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.
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 programme. Monash University had over 2,800 applications for 240 medical school places.
Your child typically needs an ATAR in the high 90s, meaning that they will need to be in the top few percentiles 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.
1. Register for and sit the UCAT
Most direct-entry 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.
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.
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 direct entry medical and dental schools in Australia and New Zealand. It is also used by universities in the UK.
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:
The sooner the test is booked, the more choice there will be with regards to dates and exam centres. Booking early also means your child will know the date of their test sooner, which can help them structure their preparation.
Bookmark the following articles to help with preparation:
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.
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.
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.
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 your child to keep going even when they feel like they’re not improving.
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.
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:
Current affairs forms an important part of interview preparation. Watching or reading the news together can make this part fun.
Simulating interviews is a great way for your child to get used to the interview process. This will help them get comfortable with topics and interview technique, including timing, body language, and answer structure.
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.
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.
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.
In New Zealand, the domestic tuition fee for medicine and dentistry is around $16,500 per year, except the first year (which is ~$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.
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:
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 and then apply to do medicine or dentistry as a graduate. Many students hoping to get into graduate-entry medicine or dentistry opt to study biomedical sciences as an undergraduate degree, which is quite a competitive course.
It’s worth noting that the degree generally doesn’t need to be related to medicine or dentistry, so if your child chooses another degree they’re passionate about they may have an easier time achieving the top marks needed for graduate-entry medicine or dentistry.
Your child could study abroad, for example in Eastern European countries or in the UK. However, this option can be expensive and potentially isolating for your child, and has been made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it requires careful consideration.
Your child can also consider other healthcare careers.
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.
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.
Entry into medical and dental schools is extremely competitive but you can assist your child in achieving this goal by learning about the admissions process. You’ll be able to help them practise for their UCAT, aid them with applications to universities, boost their confidence with interviews, and you can be an invaluable source of support for them throughout the whole process.
While studying an intensive degree is a serious financial commitment, the loans and grants available from the government help to manage costs.
Best of luck!