International Medical School Applications
Advice & Insight From Medicine Application Specialists
Applying to Medicine as an International or European student can be quite the challenge! With few schools outside of the UK offering consistent and reliable support for applying to British universities, sometimes it can seem like an impossible endeavour. If you’re thinking about this possibility, you’re in the right place: here’s a few tips to make the process just a bit easier.
Organisation and planning are key
Applying to Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to be organised, keeping track of entry requirements and deadlines while organizing valuable work experience: this can be a challenge! You’ll need a planner notebook, a lot of time, plenty of support and a lot of patience.
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The extra-curriculars and work experience
Everyone knows that you need a competitive personal statement to even consider applying to medicine; more importantly, however, you need to be sure that this is what you want to do (and not just for the purpose of writing a convincing personal statement). Make sure you are exposed to healthcare, either in your country or somewhere else in the world and that you reflect on these experiences. Doing this earlier on (at least the year before your UCAT) will make your life so much easier during application time, when you’ll already be trying to cram exam preparation and university selection. You don’t have to travel abroad for your experience to be valuable; if you do, be aware of the fact that healthcare might not work the same way in the UK and be ready to compare different healthcare systems during your interview.
Preparing for the UCAT
This exam is vitally important, and even if it might look like something you can improvise (“It’s just testing my skills, isn’t it?” says the uninformed aspiring medic), it is not. You need A LOT of practice. Buy plenty of resources, make the most of free resources and time yourself while doing mocks. This preparation and hard work will enable you to be as confident as possible on exam day. If you learn better when assisted by a tutor, consider BlackStone Tutors to give you a hand! Someone who can explain to you step-by-step how to best tackle some sections could be of great help if you’re struggling. Choose your test date carefully; you might want to consider taking the exam just before the academic year starts again (usually late August), while still leaving some time to rest before you’re back in school.
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Thinking about finances
Universities in the UK are not free: to some students around the world this will come as a shock, to others it will be normal (or they may even be offering cheaper fees than your home country). Either way, you need to think about how you’ll be able to afford your education. International students form the rest of the world have the opportunity to apply for bursaries and scholarships or can be sponsored by an entity back home. Non-UK/EU fees tend to be higher and usually change throughout the course (clinical phases are more expensive); make sure you check the university website to be aware of this.
Choosing your university
It would be very easy to be able to attend every single Open Day and hear all about the course from current students; unfortunately, for non-UK applicants this can be quite challenge. Flying to the in several times can become quite expensive, since you’ll already have to attend interviews (hopefully). When choosing your top 4, don’t rely solely on league rankings or prestige: often these won’t guarantee you the university experience you want and deserve! You should read up about the way the course is taught, especially anatomy; there’s no point applying to a PBL course that teaches with prosections, when you excel in a lecture theatre and learn best by dissecting yourself. Make sure you check out the campus/city through videos and images; maybe read articles about student life if you have some spare time. Online forums are a great opportunity to know what other students and applicants think of a specific university but remember that these are just personal opinions! Keep a written list of all the things you like and hate about the universities, or you will forget in no time.
Once you’ve done your research, you should start thinking realistically about your options. With four choices, one should definitely be your dream place, your ideal university: shoot for the stars and don’t be afraid of taking risks or you might regret it. The two next in line should be realistically reflecting what your predicted grade, your UCAT score and your previous experience can get you. Try and go for universities that put more weight on your strengths in the application process; unfortunately, not every institution is equally transparent but do your best to make an educated guess basing it on what other students are saying, too. As a fourth choice, you want to go safe; where do you think you’re almost guaranteed a place? Only select a university you would actually attend, though.
If you’re studying at an International school working towards an IB, your qualifications are likely to be recognized by any university in the United Kingdom. It’s a bit of a tougher ride if you have country-specific diplomas (e.g. Italian high school diploma) and you might need a bit more research. Most universities have country specific information but often it is very unclear whether this applies to Medicine; because of how competitive it is, some universities just don’t accept anything that isn’t A-levels or IB. Thankfully, there is one very simple way to avoid disappointment in this matter! If you have “unusual” qualifications, make a generic draft of an email stating the qualification (be as specific as possible) you’re predicted to hold at the end of your high school journey and directly ask them if this is accepted by them in the run for a place in the medical school. Some universities will reply with a link to your country-specific page, some will unfortunately tell you that they do not consider your qualifications valid enough. Do this early on as admissions admin can be very slow at replying and keep a written record of everything; unfortunately, your university choice might be restricted by these answers.
N.B. Some schools will be happy to provide grading scales, to convert your qualifications into A-level grades that the universities can more easily understand, score and compare with other applicants’. If this is an option, state it in your email, or even attach the signed document.
If you don’t attend an English-speaking school or English is not your first language, don’t forget about English language requirements! All universities tend to accept a high score at the IELTS (usually at least above 7.0 in every section), but some are happy to assess your skills based on Cambridge English exams (usually a good grade at the CAE or CPE, respectively C1 or C2).
Preparing for interviews
Once the haunting 15/10 (Annual UCAS Medicine Application Deadline) is behind you, you should have submitted your university choices, sent a personal statement and sat the UCAT: now it’s a waiting game! Some universities will be very quick at offering interviews, some will take longer; some will offer slots very early on (as soon as a week after you received your interview acceptance email), some will let you know months in advance. It is important that you don’t neglect your studies, as well as not forgetting to start your interview practice earlier. If talking isn’t your strong suit and you need to practice showing some confidence, you should start getting ready even before you get an offer. Get some medical interview books with sample questions and practice answering them: do NOT just read through them. Ask family and friends to give you a hand and to be very honest when judging your strengths and weaknesses. Wherever possible, attend mock interviews or arrange online interviews with present medical students, doctors and medical school interviewer
Achieving your offer
The hardest part of the journey is behind you! Now it’s time to focus on achieving the many offers that you have hopefully received. Best-case scenario: the application process hasn’t led you to forget about your studies and you’re on top of your exams. Be especially mindful of this when preparing for interviews that are very late in the academic year! There is no point in securing an offer if you stand no chance of achieving the grades they will ask for. For country-specific qualifications, some universities will already state on their website what offer you’re likely to get (with a rough equivalence to the A-level grades they ask for Medicine): this can help guide/motivate your revision!
Hopefully, this article has given you some clarity about the medical application process as a non-UK applicant and can help you direct your journey. Best of luck with everything!