Updated: Feb 6, 2021
So, you’ve decided that you want to go to medical school. Now what?
Completing your application, and indeed, deciding HOW to apply, can seem like an insurmountable struggle, especially when you have no idea how to begin. This article should hopefully shed some light on the situation and give you a rough guide to starting your application to medical school.
STEP 1: Familiarise yourself with UCAS
If you are applying directly to a university in the UK, it is very likely that you will be using UCAS as your application portal. Familiarise yourself with the website and the things you will need when completing your application. The large majority of the UCAS application consists of administrative information, for example, your address, IELTS ID number and your predicted examination results.
Choosing which course(s) to apply to can be somewhat of a challenge, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t quite know what they want to do yet. If you’re debating whether or not medicine is the right choice for you, check out our article on this very topic HERE. If you do end up choosing to apply for the medical course, keep in mind that you can only apply to 4 universities to do medicine.
The part that most people find the hardest to complete is the personal statement, a 4000-character essay about yourself and your motivations for applying for a particular course. Some colleges will have a service to help you with your personal statement, but even if you don’t have access to one of those, there is plenty of guidance online. We also have an article about this HERE, and you can always ask teachers, friends and family for feedback.
STEP 2: Do your research on medical schools in the UK
There are so many options when it comes to choosing a university to go to. It is therefore important to do your research before deciding which 4 universities you pick for your UCAS application.
Some universities require specific college programmes such as A-Levels and IB, and may not accept foundation programmes. Make sure to check if your programme is accepted, especially if you’re doing a less conventional one like CIMP. All medical schools in the UK require you to either the UCAT or the BMAT. If you choose to only do one of these, make sure the universities you are applying to accept the test that you have decided to take. Some students may even decide to take both but keep in mind that both tests have a registration fee. In addition to that, you will have to take the IELTS exam which tests your proficiency in English. All of this can seem overwhelming which is why it is important to start preparing early and plan ahead!
Knowing the entry requirements for each prospective university may also factor into your decision - it is useful to have at least one university with entry requirements you are certain you can achieve to increase your chances of being accepted to at least one university. Additionally, tuition fees are greatly varied depending on where you apply - as such, it is important for you to do your research prior to deciding where you want to go so that there aren’t any unpleasant financial surprises later on!
The length of study can also differ from university to university. Some courses are five years long and some are six; some give you the option of taking a year out in the middle of your medical studies to do a Bachelors or Master’s degree (known as an intercalating year) and some may require you to do one as part of the integrated course they offer.
Lastly, if you’re having trouble making a decision on where to go, it can help to research the surrounding aspects of the university. Knowing more about the university atmosphere and facilities may further guide your decision. Don't be afraid to find out more about the cities the universities are in too. You'll be there for at least 5 years so it's important to find out more about your potential new home city!
STEP 3: Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines...
Once you have decided on the universities you will be applying to, you will be able to make a list of their application requirements. Those applying for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses as well as anyone applying to Oxford or Cambridge University must submit their UCAS applications by 15 October. Other courses usually have a blanket application deadline in mid-January.
If the universities require any additional exams, they will usually have to be completed in June/July in the year of your UCAS application. Make sure you find out how and where to apply to sit these exams - spaces fill up quickly and most of the testing centres are in the Selangor area, making it extra complicated for those who live out of state.
STEP 4: Completing the UCAS application
It can be useful to get everything ready before the actual deadline approaches. This allows you to have ample time to double-check everything prior to submission, especially since there are so many parts to the UCAS application. If possible, get someone else to look it over for you as well; having a pair of fresh eyes makes it more likely for overlooked mistakes to be picked up!
STEP 5: Invitations to interviews
Depending on the universities you apply to, invitations to interviews generally begin to be sent out from December to March. Interviews will be your final hurdle towards acceptance into the university in question, and it can be very difficult to know what and how to prepare especially if you’ve never been in this situation before.
In general, thorough preparation and practice can prime you for success, but the most important thing is to be flexible in your thinking and responses to the questions. The medical school interview aims to assess how fluidly prospective students are able to field unexpected questions and situations, and it’s impossible to be prepared for every single possibility!
Your school or college may provide services to help with interview practice, but that may not be the case for everyone. We at Hatch.M have an article just for this, and the link can be found HERE. In addition, by signing up to become a mentee, you will be able to get access to specialised interview training and application guidance, all for free!
Many people assume that they will definitely be called to interviews, so getting a rejection can be very demoralising. It’s definitely easier said than done, but try to remember that this is not the end of your journey; rather, it is just the beginning. There are still many options if you have your heart set on studying medicine, for example, applying to study in a different country or checking UCAS Clearing.
STEP 6: Waiting for acceptance offers
Waiting for acceptance offers can be a nerve wracking time, especially when your friends are all receiving offers and you have yet to hear back from the universities you applied to. Offers can come in anywhere from the end of March till the beginning of June, so don’t worry too much if things are taking some time. You did the best you could and now all you can do is wait and focus on preparing for your exams, if you have any, in the meantime. Remember that spots for international students are much more competitive than if you were a UK or EU citizen, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
Applying to medical school can be a long and confusing process, but with some research and planning ahead, everything should go smoothly. If you have any questions or think you would benefit from further guidance during this time, our mentors at Hatch.M will be more than happy to help - just click HERE to apply to be a mentee.