Medicine at Oxbridge - to apply or not?

(153 Posts)
wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 12:40:04

Hi all,
DS wants to study medicine. He has 10 A*s, 4As at AS and is taking 4 A levels. His UKCAT was 700. His careers teacher is keen that he applies to Oxford or Cambridge. DS is very laid back and relaxed, but unsure whether to give it a go or not. He is worried that - as medicine is so hard to get into - it could waste a choice.
So, could anyone answer the following questions:
1. Would a degree in medicine from Oxbridge be advantageous to his career?
2. Would the course be 'all work and no play'?
3. Would studying for the BMAT be a lot of extra work or would it benefit him academically?
4. Does Oxbridge produce better doctors?
5. He attends a state school and we both work - however - I have read stories that tickets for balls are around £100 each. As he would have to take a loan to pay the fees, I am concerned that there would be a lot of 'extras' which he could not afford. Is this the case?

I attended a RG university and do not know anyone who has been to Oxbridge. I would be very grateful for opinions regarding the above.

Scatterplot Sat 01-Sep-12 12:53:18

I can answer some of these.

1. It's hard to get on to a medicine programme anywhere, so it's not clear that putting Oxford or Cambridge down would be wasting a choice. They are both good places to apply if you are academically able and can cope with hard work.

2. Science, maths and medicine at Cambridge (used to and I presume still do) have lectures six days a week, and the timetable at Oxford is also tough. However, I think the medicine programme at one or both is accelerated so that it's a theoretical programme first, then you can move somewhere else for the practical side after the three year BA. It's worth checking the details. The medics I knew managed to fit in a lot of other stuff as well as work, but it's not an easy ride.

3. I don't know, sorry.

4. I expect Oxbridge may produce slightly more doctors interested in theory and medical research, but I don't have statistics on this. Every medical programme in the UK will produce some excellent doctors and some weaker ones.

5. This should definitely not be a factor - there is a lot to do in Oxford or Cambridge which doesn't cost much, and there are bursaries to help those genuinely in need. With all the subsidies available and loads of societies, it can often work out cheaper to study, socialise and live there than in other cities or universities. (There are also cheaper balls at £30/£35 a ticket rather than the £100 ones.)

I think he should look into it as a serious option.

Margerykemp Sat 01-Sep-12 12:56:50

It isn't necessarily the best place to do medicine. I've heard that it is more for future medical researchers than hands on doctors.

JockSprockPooPongMcPlop Sat 01-Sep-12 13:01:39

I wouldn't recommend medicine as a career, but Oxford is a lovely city and my friends who studied there loved it.

rebelwithoutababy Sat 01-Sep-12 13:11:44

I studied medicine at Cambridge and had a brilliant time. I was at a state school and both my parents were teachers so we didn't have much money either but things like accommodation were really cheap as v subsidised and most activities and nights out were in college bars so v cheap. I definately don't think it cost any more in terms of living expenses than anywhere else. I'm afraid I don't know about the BMAT but he will need good grades, other interests outside school and just a good level of enthusiasm for the subject at interview. Some work experience in health services also good. I have to say that, rightly or wrongly, in medicine it certainly has helped me to have had an Oxbridge education, and by no means all of my friends have gone into the research side so it's not the case that the course focuses on that. Another good thing about the course is that your final year can be spent studying a different subject (which would be the BSc year in another university) eg I did French and Social and Political sciences. Medicine is a hard subject to study for at all universities but it is true that there are lectures on a sat am at Cambridge (don't know about Oxford, but probably) which is painful after a big saturday night! If he would consider going, def apply, I dont see why it would be a wasted application. Let me know if you have more questions, HTH

Trills Sat 01-Sep-12 13:16:17

If as a family you don't have a lot of money then going to Oxford or Cambridge can work out cheaper overall.

Many colleges (pick a rich one!) have generous bursary schemes, book grants, etc. (plus random cash prizes for getting a First in your first year)

Nearly all of the colleges will sort out your accommodation for the whole time you are there, meaning you only need to pay rent during term time and not for 11/12 months as you would if you were renting privately.

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Sat 01-Sep-12 13:24:15

It was a while ago, but I was at Cambridge, and the medics worked very hard but also had a very good social life.

It used to be the case (and he should check if it still is) that you did the pre-clinical (undergrad) course in 2 years and then could study what you wanted in the third year (a lot of people did something medical but some people didnt- the slackers all did bio-anthropology I seem to remember. You then did the clinical part at a hospital of your choice- some people stayed at Cambridge and did it at Addenbrookes but others went to Oxford or the London hospitals. A couple of people quit after pre-clinical and just took their BA and went and did something else (which I again believe is unusual- i.e. you can quit half way through and still get an undergrad degree)

Agree that going to Cambridge does not necessarily imply expense. A lot of socialising takes place in college (bring a bottle parties run by the many societies) and accommodation is term time only. I came from a state school and a modest family and didnt find it a problem. The balls are once a year and there are "events" which are like balls but a lot cheaper.

I think the structure of the course and whether that appeals is more what he should be considering.

NoComet Sat 01-Sep-12 13:24:29

DH has a Cambridge science degree, he loved it.

Visit see if you like the feel of the place, small collages are quite different to my large RG campus and a world away from a city university.

Not as elitist as you'd think. DH went to state grammar. My very ordinary Welsh comp had some one go to Med. at Oxford.

BesideTheSeasideBesideTheSea Sat 01-Sep-12 13:32:14

Doing medicine doesn't matter where you went to university. Oxbridge only better if want a more research career. If considering medicine, he needs all his choices to do medicine to increase the chances.
Make sure he actually talks to a doctor as its harder with public opinion now

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 13:36:59

Thank you Scatterplot. It is reassuring to hear that the cost will not be a factor. I was genuinely concerned that Oxbridge 'would be out of our league'. He is very dilligent and hardworking. However on Oxford's website a medical student describes how they have to write essays for their tutorials. DS hated writing essays for his English coursework - he just didn't enjoy it. Would this be something unique to Oxbridge? Or do all medical schools use essay writing as part of the course?

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Sat 01-Sep-12 13:43:38

Wehave Cant comment on Oxford as limited knowledge, but certianly Cambridge is no more expensive than many other Universities (a lot cheaper than studying in London, for sure). It really is a wonderful experience.

Dont know about the essays at other places , but from what I remember from my exes (yeah, I was a serial medic dater grin) their essays were about 2 sides long and basically just a blurb on how the liver worked or something. I did history and used to take the piss out of my ex for even considering them essays. I think there's an ethics course as well, which was a bit more essayish but I imagine that gets done everywhere.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 13:49:29

Thank you all for your responses. Any ideas which colleges to apply to?

Trills - I love the idea of a bursary, which colleges would you recommend he look at?

He is only 17 and to be honest at this stage I don't know if he would like a research career. He is the sort of person who takes things one step at a time.

Good to hear from so many people with state school backgrounds as I was apprehensive that he wouldn't fit in.

Trills Sat 01-Sep-12 14:33:37

I only have experience of one college at one university, so can't exactly give you an overview - try a student forum or looking at the websites of the individual colleges? Trinity is the richest/largest college in Cambridge, generally old colleges and those that were founded by royalty have the most money to splash about.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 15:07:39

Trills - We will have a look at the individual colleges and the bursaries available. I thought that any bursary would come from the University itself and NOT the individual colleges. So thank you so much for the suggestion.

alreadytaken Sat 01-Sep-12 15:46:15

1. Future career choices are determined largely by how well you do in your medical school exams. It is debatable if teaching is better at Oxbridge. There has been some suggestion that students from one or two medical schools do not do as well in exams but you'd expect that the schools that take those with highest grades would do slightly better.

2. No

3. Shouldn't be as he probably did GSCE science ad is doing some science A levels. If do doing all science A levels he may want to revise his GSCE work.

4. Define a good doctor. There is very limited patient contact for the first few years, some people regard that as a disadvantage. It's probably an advantage if he wishes to do medical research.

5. It's no more expensive for low/middle income families because of the low accommodation costs and generous financial support. All colleges offer bursaries, the differences between colleges are not great but include book payments and help with trips abroad. There may be more rich students, he doesn't have to mix with them. However he may need to move to London for clinical training and that is expensive.

If his AS levels have marks of 95% and over he's guaranteed an interview at Cambridge. With a good BMAT, likely with those grades, and that sort of GSCE record he would probably be interviewed at Oxford. However his UKCAT and grades are likely to get him interview almost everywhere. If he has good work experience and a good personal statement he can chose.

He should consider the teaching style and if he is happy with a lack of patient contact. Also he may be required to move after 3 years as Oxford, and to a lesser extent Cambridge, don't have enough places for clinical training for all who do pre-clinical at Oxford. Exam style can also also different, with other medical schools placing less reliance on final exams.

BesideTheSeasideBesideTheSea Sat 01-Sep-12 16:09:52

Um, shouldn't he your son be deciding if he wants to go to oxbridge and their small essay tutorial system or other medical schools lecture system. It is his degree and future.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 16:15:30

alreadytaken - I know he is also looking at unis which use an integrated approach such as: Dundee, Edinburgh, Leeds.

We have considered that Oxbridge students have limited patient contact in the first three years. He feels that earlier clinical contact would help him see the application of the theory. So that would be a negative.

As for the teaching style we know Oxbridge uses a traditional teaching style. I assume that means lectures.

The most important point you have made is that his future career choices will be determined by how he does in his med school exams and thanks for the info regarding the BMAT. He is taking all three main sciences and maths.

Another thing to consider is how he likes to learn. My DD1 is currently studying medicine and while she also had the grades for Oxbridge, she wasn't keen on the lecture based learning style which is prevalent at the colleges there. She opted for a University that focuses on PBL (problem based learning) ..there is a lot of self study for case units, but also lots of group work/tutorials and it's very much hands on (terrifyingly so IMO grin). This suits my daughter's learning style very well, but obviously if your son prefers lecture style learning, Oxbridge is ideal.

In all honesty there is no superior University for medicine due to the nature and demands of the course.. those who manage the five years are doctors and many fall alone the wayside as most Med schools 'cull' the lowest performing students each year even if they pass the exams.

I'd encourage your son to simply go and look at what is on offer at different places.. my DD1 was convinced she would like one best..then after visiting them all, changed her mind, falling in love with the one she is at now.

Wherever he applies he won't be wasting a choice.. Medicine is incredibly competitive and difficult to get into , but he has fantastic grades and if he can get a reasonable amount of work experience and can provide a personal statement that demonstrates what he has learned from his WE and show a real passion.. he will get interviews and offers! Incidentally WE doesn't have to be just shadowing doctors or suchlike.. pushing trolleys round old folks homes, leading boy scouts.. anything that shows people skills and a bit of sense, helps!

Oh and the balls and whatnot tend to be expensive wherever they go... but it IS possible to do a bit of p/t work..DD1 also works in the holidays.

Good luck to your sonsmile DD1 knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was 4 years old and I still can't believe she is really there, really doing it. She is just going into her 3rd year..clinical..now and is extremely excited as she starts on Monday! Oh and she came from a bog standard comp.....one one of her interviews she was the only state educated person in the group, but they really do look for ability not the name of the schoolsmile

deadlift Sat 01-Sep-12 16:21:00

I'm currently studying medicine at Oxford and it is definately not all work and no play. There's plenty of time for fun. However, work is very heavily based around essays, especially in the forst two years. Essays for tutorials are usually around 4 sides/2000 words and exams are usually essay based as well. Having said that I don't think that should put him off- they aren't really like English essays.

You should definately look around some colleges and see whether he likes the feel of them or not. I would second the advice to look at rich colleges, they do make life easier. St Johns, Christ Church, Magdalen might be a good start to look at. I'm afraid I don't know anything about Cambridge colleges. Some colleges do have their own bursaries as well, some of which are quite generous.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 01-Sep-12 16:21:02

If he wants it, it's worth a go. He gets four choices for medicine on his UCAS, and can choose either Oxford or Cambridge.

Does his school have an Oxbridge tutor to review his personal statement and coach him through the interview?

A crucial thing is to have work experience or volunteering in the community, such as volunteering in a care home. This is to show his caring side and also so that he is aware of positive and negative outcomes. Work shadowing is good too.

Trills Sat 01-Sep-12 16:21:11

The first three years at Cambridge (probably Oxford too) are treated as if you were studying science-with-a-medical-focus, then the next three are more what you might think of as "medicine".

Is he interested in science (biology/chemistry) in itself, or just as a means to doing "doctoring"?

mellen Sat 01-Sep-12 16:35:47

"Future career choices are determined largely by how well you do in your medical school exams."

Ca you explain this - I don't think that this is the case. It is true that you have to pass them, but beyond that when it comes to career choice there are much more important factors.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 01-Sep-12 16:42:57

I imagine that it will be pretty easy to walk into a house job from Oxford or Cambridge or anywhere else

mellen Sat 01-Sep-12 16:51:16

Getting a foundation job isnt usually an issue, it is getting onto the core/run through training that you want that is often more challenging, and I'm not aware of grades gained at medical school being a major factor in the application process for these posts.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 16:51:18

Beside the sea - yes, it is his decision. All I am doing is asking for opinions - at the heels of the hunt only he can decide.

Medusa - well done to your daughter. He has organised lots of WE himself. We live in NI and he travelled over to an English acute hospital and stayed for a week. He has also had a week here and some WE with allied health professionals. He has done lots of volunteering - although not in a care home. They wouldn't take him as he had to have insurance.

deadlift - he is slow at writing essays and that may hold him back. 2000 words is a lot. He would probably apply to Oxford rather than Cambridge. Thank you for the suggestions regarding colleges - we will have a look.

Knowsabit - yes his school has an Oxbridge tutor. I know that it is excellent PR for the school and that could be the reason she is encouraging him to apply. That is another reason why I wanted to canvass opinion as it must be his decision and not the school's.

Trills- He especially loves Biology and excels at it, as well as wanting to be a doctor.

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