Australian Medical Schools - Which One is Best for Me?
21 April, 2022
The GAMSAT is done and dusted once again, and many of those who sat the test are either applying or thinking of applying for Australian medical schools. Somewhere along this journey, it has probably crept into your mind as to which Australian graduate medical school you might attend (fingers and toes crossed!). Typically, students will choose the university close to them, but there are many other factors that you should consider for your medical school journey – factors that you should take seriously as this will be undoubtedly, a hugely significant part of your life.
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Australian Medical School Rankings
For those of you who find such information important, Australian medical schools have been well represented in the top 100 medical schools around the world.
Indeed, there are six schools in the top 100: the University of Melbourne (18th), the University of Sydney (19th), Monash University (joint 36th), the University of New South Wales (45th), the University of Queensland (51st), and the Australian National University (92nd). (The University of Adelaide narrowly missed out on the list, placing 102nd.)
However, it is important to note that in Australia, the university that you attended has little (if any) bearing on where you can work in the future. Employers largely care about whether you have the required qualification, rather than where you got it from. There are many other factors that you can (and should!) prioritise when deciding which medical school you would like to attend.
Other Criteria to Consider
There are so many considerations for which medical school you will be applying for and considerations that stretch far beyond the actual course.
These factors include:
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. You may think of many other factors that are important to you. However, for the purposes of this article, we will only discuss the factors listed above.
- Proximity to family and friends
- The campus and surrounding areas
- Student culture
- Research opportunities
Proximity to family and friends
As mentioned earlier, many students choose universities that are close to them. It makes sense. You don’t have to separate from the social networks that you’ve built up over the years, and you don’t have to bear the cost of relocating. Unless you’re an overseas applicant who doesn’t know anyone in Australia, chances are that proximity to family and friends is going to be a big factor in deciding which medical school you choose to attend.
The importance of this factor, however, can vary depending on your circumstances. If you’re young, adventurous, and have no major commitments tying you down, it will be much easier for you to relocate compared to, say, a mature age student with a spouse and children. Consider your own circumstances when deciding how much weight to give to this factor in making your decision. You can learn more about studying medicine as a mature age student in our other blog article Medicine for Mature Age Students.
The campus and surrounding areas
For some students, particularly those who intend to live on campus, knowing what the campus is like and what the surrounding areas are like can be very important. For example, what facilities does the campus have? Is there easy access to supermarkets, shopping centres, medical care? If you’re a coffee drinker, are there good places to get coffee?
It’s also really important to consider the cost of living. Larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne will have much higher rent compared to, say, Wollongong. Along with cost of living, it’s also important to think about employment opportunities that may help in covering your expenses.
When you are looking into the university’s location, be sure to look at the correct campus. Some universities’ medical schools are not located on the main campus, so you may not spend a lot of time there. For example, the University of Western Australia’s medical school has lots of its classes at the QEII campus, next to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, rather than at the main Crawley campus. Similarly, you may also like to look at the location of the hospitals that medical students are placed in, because these hospitals will be your home during the clinical years.
One important factor in student culture is class size. Medical school cohort size varies widely, so think about whether you would prefer a larger or smaller class size. Smaller class sizes feel more intimate as everyone gets to know everyone else, but the drawback is that smaller medical student societies may not be able to hold as many events as the larger medical student societies, due to less manpower.
Student culture isn’t really something you can easily find out about online, so if this is important to you then you’ll probably have to try to track down students from the school(s) that you’re interested in and ask them directly. Another option would be to follow the Facebook pages of the medical student societies, as this would give you an indication to the number and type of events that they run.
If you’re into research, then obviously this is an important factor. Virtually every postgraduate medical course has some kind of research element incorporated into the degree, so no matter what, you’ll get to do research at some point. However, if you are interested in research and want to get involved as soon as possible, you’ll probably want to go to a more research-oriented university. This is where prestige actually does matter, to some extent. University rankings are largely based on research output, so more highly ranked universities tend to have more research going on, which will help you with networking and finding potential supervisors.
If you are super keen on research, to the point where you’d like to pursue a PhD, you may wish to consider a university that offers an MD/PhD degree. Note that these degrees are longer than four years as they require that you take time away from the MD part to do the PhD part (i.e. you don’t pursue the two degrees simultaneously). Griffith University and the University of Queensland both offer this option.
Hopefully you found this article interesting and somewhat informative!
Choosing the best medical school for you is a difficult process and there are many factors to consider. Importantly, I would encourage you to not ignore ‘soft’ factors of choosing a medical school such as proximity to family and friends, cost of living, student culture, etc. All these factors could play a big influence in impacting your enjoyment of the medical course and shaping what kind of doctor you may turn into—much more so than the ranking or “prestige” of the medical school!
If you’re in the process of applying to Australian medical schools, don’t forget to check out our GAMSAT Results 2022: The Definitive Guide to learn more about whether your GAMSAT score is good enough and where you stand.