Saturday, 1 October 2011

The curse of the fourth choice

Currently listening to: Songbird - Oasis

Getting into medical school as a graduate is all about hoop jumping. You spend three years (and £27K) doing a life sciences degree at which nothing is acceptable but a 2:1 or above. You kill yourself with stress over a subject which, let's face it, isn't even your first preference. Having got through the degree with a satisfactory grade, you then shell out £75 for the pleasure of taking the UKCAT exam, which pretty much takes up all Summer with preparation. If you've successfully negotiated that hurdle, you're then in a position to actually begin your application, which must, amongst other things, contain an excellent reference and a brilliant personal statement detailing why exactly the medical schools ought to be interested in you. And then you have to pick your choices.

But here's the catch, even after all this hoop jumping, endless exams and even doing a degree which wasn't your first choice, apparently it's still not enough as lots of GEP courses still have A-level requirements. So, for example, I can't apply to Bristol because as a 17 year old I screwed up my chemistry A level. Never mind that over the next three years I took FOUR university level biochemistry modules (one of them optional), nope, that still doesn't cut it, meaning that a fair few med schools are still out of my reach.

So back to the point, I'm feeling utterly screwed about my final choice. I'm very happy with my first three choices: Barts and The London 5 yr, Barts and The London 4 yr and Warwick 4 yr, but it seems like everytime I pick a fourth choice, something crops up which makes it seem like I'll get an automatic rejection.

First I wanted to go for Southampton GEP, but no-one knows exactly on what basis they make offers, since they don't interview. So basically your personal statement has to be amongst the top 10% or so, out of a total 1000 applicants. Very long odds.

Then there was Kings College London's 5 yr degree. No A level requirement, my UKCAT is probably high enough, really decent university in central London. Seems like a perfect choice right? Until they told me that if I were to gain an offer from them, it would be based on my MSc and not my BSc. I don't fancy another year of stressing over my grades, so that's KCL gone.

Finally I thought I'd made a breakthrough with Newcastle GEP. A brilliant university in a really cool city and the cherry on the cake was that I was told on the phone that their cut off last year was 690. I emailed them just to be sure and got a totally different reply that the cut off was 702.5. The cut-offs rarely go down, so with my 697.5 if I applied there I'm almost certain I'd be rejected.

In short, I'm completely stuck. I feel like I'm effectively throwing away one of my choices if I apply to either of these three but I genuinely have nowhere else to apply to (I've checked all the unis here). I probably will go ahead and risk it and apply to Newcastle GEP but I'd bet anything that they're going to reject me straight away.

I have just over two weeks to make up my mind, but it feels like I'm genuinely at a dead end. Any advice is much appreciated.


  1. I am actually having the same problem because I am very limited as I am a resit applicant. After obtaining a lower than expected score on the UKCAT now I have to rethink by 4th option and choose between Peninsula and UEA.

    Hope you have better luck than me deciding :P

  2. Southampton then.

  3. I wouldn't call this proper advice since I don't know much about GEP yet, but here is what I think. :)

    I would apply for a uni where the determining factor is in a way, in your control if that makes sense.

    Southampton - although the personal statement is difficult, it is something that you can be in charge of.
    Kings College - same applies here, to get that merit.
    Newcastle - I would be careful with this one because there is no way of knowing what the cut - off will be + they usually go up. Perhaps you should make a few more phone calls? Find out by how much they go up each year?

    Whatever way you look at it, they all have drawbacks that you cannot know about until hindsight.

    I know it probably isn't as easy as this but just map out all the advantages/disadvantages and weigh them against each other. I am sure you will come to a decision which you are happy with soon! :)

  4. Newcastle only have 19 places on the graduate scheme. Their UKCAT cut-off is one thing but the people they accept have a score well in excess of the cut-off. I applied with an average of 720 last year to the GEP programme. My interview went really well, I had a good statement, etc but still got rejected.

    Personally, I would advise you to go with UEA/BSMS as they are a bit more relaxed about the UKCAT and prefer to judge the overall applicant.

  5. Thanks for the advice guys, it's been really helpful. I've written my personal statement (finally!) so I'll make my decision in the next few days then hopefully send my app off.

    @A Fresher: Don't doubt yourself, that's very logical and sound advice. Cheers for the comment :)

    @Anonymous#2: That's really useful info about the GEP thanks. Sadly I can't afford to apply to any 5 yr degrees outside of London, otherwise I would have gone for Newcastle and Leicester :(

  6. @Anonymous#3: Would love to apply to SGUL but they don't accept graduates on their A100 course and their GEP course requires the GAMSAT which I have steered well clear of!

  7. I am in the same position as you but have a humanities degree which further reduces my options! I phoned Newcastle and there 4yr cut off for the past 3 yrs (2009-2011) have been 2730, 2740, 2810 so im not risking it. Im taking my chances on my personal statment and going for southampton. I would much rather be rejected on my personal statement than not have my application looked at due to having a ukcat score thats below their cutoff. Kings is a good option for you since you have a good ukcat! good luck making your decision!

  8. Grumps..what's going on? Not heard from you in a couple of weeks...not pleased.

  9. @Anonymous#4: Check out the latest entry :D

    @olivia: Best of luck to you, thanks for the advice. The waiting starts now :(