How to Choose a Medical School

Admissions

2021-08-11

How to apply to Medical School

For most universities, you need to apply to medical schools via tertiary admissions centres (TACs). Some universities require you to apply directly, especially if you are an international student. 

Find out about the details for each university.

Each tertiary admissions centre (TAC) has a fixed number of courses you can apply to. You need to order your options according to your preference from most preferred to least preferred.

State

TAC

Course choice options

NSW/ACT

UAC

5

QLD

QTAC

6

SA/NT

SATAC

6

TAS

Direct to university

N/A

VIC

VTAC

8

WA

TISC

6

You can maximise your chance of getting into medical school by applying to multiple medical schools across different states and territories. 

This also means you may be offered more than one place. For example, you may receive an offer from Monash University via VTAC and University of New South Wales through UAC. 

I got multiple offers - How do I choose?

Congratulations! The many months of hard work has finally paid off. If you find yourself in the very lucky position of having multiple offers, you have a lot to think about. Here are some factors to consider:

Length of the degree

Some direct entry medical courses run for five years whereas others run for six years. If you were offered a provisional place at a graduate entry medical school this will require six or more years of study.

The additional year or two will mean one more year of fees to pay. This will add an additional $11,300 if you're a CSP student and $60,000 if you’re a FFP student, per year.

Extra year(s) of study also means that you’ll start working later and delay earning your income.

A medical school graduate smiling at the graduation day

Type of place

The place you are offered has huge implications for fees and any compulsory work requirements after graduation. As such, most students would choose a commonwealth supported place (CSP) over a bonded medical place (BMP) or a full-fee paying place (FFP).

Read more about CSP, BMP and FFP places.

Living costs

Staying at home will be easiest on your pocket. You won’t have rent or utilities to pay for. Moving out is expensive, although a higher Youth Allowance rate may cover some of the extra expense. There’s a lot of costs you’ll need to think about along with your tuition fees:

  • Rent 
  • Utilities e.g. wifi, electricity, water, heating
  • Transport costs
  • Cost of home essentials e.g. bedding , pots and pans
  • Clothing
  • Food and groceries

The Australian Government website Education and living costs in Australia can be useful to help you estimate the cost of living away from home. These costs will vary based on where you move to. For example, big cities like Sydney and Melbourne will be more expensive.

Medical school is busy and it’s likely that you won’t have time to work on a regular basis. This means that you’ll need to plan your finances and cash flow very carefully if you’re moving out.

Location

If you’ve decided you want to move out, then there’s still some considerations to make. You’ll need to think about how far you want to move out. Staying close to home means that your family could help you out with meals and other essentials. It also means you’re less likely to be homesick.

On the other hand you may want to move away as far as possible for freedom and independence. Some people like the thought of starting afresh in a new place. Either way, it’s important to find what works for you. 

If you’re moving out, you may also want to consider the following factors when choosing your new place:

  • Opportunities to pursue your hobbies
  • Safety and crime rates
  • Nightlife
  • Food
  • Culture and Diversity 
  • Sport and leisure facilities 
  • Access to public transport 
  • Parking access
  • Weather

Scholarships 

Many universities offer scholarships. If you’re eligible for scholarships at a particular university but not at another, this may be a big factor for you.

A medical student studying hard on a desk

Clinical Placements

Clinical placements are one of the highlights of the medical school degree. Many students prefer universities that offer lots of clinical placements. Research each school to see when their clinical placements start and how many hours of placement will be available to you. The more experience you have in a hospital setting the easier it is for you once you start working. 

You should also research to see where the placements are. Placements in metropolitan cities will give you the opportunity to see a range of specialties. Metropolitan placements have more specialties than rural settings however it is competitive. Rural placements are easier to get onto and will provide you with much more hands-on experience.

Where you want to practice

All government funded degrees will guarantee you an internship year in the state you studied in. This means if you want to work in a particular place, doing a degree in that state will put you in good stead to getting there. 

Specialisation

If you want to specialise in a certain area, research whether the medical school has placements in that area. Being able to do placements in your area of interest will give you the opportunity to build your skills and to research the specialty. It will also give you the opportunity to network and meet people who are established and experienced in that area. 

Remember that a lot of medical students who already want to specialise in an area do change their mind during the course of their degree, so this shouldn't be the highest factor on your list. 

A proper technique for handing over a scalpel, pointing the blade towards yourself.

Cohort size

Medical schools vary in size and facilities. Medical schools with smaller cohorts are likely to have a better student-teacher ratio and more of a personalised experience. Bigger medical schools, however, are likely to have more facilities and resources. For example, Notre Dame has smaller cohort numbers than UNSW however they don’t have an anatomy wetlab. Although Bond has a good balance between smaller class sizes and available resources, a medical degree from Bond will cost you $500,000.

2020 Cohort size

  • University of Adelaide: 142
  • ANU: 102
  • Bond: 131
  • Curtin: 91
  • Deakin: 119
  • Flinders: 159
  • Griffith: 202
  • James Cook: 162
  • Macquarie: 57
  • Melbourne: 303
  • Monash: 241
  • Newcastle/UNE: 175
  • Notre Dame Fremantle: 101
  • Notre Dame Sydney: 120
  • Queensland: 290
  • Sydney: 213
  • Tasmania: 83
  • UNSW: 202
  • Wollongong: 77
  • WSU: 108
A group of medical students sitting in a line

Ranking

All medical schools need to be accredited by the Australian Medical Council and teach the same core curriculum. This means that they are all of comparable quality.

For some students, however, prestige is an important part of how they choose a university. Read Medical School Rankings in Australia and New Zealand for more information on this topic. 

Teaching style

This is a crucial factor to consider. Teaching styles vary between schools and you may be better suited to one style than another. Medical school will be hard and having a teaching style that doesn't work for you will only make it harder. The  three main teaching styles used by medical schools in Australia and New Zealand are:

  • Traditional

You are taught mainly through lectures and it's very much teacher led.

In PBL, you’ll be given a case study and you will discuss as a group what learning outcomes you can derive from the case study. You will research these learning outcomes and share your findings with the rest of your group in a session later on in the week. This tends to be more self directed, but you will have a facilitator to oversee your work.

  • Integrated

This type of teaching involves lectures and also PBL. The ratio of lectures to PBL can vary between schools. This makes the best of both worlds and is ideal for a lot of students. Research each Medical School you have an offer at to see what style of teaching they offer.

A student looking at a tablet device to study anatomy.

Student to staff ratios

The lower the student to staff ratio, the better. This would mean that each member of the academic staff has fewer students, which will allow students to get more focussed one-on-one teaching. Find out about the student to staff ratios of all Australian universities.

The data is for the university as a whole. The student to staff ratio should be taken with a pinch of salt as it could be higher or lower for the medical school department.

Research 

If you’re keen on taking part in research or want to go deeper into a topic of interest like neuroscience, you may want to look at universities that have strong research backgrounds. The University Rankings site ranks universities based on the strength and depth of their research. In 2018, the University of Melbourne came out on top, with the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney following closely in 2nd and 3rd place.

New vs Old

Although this shouldn’t be at the top of your list, it’s worth considering the age of the university. Older universities like the University of Melbourne, tend to have more traditional architecture and a lot of prestige. Newer universities will have a modern feel to the campus. Ideally, visiting campuses will help you to see what you prefer.

Extracurriculars

Contrary to the popular myth that medical students haven’t got a social life, medical students do have time on their hands. It's important that you find things to do aside from academics. These will act as stress release mechanisms and will help to relax. Research what extracurriculars each university has to offer and find ones that are of interest to you.


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