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As you begin this exciting journey to becoming a doctor, one of the first decisions you'll have to make is where you'd like to study. With over 30 medical schools to choose from, you may feel lost trying to narrow your options down to 4 choices. If this is something you relate to, don't worry; in this guide, we'll delve into some tips you can use to refine your options and avoid the common mistakes students make when selecting a medical school.

Mistake number 1: Not paying attention to minimum requirements.

The first thing you need to consider is the entry requirements of each medical school. Some universities prioritise academic grades, whilst others focus on UCAT scores or their overall impression of you. We recommend you identify the strongest part of your application and tailor your choices accordingly. Be ambitious and aim high, but remember to be realistic about your grades and ensure you meet the minimum entry requirements of each option. This will increase your chances of a successful application and finding an environment where you can excel.

In addition to the academic requirements, most universities ask for a certain amount of work experience or extracurricular activities. Research what each university asks for and seek out that experience. If you need help finding work experience, we can support you through Future Doc's 1 ON 1 tutoring programme; click here for more information.

Mistake number 2: Ignoring personal preference.

Pay attention to your personal preferences when deciding what medical schools you'd like to apply to. Too often, students choose universities based purely on their reputation or where their friends have decided to go. Instead, you need to find the place that resonates with you as a person and a future doctor. This requires some self-reflection to determine what your needs and wants are. Take the time to discover your own personal learning style, visit campuses, speak to current students, and identify what environment and culture resonates with you. Get a feel for whether you thrive in a busy, bustling city or if you prefer a quiet, tranquil town. Once you've narrowed this down, you might also want to research the difference between a campus and a city university and identify which fits you better.

Mistake number 3: Overlooking location.

When applying to medical school, a key thing to consider is the location; imagine where you can picture yourself living. Recognise in yourself whether you're a homebody who would like to stay close to friends and family or if you're keen to explore a new city away from home. When moving away from home, account for how far you're happy to travel between university and home. Additionally, consider what support networks will be available to you in different locations, and then you can narrow down the universities that fit your criteria.

University is an ideal opportunity to explore a new part of the country, maybe you'd like to live near the beach, amongst mountains or in a big city. Whilst you pick, this is an excellent excuse for a trip to the area to see if you like it. Take this time to work out what you want so that you can refine your options for medical school.

Mistake number 4: Underestimating finances.

Medical school is a considerable financial commitment with plenty of associated costs. Prospective students could easily fixate on a large, prestigious university in the city without considering the implications to their daily lives. Evaluating your finances and finding where you can comfortably afford to live is essential. Try to find out the average cost of living in the different areas; for example, London will be considerably more expensive than other cities.

To avoid this, make a realistic budget that accounts for living expenses and other expected costs. Research potential scholarships, grants, or financial aid options available to you at different universities and use this to shape your application process. With the stress and excitement of medical school, you want to avoid adding any unnecessary financial strain.

Mistake number 5: Focusing solely on rankings.

You may be tempted to select your university based solely on rankings and use that to determine the value of the university; however, this approach oversimplifies the multifaceted nature of medical education. Whilst respectable universities often gain their merit through high-calibre education, it's essential to evaluate your university choices beyond numbers. A sensible option is to use rankings as a starting point and then explore what each medical school can offer; look into the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and how well they align with your career aspirations. It's beneficial to adopt a holistic view when choosing a medical school.

Mistake number 6: Neglecting prospective opportunities.

Whilst graduating may seem a lifetime away right now, you need to recognise your undergraduate experience as a stepping stone to your career as a doctor. You should look into the postgraduate programs and specialities at each medical school. Different schools will have varied affiliations with hospitals and research institutions, and you can use this time to create contacts and connections that will influence your opportunities later on. It's worth considering the long-term impact of your choice to facilitate a seamless transition for future success.

Mistake number 7: Being too closed-minded.

It is a good idea to remain open-minded and not fixate on a specific university. Whilst you will likely have a favourite, being set on a single school can limit your options and could lead to disappointment. Instead, find a handful of universities that align with your wants and needs. Explore the unique benefits of each to increase your chances of finding a school where you can personally and academically thrive. Be sure to attend a range of open days and remain flexible.


As you begin your pursuit to find the best medical school for you, you can find advice by checking out our other FutureDoc blog posts here. Once you have narrowed down your options, you can utilise 'The Student Room' to gain first-hand insight into different medical schools, speak to current students, and discover prospective students' journeys. Additionally, day-in-the-life videos on YouTube/Instagram/TikTok can give a candid look into a typical day of a medical student at different universities.


Now that we've gone over some potential pitfalls when choosing a medical school and how to avoid them, it is crucial to remember that this is your own unique journey. Selecting the right medical school goes beyond university rankings or what your friends have picked; it's crucial that you tailor your choices based on personal preference, location and financial factors, your predicted grades, and prospective postgraduate opportunities. Remember to stay open-minded, conduct thorough research and utilise the available resources. Learn to trust your instincts, and you will find the medical school that aligns with your goals and values. This is a pivotal point in your medical career; avoid these mistakes to set you on the successful path to becoming a doctor.

Written by Ellie Millard.