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Cambridge vs UCL for medicine

Hey there,

So, I've applied to medicine this year, and I've been lucky enough to get a few offers for med schools too. I've also been lucky in the fact that my deadline for UCAS is early June rather than the 6th May deadline most people had (since I received my last offer in April). I've been extremely fortunate in getting offers from both UCL and Cambridge, but that blessing has also turned out to be a curse, since I'm absolutely stuck on deciding on which one to pick as my firm choice. I've got a few pros and cons for each uni in my head so far:

UCL:
Pros:
In the middle of London, presumably the social life is amazing, especially because it's so close to many of the other London universities.
I know a lot of people who are staying in London, so I think it'd help to stay in London, since I would already know a lot of people from the start.
I live in London, and have done so for all my life, so I know I would never get homesick (plus, I don't think I'd ever get sick of living in such an awesome city :tongue:)
The course has some integrated clinical practice in it, so it isn't extremely science heavy for the first 3 years as a Cambridge med course would be
Cons:
It's in London, which will be very expensive, making it very hard to live out for 6 years and be financially independent from my parents at the same time. I feel that I would want to live out for as long as I can, purely to just 'grow up' a little and gain some independence.

Cambridge:
Pros:
It's freaking Cambridge, extremely tough to get into, so having an offer is a nice way to show for the work I've made myself put in at AS and A2, and I would get to be taught by some of the very best academics in their fields (this isn't to say those at UCL aren't the very best, but there's something extra about being taught by someone who is at Cambridge).
It's out of London, so it's relatively cheaper to get by, and since I want to move back to London to work one day, it would be a good experience to live somewhere that isn't the city for a few years.
Cons:
The course is purely scientific for the first three years. Although I enjoy studying science and biochemistry in particular, I feel it may become a little taxing to do so for three years before practicing what I feel was the main thing I applied to medicine for.
This is probably not true, but it also feels as if having the huge workload typical of Oxbridge would mean that a social life would go out the window if I wanted to stay on top of all my academics.

Basically I've got it down to this: I feel that going to UCL would be a more enjoyable experience, but then I'd have to go on knowing that I turned down a place at a university that many people would give their left arm to go to. Going to Cambridge means that the academics may be better potentially (though UCL is only slightly lower down than Cambridge in rankings), but I don't know if I'd really fit in as a person; it feels like the kind of people who are more inclined to live in the city are the kind of people I see myself getting along very well with.

It would be great to hear from those who were once in a similar situation to me, and how everything panned out after they made their choice, as well as those who happily took up an offer at UCL/Cambridge, since anecdotal evidence is probably the only thing that will help me come to a decision now. Also, most of what I feel is just what I've deduced, if anyone feels that anything I've said is not necessarily true, please tell me!

I apologize for the huge wall of text, but this is pretty much everything that I've considered up to now.

Thanks!
Reply 1
Chose where you honestly believe you will enjoy for the next 6 years. You should also take into consideration that it maybe nice just to go to Cambridge because you live in London, I go to a London med school and I know some students from London wanting to move out of London and branch out when they finish med school. I think the work load will be intense at both uni's and wouldn't worry to much about it as you would be able to manage and fit in with the uni you chose otherwise you would never have been chosen. The idea of just science for 3 years does sound extremely boring but even when doing a integrated course most of your time in the first 2 years (+ intercelation 3rd year) is learning the theory behind medicine and whilst it may be a nice break with the clinical placements, most get boring after a while as you either do not know enough or get no responsibility given. UCL does seem to be the much better uni for social life and there is always something to do in London however would not recommend London if money is tight, the rent is substantially higher in London, night outs can cost a fortune, and whilst I love being in London I also hate that feeling where I am comparing my rent with friends from school who live in different areas of the country.
Original post by oyyoyy
Hey there,

So, I've applied to medicine this year, and I've been lucky enough to get a few offers for med schools too. I've also been lucky in the fact that my deadline for UCAS is early June rather than the 6th May deadline most people had (since I received my last offer in April). I've been extremely fortunate in getting offers from both UCL and Cambridge, but that blessing has also turned out to be a curse, since I'm absolutely stuck on deciding on which one to pick as my firm choice. I've got a few pros and cons for each uni in my head so far:

UCL:
Pros:
In the middle of London, presumably the social life is amazing, especially because it's so close to many of the other London universities.
I know a lot of people who are staying in London, so I think it'd help to stay in London, since I would already know a lot of people from the start.
I live in London, and have done so for all my life, so I know I would never get homesick (plus, I don't think I'd ever get sick of living in such an awesome city :tongue:)
The course has some integrated clinical practice in it, so it isn't extremely science heavy for the first 3 years as a Cambridge med course would be
Cons:
It's in London, which will be very expensive, making it very hard to live out for 6 years and be financially independent from my parents at the same time. I feel that I would want to live out for as long as I can, purely to just 'grow up' a little and gain some independence.

Cambridge:
Pros:
It's freaking Cambridge, extremely tough to get into, so having an offer is a nice way to show for the work I've made myself put in at AS and A2, and I would get to be taught by some of the very best academics in their fields (this isn't to say those at UCL aren't the very best, but there's something extra about being taught by someone who is at Cambridge).
It's out of London, so it's relatively cheaper to get by, and since I want to move back to London to work one day, it would be a good experience to live somewhere that isn't the city for a few years.
Cons:
The course is purely scientific for the first three years. Although I enjoy studying science and biochemistry in particular, I feel it may become a little taxing to do so for three years before practicing what I feel was the main thing I applied to medicine for.
This is probably not true, but it also feels as if having the huge workload typical of Oxbridge would mean that a social life would go out the window if I wanted to stay on top of all my academics.

Basically I've got it down to this: I feel that going to UCL would be a more enjoyable experience, but then I'd have to go on knowing that I turned down a place at a university that many people would give their left arm to go to. Going to Cambridge means that the academics may be better potentially (though UCL is only slightly lower down than Cambridge in rankings), but I don't know if I'd really fit in as a person; it feels like the kind of people who are more inclined to live in the city are the kind of people I see myself getting along very well with.

It would be great to hear from those who were once in a similar situation to me, and how everything panned out after they made their choice, as well as those who happily took up an offer at UCL/Cambridge, since anecdotal evidence is probably the only thing that will help me come to a decision now. Also, most of what I feel is just what I've deduced, if anyone feels that anything I've said is not necessarily true, please tell me!

I apologize for the huge wall of text, but this is pretty much everything that I've considered up to now.

Thanks!


The UCL course really doesn't have that much clinical stuff in it. It's only marginally more than the Cambridge course. If you go for Cambridge and need your fix of patient contact, you get 2 days every year (!!!) to visit a GP in first year and hospitals in second year. You follow a pregnant lady in third year, which I've heard is quite fun (the other GP and hospital visits are too). As for the course being purely scientific, that's pretty much exactly what you get at UCL too. I've got friends at UCL whose notes I use for some of my subjects, and there's almost no difference.

As for the social life, it really depends on what you want from it. I personally prefer Cambridge over London because my idea of a social life is going round my friends' rooms with a takeaway at 2am and watching Game of Thrones, or just chatting until the early hours of morning. When everyone lives within a 5-10 minute bike ride of each other, stuff like this is unbelievably convenient - you can just leave their rooms and get back to your bed within 10 minutes. If I were in London, that kind of thing wouldn't be as easy as it is - being at the mercy of night buses isn't great. Having said that, yes, the quality of the night clubs is undoubtedly higher in London than in Cambridge, so if that's what you're into, it might play a greater part in the decision than it did for me.

In terms of workload, there seems to be this opinion amongst everyone that the Oxbridge workload is huge and you don't have time for a social life. This is absolutely not true. Yeah, the workload is (arguably) slightly more than what you get at other universities, but unless you choose to be a hermit who sits in their room all day, you would balance your work around your other commitments, rather than the other way round. A medic friend of mine plays rugby for the university, trains like 5 times a week and still has time to go out regularly while keeping up with his work. The same is true for most others, and the best advice seems to be that if you want to do a lot, you can do it - just don't procrastinate when you have time and actually do some work.

The whole "I don't know if I will fit into Cambridge as a person" is another misconception that a lot of people I've spoken to have, and I really don't know why that is. I mean, it's a city, and like every city, you're going to have a huge variety of people, so generalising doesn't really help. I mean sure, you do get the odd person who fits the Cambridge stereotype, but in general, everyone is unbelievably normal (I was so surprised by this when I got here) - for the vast majority, you wouldn't be able to "tell" that they go to Cambridge, or even if they went to a "posh" private school vs a local comprehensive. The theory that Cambridge students are "a certain type of person" just doesn't make sense.

But yeah, this is obviously a biased viewpoint, but there's nowhere I personally would rather be than Cambridge. Good luck!!!!!
(edited 9 years ago)
I thought UCL had a pretty rigid preclinical/clinical divide as well?

They're both going to be great for medicine. I would personally just have gone for Cambridge due to its reputation and history - depends how important "prestige" is to you personally.

You'll get a great medical education at either of them.
(edited 9 years ago)
Can I just check, is it your understanding that, if you start at Cambridge in 2014, you will definitely be there for six years or will you have the opportunity to move to London or Oxford, after the first three years, for the clinical course?

I'm a fifth year medic at Cambridge, but I'm less than two weeks away from my end of year exams, so I'm not sure I'm in the right frame of mind to advise you on where to go at the moment!
Cambridge, because well, you said it yourself; it's Cambridge.
Reply 6
Original post by Refrigerator


Everything this guy said, essentially.

The clubbing scene in Cambridge is crap compared with London, that's true, though there are a couple of cheesy clubs which everyone seems to love in a semi-sarcastic fashion. Apart from that, I really can't think of much from a social point of view that you wouldn't get as a student in Cambridge that you would in London. Sports? Music? Theatre? Societies? Drunken student antics? Plenty of all of them. One other advantage is that the college system makes it easier to make friends doing other subjects so you're not just part of the "medic clique" that gets resented at other unis.
[i typed this yesterday - points may be repeated from above]

Have you been to open days? I guess you can't go now if you haven't already.

I don't think work load will be that different e.g. this survey (table 4) has Oxbridge at 42 hours per week, Imperial at 36. The workload is also in a different format - you didn't even mention the Cambridge supervision/tutorial system.

I think you greatly over-estimate the difference in early clinical contact - both will have some as the GMC makes them, and i doubt UCL does much more than the minimum to be honest with you. That's be a good question to ask a student.

And then the 'social life'... they're just completely different and concluding which you enjoy is a personal thing. Maybe you have thought this through already but you seem to just assume London is good... I personally hate London: its prohibitively expensive, you need to get public transport or taxis everywhere, its mostly townies and tourists and crime is much higher. Compare that to where i am now (Oxford - many similarities to Cambridge) - you can walk everywhere, college bars in particular are cheap, the whole town is full of students your own age... and then there's the college system - 80-140 per year group makes for a much more intimate social atmosphere (which i liked the idea of), and it also means sports provision and provision for other societies is way above any London uni. Now of course there are plenty of reasons to pick london - you already state you love the city - but you also say you 'presume' its good - don't presume. Give it some thought instead.
UCL does half a day in-hospital per week. Not all of this will be directly seeing patients. Some sessions will include clinical skills (peak flow, sphygmomanometry, basic examinations) others include reflective practice, communication skills and history taking. You will get to go to hospital wards and GP surgeries to sit in on consultations, but that's only once or twice per term.
Reply 9
Rankings don't matter, UCL may be ranked very close to Cambridge in the rankings but Cambridge's name recognition is a lot higher than UCL's around the world. Go to Cambridge. Congrats on the offers. I'm not sure how ambitious you are, but if you ever planned on moving abroad or going into academic research, Cambridge is where you'll want to be. Either way, both are fantastic choices and there is absolutely nothing wrong with UCL, UCL is a top notch school as well.
Reply 10
Thanks for all your feedback everyone, it's given me a lot to consider.

Also one more question, I know that when applying for foundation year jobs, the university that you went to plays no part in deciding whether or not you get the job you want, but can the same be said when trying to specialise?
Original post by oyyoyy
Thanks for all your feedback everyone, it's given me a lot to consider.

Also one more question, I know that when applying for foundation year jobs, the university that you went to plays no part in deciding whether or not you get the job you want, but can the same be said when trying to specialise?


They can see your medical school when you specialize but its very low down on the list of factors for specialty decisions.
Original post by ukmed108
but its very low down on the list of factors for specialty decisions.


Although they can see it, it's still not a factor at all. Speciality selection is very closely regulated and a transparent process. You get offered a job based on points that you accrue. You accrue points for your CV (varies by speciality but points tend only to be awarded for postgraduate achievements (audit, postgraduate research) and interview performance. Your CV and interview scores are added together and if they're above a cutoff, you get a job. Nowhere can you get points for the medical school that you go to, and very little if anything that you do as an undergraduate will count.
Original post by oyyoyy
Hey there,

So, I've applied to medicine this year, and I've been lucky enough to get a few offers for med schools too. I've also been lucky in the fact that my deadline for UCAS is early June rather than the 6th May deadline most people had (since I received my last offer in April). I've been extremely fortunate in getting offers from both UCL and Cambridge, but that blessing has also turned out to be a curse, since I'm absolutely stuck on deciding on which one to pick as my firm choice. I've got a few pros and cons for each uni in my head so far:

UCL:
Pros:
In the middle of London, presumably the social life is amazing, especially because it's so close to many of the other London universities.
I know a lot of people who are staying in London, so I think it'd help to stay in London, since I would already know a lot of people from the start.
I live in London, and have done so for all my life, so I know I would never get homesick (plus, I don't think I'd ever get sick of living in such an awesome city :tongue:)
The course has some integrated clinical practice in it, so it isn't extremely science heavy for the first 3 years as a Cambridge med course would be
Cons:
It's in London, which will be very expensive, making it very hard to live out for 6 years and be financially independent from my parents at the same time. I feel that I would want to live out for as long as I can, purely to just 'grow up' a little and gain some independence.

Cambridge:
Pros:
It's freaking Cambridge, extremely tough to get into, so having an offer is a nice way to show for the work I've made myself put in at AS and A2, and I would get to be taught by some of the very best academics in their fields (this isn't to say those at UCL aren't the very best, but there's something extra about being taught by someone who is at Cambridge).
It's out of London, so it's relatively cheaper to get by, and since I want to move back to London to work one day, it would be a good experience to live somewhere that isn't the city for a few years.
Cons:
The course is purely scientific for the first three years. Although I enjoy studying science and biochemistry in particular, I feel it may become a little taxing to do so for three years before practicing what I feel was the main thing I applied to medicine for.
This is probably not true, but it also feels as if having the huge workload typical of Oxbridge would mean that a social life would go out the window if I wanted to stay on top of all my academics.

Basically I've got it down to this: I feel that going to UCL would be a more enjoyable experience, but then I'd have to go on knowing that I turned down a place at a university that many people would give their left arm to go to. Going to Cambridge means that the academics may be better potentially (though UCL is only slightly lower down than Cambridge in rankings), but I don't know if I'd really fit in as a person; it feels like the kind of people who are more inclined to live in the city are the kind of people I see myself getting along very well with.

It would be great to hear from those who were once in a similar situation to me, and how everything panned out after they made their choice, as well as those who happily took up an offer at UCL/Cambridge, since anecdotal evidence is probably the only thing that will help me come to a decision now. Also, most of what I feel is just what I've deduced, if anyone feels that anything I've said is not necessarily true, please tell me!

I apologize for the huge wall of text, but this is pretty much everything that I've considered up to now.

Thanks!

Hey,
Which one you choose and what was your experience so far
Original post by curiousappa
Hey,
Which one you choose and what was your experience so far


Looks like the thread starter has not been on the site for 5yrs or more now, so unlikely to get a reply. Probably better to ask for feedback in the respective Uni forums, or the medicine one.

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