by Giulia Bankov July 18, 2019 5 min read

Before you even begin the challenging process of filling out your UCAS application and tackling interview season, you are faced with a tough decision - choosing a medical school to apply to. Not to scare you even further, but this could be one of the more important decisions you will have to make in your career, as you will spend 4-6 years of your life there and you want to make sure the environment you end up in matches not only your academic abilities, but also personal preferences and lifestyle. It can be a strenuous process and it is not uncommon to have doubts throughout the process, which is why we are here to help! Continue reading below for our best tips on how to choose the perfect medical school for you.

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Consider your application strengths

One of the most important factors to consider when applying to medical schools is, of course, how likely it is to receive an offer. While that doesn’t mean that you should automatically strike your dream school off the list, it does mean that for the best chances at a medical school offer, you should remain realistic as to what they look for and how that compares to your strengths, especially when it comes to the actual application. Many universities decide who to send interview invitations based on the components of the application - grades, personal statement and admissions exam scores. Let’s say that school A is mostly interested in your school grades and thus places highest weight on them when deciding who to send interview invitations to, whereas school B thoroughly scores everyone’s personal statements sets a high UKCAT cut-off score, which decides who gets interviews. Let’s now say that you wrote a killer personal statement and aced your UKCAT, but your school grades were not all stellar. This would suggest that you are more likely to receive an interview invitation from school B than school A, because your strengths aline with what they are looking for.

This is a good first step in narrowing your choice down and making a preliminary list of top contender schools. In order to do that, you should get in touch with the particular universities and read up on their requirements on their official websites. Another excellent resource to consult is the official Medical Schools Council’s Entry requirements for UK medical schools.

Lastly, students are very interested in comparing league tables and seeing how the schools they are going to apply to rank nationally and worldwide in their chosen field, so if that’s a concern you have as well, don’t forget to check our blog post How to understand the medical school rankings UK.

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Research their teaching style

You have now narrowed it down to universities that match your strengths and you feel pretty confident that you will be a competitive candidate. Don’t sit back and relax just yet, as there are still other factors to consider before you pick your four schools! Perhaps one of the most important ones is the teaching style of the university and how well it matches your learning style. Is the course largely lecture-based or does it mostly rely on problem-based learning and case studies? Can you take an extra year to intercalate into another scientific area apart from your medical degree? Are the pre-clinical years mostly theory-oriented or do you get early patient exposure? What type of anatomy teaching does the university offer? You can find the answer to the latter in our blog post Teaching anatomy - which medical schools do full body dissection. While it is completely understandable that at this point you might be desperate for a spot anywhere and it may not have occurred to you to think of all these details, it is important to take them into consideration, as you want to pick a programme you can thrive in, that caters best to your learning habits and your aims of what you want to get out of your medical education.

Think about location

Location is also quite an important factor to consider and it will be wildly different for everyone depending on their preferences. Maybe you’re a home student, who wants to continue living at home and wants a good commuting connection or at least be able to come home for the occasional weekend. Maybe you’re an international student who's coming from the big city and you want to study somewhere comparable in terms of size and lifestyle. All of these are questions only you can answer for yourself and are incredibly important to consider when making your final choice about what schools in the UK to apply to.

Find out about extracurricular activities

You have made point of the most important factors to consider when picking a UK university to pursue medicine in. What’s left? Well, let’s say you are in the varsity swimming team or dance competitively. You might want to check out what opportunities there are at your universities of choice and whether you can find your match there not only from an academic point of view, but also in terms of your hobbies and interests. Of course, if you have a particularly niche interest or if your hobby is simply not listed in the societies of your university of choice, you can always start one yourself! But if you have extracurricular achievements and are looking to continue to score highly in that field, you might want to consider what the universities you are going to apply to have to offer before you make your final pick.

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Research quotas for students from different backgrounds

This one could be quite important to everyone, depending on where in the UK you’re interested in applying. If you’re a graduate and/or an EU/international student, you might want to get in touch with the medical schools you are interested in and enquire into their admissions statistics. Often times they explicitly say that they only have 12 spots for graduate students on their undergraduate course, or that 30% of their class is made up of EU students. These are important numbers to keep track of, as you want to apply to universities that are most welcoming to students from your background. This is an important consideration even for students from England, as there may be a quota for RUK (rest of UK) students in, for example, Scottish universities. Therefore, make sure you take note of this, so you don’t have your application rejected for such a trivial, yet crucial detail. Furthermore, you can also check out the General Medical Council's Getting into medical school, which answers some common concerns aspiring medical students have prior to application season.

Be proactive

Once you have narrowed it down to a handful of choices, going to open days is an incredible opportunity to get a feel for the university, have a walk around, and most importantly - speak to current students about their experiences. They can give you a very realistic overview of what it’s like to be a medical student at that particular university, what the course load feels like, what extracurriculars they are involved in, as well as the pros and cons of the programme. All you have to do is ask! 

We hope that these tips were helpful and you feel like you can tackle the hard task of picking your medical schools. As usual, if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@themsag.com. Good luck with your application!

Giulia Bankov
Giulia Bankov

Giulia is a graduate medical student at the University of Glasgow. She previously studied Neuroscience at King's College London and completed her Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Amsterdam.


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