Medical and Dental University Admissions: Parents' Guide

Admissions

2021-07-31

Do you want to help your child achieve their dream of getting into medical or dental school? 

It can be hard to know who to turn to for advice when it comes to admissions to specialised courses, especially as the process is more complex than other courses.

In this article, we offer an overview of the application processes, so you can learn what is required and assist as much as possible.

Stylised photo of an aspiring medical student writing in a notebook with a pen.

How competitive is Medicine and Dentistry?

Degrees in medicine and dentistry open doors into highly respected and well-paid professions. Needless to say, this makes them very competitive.

To put things into perspective, Curtin University had over 1,900 applications for just 91 places in its Medicine program. Monash University had over 2,800 applications for 240 medical school places.

Your child typically needs an ATAR of 98-99 as a minimum, meaning that they will need to be in the top 1-2% of their year group academically. Furthermore, they will need to obtain a high score (usually 90+ percentile) in the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), as well as presenting themselves immaculately at an interview.

How does the application process work?

1. Register for and sit the UCAT

Most medical and dental programmes require a UCAT score. You can read more about this later in this article.

2. Submit medical or dental school applications

This can be done via tertiary admissions centres in each state. When choosing universities, your child will be able to select a number of courses per tertiary admissions centre and list their preferences. It is strongly recommended to apply to as many medical and dental programmes as possible to maximise their chance of receiving an offer.

A small number of universities may also require your child to write a personal statement.

3. Attend interview

After applying, your child may be invited for an interview depending on their UCAT score and other parts of their application. A small number of courses do not require an interview.

4. ATAR results are released and offers are made

Once your child's ATAR has been released, universities will make offers based on their UCAT score, interview performance and ATAR. 

What are the important deadlines?

Deadlines will vary from university to university. This makes it essential to check up on the universities your child wants to apply to to get the exact dates. You can use the table below as a rough guide for deadlines in the application process.

Date

Process/Event

Early March

UCAT ANZ registration opens

Mid May

UCAT ANZ registration closes

July-August

UCAT ANZ testing dates

Early September

Results delivered to universities

End of September

Applications close for most medical schools

October-January

Interview offers out (different rounds) and interviews held

December

ATAR results released

January-February

Offers released, additional offers made to fill vacancies

February-March

Programme commencement

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice test taken over 2-hours that tests essential skills required to be a competent healthcare professional. It is required by the majority of medical and dental schools in Australia and New Zealand. It is also used by universities in the UK.

Answers to the most common questions about the UCAT.

How can I support my child to prepare for the UCAT?

The UCAT forms an important aspect of the application process. There are a lot of ways to offer support to your child to help them succeed:

  • Book the test early

The sooner the test is booked, the sooner preparation can start. 

Booking the test early also means a choice of dates and exam centres. 

  • Find out about the test

Bookmark the following articles to help with preparation:

  1. UCAT ANZ preparation tips
  2. UCAT ANZ practice questions
  3. Section-by-section breakdown of the UCAT ANZ
  4. UCAT ANZ timings
  • Help find UCAT practice questions  

For a lot of students, the biggest challenge in preparing for the UCAT is a shortage of practice questions. The official UCAT site only has a limited number of questions, which students will get through in no time. 

UCAT 2021 Online Course: illustration

Medify’s Online UCAT Course is used by 1-in-2 UCAT test takers every year. It features over 20,000 questions and 21 mock exams, making it the largest UCAT question bank in the world. It also includes over 50 hours of video tutorials and full performance feedback. All this starting from just $80.

We also offer Live Interactive UCAT classes that includes 13 hours of teaching from expert instructors and tailored homework.

  • Discuss progress

Have conversations about how the exam preparation is going, to help your child reflect on how to improve. 

Learning a little about the exam yourself can help with this.

  • Be supportive

The UCAT is a high-pressure experience. It’s supposed to be challenging and there may be points when it feels too hard.

Be supportive and encourage them to keep going even when they feel like they’re not improving. 

  • Create revision plans together

Doing this together will help your child to create an organised plan. Having a second opinion means that they will be able to see what’s realistically possible in the time available. 

How can I help my child prepare for medical and dental school interviews?

Interviews can be a stressful and challenging experience for a lot of students, so it’s important that your child feels supported throughout their journey. Here are some ways you can support your child:

  • Read this guide 

Medical School Interviews (MMI and Semi-structured)

  • Stay up-to-date on current affairs together

Current affairs forms an important part of interview prep. Watching or reading the news together can make this part fun.

  • Be an interviewer 

Try simulating an interview. This will help them get comfortable with topics and interview technique.

Stylised photo two asian students chatting and laughing while studying.
  • Go through stress management techniques

It’s normal for your child to be nervous or panicked on the day. Take time to prepare ways to manage your child’s nerves. 

How to use mindfulness techniques to calm exam stress.

Are work placements necessary?

Work experience is not necessary, but can be a useful way to obtain a realistic understanding of medicine or dentistry. It also presents a chance to develop and observe some of the skills required to be a good doctor or dentist. 

Read more about Work Experience in Australia and New Zealand.

How expensive are medical and dental degrees? What financial support is available?

Australia

Full-fee medical and dental degrees can cost up to $400,000. On top of that will be accommodation and living costs to pay for if your child will be studying interstate.

However, most students study medicine or dentistry as a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) holder. This means that part of your child’s fee will be subsidised by the government. This isn’t a loan and won’t have to be paid back.

The remaining amount is known as the student contribution amount. For Medicine and Dentistry, this will be a maximum of $11,300 per year, which reduces the overall cost of a medical or dental degree to around $60,000.

Your child could get a HECS-HELP loan to cover the student contribution amount. Depending on your household income and your child’s personal income, they may also be eligible for youth allowance, which doesn’t need to be paid back.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the domestic tuition fee for medicine and dentistry is around $16,000 per year, except the first year (~$7,000-$8,000).

Most students qualify for fees free first year and an interest-free student loan, and many are also eligible to receive a student allowance.

Read more about Financing Medical Study in Australia and New Zealand.

What if my child doesn’t get accepted? 

Be assured - there are many different routes into medicine or dentistry if your child is keen to explore further options. Support your child and encourage them to try again with the following options:

  • Take a gap year and resit the UCAT

If your child's ATAR was high, then they could try taking a gap year. This is a great way to develop more experience and maturity before starting medical or dental school. Students also tend to do better in their second round of sitting the UCAT compared to the first round as they’re usually more prepared.

Your child could also do an undergraduate degree in a related field and then apply to do medicine or dentistry as a graduate.

  • Studying abroad

Your child could study abroad, for example in Eastern European countries or in the UK.


Your child can also consider other healthcare careers.

My child has faced difficult circumstances - will this affect their chances? 

In a word: ‘no’. 

In fact, it could help improve things. 

A lot of universities have widening participation programmes. A common criterion for these programmes is that students have faced socio-economic challenges in their studies. It could result in lower UCAT or ATAR requirements for your child. 

Universities also have separate pathways or offer bonus points for Indigenous students and students from remote/rural areas.

What’s next after receiving an offer? 

Congratulations! It’s a proud moment! 

Once your child has accepted an offer it is time to think more closely about getting things like finance in place to start medical school. 

Read What To Do After the Medical School Offers Are Out.

Summary

Medical and dental school are increasingly competitive, but by learning about the admissions process at the same time, you can help them achieve this goal.

While it is a serious financial commitment, the loans and grants available from the government help to manage costs.

If you have any questions about getting into medical or dental school, check out our blog and admissions guide.

Best of luck!

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