Which Med School is for Me?
03 April, 2021
One straightforward answer to the above question is: “The med school that accepts you!" While this is arguably true, especially given the competition for medical school, the fact remains that GEMSAS still asks that you put in six preferences. Furthermore, people who apply to both GEMSAS and non-GEMSAS medical schools and are fortunate enough to receive multiple offers may very well have to choose which offer is right for them. This article will run through a few different aspects for you to consider when putting in your preferences to get into medical school.
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Location, Location, Location
Arguably one of the most important factors in choosing a medical school is its location. How willing are you to move to a different state to begin your medical education? Students who are married and/or have kids will also have plenty to think about here. Furthermore, you also need to consider life after medical school. Most if not all states prioritise their own graduates when it comes to internship positions. For example, if you want an internship position in Western Australia, your best chance at getting that internship position is to graduate from a medical school in Western Australia. While it may be possible to study interstate and then come back to your home state for internship, the competition to do so may be more difficult.
While there are 10 GEMSAS consortium schools, GEMSAS only allows for six preferences. One way to maximise your chances of getting in is to ensure that the schools that you have a better chance of getting into are among those six preferences. For example, if your GAMSAT Section I and Section II scores were better than your GAMSAT Section III score, then you might want to consider applying for a university with an unweighted GAMSAT score (i.e. a university that doesn’t give extra weighting to Section III), for example the University of Notre Dame, University of Queensland, or University of Melbourne. Another example is that, if you have worked full-time in healthcare for at least a year, you might want to consider applying for Deakin University, which gives a bonus to healthcare workers.
Macquarie University only offers full-fee places, so that is something to consider if you are thinking about attending. As of 2021, the annual tuition at Macquarie is $74 000, or $296 000 for the entire four-year degree. Note that, while domestic students can get FEE-HELP government loans, the total cost of the degree exceeds the HELP loan limit ($155 448), meaning that you will have to make up the excess cost yourself. The University of Melbourne and University of Notre Dame Sydney also have full-fee places ($74 880/yr for UMelb and $45 000/yr for UNDS), though they also have Commonwealth-Supported Places (CSPs) and Bonded Medical Places (BMPs), which currently cost around $11 300 per year.
Some medical schools have bigger cohorts than others. Smaller cohort sizes can be good in that it makes it much easier to know all of your classmates, e.g. the University of Notre Dame Fremantle only has 100 students per cohort, and from my understanding, this helps them become a close-knit bunch. On the other hand, while it is harder if not impossible to get to know everyone in a larger cohort, the advantage of a larger medical school is that the student society may be able to run more programs and events, simply due to the sheer number of extra hands on deck.
Note that, while the “Quotas” page of the GEMSAS admissions guide can help you guess at the cohort size, it only tells you the number of places available through the graduate entry pathway. Some universities, such as the University of Western Australia, have other pathways that give assured places to students directly out of high school, and those places are not included on the Quotas page. Therefore, if cohort size is a very important factor to you, I would recommend looking at specific university websites for this information.
Most if not all medical schools offer at least some opportunity to undertake some training in a rural setting. For example, in Western Australia, students from all medical schools can apply to participate in the Rural Clinical School in their penultimate year, and final year students (at least at UWA) all have a mandatory rural GP placement. The University of Melbourne allows applicants to express a preference for a rural or urban clinical school zone and has an Extended Rural Cohort stream for applicants with a particular interest in rural medicine. If rural medicine is of interest to you, you should take a look at what different universities have to offer in this regard.
Last but not least, another important consideration is the course structure. While the overall content is similar between medical schools (remember, they all have to meet the same accreditation standards), the style of delivery varies considerably between medical schools. Medical courses are generally split up into a pre-clinical phase (where you learn anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, etc.) and clinical phase (where you have hospital placements). The length of each phase and the style of teaching can vary between schools. For example, some universities (e.g. University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia) have a longer clinical phase (3 years), at the cost of a very intense first year. In terms of teaching style, while some universities have an emphasis on small group learning styles such as problem-based learning, other universities may have a greater emphasis on traditional lectures. It is worth thinking about how you learn best and what teaching style would most suit you.
Throughout this article I have discussed several considerations to think about when putting in your GEMSAS preferences. However, remember that as all Australian medical schools have to achieve the same level of accreditation, you will become a qualified doctor no matter which medical school you attend.
Check out our guide here for more information about Australian Graduate Medical Schools - Admission Requirements.