I think it is important to develop a backup plan before applying to medical or dental school because they are highly competitive courses. UCAS requires all medical school applicants to pick a fifth choice that is an alternative degree. For some this might be alternative routes to medical school or dental school, for others it could be a completely different career path but I recommend considering the following to help develop your medical school backup plan.
1. What Am I Good At?
I know loads of students that went into Biomedical Sciences hoping they will get into graduate medicine later down the road. Make sure you are picking your fifth choice based on what you are good at, look into core modules, teaching styles and course structure.
I remember when I was at the University of Manchester there were students that struggled with the chemistry modules of the course. They just couldn’t get there heads round the core chemistry principles they needed to apply to key Pharmaceutical concepts. I actually dated a girl on my course who hated chemistry and struggled with the chemistry concepts, but was very good with the physiology modules, she would have probably found it a lot easier if she stuck solely with her passion and studied Physiology instead. Take the time to really think about what you are good at, do not pick a fifth choice solely because it could potentially get you a place in graduate medicine or dentistry later down the road.
2. What Do I enjoy?
In my opinion, this is the most important question you must ask yourself. Pick a fifth choice that you enjoy. You have to imagine that if a career in medicine or dentistry doesn’t work out what would you rather do? What would you dedicate the next 4 years studying? Or maybe what another career would you consider? For some this might still be in the health sector for others it could be something completely different. I have a mate I studied with in Pharmacology that now runs his own mobile app business, creating mobile apps to enhance cognitive function – combining both his passion in neuroscience and technology. What do you enjoy?
Remember that whatever you decide will take 3-4 years that’s a really long time if you are not passionate.
3. What Are the Entry Requirements, Course Structure and Teaching Style?
Another consideration that makes a significant difference from one university to another is how you are taught and assessed. There are three main approaches: traditional, integrated and problem-based learning. Check out which approach your preferred choices use and consider if this suits the way you enjoy learning.
4. Should I take A Gap Year?
Taking a gap year can be tremendously beneficial to one’s personal growth, whether one decides on enrolling in a structured gap year program, spend time volunteering abroad or simply traveling the world. Regardless, taking a gap year gives you the chance to think things through, do not rush into university if you aren’t sure. I took a gap year and it was probably one of the smartest things I’ve ever done despite getting pressured from family to get into university. You can read my story for more information. You can use the time to reflect on your achieved grades or get relevant work experience to enhance your application.
5. How Can I Make My Application Stronger?
This last point is really for those who are determined to get in medical or dental school if they do not make it the first time applying. I recommend you consider how you can make your application stronger the next time you reapply. For Instance, if you did not achieve the grades, you’ll need to work hard enough to get a strong degree class in your backup choice.
Goodluck with developing your medical school backup plan! For more tips and advice subscribe to the UKCAT BLOG.