Author: Krsna M.
Fourth Year Medical Student
Studying Medicine in the UK is a prestigious and highly sought-after opportunity, promising excellent-quality training, growth and prospects. But applying to the UK as an EU student comes with unique challenges, and can seem like an overwhelming process and an out-of-reach dream, especially if you are one of the few, or the only student within your community to be applying. Having said that, it is definitely do-able. In this article, I aim to take you through a step-by-step guide of applying to medical school in the UK, based on my experience as a student born, raised and based in an EU country (Malta!).
1.Understand how it works
Unlike the United States and some other countries, Medicine in the UK is an undergraduate degree, lasting 5 or 6 years. The first thing to understand is how early applications are. For the UK, if you are due to start University in September 2021, the deadline for applying is almost one whole year before i.e. October 2020. This usually coincides with the start of your last year of school, so you are usually applying without having done your final exams yet, such as your A-Levels or equivalent. This is intentional; you are meant to apply with something called ‘predicted grades’ – more on this later.
But do remember: Every year the deadline is 15th October for entry the following September, so do not miss this date!
2. Consider the tuition fees
One of the earliest factors to consider before embarking on the application journey is how you will finance your studies. At the time of writing, students eligible to pay EU fees pay the same rate as UK students – £9,250 per year – but this may be subject to change. Check whether you are eligible for this rate, and if there are scholarships or bursaries available for you to apply to.
As an EU student, you may be eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance England. Check this out here: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/eu-students
It is also worth enquiring whether there are government schemes within your country which can support you during your studies.
3. Have a think about the university
There are currently 35 bodies awarding UK medical degrees (1). Consider what type of course you would like, what the University can offer you, and what city you would like to be based in. For example, some medical schools use peer-based learning, some promote early clinical contact, and most offer an opportunity to intercalate and do a one-year BSc in the middle of your medical studies. If you can easily travel to the UK, you can also book a tour of the University or attend an Open Day.
Each University generally has entry requirements specific for each EU country, available on their website. If your country is not on the list, email or telephone the Admissions Office to explain how your education system works, and to find out more information about their requirements for you.
4. Get some work experience
Work experience is certainly recommended before applying, to give yourself a good idea of what life in the field is like, and to demonstrate your commitment. Ask your local clinic if you can shadow the doctors there or reach out to a family or friend who works in the healthcare space. You might also want to consider professional companies available that can organise the experience for you. Medical Projects offer a variety of online courses such as GP Live, Clinical Skills & Virtual Work Experience Week.
5. Create a UCAS application
To start your application, you need to use The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (2), more commonly known as UCAS. This is a centralised online service that manages the application process to British universities, and requires your grades, your personal statement (See Point 8) as well as a reference from your school. You can either apply ‘through your school or college’ or ‘as an individual’. If your school is not registered with UCAS, which can be the case with non-UK schools, then you should apply ‘as an individual’.
The main thing to know here is that most students can put down five University choices to apply to the course they would like. However, for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science courses, you can only put down four choices in your application. The fifth slot can either be left blank or you can put down a non-Medicine course, as a back-up in case you do not get into any of the four Medicine programmes, or if you get offers but do not meet the required grades on completing your exams.
6. Complete IELTS/TOEFL
Most UK Universities usually require non-UK students to submit proof of English language ability. Therefore, you will need to sit for an official English test, such as the IELTS (3) or the TOEFL (4). Check individual University websites for which exams they accept, and what the minimum score they require is. I would recommend studying for and sitting the exam early on (such as December-January), which is well before the application deadline in October.
7. Sit the relevant admission exams
When applying to UK medical schools, there are also admission tests you need to sit for. There are two: The University Clinical Aptitude Test (5) (UCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (6) (BMAT), and both generally need a lot of preparation. You can sit for the UCAT between the 3rd of August and 1st of October 2020. The BMAT can be taken either on 5th of September 2020 and or 4th November 2020. They are normally taken at a centre which is registered to run Admission Testing assessments. If your school or college is not a registered centre, they can apply to become one.
8. Write your personal statement
The personal statement is a text of 4000 characters/47 lines which describes why you want to study the particular subject, in this case, Medicine. You only write ONE personal statement for all the 4/5 Universities you apply to via UCAS.
There are lots of videos, sample personal statements and articles online about how to best write one – read our own guide about writing a personal statement here or watch our YouTube video here. As an EU student, it is also worth adding why you would like to study in the UK. If your school doesn’t have a specific counsellor for this, ask friends, family and trusted teachers to have a read and give their opinion once you’ve written a first draft.
9. Obtain a reference and predicted grades
Teachers or tutors from your school are responsible for providing ‘predicted grades’ – these are estimations of the grades you will go on to achieve, based on previous assessments. Every UCAS application also needs a ‘reference’, which is a written recommendation by a teacher who knows you academically and can describe your suitability to the course. Make sure they are aware of all the great things you have been doing, such as any volunteering, competitions, prizes, team sports etc. That way they can include it and write the best reference for you.
Predicted grades and references accompany your application and will be used with your personal statement and UCAT/BMAT score by University Admission Offices to make a decision about offering you an interview.
10. Go to your interview
The last step in the application journey is the interview, which can either be traditional or in multiple-mini-interview (MMI) format (more information on this here). If given the opportunity, try to choose an interview slot that fits around your school schedule.
If you do well in the interview, you will then be sent a ‘conditional offer’, with a set of ‘actual grades’ you need to achieve in your upcoming final exams. Out of the offers you have received, you pick one medical school as your first choice, or ‘firm choice’, and a second as your ‘insurance choice’.
Finally, if you then go on to meet the grade requirements of your ‘conditional offer’ once your exam results come out, you will be officially accepted into your first-choice University. Now you can celebrate the end of your long application journey – and start get excited about moving to the UK!
My last piece of advice in general would be to try and find a mentor. The whole process is lengthy and challenging, so try to reach out to others who have applied to Medicine in the UK before, or who have applied to the University of your choice, or even a teacher who has guided students in older years.
However, if you can’t find someone to help, don’t stress! Plenty of students have secured a place without knowing anyone who had done the same from their country – I was one of them! Use your resources well, have a browse of the other articles here at Medical Projects and take a look at the official UCAS website. I would also recommend The Student Room, which is a huge, online community of students like you, with forums where you can network and ask questions.
The bottom line is: Start preparing early. With enough hard work and planning, you will soon be on your way to moving to the UK and starting a new journey – your journey of medical school itself.