Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Nobody likes hearing that they have failed or been unsuccessful, and receiving rejections from all the medical schools you applied to can throw a significant wrench in your grand plans for university. Fortunately, this in no way means that you have to abandon your dreams of becoming a doctor - in today’s day and age, there is no single “right” pathway into medicine, and you’ll find that there may be many more options available to you than you’d think.
As such, we at Hatch.M have compiled several suggestions for what you can do, but this list is not an exhaustive one. The best way forward is to be open with your options and whilst being unafraid to take any opportunities that come your way! Additionally, please keep in mind that although this article has been written in mind for those who applied to universities abroad, some of the options apply just as well to those who applied locally.
Option 1: UCAS Clearing
UCAS Clearing is a system that you can utilise if you have not made the entry requirements for both your firm and insurance choices. After all the college results have been released and university offers accepted or rejected, there will be some spaces left over for different courses at universities all over the UK. In order to fill those places, universities then turn to UCAS Clearing.
Of course, there is no guarantee that there will be places open at your desired university, or even on your desired course, but this option is something worth exploring, especially if you are set on entering university in the same year that you first applied.
Option 2: A different country?
If you are interested in doing medicine, there are so many options open to you. If you haven’t managed to get into universities in the UK, other common countries that Malaysian students choose to go to include Australia, Canada and the USA. Alternatively, you could also choose to remain in Malaysia, where there are an assortment of private and public universities for you to go to.
At the same time, if you are a little more adventurous and aren’t afraid to stray off the beaten path, there are plenty of other countries that offer courses for medicine. Some Eastern European countries, for example Romania, are known to offer good programmes for a fraction of the price of a UK degree course. However, because these courses are not as well-known, it can be a little more difficult to find important information and perspectives that might help you come to a decision.
As a good rule of thumb, always make sure to thoroughly research the medical courses in the country or area you are applying to - the entry requirements, accreditation of the degree in various countries, course structure, fees and visa requirements may all be very different from each other, and there may be additional things you need to fulfil when applying to a university in a specific country.
Option 3: Taking a different pathway
When people think of entering medical school, they tend to visualise a 5- or 6-year undergraduate course starting after college or pre-university. However, this is not the only option to enter medical school - there are multiple pathways available, some of which will be expanded upon below.
Some universities offer an additional 1-year pre-university programme, after which you will be automatically accepted into their medical course (provided you pass any exams or requirements set for you!). Other universities require you to have done a previous degree, usually a Bachelor of Science (BSc), before applying for medicine - some examples include the University of Sydney, Australia, and Yale University, USA. Graduate-entry medicine is another option - with this pathway, you don’t need to have previously done a BSc, but you must have had a previous undergraduate degree.
Alternatively, if you have always dreamed of studying abroad but were unsuccessful in your applications to universities overseas, you could consider doing a twinning programme with a university in Malaysia. Depending on the application dates as well as the entry requirements, you may be able to apply to a Malaysian private university that offers the option of spending a portion of the medical course in a different country.
Option 4: Taking a gap year
When you are fresh out of college and all your friends are headed to university, there can be massive pressure to do the same thing. It is completely understandable to feel this way, but unfortunately, because there is usually so little time between hearing back from the university and having to start the course, people often end up choosing a course or attending a university that they haven’t thought about properly. Some end up enjoying the course and their university years, but equally, some others don’t.
Taking a gap year allows you to reevaluate what you hold important in your life and gives you that extra time you need to think about what you want. Is medicine something that you truly want to go for, or do you think you might be better suited to a different course? Where did you apply to? Do you think you would like to apply to the same places and countries that you previously did, or would you do something different?
Once you have worked out what courses you want to go for in the next application cycle, you can consider things to better optimise your chances of getting accepted. People often see taking a gap year as “wasting time,” but in reality, the people who have taken a gap year are often the ones who are the strongest applicants.
Option 5: Doing a different course
Lastly, you may opt for doing a completely different course. Some people are interested in things besides medicine, and this may be your chance to do something else that you want. As we have explained above, doing a different course does not mean that you are giving up on your dream of medicine completely, as there is graduate-entry medicine and postgraduate options for you to return to the medical route if you so wish.
At the end of the day, the best route forward from here is the one that you think is best. Having your plans for university derailed can be very frightening and isolating, but please remember that it is completely normal, and what matters more is what you do from here on out. Talk to your family, friends and seniors, and keep looking forward - you can do it!