Medical School Preferencing
6 months ago by Rob
Applications to study at most undergraduate medical courses close at the end of September. To apply, you will need to visit the Tertiary Admissions Centre for each state.
MedEntry recommends that you apply for as many courses as possible, in order to maximise your chances of obtaining a place. For details about how to apply to medicine, check out our dedicated blog.
Most states offer multiple undergraduate medical courses. Every university claims that their course is the best, and current students also tend to promote their own university. Additionally, there are various types of place that you can apply for. It can be a confusing process, and can be difficult to know how you should preference each option. This blog provides some guidance.
Note: The information contained in this blog only provides suggestions. You will need to take into account your personal circumstances and preferences when submitting your application.
Tips for Preferencing Universities
Most states offer a number of medical courses. So which courses should you place first on your application form? Here are some tips:
- The ‘prestige’ of a particular university means very little in terms of a medical career. All medical graduates obtain the same licence to practice medicine. You do not get a better quality licence by attending a higher ranked university. For more information regarding university prestige, please see our dedicated blogs on university rankings and how much they don't matter.
- The duration of the medical course should be an important consideration. Shorter five year courses (such as Monash, WSU, Newcastle and Curtin) are generally better, as it will allow you to graduate, enter the specialty training and practice medicine earlier. Even though these courses are only 1-2 years shorter, the graduates from these medical schools finish specialty training and become Consultants on average about 4 years earlier. (Note: those who choose the graduate medicine / GAMSAT pathway, become Consultants on average, about 10 years later).
- There are numerous advantages to applying for school-leaver courses rather than provisional 'guaranteed' entry programs (such as those at UQ, USyd, UniMelb, Flinders, Griffith and UWA). For example, provisional entry programs are longer, and there is a risk that you may lose your place in medicine if you do not perform well in your first degree (and get through other hurdles). The benefit of attending a school-leaver course is so significant that it may be beneficial to move interstate if necessary.
- Shorter five year courses (such as Monash, WSU, Newcastle and Curtin) are also better because such direct entry course programs are more integrated (both horizontal and vertical integration), hence tend to be more interesting to study, so sustaining your motivation.
- Being contrarian has its advantages. For example, in Sydney, most students put UNSW as their first preference. But someone who chooses to go to WSU, rather than to UNSW, will get better grades at university for the same effort (due to being in a less competitive cohort). Achieving higher grades has several advantages, such as entering a competitive and desirable specialty.
- Additional research years (such as the ILP program at UNSW) are designed to benefit the university, not you! Instead, it is often better for your future career to engage in research after your internship, and once you have decided on the specialty that you will be applying for. Furthermore, the research you will carry out after graduation will be 'clinical' (hence more interesting/relevant) rather than 'lab/theoretical'. Only doctors can carry out clinical research. Furthermore, for many specialties, only your most recent experiences are considered, so your ILP may not be as useful as you think.
- The proximity of the university to where you live should not necessarily be a major consideration if the two universities you are considering are both in the city where you live. Remember that in medicine, you will attend the university campus only for the first couple of years. After that, you will be based at various teaching hospitals across the state.
Plan B Preferences
It is important to include some ‘Plan B’ preferences on your application. That is, if you don’t get into medicine, what will you do? Remember that interviews are an important part of the admissions criteria into medicine at most universities, and because there is an element of subjectivity involved, there is no guarantee that you will be admitted into your preferred course, even if you excel in the UCAT and your ATAR.
If you don’t get into medicine, one option is to take a gap year. The advantage of a gap year is that you are still considered a school leaver, and so are still eligible for entry into all undergraduate medical degrees.
Other options include starting another degree and trying to transfer into medicine (which can be difficult due to the limited number of places and universities to which you can apply), or applying for graduate medicine (which is an expensive, difficult and lengthy process).
Factors to be taken into account when considering ‘Plan B’ preferences include:
- Your genuine interests. For example, some students think they ‘should’ study one of the sciences at university as their Plan B because they feel it may increase their chances of subsequently getting into medicine, when they are actually not interested in these fields. This is not a good idea, for several reasons. Firstly, if you are not genuinely interested in a particular degree, it is harder to achieve high grades. Secondly, it usually does not matter which course you study when applying for non-standard or graduate entry (with a few exceptions – see below*). Finally, if you do not ultimately get into medicine, such a course will be a ‘wasted degree’.
- Job opportunities in the particular field, in case your plan for a medical career does not eventuate. Again, many students choose to study biomedical science, because universities promote it as a good alternative career to medicine. But is it? Biomedical science is completely different to medicine in terms of what you will do when you graduate. Do you genuinely want to be a scientist? If not, why study biomedical science? Instead, it may be better to choose a degree that you can see yourself working in once you graduate, such as physiotherapy, dentistry, pharmacy or nursing. In these professions, you will be working with and helping people in a similar way to medicine.
- Courses that will enable you to achieve the highest GPA (for example, a course you have genuine interest and motivation to study). Universities only look at your GPA when applying as a non-standard student or the GAMSAT/UCAT pathway for graduates, not which university you went to or the course that you completed (with only a few exceptions – see below*). This means it is important to consider which university/course will be easier to gain high GPAs when considering your Plan B preferences. This consideration will include which course you are interested in, as well as the competitiveness of the cohort of students in that course. As an example, you will receive higher GPA while doing nursing at Victoria University, rather than doing Law at Monash University, because the cohort you are competing with is stronger in the latter case.
* Note, that some universities only permit their own university students for non-standard entry (e.g. Adelaide), graduate entry (e.g. Monash which only accepts their own students who are studying certain health-related courses) or give preferential points to their students for graduate entry (e.g. Deakin).
- Beware of medicine "pathway programs" offered by many universities, which encourage you to study degrees such as biomedical science. The aim is to lure you into pursuing a degree at their university with the bait of medical entry (the chances of actually getting into medicine are often low, which is not revealed). Such programs often have hurdles you need to get through (e.g. maintain a high GPA, pass interview/certain subjects). An example is the Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which is the 'pathway' program into Griffith. Griffith does not use UCAT because it instead uses "Human Skills for Medicine" (which tests similar skills), which needs to be completed as part of the Bachelor of Medical Science.
Types of Place
There are various types of place that you can apply for. These include CSP (Commonwealth Supported Places) and BMP (Bonded Medical Program).
It is strongly recommended that you place CSP ahead of BMP, as there is no advantage in placing BMP ahead of CSP.
You will not gain any advantage if you put BMP ahead of CSP in your preferences list. If you are ranked highly (in UCAT / academic grades / interview), you will be offered a CSP place; if you are ranked lower, you will be offered a BMP place.
For more information on BMP, please see our dedicated bonded medical program blog.
Suggested preferences for each state are listed below. Please note these are only suggestions: you must take into account your own personal circumstances and do your own research before finalising your preferences.
For reasons why certain courses have been placed above others, please see the sections above.
UAC Preferences (NSW)
- Medicine at Western Sydney University/CSU or Medicine at Newcastle University/UNE
- Medicine at UNSW
- Medicine at the University of Sydney (513720, 513715)
- Plan B Preferences
VTAC Preferences (Vic)
- Monash University Medicine (CSP, ERC, BMP in that order)
- Melbourne University Medicine (Chancellors Program)
- Monash Medicine Pathway programs (Science, BioMed Sci, Pharmacy, Physio)
- Plan B Preferences (Note: as of 2022, applicants will no longer be required to complete prerequisite subjects for graduate entry medicine at Melbourne University, so any undergraduate degree can be chosen for this path)
QTAC Preferences (Qld)
- University of Queensland
- Central Queensland University or University of Southern Queensland (Pathway to Medicine)
- James Cook University (consider placing higher if rural health interest or live near Townsville)
- Griffith University (Bachelor of Medical Science provisional path to Doctor of Medicine, QTAC 228272 or 233422)
- Bond University (consider placing higher if can afford the fees)
- Plan B Preferences
SATAC Preferences (SA)
- Adelaide University
- Flinders University
- Plan B Preferences
- Curtin University
- University of Western Australia
- Plan B Preferences
- University of Tasmania
- Plan B Preferences
Remember, preferencing universities is an important decision. It is important to critically appraise information given to you by universities, who tend to promote their own self-interests. Instead, consider your own interests, preferences and what course will be of most benefit to you in your career when deciding on your preferences. Good luck with your decisions!
Also check out our blog describing 12 factors to consider when choosing a medical school.