Medicine @ UCL | Q&A
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These questions have been answered by Jenna Hafidh a final year medical student at UCL.
What’s the difference between UCL and Imperial?
It’s important to note that both universities are prestigious institutions with high quality teaching and produce fantastic doctors, the decision you make relies on personal preference. These are a few differences I’ve observed personally.
Location-wise Imperial is located in South Kensington and UCL is more central and easier to get to from other parts of London. I would say Bloomsbury is more student-friendly with museums, libraries and other universities nearby.
In terms of the student population, UCL has a higher proportion of students studying the arts and humanities whereas, students at Imperial are typically studying STEM subjects. The diversity of the student population at UCL is appealing if you want to widen your social circles and befriend students who are studying degrees that are completely different to yours.
UCL has a broader range of iBSc and SSC options, if you are interested in a particular field it may be wise to have a look at the courses on offer at both universities.
At Imperial the iBSc year is after your first clinical year (on hospital placements) so it can feel quite disjointed whereas at UCL the iBSc year is between preclinical and clinical medicine (in year 3). I personally preferred the timing and order of the academic years at UCL.
Why did you choose UCL over Imperial?
I preferred the location as it was easier to commute to and I liked the idea of being near Oxford Street with a wide variety of restaurants and museums nearby. I wanted to do the global health iBSc at UCL and this is not offered at Imperial. I personally like to have friends from other degrees (the majority of my friends were non-medics and were studying the arts) and I felt that it widened my horizons.
Is there a competitive atmosphere amongst students?
The short answer is yes but this is true (from what I’ve heard) of all medical schools. I think the UCL medical school has a reputation of being incredibly competitive, which I cannot disagree with. It doesn’t help that we are ranked against our cohort and that the nature of medical students is that they are high achievers and usually have type A personalities. It’s easy to get caught up in it but my advice would be to focus on your own path and to not compare yourself to others. If you have a solid friendship group, support network and a positive mindset it will be easier to detach from the bubble of competitiveness and pressure.
Do you have any regrets about choosing London?
No! Personally, it enabled me to live at home for 6 years and spend time with my family and friends. I love London and cannot imagine being anywhere else, there’s so much to do and I love the chaos of the city. I like that there is a community across all London universities. When I visit my friends at other universities outside of London it is definitely a lot different than UCL so I’d recommend visiting both to compare. There are some disadvantages when it comes to living in London – it’s expensive, less campusy etc but the advantages definitely outweigh them in my eyes.
What characteristics/traits are they not looking for in a candidate?
Well rounded (interested in art, music, languages, social sciences) good interpersonal skills, empathy. Interested in research to an extent.
The goal of the MBBS programme at UCL is to produce The UCL Doctor: a highly competent and scientifically literate clinician, equipped to practise person-centred medicine in a constantly changing modern world, with a foundation in the basic medical and social sciences.
What does UCL look for in a personal statement? Do they have a big focus on extracurriculars or academics?
Similar to other medical schools, I’d recommend focusing on a particular situation/scenario you witnessed on your work experience that taught you something (this could be an incident that demonstrated important traits a doctor should have or something that encouraged you to pursue medicine). A mention of your EPQ/summer school or an interesting scientific paper/book you’ve read is a nice touch too. A good closing and opening statement. A focus on both academia and extracurricular activities is important.
How is the personal statement used to assess your application?
It’s used in combination with your grades, sixth form and BMAT score etc to rank applicants. They’ll work down the list and invite students in for an interview until they’ve filled up all their offer spaces. The personal statement is usually used in the interview process and questions are asked based on it sometimes.
Is there any early clinical exposure and if not are there other opportunities to do so in the first 2 years eg, shadowing psychiatrists, shifts with an ambulance service?
We have some GP placements in the first two years and you can select SSCs that enable you to have some clinical exposure. It is a traditional course so the majority of hospital and community work is in years 4-6.
What BMAT score is good for applying?
There is no particular score that is best. Obviously, the higher your score the more likely you are (in combination with other things) to be invited for an interview. I have friends who are medical students and had below average scores who were still invited for interviews and by that point the interview is the only criteria that is used to determine whether they’ll offer you a place. Do your best and don’t let a “bad score” put you off from applying!
Do you do dissections or prossections?
Yes, full body cadaver dissections in the first two years.
Is intercalation compulsory at UCL?
Yes. I wouldn’t let this put you off from applying. If anything, it is beneficial for your application and a lot of students will agree that it can be the best year of the degree. You’ll have the rest of your life to practice medicine so there is no rush, one year is nothing in the grand scheme of things!
How much free time outside of studying would you say you have in a week?
This is hard to quantify. In the first two years teaching activities are usually until 4/5pm (but not every day, it depends on the module). Everyone has Wednesday afternoon off. I would say I had plenty of time to socialise and study, it was never a major issue. Weirdly you do a lot of socialising in the library and lecture theatre so it doesn’t feel boring at all. Obviously, from February onwards you’ll be spending more time revising for your exams and might be a bit more stressed than before.
Thank you to Jenna for answering these questions!
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