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Parents and Teachers

Helping you guide a pupil considering a career in medicine

If your child or a pupil you know is considering a career in medicine, it can seem daunting. Medicine is known for being a competitive field and some pupils can be facing additional challenges, for example coming from a school with a low rate of progression to higher education or if they are the first in their family to attend university. 

Whilst the process of applying to medical school generally similar to applying to other university courses, there are some additional steps and hoops to jump through. 

We are here to help you guide a child/pupil through this process which we know can be confusing and outside the normal area of expertise of some teachers. This page briefly lays out what each stage of the process entails and how best to support a pupil considering applying to medicine.

Application Timeline

The diagram below shows a timeline of when certain aspects of the application process should be focussed on.

Take particular note of the application deadline, which for medicine is earlier than for other university degrees.

Early Years (S1 - S3)

At You Can Be A Doctor, we recognise that the journey to a career in medicine often begins long before students reach university age. 

 

If you are the parent or teacher of a younger pupil (primary school or early high school) who expresses an interest in being a doctor - it is really important to allow their curiosity to develop without putting too much pressure on them. That's why we're dedicated to providing a wide range of engaging events, activities, and resources aimed at encouraging younger pupils' interest in human biology and medical sciences. 

 

However, it's equally crucial to encourage them to explore other passions they enjoy, be it music, art, or participation in social and sports groups. Cultivating a well-rounded individual is key – someone who thrives in various aspects of life is often a more appealing applicant than one solely fixated on a medical path from the get-go.

Starting Early
Top Tip: Choosing National 5s

There are certain Highers subjects which are essential for a medical school application. Often, in order to be eligible to study these subjects for highers, they need to have been taken for National 5s as well - so try to plan ahead!

Get Interested via You Can Be A Doctor Events

You Can Be A Doctor have developed several events, delivered in conjunction with some of the medical colleges, aimed at inspiring younger pupils to consider a career in medicine. These events are interactive sessions where pupils can start to think about how the human body works, what can go wrong, and how different team members come together to use their expertise to treat patients. 

Each can be run as a live event led by a doctor or medical student, either in person or virtually. Alternatively, pupils can explore online versions of these activities. See the links below our summaries of the events. 

  • Healthcare Professions Event: This event aims to introduce pupils to the range of professions which make up our healthcare system.

  • Cardiovascular System Event: This event aims to introduce pupils to the cardiovascular system including the heart and blood vessels in an interactive session and provide some relevant medical insight along the way. It follows the journey of a patient, John, to introduce the anatomy, function and examination of the heart through a common presentation of chest pain.

  • Digestive System Event: This event aims to introduce pupils to the digestive system and relevant organs including their importance along with some relevant medical insight.

  • Escape Room Event: This event aims to give pupils an introduction to the role of a junior doctor looking after an unwell patient in hospital through an interactive escape room challenge! 

Senior Years (S4 - S6)

This is when things become a bit more serious. There are several things that need to be done for a pupil to successfully obtain a place at medical school. 

  1. Choosing the right Highers subjects

  2. Securing the grades required in Highers (+/- Advanced Highers)

  3. Obtaining good work experience and extracurricular activities

  4. Writing a good personal statement

  5. Scoring well in the UCAT

  6. Performing well in the interview

Gearing up to apply
Highers/Advanced Highers

Applications for medical school are completed via the UCAS website. Applications usually open in May and close on the 15th October. This is earlier than for most other courses so it is important to ensure students are organised and have their applications submitted in a timely manner. 

See our 'UCAS' page for more information. 

Work Experience/Extracurricular Activities

Work experience is necessary to show that prospective medical students have an idea of what a career in medicine will entail, we recommend 1 – 2 weeks of work experience. Ideally this should be organised early in case things fall through so there is time to arrange an alternative. 

Extracurricular activities are a great way of demonstrating that a pupil is well-rounded and has a range of interests. Good examples include volunteering, teaching/tutoring, team sports, music, and outdoors activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. 

Ultimately, work experience and extracurricular activities are vital to producing a good personal statement and impressing at interview - so starting to log these early and thinking about how these demonstrate particular skills is important. 

See our 'Preparing for Applications' page for more information/resources including:

  • Links to RCGP work experience and You Can Be A Doctor Work Experience

  • Work experience diary

  • Extracurricular activities log

UCAT / Personal Statement

The UCAT is an aptitude test that all applicants must sit prior to sending off their UCAS application to apply for medical school. It is a computer based test which can be taken in over 20 Pearson Vue centres across Scotland. There are a host of resources available online, although unfortunately many are paid resources. 

However, we offer a free UCAT summer school for pupils to help familiarise them with the test and have an opportunity to ask questions before they have to sit the UCAT itself.

It costs around £70 for UK based pupils to sit the examination, although there is a means-tested bursary available for those who can apply. 

Note: The BMAT is a similar type of exam which you might read about but is not required for pupils applying to Scottish medical schools.

For more information about the UCAT, select one of the links below.

Similar to most other university courses, pupils are expected to produce a personal statement for universities to review. This is a 4000 character (approx 1 - 1.5 A4 pages) piece of writing which allows pupils to demonstrate their passion for the chosen subject as well as the desirable skills/attributes which they have. See our available resources below for more information on how to craft a good personal statement.

The Application Process

Applications for medical school are completed via the UCAS website. Applications usually open in May and close on the 15th October. This is earlier than for most other courses so it is important to ensure students are organised and have their applications submitted in a timely manner. 

UCAS functions as a portal between universities and applicants, and handles nearly all aspects of the application including: 

  • Pupil selection of desired medical schools

  • Upload of personal statements (which are then sent to medical schools to view)

  • Tracking the status of applications and receiving invitations to interview

  • Results (note: UCAS is automatically sent results for Highers/Advanced Highers by SQA)

  • Offers and decisions

See our 'UCAS' page for more information. 

Interview

All Scottish medical schools currently interview, although some are still taking place online in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Interviews typically take place between December - January, however the structure of the interviews vary hugely depending on the medical school. 

Interviews can be scary and tricky but the best way for pupils to excel is through good preparation. You Can Be A Doctor offers free mock interview days where pupils will have the opportunity to work through a full interview with Doctors and Medical Students, and receive valuable feedback and advice. 

Financial Considerations

Medical school is often considered an expensive endeavour and this can push pupils away from applying. Much of the cost that people associate with applying to medicine comes from expensive extra ‘courses’ run by private companies to help boost a pupils personal statement or get them a better score in the UCAT. We always stress to our pupils that these extras can never guarantee a place at medical school and to look alternative free resources and support available.

 

With that said, there are some unavoidable costs associated with applying to medical school which we have listed below. 

  1. UCAT Exam: £70 to sit. However, there is a bursary scheme which can be applied for both before and after the examination has been sat. Further details can be found at https://www.ucat.ac.uk/register/bursary-scheme/.

  2. UCAS Fee: £25. All pupils applying to university have to pay the £25 fee to UCAS for managing their application. In some cases the school can cover this fee but it varies by location.

  3. University Fees: Funding is dependent on where the applicant is from and where they are intending to go to university. For the majority of students in Scotland applying to a Scottish university, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) will pay for tuition fees. If pupils are intending to go to a university elsewhere in the UK, SAAS can provide a student loan to help fund tuition fees. It is also possible to apply for student loans to cover living costs whilst at university and this is also applied for through the SAAS website. For further information and eligibility criteria please check the SAAS website. Other costs of attending university to be considered include: 

    • Tuition fees - these are free for Scottish pupils

    • Accommodation fees

    • Living costs

    • Equipment costs (textbooks, stethoscope, lab coat)

    • Travel costs (for placements)

Common Challenges

Applying to medical school can be stressful, especially for those without family university experience or in schools where medical school applications are uncommon. The You Can Be A Doctor website aims to provide resources to help such students and teachers navigate the process and apply confidently alongside their peers.
 

Many students and teachers find it challenging to connect with someone in the medical field to review personal statements or assist with interview preparation. We emphasise the importance of students reaching out to us at advice@youcanbeadoctor.co.uk for complimentary advice on their personal statements. Additionally, we offer mock interview opportunities, both scheduled and on-demand, for students who may not be able to attend the planned sessions.

Despite the application process's perceived complexity, pupils, parents, and career advisors should not hesitate to reach out directly to university admissions departments with their inquiries. Any information or guidance provided via phone will not adversely affect your application, and it can be an opportunity to learn about accommodations in exceptional situations.

Finally, remember that students from diverse backgrounds enrich the medical profession. Instead of dwelling on what may be lacking in a student's application, focus on their unique qualities that will make them exceptional medical students or future doctors.

Overview of Events Run by You Can Be A Doctor

The table below shows most of the events that are run by You Can Be A Doctor and our partner organisations. The events are usually accessible to all ages but we have organised them below based on when we think pupils will get the most out of them. 

To ensure that our resources are effectively allocated to those who need them most, we have established specific eligibility criteria for our events.

These criteria help You Can Be A Doctor identify and support deserving individuals who may face barriers in their journey towards becoming doctors.

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