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In 2021, over 28,000 people applied to a medicine degree within the UK, sending their applications across a mere 44 medical schools. Because applicants can apply to several universities, many institutions will receive over 20 times as many applicants as degree places. That’s where the UCAS application comes in. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the UCAS for medicine applications, how it works, and what to expect after you’ve submitted it.
The Universities and Colleges Admission Service, or UCAS, is the organisation whose job is to organise every student’s applications for higher education courses. From drama schools to medical degrees, if you want to get a degree, then chances are you have to go through the UCAS application to get there. This central system makes it much easier for universities to track applicants as well as develop a system so that each students application is considered fairly.
When you complete the UCAS application, you have to provide your:
For a complete overview of the UCAS application form, please see the UCAS website, which has lots of useful resources.
As of 2021, to apply to one university course, UCAS will charge £20 and for the full 5 courses, it will cost £26. You can pay yourself through the UCAS website. If you’re struggling to pay the charge, talk to your school/education provider, as they are allowed to pay the cost for you and may help if you come from a low-income family.
Here’s a rough timeline for the UCAS application for medicine applications. The specific dates can change every year, so look at the UCAS website to find the precise dates for this year. Every month with an * sign following it means it’s in the year PRIOR to admission. IE, to go to uni in 2020, you’d have sent the UCAS application off in October 2019.
This is the big one! Through UCAS you can apply to 5 degree courses at most. In medicine though, there’s a catch – You can only apply to up to 4 medical schools. Your 5th choice can be a “plan B” degree if you don’t achieve your grades or don’t get any offers. You may choose to apply to just the 4 medical schools. That way, if you don’t get into a medical school, you can look at other choices through clearing, or just take a gap year and apply again next time around. It’s all down to you! You have until mid-October to send off your application, so don’t feel the need to stick to what you’ve chosen before you apply.
Clearing is a system whereby you can apply to any degree courses that still have free spaces for students to apply to. This opens up right at the end of the application period – around July. In the past, medicine has not been available to apply for through clearing. In recent years there have been a small number of med school places that have gone through clearing, but very few.
At the end of the UCAS application, you’ll be asked to fill out a personal statement. This is a brief document outlining why you’re applying to your courses (in this case medicine) and why you’re a good candidate. You have up to 4000 characters and 47 lines to work with. We go into more detail about the Personal statement here. In general, you should write about why you want to be a doctor, why you’re a good medicine applicant and any extracurricular activities you do that don’t involve medicine.
Keep in mind that you don’t upload a personal statement document, but instead type it into the website. If you’ve written one in a document editor then pasted it into UCAS, make sure to check through for any weird formatting glitches etc.
As soon as mid-October, Med schools will begin deciding which applicants will be asked to go to an interview. You should start hearing from universities if you’ve been offered an interview around a few months from submitting. Interviews usually take place between December-March. You will be contacted by the medical school to arrange a date and time for the interview. After the interview period, a medical school will usually send out its final conditional offers within a month or so.
Once you’ve got all your offers, you have to pick 2 to commit to attending, the ‘firm’ and ‘insurance’. It will be assumed that, provided you meet the conditional requirements, you will go to your firm choice. If you miss the firm requirements, then you will be enrolled on the insurance course. If you miss both requirements then you’ll be made eligible for clearing.
For undergraduate applications, medical schools will pretty much always send a conditional offer – Usually requiring you to meet the minimum grade requirements for your A-levels/equivalent. You’ll find out your grades (and whether your offer has been accepted) on results day. Even if you do miss your A-level requirements, the university may still accept you if you just missed the mark. However, that is on a uni-by-uni basis. Make sure to contact the university admissions team if this is the case.
Try to take it one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Yes UCAS (especially for medicine applications) can be scary, but you don’t get anywhere in life without sticking your neck out. Anyone can be a doctor and so can you! Bottling it at the application is a sure-fire way to regret not having applied to begin with.
If you are unsuccessful at getting any offers, don’t beat yourself up. The absolute main thing is not losing heart with your studies – If you get good A-level grades then you can always apply again in a year! Not to mention that there’s plenty of other worthwhile careers and many that are healthcare based such as paramedical sciences or nursing. Finally, there’s always the option of applying for post-graduate entry if you decided to go for a different degree. Nobody in life is defined by their failures, but what someone does after they’ve been knocked to the ground can make all the difference to their future success.