UKCAT score may influence decisions – if you didn't do particularly well, then it is best not to aim for universities who use UKCAT for ranking students for interview. Be realistic and do some research into how medical schools use the UKCAT. Some people who don't do as well in the UKCAT, decide to take their chances with BMAT and apply for universities which require that instead. There are still a couple of universities which don't require any additional admission test.
If you don't want to have to take the BMAT, then applying to medical schools which require it is probably not the best idea. In general, it's not recommended to apply for more than 2 BMAT universities as you won't have even taken the test when you apply.
These are often more important than people think. So if yours aren't too good, you will want to be careful which universities you apply to, as they can be very very important for some. However, for other universities, they aren't that important at all.
If you're planning on taking a gap year, then the different opinions medical schools have on them is something else to think about.
A lot of people apply to universities based on how the course is structured and taught:
- Would you prefer PBL to traditional? Do you want to completely avoid PBL?
- How much integration would you like? This could be in terms of how the subjects are taught (anatomy, physiology, immunology separately or 'respiratory system' encompassing all the different subjects) or how clinical skills and contact are integrated into the course.
- Do you want early clinical contact? Look carefully at what different places mean by early clinical contact as in some cases this may just be seeing one patient on a couple of different occasions in the first year, whereas others, you spend at least 1 day a week with patients.
- How anatomy is taught – do you want to do full body dissection? Would you be happy just dissecting a small part of the body?
- Compulsory animal tissue work
- Is the course well-established or relatively new? Some people prefer not to be 'guinea-pigs'
- What about intercalation? Would you like to be able to intercalate by choice, or would you like it to be compulsory (and if so, would you rather have the extra year to do it or not)?
Location, Location, Location
This is another big factor that people take into consideration as it is where you'll be spending the next 5 or 6 years of your life!
- How far it is from home
- Are there good transport links - trains, main roads etc
- Cost of living
- City vs campus universities
- The amount of green space, beaches, mountains
- A lot of Scottish people would rather stay in Scotland due to the reduced tuition fees, similarly Welsh students may prefer Cardiff for the same reason
- Local hospitals and facilities (including shopping, nightlife etc)
Some things that influence people's decisions:
- Do you want to be able to integrate with people who aren't medical students or healthcare students?
- How many people are in each year group? The number of people in each year group varies a lot between medical schools and some people may prefer smaller year groups (around 130 students) to large year groups (350 students)
- The size of the medical school can also have an impact on the supportiveness of staff, which some people think is important
- Applicants to places ratios are something else people can look at, however they can be unreliable. The ratio one year is likely to be completely different the next year as everyone applies to the one which had fewest applicants the year before.
- Websites and prospectuses can influence where people want to go
- Research reputation
- Prestige or reputation
- League tables are the commonest place people look, though they tend not to be very useful for medicine
When you have a shortlist of medical schools, then it might be a good idea to go to some open days, see what you think of them. Have a chat with students and staff and see what they think of their course and university.
Pros and Cons
Pros and cons lists may be helpful in deciding on your final choices.