Information for Parents and Teachers
If a pupil that 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.
From your perspective, guiding a pupil through the process can sometimes feel like you’re outside of your normal area of expertise and can lead you to give advice that is based on other people’s accounts or rumours.
There are additional steps in a medical school application compared to other university courses, which can mean a few extra hoops to jump through, however on the whole the application process is very similar to what other pupils will need to go through. This page briefly lays out what each stage of the process entails and how best to support a pupil considering applying to medicine.
At the end we also have a section for ‘younger years’ where you can find useful resources to encourage pupils/children who are interested in science or medicine to learn more about medical sciences.
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.
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.
Overview of the application process
There are 6 main components of a medical school application in Scotland, which takes place through the UCAS service. UCAS is a digital application system that pupils will use to send their details, personal statement, etc. to universities. We cover each of the below components in more detail on pages that you can find by clicking the blue text:
- Work experience/career exploration: this is necessary to show pupils have an idea of what a career in medicine will entail, we recommend 1 – 2 weeks of work experience.
- Extracurricular activities: it is important pupils show they are well-rounded and have a range of interests and are willing to give up their time to help others via volunteering. Teaching is often viewed as one valuable way to give back to a community (e.g. school, local area)
- Grade requirements: these vary by medical school but are usually in the region of 4 A’s and a B at higher, almost always including chemistry.
- University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT): an aptitude test that all applicants must sit prior to sending off their UCAS application to apply for medical school. The BMAT is a similar type of exam but is not required for pupils applying to Scottish medical schools.
- Personal statement: As for other university courses this is part of the UCAS application and is a short piece of writing (around 2 A4 pages) that is written by the pupil to highlight why they should be selected. Medical school personal statements should be tailored towards medicine as we discuss on this page.
- Interview: All medical schools in Scotland now interview and these typically take place from December-February at the medical schools (although at the moment they take place online!). The structure of the interview depends on the medical school and is discussed on our page here.
Costs of applying to medical school
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 come from extra ‘courses’ that private companies run to help boost a pupils personal statement or get them a better score in the UCAT which can run into the hundreds of pounds per day. We always stress to our pupils that these are 100% surplus and encourage pupils to look at what they already have as the tools they need to get into medical school. With that said, there are some costs that must be settled before you can apply to medical school which are given below.
The UCAT (medical school entrance examination) costs £75 to sit however the UCAT has a bursary scheme which can be filled out either before or after the exam is sat. The details of who is entitled to a bursary can be found here: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/register/bursary-scheme/.
In addition to the cost of actually sitting the UCAT, people often recommend paying for resources (eg books, courses and question banks) to prepare for the test. However we believe that pupils can do extremely well only using free resources. You can find out more about which resources we recommend, as well as our free online UCAT course here: https://youcanbeadoctor.co.uk/ucat/.
All pupils applying to university pay a £25 fee to UCAS for managing the application. In some cases the school can cover this fee but it varies by location.
The cost of attending university is also a daunting prospect to many pupils, parents and teachers. When they go to university they might need to pay rent for somewhere to stay, buy groceries, pay for transport to university, and sometimes buy equipment for their studies. Some of these costs are unavoidable but many can be prepared for and, to some degree, reduced. There is also the option of taking on part time work while at medical school which many students do every year.
Students in Scotland have their tuition fees paid for them via SAAS and so don’t need to pay back their tuition fees as a student loan once they graduate. Many students do still take out a loan to help cover the cost of living, however, and this can be hugely useful to cover any gap that is left by par time work and savings. More information about how to pay for your studies can be found on the SAAS website website: https://www.saas.gov.uk/full-time/funding-information-undergraduate.
Common challenges and how to overcome them
Medical school application is a stressful time for any pupils, parents, and teachers involved. This can be heightened when the pupil doesn’t have family members who went to university or who attends a school where pupils don’t apply to medical school every year. This heightened stress comes from uncertainty about the different stages of the process but it’s important to realise that other schools don’t have a magic key to get their pupils into medicine. All they have is previous experience which allows them to get ahead. The main purpose of the You Can Be A Doctor website is to act as a resource for pupils (and teachers) who don’t have this previous experience so that they can overcome the uncertainty and apply to be recognised on a level playing field with their peers.
Below we talk about some specific aspects of applying that pupils often approach us for advice about.
Something that many pupils (and their teachers) struggle with is finding somebody from a medical background to read through personal statements or help with interview practice. We believe that it is really important pupils have a chance to chat with a medical student or doctor about their statement, so we encourage students to send it to our email email@example.com for free advice. Similarly, we host mock interview days as well as ad-hoc mock interviews for pupils who get in touch with us if they are unable to attend the scheduled mock interview days.
Although the application process can seem unclear, pupils, parents and careers advisors should not feel put off to contact university admissions departments directly with any questions. Any information or advice they give over the phone will not negatively impact your application, and you may be able to find out more about allowances made in special circumstances.
Finally, it is really important to remember that students from all backgrounds are an asset to the medical profession. Don’t get too disheartened by anything that a pupil’s application is missing, instead try to focus on what they do have that will make them a great medical student or doctor.
You Can Be A Doctor have curated this website to serve as a source of information for pupils and we run events that dive deeper into specific aspects of the application process. There are a few other organisations in Scotland that could be useful for your budding doctor:
- Reach Scotland: Each of the five medical schools operates a Reach organisation for pupils in their catchment which organise events and send out information to pupils
- Medic Insight: Student run organisations that operate across Scotland and are a valuable resource for obtaining work experience
- Admissions departments: Don’t be afraid to contact the admissions teams for a particular medical school directly, they will be very helpful and this will not be recorded/count against your pupil!
We ran a livestream for parents and careers advisors back in February 2021. Below you can find the recording that covers much of the above content.
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- they may well change their mind later on.
To encourage their interest in medicine, there is a range of resources aimed at younger children covering human biology and medical sciences.
However, it is equally important not to put excess pressure on the pupil, and encourage them to do the things they enjoy to do rather than what you might expect should inspire them. This might be enjoying a creative subject such as music or art, joining social or sports groups, and just spending time with other children their age. If they eventually do end up applying to medical school having a well rounded and happy pupil is much better than somebody who has been 100% set on medicine from day 1 and neglects other interests.
Below we’ve listed some resources that you can use to keep your little doctor occupied. There’s a mixture of videos, websites, printable activities, and book recommendations. While we have looked through all of the resources below and think they are great, we cannot guarantee the content of 3rd party websites. If you come across something you think would be good to add here email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Anatomy Word Search 1
- Anatomy Word Search 2
- Healthcare Professions Matching Game
- Organs of the Body (Answers)
- Skeleton (Answers)
- Immune system board game (from The Partnership in Education)
- Sizes of Cells
- Animation/demonstration of how the eye works
- Website all about viruses (features comics, illustrations, activities)
- Immune System Game
- Phone app/game about sleep
- Phone app with activities about different organs in the body
- Video about science of growing (30 minutes)
- Video about mindfullness and reducing anxiety (5 minutes)