students have a few options available to them:

  1. Leave it blank
  2. Take a lucky dip and pick a UCAS course code at random
  3. Make a back-up plan

What’s The Point Of Making A Fifth Choice?

The fifth choice issue crops up in a number of competitive areas such as Medicine and Dentistry. Because these courses are so competitive (often 100:1 applicants to places available), not every applicant will get into their ideal course the first time. The dilemma for these applicants is then – ‘do I wait a year and try again?’ or ‘do I look for something else?’

Whilst there is absolutely no harm or shame is waiting a year and reapplying, it’s really important to encourage your students to think about how they would spend that year. Would they work to save money? Find a relevant job or volunteer role to boost their application? Travel? Resit some exams? All are great ways to spend a year and could well help them find the missing piece that their application needed.

But – what if they can’t do any of these things because of lockdown restrictions? Or what if they don’t get in the second time around either? Sure, their resilience to succeed would be noted if they applied a third time, but what else could they do for another year while they wait? It’s really important to talk through these factors with your students.

In the meantime, had they used their fifth choice to make a back-up plan, they could by now be over halfway through an undergraduate degree that could open up a whole range of different doors to them…or better still, prop open the door they were hoping for all along!

At Swansea University, this is what we call the Pathway to Medicine.


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What Is Pathway To Medicine?

A Pathway to Medicine is an undergraduate science degree (BSc or BSc with a Foundation Year) that provides direct links to Swansea’s prestigious Graduate Entry Medicine programme. It boasts the opportunity for students to secure a guaranteed interview and gain valuable experience that will help them to better understand what life is like as a Doctor and what the role entails.

Options include courses like applied medical sciences, medical biochemistry, medical genetics, medical pharmacology and population health and medical sciences.

What Should You Do Next?

Your students are probably already studying the subjects required for related degrees, so choosing something like biomedical sciences or similar won’t involve any additional studying. This means there’s nothing to lose by making that fifth choice.

The added benefit is that by using their fifth choice when they apply (and any anytime from October right up until the January deadline) they could also avoid having to rely on Clearing to find a University place.

Please encourage your students not to waste their fifth choice when considering where to apply for medicine.


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