Yesterday I found out my place to intercalate for the next academic year had been confirmed – and of course I was absolutely elated!

Intercalation definitely feels like the right decision for me now, but I did have a bit of a bumpy ride with deciding on whether to intercalate or not: swinging from desperately wanting to do it, to then completely deciding against it. That’s why I thought I’d talk through my journey to coming to a decision here…

What is Intercalation?

For those of you that aren’t fully aware of intercalation I’ll give you a brief summary. Intercalation is the opportunity to take a year out of Medicine to obtain a degree in another academic area. There are a range of options available for you to choose between when intercalating: you can choose whether you want to do a Masters or a BSc qualification; whether you want to intercalate at your own university or elsewhere and of course, the subject is yours for the picking (from a list, mind you).

Generally, the option to intercalate is available to you after 2nd, 3rd and 4th year, but most students tend to go for it after having experienced some Clinical Medicine (so after 3rd or 4th). Some medical schools run a 6 year course and that’s because an intercalated year is built-in to the course. However, here at Manchester, each student is given the option of deciding for themselves whether they want to intercalate to just continue with the medical course.

To Intercalate

Before getting in to medical school

Many of you may already know that Manchester has always been my first choice of medical school – I’ve had my heart set on it right from the beginning. While I was looking at Manchester as an applicant I found myself exploring the options to intercalate and there was a specific course that again jumped out at me. 4 years ago, when I was trying to decide where to apply I knew it was the dream to get into Manchester and intercalate on that course: the MSc in Healthcare Ethics and Law.

At that stage however, I tried not to think about it too much as I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Instead I focussed on applying and thought I’d think through intercalating properly when the time came.

Intercalation fair

At the end of 2nd year, I started thinking about intercalation again. I was feeling totally up for it, but knew I’d want to do it after 3rd year because I wanted to experience a bit of Clinical Medicine before. A lot of people say the jump between 3rd and 4th year is huge so that’s supposed to be a good time to take a break. I also wanted to do a Masters which meant I needed to have the first 3 years of the medical degree before being applying. Besides, my excitement to begin clinical years superseded my eagerness to intercalate!

Going to the fair did re-affirm my decision about the course I had originally decided on. There were other great options available at Manchester (and even at other universities), but nothing captivated me quite the way the thought of studying Ethics and Law at depth did. I’m quite a stickler for ethics and do find myself getting quite passionate about it at times!

To Not Intercalate

Initial doubts

Once I began 3rd year I had to start thinking about intercalation again. The “early” deadline our medical school gave us for our applications was in December. Leading up to this deadline I started having my first real doubts about intercalation. I considered going to the intercalation fair again, but couldn’t because I had a clinical debrief session which clashed with it. The fair probably wouldn’t have really helped me anyway because my doubts weren’t about the course, but rather about the concept of intercalating at all.

The only reason I was having doubts at this stage was because I was loving 3rd year so much and I didn’t want to have to have to step out of Clinical Medicine. In 3rd year we cover General Medicine so there’re still a lot of different specialities I’ve not been able to get an insight in to at all yet. Call me impatient, but I started having the mindset that I wanted to experience 4th year as quickly as possible to get those experiences and exciting specialities in. All the advantages I knew intercalating would bring and also my excitement to do the course I mentioned were outweighed by how much I was enjoying Clinical Medicine!

Talking to people

At this stage I had many discussions with a lot of people: parents, friends, older students. And most of those talks kind of re-affirmed that I shouldn’t intercalate. My parents understood my desire to just go on to 4th year; none of my friends were going to intercalating for one reason or another – I wasn’t basing my decision entirely on this but it mattered to me to know what my peers were doing too.

Older students were the only ones to encourage me to intercalate. I think many of them saw the benefits having done it and some that didn’t mentioned the benefits that their friends who did had. Intercalating with a Masters provides 4 points towards your foundation application – for me, Foundation Years feels like a very long while away, but to 4th and 5th years it’s a lot more imminent and that’s why I think they were able to give a better insight from that perspective.

Leading up to December, I still ended up deciding against intercalation. I considered putting in an application as a just-in-case-I-change-my-mind-come-Summer but then I decided against that too. I really wanted to just focus on Medicine and didn’t want a break from that and I let that outweigh everything else.

Finally…to intercalate

I wasn’t 100% confident with my decision not to intercalate, particularly because I always thought I was going to. I settled this by telling myself if I regret it I can always apply to intercalate after 4th year. However, at the back of my mind I had the echoes of students I had spoken to who had advised me to do it after 3rd rather than after 4th. The case might be different for different medical schools, but I think for ours it was thought to be less disruptive and a greater benefit if done after 3rd year.

So…I left it at that and tried not to think about it.

I let the application deadline pass, sealing my fate and feeling a little sense of relief.

However, I did keep thinking about it. The decision just didn’t feel right. That’s why I considered it all over again. The uncertainty of how 4th year was going to run and be organised also pushed me towards being more for intercalation too.

I had more discussions and lucky for me we had a “late application deadline” later on in the year. Coincidentally at this pivotal time of me making that final decision I received a a good handful of questions about my thoughts on intercalation from some of my readers. Responding to these again helped me gather my thoughts and made me realise that deep down I did have a yearning to intercalate. Here’s a question I answered about whether I think intercalation is beneficial – I was undecided at the time, but the action of even writing this made me realise how wholly positive and enthusiastic I was about it. I decided to go for it!

I submitted an application! Every single day that I waited to hear back about the outcome I realised how much I wanted to do really do this. That was it my decision made and hinging on the outcome of my application!

Alhamdulilah my application was successful, and so here we are now! I’m hopefully going to be starting studying Healthcare Ethics and Law in September and of course, as always, you can expect to see some related content on here!

Intercalation isn’t for everybody, but it is also right for some. It is a difficult decision and one that I think each person needs to come to in their own way. I’d love to hear anyone else’s experiences/thoughts…

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Posted by:Life of a Medic

6 replies on “Let’s Talk Intercalation: My Decision To Go For It!

  1. Congrats!
    I’m applying for medicine this year and think the topics you can intercalate with sound so interesting – It’s so nice to be able to read about your decision process on whether to intercalate or not. Are the masters and Bsc intercalations the same length? 💛


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