Want to Study Medicine at University?

So you want to study medicine at university? Lots of people aspire to become Doctors. It’s one of the world’s most valued professions (and it pays well too).

As long as you know it’s going to take many years of studying after high school to accomplish your dream, then you’re ready to make the next step.

But what do you need to know about the pathways to becoming a Doctor in Australia?

>> Get the latest Entry to Medicine 2023 Guide Here <<

Medicine is competitive, but achievable

 

You probably already know that applying to study medicine means you’ll be up against some stiff competition from students across Australia. Medical degrees tend to have quite high entry requirements and limited places, but don’t let that put you off.

Continue to study hard and keep striving for the best personal results. But if your predicted ATAR high isn’t enough to apply for one of the more prestigious all-in-one programs, don’t be disheartened.

You could:

  • Get tutoring to help you boost your scores and then go through the entrance exams process (UCAT);
  • Consider postgraduate entry to medical school instead by studying a suitable undergraduate degree, then taking the GAMSAT; or
  • Look at alternative medical degrees like biomedical science or medical engineering.

Whatever you choose to do in medicine, there’s options for you.

 

Are you eligible to apply?

 

Medical degrees in Australia often list prerequisites to ensure you’ll have the required foundation knowledge to do well on your chosen course.

You may need to have studied specific subjects at high school for your application to be accepted, such as:

  • Maths (mid-level or higher)
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics

If possible, start your research in Year 10, choosing appropriate subjects for Years 11 and 12.

Find out if there’s a specific course you’d be interested in applying for, then tailor your subject selections so that you know exactly what’s needed to qualify.

It’s also important to choose a few subjects that you’re passionate about too. These could be part of your ‘Plan B’ in case you change your mind about studying medicine (which is totally OK too).

 

Help your application for medical school stand out

 

In such a competitive field as medicine, amazing high school results aren’t the only thing you’ll need to get your application across the line. You’ll need to ensure that your extra-curricular activities and personal qualities are outstanding too.

In particular, universities generally look for:

 

Passion and dedication

 

Excelling outside of the classroom could illustrate you’ve got what it takes to stay the distance on a long and challenging learning journey. So, make sure that no matter what your focus is at school, give it everything you’ve got. Sports, drama, music, leadership, mentoring or even debating – universities are looking for the highest achievers.

 

Commitment to learning and compassion

 

As a Doctor, you will never stop learning. New drugs, treatments and illnesses are discovered constantly, so you’ll have to stay on top of it all through ongoing professional development and training. Plus, Doctors need to have excellent ‘bedside manner’, which means you need to be good with people, and show empathy, care, and compassion.

How do you develop those skills before tertiary studies, and how can you illustrate that you have them on your application?

  • Volunteering in any capacity shows willingness to learn and empathy for others. Charities, environmental clean-ups, SES – there’s lots of ways to volunteer.
  • Community work, getting involved in local projects, raising money on behalf of community groups and charities, being active within your community, and trying to make a difference (even if it’s just to one person) can enhance your skills, outlook and – of course – the quality of your application.

 

Experience

 

Any experience in the medical field before applying for university could really boost your application. It also can help you decide if medicine is the right career for you, giving you confidence going into your studies.

You could try one or more of these options:

  • Get work experience in a doctor’s office, dentist, pathology lab, care home, pharmacy, physio, or at your local hospital. You may not be allowed to do much, but observing these people at work will give you plenty of insight as to what a day in the life of health professional looks like, and highlight some of the qualities you’ll need to succeed.
  • Obtain a first aid certificate and work at events where you could put it to good use, or at least watch and assist while other experts do. Becoming a St John’s Ambulance Volunteer could be an option, or find similar opportunities in your state or territory.
  • Look at volunteer abroad opportunities – in some cases students aged 15-18 with an interest in medicine are able to get some basic field experience. Projects Abroad are one example of a company offering this kind of experience.
  • There is a need for volunteering in Australian indigenous communities too, where you could support medical or health programs. Search for these online for the latest information.
  • Attend any workshops and programs run by a university’s medical school, or even take the initiative and contact them to see if there’s any way you could get involved outside of term time.

 

Learn about the UCAT

 

To be eligible to apply for some courses you must have taken the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT ANZ). It’s been designed to help universities select candidates with the “appropriate abilities and professional behaviours” that doctors will need.

This test should be completed in Year 12 before you submit your university applications.

In 2023 registrations to sit the UCAT close on May 17, so you should know if you need to sit the test, register, and pay (the fee is $325) before the cut-off date. Testing will take place between July 3 and August 11, and you’ll get your results in early September.

You’ll be tested in 5 areas:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement

You can read more about the UCAT and see more key dates on their information page here.

 

Let your personality shine

 

For the most part, applications are quite ‘dry’, as you’re simply providing information about yourself and your education in a standardised and clinical format.

The personal statement and supporting evidence sections are your chance to impress the panel, so do your best work here.

Spend some time getting the wording right, pay attention to any word limits, keep editing it, and get other people to read it (especially an English teacher if you can) to make sure it’s great.

Explain in your response why you’d love a career in medicine. Highlight your passions, skills and experience that could help you succeed in your future medical studies. They want to be choosing good candidates, so tell them why you’re worthy.

 

Be well prepared for interviews

 

If your application is excellent and you’ve met all the prerequisites, your last chance to really ‘wow’ them is at the interview.

Everyone gets nervous at interviews, so being well prepared could help you feel more confident and perform at your best.

So how do you prepare for interviews?

  • Get lots of practice ahead of time, ask parents or friends to help you out by asking you relevant questions.
  • Use mock interview resources.
  • Find previous example questions and rehearse your responses.
  • Familiarise yourself with the type of interview you’ll be going into; this could be:
    • MMI (Multiple Mini Interview) – you will go to different stations, read a prompt and then respond appropriately;
    • Semi-structured Interviews – a more traditional style of interview, where you’ll be in a room with 2 or 3 interviewers who will ask you questions about you, your education, why you’d like to be a Doctor;
    • Unstructured Interviews – slightly less common, these are a more informal group style interview to gauge your personality and how you get on in a group setting.
  • Think of a few of your own questions that you’d like to ask as well.

A lot of universities will be interested in not just your academic and extra-curricular achievements, but your motivation for studying medicine too. Why is it so important to you, and what will you hope to achieve in the future by becoming a Doctor? These are definitely things worth thinking about before you go into your interview.

 

Get your finances in order

 

Unfortunately, the rumours are true – studying medicine is expensive.

The costs might seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of options available to help make your goal a reality.

You could start preparing yourself by:

  • Finding out how much courses cost;
  • Researching Commonwealth supported and bonded places;
  • Finding scholarships you can apply for;
  • Learning about HECS and FEE-HELP loans;
  • Speaking with Centrelink about other loans and entitlements you could be eligible for;
  • Starting to save towards your degree;
  • Working on a budget that could help reduce your overall costs.

The government’s Study Assist website is a great place to start researching finance options.

 

Work on a ‘Plan B’

 

While it’s great to be confident when you’re applying to study medicine and become a doctor, imagine if you weren’t offered a place at the only university you applied to. Or something unexpected happens in your final year of school that affects your results; or maybe you simply change your mind.

What is your Plan B?

If you don’t already have one, it’s probably time to start planning. Look at applying to more than one university – yes that means extra work, but it could also save you stress later in the year.

As an example, the University of Newcastle and UNE’s Joint Medical Program received 852 first preference applications in 2023 for only 170 places – which means at least 682 people missed out if they didn’t have a Plan B.

There are also the alternative pathways into medicine, like applying for a related undergraduate course with lower entry requirements that could qualify you to apply for a postgraduate medical degree. This could be a Bachelor of Medical Science, Nursing, Physiotherapy, etc. Some postgraduate medicine courses don’t have any restrictions on the kind of undergraduate degree you need for entry, meaning you could study anything from Arts to IT.

Even consider a Plan C – if you don’t end up studying medicine, what other careers would interest you? Maybe put in some applications for other courses too.

 

Life is short, so follow your dreams

 

No matter what you choose to study, the main thing is to do something you enjoy. You’re likely to be working for the next 40 to 50 years of your life – so you might as well create a career you love.

If it is medicine, then with some hard work and determination, you could find yourself studying to be a Doctor before you know it.

If you’d like more help, simply get a copy of the Entry to Medicine Guide 2023. Covering all aspects of applying, including lists of courses, universities offering programs, and the options to consider, the guide could help you navigate your pathway more easily.

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