10 tips for choosing a medical school

Tamsin Dyer

Tamsin Dyer

Senior Writer at Medic Mind

In this blog, we wanted to share Medic Mind’s best tips when it comes to choosing which medical schools to apply for. There is much more to consider than you might think!

1. Location, Location, Location

Quite simply, where would you like to go to study medicine? It may be in the city that you have grown up in, or the other side of the country, but make sure to think about what sort of location you would like to study in, and the different cultures that location has.

2. Traditional or Integrated

Most importantly, think about how you learn. Some students want to jump straight in, with the modern style of integrated teaching and clinical practice, where you are hands-on in a hospital from day 1. Alternatively there is the traditional approach, with pre-clinical years followed by clinical years. Both have their advantages, but it’s ultimately down to your personal preference. 

3. PBL

Problem Based Learning, or PBL as it is referred to, is a teaching style that enables students to lead their own learning in group tasks, with the guidance of teaching staff. It is something that many students prefer and really enjoy, but it might not work for you. Questions on learning styles are common at interviews, so make sure you look into teaching styles at medical school and think hard about which style suits you best.

4. Prosection or Dissection

Prosection involves you watching a teacher dissect a body. Dissection involves you dissecting a body yourself. Both are fantastic methods for learning anatomy, but with very few medical schools still doing dissection. If this is something you would really like to do in your time at medical school, make sure that the schools you are applying to offer this. For example, at UCL, in Y1 and Y2 you have 2 hours of dissection per week; you have one body between a group of 8 and dissect with teachers floating around the room. 

5. BMAT, UCAT or GAMSAT

There is no point in applying for a course if you haven’t sat the entrance exam. Many of you will be sitting both the BMAT and UCAT, but make sure to check which entrance exams are needed for the universities of your choice. For graduate applicants, you may also consider sitting the GAMSAT for a few graduate programs. Your results from these exams will also play an important role in choosing universities where your application will be strongest.

6. A-Level Subjects and Grades

Not all medical schools want you to have Biology, Chemistry, Maths and/or Physics to apply, but do make sure to check you meet the entry requirements with your chosen subjects before applying.

Medical schools have very high expectations when it comes to grades, and each university is different in their outlook. For example, what if you’ve re-sat one of your exams? Have no fear, although some universities aren’t a fan, there are still many options open to you. Make sure to check with the medical schools you are thinking of applying to on their resit policies to check you qualify.

7. University Life

University life itself is a massive part of going to medical school. Medical school isn’t just about becoming a doctor. It is a 4-6 year long course, and its important that you integrate into the student community where you are studying. Check out the students union and the different sporting and non-sporting societies that you can join while at medical school. You may want to continue something you already do, or find something else that takes your fancy.

8. Intercalating Options

Many medical schools offer an intercalating year, which is a year out of medicine, usually after 3rd year. During this year, you can gain an iBSc in another subject. It’s a great way of broadening your knowledge and making your medical CV stronger for later in your career. Have a look at the options offered by the different medical schools – you may find one that really sparks your interest.

Similarly, if you really don’t want to intercalate, then make sure you check which universities offer opt-in/out options so you don’t have to intercalate if you don’t want to. Read our article on the Pros and Cons of Intercalating for more information. 

9. Practical aspects

Sometimes we get carried away with the sheer excitement of training to be a doctor and going to university, but don’t forget important considerations like the cost of living. It is always more expensive in cities such as London, but you will get extra student finance if you are eligible. So be sure to bring this into consideration when choosing where to apply.

10.  Go to open days

Finally, there really is no better way of getting a real feel for what it would be like to study at a specific medical school than going along to open days, speaking to current students, lecturers and clinical staff. So sign yourself up and go along! Check out our article for a full list of 2020/21 Open Days.

TOP TIP FOR GRADUATES:

Along with all the above, don’t forget to research the number of places available on each course for graduates. Warwick for example, only take graduates. Yet other universities have a set number of places available on their undergraduate programs for postgraduate applicants.

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