Which medical school should I apply to?
It's important to do your research before deciding which medical school to apply to. All UK medical students will graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of surgery degree. Medicine is also one of the few subjects where it doesn't really matter what University you studied at. If you successfully complete your medical degree and pass all the necessary requirements, you will move on to a foundation programme (which means you'll be guaranteed a job working as a junior doctor in the NHS). Medicine is a competitive course with many more applicants than places so it's important to keep an open mind when looking at your options.
You can apply to a maximum of 4 medical schools through UCAS with the option to select a non-medicine 5th option should you wish to have a back up incase you don't receive any offers.
Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a medical school is making sure that the course is right for you. Most medical schools take one of two approaches when teaching a medical degree.
The traditional system focuses on theory during the early years. You'll spend most of your time in lectures, labs and small group teaching sessions covering the principles of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. In your final years of medical school you'll be taught in clinical settings in GP, hospital and other community based placements. You will still have lectures and seminars but these will decrease as you progress through the clinical years.
The Integrated system teaches various aspects of scientific theory alongside experience in clinical settings from early on. You will have plenty of exposure to clinical environments from the beginning of medical school, learning to put the theory taught in lectures into practice through various clinical placements and skills sessions. This might be intimidating for some people but for others it's an opportunity to grow gradually more comfortable with clinical settings and helps to put all that theory learnt in lectures into a relevant clinical context
How the content is delivered will also vary from one course to the next
Instead of teaching medicine in separate disciplines (such as pathology, physiology and anatomy of the human body) , an systems-based approach often joins different disciplines together as part of the study of a single bodily system (such as the circulatory system) where the anatomy, physiology, biology and pharmacology of that system will be considered at once.
Case and problem based learning
Some Schools (for example Cardiff Medical School) use what's know as case based learning (CBL). This involves teaching various aspects of medicine through a series of patient cases. Each scenario acts as a springboard to understanding the basic biology and pathology which relate to that particular case. Students set learning objectives and work through the case in small groups led by a facilitator who will guide and prompt the discussion.
Problem based learning (PBL) is similar to CBL with some differences. Students still work in small groups on set cases but the learning tends to be more self-directed. Facilitators play a minor role and tend not to guide the discussion. Few medical schools use a purely PBL-style approach with most PBL universities (such as Hull York Medical School) using a blend of CBL and PBL.
Location can also be a really important consideration when choosing a medical School. Some people choose to live at home during medical school for financial or personal reasons, so finding a medical school within commuting distance of your home might be a priority for you.
Alternatively, many people want a particular university environment. Do you prefer a campus or city university? Do you mind being in a smaller town or do you want to study and live in a lively, bustling city? Is distance from home a consideration? (St Andrews is a beautiful place but a long drive if you're travelling from most places in the UK)!
Going to open days is a great way to get a feel for a particular university. Have a chat with current students, find out what they think. Don't be afraid to ask about the negatives- every university will have them!
TRAVEL TIP: Get yourself a student railcard and save money on train trips to open days
If you have a particular interest or hobby then you might be swayed by the facilities and range of activities on offer at your chosen universities. Check out the sports facilities, range of accommodation, level of financial support for students and the sort of societies and clubs available.
some other things to consider...
Does your medical course offer full body dissection?
Where are the clinical placement based?
How many undergraduate medics are there in each year?
Does the medical school offer a foundation year?
Do you want the opportunity to intercalate (a year out of your medical degree to study for a BSc/master's) ?
How will you be assessed throughout your course?
What is the welfare provision like? How are students supported through their studies?
Medicine is also a competitive course so you should also make sure you apply to institutions that best match your academic profile and skill set. You will have to have good grades for a medical degree but different schools have slightly different entry requirements.
Am I likely to make my offer?
Typical offers range from AAA- A*A*A (some universities may also give lower contextual offers). Do I meet the subject requirements and have I registered for/sat the appropriate admissions tests? Be sure to note whether you will be required to sit the UCAT or BMAT. The format of the UCAT is quite different to the BMAT so depending on where your strengths lie you might consider applying only to BMAT or UCAT universities.
Prepare ahead and play to your strengths
Different universities place different emphasis on different aspects of your application. Some medical schools focus heavily on GCSE results, others on predicted A-level grades, UCAT/BMAT scores, personal statement or a combination of several factors. It's a good idea to sit your UCAT test before you apply to universities through UCAS in October time because you can select choices which play to your strengths (if you don't think you will meet the UCAT cut off for a particular university it's best not to waste an application to this university but apply elsewhere).