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STRENGTH versus PREFERENCE

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    As I began my university application process last year, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where I should apply. Having zero experience in the UK, I was a complete layperson and pretty much lost. Going through all the schools and checking out their pros/cons seemed like a logical first step, so that's where I began. I made a giant list of potential schools to apply to and everyday I would cut a few out of that list to arrive at a master list of 4-6 possible candidates.

    Then I wrote my UKCAT. Everything changed. I realized that all but one of the schools I had selected placed heavy emphasis on that useless test. I was in panic mode, and the realization that I had just wasted a bunch of weeks researching stuff only to have it destroyed completely freaked me out.

    It was then that I decided on a different approach; one that many applicants easily miss.

    Applying to strengths versus applying to preference.

    So far in my search, the schools I had compiled were those where I felt I'd be most comfortable, most successful. They included heavyweights like Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. Well established, easily recognizable institutions with great teaching styles, in nice cities, etc. It was all great, but I had forgotten to consider a very important aspect: these schools were great for me...but how great was I for them?


    What possible reasons did these schools have for accepting me? What was I offering them? This perspective of me being an ideal to the school as opposed to the schools being ideals to me, was a very important realization.

    From that point on, selecting schools was easy. Main criteria became: my suitability for their teaching style, my academic/ukcat scores meeting requirements, how they look at my experience/extracurriculars/etc, what parts of my application do they focus on.

    Before this, I had focused more on how great these schools were for me and I keep searching for the benefits they could provide me. However, applying to super competitive programs like medicine requires a reversal in thinking, you have to start seeing things from the opposing perspective.

    Hope this has been helpful. It's especially intended for new applicants from high school/internationals who don't necessarily have an idea where to begin. Good luck on your apps!
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    Completely agree with you, applying strategically is very important imho...however much you're in love with King's (for example) if you don't have a reasonably high UKCAT score, it's just a waste of one of your choices to apply there. Would also add however that it's not just important for school leavers and international applicants, but graduates too.

    I think it's very important to read through the admissions policies/selection procedures before applying :yes:
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    (Original post by .eXe)
    As I began my university application process last year, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where I should apply. Having zero experience in the UK, I was a complete layperson and pretty much lost. Going through all the schools and checking out their pros/cons seemed like a logical first step, so that's where I began. I made a giant list of potential schools to apply to and everyday I would cut a few out of that list to arrive at a master list of 4-6 possible candidates.

    Then I wrote my UKCAT. Everything changed. I realized that all but one of the schools I had selected placed heavy emphasis on that useless test. I was in panic mode, and the realization that I had just wasted a bunch of weeks researching stuff only to have it destroyed completely freaked me out.

    It was then that I decided on a different approach; one that many applicants easily miss.

    Applying to strengths versus applying to preference.

    So far in my search, the schools I had compiled were those where I felt I'd be most comfortable, most successful. They included heavyweights like Edinburgh, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. Well established, easily recognizable institutions with great teaching styles, in nice cities, etc. It was all great, but I had forgotten to consider a very important aspect: these schools were great for me...but how great was I for them?


    What possible reasons did these schools have for accepting me? What was I offering them? This perspective of me being an ideal to the school as opposed to the schools being ideals to me, was a very important realization.

    From that point on, selecting schools was easy. Main criteria became: my suitability for their teaching style, my academic/ukcat scores meeting requirements, how they look at my experience/extracurriculars/etc, what parts of my application do they focus on.

    Before this, I had focused more on how great these schools were for me and I keep searching for the benefits they could provide me. However, applying to super competitive programs like medicine requires a reversal in thinking, you have to start seeing things from the opposing perspective.

    Hope this has been helpful. It's especially intended for new applicants from high school/internationals who don't necessarily have an idea where to begin. Good luck on your apps!
    If i was advising someone applying to medicine the first time i would tell them exactly this.
    If I had thought about my application like this last year when i had a considerably higher ukcat i probably would have gotten in back then.
    I also think its important not to write off a uni until you find out more about it, but i don't think it's a good idea to apply for somewhere you hate.
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    It's a balancing act really and to be fair, you can get lucky sometimes.

    Example, Newcastle and Sheffield cutoffs intimidated a lot of people. People with above 700 scores were worrying if they'd meet the cutoff and then this year they just went down loads. On the other side of it, people applying to St. Georges get smacked with an unexpected UKCAT cut off.

    I regret not applying to Newcastle now because as it turns out my UKCAT would have actually been high enough to get an interview. However, there is no way to know that before you apply and not many people want to play with their chances of being a doctor for the sake of a medical school.
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    (Original post by Davidragon)
    It's a balancing act really and to be fair, you can get lucky sometimes.

    Example, Newcastle and Sheffield cutoffs intimidated a lot of people. People with above 700 scores were worrying if they'd meet the cutoff and then this year they just went down loads. On the other side of it, people applying to St. Georges get smacked with an unexpected UKCAT cut off.

    I regret not applying to Newcastle now because as it turns out my UKCAT would have actually been high enough to get an interview. However, there is no way to know that before you apply and not many people want to play with their chances of being a doctor for the same of a medical school.
    Yes that's true. Quite a bit of luck involved for sure, especially if you consider BMAT schools. I feel terrible for people who apply to such schools but are unable to perform well on the test.

    There's also the possibility of schools changing their requirements randomly which again adds to the frustration.
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    Its sad that that's the way it is - there are so many benefits to applying to preference. I agree though - if you want to get in then 'playing the game' is an important way of maximising your chances.
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    This is so very, very, very true ... I completely agree with you. My UCAS application was a bit so-so compared to most applicants I'd say, I had a few important things missing so I couldn't apply to like 2/3 of the universities. So I had to really pick my universities very carefully and thankfully, it paid off.

    Ultimately though, I think the goal for most of us is to just study medicine - doesn't matter if it's at Cambridge, Edinburgh, King's or some crack den in Romania, as long as it's medicine, you'll be happy!

    It's probably way different though for home students since the competition is way less crazy than it is for internationals, but still . It's super important to look for universities that match your application, and then pick the ones you like from that list.
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    I had a similar conversation with my housemate about the Birmingham A* rule. She thought the rule was unfair (despite it working for her and Bham was her only offer) but I argued that the savvy people know that they shouldn't be applying here if they have fewer than 7/8A*s.
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    (Original post by My-My-My)
    I had a similar conversation with my housemate about the Birmingham A* rule. She thought the rule was unfair (despite it working for her and Bham was her only offer) but I argued that the savvy people know that they shouldn't be applying here if they have fewer than 7/8A*s.
    Yeah there's a really fine line I guess. For many schools, meeting the academic requirements is enough (for example soton). While for others, meeting them is just the first hurdle, because to stand a realistic chance, they must be exceeded. With so many schools and so many requirements, it can certainly get confusing very quickly. And that's where its really important to evaluate yourself first before evaluating the schools. Glad it worked out for your friend
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    Very well said.
    No surprise you are a BSMS graduate to be . They only accept geniuses.
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    The amount of people I have tried to urge this point to is unbelievable but at the end of the day come this time next year they'll wish they listened to me and applied strategically instead of where they'd like to show off about going to because they'll hold no offers unless they luckily like the schools that play to their strengths. The amount of times I've said your GCSEs are not strong enough to apply to Oxford or it would be stupid to apply to more than one BMAT uni is ridiculous. But at the end of the day the people that don't listen will be less competition for those that just want to get in no matter what.
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    (Original post by Hippokrates)
    The amount of people I have tried to urge this point to is unbelievable but at the end of the day come this time next year they'll wish they listened to me and applied strategically instead of where they'd like to show off about going to because they'll hold no offers unless they luckily like the schools that play to their strengths. The amount of times I've said your GCSEs are not strong enough to apply to Oxford or it would be stupid to apply to more than one BMAT uni is ridiculous. But at the end of the day the people that don't listen will be less competition for those that just want to get in no matter what.
    Yeah definitely agree. For many who are unsuccessful, it isn't necessarily due to a bad application but rather less than ideal school choices for their specific applications.
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    (Original post by .eXe)
    Yeah definitely agree. For many who are unsuccessful, it isn't necessarily due to a bad application but rather less than ideal school choices for their specific applications.
    I just can't stress the point that the university you go to will make no difference whatsoever enough. Nobody listens though everybody thinks Cambridge makes better doctors than Keele. If the naive applicants get in and I don't though I'll be frustrated.
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    (Original post by Hippokrates)
    I just can't stress the point that the university you go to will make no difference whatsoever enough. Nobody listens though everybody thinks Cambridge makes better doctors than Keele. If the naive applicants get in and I don't though I'll be frustrated.
    While admittedly I also used to think that was because being from the North American system where certain schools are respected while many others are blatantly looked down upon, I expected that sort of discrepancies in the UK as well. Gladly however, at least within medicine it all seems to be fairly even.

    And yes, often when people select schools based on prestige over anything else, I am just tempted to ask them...when that walk into clinic to see a patient...does the patient care at all where they graduated from? Many people don't seem to get that fact, which then biases their school choices negatively.
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    (Original post by .eXe)
    While admittedly I also used to think that was because being from the North American system where certain schools are respected while many others are blatantly looked down upon, I expected that sort of discrepancies in the UK as well. Gladly however, at least within medicine it all seems to be fairly even.

    And yes, often when people select schools based on prestige over anything else, I am just tempted to ask them...when that walk into clinic to see a patient...does the patient care at all where they graduated from? Many people don't seem to get that fact, which then biases their school choices negatively.
    I guess but the patient doesn't ask that question
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    The advice on this thread is pretty on point. It's sad that applicants can't really apply on the basis of 'where I want to study' - with competition the way it is, no-one can be guaranteed a place.

    I was talking to a group of medics at SGUL (which isn't the most popular medical school) but majority of them applied very cleverly. They all had 2-3 offers from less popular med schools (Keele, Cardiff, Peninsula) I just know so many unsuccessful applicants who had high UKCAT/Grades but just got unfortunate. A friend of mine who scored moderately in her UKCAT, had 11A*'s - she applied cleverly to Birmingham (where she got her only offer) but got rejected without interview from all of her other choices (Kings, UCL & Oxford)

    Applicants need to study each universities admission procedures and identify which ones maximise their chances of an interview.

    All the best to you future applicants - the emotional/mental torture awaits you
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    For all the Scottish people out there, I found the choice of universities to be pretty simple. Like it or not, the financial burden is considerably lighter for Scottish people who choose to study at a Scottish university. Since only five universities offer medicine in Scotland, you simply need to discard the one you like the least...Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh or St Andrews.
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    (Original post by TooSexyForMyStethoscope)
    For all the Scottish people out there, I found the choice of universities to be pretty simple. Like it or not, the financial burden is considerably lighter for Scottish people who choose to study at a Scottish university. Since only five universities offer medicine in Scotland, you simply need to discard the one you like the least...Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh or St Andrews.
    What are the current fees in scotland actually?
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    (Original post by Giggy88)
    What are the current fees in scotland actually?
    Well for Scottish people they are free, as they always have been. For English, Welsh and Northern Irish students it is £9000 per year I believe As of this year.
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    (Original post by TooSexyForMyStethoscope)
    Well for Scottish people they are free, as they always have been. For English, Welsh and Northern Irish students it is £9000 per year I believe As of this year.
    Wow, I was expecting the previous £3000ish it's been in England but free?!

    But then again in countries like Germany its also free.. It's just England that has to try and do everything that Americans do. -.-

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