So what does it take to get into Medical School?
Top tips from UCLan on applying to a UK Medical School
Studying medicine is so much more than getting a degree and becoming a doctor. It's about putting the patient first and being compassionate to others. It's a tough profession, but the thrill of being a doctor never leaves. UK medicine is respected worldwide and the qualifications you can gain here are widely accepted.
Teaching and course structure at UK Universities may differ. But what is fairly consistent throughout the UK, are the knowledge, skills and attributes those universities are looking for in any applicant.
So, how do you get accepted on to a medicine course? There are no hard and fast rules but there are things you can do to make sure you’re in with a chance.
1. Before you apply
- Think clearly about why you want to do medicine and write a list of your reasons – it would be good to get these across in your application.
- Whichever university you apply to, make sure you visit it if you can, talk to the students and have a good look around the campus and city – five years is a long time!
- Try and get some experience in a hospital, with doctors in a community or family practice setting or hospice – it’s good to see what being a doctor is really about. If you’ve tried applying for work experience and just cannot get any, then don’t worry, think about doing some voluntary work or some community-related work.
- Don’t worry about meeting the ‘set’ criteria for medicine, everyone is an individual and has different qualities to offer, just be positive about what you have to offer.
2. Heard scary rumours about the application process? Hopefully, these points will set your mind at ease:
- Don’t worry about applying to other universities and being discriminated against because of your other choices – selectors no longer see which other universities you’ve applied to.
- It doesn’t matter if you also apply for a non-medical degree, as long as you can show a case for applying to medicine.
- If you want to take a gap year - then do so, universities encourage students with different interests who have a range of experiences they can bring to their course.
3. Where should I apply?
Firstly, you will need to carry out a lot of research on the medical schools to which you would like to apply, what grades you need, how much are the fees per year and other key issues are including visa requirements and language testing.
4. How do I apply?
You may be required to apply through the UK University and College Application Service (UCAS) or be able to apply to some universities, like the University of Central Lancashire direct.
Check out the application deadline. Many universities adhere to the early application deadline of 15th October, others, like UCLan may consider later applications from international students.
5. Completing your application form.
Your application form is really important. You can only be assessed on the information you have provided.
You will be assessed against both academic and non-academic criteria, so make sure your application form is as comprehensive as possible. A personal reflective statement is often required and should be submitted with your application. If you do not meet the minimum academic requirements your application will be rejected at this initial stage. If academic requirements are met, applications will be given an academic score and passed to a Selection Panel. Different medical schools review application in different ways, some score personal applications some don’t, most require that you have also taken the UKCAT exam before application and will apply a “ cut off” mark for that test, others such as UCLan do not require the UKCAT exam to have been taken at all. Most medical schools will invite the most able and suitable applicants to come and visit the medical school for an interview The Selection Panel will not only pay particular attention to your personal statement but will also be looking carefully at the the reference from your school/college.
6. How do the Selection Panel assess my application?
They may consider your:
- understanding of the role of a doctor
- examples of regular hands-on caring work experience
- depth of experience in a role involving personal interaction
- reflection on what was learnt from these experiences
- work/life balance
- evidence that you are able to work in a teams e.g. sport , orchestras etc
- communication (particularly outside your peer group)
- quality of written application
- exceptional circumstances
Both you and your referee should address each aspect outlined above. Referees should be aware that we expect to see more than a record of academic achievement. References indicating your strengths in the areas listed above are much more valuable than simple “school report” style references.
7. What should I put in my personal statement?
Follow the golden rule: show, don't tell. Your personal statement is like a job application. You should use it to provide evidence that you possess the personal skills required to be a trainee doctor. Don't tell them what you think you're good at; give examples of things you've done that show what you're good at. Most universities will work on the principle that observation does not constitute experience. You should therefore avoid giving a great deal of detail about time spent shadowing doctors. Furthermore, universities cannot "read between the lines": vague statements will not gain marks.
You should include:
- Your understanding of the role of a doctor and why this is the role you wish to undertake as a career.
- Work and voluntary experience. It is beneficial to undertake long-term, hands-on work experience in a caring role, so that you are aware of what a career in caring for people may involve. This might include helping elderly members of the community with shopping, helping in a hospice, or working with disadvantaged children. If you have had a paid job, you might use examples from your interactions with people at work to show that you have the qualities needed for medicine.
- Interests and extracurricular activities. Medicine can be a rewarding career, but it can also be challenging, frustrating and distressing. You should also provide evidence of a healthy work-life balance to demonstrate your ability to cope with multiple - and possibly conflicting - demands on your time.
- Communication and team-working skills are highly valuable. Most credit will be given to applicants who can demonstrate that the communication was effective, through feedback they received or an outcome from the communication example. It is vital that potential doctors understand how teams work. Again, most credit is likely to be given to applicants who are able to provide evidence of the outcome of their contribution to the team.
8. Transferable Skills Statement. This is your chance to tell Medical schools about your non-academic achievements and aptitude for a career in medicine including:
- Work experience/shadowing/voluntary work or experience in a caring role
- The impact and value of the work you undertook
- The level of responsibility taken within this experience
- An example where you did something that had a significant outcome for the person for whom you were caring
- Any achievements you may want to highlight from the above
The transferable skills statement or personal statement may be the focus for one of the stations in the Multiple Mini Interviews if you are invited for interview.
9. What is needed from a reference?
Your reference is likely to be written by your head teacher, college principal, head of year or form tutor. Applicants who are not currently in school or college should approach an academic supervisor whenever possible: a "character reference" is not sufficient. We do, however, want to know what the writer of the reference thinks about you as a whole person, not merely about your academic achievements and potential.
The areas in which we require information are your:
- Commitment to medicine
- Staying power/perseverance
- Humanity, humility and responsibility
- Intellectual potential
- Mitigating Circumstances
10. Pitfalls to watch out for (the small print!):
- Complete your application thoroughly or it may be automatically rejected.
- Declare all qualifications that have been completed and certificated, including those that were failed, in your application.
- Students with uncertificated A-levels should make sure this is stated in their personal statement or reference.
- If you are found to have deliberately withheld information on qualifications universities may cancel your application and inform UCAS.
- Make sure you give a comprehensive history of education and employment. UK Universities may request additional information if there are gaps in your education and/or employment record.
- Applications will be assessed for the quality of the writing. Careless errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation will affect your overall score, so please consider carefully how you have presented your personal statement.
Finally, if you get an interview, then be confident and relax, it’s your opportunity to sell yourself, if you have any questions then don’t be shy and ask them!